Extraspection - Director's Commentary:|
NOTE: This page discusses parts of the film in depth. You may wish to view the film, if you haven't yet, before reading further.
First of all, what does "extraspection" mean? Well, it's like "introspection", but different.
As my first film, making Extraspection was definitely a learning experience. For example, I learned that it's important to make sure the external microphone is plugged into the camera securely before shooting. All of the live action was shot with only left channel recording. As a result, I had to increase the volume quite a bit to make it audable, resulting in lower sound quality.
Another lesson was to take a little more time with lighting to make sure it's consitent. You may notice that the shot where Louis first stands up is quite a bit darker and less saturated than the rest of the film. Fortunately, I was able to draw some attention away from that by inserting the first shot of the "12 Steps to Cancellation of Guilt" between that and the next shot.
The last big lesson I'll mention is that it's important to frame the pictures so that nothing critical is going to disappear around the edges when the film is show on a television screen. On the computer there's no problem because what you see in the viewfinder is what you see on the computer, but televisions cut out quite a bit of content around the edges. Fortunately, there were no serious problems as a result of this, but a few of the shots could have been framed better.
The term "cancellation" of guilt was chosen to connote the attitude that guilt is something that can be cancelled like a subscription to a magazine. In retrospect, the phrase probably should have been something like "cancellation of problems", but it's close enough. Problems are something that need to be resolved, not simply marked "return to sender" and thrown into someone else's lap. Especially when, as in Louis' case, the problems are really one's own.
The 12 steps in the film directly parallel, though in completely corrupted ways, the classic 12 steps of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. The film should not be considered a parody of real 12 step programs, but of modern philosophies that seek to relieve guilt by denying responsibility. The most direct statement in the film is probably the part where Louis says "I need to forgive myself...". The original concept for the film began from the attitude I've enountered all too often that goes something like, "I forgive myself for killing your dog, so it's okay." While it is very important to forgive onesself, people also need to take responsibility for their actions. The point that seems all too often to be missed is that being responsible need not mean burdening onesself with guilt. I believe that denial is the recourse of individuals who have not learned to forgive themselves, but also that "forgiving onesself" without taking responsibility for one's actions is simply another form of denial.
In the shot with the television, which reveals that the background voices are not members of a support group, one thing that is easy to miss is that there are two radios on the desk. Louis is using the television and radios to create a support group that can't hear him so that he can confess (confess his brother's wrongs, that is!) without having to risk exposure. Since I was shooting in a very small room, I had to use a wide angle lens. The result is that the objects farther back in the room, like the radios, are smaller and less visible than intended. Another lesson for next time: make sure everything important is big enough to be seen, or shoot a close-up of it by itsself.
Are the background voices saying anything? Nope, it's just two little segments of gibberish repeating over and over. At first, I tried recording myself reading from the Japanese novel, "Kokoro" by Natsume Soseki (the first novel I read in Japanese, and one of my favorites), but even turned down low, it was too easy to hear the words, and I found it too distracting. Another reason for using gibberish is that I was able to use softer syllables that were less likely to stand out and distract the audience.
At the point where Louis mentions having tried to knock some sense into George, you'll notice that he brings a hand up to his eye and doesn't finish his sentence. Apparently, George was a little tougher in that encounter, and probably gave Louis a black eye!
The photo montage is intended to show that George is a pretty nice, fun guy, and not the big problem that Louis makes him out to be. At times like this, I sure wish I had more photos laying around!
The second photo is of a time when I was in Japan (as are a few of the others). As I recall, the green pay phones are those from which you can make international calls. On the evening in question, I had dressed up with a vacuum cleaner on my back and anything I could find to look like some sort of spaceman, and had gone down to the mall in Nagasaki with friends (one with a video camera) to have a little fun. We ended up making a few more friends that night.
The last photo, which goes by a little too fast to see what it is, is my credentials from the Biathlon World Cup competition at Soldier Hollow earlier this year. No, I'm not a biathlete; I was volunteering as an interpreter in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The shot where Louis takes off the glasses was done after I'd gotten into editing and realized that I didn't have a shot of doing that. Oops. If you look at the reflection in the glasses in that shot, you can see my tripod in one eye, and the monitor I was using to make sure I was in the frame in the other. Oops again.
There are a few inconsistencies throught the film. For example, in the opening shot, the glasses are facing the wall, but when Louis sits back down, they are pointing toward him. And in the next shot, they're facing the wall again. Also, the TV remote moves around a bit from shot to shot. The reason for that is that it was really the camera remote, so I was using it to start and stop each shot. When I went to "adjust the TV volume" at the point where Louis is distracted by the potato chip ad, I had to be careful not to actually hit any buttons! Fortunately, the camera was low enough that it wasn't obvious that my thumb was right on the edge of the remote.
Steps 11 and 12 on the paper don't quite match up with the dialog. I realized during editing that I'd shown step 12 before step 11 had been completed, but ended up leaving it that was because it would have been too disruptive to squeeze step 12 in closer to the point where it happens, and because it worked better with the pacing. Perhaps if I were to remake the film, I'd look for a way to change the script to make the timing work better there.
Speaking of the 12 steps page, if you look carefully, you'll notice that the page Louis is holding is not the one in the close ups. The original page has everything in a single column, but I wasn't able to zoom in enough on the text the make it readable, and certainly wasn't able to focus in on a single step at all. So after the film was mostly edited, I reprinted the 12 steps in two columns and re-shot it.
In case you didn't catch the reference to the word "pissed", in Ireland, "pissed" means "drunk".
The last character that is displayed at the end of the film is Japanese for "the end". Literally, it means "complete", and is one of two words that traditionally appears at the end of movies. Why did I put it there? Because nothing better came to mind.
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