AN OPEN LETTER TO DAVIS AURINI AND JORDAN OWEN UPON THE RELEASE OF THEIR FIRST SARKEESIAN EFFECT TEASER
Hey guys, big fan here.
Just watched your Sarkeesian Effect teaser video. An outstanding job! Even though this is, I know, a rough and unfinished trailer using raw footage from the first couple of days of shooting, it’s clear that this film – this epic journey into journalism, if I might coin a phrase here (you can totally use it!) – will more than live up to your earlier work.
And that’s saying something, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ten-minute libertarian suit-wearing-ninja parkour dance fight film better than Davis’ “Lust in a Time of Heartburn.” And obviously – obviously – I’ve never seen such a gritty depiction of YouTube jackass despair as Jordan’s minimalist masterpiece “Dude Lying On Couch in Messy Apartment Complaining That People Aren’t Giving Him Enough Money.”
I just wanted to give you guys some “notes” on it, as I know it is still early in your process.
First off, the production values are a-maz-ing. I realize that after spending money on airfare, hotel rooms, rent, samurai swords, white turtleneck shirts, and whatnot that you probably only had about $25 left to make the actual film. Well let me tell you this: every Canadian penny of that $25 is there on the screen. It’s RIGHT THERE.
Second, SOUND. I will admit you’ve made a bit of an unorthodox choice here. Most documentary filmmakers obviously go for “clean” and “crisp” sound in which you “can actually make out what people are saying.”
But you guys! You zag when everyone else is zigging!
Not since Birdemic: Shock and Terror and, of course, Davis’ own “Lust in the Time of Carpark,” have I seen such an innovative use of sonic muddiness. You guys know that in real life you can’t always tell what other people are saying. Especially if you have a lot of wax in your ears. And fellas, listening to the interviews in your film I felt like I had a whole beehive’s worth of wax in my ears. And possibly a bee or two, though I think that might be a problem on my end.
Ok, I’ll be honest, that’s definitely a problem on my end. I might as well admit it: My apartment is full of bees.
Third, the CINEMATOGRAPHY. Again, the zigging and the zagging. In a time of cheap digital cameras, it is easier than ever for even the most incompetent filmmaker, or, say, any 14-year-old filming a friend lighting his farts, to achieve pristine image quality.
But, like David Lynch, who turned his back on the latest digital technology to make his confusing surrealistic masterpiece Inland Empire with a cheap, consumer grade standard definition digital camera, you have eschewed pristine picture quality in favor of well, let’s just say that it doesn’t look like trained professionals had anything to do with it.
I don’t know if that was what you were going for but if so, NAILED IT!
Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about the blurry white smudgy stuff in the edges of the shot in that Justine Tunney interview. NO ONE WILL NOTICE IT. Seriously, it’s like a five-minute static shot, why would anyone notice anything in the edges of the frames. Was that vaseline? I think Bob Guccione at Penthouse was known for his vaseline on the lens technique. You guys weren’t using the camera to film porn earlier in the day, were you? I kid! What a question! Of course you were.
Speaking of static shots, your choice to film most of the interviews as static two shots – another brave choice. Most people filming interviews would have given us closeups of each of the people in the interview, and cut back and forth, and thrown in some of what the snooty cinephiles call “reaction shots.” You guys boldly went for static shots of two people sitting in chairs.
And that time when you cut from one static shot of two people sitting in chairs to another static shot of the same two people sitting in the same chairs from a slightly different angle? YOU GUYS BLEW MY MIND WITH THAT ONE.
It was also super cool when you did one interview in one particular room with two chairs and followed that up with another interview in the same room with the same two chairs, almost as if you had booked the room for the day and were just running people through it without bothering to change anything up or even move the camera or anything.
That’s the kind of PURE FILMING EFFICIENCY that’s going to enable you to bring this masterpiece on budget. Like Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash used to say: REAL ARTISTS SHIP!
Some thoughts on the performances.
Jordan Owen was completely Jordan Owenish. I totally bought his character. Jordan, you are a MASTER of whatever it is that you do. Keep it up!
But Davis, you sly dog, I should have figured that someone who looks like a budget version of Anton LaVey would have some tricks up his sleeve! Or should I say “his white turtleneck?” Yes, that’s my way of saying that the costuming was PER-FEC-TION. Not every Anton LaVey impersonator can pull off a shiny suit and white turtleneck but, wow! That’s all I can say: Wow!
As for the performance itself, again some counterintuitive choices here. Most interviewers try to react to their interview subjects a little in an attempt to show “empathy.” Your decision to instead sit stock still and stare relentlessly at your interview subjects was a little jarring – but a good kind of jarring. That’s how you get the good stuff out of your interview subjects! And murder suspects. Stare them into submission!
One of my cats has a similar technique when she wants food, or attention, or, well, let’s just say she’s gotten me to confess to a couple of murders, if you know what I mean, and what I mean is NO I DIDN’T MURDER ANYONE WHY DID I EVEN SAY THAT, CRAP, HOW QUICK CAN I PACK, IS THERE GAS IN THE CAR?
Also I think it was a good idea to mix up the sitting and staring stuff with that whole “erupting into unnatural and exaggerated laughter” schtick. Totally sold your character as some sort of primitive cyborg trying to pass as a human.
Also, amazing prop work with that disposable coffee cup. You gripped it so hard I really BELIEVED that if you let go of it you would have flown off into space — you know, like George Clooney in Gravity. Oh, whoops, SPOILER ALERT.
This is how good your film is: I’m comparing it to freaking GRAVITY. I’m comparing it to freaking Davis Aurini’s “Lust in the Timer of Clambake.”
Oh, and the foley work was spot on as well. That … sound that happens at about 6:10 in? You know, the thing where it sounded like someone was dragging a large rock over cement just out of shot, or maybe like you had swallowed your microphone and your stomach was having troubl edigesting it? That sound is going to haunt me for weeks. I don’t even want to know how you did that. Sometimes mysteries are best left unsolved.
Anyway, outstanding job. I really can’t say anything about any of what your interview subjects were saying, or even remember any of their names except for Justine Timberlake the Slavery Lady. I think it was a combination of that wax-in-ears sound quality and their complete inability to say anything interesting in response to your stupid questions.
But with everything else going on in this film – the static shots, the white turtlenecks, that white stuff at the edge of the shot in that one interview that NO ONE WILL NOTICE, I PROMISE THEY WON’T EVEN SEE IT … well, anyway, with all that going on in the film no one is even going to care what any of your incredibly boring interview subjects said or who they are or why on earth you decided this was a good subject for a documentary or why you even thought you were remotely capable of making an actual professional quality film.
Anyway, I’m sure all of the people who gave you literally thousands of dollars of their own money because they assumed you might actually come up with something that looked vaguely professional will be very proud of you.
I’m assuming, of course, that your final film will be about 4 minutes long, and that half of it will be libertarian suit-wearing-ninja parkour dance fighting to the sounds of Yakety Sax. If not, yeah, no one is going to be able to sit through this crap.
In other words LOVE IT!
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