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DeZ Vylenz Log

A captain's log of activities and projects, affiliations and developments involving the Shadowsnake ship and various guerilla film expeditions. Updated in between storms by DeZ Vylenz, Writer - Director - Martial Arts Choreographer

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Writing on the move

Crazy week. Had a flight Monday afternoon to Amsterdam, but Sunday got phone calls to finish a treatment for submission deadline on Tuesday. So spent till 2 am writing the two different projects, Monday more work, rushed off to airport, landed at 22:00, picked up and delivered straight to a production office where we continued with the treatments and guidelines till 1.30 am. Then dropped at my place (which is mainly my library). Good to be back after 4 months, but immediately back on the missions.

The great thing about this city is the bicycle infrastructure. You can move so fast here on the bike without waiting on buses, trams or trains, with great bicycle paths that are safe to speed on, except for the pedestrians and tourists occasionally crossing like slow sheep. In London it's far more dangerous, as there are no dedicated roads for bikes. A lot of people use bikes here to go from one business meeting to the next. Far more efficient.

Anyway, the last four weeks I've spent in a writing frenzy, from business plans to treatments and strategies. If all goes well and these projects get the funding, I need to focus on two screenplays, which is great to get hired for, but it means my own projects have to remain in the fridge for a while. I can't wait to get a few months off just to focus on those, two feature film scrips and a novel, all interconnected with the same world and characters and compiled from experiences and notes accumulated over the last 10 years.

Most of it was written on the move, on trains, planes and automobiles, in small notebooks, on the back of receipts and any piece of paper I could find in my pockets at the time. Since I discovered the small flat moleskins, those are a standard part of my outfit now. Lightweight and a small number of pages to quickly fill up and move to the next one, rather than lugging around with bulky hardbacks and so on. Pens should always be waterproof ink as rain and tea spills can wash out your thoughts otherwise, but strange enough it's rather hard to find pens, as most waterproof inks are still delivered in markers that show through to the other side of the page.

It will take a while before all the other distractions are out of the way, but will be good to get it all out of the system and structured onto paper and the screen. Back on the missions for now.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cinema: Sad state

Independents were supposed to get it easier by now, with the broader public in want of more interesting and original stories than the Hollywood popcorn industry is churning out. And don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good action flick now and then, but the different genres and budget level productions should co-exist with each other. Yet the big ones are still monopolising both theatrical space and the choice of the audience.

An independent distributor friend of mine--based in London--is releasing a pretty successful Spanish thriller right now and cinemas have been full with most screenings, especially during the crucial opening weekend. Yet she had to fight after the weekend to keep the film in the theatres at the proper evening time slots. Then after another two weeks of more successful screenings, the fight is on to keep it in the cinemas at all. Incredible, the exhibitors barely give you the chance to even make money, even though the potential is clearly there. And this is just one of many Kafka-esque stories I've heard in the last few years, especially when it comes to funding.

Film business sounds more like the Olympics now, who can make more money in the shortest time, win the most awards and all that rather than bringing good STORIES to the screen. Wealthier distributors (mostly the Hollywood affiliated companies) have the resources to buy cinema space and thus decide the majority of choice on offer for cinema visitors. The most feasible way for independents to still bring their material out there, seems to be DVD or digital downloads.

After a lot of work, took some time off in the last two weeks to see a few films. Zodiac, great work, never boring during its nearly 3 hours. Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: $ 250 million dollar films. Cliche humour and overlong. CGI budget took most of it. Script budget: $ ??, wouldn't surprise anyone if the script was added to the mix last minute. But these blockbusters were all raking it in at the box office, so will continue to set a trend. No further comment. Old discussion.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Art VS Commerce

Very hectic time. Sailing some heavy storms, but the course is still clear. As Shadowsnake slowly transformed from a film production company to a broader enterprise with the distribution company as spear head and the creative development at the core of it all, my own development as a filmmaker never stopped. It must have been around 2005-2006 when I finally managed to switch within minutes between the different mind sets of artist and entrepreneur.

In fact they are very similar, as both create a scenario, a script to materialise ideas, a vision. It's all about projection. The difference with pure business people, is that money for them is often the main goal, while for an artist it is a tool. Prior to this it was very frustrating when there was no time left for the creative outlet, and it felt like a blocked volcano. Now I've learned to put the ideas in the fridge and let them brood.

Although a lot of the freelance consultancy activities, sessions as personal trainer, script and treatment doctoring and the overseeing of the Shadowsnake distribution often distract from the creative writing, nowadays I tend to see any obstacle or task to deal with in life as part of the learning curve. In fact, business activities is taken seriously demand discipline and planning, all extremely important as well to artists to materialise their projects and bring them into fruition. This is the 21st century and more and more artists are taking control of their own creation, financing, production AND distribution as they realise most entertainment businesses have no interest in producing genuine and original material, only in pure hard cash.

I'm not sure if it was Michael Angelo who said: "Art is about ten percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration." Or as Jose Villarubia pointed out (quoting Picasso): "When the muse arrives, she should catch you working."

The Mindscape of Alan Moore DVDs should be arriving in the UK by Thursday afternoon or night, so we are looking forward with much anticipation after some serious trench warfare post-production session since October 2006 on the DVD alone.

The film will finally end up where it belongs, in front of more audiences than those who managed to see it at festivals or selected theatre screenings. Considering most people have Dolby Surround systems in the comfort of their home and large TV screens, it should still remain quite a psychedelic trip.

Check it out.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie Wedding

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Saturday 12 May, 2007: Sacred Matrimony

It won't happen very often that I write about a wedding, but then again it's a rare event when an extraordinary gentleman such as Alan Moore marries an extraordinary lady like Melinda Gebbie, who have been together for nearly two decades and produced the historical pornography Lost Girls.

Both were costumed by Tamsin, a specialist theatre designer, so a distinct nineteenth century atmosphere descended on Northampton's Guildhall where about thirty people from Northampton and all over the world came to pay their respects. The wedding vows were monumental pieces of poetry, which I won't even repeat here out of respect for privacy.

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I was capturing as much as possible on video, while juggling a stills camera and just trying to enjoy the good vibes (Jose Villarubia was rapid firing his own stills camera the entire day, so surely must have a great range of photographs). As they exited the Guildhall, and passing cab drivers pressed the horns it became clear that Alan and Melinda were without a doubt the uncrowned king and queen of Northampton.

DSC03707.JPGAs they left with the horse drawn coach, we all met up later at the social club where slowly more guests from around the world poured in--around a hundred or less--ranging from the comics industry's Neil Gaiman, Todd Klein, Oscar Zarate, Gary Spencer Millidge, Chris Staros, Dave Gibbons, Kevin O'Neill, Leah Moore and many more musicians, artists, friends, strangers and not to forget the guys still working on his longtime ongoing "cellar project."

Someone joked that there were probably more artists and writers in that small cosy and intimate club than at the Bristol Comic Expo going on that same Saturday a few hours away by train.

DSC03711.JPGIt was a really special atmosphere and great to see old acquaintances (especially mutual friend musician-film maker Tina from San Francisco, who came to visit Melinda), with Scarlett's Welland The Gonzo Dog-do Bar Band complementing it all with great music till late in the night. Something like this is hard to describe, but it was just one of those events where everybody was interesting and great to talk to and enjoyed themselves. The day flew by much too fast as if it was a trippy scene from a surreal film or one of Alan Moore's writings with a whole range of colourful characters.

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For both it is hopefully a well deserved holiday/honeymoon and we all wish the couple many healthy blessings and prosperity.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Creole Languages 3: Another POV on English

Hooking in on last week's piece on creole languages in Notes From the Other Ground, there still is an elitist view on most other forms of language outside of the socially accepted standard versions. Although I agree that the standard version is extremely important to know, as it's the common ground for efficient communication, the many different ways of expression are just as interesting culturally, as they are gateways to understanding how different groups of people think and live.

Some of the major million dollar mainstream success of hiphop and previously rock'n roll as music genres with their own lingo have made people somehow a little bit more aware that "deviating" language also sells. Advertising and marketing make clever use of the polarisation between standards and varieties.

The first versions of English as we know it now, can in some ways also be classified linguistically as creole languages. A strange mix between Saxon, Scandinavian (from the Nordic invasions) and later on French (through the Normans invaders) and Latin (through the clergy) if a more academic or religious dynamic was involved. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is therefore a crucial stepping stone for the English language, as it wrote down one of the first incarnations of that vernacular hybrid of Middle English, before it transformed to Modern English.

But the story of English is different, as the ruling classes also started to speak the language, abandoning Latin and French, while still borrowing from them. The history of creole languages in the New World is therefore more equivalent to Welsh and Gaelic, oppressed and slowly rooted out by a colonial type of rule. When one language acquires legal status, it usually means that others are either outlawed or sidetracked as inferior. So its longevity depends on the number of users who pass it on to each other and the next generations. It spreads, through people, through time and space.

As William Burroughs said: "Language is a virus from outer space."

English for example as a language is written and spoken mostly by people who originally are not native speakers and therefore make up their own as they go along. It functions as a lingua franca on the crossroads of different cultures and most of the technological advances are given English names at present, therefore it will last quite a while as the dominant language.

Mandarin is together with Spanish (another one with numerous dialects, national differences etc.) the language with the most speakers globally. But although China is becoming e a major economic power, with its own entertainment industry, the Chinese language is just not that accessible to most other cultures as English has been for at least the last century.

For me it's still one of the most powerful languages, because of all the nuances within the vocabulary and the ease with which it seems to adapt words from other languages and fields. The world jungle for example comes from India "jangal" meaning wild place.

But at present on a metalanguage level, the same elitist attitude prevails in mainstream culture as well. One form of expression is taken as the dominant one and other voices are simply deemed as not interesting enough to be heard. It's like one monotonous radio or TV channel broadcasting us the same kind of stories and formulae over and over again. The cinema theatres are still dominated by films with the lowest common denominators, to use a cliche.

The most interesting stories are simply not seen by most people, although it seems to be slowly changing as audiences are getting tired of CGI, pyrotechnics, star ridden films and bombastic scores in lieu of story.

However, no matter what kind of hybrid our shared popular culture will become, the division between the "norm" and the "other" will continue to exist and hopefully that's for the better, as the one feeds of the other. Most likely they will be complementary and not a strict duality of opposites, but rather a unity, a shared frame of reference that will become our global lingua franca.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  


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