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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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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King of Pop is Dead

Been back in London a week now, with again too many projects sailing around me. Was just on a business call to the USA when a friend got a text message on the other side saying somebody had sms-ed him: Michael Jackson is Dead.

I said I'd check it later to see if it was a hoax. Then my crazy cousin in Amsterdam calls on my cell shouting the same. And so on. I'm sure everybody had the same international grapevine thing going on, but most who didn't grow up in the 80s probably don't realize that modern music and the music video as medium started with MJ. There is before and after Michael Jackson, it's that simple. Even though as kids some of us were more into rock or reggae, everybody was infected with the Thriller virus. Images of Japanese, South American, European fans passing out Beatles style. The album and the man conquered the world.

Most people in their twenties or teens now unfortunately only know the man's name from his court cases in the sordid context of sexual relations with boys and the even more sordid fall out of too many plastic surgery sessions. The tabloids sold it like hot candy: Wacko Jacko this and that.

In fact, I also forgot the impact he had when he just exploded on the world scene with MTV still pioneer land where black artists didn't appear. Neither did elaborate choreography on the scale that MJ brought to the medium, nor high budget top end cinema technique and make up FX as in Thriller (directed by John Landis). In a time when rock and R&B pop were separate worlds, he was also not afraid to experiment with hard rock guitars, even inviting Eddie van Halen to play a solo on Beat it.

Plenty has been written about the influence on pop culture, his generous involvement and charity, his mental states, so I won't go into more detail. But in retrospect his innovation and showmanship still stand up to many of the copycats nowadays. His antics were indeed bizarre in the last two decades of his life, but it's too bad he didn't get the chance to do his last comeback tour. It's always better to see somebody triumph than fall. Anyway, his musical DNA lives on in far lesser talents and considering the surge of mass media, I don't think they'll ever be a real queen (like Madonna) or king anymore. So effectively an icon has passed away and though the whole celebrity culture is now very much fabricated, there are icons who shaped and continue to shape the landscape of popular culture. And there is something inspiring about seeing people excel, no matter what art form or sport.

Billy Jean, I remember it was oddly haunting for a pop song and even more as a video:

The production was also incredibly tight with a perfectionism you seldom see anymore:

Beat it, in a time of urban warrior and kung fu movies, we were packing sticks and knives and all wanted the cool jackets when we were about nine years old:

So whether his music appeals or doesn't to individuals, the man's kinetic genius has to be admired, so perhaps best to remember him more like this:


Posted by DeZ vylenz  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Equinox Festival

For those passing by in London or interested in consciousness, magic, take the time to look into an annual festival:

The Mindscape of Alan Moore is playing on Sunday.

I'm not in London yet, trying to make a connecting flight and too many things going on, so will be gutted to miss out on what sounds like a very interesting event.

Check it out.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lego land Blues Again / The Devolution of Cinema

Been a week since I left Suriname, always takes me a few days to get used to the clinically organised landscape of The Netherlands. Miss the Paramaribo chaos and vibrancy, stray dogs with tails pointing up, now in this Lego land I see most dogs with tails between their legs. Back in Prozac territory it seems, so many people numbed by the system, even pets have psychiatrists here.

Having said that, weather was good in the weekend and Sunday hung out with a positive crowd in Vondelpark. As I left an Irishman asked me what I was doing and when I said I was a filmmaker, the usual questions rolled out what films etcetera and I mentioned that I did a film about Alan Moore, the comic book writer. His eyes widened as he stumbled out: "The Mindscape of Alan Moore? I have seen that. He's inspired me since I was fifteen." He also added to his shame that it was a pirate download he saw and it made me think again, especially when I saw the meagre selection at the Cannes Film Festival:

1) There are indeed a great number of people who are Alan Moore fans.

2) 90% of them seem to love the docu

3) The numbers don't fit, because sales are continuous, but not what everybody predicted. Especially if you consider the hundreds of thousands of views that some sites got within a week of posting the film online.

4) Obviously we are suffering from all the pirate downloads

5) The DVD market is indeed caving in

6) Independents will be the first ones to feel this crunch because they don't have the high volume business that enable big studios and distributors to survive on smaller margins or decreasing sales

7) Cinemas (the other main outlet for film besides the physical carrier) are again dominated by the Hollywood productions with the cash to front expensive campaign

8) The Internet is both a blessing and a curse, as it opens up the barriers between global communities, it also proliferates media in all shapes or forms to the extent that it does become a free commodity. Which is great to the audience, but not to the creator who spent years sharpening skills and even more years getting financing and actually making something to a high standard. We're not talking home videos or quickly recorded music tracks that result from a side hobby. I'm talking about artists who dedicate themself to create things on a professional level, living it day in day out. Studying their medium, pouring in their own money to get projects moving.

9) I don't believe fuckall in the whole idea of alternative revenue models for filmmakers and that they can make money on advertising, because you need to get millions of clicks and hits on a site before you even see a few dollars back, by the time of which you're years further and burnt out from shopping the next project around to get some funding

10) There are still two extremes at work: a) the big productions resulting from test screenings, formulas, templates that corporations assume to work because they are based on the idea of pleasing a whole cross section of society. b) Pretentious art house fare designed as anti-thesis to the constant bombardment of fast images and sound effects in most mainstream movies. In other words, slow, ponderous pieces of work showing how clever and philosophical the director can be in comparison with "Hollywood".

I don't believe in this kind of polarisation, because there was a time (especially in the 70s) when a mixture of both was possible, exciting cinema that had the balls and brains to experiment, but most of all tell stories that could keep people in their seats.

And lastly, I've seen some young promising filmmakers at work in Suriname who are completely autodidactic and have "the eye". Similarly in Mexico, Brasil, countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, you name it, there are new generations of artists who are more in touch with the new global vibe than the executives in charge of production and finance. I think the most exiting films to come out in the next decade will be those shot with no or micro-budgets where the creators have full control.

The question remains: without proper distribution, will any of us ever get to see them? And more importantly, if these filmmakers don't get any income from their work, how many years and projects can they sustain this? By the time they start a family they need to feed, this modus operandi is impossible to continue on a full time basis.

Anyway, let's keep our eyes and ears open for those sparks of inspiration.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's the Time

Left Paramaribo early Wednesday night and landed in Amsterdam early Thursday morning. Fast times, editing till midnight on Tuesday. Very productive few weeks and inspiring to see many entrepreneurs, artists and filmmakers in Suriname doing their thing up to very high standards. This despite the incredible brain drain the country has experienced since the early 1980s.

Been lucky to get commissioned for several projects, so it enables me to visit the homeland more often in a year. It's a big difference in vibe from Western Europe, the moment I landed back in Amsterdam this morning, the geography stretching out beneath the Suriname Airways Jumbo like a carved out Legoland, canals lining out like circuit boards in a flat green. Fitting to the science fiction thriller I have to start writing for London locations. Just seven weeks ago I saw the sea of broccoli approaching fast before the plane landed. The country is still around 80% jungle. I can't wait to capture it all on film: the urban chaos and vibrancy in the midst of all that nature.

On every trip a song slowly takes over as underlying score to the film you're living at that particular moment in time. I recognized the music sample track from The Zombies and I always loved the orginal (Time of The Season), but this time the song had the perfect film noir feel and completely in line with some of the action going on in my life, being nonstop on the move through so many different worlds. It also captures the spirit of so many independent women doing their thing and often with more drive and focus than most men. Anyway, the song is Give It To Me Right by Melanie Fiona (with Guyanese origins, vibe-practically a neighbour of Suriname) still sticks to me, so I had to google her up to see who was behind that beautiful performance. Incredibly, her looks live up to every sensual and confident fiber of the song.

Check it out.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Friday, May 08, 2009

L'arte di Arrangerse

Still in Suriname. Customs strikes in the port, heavy rains, too many factors causing delay in the shoot of the corporate films. Catching up in editing now.Also doing a lot of research for the fiction I'm writing. Had a good meeting with the head of the A-Team (Arrest team), a special police force, equivalent to the SWAT. Difference being they have to operate in areas as diverse as urban and jungle, so they're on the level of commandos with the difference being their objectives. They're trained by US Rangers and other special units from different countries and it's interesting to get an insight into the methodology and experience. The Head, Mr. S. is a seasoned strategist with decades of experience and still spearheads missions in the field. Will be interesting to join one of their training sessions next week. Also more meetings with police detectives and commanders planned to research certain procedures and murder cases. Fact and fiction merge, femme fatales stretching killer nails flashing jade smiles, cold beers and hot humid nights, a different time warp.

There's so much other stuff going on that I hardly get 5-6 hours sleep a day or get time to sit behind the PC, except for emails or editing. Getting allergic to plastic keyboards or anything removed from the raw physical reality I prefer. Two weeks ago shot a music video for Laco featuring K-Liber, with great hit potential. Laco is a young and driven MC with plenty of charisma and energy. Will be broad casted mainly in The Netherlands and locally. As I don't have my own equipment here, a young production company was hired, Alpha Pictures, all dressed in black with yellow prints, well organised and they even constructed their own jib which looks factory made. Another instance of improvisation in the tropics and interesting to see that one of the key members is a young military officer. So again the discipline and organisation I prefer to bring to film making came into play.

All in all it will be strange to go back to Europe next week. Another rhythm there, more bureaucracy, clinical infrastructure and different kinds of projects. Inhuman Remains, a zombie film written by David Hughes is in development at the moment and Londinium Fields, a sci-fi script I'm still working on are some of them. But the economic crisis doesn't make funding any easier. We'll see, in the Caribbean you learn to improvise, or as they say in Napoli: L'arte di Arrangerse. Make due with what you got.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

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