Trust your artistic instinct
"The bug who dreamt that light was his lover” is an experimental short film created while doing the Creative Technologies Graduate Diploma at Media Design School. The film deals with themes such as social alienation, loneliness and desire.
This article shows in detail how this project came to life, describing each production stage. Yet, its main value resides on documenting my creative process, in showing how an inexperienced, but passionate, creator tried to approach film making. The final product has multiple weaknesses, yet I learned heaps... and the magic happens on the journey.
I wanted to research about so many things… I was curious about optics, finding an artistic identity, the entertainment industry and the creative process as a whole.
After some thinking I came with these "fancy words" proposal:
Exploring my youth imaginary through a short film that tells a dreamy story of unrequited love, pain, shame and hope; while experimenting with cinematic styles based on clear film making references; and using lighting as metaphor of love fulfillment.
Creating is a necessity, it is not something you choose to do. I create stuff mainly because I need it for myself, however my hope is to also communicate sincere ideas that people can relate to; ideas that make people dream.
The cinema I love could be described as ALIVE. I like it to be noisy, romantic and dreamy, In order to find my voice I had to remember my childhood; that movie, song or piece of art that created the urgency of being a creator.
Find your roots. Fall in love with filmmaking once more. Your voice rests there.
Filmmakers: Shion Sono, David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman, Lubezki, Terrence Malick, Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam and Stanley Kubrick.
Literature: Franz Kafka wrote about dark stuff such as alienation, surrealism, and mystical transformations. In “The Metamorphosis”, the main character Gregor Samsa, suddenly wakes up as horrible bug, being a main inspiration for the character Dangerous Mouse.
Painting: Vincent van Gogh for me represents unrequited love. He was always an outsider. He was a dreamy and troubled soul. He was so human.
The wild youth: Energy and apathy, hope and despair. As Emma Roberts character puts it in American Horror Story, Coven: “… but it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.”
Youth imaginary: The one I had in high school, when I used to write silly poems… In those days I came up with the concept of "Utopic femininity". It referred to the unknown girl’s mind, and desires. As a space, I conceived it as a forest where sacred love could happen.
Boy loves girl. Girl doesn’t love back!
Actually it is more complicated... is there even a story?
Most times I had no idea about what I was doing, but if I waited long enough I began to understand my story. There were times when I felt like a complete failure, or was simply apathetic. Some other days I wrote a lot and thought I was creating the most amazing stuff, I saw myself winning at Cannes as the most innovative filmmaker of my generation. I guess is just naive passion.
Sometimes I felt as a failed artist, while other times I thought: I’m going to win at Cannes! Daily thoughts of a naive artist...
When I was blocked I watched behind the scenes videos. From films like the Tree of life, to morbid rubbish like Human centipede and other random YouTube videos. Every single video helped me understand different key aspects about filmmaking.
In this process I made a research about social anxiety disorder, and found thousands of YouTube videos from young people confessing their horrible sickness. I was actually moved to tears.
By far what I enjoyed the most in the whole creative process.5 drafts were written from April to August. Every draft more logical and sadly less risky.I’m terrible in writing narrative screenplays. Most of the times I just write isolated images. However that shouldn't had been a problem in this project since I wanted to tell a dream. First drafts were irreverent, loud and non sense, they had random shots of the universe and apocalyptic stuff. The middle drafts had a narrator. They were more into poetry. Maybe the best versions. The final draft was very simple.
I also, for the first time , began to understand my short film character, and really became much in love with him. I was crying and writing. For me is so wonderful that something that intimate can be communicated to strangers around the world. That is what real artists achieve, they have the power to express what nobody else can .
Paraphrasing Luis Buñuel: “ Insects have both worlds, Sade and Shakespeare”.
The graffiti bug is a metaphor of the main character. He bears the concepts written on his body: Love, beauty, fuck, girls, happy, pussy, haha, sex, lol, desire, YOLO, shit, awwww, lonely, sad, bitch, denial, dick and dream.He is the symbol of the grotesque. The horrendous creature of the filthiest abysses. Constantly wrestling in the search of LIGHT!
The earthly representation of The Bug. A complete outsider. Lonely, pervert and creepy. The king of fools, a dreamer, the innocent and the lover. One of the healthiest human beings in today’s society. Yep, I’m quite pessimistic. I move 3 steps closer, and she moves away 3 more. I move take 10 steps and she moves away 10 more. What’s the use of Utopia? To keep walking.
She is the beautiful girl who hides beneath the bitchy mask. A strong girl, however quite fragile in her intimacy. Dysfunctional family, junky, with eating disorders, etc.
Expressionist, shaped by the character’s mind. Nightmarish, dystopia, absurd, threatening.
Sacred, pure, natural, eternal, utopic.
Sizzle reels were a great tool to pitch the project and to show people what I was looking for in terms of themes and mood. They were a great exercise.
production or Let's get real
First rule of film production: Lie!!!
How to start?
Design posters! Paste on universities and online creative communities! Yep! I’m receiving many applications! Answer every single one! Propose a date for a meeting!
Girls loved Samarah character! More than 10 applications! For Dangerous Mouse, as it was expected, not even one application... The casting day 4 girls. 2 guys who had nothing to do with the character’s profile.
I was blessed in meeting Sam Deng on the casting’s day. Initially he was just going to be an assistant, hopefully he tried acting too. His sense of humour and weirdness was exactly what I needed. Hannah Martin is a great actress. Her beauty and presence was what the character needed.Besides they looked so good together
Working with my actors. Rehearsing...
I almost didn't know anyone in Auckland, and I needed to find a house with a pool. The screenplay describes a PROJECT X kind of party; and that meant I needed to destroy a house. This was of course impossible for my budget.
I looked at renting houses and found around 4. Only one was less than $200 for half a day and admitted a film crew; and of course I didn't tell I was going to make a messy party.
The other locations were my friend's house. One Tree Hill, Auckland City, Olympic pools (without permission).
We finally started shooting August 30, and for the next two weeks. Crew and casting becomes like your family. You must trust in them and vice versa. While shooting I felt sedated. Living another life. Shooting was lots fun but also extremely exhausting! Filmmaking is like working in the nothingness trying to create something from nothing (if that makes sense). Directing was the easiest. You just tell what you want, and people help you to achieve it.
In the cutting room is where the film starts to take shape. And what shape was mine taking? A horrendous one.
Ohh, so much effort and I didn't get what I wanted! I was quite disappointed, I thought I had nothing at all. A complete failure.
The truth was that giving the film a shape is a pretty slow process... and by the third week of editing it started taking shape by itself! It was alive! Maybe it was quite different to what imagined but I was getting something interesting anyway.
From a technical point, the footage was in RAW format I had to use DaVinci Resolve to read them. My idea was learning this software to do the colour correction too, but time constraints didn't allow me. I used that software only for exporting my footage into different formats and creating proxies.
The magic of cinema or vfx
VFX needed to tell the story and they were challenging, yet it was a natural process of trial and error. I also had the luck of kind of knowing the digital tools and the help of MDS faculty.
A crucial shot that required to generate a big impact on the audience.
Social media interface
It was based on Facebook interface and also inspired by the movie Her by Spike Jonze.
Experimental techniques using paint , more AE and Nuke
Night for day in AE
More comp work
THE CGI BUG
UV and Textures
The reasonable thing would have been to make something which easily would give me a job, and no placing girls kissing, but that was not important for me…
You need to do whatever you want, if it feels good you take it, if not, don't listen…
In the end I'm happy because I learned many things!
I'm happy with the film, although is quite different to what I've imagined, a bug…