Don't Look Back
Short films -- especially those featuring animation, effects, and comedy -- are the hot ticket du Web. But if authenticity inspires you more than gimmickry, drop by the cinéma vérité haven of neighborhoodfilms.com. Every Thursday morning since mid-July, local documentary-maker Daniel Robin (Matzoh Balls and Black-Eyed Peas) has posted a new chapter of The Valet Chronicles, an ongoing portrait of the quadrant of North Beach where he's employed as a car parker. "My intent is to convey a sense of place, an atmosphere I'm familiar with and the rhythms of a neighborhood," says Robin.
Armed with a Sony digital camera, a G4, and Final Cut Pro, Robin shoots, edits, compresses, and uploads a personal view of the corner of Grant and Vallejo to anyone in the world who's interested. Robin has filmmaker friends prepping similar slices of life in other S.F. neighborhoods, Hollywood, Venice (CA), and Berlin, and envisions "a global thing, with stations all over the world." The rules: "It's one geographical location and it's always from the same person." The result: "A subjective perspective on a microsociety, with one individual determining the content and style."
Will viewers tune in regularly for a one-minute hit of ambience? "Even if you go into the deepest experimental cinema, it's our instinct to pull a narrative out, to find something to attach ourselves to," Robin concedes. But he's hopeful that real lives in progress will prove sufficiently compelling. "You become familiar with the characters the way I know them," Robin says. "That might keep you coming back." Does his boss mind his incessant filming? "As long as I'm parking the cars and not wrecking them, I'm OK."
I like a guy who says, "I went to De Anza College before USC to save my parents as much money as possible." After scoring and editing The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, San Jose native John Ottman makes his directing debut with Urban Legends: Final Cut. "All films, no matter what, are made or ruined in the editing room," Ottman confides on the phone from L.A. "A lot of instances, I saved us time on the set: "We're never going to use this shot. Let's move on.' But we hadn't fully written the ending out. We knew who the killer was, but we had no idea how we were going to pull it off."
Ottman's goal is to direct and compose -- and give up editing. "It's so dreary and depressing to sit in that room for such a long time," he says. "No one knows the contribution the editor makes except the people working on the film. I'd rather walk away from a film with a CD and hand it to people. At least it's tangible."