10 February 2010

Moms & Wives

I recall when I was in grade 11, my teacher of Geography told the class, or was it just a few male students, something I've never forgotten. He spoke of how that generally, guys are attracted to girls who are similar to their Moms. In other words, if a guys mom is tall and slim, he'd be more inclined to tall-slim women. He said, the majority of men marry women who are like, in apperance and build, to their mothers. He mentioned that it was the same for girls as well. Girls with tall fathers tend to like/prefer tall boys etc. Well, I think he was right.

I think it applies to other areas aswell. My father is always explaining stuff to my mother. From what bluetooth is to whats wrong with the car to current affairs. And my mom is always attentive and interested. I can tell they both thoroughly enjoy it. My brother and I usually explain stuff to my mom as well, and I don't know about him, but I certainly enjoy it.

I suspect therefore that if I have a wife who "knows alot", it'll be a point of contention for a while atleast. Everytime, I try to explain something, she'll say something like, "I know" or something and i'll soon realise there's very little I know that she doesn't. Or perharps, unlike my mom, if my wife ends up being one who is not really interested in details or trivia, they'll be a big problem, definately.

06 February 2010

Excellent Commercial!

I have huge interest in trivia and behind the scenes stuff and consequently in the directing and production aspects of movies. Here is a brilliant advert/commercial followed by an excellent review by John Moore which I found extremely interesting. Something I'd love to do, some day, is make a movie. Check out this young (under 25 I reckon) film maker's blog- Life, by John

This was a remarkable change of pace from the typical PSA. It was beautifully shot, well directed, and had a good bit of forethought in the story being told.

Things that appeal to me about it are the environment. In the home, a father evidently teaching his daughter something about vehicle safety. It's cozy, it's warm, it's a place we all want to be.

The love between the members of the family is clearly portrayed as the commercial begins, and the daughter's panic stricken face betrays so much affection for her father that you can't help but resonate with the character. This is excellent casting, and excellent direction. If one were to look back at preproduction of this ad, one would no doubt find detailed storyboards and animatics prepared well in advance.

But the brilliance is also in the simplicity of the shots. One of the reasons the elements are so bold and so plain for the viewer, so memorable in the midst of a variety of other commercials, is the economy of shots. Thomas Jefferson said, "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." The same applies to shots within a film as well.

The breakdown of the commercial:

1. 00:00 Key Turning.
2. 00:04 Foot on the gas.
3. 00:06 Family watches, entertained - trucking right.
4. 00:10 Driving happily - push in.
5. 00:14 Family laughter, mid shot - push in.
6. 00:17 A happy father, - truck right.
7. 00:20 Daughter laughing, - push in.
8. 00:22 Fearful driver, mid-shot - push in.
9. 00:28 Panicked daughter, close up - push in
10. 00:31 Yanking the wheel, close up - push in
11. 00:35 Family leaps into action - push in
12. 00:36 Daughter at his side
13. 00:43 Her Fingers interlock
14. 00:46 Wife grabs him
15. 00:48 Her Fingers interlock
16. 00:50 Impact Close-up
17. 00:50 Impact Wide
18. 00:58 Glitter Falls
19. 01:02 A Family Embrace

You might say, "That's 19 shots in an 88 second commercial. That's averaging a cut every 4.5 seconds... How is that economical?" Well, in this instance, we're going to examine the setups and angles, or shots and not the number of times a shot is edited in, or cuts. There is a lot we were able to learn in this very short period of time, and a lot of action taking place. Yet the reason we were able to remember it all so very clearly, is that we didn't cut to a new angle every time.

The setups are actually very simple throughout the short. Shots 1 and 2 are throwaway angles. That's why the content in the shot is very limited. A key turns, a foot presses the gas pedal. But even though they pass by in six seconds, we know he's starting a car. There is very little to see in the shot, other than the hand with the invisible key, and the foot on the invisible gas pedal. This way, all our attention is devoted to the actions, not the environment.

This is true with every shot in the film; the environments are simple and unassuming, familiar to the viewer, so that the characters become the focal point.

Shot 3 we move the camera past the driver, to see the family on the couch. Now we have clearly established the locations of the characters, and the mood of the family. If we were to cut to the father first, his dopey driving grin would look ridiculous. Instead, because we see the family giggling and watching with awe, when we cut to the father driving, we realize he is intentionally entertaining them. His actions no longer seem silly, but noble, in a way.

Shot 4, with the father driving, is a setup (angle, lighting, dolly track, etc) that will be reused several times, with only slight variation. The same is true of shot 5. In all, there were probably only about ten setups in the whole film, allowing a lot of time for the audience to really study out each of the environments, characters, actions, and arcs within the short.

Even in the longest shot in the short, the end embrace, the environment is very simple. There are no props, no background furniture. The wallpaper is patterned but the pattern is so out of focus, we can only really study the family. They are even lit more brightly than anything in the background. It's a perfect close.

An amateur director would probably have had an entirely new shot every 3-5 seconds, to keep it 'interesting'. Rather than focusing on characters and clearly defining their goals, he would have distracted the audience with 20 unique setups, brightly lit and filled with distracting background props. This would not only hurt the audience's understanding of the short, but it would have also been twice as time consuming to shoot.

On a shoot like this, every setup would take 45 minutes to an hour. When storyboarding even your short films, consider the cost of every shot on a professional feature film. Choose your shots very carefully, and focus on clarity of the action for the audience. Remember, we're here to serve the audience with a story; not confuse them with unnecessary information.

Keep it simple, make it bold.

~ In Christ, John.

05 February 2010

The Unofficial Relationship (Part 1)

I love this picture of contemporary christian musicians Shane Bernard & Bethany Dillon's wedding, I think it goes well with the title of the post.

I'm on facebook and I changed my relationship status from "single" to "its complicated". Well, I was thinking one day (yes, I think, occasionally) and I realised that while I was not in a relationship, I wasn't really single. It was then that I coined the phrase "Unofficial Relationship" to describe what sort of situation I was in.

Many people are actually in unofficial relationships, from hence forth referred to as "UOR".

Here are two people who like each other but for some reason or other cannot commit. I've seen it happen between a young man seeking a young woman. He likes her and has made his position clear. The young lady does not give a no but doesn't give a yes either. Perhaps she says, give me time or not right now. The two begin hanging out, or talking alot. The young man buys her gifts and talks to her alot. They become close sharing what is happening in their lives, enjoying many benefits of being in a relationship but are not really. The two individuals isolate themselves.

Or perhaps its a guy, alittle too young to seek a girl, a teenager, still a dependant. He likes a girl and starts sending her alot of text messages or calling her and chatting with her. The girl likes him back and before long they become close and go for walks perhaps and he buys her gifts, maybe she does the same. They enter into an UOR. For teens nowadays whether Christian or non-Christian, I've observed, the chap sees the girl, likes her and pursues her. They get hitched and "breakup" in due course (ever noticed they just never last, these teen/post-teen relationships?)

Its not always the same, but the idea of isolation and developing a rather close friendship is prominent. The feelings are typically mutual or else there wouldn't be an UOR in the first place.

Basically an UOR is a relationship between a male and female (ideally) where while the two have not committed to each other they have isolated each other. While they may not necessarily do everything that two people in an official relationship do, they do things which two people in an ordinary friendship do not do, they are somewhere in between the mere friendship and the official relationship.

I call it unofficial for obvious reasons, if you ask the two individuals whether they are in a relationship, the answer will be a definite no. But if you ask them how often they talk to each other, how much time the see each other, how often they are together, you will soon find, that there is some sort of "thing" going on.

Now (Paul Washer always goes to the next point of his sermon like that, "Now, ..."), UOR are dangerous and unbiblical making them wrong. I hope to discuss that in Part II.

I have "charged" two people of being in UORs both of whom actually were, they both bitterly denied it, which is natural for people in UORs. The first person I "charged" was a young lady, she denied it because she had been approached by the young man and liked him but still wasn't so sure she wanted to see him and didn't want to feel or appear bound. Yet she entertained him and accepted his gifts and attention. The other was a man, he too denied it, I don't know why. In his particular case he sought the young lady and she basically said it was too early but she liked him too and now they are bound to each other by virtue of the fact that he had declared his love and she her like and now it would be betrayal on her part if she started seeing another man either now or later cause he's waiting.

I was going to give a list of things to help someone better judge whether or not they are in an UOR, but here is a simple test.

The official relationship and the UOR have alot of things in common but here is the clincher. In both, the individuals are bound. In the official relationship, it would be taboo for any of the mates to begin pursuing anyone other than their mate and it would hurt their partner. Its exactly the same in an UOR. The two are bound to each other. The man has shown his interest by the attention and gifts and the lady likes him and so entertains him. Should the man "move on", the lady will feel betrayed.

"He sent me all those signs only to leave me."

Were you together?


Then why are you hurt, why do you feel betrayed? I'll tell you why, you decided to enjoy a relationship without committing. You consented to an UOR.

Or perhaps the man is the victim when the lady accepts another man who approaches her.

"I sent her all those gifts, all those text messages, all those chats we had, all that time we talked and spent time together, yet she was just using me to pass time, I feel betrayed."

Were you seeing each other?


Then why feel betrayed? You were not in a relationship so she was still a free woman.

And the problem is, you cannot take your mate to task for leaving you because it wasn't official. The papers were not signed as it were. All it would take is for your mate to say, "No we weren't." and that would be it.

If your "friend" suddenly started seeing someone or entertaining someone other than you, would you feel hurt or betrayed? My dear friend, you are in an Unofficial Relationship and it is dangerous and it isn't biblical.

01 February 2010

I Got To Preach

Every week our cell group meets to go out into the neighbourhood doing door-to-door evangelism. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be following up those who attended our evangelistic Braai/BBQ which we hosted last year over Christmas. Well, I joined our cell leader as he was following up a young lady staying at a college boarding house. We bounced but opted to speak to a young lady whose room was just opposite.

During our chat with her, she mentioned that her father had died a few months ago and she was quite confused and had a number of questions. I made an appointment to meet her the following day. I planned to attempt answering her questions. I was not aware that my meeting with her would be the toughest I've ever encountered in all my door-to-door evangelism days.

Contrary to what I expected, this young lady wasn't impressed with God, not because he had taken her father away from her and her family. Her concern was that God had allowed her father, a devoted and active man in his Christian life, to suffer so much in the months leading to his death. Apparently her father had a tumor in his belly which the doctors miss diagnosed. They spent time treating a problem that didn't exist and in the end, when they finally pinned the real problem, it was too late. About 2 weeks before he died, he could not even speak.

This young lady told me openly that she no longer really cared about pushing hard in life but just lived each day as it came. She had lost her drive and will. Her father's relatives had not made life any easier, they had been a source of much pain rather than comfort.

The ball was finally in my court, what was I to say to this young lady? How was I going to "defend God" while maintaining sensitivity to her feelings. I stammered and flipped through my bible and stumbled my way through some sort of explanation.

I knew, though, almost immediately, that this young lady felt the way she did about God because she did not understand God's holiness and man's sinfulness. But I really struggled to make my point and she was certainly not convinced. I quickly discovered how much I needed to study this whole subject and be better positioned to respond to such questions.

During our conversation, I received a call from the leaders of a fellowship at DK (David Kaunda High), they wanted me to share a song or two at their meeting the next day. I asked to meet them that same day just to find out who the new leaders were and what they had planned for the year, etc.

I made my way over to DK as soon as I was done with my struggled chat with the young lady. There is a need for sound gospel preaching at the DK fellowship and so I am always keen to offer preachers for their meetings. Fortunately they needed a preacher for the next day and I promised to come with one. I quickly got in touch with my buddy who I thought would jump at the opportunity but he said it was too short a notice. As the evening progressed, it became clear that I probably wouldn't be able to find a preacher in time, and so I decided I'd prepare something in the event that I failed to find someone.

As I sat down to prepare, I had no doubt in my mind as to what I would share if I ended up preaching. I would answer those questions that that young lady had and basically answer the question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Well, I preached at DK the next evening and it was a great experience, it was an awesome experience to share the gospel with 50+ youths. My text was Luke 13:1-9. One of the things I've lacked the few times I've preached is passion. I tend to just talk but this time, I think I thundered (for my standards at least) probably because it was more from the heart than all the other times. When I had exhausted much of my arguments I said something like, "I hope you have began to see why we deserve the very worst from God." And some guys (girls mostly, actually) shouted, "No!". It was pretty interesting, but I think by the time I was done, they could all answer a humble "yes" in their bowels.

The last time I preached, though, it wasn't so great...

Bebo Norman on Valentines Day

From Bebo Norman's blog, www.bebonorman.com. For those of you who don't know him, Bebo is just one of the most profound writers on the Contemporary Christian Music scene...


I recorded a Valentine’s Day promotional video today for my record label. This sort of video is a fairly normal thing to do for big Holiday promotions…you know, the standard “what’s your favorite gift you’ve ever gotten for Christmas/tell us about your favorite family Christmas tradition” sort of thing, or the ever repetitive “what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving” list, etc, etc. And no offense to the promotional folks at the label who really do work their butts off to make things happen, but I kind of feel like I might have to draw the line at Valentine’s Day. And I’m sorry if you happen to be a big box of chocolates kind of gal, but I SERIOUSLY don’t get it. I mean, if you don’t happen to have a “Valentine” it’s sort of like rubbing it in, and if you do happen to have a Valentine, it’s sort of like rubbing it in. Maybe it’s because my wife could seriously not care less about it (might just be THE reason I married her), or perhaps it’s because I feel like it’s mostly just a big racket for the flower and chocolate industries, but I find myself a bit cynical about this particular holiday. Is that wrong? I mean, is it wrong to feel like if I love someone I should try to let them know it every day, not just this one random day of the year? Is it wrong to think that it’s much more of a “gift” to surprise my wife with flowers every now and then instead of gathering up the scraps at the flower shop on the day that every lame man on the planet is hunting to “make up for lost time” and maybe, just maybe, get lucky when he gets home? I don’t know, I’m sure I’m overreacting, but…I don’t think I really care. So someone told me that when I’m not sure what to blog about on a particular day that I should come up with one sentence that sort of sums it all up. So here’s my sentence for the day: Valentine’s Day is d-u-m. (And yes, I left the “b” out on purpose).