September 17, 2008

A Decisive Hour

My friend Ari once gave me some great guidance. Actually he has repeatedly advised me on this matter, but for once, I hope I can follow his sage-like wisdom.
When presenting a piece of art, let the piece or work speak for itself. Refrain from over explaining what you intended to do.
Sounds simple! However, it is obvious by this brief intro for my second short film, A Decisive Hour, that it is easier said than done for me to present my work without trying to, at least slightly, elucidate my intent.

I will only give you some background information, explain how I serendipitously collaborated with a young woman from Portugal, and let you arrive at your own conclusions about the film.

On July 11th of this year, while I was in California, I went on a hike in Samuel P. Taylor Park. The park holds a very special place in my heart, because as a child I spent many weekends playing along side its creak and getting lost amongst its trees.

I covered approximately seven miles which took about six hours. I carried my ipod, an SLR camera, and a video camera. I feel myself wanting to say more, but I will not.

Note on collaboration: Several days ago I received a comment on my youtube cover of Society by Eddie Vedder from the Into The Wild soundtrack, from DinossauraRufianex. She informed me that she too had covered the song and that I should check it out. As soon as I heard Madalena’s version, I knew that it had to be a part of my video. I emailed her and asked if it would be okay to use her song and she said of course.

I am always thrilled when the web helps foster this type of connectivity amongst strangers. I hope that she enjoys her voice as part of my vision and that she will understand her connection to my intention.

Without further adieu…please enjoy A Decisive Hour.

So what do you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
A Never Ending Math Equation by Modest Mouse covered by Sun Kil Moon
Sunflower by Low
Society by Jerry Hannan covered by Eddie Vedder covered by me covered by Madalena


  1. Anonymous9:50 PM

    HeY Jabiz,
    I too spent many many weekends at Samuel P. Taylor Park skipping rocks in the water, picnicing with family, playing capture the flag, and hiking the trails. It's a pretty special place. Not sure I was ready for the film this morning. It was heart breaking, but maybe I'll have a different perspective after I finish my coffee. It's early. Well done.

  2. i liked the first three minutes of this piece, the part with the modest mouse cover. i felt the edits were strong and there was something in general about the film that made me both sad and joyful. i also liked the part where the camera captures you on camera. you look so awed by the landscape that it appears you are having to catch your breath.

    the rest i thought was just so-so, but the fact that you did this film at all is A+++ happy face. art, as you have taught me, is a process. i think as your films grow, your process will improve.

    thank you for bringing this into the world.

  3. @anonymous I find it interesting that you found the piece heartbreaking, I would be curious as to why.

    @billiball I think that is the case with editing and working on something so much that you get sick of it. At some pint you have to make the call that it is finished, but I agree with you that part three in particular feels a bit disjointed form the rest of the film.

    Thanks as always for your support and critical eye.

    As for the process, I am loving this new medium- the idea of fluid photography, or cinematography is a wonderful new way to see the world.

    And yes I did just use the word wonderful.

    Final note for other readers: If you are going to comment please do not do so anonymously. If you have a blog, I would love to get a link back and establish a relationship, and if you are just commenting I would love to know who you are especially if, as this person seems to illustrate the case, if I know you.

  4. Blogs are meant to be conversations. People leave comments to spur on further discussion of whatever it was the creator of the post initially posted. For the life of me, I can’t get my friends to understand this point.

    I often get their emails with their comments. The problem with this approach is that other readers do not benefit from the comments that were emailed to me. The blog is the impetus of building community, so we must realize that sometimes the conversations that happened between readers in the comment box are often more important that the blog post itself.

    I understand that sometimes people don’t have their own blogs, so it is difficult to leave a link, but there are options. I don’t like it, but you can always comment anonymously and maybe sign a first name. Secondly blogger now allows you simple sign in with open ID or a name and URL. (Leave the URL blank if you don’t have one.

    Anyway, I got some constructive feedback from my two bests friends, and while Billieball already left a comment, (He is learning) I want to include his second comment here.

    i have seen amelie, read and taught the bret easton ellis short story, "into the islands," attended an okkerville river concert live, and bought a batch of steve mccury postcards. this is important because it informs the way i aesthetically engage with the latest intrepid film, Decisive Hour.

    i thought the film was a C+/B- as a free standing piece of work. but if i include the context of how you have a million things going on and this is only your second film, this work gets an unequivocal A+.

    i actually don’t give a rat's ass about the grade it gets, and you probably care even less, ...all i care about is expressing how great it is that you are working in the capacity of a film maker. i mean, if the album Check Your Head and the Summer of Weird have any enduring legacy, let it be this. i hope i am being clear. i am just so happy that you are living your life, and that that life interfaces with the practice of movie making. it makes me want to make them, too.

    ...and, to be honest, i have a great idea and have already started the process.

    above all else, your film is better than the song "Like a King/I'll Rise." so you can hold that over ben harper should your dual paths over cross.

    this piece makes me proud and honored to be your friend. it is not a superb piece of art, or even an amazing document of your experience, but it strongly suggests your potential as a someone behind (and in front) of the lens. keep going.

    note: i LOVED the modest mouse cover!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Second comment:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the jittery feeling of the scene with you looking out in what looks like a field in West Marin. It felt much like towards the end of Touching the Void, the hallucination scenes. It was a nice use of foreshadowing for later scenes. I mean I LOVED that. Also, the crane scene felt honest and you didn't stay with it too long. Perfect amount. The opening and closing scene with the hand, nicely done. I'm glad it didn't start off with a scene of you standing there looking out or something. I hated the opening song, I think West Marin demands something softer, more complimentary. I know I'm going to look like an idiot for this, but just my feeling. Society closing, nicely done as well. The cow behind the fence/wire? Hmmm. I'm not sure about that one yet. I think it works and doesn't feel a bit cliche or pulling at an obvious. But...
    The yellow flower 10-second stand, edit down or eliminate, i hated that so much and it got me angry. I'm actually drinking red wine because of it. I know what you were trying to do, but you did it seconds later with the bird (free) in the air, don't do both please.

    I feel like shit now for even critiquing it but that's what you asked for.
    I'm just so fucking impressed that i have a friend who can put something like this together, have it run for so long (10 minutes) and be teaching and raising a kid. Remarkable not only for that, but in the quality of this product. Thank you. Good night and good luck,


    See that wasn't so hard!

  5. And now my comments on the comments (See how this works?)

    I will take a B- any day. I am still very new to this new medium of video and am loving it. It allows the photographer the ability to play with “time” . As the second commenter noted, one must make decisions on how long to maintain a shot to create an affect. These are tough choices and sometimes they can annoy the viewer. I hope to learn how to make the right choices and I grow in this field.

    The first commenter also said, “it makes me want to make them, too. “

    I can’t say how happy that makes me. The reason why I do things like this and force my friends and anybody who will give me their attention to view my work is because I want to live in a world where I am surrounded by media created by people I know. We have so many tools, we are talented, why can’t we create art/media to reflect who we are? I look forward to seeing your first film soon.

    above all else, your film is better than the song "Like a King/I'll Rise." so you can hold that over ben harper should your dual paths over cross.

    I actually love that Harper song!

    I hated the opening song, I think West Marin demands something softer, more complimentary.

    I am sorry you hated that song so much, but that was the unofficial soundtrack of my trip and was played ad nausea. It was actually being played while I was driving and the sense of euphoria it offered me was perfect for West Marin. Lyrically I felt it was a great fit as well:

    Infinity spirals out creation
    We're on the tip of its tongue, and it is saying
    We aint sure where you stand
    You aint machines and you aint land
    And the plants and the animals, they are linked

    The cow behind the fence/wire? Hmmm. I'm not sure about that one yet.

    Me either. I had a whole spoken part over that, but chose to leave it off.

    The yellow flower 10-second stand, edit down or eliminate, i hated that so much and it got me angry. I'm actually drinking red wine because of it. I know what you were trying to do, but you did it seconds later with the bird (free) in the air, don't do both please.

    I am not sure what I was trying to do, so I would love to hear your thoughts. (here in the comment box, not in an email.)

    I feel like shit now for even critiquing it but that's what you asked for.

    Please don’t I love that you took to the time to watch and comment.

    Anyone else want to weigh in…

  6. Bear with me here, this is going to come around.

    Several years ago, I had no experience with crafty things involving yarn. I mean, I probably had to make some sort of yarn art in grade school, but really yarn is just pretty much yarn, right? It comes in some different colors, and maybe some of it is fuzzy and some isn't, but really what is there to say about yarn.

    Since then, I've learned to knit and crochet, and started spinning my own yarn and bought a spinning wheel and learned about all sorts of different fibers and one day had an epiphany that *all of our clothes* are either knitted or woven! And wow, all of a sudden I have this whole appreciation for yarn, and it's a really complicated topic, and I check out stacks of books from the library just on the subject of yarn and knitting several times a month.

    I assume that pretty much everything is like this. So when I feel like, you know, it's a video of a beautiful park...what more is there to say about it? that's probably a reflection of my cluelessness about the medium and not a reflection of the "grade" your movie should receive. Since I don't have any reference for the medium you're using, I don't have a good way of interpreting the language you are speaking in. If you are curious about the impressions of a non-video-speaker, here's what I thought.

    What a beautiful place! I haven't been there, but I love the juxtaposition of browns and greens in one location.

    I get the sense you're trying to say something with the cow and the bird, but I'm not really sure what. Does it have to do with domestication? Freedom? That cow seems plenty content. Obviously, there is some level of symbology going on here and throughout the video, so much so that a friend of yours has been forced to drink red wine as a result of an emotional reaction to part of it (which I think pretty much makes it an A++, by the way), but it's a level of symbology that I don't get.

    When the second song came on, I was expecting something different to happen in the video, but I'm not sure that anything changed. Were the woods supposed to be slightly creepy?

    I caught a clip of a surfing video that my partner was watching the other day (you might like it, it's made by Jack Johnson and the Malloys) where the music was synched with these boys jumping off a bridge into a river. It was beautiful and caught the feeling of this amazing moment. That's what I want music to do in a video, or I want it to not be there. Take that opinion for what it's worth, since I tend to be a very one-track person, and I like my input to come from one source at a time, unless it's synched up so well that I can't tell there's more than one input channel. I know other people are different.

    I get what anonymous was saying about heartbreak, but I'm not sure I can express it any differently. There was something melancholy and longing about it. Maybe the colors? particularly the browner dryer scenes.

    The cut to civilization was either too obvious or not obvious enough, I'm not sure. There were many beautiful things in the city scenes, so I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be comparing favorably to the previous scenes or not. Or maybe I'm just being too literal and it wasn't supposed to compare to anything at all.

    I love love loved the repeated scene of your arm in the tall brown grass. It could have been cliche (I'm pretty sure that every country music video with a female lead singer has a similar scene in it), but what made that work for me was your tattoo. I think just being able to see the glimpse of the tattoo in that shot would have made it work, but it worked particularly well for me because I read your essay a long time ago in the Self-Portrait Challenge about that tattoo so it has some symbolic meaning for me that made the whole scene resonate symbolically and made me feel like for a moment I understood the language.

  7. @DeAnna Will respond to your comment in a more insightful way soon, but I don’t want to fill the comment box with my own words. In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to watch and leave such an honest critique.

  8. Another comment sent to me through Facebook:

    ok so forgive me if this is out of the blue and all...

    but thank you for sharing so much of yourself with the world wide us.

    After week-upon-nutty-week, your 11 July video managed to recenter me instantly. Oodles of thank you's from afar.

    Since birth I've vacillated between city mouse and country mouse mentality with much of my foundational free time spent rambling about West Marin without bounds.

    I still go back ~twice a month,take an all too snappy drive through Samuel P Taylor to arrive at my field in the sun. The sense of balance is amazingly wonderous, and confounding that two of more mentalities co-exist at all times.

    So thank you for bringing back memories young and old, and everywhere in between. I'm sure the current visions of being chased down hills by calves, frantic bareback rides with unexpected turns/twists/jumps, drenching myself in cool summer creeks, sun-plastered shores and tidepools of powerplay intrigue, laying in the August grass watching the meteors sparkle by, and the stereophonic howling at the full moon from ridgeline to ridgeline will be as present as my monkey mind will allow in the coming days and lead to even more nostalgic overflows and random giggles.

    Glad to have a view to your reality now and sorry I missed past opportunities.