The JMYC & Our Visiting Artist

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The JuiceMedia Youth Committee has been meeting every other Wednesday to continue to discuss all things JuiceMedia! The youth have been giving amazing input about navigating our virtual format, and how to keep students engaged during quarantine and social distancing.

The students decided that they’d enjoy writing critical response essays about movies they love, which all have been posted here on the blog, as well as on our instagram. The youth also decided to take this next week to do a week-long mini-movie challenge in their peer groups, so be on the look out for those next week! We’re also going to compile a document full of tips and tricks about video production that the youth have learned during their time in JM, to be passed on to all current and incoming students.

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We were overjoyed to have John Akre visit JuiceMedia last week. He shared everything he’s learned about animation during his career, and how important it is to create art as a youth. We asked all sorts of questions about how he developed his style, what kinds of public art he does, and who his influences are. This week we have another visiting artist: FilmNorth’s very own Andrew Peterson! We’ll report back with all the things we learned in our next post. Until then!

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How The ‘Blade Runner’ Films Get Their Audience To Ask Questions

How the Blade Runner Films Get Their Audience to Ask Questions

by Ben Dreblow

Minor Spoilers for both films

If you know me it is no secret that I adore the Blade Runner films; they have had a profound impact on the way I view film. One of the things the films opened my mind to was cinema’s ability to cause its audience to ask questions. You cannot help but think about what it means to be human and how technology will impact society’s progress when watching Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel. These points are so discussed that you would be hard pressed to find a review or discussion of the films that does not mention these existential questions. Which got me thinking about another question: how can a film get its audience to respond in such a way?

Certainly you could have characters ask the questions themselves, within the film. For example, they could say the line: “what does it mean to be human?” However, audiences and critics would likely cringe at such obvious storytelling.  Besides, merely having characters ask the question within the film does not mean the film itself is asking the question. If you could insert that line into a stoner buddy comedy like Pineapple Express, would that suddenly mean that film as a whole is asking it? I would say no.

I believe it would be fitting to take a look at the Blade Runner films, and see how they achieve this response. I will be using the “what does it mean to be human” question that is often discussed in relation to these two films as the example question they are trying ask. Neither Blade Runner nor its sequel have moments like I described, where a character verbally asks the question the film is asking. So how do these films accomplish this effect?

Each of these films has a script that places the characters within a narrative where the subject of the question it wants to ask plays a central role within them. In Blade Runner, humans have created a race of androids that look and behave exactly like humans. Called “replicants,” these androids are essentially used for slave labor. Some of these replicants are starting to violently revolt and the blade runners are tasked with retiring (killing) these rebellious creations. Blade Runner 2049 escalates the conflict between humanity and its likeness with the reveal that some replicants are capable of conceiving children. A key moment in the script for Blade Runner that helps ask this question is the famous “tears in the rain” monologue delivered by the late Rutger Hauer. The night before filming, Hauer cut many parts from the monologue as he felt the moment had been overwritten on the page. In this moment, Hauer’s replicant character delivers a monologue describing the most striking experiences of his short life. Recalling life’s greatest memories and the miracle of childbirth are all deeply human things for a mere replicant to experience.

However, film is a visual art form, and having this story on paper does not mean it will be communicated effectively on film, nor will Rutger Hauer’s tremendous performance contribute much if it is not captured. Films need to use their visuals appropriately to ask their questions effectively. The Blade Runner films rely on their production design and lighting to ask the question visually. They do this through the design of the replicants. Think about how differently we would react to the replicants if they were not so similar to us in their design. What if the filmmakers behind Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 decided to give them translucent skin where one could see their mechanical internals, or if they put a glowing light on the side of their head? We would likely begin to feel as if they were less human than we are.  Instead, they look nearly identical, save for a lighting trick used in the first film to add a very subtle glow in the eyes of the replicants. (Which are the window to the soul after all!)

This is where the question comes to a head. When we see the similarity between the humans and the replicants, in look and behavior, when we hear them share their fondest memories of their lives, we think, “what makes us different from them?” In order to answer that we need to ask what makes us human to begin with. In this way the Blade Runner films invite their audience into a thought experiment that is both beautiful and bleak. The answers you get will certainly depend on your own beliefs and worldview. Perhaps what makes us human means we are different from the replicants, perhaps not. Either way, the ability of a film to cause such existential contemplation is truly incredible and at times mystifying.

The ways in which films can ask questions cannot be contained in one essay, and certainly do not read these methods I describe as the only ones out there. Every film is different, and different questions can require different methods. I hope that this essay has been helpful to you, and opened your mind like the Blade Runner films opened mine, to the ways films can ask questions.

 

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JuiceMedia Goes Virtual

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The pandemic sure has shaken up the world, but it hasn’t shaken our students’ commitment to JuiceMedia! On March 15th, JM made the move to online platforms. We now use Zoom to meet twice a week, and the JuiceMedia Youth Committee still meets every other Wednesday. The students are continuing the projects that they started while we were still in-person, and those who had finished their projects before moving online are coming up with quarantine-safe ways to tell visual stories.

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We have utilized screensharing in Zoom in many ways, one of which is evidenced above. Ben was able to give his prop-making presentation by screensharing his powerpoint, then showed us some props he’s made while we had a Q&A with the rest of the students.

We’ve also been able to play an adapted version of pictionary via Zoom! The students enjoy playing this during JM session breaks. We also are sure to stretch before or during our meetings:

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Suffice to say, JuiceMedia is still thriving and our students are rising to the challenge of filming while quarantining and social distancing. Hooray for the commitment of our students, interns, and instructors!

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Ryan Gosling Crime Films: Who Did It Best

Ryan Gosling Crime Films: Who Did it Best

By Izzy Larson

Contains spoilers for Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines

Quarantine has got me on a major Ryan Gosling kick. From Only God Forgives to Lars and the Real Girl, his success at avoiding cast type as well as his ability to select a diverse collection of projects never ceases to reconfirm the respect I have for him as an artist. While I am never disappointed with his performances, I recently viewed for the first time two of his films that completely blew me away with the storytelling—Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines. In turn, I can not help but compare the two. Both feature Gosling as a skilled driver (in Drive he is a professional stunt car driver, in Place Beyond he is a professional motorcyclist) who commits armed robbery in hopes of supporting a family. While the content appears similar in theory, the directing styles create two drastically different tones, pushing me to ask myself: which film did it best?

Drive plays out on screen like a poem; written in blood, read in dim elevator corners, an ode to midnight Los Angeles. Director Nicholas Winding Refn is surely a poet, but his strength isn’t necessarily the weight of the words of the script, it’s the imagery they evoke. Drive is one of the most visually striking films I’ve seen; the shots are not only beautiful, but also provide important storytelling aspects. There is no dialogue that isn’t necessary and as the viewer you never find yourself wishing for less silence—in fact we see Gosling’s character’s relationship with Carey Mulligan’s character grow into a complex dynamic with little more than awkward yet earnest smiles. There’s this one unbelievable shot in an elevator where Gosling pushes Mulligan behind him and kisses her before killing the man in the elevator with them in one of the most brutal manners I’ve ever experienced. I could analyze this scene for pages so I’ll cut it short and just say that the visuals of Drive made me feel the same way I felt when watching 1917 and Mad Max:Fury Road—breathless. 

While The Place Beyond the Pines cannot begin to compare to Drive in a stylistic sense I would be hard-pressed to find a script and direction that I enjoy more. The Place Beyond the Pines is a phenomenal story about the love motorcyclist-turned-criminal Luke Glanton has for his son, wonderfully illustrated by director Derek Cianfrance. The film takes place in essentially three acts that weave together to create layers of relationship building between complex characters throughout multiple generations. Cianfrance shows what love and sacrifice means through life altering events, but he also pays attention to the little things; a photograph in a police-confiscated backpack, sunglasses in an abandoned trailer and parallel tracking shots of Luke and his son Jason are some of the details that drive the emotion of the film. Cianfrance shows us characters that aren’t one thing, they’re angry, and heartbroken, and compassionate, and they make bad choices, yet we as the audience still care about them. Few directors can tell such a huge story with such a large ensemble while still making it feel as personal as Cianfrance does, and while I applaud him for his directing I must also applaud him for the best writing of his career, with lines like, “if you ride like lightning you’re going to crash like thunder” that I find myself repeating in my head weeks after viewing. 

So…who did it best? I’d love to say The Place Beyond the Pines surpasses Drive, but when it comes to the question of what is the better piece of art, Drive is undeniably more visually impressive. That being said, The Place Beyond the Pines is one of the most important films to me on a personal level that I’ve ever seen, and I would choose the script itself over Drive any day. As for directing, Cianfrance and Winding Refn are very equally matched; their directing styles differ greatly yet both manage to tell their stories with a unique voice, making it seem unfair to deem one a superior director (although secretly my money’s on Cianfrance). The overall verdict? Drive is the prettier art, The Place Beyond the Pines is the richer story. 

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Films for a Gloomy Day: JuiceMedia Picks

With Mother Nature catching a cold and making it snow again, everyone can feel a little gray like the clouds. Some people may read a book or play a game while huddled under their blankets, or having fun in the city with some good company.

For the students at JuiceMedia it’s a good film. Here are their answers.

Image result for punch drunk loveBaine: “I would have to go with Punch Drunk Love, because it’s a well-written comedy with some good and obscure humor, as well as having a relatable story.”

Image result for legends of the drunken masterBen: “I like watching Jackie Chan films on a bad day. Legend of the Drunken Master is a personal fave because it’s a perfect blend of well choreographed action with good humor. It just works.”

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Elias: “Kubo & the Two Strings. Hands down. The beautiful stop-motion animation is amazing (expect nothing less from Laika), and the story is wonderful. The music blends well into the narrative, which makes it great for a gloomy day.”

 

Gavin: “It would have to be a tie between Upgrade from 2018 with its

Image result for upgrade 2018 postercinematography and dark, yet enjoyable story, or King Arthur from 2017 with its music and visuals. Either way, they‘re both great films to watch.”

Image result for frances haIzzy: “I would go with Frances Ha. It’s a bittersweet film, but the writing by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach makes the story and humor work. And I really like Gerwig’s performance in the film.”

Nathan: “I think I would have to go with Eighth Grade. It is a sad film, yeah, but I felt nostalgic for that not-so-distant past.”

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Sev: “Coraline. I enjoy its atmosphere, and it’s fun to watch on a gloomy day.”

Tommy: “Baby Driver is my pick for sure. I really like the protagonist. He’s so cool. Notjust that, I like the story, the acting, its pacing, music and editing. It’s great even for a sunny day.”Image result for baby driver

If you have a film that you like to watch on a gloomy day, leave a comment below. Or check out the films these students enjoy. It might become your new rainy/snowy/gloomy day film.

 

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Preproduction, Pitches and Presentation

With the third week of Juice Media wrapping up, everyone’s pumped for their upcoming big project.

But first, a recap.

The students finished and screened their second group projects – motion poems. These poems ranged from heartfelt and sentimental to dark and bone-chilling. Each project had its own flare, which was brought by each student who helped crafted the motion poem’s visual style and tone. All projects have been uploaded to Juice Media’s Vimeo page.

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A special guest came to visit Juice Media; Ryan Stopera from Motion Poems. He presented his own experience with filmmaking in the Twin Cities area; the struggles that came with location scouting and time constraints, to finish projects and his connection with different communities. Mr. Stopera gave some advice that was worth repeating: keep creating and don’t be afraid to show your work to others.

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Throughout the week, everyone worked on their first individual projects. At least the preproduction stage. From the story being planned out and writing the script, to the storyboards and finding potential actors.

Soon, they will be presenting their pitches, and then the fun can really begin.

 

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Spring 2020!

JuiceMedia Spring 2020 got off to an awesome start with a mock 48 hour film competition! The students broke out into 3 groups and each group received a line of dialogue, a prop, a character trait, and a genre that they had to build their film around.

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The students had only three JuiceMedia sessions to plan, shoot, and edit their videos, getting to know one another along the way. You can find their finished videos on our Vimeo page!

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Final Screening Fall 2019

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The Fall 2019 final screening took place on December 12th. There was an hour worth of films, a filmmaker Q&A, pizza, snacks, popcorn, and an awards ceremony! Over 60 community members attended.

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Before and after the screening, attendees took photos in our JuiceMedia photo booth, filled with props and fun! Thanks so much to everyone who came out. Can’t wait for JuiceMedia Spring 2020, which begins January 28th.

Check out our Vimeo to see all of the awesome films made this session: https://vimeo.com/groups/juicemedia

 

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Table Reads & Green Screens

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This week Azi and intern Blongsha busted out the green screen. Azi’s project “The Billhilly” has a scene where his character shows up onto a computer screen and tears a file on its desktop. So we set up the c-stands and got to work! Meanwhile, Elliott dove into a table read to get feedback on his script, and Tommy and Elias munched on some snacks before storyboarding:

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Finishing Up Project 1

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This week students shot their last scenes of project 1. Here, Noah works as DP on Nathan’s film, called “Cease At Once, Ex BF.” It’s a comedy about the fickleness of dating in high school. Nathan hosted auditions among JuiceMedia students last week:

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