Writing

Hi Everyone,

It’s been quite awhile since I posted on this platform, and now that I’m coming back to it, I’ve realized how much I miss writing. While I do still write every single day, it is usually for a purpose: such as writing an email to someone or writing a description on a social media post- nothing very earth-shattering. But when I sit down with a pen and paper, or just a blank document on the computer, I realize that the best thing to write about is my own thoughts. And yes, I have definitely worked my way through a few good diaries over the years.

I like to think of my YouTube channel as a verbal diary that exists to help people. I enjoy recapping on my experiences in film school because I believe that at least someone out there will find some of it useful. And while shooting videos is still a very creative process for me, nothing quite compares to the deep connection I feel when putting my own words on the page.

When I was in high school, I didn’t have many friends due to the fact that my family and I moved around so much. I moved to California a few months before my 9th grade year, so I definitely didn’t know anyone that I was going into school with. And then we moved again to Washington state a couple months before my 11th grade year, so I had to start right back at square one. Although it was difficult at times, I was always so grateful that I had a creative brain because I was able to use whatever medium I wanted to express myself, whether it was for emotional purposes or simply just because I enjoyed being a creator.

When I was younger, I used Barbie dolls as a means of flexing my imagination and keeping myself occupied even when I was alone. But as I entered high school, I knew that it wasn’t exactly “cool” to play with dolls anymore, so I put them away in a box under my bed for good. Soon after, I turned to writing, almost as if it were a mechanical decision. My active imagination needed an outlet, and pen and paper were the closest tools that my hands could grab. I began with short stories and then quickly moved into script writing when I realized my love of film making was also developing at the same time.

I knew I wasn’t a prodigy, but the act of putting my feelings and ideas down into one place truly helped me. And in the process, I was also getting better at formatting and story development. Even though 99% of my work was only read by me, I can still look back on old stories now and see how far I’ve come.

As I mentioned before, even though I do less writing now than I used to, it is still wonderful to come back to it whenever I am ready. If any of you feel a similar connection to writing, or maybe it’s drawing or singing, I encourage you to take the time to focus on the activity and let the creative juices flow.

You can also use this space to share your thoughts with me on what you enjoy most.

Thanks for reading!

-Hayley

Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

As a die hard Wes Anderson fanatic, I had no doubts about this movie when I originally saw the trailer for it several months ago. Unfortunately since its release in early April, Isle of Dogs has garnered a lot of negative attention and claims of cultural appropriation. Despite this, I knew I needed to see it to not only understand what reviewers were referring to, but also to keep up with my streak of seeing every single one of his films.

As a disclaimer for this review, I am extremely biased towards Wes Anderson. I know he crafts beautiful films, each one a true work of moving image arts, therefore I will speak of him highly here. From story, to set, to characters, every moment of every one of his films is meticulously orchestrated and well thought out. Isle of Dogs is no exception because it is entirely stop motion animation and we can all imagine how long that must possibly take.

In true Wes Anderson fashion, we will break this review into four parts, starting at the beginning.

Chapter 1: Style is the Crux of the Film

I am aware that the over the top, stylized nature of Anderson can be see as too much to some. Additionally, I must admit that his use of the same cast of actors playing very similar characters throughout each of his films can get repetitive. That being said, I believe that all of these factors are just part who he is as a filmmaker. He sticks to what he knows and he continues to expand his creativity as he becomes more successful.

I have followed Anderson’s career through the years, watching his style expand to a larger and larger scale with each new movie release. Isle of Dogs is the height of his stylized filmmaking career; which is more than likely the result of quite a large budget.

Set pieces and location have always played large roles in his films. Usually each scene features either a very wide shot of the landscape, placing characters dead center, and/or a character narrating what the significance or description of that location is. Isle of Dogs takes this to its highest point- every set, new scene, location, and prop is described and presented to us to see very clearly. And I totally understand why he did this: his crew built these gorgeous backdrops, and we really want to see every detail. Maybe this adds unnecessary dialogue or minutes to the scenes, and maybe he didn’t even need to build as many set pieces in the first place, but that doesn’t bother me at all. When it comes to stop motion, everything becomes fun to look at, like watching a diorama come to life. And speaking of backdrops, this brings me to the not so grand side of the movie.

Chapter 2: The Negativity and the Reviewers

If you have not read other reviews of this film, basically they call Anderson out for using Japanese culture as a clichéd backdrop for the story. They complain that the majority of the main cast of characters is all voiced by non Japanese speaking individuals and many of the references to Japan do not represent the country as a whole.

I actually lived in Japan for a couple years when I was younger, though that doesn’t make me an expert or a judge as to whether or not this film was truly offensive, but I agree and disagree with what some of the critics were saying. On the one hand, the film felt similar to an anime film- slightly exaggerated and expressive. He showed us sumo wrestlers and geishas, all the typical things you would expect to see in a Japanese movie made by a white male.

In an effort not to spoil any aspect of the story, I will just say that the dogs were all English speakers and everyone else aside from a foreign exchange student and translator, spoke Japanese. The English speaking characters, the dogs, seemed very mild tempered and similar in disposition to previous Anderson characters. The Japanese characters were more expressive and less like Anderson’s true characters; they spoke entirely in Japanese and often did not have translations or subtitles for their dialogue. The Little Pilot, who is the main character in the film, does not ever speak a line of dialogue in English. A choice that I thought was very unique but inhibited non Japanese speaking audiences because we were forced to see and hear everything from the dogs’ perspectives rather than from the perspective of the boy who was so important.

Additionally, it didn’t bother me that much that the main characters weren’t voiced by Japanese actors because the film is primarily made for U.S. audiences. But again, Anderson loves to use the same actors in each film, which is great, but I do think in this case it was a missed opportunity to incorporate more Japanese American actors.

On the other hand, Isle of Dogs wasn’t purposefully insulting or offensive. I would genuinely like to believe that Anderson meant to showcase some of the great aspects about Japanese culture while still telling a beautiful story at the same time. He had a Japanese screenwriter working with him and, wether or not they contributed to the story overall or just the translations is unclear, I still think he did a gorgeous job of trying to bring culture into his film’s narrative.

Chapter 3: Never Watch the Trailers

Finally- and this isn’t the fault of Anderson- but this entire film was spoiled in the trailers that I watched. It made me so aggravated because there were no surprises. The beauty of Anderson’s films is that the story unfolds as you follow the characters. I knew all the characters from the trailers and more or less figured out the plan of the evil villain from them as well.
I urge you- if you have not seen the trailer, then you must avoid it at all costs. Also for this reason, I will not tell you anything about this film or its plot. You need to find it for yourself.

Chapter 4: Conclusion

If this is the first Wes Anderson movie you intend to see, or if you have already seen it, I would say that it is a lot to take in if you aren’t terribly familiar with how he runs things. My advice is that you should take a look at his most recent film prior to this one, Grand Budapest Hotel. It is slightly more subdued in terms of editing style and pacing but it is still very stylized.

If you have any thoughts about Isle of Dogs, if you agree or disagree with my opinions, or if you want to tell me if you love Wes Anderson as much as I do, please leave your comments below!

Until next time,
Hayley

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Student Films: The Necessary Evil

Hey Everyone!

In my recent video about student films, I spoke about the importance of making them in addition to how the world views their quality. While not everyone attends film school, I believe that the term “student film” refers to any amateur short film that is made by someone that is still learning about the craft of film making.

I also referred to them as a “necessary evil”. By this I simply mean that student films aren’t made a the professional level, which leads some people to look down on them for their quality. Yet they are a necessary first step in anyone’s film making career because they provide you with the opportunity to learn and make mistakes before you work professionally.

Honestly, half of what I learned in film school was from the classroom and the other half was from working on student films. If you have any interest in working in a particular position on set, you need to get that hands on practice or experience at the amateur level so you can truly understand what you are doing and how to get better at it.

Working on amateur sets is also a great way to try out every department. I have always wanted to be a director, so in film school I knew that it would be beneficial work in the sound, lighting, and camera departments so I could learn about the various roles in each and how important everyone’s jobs are during the set up and filming of each scene. .

When you start making your own student or amateur films, don’t get discouraged if you start to feel that you are low budget or low quality. Everyone has to start at the bottom, and you will only get better with practice! Just remember that it is a learning process and a great opportunity to test out your skills. And don’t forget to just have fun and enjoy it.

You can check out my video here:

Procrastination Update

Hi Everyone!

It’s been a couple weeks since I posted about my goal to work a minimum of 45 minutes a day on personal projects. After trying out this method for a short period of time, I can now talk about my takeaways from it.

First off, it worked really well right out of the gate. I put on a fun playlist of upbeat music, set my timer, and worked on my projects for the minimum amount of time from Monday-Thursday during week 1. When it started getting closer to the weekend, though, I felt like I was starting to slip a little bit. I was waiting later and later into the evening to get started on my projects so I was feeling more rushed to finish quickly before bed. Then when Saturday/Sunday hit, my motivation seemed to go downhill because I had a full day off and no structured work hours.

Ultimately what I realized was that I needed to get over the initial hump of getting into work mode. Often it can feel like these creative projects are more like chores, like I have to force myself to do them. And while that is true to an extent, I’ve noticed that I feel much better about myself when I am in the midst of the work after I break past the first mental road block. I do take occasional breaks from the creativity to give my mind a rest, but I think I need to stick to the timer rule on the weekends, too, just so I have regulated time to rest and then stay focused.

In this last week, week 2, I felt like my productivity and excitement to work on my projects only increased since I knew I wanted to make up for the lack of energy from the weekend. I brought a small notebook to work with me and started writing small project ideas and scripts down during my lunch breaks. This really helped me stay focused throughout the day because I allowed my brain to flex its creativity, rather than saving it all for when I got home.

I definitely love having a set time to turn on my creativity during the day. I encourage everyone to go into this week with a small notebook on hand and try taking a couple 15 minute breaks out of your day to just write, brainstorm, draw, or do whatever it is that relaxes you. My breaks at work are 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 3:30pm, and I know that during a long work day, I have something to do that calms me down in those times. If you choose to stick to these set times, I think it’ll help put you on a good schedule for finishing up projects that you might be working on like editing a video, writing a script, or whatever it might be.

Let me know how the 15 minute breaks and 45 minute work times work for you!

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