Terrence Malick’s Moby Dick

January 26, 2007

About two weeks ago, the esteemed film critic Matt Zoller Seitz – who currently writes for The New York Times – asked me to do a lead illustration for his essential film blog The House Next Door. When I got the email, partly inspired by my recent Negative Space cartoons, I gulped so hard that Matt may have heard it from overseas.

As soon as he started mentioning key words like “minimalist,” “violence,” “obsession” and (most importantly) “Saul Bass,” however, I knew this was an offer I could impossibly refuse.

To read more about the fascinating film project below and to see my poster in a size that does the epic subject more justice, get thee to The House Next Door (clicking it there will enlarge it)!


NEGATIVE SPACE #4: Inland Empire

January 21, 2007


A woman in trouble, all right… 😉

NEGATIVE SPACE #3: Oscar glory

January 17, 2007


A friend of mine warned me that in some religions, it’s considered sacrelegious to depict Kubrick. Oh well, too late now…

Screening Room: The horror!

January 16, 2007

I’ve been thinking about how to properly follow up this series after its first entry, which could’ve easily been mistaken for my contribution to the Contemplative Cinema Blog-a-Thon. For a creative mind, there’s nothing more dangerous than to be pigeon-holed too early. Brace yourselves, then, for a 180 degree turn as I take you to the dark side of my filmmaking spectrum…

Below is a trailer I’ve edited for Universal Pictures to promote a range of budget horror DVD-titles (how low can you go, right?). The coolest thing about this project is that it was a truly no-holds-barred affair, since the company intended to show the trailer before screenings at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival. Once they gave me their list of titles, the client pretty much gave me carte blanche, as long as I made sure that the end result would appeal to a pack of raving gorehounds. Ha! Say no more! They didn’t even blink when I suggested music from bands like Rammstein or Sepultura (I ended up with a mix of Christopher Young’s soundtrack for Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Rammstein and Soulfly). For an editing assignment, that’s about as good as it gets.

Lemme tell ya: For the next three days, my colleagues didn’t dare to enter the editing suite. Hell was empty, and all the devils were here…

But enough talk. Gorehounds rejoice! Crank up the volume and grab hold of your chair. WE – HAVE – SUCH – SIGHTS – TO – SHOW – YOU!

(By the way, folks: be sure to check back tomorrow for another Negative Space cartoon. Yes, that’s right: That means I’m getting the hang of it!)

NEGATIVE SPACE #2: Steve Jobs keynote

January 10, 2007


That iPhone rocks, though.

His new position at the House of Mouse didn’t exactly slow the Jobster down.

Screening Room: Two women on a bench

January 3, 2007

This is the first of a series of posts devoted to stuff I directed or designed. Each entry will feature a low-res YouTube version of a commercial, leader or trailer, production notes, and sometimes a look behind the scenes. For questions or remarks, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply! ______________________________________________________________

First up is a 25 second public announcement for the Dutch Brain Disease Foundation. Don’t worry: it’s not as dull as it may sound. Although the budget for this project was limited, we shot it on 35mm film with a stripped-down crew and (for the most part) available light. Before we move on, have a look at it first. The only thing you need to understand from the Dutch narration is that brain diseases are more common than we’d like to think they are.

When we prepared for this film, I told my DP Remko Schnorr that I wanted to avoid the hand-held, grainy, high-contrast “bleach bypass” look that is commonly relied on to simulate a documentary feel. Instead, I decided to go for subtle values and static, a-symmetrically composed shots to give the film a frozen, photographic feel. In line with this visual approach, Remko suggested we could “develop” certain parts of the image more than others in Telecine, and I loved that idea. As a last impressionistic touch, we put a very fine stocking fabric before the lens that subtly defused the highlights.

In terms of sound, I steered clear of desolate, reverbing piano chords. Thomas Newman be damned–just the ambience of the forest and a brief moment of silence would do. We had a sound recordist on the set who did his work in between takes, just so he wouldn’t have any trouble with noisy cameras or planes going by. It also allowed me to cue the actors while rolling.


In order to make the twist in the film work, I had to make sure that viewers would devote most of their attention to the wrong woman. For this reason I placed the old lady on the right side of the bench, which is always more interesting to Western audiences than the left, because of our reading habits. (Turn the page of a comic book and your eyes will automatically be drawn to the bottom right corner of the spread. Why? Because that’s where the next cliffhanger takes place!) The girl was dressed in muted colors to merge with her surroundings, while the black coat of the old lady practically burns a hole in every frame. The walker was tactfully placed nearby the old lady instead of the girl, and like the handkerchief around her neck, it’s blue.

Everything about the old lady is a little “off”: her uncomfortable pose and facial expression, the hair on her forehead–whereas the girl beside her looks relaxed and perfectly healthy (the client was on the set to make sure her body movements were medically correct).


I found out that I could provoke different viewer expectations by reversing the order of shots in the editing stage. The sooner I succeeded in convincing the audience that something was wrong with the old lady, the more they would identify themselves with the poor girl next to her, seemingly unprepared for the critical situation that unfolds before their eyes. As such, the film builds up to a dramatic moment that never comes, then releases the tension and introduces subtle tragedy in the unexpected.

One of the reasons we were able to shoot this on 35mm was that Fuji liked the message of the film enough to give us seven (!) reels of 3-perf stock for free. Usually, 35mm has four perforations with an invisible space between the frames. 3-perf needs one perf less for every frame because it eliminates this space, saving you 25 percent of film stock. Not that we used all of it, mind you: We saved the rest for two other projects! I’ve grown tired of extensive coverage as an editor, you see, so I always try to shoot as economical as possible. Most of the angles were made up on location, but I ended up using every set-up. Trust me, the Dutch really are cheap…


NEGATIVE SPACE #1: Cinematic evolution

January 1, 2007


The only hand-drawing I do these days is the occasional storyboard or logo sketch, so when the idea for this cartoon popped in my head, it seemed like a good excuse to pick up on an old love of mine. Drop a comment if you like it and maybe I’ll post more in the future. I’m still not sure if I’ve found the right balance between wacky and naturalistic, but I love the combination of fineliner strokes with digital coloring and added film grain.

I’ve been suffering from a major digital handicap since my laptop broke down. The situation is still far from ideal (as I type this on an ancient iMac, I’m sitting on my living room’s wooden floor), but at least I’m online again. Expect new posts in the days to come.

Happy New Year, y’all!