We need to talk about Kelvin

SCIENCE FICTION SACRIFICE: A Grainy Gisborne appears in the film. Pictures supplied
Kelvin, the main character in the 48-hour competition film crew’s award-winning movie by the same name could be in a state of existential despair, he could be cooling off, he could be sinking into his subconscious.
48hr film winner

IF YOU think the story you are about to read is different, wait until you see the movie behind it.

Science fiction sacrifice flick, Kelvin, won team Ma am first prize in the Gisborne HP48Hours filmmaking competition last weekend.

In an opening scene, Kelvin is on his knees in shallow water in what looks like an estuary or desolate beach. A special effect recreates grainy, dragging cine footage. The short movie is soundtracked with a monochromatic hum that recalls the constant industrial grey-noise in auteur filmmaker David Lynch’s 1977 movie Eraserhead.

Kelvin plunges his head in the water. He walks on. Except for two masked figures that could be figments he is alone in the world.

The film has no plot as we know it. It has a storyline, but Ma am’s crew members will not reveal it. Seen one way, the short film works as a through-the-existential-looking-glass-darkly poem.

The movie doesn’t follow a rational, or even natural, path but it has cohesion.

“The least natural thing is to be natural,” says the voice-over.

The film could have an ending. It could tap into the notion of eternal recurrence in tragedy.

“In a way the story resolves itself,” says Will Toon who plays Kelvin. “In a way there is an ending.”

“It could have looped,” says Shea Rolfe who plays the required female character but in an identity-free fashion.

“It could be interpreted in many ways.”

“Technically, the first scene is the last scene,” says script editor, co-director, music arranger and cinematographer Jack Heikell.

“It’s an end to the circle.”

Auteurs

The competition’s local manager Tom Paton says Kelvin reminded him of David Lynch’s filmmaking style. Lynch’s dream-like movies include Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive and Eraserhead.

“The storyline was vague, but it suited the film’s style,” Paton told The Gisborne Herald.

“It was pretty out of it.”

The HP48Hours filmmaking competition began for contestants at 7pm Friday, August 25. Each of this region’s 26 teams was assigned a genre. Each crew was required to incorporate in its production a female character and the Wilhelm scream. This is a stock sound effect of a man screaming that has been used in more than 360 movies. Film crews also needed to select a theme from a list that included redemption, love, transformation, ambition and sacrifice.

Ma am didn’t settle on any one of them until much later in the 48-hour production timeframe.

By much later they mean during the editing process.

Ma am’s crew took on multiple roles. Jack was script editor, co-director, music arranger and cinematographer. As well as his on-screen part as Kelvin, Will was script-writer and creative director. Actor Shea added producer to his CV. Nathan Stills supplied a GoPro for the underwater frames, and he gaffer-taped the Campion College camera to Jack’s dad’s tripod — so he was gaffer.

Zack Stock got on board as actor, financier and comic relief.

Designated the genre of sci fi, the Ma am film crew went for what Jack calls a McDonald’s Session. They had a feed and tossed ideas around.

Shea suggested including a picture of the sun in the film. The fiery iris surrounded by a black universe is a recurrent motif in Kelvin. The oppressive sun image informs the dominant colours — a constant red and orange tinge. The burning, hepatitic atmosphere is backgrounded by a constant grinding hum.

“The presence of the colours relate strongly to the story,” says Jack.

Kelvin exists in a world where the least natural thing is to be natural.

He isn’t a lonely character, says Will.

“Lonely isn’t quite the right word. He’s mentally and emotionally drained.”

With two white masks and two black masks, and thick black clothing, Shea and Zack achieved a kind of androgyny.

“Who’s going to lose their dignity?” mugs Jack during the interview.

“I was kind of a female character,” says Shea. “I was the embodiment of something that was related to Kelvin.”

Kelvin is both protagonist and antagonist, says Jack.

“He was his own villain.”

Influences

A few days before the 48-hour mayhem began the Ma am lads absorbed some influences from Robert Aldrich’s 1977 Choirboys in which LA police officers unwind from work pressures through drunken get-togethers, ie “choir practice”.

Their pranks often go too far.

“We weren’t inspired by the storyline but more by the tone and aesthetic of the film,” says Will.

During the editing process Jack also took inspiration from American sketch comedy troupe Million Dollar Extreme who are known for their online videos, anti-comedy, and public pranks.

“They are not always comedic — which is how I feel we worked out as a group dynamic.

“We saw some previous entries and they were mostly comic. There’s nothing wrong with comic ideas but we’re kind of dicks. We wanted to be serious. We’re kind of rebellious. We don’t want to conform to a cookie-cutter standard. We wanted to make something that was unique and from our perspective.”

They weren’t keen on the Wilhelm scream either. The stock sound effect would ruin any emotion in the film. The young auteurs were serious about making a serious film.

“Everyone enjoys making someone laugh so it was difficult at first for five teenage boys who compete to make people laugh,” says Will.

“Inside jokes motivated us. It was about releasing energy to keep us alive.”

Because most scenes required no audio until the editing process this meant they could release almost as much joke energy as they liked.

Ma am’s one rule about the movie’s storyline was not to talk about the storyline. That would legitimise anyone’s interpretation of the film, says Jack

“I’d describe it as taking a hexagon and turning it into a circle. You’d recognise it from a distance, but it’s not the same thing.”

They also wanted to create something in a “vintage” style, says Will. Hence the grainy, sliding frame texture, the black and white smash cuts that also work as recurrent motifs. A smash cut (Wikipedia tells us) is a film technique where one scene abruptly cuts to another for aesthetic, narrative, or emotional purpose.

“To this end, the smash cut usually occurs at a crucial moment in a scene where a cut would not be expected.”

As well as winning the regional competition Ma am was nominated as having the best smash cut — and the best soundtrack.

To enhance the film’s existential ambience Jack created a monochromatic soundtrack from “old synthesisers put through various distortion filters so it sounded broken”.

The old synthesisers were created with an SQ8L plug-in. SQ8L (vstsynth.blogspot.co.nz tells us) is a software model of Ensoniq’s classic 1980s synth SQ80 that features three digital wavetable oscillators for each of its eight voices.

Technically, the opening to this story is the end to the circle, a strange but cohesive circle.

Team Ma am got its name from a friend’s mispronunciation of ma’am in drama class.

“When he read the script the first time he was shouting his lines and he said MA-am,” says Will.

“So we settled on Ma am for our name.”

Will and Jake have started up another project that will figure on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s called Craft Weapon Riot.

Watch this and various digital spaces.

IF YOU think the story you are about to read is different, wait until you see the movie behind it.

Science fiction sacrifice flick, Kelvin, won team Ma am first prize in the Gisborne HP48Hours filmmaking competition last weekend.

In an opening scene, Kelvin is on his knees in shallow water in what looks like an estuary or desolate beach. A special effect recreates grainy, dragging cine footage. The short movie is soundtracked with a monochromatic hum that recalls the constant industrial grey-noise in auteur filmmaker David Lynch’s 1977 movie Eraserhead.

Kelvin plunges his head in the water. He walks on. Except for two masked figures that could be figments he is alone in the world.

The film has no plot as we know it. It has a storyline, but Ma am’s crew members will not reveal it. Seen one way, the short film works as a through-the-existential-looking-glass-darkly poem.

The movie doesn’t follow a rational, or even natural, path but it has cohesion.

“The least natural thing is to be natural,” says the voice-over.

The film could have an ending. It could tap into the notion of eternal recurrence in tragedy.

“In a way the story resolves itself,” says Will Toon who plays Kelvin. “In a way there is an ending.”

“It could have looped,” says Shea Rolfe who plays the required female character but in an identity-free fashion.

“It could be interpreted in many ways.”

“Technically, the first scene is the last scene,” says script editor, co-director, music arranger and cinematographer Jack Heikell.

“It’s an end to the circle.”

Auteurs

The competition’s local manager Tom Paton says Kelvin reminded him of David Lynch’s filmmaking style. Lynch’s dream-like movies include Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive and Eraserhead.

“The storyline was vague, but it suited the film’s style,” Paton told The Gisborne Herald.

“It was pretty out of it.”

The HP48Hours filmmaking competition began for contestants at 7pm Friday, August 25. Each of this region’s 26 teams was assigned a genre. Each crew was required to incorporate in its production a female character and the Wilhelm scream. This is a stock sound effect of a man screaming that has been used in more than 360 movies. Film crews also needed to select a theme from a list that included redemption, love, transformation, ambition and sacrifice.

Ma am didn’t settle on any one of them until much later in the 48-hour production timeframe.

By much later they mean during the editing process.

Ma am’s crew took on multiple roles. Jack was script editor, co-director, music arranger and cinematographer. As well as his on-screen part as Kelvin, Will was script-writer and creative director. Actor Shea added producer to his CV. Nathan Stills supplied a GoPro for the underwater frames, and he gaffer-taped the Campion College camera to Jack’s dad’s tripod — so he was gaffer.

Zack Stock got on board as actor, financier and comic relief.

Designated the genre of sci fi, the Ma am film crew went for what Jack calls a McDonald’s Session. They had a feed and tossed ideas around.

Shea suggested including a picture of the sun in the film. The fiery iris surrounded by a black universe is a recurrent motif in Kelvin. The oppressive sun image informs the dominant colours — a constant red and orange tinge. The burning, hepatitic atmosphere is backgrounded by a constant grinding hum.

“The presence of the colours relate strongly to the story,” says Jack.

Kelvin exists in a world where the least natural thing is to be natural.

He isn’t a lonely character, says Will.

“Lonely isn’t quite the right word. He’s mentally and emotionally drained.”

With two white masks and two black masks, and thick black clothing, Shea and Zack achieved a kind of androgyny.

“Who’s going to lose their dignity?” mugs Jack during the interview.

“I was kind of a female character,” says Shea. “I was the embodiment of something that was related to Kelvin.”

Kelvin is both protagonist and antagonist, says Jack.

“He was his own villain.”

Influences

A few days before the 48-hour mayhem began the Ma am lads absorbed some influences from Robert Aldrich’s 1977 Choirboys in which LA police officers unwind from work pressures through drunken get-togethers, ie “choir practice”.

Their pranks often go too far.

“We weren’t inspired by the storyline but more by the tone and aesthetic of the film,” says Will.

During the editing process Jack also took inspiration from American sketch comedy troupe Million Dollar Extreme who are known for their online videos, anti-comedy, and public pranks.

“They are not always comedic — which is how I feel we worked out as a group dynamic.

“We saw some previous entries and they were mostly comic. There’s nothing wrong with comic ideas but we’re kind of dicks. We wanted to be serious. We’re kind of rebellious. We don’t want to conform to a cookie-cutter standard. We wanted to make something that was unique and from our perspective.”

They weren’t keen on the Wilhelm scream either. The stock sound effect would ruin any emotion in the film. The young auteurs were serious about making a serious film.

“Everyone enjoys making someone laugh so it was difficult at first for five teenage boys who compete to make people laugh,” says Will.

“Inside jokes motivated us. It was about releasing energy to keep us alive.”

Because most scenes required no audio until the editing process this meant they could release almost as much joke energy as they liked.

Ma am’s one rule about the movie’s storyline was not to talk about the storyline. That would legitimise anyone’s interpretation of the film, says Jack

“I’d describe it as taking a hexagon and turning it into a circle. You’d recognise it from a distance, but it’s not the same thing.”

They also wanted to create something in a “vintage” style, says Will. Hence the grainy, sliding frame texture, the black and white smash cuts that also work as recurrent motifs. A smash cut (Wikipedia tells us) is a film technique where one scene abruptly cuts to another for aesthetic, narrative, or emotional purpose.

“To this end, the smash cut usually occurs at a crucial moment in a scene where a cut would not be expected.”

As well as winning the regional competition Ma am was nominated as having the best smash cut — and the best soundtrack.

To enhance the film’s existential ambience Jack created a monochromatic soundtrack from “old synthesisers put through various distortion filters so it sounded broken”.

The old synthesisers were created with an SQ8L plug-in. SQ8L (vstsynth.blogspot.co.nz tells us) is a software model of Ensoniq’s classic 1980s synth SQ80 that features three digital wavetable oscillators for each of its eight voices.

Technically, the opening to this story is the end to the circle, a strange but cohesive circle.

Team Ma am got its name from a friend’s mispronunciation of ma’am in drama class.

“When he read the script the first time he was shouting his lines and he said MA-am,” says Will.

“So we settled on Ma am for our name.”

Will and Jake have started up another project that will figure on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s called Craft Weapon Riot.

Watch this and various digital spaces.

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