The Great Metamorphosis : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjZjS4QNNWU

The Story of the Great Metamorphosis

Pre-production:

The Great Metamorphosis was supposed to be a 3 minutes long movie in color with sound and still camera. It was meant to be be both a story and a performance, telling about a woman who transforms through makeup and masks. It was meant to be a  “mise en abyme” around the media and the nature of creation in art, as it appeals to different art-forms such as cinema, circus, painting, poesy, drawing, magic, and even music.The focus would only be the girl’s face, and she would alternatively put on some makeup and take it off, each time embodying a different character. At the end, through an intricate change of faces and masks, she would take off the last mask, erase the last makeup, and she would not be the same girl (literally speaking).

To read more about the story I wrote before shooting the movie, please read the script, it is there: https://louviq.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/the-great-metamorphosis/.

Several artist have been influential in this project.

The first is Arturo Brachetti, who is an Italian world famous quick-change artist (he is the best and the fastest in his art). As a child and as a teenager, I went to see his show and it made a really strong impression on me. Not only his performance is absolutely incredible, but also he creates a very poetic world of his own. Each show tells a story, and I think that is what makes him really special. To see a little sample of his work, go here => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCCjk6sFfZA&feature=related

More recently, I went to see Cindy Sherman’s exhibition at the Moma, in New-York, and it triggered again my fascination for transforming artist. Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. To create her photographs, Sherman shoots alone in her studio, assuming multiple roles as author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress—and, of course, model. She inspired me into transforming in front of a camera. And this is how I get the idea of making a movie where I would makeup and transform myself.

Last but not least, I was inspired by the famous French mimic, Marcel Marceau (1923–2007). His name has become synonymous with his art, I could not shot this movie without viewing myself a good number of his videos. In the 1950s and 1960s, Marceau elevated this finely nuanced silent form of art, L’art du silence, as he called it, to a form of mass entertainment. He is the one who really explored the full range of human emotions in “The Mask Maker” and took us through the stages of human life in “Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death,” a performance that had once left an awed critic to observe that Marceau accomplished in “less than two minutes what most novelists cannot do in volumes.” I tried to emulate him (and I also reproduced his own makeup) – only to realize how not simple it was, and how delicate an art he was practicing.

Production:

The beginning of the production was a kind of bad running gag. However, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, so it helped me to pursue what turned into a quest. To put a long story short, I had to go to four different locations and actually through three State (at Friendship Heights, then Georgetown, then Falls Church, Virginia and finally to Rockville, Maryland) to actually find an open party-supplies shop. I regret having lost so much time because in the end, that is what I would have needed to come up with what I exactly wanted. Anyway, I finally found all the material I needed: two wigs, a wide makeup palette, fake flowers, five masks, one hat. A mirror that a man ended up offering to me in a framing shop, because they were moving to another location and it was a leftover (told you it was a long story).

Settling my room into a Hollywood studio was another very fun adventure that included creating a screen with an Air-France cover I stole in the plane I came in, finding a tripod and settling it in the good location, borrowing as many lamps as I could and covering them with paper to get a more ‘diffuse” lighting effect. That done (it took me all Friday 27th of April morning), I finally started to shoot. Then it came out I did not have enough memory on my SD card to shoot the whole movie and it stopped in the middle of the geisha makeup. I had to upload the movie on my computer, which took 40 minutes. So I just went outside my dorm to enjoy a drink in the sunny weather, half embarrassed and half entertained by the reaction of people who saw me with a white painted face.

I finished the part where I was acting the same afternoon (after that everything finally went all right) . And I shot the last part, where I needed my friend Agathe, the day after.

As for the technical details, I shot with a DMC-G3 PANASONIC, and edited with iMovie.

Post-Production:

Overall, there are several things to say now that the film is completed. First, I must admit I totally failed making a 3 minutes long movie. This, as most of my errors, is due to the fact I did not have film-editing experience (before this year) and did not realize that what I wanted to do would be way too long to be shrunk into 3 minutes. So okay, there are almost 7, but it was heartbreaking to cut something that took me so much time to do.

What I am happy with:

As I told previously, I wanted this movie to be an aesthetic accomplishment. I pretty much succeeded as the transitions are rather smoothed and invisible. At least it is almost impossible for who has not made that movie to say when the girl under the mask is not the same anymore, so I am pretty happy with that final result.

I am happy because I worked a lot on this movie and I finally carried it out despite a lot of problems and wastes of time. Sometimes it was really discouraging, but it was worth persevering because I learned a lot from it, and also I know I did my best, which is self-satisfying.

What I am not happy about:

I did not have enough time to do everything I wanted ! For instance, I had to work too fast for the music, so I could not carry out exactly what I expected it to be; Making the cuts and editing took me so much time… I plan to work back on it to finish it exactly as I wish. I want to use only one music to make it clearer. Actually I think I was too ambitious, and that explain most of my issues.

There is also something I am really concerned about: I reduced the movie at the maximum, but I am still afraid it is to fast and too complicated, and that the public will not get it. If I had to do it again, I think I would make something more simple, with less costumes but more time to explore each of them.

What I do not know:

The second of my goals was to create something entertaining. The game through masks, changing figures and features was meant to be fun, surprising, unexpected. It should amaze the viewer and makes him smile. I want to bring the public into a poetic, magical, surrealist atmosphere. That I do not know yet if I succeeded.

I do not know either if the public will get the “serious” side of this project, because it is also supposed to raise questions about identity, transforming the self, about the representation of women in society, about what is shallow and what is deep inside us. But that I guess really depends on the viewer, and I think that was is good about this movie is that it has several levels of understanding.

Overall, this was an interesting experience and again, I think I learned a lot on it. I did not work on it as on a class project but more as on a real work I wanted to accomplish. This is why I will continue to work on it until it is completed. But anyway, I hope you will enjoy it as it is for the moment!

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5 thoughts on “The Great Metamorphosis : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjZjS4QNNWU

  1. manzanitamcm says:

    Describe, Analyze, Interpret, Judge,
    The story line for this piece is really unique and interesting, as it centers around how makeup can completely change the persona of a person. In the first case, you dress as what looks like a glamorous Lady Gaga or Marilyn Monroe, complete with the mole and the red lips, followed by the Geisha and then the clown, the mime, and the series of masks. The end has a shocking twist, as we find out that another girl is behind the mask.

    From the use of a white backdrop, the makeup and the girl (you) really took the center stage and captured the focus. I think using the medium shot the whole time was a good choice, as it kept everything the same except for the subject, which was of course constantly changing.

    It seemed to me that this fun was a playful look at the way in which makeup and masks can change how we are perceived, can completely change a person’s immediate assumptions and judgements. Because you are the same person moving through all these differing roles, we see that anyone could be you, and you could be anyone. This is a really interesting concept!

    I think the pace, the music, the lighting, the models, and the use of the clean backdrop were all done excellently. I especially thought the twist at the end was well done, as it gives the viewer a sense of excitement and leaves us wondering what was going on. The only change I would make at all is maybe cutting it down a little bit, but I think you already addressed that in your journal. Good job!

  2. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Such a phenomenal job on this video. I thought this was a professional advertisement or promo while I was watching it. This video was so awesome in the way the model transformed from character to character. Whether it was through a mask or makeup it was such severe metamorphasis. The audio was also perfect for the video. I found my leg shaking to the music playing in the background, that’s when I knew it was that good.

    The best part was at the end when the model had switched to a different person. I was shell shocked and almost did not believe it. I had to rewind the video and check to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. I would love to know how you pulled that off. I also really liked the fact that the model kind of free styled with the camera. It was very natural and I felt like I was just looking at a person rather than watching a scripted film. Overall like I said just WOW. You really have a talent and should pursue it further.

  3. fledzeppelin says:

    Wow! This is fantastic! Very, very nicely done. Very entertaining for the audience. I loved the soundtrack! When you were putting on the first make-up and there was the jungle-esque soundtrack in the background, it reminded me of a scene out of Mean Girls. In that sense, I could somewhat catch the “serious” side of the video that you wanted to show. However, I think that gets a little lost in the length of the film and the fact that so many of the make-ups are just very funny and entertaining. In order to get more of the “serious” aspect, I would maybe have another person come into the frame and interact with the character. That would obviously change the entire dynamic of the film, and I think it’s great the way it is, but just in case you ever wanted to do an “identity campaign” or something using this idea.
    As far as keeping the content of the film the way it is, my biggest criticism would be that it is too long. You’ve got awesome make-up work going on, a great soundtrack, and different twists with the masks along the way to keep the viewer engaged, but especially for a fast-paced, time-lapsed film like this one, you’ve got to constantly change the pattern or you’re going to lose the viewer’s attention over 7 minutes. Of course, this was a pretty entertaining video to watch for 7 minutes, so I could be wrong. Regardless, this is a terrific project. I can tell you put a lot of hard work into it. Very well done!

  4. Amanda Sands says:

    I loved this piece! It was weird and quirky and eerie and mysterious, but overall, it was unbelievably creative and unique. You really have a talent for seeing things beforehand and making your ideas a reality. Not only was the idea great, but the execution was fantastic. The white backdrop, the still camera, the way you didn’t look into the camera often, the specific characters you depicted through makeup…it was all very entertaining and well-done.

    As you admit, you had intended to make a 3-minute video but ended up with 7 minutes. As a viewer, the film did feel a bit long and drawn-out, but this was countered by the fact that so much of the film was sped-up. I think if you wanted to cut something, the part with the black mask on top of the white mask was a bit long and could’ve been trimmed down because I didn’t quite understand what you were going for there. But overall, 7 minutes didn’t feel overwhelmingly long or boring.

    I’d like to talk about the pre-production and production process. I love how you had such an outside-the-box concept and the great lengths you went to to make sure that you could bring your image to life. The masks, wigs, and makeup were truly spot on. I don’t think they could’ve been more perfect for your film. Also, your ability to draw and apply your own makeup was incredible–I was very impressed. (I’m terrible at doing my own makeup.) Also, your acting ability was great: instead of just applying the makeup and letting the audience imagine your character, you actually took on the different roles and played with them. I loved it…it was really funny.

    As for audio, I think your choice of music was awesome because they were upbeat songs with a strong tempo, and this caused the film to move more quickly and keep the attention of the audience. There were a few issues that I had with the transitions between songs, though, because the cuts were a little obvious and distracted me from the action of the movie itself. But, without sophisticated movie-editing software, this is really hard to do, so I think you did the best possible job with the audio. It was obviously a wise decision to keep the film without dialogue–your masks and makeup said it all.

    As you mention in the paragraphs above, you aren’t sure whether the audience will understand the deeper meaning of the film. I think you’re right–I didn’t quite get that identity crisis theme at all. But I think this was because it was a very playful and funny film as opposed to a serious, thought-provoking one. And I liked that. Perhaps it was not what you were aiming for, but I thought it was entertaining and fun to watch nonetheless.

    I love all of your work, Lou! I’m so glad I got to work with you on the Lumiere film earlier this semester, and it was a pleasure being in class together and getting to you know a bit. Good luck with everything, and keep making films–you’re so great at it! 🙂

  5. I love this video! Job well done! I love that you chose to tell a story about transformation (literally from one person, into another). This is a story that could’ve been presented as complex, and convoluted, but I love that you chose a simplistic approach to get your point across. The white background and plain clothes subjects were perfect- they kept us focused on the transformation. I also think that you did a good job at picking music to go along with the action. It was fast-paced, and exciting, which I think helped keep the audience interested in the piece. The editing was amazing! It is clear that you spent a lot of time creatively planning the project, and you work has definitely paid off. Great work!

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