“Requiem,” shot on an iPhone 4s by Jeffrey Turboff, combines stunning visuals and a spare narration reminiscent of Truffaut to pack a lifetime into a two-minute movie. You’ll need to play “Requiem” more than once to see–and hear–all that it has to offer.
As you might expect when viewing such as innovative piece, a lot of work was required to make this movie. Jeffrey, an editor at Nightline, kindly agreed to share some of the behind-the-scenes realities.
MMM: Tell us something about the shoot?
Jeffrey: The film was shot in one take on one night. I used OSnap! which is an extremely powerful and flexible time-lapse and stop motion app. You can shoot a bunch of different frame rates set to a timer, or manually click off each frame, or a combination of those. Then you can play back and export your footage at differing frame rates. You’re not locked into a playback/export frame rate by what you decided at the beginning of a session: You shoot your footage and THEN decide your playback/export frame rate AFTER seeing it at different speeds. You can even export the same project at differing speeds. Choose front camera or back camera, even switch between them in one session. Choose your resolution for your project. You can also export your footage as both video and series of stills. That last feature is what makes it invaluable for animation. That and the fact that you can also import stills into the program as well.
MMM: Was the camera handheld?
Jeffrey: Yes. Because of the stop motion nature of the image capture, camera shake is irrelevant, maybe even desirable. If it gives an off-kilter framing or a little blur that becomes an asset.
MMM: What software did you use to create the comic-book-like imagery?
Jeffrey: The “secret” is Toonpaint, a fairly straightforward post-production app. The results are consistently good depending on how good is your eye and how steady your hand. I’m not sure how it does what it does but it makes images look like they were drawn by a cartoonist, and very convincingly I think. You have three sliders for Shading: Edges, Gray, and Black as well as an Extra Smoothing toggle, and three variables for “Size”: Coherence, Edge Width, and Edge Length which you choose XS, S, M, L or XL for each. And that’s it for the black and white side of things. It also allows you to color onto your Toon with very simple yet powerful painting tools. The Toonpainting took a couple of days. I finished things off with an iMovie edit session at the end of day 2.
MMM: Can you say something about how you got the idea for the movie?
Jeffrey: Well, the story is pretty much based on fact. I live in an apartment I used to share with a woman I was very much in love with. It didn’t work out, but I never moved to another place. The tone and attitude are a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve gained a sense of humor about it now I think, and it’s fun to look back on my bitterness and self-pity and make a character out of it. I like Tom Waits and Steven Jesse Bernstein and William S. Burroughs and voice-overs from old film noir… how everything’s so dark and tragic. I mean this is how I felt for years about this relationship, and sometimes still do, but now that I’m more distant from it, I can start to have a little fun with it, if even at my own expense.
MMM: Explicitly bringing in philosophy–for example, karma–is somewhat unusual in a love story.
Jeffrey: The philosophical stuff, that’s for real. I’m a believer in karma, because I’ve seen it at work in my life. I’m also beginning to see the power in magick. All the self-help gurus all seem to be trying to point out the same exact thing, and they all have different ways of getting at it; whether it’s prayer or visualization, the law of attraction, binaural beats, neurolinguistic programming, sigilization, whatever. It all amounts to the same thing I think, and that is, you can achieve what you wish to achieve in life if you can just bypass the intervention of the conscious mind and speak directly to your perfect self which resides beneath the level of every day consciousness. The unconscious seems to receive everything as a statement in the affirmative, even when you are telling it what you don’t want. So if a woman walks around saying “All the guys I date are assholes,” and “I’m unlovable,”… guess what? The unconscious goes, “Oh really? Okay!” and takes it as a statement of intent, and it answers back with that, more of that. So you’ve got to be careful what you put out into the universe because what if those self help gurus are right? What if you can have what you desire? It won’t do to just do your affirmations for 10 minutes in the morning and then walk around the rest of the day thinking “People suck” and “I don’t have enough money” or whatever. You’re moving mountains, so you have to guard your mind. This kind of knowledge has been an open secret for years. They’re all selling it to you. But you don’t need a guru. This is it in a nutshell. Get your karmic house in order as best you can, and then, just like drops of water will eventually fill a bucket, keep telling your subconscious, with your every thought, word, and deed, what it is you want. We tend to think we’re standing on the shore and that if we could just somehow find our way into the stream where we belong… well, it’s not that way at all. You’re already wet. You’ve been in the river the whole time. You are the manifestation of what you’ve been doing with your life. That’s powerful knowledge, if you believe that’s true.
MMM: Did you write the narration before you did the shooting?
Jeffrey: No. I actually just shot the single take of my commute home, and then after I animated it, the imagery gave me a certain kind of feeling. So I just put pen to paper… well actually, I think it was voice to Notepad app, but you catch my drift. I wrote what I was feeling. That commute home is a killer some nights. I’m writing from the heart, but going a little bit over the top, just exaggerating the slightest bit, because it makes for good storytelling I think. I mean, this is the story of a guy who’s heartbroken and has a daily reminder of that heartbreak, and how it’s hard to go back to that home where he’s reminded of what he went through with the girl he loved. But that guy is also me. I feel like I finally have enough distance from the situation this is based on to be able write it from the perspective of a guy who’s a lot like me, but he’s not exactly me. He’s much more pessimistic. I get accused of pessimism all the time, but I’m at heart an optimist. An optimist with the face of a bitter, downtrodden, angry cynic.
MMM: He sounds like a character who is worth knowing.
Jeffrey: You’ll have a chance. He’s the protagonist of a series that I’m creating. I don’t know how many episodes I’ll do, but right now I’ve written two more and have shot raw footage for the second one. He’s got other existential crises to deal with besides the one that got away. For instance, he really doesn’t like Times Square…stay tuned.