Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CRITIQUE of "Monsters of the Amazon" - Tips for Amateur Video Editors #151

 The Amazon 1999 (video edited in 2012) -- (Part 4 of discussion)


In Part 1 and Part 2 we lamented that our nine hours of video from the Amazon was hopelessly boring.  So I had an original idea: mix freely-available horror movie trailers with my own footage to create a fictional adventure.  This was a departure from anything I had ever attempted before.
Chapters/scenes from Monsters Of The Amazon are are detailed in Part 3.  Now in Part 4 we'll critically discuss what works and what could have been done better.

A "Critical" Look, Scene by Scene:
I have so much ownership of this production, it's hard to step back and be a critic.  I know I will never do a remake, but there are some flaws I see every time Monsters is played.  I've heard that "Editing is never completed, but a some point you just stop cutting."  Here's are some lessons from Monsters of the Amazon that I'll try to remember for future productions

(1) "The lucky ones never find why they're looking for.  Others … they're not so lucky!"  I think this may be the all-time most-inspired sentence that I ever wrote.  I considered having a friend narrate the voiceover but artificially deepening my voice worked well.
I like the National Geographic reference, as well as the ridiculous assertion: "…an incredible yet TRUE story!"  Hah, I would never lie to my viewers.

(2) The picture-in-picture composite which introduces the cast is a nice concept.  When I submitted this video to an amateur contest one of the judges commented about the camera's superimposed dates.  If I were doing it again I would adjust the background video of a map so the date didn't clutter the screen.  However, dates on the PIP would remain since I feel they lend some "authenticity".
I like the heroic music as the crew is introduced.  We view peaceful scenes from the first day's expedition, then expectations are raised.  Music grows ominous as crew activities become suspicious.

(3) Hollywood scenes of insect attacks work well with vacation footage of real insect bites.
The most common way to end a scene is a fade to black or a cross-fade.  This one ends with an unsettling fade to white. 

(4) The natives stole our clothes?   Well it's some fun footage of topless tribal members and our group swimming in the river.  Aaagh ... was that a giant piranha?  This scene and the next work to set up our first jungle "tragedy".

(5) Actually good footage of a tribal dance, along with some National-Geographic-style toplessness.   Switch to some Brazilian samba entertainment on-board, then a guy's head explodes in a dimly-lit restaurant.  It's not supposed to make any sense, but perhaps I could have found a better-lit scene for the head explosion?
Note:  The exploding head was free stock footage from Detonation Films that I composited into the movie.

(6) Here's homage to a timelessly bad big-star feature movie.  Millions of people people actually paid to see Jon Voight & Jennifer Lopez in Anaconda!  At least my video of the river kids' canoes adds some authenticity and professionalism to the ridiculous Hollywood special effects.

(7)  I really like the edits in the scene about cults.  Cutting between the real, the unreal, and the OMG cat.  And increasingly tense string orchestra music.
But the screaming victim in Creature From The Black Lagoon is a female; our victim "The Dancer" is male.  If I re-edit, I might try to composite my friend so it looks like he is attacked by the Creature.
Note: The woman explaining an Amazonian religious cult is actually a university professor of anthropology in the United States..

(8) Sounds like music from Jaws as we're catching little fish from our Zodiac raft.  Wait a minute -- isn't that the same guy whose head blew up a couple of minutes ago?  [Discontinuity alert!]  I love Christopher Lloyd's voice as he explains the piranha's "pack mentality".   Clips from Piranha and Mega Piranha make my HENBC efforts look like Academy Award material.

(9) The vacation video clip of Tio Tom's cantina is actually well done and fun to watch.  I like the title, "One Century Later" [sure, everyone believes that].  But the surprise ending is rushed and unclear.  I'd like more viewers to realize that after the Tree Hugger and I escaped, I somehow morphed into "Swamp Thing" and we lived happily ever after.

Lessons Learned:
Don't take yourself too seriously.  I didn't bring the budget, crew, and equipment to produce a National Geographic documentary.  I don't my audience to be enchanted, I just want them to laugh!

When all else fails, use your video to tell "lies" about your trip.  Make up a story, then use your video clips to support the fiction.

Try mixing some Hollywood stuff with your own.  I tried this in 1996 with limited success when I blended our trip to Ireland with clips from The Quiet Man.

Humor trumps technical flaws.  Monsters of the Amazon won awards from a  couple of contests, despite some judges comments about discontinuity, an irrational story, and confusing ending.

NAMMA: "Ten Best of 2012"

AIFVF: "Best SciFi"

Monsters of the Amazon was fun to edit, and the result is certainly goofy.  Was it worth all of the time and effort?  Absolutely Yes!  I thought it was worth more than a single blog posting, so we could look a little deeper at inspiration and editing technique.  Hope you agree.

Next time we'll move on to discuss another vacation video project.

Suggestion: browse through the blog archives  Over Here  - - - - - > > >

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