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Getting the Look Right; Getting Truth Right

For the last couple of months work has been proceeding on color-correction and color-grading.
Color Grading Truth On The Line
Using Apple's Color software, the correction is straightforward, simply fixing the minor discrepencies in light and exposure that the different shots occasionally have. Then there's color grading, which is actually creating a "Look" for some of the scenes. In TOTL there are really 3 looks: the news show, behind the scenes at the studio, and scenes in the "outer world". Grading the scenes is a matter of sorting the scenes into these categories and coming up for an interesting, distinct look in terms of color and contrast and brightness.

I've also just recently read "Everything Is Illuminated", the first novel by young literary wunderkind Jonathan Safran Foer. It's a heart-wrenching story of a jewish village in Ukraine utterly destroyed by the Nazis, and a young man 50 years later trying to find traces of his relatives there.

The thing that makes it relevant to TOTL is that the story is in the form of alternating sections, some written by Jonathan, and some written by the Ukrainian translator who he hires to help him find the village. The translator, Alex, writes his sections of the book and letters to Jonathan in which he discusses what he thinks of Jonathan's chapters and the corrections and changes Jonathan asks him to make to his chapters. In one passage he questions some of the poetic license they are taking with reality:

We are being very nomadic with the truth, yes? The both of us? Do you think that this is acceptable when we are writing about things that occurred? If your answer is no, then why do you write about Trachimbrod and your grandfather in the manner that you do, and why do you command me to be untruthful? If your answer is yes, then this creates another question, which is if we are to be such nomads with the truth, why do we not make the story more premium than life? It seems to me that we are making the story even inferior. We often make ourselves appear as though we are foolish people, and we make our voyage, which was an ennobled voyage, appear very normal and second rate. We could give your grandfather two arms, and could make him high-fidelity. We could give Brod what she deserves in the stead of what she gets... it could be perfect and beautiful, and funny, and usefully sad, as you say... I do not think that there are any limits to how excellent we could make life seem.

I find this fascinating, especially given that the novel is based on Foer's actual trip to Ukraine, but only very very loosely based - he explains in an interview how unremarkable and unsuccessful the real trip was, and the nonfiction book he attempted to write about the experience just was not working.

I did not intend to write Everything Is Illuminated. I intended to chronicle, in strictly nonfictional terms, a trip that I made to Ukraine as a 22-year-old. Armed with a photograph of the woman who, I was told, had saved my grandfather from the Nazis, I embarked on a journey to Trachimbrod, the shtetl of my family's origins. The comedy of errors lasted five days. I found nothing but nothing, and in that nothing - a landscape of completely realized absence - nothing was to be found.... It took me a week to finish the first sentence. In the remaining month, I wrote 280 pages. What made beginning so difficult, and the remainder so seemingly automatic, was imagination - the initial problem, and ultimate liberation, of imagining. My mind wanted to wander, to invent, to use what I had seen as a canvas, rather than the paints. But, I wondered, is the Holocaust exactly that which cannot be imagined? What are one's responsibilities to "the truth" of a story, and what is "the truth"? Can historical accuracy be replaced with imaginative accuracy? The eye with the mind's eye?

He opted for this more experimental, more... extrapolated form, in order to get at what Werner Herzog calls the Ecstatic Truth. But even so, he did not go past a certain point. He didn't make everything perfect.

The novel's two voices - one "realistic," the other "folkloric" - and their movement toward each other, has to do with this problem of imagination. The Holocaust presents a real moral quandary for the artist. Is one allowed to be funny? Is one allowed to attempt verisimilitude? To forgo it? What are the moral implications of quaintness? Of wit? Of sentimentality? What, if anything, is untouchable?

With the two very different voices, I attempted to show the rift that I experienced when trying to imagine the book. (It is the most explicit of many rifts in the book.) And with their development toward each other, I attempted to heal the rift, or wound.

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