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Web Comedy "Homeland Insecurity" Picked Up By CBS TV

A pilot originally shot for the web has been picked up by CBS for adaptation to a television series. It's a comedy about security at an airport. You can see their trailer on vimeo.
According to Deadline, the budget was $70K, though it's unclear to us if that's just to shoot the above trailer or if there's more to it (actual episodes) that were produced.

TOTL is not a screwball comedy like this, but it's interesting that producers are producing for cheap and then pitching up from there, and it's somewhat interesting that some treatment of immigration/customs/security are showing up in mainstream television without the sort of jingoistic hyperpatriotic "Cops" "reality" slant that we've seen so far from Nat Geo and Fox so far.

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.

So Close! Kinda! No Really! Kinda.

It's been awhile since we've posted news of the process of making Truth On The Line. This post is about where the TOTL project is at but also the meta issue of how communication is done between creators and "fans" of work like this.

We like to promote and support other great creative projects. Kickstarter is a great way to do this and we've thrown down a little green toward a small number of worthy efforts - not a lot of money, just enough to say "hey, I care, you're cool, send me a t-shirt". We've been following with great attention the progress of one microbudget film that we helped fund, and were struck by a recent update from the filmmakers:

It is taking longer than we had originally planned, but that's because we are working very hard to make this the best film possible, and that takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of commitment. It has slowed down the process, but we feell (sic) like we are producing a much better movie as we take our time with production. But we are close!

What struck us about this? Well, the cynical, old, tired part of us was struck by the sheer innocence and freshness and, frankly, lack of originality of this rather, frankly, cliched justification for production delays. Doesn't everybody know, already, that making "the best film possible" involves "a lot of effort" and "commitment"?

A less jaded part of us, though, respects this honest, though probably incomplete, attempt to keep everyone posted and placated. ...Read more>>>

Learning About Telling Stories From Music Videos

The Not On The Wires blog, peopled by a group of young multimedia reporters, comments on the way storytelling in a now-famous music video can inform how modern journalists do their jobs.

when I heard that Gaga’s latest video was directed by a Steven Klein, a leading photojournalist, I couldn’t wait to see how this photojournalistic approach to composition and style would translate into the moving images of a music video.

Alejandro is 8:43 of painstakingly lit shooting. It may not be to your musical tastes, but there’s no denying the magnetic appeal of this carefully composed and considered piece of video:

To start with, consider the first two minutes of the video carefully. No words are uttered, and yet as a viewer you’re still experiencing “a story”.

The post goes on to say "photojournalism is more about creating a moment, a situation, an experience inside an image. These moments can often be staged, just like a film, in order to convey the artist’s vision."

Exactly. Fiction in order to tell Fact.

Stan of News On The Line would love this idea. Yeah, let's jazz it up. Put on your M-16 bustiers, people.

Truth On The Line teaser clip


Truth On The Line Teaser

This is a brief look at some moments from Truth On The Line's pilot episode, which is in post-production and planned for completion this summer. more information at http://truthontheline.tv

Note that in this teaser there are some post-production rough spots, especially the audio and color correction. Thanks for your patience and imagination in filling in the blanks!

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Truth On The Line is a unique video project, telling the story of a varied group of characters who produce media and live their lives in the U.S./Mexico borderlands. The web mini-series version of the project launched in October 2012. You can use this site to follow our progress. Sign up for the mailing list to stay updated, and if you have questions, please get in touch. Truth On The Line, presented by Liminal Communications and Pan Left Productions, is written and directed by Steev Hise.