Archive for outdoor cinema

Ticket Lottery

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2012 by javedbabar

Two hundred tickets were available for the global launch of the film HUMANITY, and there had been a huge buzz when they were allocated online. The event was being held in the village of Lucerne, where the director had received his inspiration for the film, rather than in London, Mumbai or New York. His strange choice of location made the tickets doubly desirable, and the international jet set had clamoured for them.

Something didn’t feel right though. Sami, the local project manager, asked a member of the production crew, “Why are all those people queuing?”

“They’re the walk-ins, hoping to pick up tickets at the door.”

Sami was surprised. “But I thought all tickets had been allocated already. Where have the extras come from?”

The crew member said, “Between you are me, they are waiting for nothing. There aren’t any extra tickets.”

“Well, why don’t we tell them? They shouldn’t waste their time.”

“Look, the director said that all tickets should be allocated anonymously. There should be payment by donation, with people giving what they could afford or wanted to. But the producer rigged the allocation process. He priced up one hundred and fifty tickets for VIPs, sold twenty-five to restaurants serving special menus tonight, and fixed the lottery for the remaining twenty-five tickets. They’re all gone.”

Sami knew there would be some VIPs – he had been told up to fifty – but this was a disgrace. There was a huge queue of hopefuls, maybe 200 people, wanting to get in.

He spotted a familiar figure near the back of the line, with long black beard, brown skin and orange robe. It was his boss, Guru Baba! But wasn’t he away on pilgrimage for a month, which was the reason Sami was able to take this freelance position. Why was he back?

Sami walked over immediately and pressed his palms together.

“Yes, yes,” said the sage, returning the greeting. “I heard about the screening. I wanted to see it too so I decided to come back.”

“What about your ascent of Mt Kalash? Did you abandon it?”

“I was never going to climb it anyway. Too cold up there. Brrrr!” His shivering agitated his robe, making him seem like a dancing hairy fruit. “Now when will you let us in?”

“Guru Baba, why didn’t you get a VIP ticket? You only had to ask.” He was one of the world’s leading holy men, and though retired, still very well connected and popular.

“No, no. Why shouldn’t I wait like everybody else? Aren’t we all equal? This film is called HUMANITY.”

Sami didn’t know whether to tell him about the ticket situation in public; it may anger other people waiting. “Guru Baba, please come here, I need to tell you something.”

“No way! I am not losing my place in the line.”

“Guru Baba, you need to know something about the tickets…” Sami tailed off.

“Well, don’t be shy. You can tell us. We are all brothers and sisters here.”

“Okay then, there are no extra tickets. They have all been allocated to VIPs and the producer’s friends. You are waiting for nothing. You may as well go home.”

The crowd began grumbling, but Guru Baba stayed quiet. Then he said, “I have an idea.”

Sami told the VIPs, sipping champagne while awaiting the screening, that Guru Baba was offering a live audience tonight at the Transparent Temple, which they could attend in exchange for their film ticket.

Who wouldn’t want an audience with Guru Baba? Imagine the photos, blessings, mantras, and bragging rights acquired. They would witness his miraculous quality of multilocation, of being with many people at once, yet focussing on each one individually.

A handful of VIPs stood up immediately, and then the rest, not wanting to be left out of this once in a lifetime – maybe once in many lifetimes – opportunity, left their seats and walked to the Transparent Temple.

When the VIPs had gone, the 200 walk-ins walked in and enjoyed the film. Due to his quality of multilocation, Guru Baba enjoyed it too.

Bright Brown Eyes

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by javedbabar

There was half an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Its celebrated auteur had eschewed London, Mumbai and New York in favour of Lucerne, where the idea for the film had first come to him while mountain climbing.

Local project manager Sami had been asked to run through everything with the General Manager prior to doors opening. He hadn’t been able to locate him yet and the screening time was drawing near.

He asked the projectionist, “Have you seen the General Manager around?”

“Ah, The General. He was here this afternoon when I was setting up. I’m not sure where he’s gone.”

“Why do you call him The General?” asked Sami. “Is he a tough guy?”

“Actually, no. Quite the opposite, but I know he is an ex-military man. He led tough campaigns in Asia, and fought in brutal African wars. You wouldn’t think so though.”

This made Sami think of the ancient Indian king Asoka, who renounced bloodshed and became an advocate of non-violence, truth and tolerance instead. Sumerian king Gilgamesh, said to be one-third human and two-thirds divine, also mended his vicious ways. If only such leaders had been studied in 20th century Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Russia and America, the world would now be a better place.

Sami located The General fifteen minutes before doors opened. He was a tall, well-built man with cropped red hair and eyes that seemed orange at first, but were in fact bright brown. Sami walked him around the site and showed him the screen, which had been stiffened to counter evening winds, projector, cabling, seating, ropes, poles and carpets. He ran through key timings and flows, and showed the required safety certificates.

The General was very friendly and calm. He made some minor comments, said, “Good job”, “Good stuff”, and “Good work”, and said he would be in his office if needed. The run through with him took under five minutes. Now that’s a guy who trusts people, thought Sami. I’ll bet his soldiers felt inspired.

There was an issue concerning wheelchair spaces. Sami had allocated five spaces, but a village official said there should be seven. It was too late to change seating layout now as doors were opening in less than ten minutes, but the village official insisted on the change.

Sami decided to get support from The General. After all, he was in charge here and had approved the plan. He buzzed his office, and the door flew open immediately.

After a dark hallway, Sami came to a steel door which slid open silently. There was The General watching a bank of screens that covered an entire wall. Facial recognition technology identified people and followed them around. Where were these cameras hidden? Sami hadn’t noticed them anywhere in The Place.

On the adjacent wall were pinned scores of faces, a few of whom he recognized. Many had a black strike slashing across their faces. The General looked at Sami and said, “Two strikes and you’re out.”

His bright brown eyes lit up, very fiery, like when he had dropped bombs on restless provinces, and spearheaded “population control” projects. He had acted as consultant to many governments, and oil and water companies, who needed certain people to disappear. The General was interested in the film tonight, HUMANITY, but more so in its rumoured sequel, INHUMANITY. He hoped it would feature some of his special projects.

Redirection

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2012 by javedbabar

There was just an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Sami was pleased that everything was set. The screen and scaffold, projector, VIP and ordinary chairs, ropes and poles and red carpet were all in place.

There had been a light wind whispering all day. In the morning it rose from Mt Alba, the white mountain towering above the village, and then travelled along the valley to Mt Negra, the dark mountain at its far end. In the late afternoon it picked up and returned.

Sami noticed light reflecting around The Place, the communal space at the heart of the village where the screening would occur. Where was it coming from?

He looked around but nothing was moving, except, damn! The 20 x 40 ft screen was rippling, only slightly, but enough to notice.

This was a disaster! The director’s carefully composed shots would be distorted. The screening would be ruined.

The projectionist had noticed the rippling too. He called Sami over and said, “We need to do something about this. The film will look pretty bad otherwise.”

Sami asked, “Can you do something with the projector?” and then realized it was a stupid question. He could hardly project anti-ripples. They would have to adjust the scaffold and screen.

The projectionist discussed options with the crew. They decided they could improve the situation by tightening the screen. This meant men in hard hats, tied to ropes, climbing ladders, so for safety reasons they would have to block all access to The Place. Despite being local project manager, Sami was in practical terms the least useful person on site, and was asked to redirect members of the public.

He blocked the entrance with a road barrier and greeted people approaching with a smile. It was hard to get annoyed when someone had smiled at you already for no reason. This was a conflict resolution technique taught to him by Guru Baba.

A young woman approached and said, “Excuse me please, I am the owner of that sandwich shop,” – she pointed to a cute shop with red and white hanging baskets – “I need to check stock for tomorrow.”

“Can you enter from the back, Miss? I won’t be able to let you through here for half an hour.”

“The cops have closed off the back areas. I have to enter from the front.”

“I am sorry, but you will have to wait. Will you be able to do it later, or in the morning?”

“I guess I could do it in the morning. That’s a good idea. My boyfriend wakes me up anyway. He’s a health nut, and goes running at 5am. I may as well come then.”

A man in his fifties approached, sweating, and said, “I have to get to the hairdressers. It is urgent!”

“Do you have an appointment? No? Why is it urgent? It is only hair.” Sami’s hair was thinning and he didn’t care. “Hair today, gone tomorrow!”

The man thought about this for a moment and said, “You are right. Hair today, gone tomorrow.” He said it again and removed his wig, which had needed adjustment. A little more light reflected around The Place.

A man with Celtic tattoos said, “I need vitamins from the health shop.”

Sami said, “Which ones? Okay, A, C, E and K? Why don’t you eat spinach instead?”

An agitated woman ran up and said, “I need formula for my baby. She is hungry and I’ve run out.”

Sami gave her a hard hat and escorted her to the grocery store. He had learnt many lessons from Guru Baba. One of the most important was to know when to redirect people, and when to help them on their way.

Red Carpet

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by javedbabar

Most items were now set for the showing. The screen and scaffold, projector and speakers, VIP and ordinary chairs, and ropes and poles, were all in place. The red carpet however had not arrived.

The CORE – Customer Order Response Expedition – system was stupid, thought Sami. Sending items on individual trucks was a terrible idea, but what could he do? He wasn’t in charge of logistics. He was in charge of set up, and the global launch of the film HUMANITY was good to go, minus only one red carpet.

An hour before the show he called the delivery company again. The despatcher said he would ask the driver to call Sami right away.

The driver called him. “I delivered it an hour ago,” she said. “It’s at the mayor’s office. I was told that’s where to deliver it.”

The mayor’s office was one kilometre from The Place, the communal space at the heart of the village and location for tonight’s screening. Sami said, “Who told you that?”

“Well, I was sent round and round by detours. There were cops everywhere who wouldn’t let me stop. So I called another driver who said that was the usual place, so I dropped it off there.”

“That’s not the right place! Can you please retrieve the carpet and bring it here to The Place? I will direct you to the delivery entrance.”

“Sorry, I’m fifty kilometres away now, heading back to the city.”

Damn! thought Sami. He needed that red carpet for VIPs. He had better go and get it himself. The projectionist had set up early and was now relaxing, sipping a beer. Sami said, “Excuse me, can you please help me with something?”

He didn’t indicate a readiness to move.

“It’s important.”

The projectionist stood up and said, “Sure.”

With all the road closures and diversions, it would be quicker to walk. They reached the mayor’s office in ten minutes. The security guard said, “I was wondering why they brought that here. I thought it was for one of the mayor’s special parties.” He tapped his nose as he said this.

Sami and the projectionist threw opposite ends of the roll over their shoulders. It smelled quite clean, but there was a hint of beer – or was it champagne? – and fish – or was it oysters? They carried the rolled carpet through the village, looking like a pair of toy plumbers. Sami thought, it’s a shame it’s not a magic carpet. We could have ridden it through the valley, over forests, lakes, and rivers, across icecaps…

At The Place, Sami paced out the distance from the street to the VIP area. They rolled out the carpet, cut it at one end, and taped it in place.

Sami noticed specks on the carpet. Upon closer inspection, he saw they were a mixture of dirt, gravel, powder and leaf bits. He found a hoover and cleaned them up. The red carpet looked really good now, like a ribbon across a present. He took installation photos.

As he did that a family of five walked across the far part of the carpet, adjoining the street, before the VIP ropes and poles. Sami recognized them; he had seen them picking through dumpsters behind The Place’s restaurants. They posed and took pictures on their phones. They dreamed of being asked to grace a red carpet, but who ever welcomed trailer park folk?

The security guard was about to move them on; they were leaving dirt and crumbs; but Sami told him to wait. Right now the red carpet was acting as a band-aid, not a ribbon. Let them enjoy their moment of glamour. He could hoover the carpet again.

Efficient Delivery

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2012 by javedbabar

“Where are you?” said Sami. “You were supposed to be here by five p.m.”

“I can’t find the place,” said the driver. “I’ve been going around for half an hour.” His voice faded, there was a grinding noise, and Sami heard him say, “Why not? It’s just there. Can’t you just let me through?” His voice returned. “There are cops everywhere, blocking all the exits. What’s going on here today?”

“It’s the global launch of the film HUMANITY. It’s a big event so there’s extra security, plus detours. It took me an hour to get in this afternoon, and I am running the show!”

This local project manager contract had come up suddenly. Sami’s usual job was as personal assistant to Guru Baba, a retired holy man, but he was away on pilgrimage for a month so Sami had time available.

“Look, where are you exactly? Near the community centre? The old one or the new one? Okay, just keep going straight for a hundred metres, turn left, left again, and there is a delivery entrance on the left. I will wait for you there.”

Sami called him ten minutes later. “Where are you?”

“Sorry I missed the exit and have to go around again.”

Sami called him after another ten minutes.

“I couldn’t get back on the road near the community centre. Listen, I’ll figure it out. I’ll call you when I get there.”

Half an hour later, Sami saw the truck approaching the delivery entrance. He pushed a button to open the swing doors, and the truck pulled in.

The driver was sweating. He said, “I’m sorry about that. I thought it would be a regular delivery. I’ve been to this village before, I remember the white mountain towering above it, and the black one at the far end of the valley. It was so annoying going round and around, like an ant lost in the jungle. Anyway, enough of that, where do you want the chairs?”

Sami indicated a corner. “There should be two kinds, ordinary chairs and VIP chairs, a hundred of each.”

The driver raised his eyebrows and nodded. He rolled stacks of chairs out using a dolly. The VIP chairs were in pristine condition, their golden frames covered in red velvet. The ordinary chairs were of battered grey metal.

Sami checked them over and said, “This one looks busted. Okay not busted, but in poor condition. Can you change it please? This one too.”

The driver swapped them for better ones.

“Where are the VIP ropes and poles, and the red carpet?”

“They are on the other trucks.”

“Other trucks?”

“Yes, the ropes are on one truck, the poles on another, and the carpet on a third. We use the CORE delivery system – Customer Order Response Expedition. Every order is managed individually.”

Sami was astounded. “What does that achieve?”

“Efficient delivery.”

Is he kidding? thought Sami. That is the most inefficient delivery system I have ever heard of. Putting things together is efficient, not pulling them apart.

“When are the other trucks coming?”

“They are on their way.”

Sami asked the crew to carry stacks of chairs to the seating areas, set them up, and test them individually. He didn’t want crashes during the film. Curiously, the VIP chairs were more cushioned but less comfortable. Maybe they would suit the people who sat on them, who were often the least comfortable with themselves. Comfort was not related to wealth, it was related to life experience.

Sami picked out a grey metal chair for himself.

Tombstoning

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by javedbabar

The projectionist had carefully aligned the projection tent and screen scaffold positions as soon as he had arrived. The axis between them was the key to perfect screening. The crew had followed his precise instructions, he had fine-tuned the image, and everything was set to go by 4 p.m. The global launch of the film HUMANITY was at 8 p.m. so he went off to get some early dinner.

When he returned, he sensed something was wrong. What had happened?

Someone had moved the damn screen!

The crew were smoking near the bins. He felt like cursing them aloud from where he was but instead decided to walk over, by which time he had calmed down.

“Excuse me. Were any of you involved in moving the screen?”

The crew looked at each other nervously, and one of them said, “Yes, that guy there,” – he pointed at Sami – “asked us to angle it towards the trees.”

“That guy!” He exploded. “Who the hell is he?”

The crew member replied, “I think he is the local…”

Before he had finished, the projectionist ran towards Sami. While still ten metres away, he shouted, “I am the projectionist. I laid out the location this morning. Did you tell the crew to shift the screen?”

Sami was surprised by his aggressive manner, but responded coolly. “Sorry, did I need to ask you first? I didn’t realize. We need to give the VIPs a good view. Some of them have paid a thousand dollars for a ticket. The screen position needed adjustment.”

Sami backed away to ease tension, but the projectionist stepped forward. “Do you know what will happen now? The projector and screen are misaligned. There will be a tombstone effect. I am not sure if I can correct it. How will your VIPs like that?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“Tombstoning – keystoning – haven’t you heard of that? There’s image distortion…”

“Look, if it’s a technical issue, there’s no point in explaining it to me. There’s nothing I can do about it. You’re the expert here. Can you please fix it?”

The projectionist grumbled and went off to make the necessary adjustments. Sami didn’t like bossing people about; he preferred to work in a harmonious team, but sometimes you had to push a little. Hadn’t the projectionist already returned to his tent and started working on a fix?

Five minutes later, the projector came to life. A huge orange OM symbol filled the screen. It was the first frame of the film, instantly recognizable from the global marketing campaign.

Sami knew that OM was a symbol of infinity and could be expressed in myriad forms, but he had to admit that something was wrong with it. There were hazy areas and its dimensions were distorted.

The projectionist called to him, “See what I mean now?”

“Yes I do. Can we move the projector?”

“No pal, we can’t. All the kit here is set up now. Can we move the screen, or the VIPs?”

“I’m afraid we can’t. The VIPs…”

The projectionist had worked on hundreds of jobs. He was a professional. He said, “Okay, I’ll do my best.”

He reviewed relationships, reprogrammed forms and adjusted parameters using his projection software. The image flashed, shook, stretched and settled. Within half an hour, it was much improved, though still a bit hazy and distorted.

Sami realized that he preferred it like this. If the objective of filmmaking was to bring things to life, was it not more realistic for a cosmic symbol to be at least partly unfathomable?

Screen Angle

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2012 by javedbabar

“Keep moving please!” said the traffic cop. “No stopping here. There’s no entry.”

Sami was annoyed. He thought that by coming on a bicycle he would get a break, but the cops were treating car drivers, motorbikers, cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians the same. He wondered how wheelchair users would fare.

“But I am part of the production crew. I am the local project manager for the screening.”

This had no effect. The cop waved him on and said, “Well you should know better then. Nobody is allowed through this way except VIPs. Do you have VIP credentials?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, go around the back like everybody else. Once you pass through security, you’re in.”

It was strange to see the heart of Lucerne cordoned off. It was an important event, he knew, and they had to take precautions, but it didn’t seem right somehow.

The global launch of the film HUMANITY could have taken place in London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Paris or New York, but the director had had his vision for the film while climbing mountains here. The white bulk of Mt Alba at one end of the valley, and dark bulk of Mt Negra at the other, had caused him to “transcend the monochromicity of the world, while retaining its bipolar archetypes.”

What this meant, nobody really knew, but he was a world famous auteur at the peak of his creative powers, so it didn’t matter. He declared this film the “cumulative cultural container” of his lifetime’s work, and said that it must be revealed to the world in the place where the world had revealed it to him.

The producer had wanted to show the film on the railway tracks to signify “humanity at the crossroads,” and his people had conducted negotiations with the provincial government, village council, railways department, health and safety boards, and emergency services, but had been unable to convince them to allow this. So instead they had settled for The Place, the communal square in the centre of the village.

It took an hour to get through security. By the time Sami was on location, the scaffold and screen were set up. He knew that the screen was twenty by forty feet, but in situ it looked much bigger. The film would look awesome on that.

He scoped the area, paced it out, and ran through things in his head. VIPs were here near the trees, premium diners there near the fountain, ordinary ticket holders on the terrace, and press near the bar.

Hang on! The VIPs would get the same view as everybody else. That wasn’t right. He had been told that VIPs must get the best view. He would have to move the screen, maybe angle it a little towards them. He called over a technician.

The technician said, “Look pal, it’s all set up. It will be tricky to move it. Why don’t we just leave it there?”

Sami felt he had no option. “I’m afraid we have to move it.”

“But isn’t this film called HUMANITY? Why don’t we give everyone an equal view?”

Cinema is a cultural artefact. By exploiting the universal power of visual communication, it is used for entertainment, education and indoctrination. Individual images are shown rapidly, creating the illusion of motion. One cannot see their flickering due to an effect called persistence of vision, wherein the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after its source has been removed. Thus, things persist, whether we like it or not. One such thing is social privilege.

Sami said, “We need to move the screen for the VIPs. Can you please call the rest of the crew.”