my friend, henry laszlo, is a pretty interesting guy. say hello, henry.
i've known henry his whole life. his mom and i go way back. she has always been one of my favorite people, as sharp and as creative as they come. it's no surprise, then, that her progeny share those characteristics. henry, at 12, is the eldest son in a family that also includes mom, dad, two younger brothers, a baby sister, two dogs, four cats, one hamster and untold accordions. they live in tillamook, oregon where henry is homeschooled, doing the bulk of his work online with the exception of attending junior high for band classes. a few weeks ago henry attended the summer camp offered to young filmmakers by the portland art museum's nw film center. it's a great program that instructs and encourages young filmmakers and offers them the opportunity to experience all of the creative and technical aspects of making their own movies.
i invited him to talk about his experience here and he kindly accepted.
v,a: by way of introduction, i thought we would start with some questions about movies in general. tell us a little about why you like movies.
henry: i like movies because they are a great form of entertainment. it's people doing something you would never do, but fun to watch somebody do anyway.
v,a: where do you get to watch movies?
henry: mostly, i watch movies through my computer.
v,a: when you watch movies, what do you look for? what captures your imagination?
henry: if i'm watching a pixar preview, i'm looking for the art in it, how artistic it is and how well it is made. if the characters look realistic and i can understand what is happening just by watching the preview, i like that. if it's a live action movie, then i usually tend to just watch the preview and see if i can see through the special effects. it's pretty typical, but i'm a kid and i want something to blow my mind and, later, see how it is done. for example, the teaser preview for district 9 (2009) - it was kind of creepy because they were able to harness and capture the aliens and it made me wonder if the aliens were ever going to try to rebel and get free. i like a lot of special effects. action usually grabs my attention and comedy is also something i like. slapstick humor definitely makes me laugh, i like it a lot, but satire is kind of the one i find more in movies that i like.
v,a: so, once a trailer has lured you in and you decide to watch a film, do you tend to lose yourself in it and analyze it later or are you paying attention to the technical aspects as you watch?
henry: if it's a boring, repetitive kind of movie, i just tend to lose myself in a manner that involves drooling and having my eyes half-open. if it is a very engrossing or creepy movie, then i lose myself in the suspense parts, or when there's a zombie eating someone's head.
v,a: did camp change the way you watch movies and what you watch for?
henry: before i went to camp i didn't know much about how to make a movie, all the little secrets and tricks to making it look and sound good. one little trick i did know before i went to camp was that if you want to create a creepy scene, or build tension, then all you need is the right camera angle. now that i have been to camp, when i see those things i think about what the cameraman or boom mic operator was doing during the making of the scene.
v,a: what are some of your favorite movies?
henry: the pirates of the caribbean series and kick-ass (2010) are probably somewhere on my top ten list.
v,a: what do you like about those?
henry: i like how well everything overlaps in the storyline. a bunch of different stories come down, trickling like water, and they all meet in the middle of a big bowl. like water does, they all merge together and right when those droplets meet, it's the end of the movie. that kind of storyline is what i really like.
v,a: do you focus on particular actors or directors?
henry: not exactly, i don't really look for actors or directors. i mostly look for genres. i like actors, without actors there is no movie. if i'm watching a movie in a genre i like and jackie chan shows up, i say, "oh hey, look! it's jackie chan!" but after watching that movie i don't go running around looking for more jackie chan.
v,a: how do you find out about movies you would like to see?
henry: mom usually tells about me about a movie she saw last night that she thinks i would like to see. i also see commercials or trailers on youtube or on the preview sections of other movies.
v,a: do you talk about movies much with your friends and family?
henry: a little. if mom saw a movie that i saw a preview for then we'll talk about it. if my friend and i saw the same movie, we'll talk about certain characters or scenes that we really liked. as for information on films, i don't tend to look them up online or read about them in magazines or anything. i have read vitagraph and watched the videos on here. other than that, i'll give it a glimpse and move on.
v,a: is everyone in the family pretty creative?
henry: yes. dad is very good at the guitar and has written a few songs. mom makes cookies and is a very good accordionist. thomas is interested in photography (you can see some of thomas' photography on his blog, awesome nine bajillion) and george draws a lot and plays the violin.
v,a: do you guys work on projects together?
henry: yeah, sometimes we do. one christmas, we all tried to learn the song "i saw three ships" together. we also cook a lot together and we make each other's christmas gifts.
v,a: tell me about film camp. what was a normal day like?
henry: a normal day started out silent because everybody was still nervous. a few would speak up because they had already made friends with each other but it was mostly silent. then the teacher would show up and get us started with the movie. around then, developing communication was a vital thing. that way we could understand each other during the making of the movie, so that was when the talking started. the first day, we did a few exercises. we played a game that was like a scavenger hunt but you had to take a five second video of what you needed to find, such as something you may take with you on a camping trip or a kitchen appliance. then we would get down to movie making. one girl named olivia started up a little game with the fuzzy thing that goes on the boom mic. what you had to do was, if you got steve, the fuzzy thing, you had to keep it away from everybody else until all hell breaks loose and the teacher takes away all snack privileges.
v,a: you took the mockumentary class. why did you choose that one?
henry: i didn't choose the mockumentary class as a first choice. it was my back-up if i didn't get the digital movie making class. when i first signed up, i leaned towards movies with people in them, such as digital movie making or mockumentary, rather than animation. there were only two classes that covered those interests. i got my second choice.
v,a: why was digital movie making your fist choice? do you like the technology for a particular reason?
henry: the only reason i tried to take digital movie making is because there weren't classes that used actual film. i think digital is great but i hope people don't forget how to use "reel" film.
v,a: why did you initially lean toward live action films rather than animation?
henry: i felt more like using a camera, rather than a computer, to make my movies.
v,a: do you like the idea of working with actors and interacting with other crew members more than animation.
henry: yes! yes, very much.
v,a: what classes would you like to take next time?
henry: before, i just wanted to do live action stuff, but i have seen other computer animation things i like on youtube since then and have really gotten into it. i am going to take an animation class this winter.
v,a: tell me about your project at camp. what was your function on the crew?
henry: my function was mostly technical, because a lot of the kids that were there signed up for an acting opportunity. so, i got the chance to do everything - cameraman, boom mic operator, assistant camera, director, assistant director.
v,a: what was your favorite of all those jobs?
henry: i didn't really have a favorite, as they all required the same amount of work. i never really felt drawn to any of them, i just wanted to try them all out. they all looked very intriguing to me. i didn't like the director or assistant director jobs that much because they don't get their hands on the technical stuff. they just tell the actors what to do or make sure the stuff is set up right. you don't even get to touch a wire, and if you do, it's because you stepped on it. i liked working with machines a lot more. the boom mic and the camera piqued my interest more than the lights.
v,a: how big was your cast and crew?
henry: it consisted of fourteen people.
v,a: how did you find the process of collaboration?
henry: easy, because most of them had experience. working with them was easy. being friends with them was a bit harder because they all just wanted to stay with their groups. i was able to make one friend, who was very nice, but it was hard getting to know everyone. communicating as if we were on a real set was fun - saying "action" and communicating the way a director a does with the actors and cameramen and assistant. it was like playing pretend, almost.
v,a: your instructor, andy blubaugh, is a fairly accomplished indie filmmaker. did you guys talk much about his work and his experiences in the film business? how did you benefit from his experience?
henry: he didn't talk about his movies and nobody really asked because they didn't know who he was. being good at making movies, he gave us hints. he pretty much left the movie all in our hands. every now and then, if he saw that the cameraman was having trouble finding a good shot he'd step in and help a little, like asking the light person to move out of the way or having the actors stand in a different place.
v,a: how did the class react to that?
henry: i though it was funny - when the kids came into this, hoping that they'd be guided along the path to movie making, but then were shocked to see that the teacher left everything in their hands and only helped a little bit. i liked his method of teaching. i was a little surprised myself but i rolled with it.
v,a: tell me about the film you made.
henry: our project was called the glazed ghoul. it is a mockumentary about a journalist who is investigating the rivalry between two doughnut shop owners. it's about eight minutes long.
v,a: the word "ghoul" suggests there might be a horror element to it. is that right?
henry: not exactly. the ghoul is just part of an advertisement scheme by one of the doughnut shop owners.
v,a: how can people see your film?
henry: we have a dvd and it's been posted on youtube.
v,a: that is cool. it seems like that was a pretty great experience, overall. are you excited about going back?
thanks for taking the time to talk with me, henry. good luck in animation class!