The Mark Side of UCSB: The Reel Loud Fest Requires Real Work

Friday, May 25, 2007

As much as I’ve been raving how great the movie season has been this year, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the epic sensory overloads many of us have been experiencing at the theaters. UCSB’s 16th Annual Reel Loud Film Festival offers just that breath of fresh air, while at the same time honoring Santa Barbara’s rich film history during the Silent Era. Reel Loud films are shot silently on 16mm and come with an accompanying live act. Yet after four years, being a mere spectator to this unique event wasn’t enough for me.

Still fresh from last quarter’s completion of “The Titan Sting” for Film Studies 106, I felt like branching out and tackling an animated short of my own for Reel Loud. The guidelines were straightforward. No sound, no need to use a technologically complicated camera and no going over the six minute and 30 second time limit. It sounded easy enough, at least to the uninitiated, like myself.

Working on a Reel Loud film felt like a complete U-turn from any of the other productions I’ve been involved with. It wasn’t necessarily the difficulty but rather the alien nature of not knowing what I was doing. Tackling a Reel Loud takes a tremendous amount of initiative and guts. Unlike other film production classes I’ve been in, there was no professor hassling me to get my work done on time. Going the animation route meant I didn’t have to deal as much with casting or camera technique. Instead, it resulted in more work for me since I had to draw most of it.

I often questioned my sanity for even attempting to create a short, let alone with minimal crew. Luckily, I had help from a reliable group of people. My thanks go out to J, Simon, Evan and Dianne. Without them, the stress of production certainly would’ve gotten to me. For two straight weeks, it seemed like my life was nothing but a string of all-nighters. I could almost feel my body shutting down as my eyes strained, my nose bled, my voice gave out and my hand cramped.

Then came the time when I actually had to shoot the film and the realization that I had no idea what I was doing. It was the first time for many things. Up to that point, I didn’t know a single thing about picking out, shooting, processing and editing film. Each step was a nerve-wracking moment of not knowing the end result. It certainly didn’t help that I was alone for most of it, either in the vacuous, after-hours Nexus office or the cramped loft in Buchanan Hall.

On the day of the deadline, I submitted my film for consideration. Over two dozen were submitted, but only about half would be chosen for Reel Loud. The next day, I got the unfortunate news that my film didn’t make the cut. So ended my first attempt at Reel Loud.

Despite the bad news, it hasn’t done anything to deter me from creating more shorts. The experience of working on a Reel Loud has taught me to persevere through production, no matter how unsure or agonizing it is, and to learn from my mistakes. I’ve got even more respect for the films that were able to make it into the festival after experiencing firsthand the journey it takes to get there. For those films that didn’t make it into the festival, there are plans for all of them to be exhibited at a future date by the Film and Videomaker’s Co-op.

I would suggest visiting the Reel Loud website for more information on the event, but most computers I’ve tried to access it on have slowed down to the point of uselessness. The people that designed that gorgeous website need to consider function over flash for next year. Instead, I recommend checking out the Facebook group. Each year’s Reel Loud looks to be better than the year before, so make sure you don’t miss out on this great UCSB tradition.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla has a reel problem.

The Mark Side of UCSB: Skaters Deserve Rights on Campus

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

There will be town hall meetings next week on Wednesday and Thursday in the UCen’s Harbor Room to discuss a possible skateboarding ban on campus. So what possible crimes against humanity have occurred to influence the Associated Students Commission on Public Safety to even consider banning skateboards on campus?

One of the main complaints against skateboarders on campus is the danger they pose to others on UCSB’s busy walkways. That’s understandable for anyone who has witnessed a collision between a skater and a pedestrian. These accidents do tend to occur more often when more people are around. Despite how forceful these impacts appear, they typically don’t get any worse than scrapes or bruises. They certainly don’t compare to the twisted metal crashes that occur on the bike paths.

The person in any real danger is the skateboarder. Skaters are the ones in an unnatural position several inches off the ground. Any disruption to that equilibrium means trouble for the skater. Even skaters who are not performing dangerous tricks are at risk of getting injured. I was skating around the corner of the Arbor when I saw a fellow skater heading right for me. I immediately stopped and so did she. The two of us had zero momentum for a good second or so. Then she fell over backwards off her board. She should probably stick to walking.

The current regulations on skateboarding are reasonable enough. The university requires that skateboarding be done in permitted areas at a reasonable and safe speed. Skateboarders must yield to pedestrians and motor vehicles. Trick skating is not allowed. It is considered vandalism if done on campus property and comes with a fine.

To be honest, I don’t always follow the university’s rules. Even though it clearly says “no skateboarding” right on the ground of the Arts Building, I do it anyway. But it’s not like I blaze down the hallway at tremendous speed. I barely go faster than a power walker. The only exception is when I see someone jump in my skate path to hand me a flyer for whatever God-awful cause the person represents. Then I get a little sadistic and intentionally ram into that person from behind. I break the rules all the time. I just exercise discretion with each case.

But if you want to talk about reckless rule breaking, take a look at how the running team uses the bike path, or the bikes crisscrossing campus even during those peak times between classes. Skateboarders aren’t the problem. It’s the jerks and morons that aren’t mindful of the people around them. Not everyone can react accordingly to skaters winding their way through a crowd. These same people can be found on inline skates, scooters, Segways and zipping around on those ridiculous Heelys. Why single out skateboarders?

One can’t ignore the merits of skateboards as transportation. Skateboards are cheaper and more portable than bikes. Skateboards can even get to a destination faster since they aren’t limited to a path, able to go most anywhere that can be traversed by foot. Skateboarding is simplicity itself. Just kick, push, kick, push and coast.

It’s interesting to note that in 2005, plans for an Isla Vista skate park finally became reality. The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District gave the green light to the construction of an $800,000 dollar park. So far, funding for the project has been so successful that it’s estimated construction on the park will begin in 2008. Once the park is completed, it’s sure to attract even more skaters to the area. If the district is willing to accommodate skateboarders, then why shouldn’t the university?

I agree that there are legitimate concerns about skateboarding, but there’s no need to place blame on the inanimate object. People should be the focus. More informal panels addressing skateboarding concerns, stricter safety regulations or even assigned pathways are all better alternatives to a complete ban on skateboards. This matter of banning skateboards on campus definitely requires that more thought be put into it because it affects a significant amount of the student population. I encourage people to show up at next week’s town hall meeting to voice their opinion on the issue.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla can jump two homeless people, maybe three.

Europopular: Günther & the Sunshine Girls Make Mustaches, Mullets, and Manufactured Music Cool Again

Thursday, May 17, 2007

In our brave new digital age, almost anybody can achieve fame through the Internet. Yet, not many performers can rise to international stardom the way Günther has over the past couple of years. With his mullet, mustache and overtly sexual music, I couldn’t help but wonder, was this guy for real? It was that ambiguity that got me hooked. If Günther was a parody of Europop, he was shooting right on target. If he was serious, at least he was outrageous to the point of being awesome. So it was quite the shocker to hear that the Pleasureman would be coming to perform at our very own Storke Plaza. Forget Ozma, Sugarcult, the Moving Units or any of the other performers that have played at the venue. Günther & the Sunshine Girls would be the biggest thing to appear in the plaza since Storke Tower.

The concert-goers were relatively sparse at the start of DJ Rafael’s opening set, but it quickly became filled to the brim with a crowd anxiously chanting for Günther. DJ Rafael was able to momentarily placate the audience by getting everyone to sing alongside a dance mix of Nirvana’s “Lithium.”

As more time passed, some wondered if Günther would be a great live performer - their reservations vanished at the sound of Günther’s sensually deep voice. The crowd went nuts. I ended up a mere 30 feet away from the stage. Each step closer to the Pleasureman came at the cost of air and space, as no one was willing to budge from where they stood. Some took advantage of this by crowd-surfing. There were several moments when it felt like a portion of the audience was ready to fall over. Luckily, people kept their balance and no one was trampled, though the same can’t be said for injured feet. Standing by one of the plaza’s trees wasn’t any better. While some grabbed hold of a better view in the branches, anyone near the trunks got repeatedly rammed from several directions against the rough bark.

Günther ran through his set list from the Pleasureman album. This included hits like “Ding Dong Song,” “Teeny Weeny String Bikini,” and “Golddiggers.” Each successive song and gyration from the Sunshine Girls got the crowd more excited to dance, sing along and make out. The audience orgy nearly ended when a couple rowdy audience members began throwing hard objects at the performers. Luckily, Günther & the Sunshine Girls understood the rabid love foaming from the audience. The show went on. Günther topped it off with an encore performance of “Ding Dong Song” and a single from his upcoming album.

Much of the crowd quickly dispersed after the concert. However, some persistent fans, which included a few of my fellow Nexites, were able to hang around and get some photos and autographs with Günther & the Sunshine Girls. Günther’s performance perfectly reflected the party atmosphere of Isla Vista; everyone went their separate ways that night to spread Günther’s message of love through champagne, glamour, sex and respect.

The Mark Side of UCSB: Outage Illuminates Its Bonding Power

Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Tuesday, I came back from one of the best single day excursions I’ve had in the San Fernando Valley to find that the power had gone out at UCSB. Again. Anyone that’s lived here for more than a year knows what I’m talking about. I’ve experienced more power outages in Santa Barbara than I did during those rolling blackout times during Gray Davis’ term as governor. While I initially found them annoying, my feelings have changed to amusement due to the circumstances that emerge from them. So let me tell you even more about what I like to call “the dark side of UCSB.”

The most interesting power outage I’ve experienced was during my first year. Probably because it was the first time I’ve been in such an unfamiliar situation. The dorms have backup generators that allow for dim lighting in the hallways. While many students went took advantage of the light to study for midterms, others, like my friends and I, used it as a chance to socialize and bond. We went to one of the lounges to find one of our floormates attempting to get a three way going with two other ladies. Seeing as the moment was ruined, he was a good enough sport to turn the situation into a round table session to exchange dirty stories. It felt like a gigantic deviant slumber party.

I thought that first power outage was an anomaly. However, I was proven wrong, as year after year, power would again go out on campus or in Isla Vista. All these incidents have shown that people do tend to overreact when the power goes out. No Internet or television can be a bit jarring, which goes to show how empty are lives are without electricity. Hell, there are even grown people with a fear of the dark. You also don’t come to appreciate how well lit the campus is until it’s not. I was doing some work at the office before Spring Break when all the power went out around Storke Plaza. It was not as bad as it could have been, though, for the fact that it was a new moon. I was trapped in pitch darkness. Good thing cell phones have become obnoxiously brighter over the years.

Yet none of the compares to pseudo-riot following last spring’s power outage. Even though it only lasted for a mere 20 minutes, residents on Sabado Tarde Road rushed out to the darkened streets to light up more than half a dozen couches and to shoot fireworks into the air.

Luckily, power is restored pretty fast around here. Most outages last around two hours in length. The shortest one I’ve experienced was 20 minutes long and the longest one, five hours. This week’s power outage falls within the typical length but occurred at an inopportune time. I certainly sympathize with those unlucky few stuck in the elevators. It’s bad enough being stuck in a cramped space with total strangers or even all by your lonesome for a couple seconds.

It’s not like these power outages are caused by the city’s electrical drainage. One outage was caused when a tree fell on some power lines. Construction workers who hit an underground pipe caused another. Ironically, those workers were part of the Electrical Infrastructure Renewal Project that was attempting to fix the outdated power system on campus.

I’m glad that I don’t find these power outages as annoying as I used to. I spend enough time at home and at work sitting in front of the computer. Even when I’m hanging out on a sunny day, I can’t help but think of what I need to be doing in front of a computer. It takes something like a lack of electricity to free me from the shackles of modern technology. Power outages are as much a staple of UCSB life as ineffective protesting. Don’t think of them so much as a nuisance, keeping you from your precious Facebook, but rather a chance to get outside, talk to your neighbors and enjoy the nature you came here for.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla once walked in on a game of “who’s in my mouf?” during a power outage.

Hullabaloo: Popping Out Update 5

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Got the film processed yesterday and watched the footage today. It came out better than I hoped, considering I didn't know what I was doing half the time. It was the first time I used film, shot with a film camera, animated all by myself, and numerous other tasks. For all intents and purposes, the film is done. I'll finalize editing and get a rough soundtrack tomorrow. Hopefully it gets picked for Reel Loud despite the number of submissions this year. I'm just glad the hard parts are done.

Posted by Batalla at 10:02 PM 0 comments  

Hullabaloo: Popping Out Update 4

Friday, May 04, 2007

Things are starting to get down to the wire. Live action shoot is tomorrow, animation shoot is on Monday, film processing on Tuesday, editing on Wednesday, and submission for Reel Loud 2007 on Friday.

Posted by Batalla at 5:40 PM 1 comments  

Hullabaloo: Popping Out Update 3

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Here's more designs from the impeccable Simon Estrada. Since I've been losing sleep over this project, it's nice to know that I've got a crew that I can trust.

Posted by Batalla at 11:38 PM 0 comments