How many escapes does it take?

When structuring a story, you can get lost in the details. You can fall into traps that slow you down. From time to time reality, can get in the way. It can punch you in the face. The same questions follow you down the page as you’re writing; Does the character have a middle name? Can one shot replace this whole scene? How many characters is too many? How many times does the character have to escape?

Am I writing another movie that I’ll never make? That’s a big one. 

When you believe in what you’re writing it feels like the film has already been made. You can see the scenes and the story keeps growing. The uncomfortable questions will keep coming up and working your way through the answers is what will lead you to the next page.

Film as Therapy

Sometimes when you make a film it is because you need to get it out of your head. It has to be written down and it has to be made. It feels almost as like if you don’t make it you’ll go crazy and as a result the process of making a film can be a lot like therapy. You end up revealing parts of yourself that you’ve kept hidden, the parts of you that are screaming to get out. It is like you can’t sleep until you can let go of what inside you. Filmmaking is a very expensive form of therapy but it’s all I know. I’ve felt this way about Measuring Tape Girl and about all my other films.
For about a year now Measuring Tape Girl has been used by  Deneen Ollis, a Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician for MCFD in Penticton, B.C. Deneen works with young people ages 5 to 19. Measuring Tape Girl has been used with a girl’s group called ACE (Adolescents coping with Emotions). Deneen has use the film to start discussions with the girl’s group and in one-on-one sessions in her office. “For the most part the girls and one young man who viewed it nodded in agreement with what was said and understood the darker humour as well,”  Deneen said, “It was helpful as many of us tend to be the same as Measuring Tape Girl and when we compare ourselves to others find ourselves lacking. It was great to talk to the young people about not judging ourselves so harshly, and how we can be our own worst enemies, thinking things about ourselves we would never even say to someone we did not like.”
I’m looking into other ways to get Measuring Tape Girl in front of the audiences that need to see it the most. As an experiment I’m going to put up Measuring Tape Girl on YouTube for awhile so that it can be seen by anyone who might be interested. The process of writing and making Measuring Tape Girl taught me that ‘I was allowed to be happy’. Hopefully the idea that we control our own happiness can find it’s way to others who might need to hear it.

Satyajit Ray-The Music Room (1958)

There are films that entertain you, films that change your life, and films that change your perspective on filmmaking, among many other things. The films that are considered to be masterpieces can change your perspective on filmmaking, and they can change your life, but they don't always entertain you, and that’s okay. Our perspective on what is entertaining has been drilled into us by the Hollywood machine. If things don't explode every seven minutes then we might actually notice that most the films we're watching have no character development or story structure beyond the template film entertainment has been following since the early 1980's. There are also films that are good for you but don't entertain. Like a big plate of vegetables, these films may make your mind healthier but they don't always deliver the carb coma you're hoping for. A film that provides you with a different perspective from the norm on anything can be hard to find because you need to look beyond the mainstream delivery system. Lately I've been seeking those films out, and that search has lead me to the films of Satyajit Ray. The high praise of Scorsese and Kurosawa helped lead me toward his work:

‘In sheer terms of content and cinematic excellence, I rank Ray amongst the top ten directors of the last century...Ray's magic, the simple poetry of his images and their emotional impact will always stay with me" - Martin Scorsese 
“Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.”  - Akira Kurosawa

The Music Room (1958) is a story about a man who refuses to change with the times. Music is a character in the film; it is used to help us hear the transition from one era to another. The film shows us the differences between the old feudal system and the new independent money, the new world slowly taking over and replacing traditional belief systems. In the end I had to take this film, that is in a different language and uses music as a metaphor, and watch it like a silent film. It was only then that I began to understand what it was about. I was overwhelmed by what I didn’t understand. There were some definite cultural barriers created by the difference between North American and Indian cultures and music. The strong use of metaphoric images helped me find my way through the story.
Here are some sample images:
A reflection of the lead character as he’s forced to look up at all the paintings of his ancestors and then look down to himself.
After a tragedy strikes the lead character the film starts to look more like a film noir.
Rain falls on statues after a dark moment in the story.
Seeing past the culture barriers can be difficult, but the performance of Chhabi Biswas and the use of the camera and lighting in the the last half of the story helped me more fully appreciate the film. The film slowly engulfs you in the music as the narrative moves the lead character to his eventual downfall. The poetic use of lighting and music lead me to embrace a film that I thought I could never find a connection to.  

Experiments in Crowd Funding

I’ve been afraid of crowd funding for a long time but it seems like it’s time to take the plunge. I’ve run out of credit cards and it might be time to find a new way to fund my films. The funding will be used to help complete and market the short film version of ‘Words to Remember’ and to help with the pre-production and writing of the feature film version. 

Funding will be required for the following:

Post Production for ‘Words to Remember’ (Short film)
Marketing and Film Festival Services for ‘Words to Remember’ (Short Film)
Film Festival Travel and Pitch Sessions 
Script Writing and Story Editing of ‘Words to Remember’ (Feature Film)
Pre-production of ‘Words to Remember’ (Feature Film)
Production and shooting of ‘Words to Remember’ (Feature Film)

I’ve reached a point we’re we can’t move forward without a little push.

Here’s the link to our gofundme page:
You’ve already helped us send the film to festivals in France and Spain. With your help we’ve also been able to make the 200 DVD copies of the film we’ll need to send out to festivals over the next year. Special thanks to everyone who has already donated.
“Today and everyday of my life, I stand on the shoulders of everyone who has ever helped me. I stand on the shoulders of all of my friends, on the shoulders of every member of my family and without you I am nothing.”
- Pasquale Marco Veltri - 

Words to Remember - Synopsis
What if there was a cure for Alzheimer’s? What would recovering patients have to tell us after so many years of silence? Alzheimer’s can interrupt the passing down of wisdom from one generation to the next. What would they tell us, not knowing how many minutes of lucidness they might have? ‘Words to Remember’ examines the desperate wisdom that would be passed down to us if our friends and family members with Alzheimer’s could share their reflections on life. The feature film version of Words to Remember will examine what happens at a retirement home where the cure for Alzheimer’s is being tested.

WHAT IF THERE WAS A CURE FOR ALZHEIMER'S -Words to Remember a Film By Pasquale Marco Veltri-

When there is a cure for Alzheimer's, what will recovering patients tell their friends and family after so many years of silence? Pasquale Marco Veltri’s latest film Words to Remember examines the answer to that question. 

In many ways Words to Remember is a science fiction film about the potential near future and how Alzheimer’s can interrupt the passing down of wisdom from one generation to the next.  What will it be like when there is a cure for Alzheimer’s? What will recovering patients have to tell us after so many years of silence? What memories are in the minds of Alzheimer sufferers? Words to Remember envisions the desperate words of wisdom from an Alzheimer’s patient that could be potentially passed down to friends and family members. To connect to people of various backgrounds, Words to Remember is told in four languages to better represent the multicultural aspects of the world and to highlight the fact that wisdom comes in all languages. The Words to Remember film trailer can be viewed at

“Words to Remember is a film project and concept I have been working on for sometime now. I wanted to give a voice to a topic that many people do not discuss or think about on a day-to-day base. I wanted the film to resonate with people who have family members suffering from Alzheimer’s but also people who don’t. I think we accomplished that effort within this film” says Pasquale Marco Veltri’s.

Written and directed by Pasquale Marco Veltri, Words to Remember stars, Naimesh Nanavaty, Virginia O'Hara, Michael Mcleister, Jasmine Sawant and Candi Zell. Veltri’s film is a continuation of his overall theatrical theme of trajectory of reflection, self-identification and his overall passion to understand the human condition. With an original score by composer Vikas Kohli, the music draws inspiration from the multicultural aspects of the film and fuses a classical string quartet with a traditional Indian bowed instrument known as the Taus. To hear Kohil’s insert in regards to composing the score, please go to:

Making Pictures

        The line between theatre and film is blurred in the work of Elia Kazan. The nature of theatre allows for a direct and immediate relationship with the audience. In a film, this relationship is much harder to achieve, even with the use of close ups and unique camera angles. Throughout his filmmaking career, Kazan’s character development and filmmaking technique created strong stories with intimate performances that directly allowed his films to connect with the viewer in a way usually reserved for live plays. With Panic in the Streets, Kazan broke free of his theatrical background and created a new way of merging film and theatre to tell stories.

“Until Panic in the Streets, I’d directed actors moving them in and out of dramatic arrangements just as I might have done on stage, with the camera photographing them mostly in a medium shot. My stage experience, which I’d thought of as an asset, I now regarded as a handicap. I had to learn a new art.” - Elia Kazan (pg. 259 - Kazan on Directing)

        From Panic in the Streets (1950) to On the Waterfront (1954), all the way through to The Last Tycoon (1976), Kazan consistently created pieces that crossed the line between theatre and film, walking back and forth at will. In The Last Tycoon’s final scene, Robert De Niro directly faces the camera and addresses the film’s audience, repeating a speech he gave earlier in the film to a screenwriter in which he explains the difference between writing and making pictures. Kazan uses the last minutes of his last film to reach out from the screen and directly connect to his audience.

The summer of Elia Kazan

           My new focus toward the films of the 1950’s has brought me to the work of Eliz Kazan. When I looked back at the films of the 1940’s, I was forced to randomly watch films whenever I could find them. Instead I should have been focusing on one filmmaker at a time. Back when there was more time, I would watch four to six films from the same filmmaker and try to isolate their way of working by comparing their films. I found that there was a lot more to gain by watching a series of films by the same director. Hopefully I’ll be in a better position to learn things from the films of the 1950’s by going back to studying one filmmaker at a time.  
            I’ve always been blown away by how good ‘On the Waterfront’ still is sixty years later. It survives the test of time more than most films I can remember seeing. I’ve looked at some of Kazan’s work before but never in a clear concise way. Throughout the summer I’m going to go through most of Kazan’s films and with the help of a book called ‘Kazan in Directing’ we’ll see what I can learn by the end of the summer.  

The Films of The 1940’s

For the last two years or so I’ve been lost in the films of the 1940’s. When watching older films it can be hard to see passed the wartime propaganda and sometimes your eyes hurt when they cut from a wide shot to a medium wide but it’s amazing to see how well so many of these films hold up over time. Take a look at the films currently playing at the movies, how many of those will film geeks still be talking about in sixty years? Not very many. When you get past Casablana(1942), Citizen Cane(1941) and a few Hitchcock movies you can get into some really good stuff that gets lost behind the iconic films of the decade. Pick any John Ford movie but start with The Grapes of Wrath (1940). If you haven’t see the Maltese Falcon (1941) catch that and see what film noir you can but don’t get lost in the darkness. There were many other films made in the forties worth looking out for. Here’s a short list:

Sullivan's Travels ( 1941)

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)

Gaslight (1944)

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Roma, Citta Aperta/Rome Open City (1945)

The Bicycle Thief (1948)

Key Largo (1948)

It’s almost time for me to jump forward to the 1950’s and get lost in the films of that decade but before I do there’s a few more films from the forties I have to track down. Then I’ll be moving to the 1950’s: Huston, Cukor, Kazan, Wilder, Fellini, Sirk, Kubrick, Lean and may others wait for me. I’ve started working on the list of films from the 1950’s. Who know’s how many years it’ll take to make it through the best films of the 1950’s.

Culture Days - Retiring the Jacket

We’ve been trying to put together a local screening of ‘Measuring Tape Girl’ but it’s taken us a while. We finally have one thanks to Culture Days. Our screening of ‘Measuring Tape Girl’ is on Sunday, October 2nd at 3pm and 4pm. It will screen at National Film Board of Canada in Toronto.(150 John Street Toronto, Ontario).

Over the last year and a half I’ve worn a Measuring Tape Jacket at film festivals to help promote our film ‘Measuring Tape Girl’. It’s been a crazy adventure in marketing and blatant self-promotion in a few different places around the world but I think it maybe time to retire the measuring tape jacket. I’m pretty sure this is the craziest thing that I’ve done and I don’t regret it but it’s time to move on. There’s been a big learning curve for me when it comes to marketing and I’m still only at the beginning of understanding how much I don’t know about many things but I’ve learn a few things. The most important thing I’ve learned is that you can’t do what everyone else is doing and that you have to have a story to tell. What I end up doing with that knowledge still remains to be seen. A clear sign that we’ve done at least some web marketing for ‘Measuring Tape Girl’ is that a distributor of measuring tapes from China has sent me a several sales emails because they have somehow been convinced that I am involved in Measuring Tape distribution in North America. It makes me smile whenever I receive an sales email about a chinese companies wide variety of measuring tape.

I was never really comfortable in the Measuring Tape Jacket. It make me feel like I didn’t belong. I felt like everyone might be looking at me and judging me. Which was the whole point. I was asking to be judged. I was asking people to walk up to me and give me strange looks. Becoming a visual metaphor for one of my films was a challenge. It forced me to stop hiding in the shadows and become a sales person instead of a filmmaker. It is difficult for a filmmaker, a painter, a photographer or any artist to become a sales person. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that how you market and promote your art form is just as important, if not more important than your actually art form. I know many artists will disagree but if no one knows you’ve made a film, who’s going to show up to see it? I struggle with this any time I have to talk to a group of people about my films. The difference between now and several years ago is that I can almost stand in front of a group of people and not sound quite as nervous as I used to. Maybe that was the whole point of my Measuring Tape Marco adventure. The difference between the old me and this newer version, is that I can now take off the Measuring Tape jacket and feel comfortable in my own skin. I accept myself for who I am and I’m ready and willing to continue learning and growing as the years go by. The whole point of ‘Measuring Tape Girl’ was to make a film that had no camera tricks, no fancy transitions. Just words, one person talking to the audience with no where to hide. Last year I was hiding behind the Measuring Tape jacket and I let it speak for me. I’m going to have to stop finding places to hide, though I may end up hiding behind the seats at the screening.

I would like to thank Culture Days for making a this event possible. It’s amazing that volunteers have created this movement to raise the awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of all Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities. If it was up to me every day would be Culture Day.

Linear Vs. Non-Linear

Do we start the story at the end? Or do we start the story in the middle and build our way back to the beginning? Are we being creative when we use a non-linear narrative to tell a story or are we hiding the fact that our story is boring? All good questions. Non-linear story telling is not new, it’s been around for some time but our new reliance on using a non-linear story to escape story structure is getting a little annoying. Do we really need to start at the end and then jump forward and then jump back. In some ways we’ve forgotten how to tell a story. A long time ago stories would have endings. There would be a beginning, a middle and an end. It seems that not ending a story is a strong trend that shows no sign of ending. The general idea is to leave the ending open for a sequel or to use false endings that leads to another battle or conflict. Sometimes the story can spend so much time tying up loose ends that it can feel like there are ten to twenty endings. I have a deep seeded love for stories with a clear ending. It makes me smile when a story can be told without tricks and false endings. When a non-linear story helps reveals characters or in some way reveals what the story is truly about I also smile. There is a tendency to use a non-linear story as a stylistic choice, instead of using it for a narrative purpose. As wonderful as a properly constructed non-linear story can be...Please give me a beginning, a middle and an end. When we’ve reached the cathartic payoff please end the story.

The Films of Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet has always been one of my personal deities. His work has always been ground breaking, emotional powerful but at the same time approachable. Sidney Lumet redefined so many filmmaking conventions that it is amazing how overlooked his work has been. Modern day filmmakers sometimes think of transitions to flashbacks, low angles to build tension, lenses and depth of field being used to define characters as clichés. When Sidney Lumet used these letters of the film alphabet to tell stories he was defining the film language as he went. It’s easy to look back now and consider something to be simple and dated unless you look at his films knowing that this was the first time someone used a frame by frame transition to move into a flashback. Only then can you appreciate the simple elegance of Sidney Lumet’s filmmaking. Here are just a few examples.

‘12 Angry Men’ was basically shot entirely in one room. As the film progressed Sidney wanted the room to get smaller and smaller. The film starts with wide lenses and then the lenses get progressively longer, flattening out the room, making it seem to be more claustrophobic. The camera height also changes throughout the film. The camera starts at above eye level, then moves down to eye level and ends up below eye level for the last 3rd of the film. Simple or at least it seems simple when this film gets explained to you in film class but it’s affect on the audience stands the test of time.

‘The Pawnbroker’ uses quick cuts that last only a fraction of a second to move from the present to the lead characters past. The film uses a “flutter cut” technique which uses very short shots from different scenes to transition back and forth seamlessly. This innovated and extended a european film editing technique that we now consider to be a normal transitional element. A simple answer to the flashback that redefined film language in the 1960’s.

In ‘The Fugitive Kind’ different lenses are used on main characters to represent their way of seeing the world. Longer lenses with less depth of field are used on Brando’s character Val Xavier to give him a dream like quality. Brando’s character walks around with his head in the clouds and he is shot in a way that represent that. The lead female character is forced to deal with the harsh realities of life, so throughout the film she is shot with wide angle lenses. As she falls in love the lenses used to shoot her slowly changes to the same long lenses used to shoot Brano’s character. Controlling the the use of lenses and depth of field is an elegant way to define characters.

Most filmmakers major concern is covering the scene so they can cut the performances together. Finding a way to use lighting, lenses and performances to come together in a way that completely supports the story is something else. Sidney Lumet is one of the pillars of filmmaking who helped create film language over a long career of story telling. I hope to find the time to revisit a long list of his films over the next few months.

Memories of Memory Triggers

My obsession with Memory and how it works has been with me for more than a decade. I walked away from my fixation on memory a few years ago and moved towards stories focusing on self-doubt and self-acceptance. I seem to have fallen back down the rabbit hole of memory obsession and have restarted my research. The main trigger for this was the grant applications I’ll be working on, which ask questions about your films background and the research you’ve done. To fulfill some of the requirements I’m going to have to restart my memory studies and take better notes this time. The strangest thing happen on the road back to memory research, as I stood in the library isles, I was struck by memories of looking though all these books years ago. I could see myself piling up twenty books and taking them to a table to evaluate which ones I might take home with me. As I google searched around I remembered most of the pages I was sent to. I had some very strong memories of my past research into memory. All the questions came back. Who would we become when we forget who we are? Are we the sum of our memories and choices or is our fate predetermined? When it comes to memories most books don’t have answers, instead they provide you with theories. The books are full of ideas that take guesses on how our minds work. They come to conclusions on what the role memory plays in the development of our personalities. Answers that lead to more questions. In the end the sad truth may be that my strong obsession is based on fact that there isn’t a clear answer to my questions. Some projects take you days, some take you months but as a filmmaker most projects take you years. The process of grant applications and preproduction can take two to three to five years. Longer in some cases. A lifetime of prepping for projects that may never get made. For the next little while I’m lucky enough to be able to create new memories about my obsession with memory. Being able to look into your obsessions and to then be able to revisit them over the years is a gift.

Spending Time with old Friends

If you’re a big enough film geek you’ve watch certain movies enough times that they become your friends. Some of them you watch when it snows. Others you watch once a year and then there’s a few you’ve seen so many times that you can play the whole film in your mind from memory. One of my oldest and dearest friends is named ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. I really can’t express how much this film has influenced me over the years. I had the chance to spend some time with my friend Lawrence earlier in the year at a screening in the TIFF lightbox. How does a movie change your life? How does become part of you? You have to be a special kind of film geek to think a film can change your life but they do. The great ones do. They take you to new worlds and give you a brief escape from reality. I’ve spent my life escaping into dark rooms to watch light flickering on a white wall. The fact I spend so much time escaping reality explains why the real world confuses me most of the time. Instead of facing reality, i’ll continue to spend as much time as possible with my old friends. As the years go by I keep seeing and learning different things after each viewing. Once every year if I’m lucky but not every year, I walk out of theatre knowing that I’ve just met a new friend who I will spend the rest of my life with.

Classic Film Series:

A series of classic film titles will be screened in a digital format from September 2010 – August 2011. I got to see The Maltese Falcon on a giant screen for $5. It had been years since I’d seen it in school and I barely remember a thing about it. When the film started and Humphrey Bogart filled the screen I was amazed how well the film had been restored and converted to a Digitally projected HD format. What stood out the most for me was how smart and funny the dialogue was.

Joel Cairo

You always have a very smooth explanation...

Sam Spade

What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?

Of course some things were dated but the film is seventy years old and it’s amazing how much of it still holds up. This series of classic film titles will be screened until August 2011. Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Wizard Of Oz (1939), One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Sound of Music (1965), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and Spartacus (1960). All on the big screen for $5. I’ll see you in line.

Link to Show-times:

Camera Playtime... Camera Test #1

All These Things... THE NORTH from Pasquale Marco Veltri on Vimeo.

Over the next little while I'll be doing a series of camera tests to help me find a video camera that works the best for what I need to do. In camera test number one I shot a quick music video for ‘All These Things I Hide’ by the North. I tested the Panasonic VHX200 in different contrast and lighting situations to see what I could get away with. I let the colors bleed as I under and over exposed to see if I could bring the footage back. I’m okay with the results but I found the camera to be a little unforgiving in highlights and shadows. Up next is the Sony EX3 or the Canon 5D. I’m afraid of Bokeh and it’s completely over used but I’m willing to do some tests with the 5D. I’ve used the EX3 a few times but never in a situation where I could play around and test what happens. I’m looking for good blacks and some highlight detail when possible but with most video cameras that’s too much to ask for. We’ll see what happens. Thanks to everyone who helped out with this camera test and special thanks to the North for the use of their song.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) is a low-budget Western masterpiece from director William A. Wellman. This anti-Western is a morality play that lacks the action of a typical Western. What struck me the most about the film was how simple and elegant it was. No flying cameras or cutting to a close up a every time a new character starts speaking. In current films there is a tendency to cut all the time and when we don’t cut there is a steady-cam flying around for no reason. In the Ox-Bow Incident elegant and simple compositions are used to let the story play out in the frame.

Characters are lined up in a formation that leads your eyes to the character who is speaking.

In this shot simple design elements are used to introduce a new character. We automatically know not to trust this new character by his placement in the frame.

In this shot we have the accused characters lined up in the foreground.

It seems so simple but at the same time controlled and elegant.

The shadows Horses disappearing into the distance.

Here Henry Fonda has his eyes blocked by the rim of a hat to reinforce the main theme of justice being blind.

As simple as these images may seem, they work because of their simplicity. We live in a new 3D film world where every movie must out do the last films explosions. Looking back at films from the past is the best way I have found to learn and grow. There are no giant robots punching each other but each story is told with a camera pointing towards actors. A camera that is pointed at the story.

The films of the 1940’s

I have grown tired of sequels and explosions so I’ve gone backwards. Decade by decade, I’m traveling back in time to learn from the films of the past. If you have ever wondered where the Coen brothers screw ball comedies come from well look no further. They were influenced by the screwball comedies from the 1940’s. In particular the work of writer/director Preston Sturges was a major influences on the future of filmmaking. Preston Sturges was the first Hollywood scriptwriter to direct his own work. When you have the time take a look at The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan’s Travels (1941) or maybe even Hail the Conquering Hero (1944).

Preston Sturges, George Cukor, William Wyler, John Ford, Orson Welles, John Huston, Frank Capra, William Wellman, Billy Wilder, Hitchcock and the list goes on and on. This may take me some time but it’s always a good idea to look back at the past before you move forward.