Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Christmas Carol (The 12 Musings of Christmas #8)

Today, we turn from distorted sleigh rides to a more sentimental type of musing. What's better than gathering the family around to watch a classic Christmas movie on a cold winter's Saturday night? How about watching a movie starring your family? Here we have my first ever cinematic production, a somewhat abbreviated filming of the Dickens' tale (which, itself, is a pretty short story) starring a variety of nieces and nephews. Here's what I wrote about it seven Decembers ago:
The backstory is that I'd just gotten a computer powerful enough to import and edit video (remember when that wasn't routine), so on the drive down to see our large assortment of adorable nieces and nephews that Christmas, my sister and I hatched the plan of making a movie. Dickens' tale seemed the obvious choice, and somehow the casting all worked out pretty easily too. Since many of the actors were under the age of 6, the basic process was to feed lines one at a time and shoot. I made all sorts of videoing mistakes, such as not realizing that when I stopped (not paused) and then restarted the camera, I'd lose the last few seconds of the previous take. This, and the realities of shooting the whole thing in a couple of days with young children (and those annoying child labor laws) meant that the editing task that followed presented some . . . challenges. Although it took me almost two years to brave the task, I had a great time working within these rather tight constraints.

The final product is quite charming, and even features some special effects that tested the limits of the bargain-basement software I used. Of course the cute kids carry the film (my then 1-year old daughter makes a tiny cameo walking through the party scene), but the aesthetic point to be made here is that the constraints become a part of the language of the work. I wrote about that (and another family movie) in a past post, how certain flaws that would be unacceptable in one context are actually positives in another. (I was thinking something tangentially related the other day listening to Kermit the Frog sing on a Christmas album; that goofy, shaky voice would not be acceptable from just any singer, but our associations with Kermit's persona make it meaningful. Maybe the same could be said of Bob Dylan's voice, although his sound isn't as polished as Kermit's.)
It's amazing to realize that the Scrooge and Bob Cratchit from this production are now college freshmen, and the even younger "Christmas girl" is dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy this weekend for an excellent ballet company. My oldest daughter was only a toddler at the time, so she only toddles on and off screen briefly in the party scene. This movie is definitely a ghost of Christmas past.

I know that posting it veers pretty closely into family insider territory on the level of making someone sit through all your vacation photos - which, come to think of it, is now pretty routine on Facebook. I don't expect everyone to be as charmed by my family as I am, but I do think this is a fairly unique document of...something. There's bad jokes aplenty, a singing fish, and some genuinely moving moments. And it's much shorter than all those other Scrooge movies!

I've posted this on YouTube in two parts before, but this is the first time it's available in a single movie, with somewhat improved video (though this was in the "Christmas past" days before HD.)

The 12 Musings of Christmas (so far...)
  1. Christmas Time is Here
  2. In Season
  3. Vertical Christmas Medley
  4. Trippin' with Chestnuts
  5. Sleigh Ride in a Fast Machine
  6. Sleigh Ride of the Valkyries
  7. Sleigh Ride in 7/8
  8. A Christmas Carol

1 comment:

Sandi said...

Still one of the most moving versions of Dickens' story ever -- and I don't think that's because I have a personal bias as the mother of "Mr. Scrooge." The scene at the Cratchitts' home gets me every time.