Course Blog for Danny Mayer's ENG 281 course. Post 500 word minimum responses for each film viewed in class. Choose an aspect, theme, cinematic wizardry, or scene, and analyze/celebrate it. Post by the Wednesday before class.
I found that in the first part of the film, the cinematography almost carried its own message. The split-screen technique is used brilliantly, where it augmented the feeling of mass that Woodstock was. The most striking instance occurs where the people begin while the venue is still being constructed. The split screens of wide angles during that scene emphasize the massive amounts of people drove the point home. Split screen also really stood out to me during the Joe Cocker piece, partially due to the fact that I love that song, but mostly because the splits between he and his band showed a sort of collected set of individuals rather than an entire whole or just a single part. This philosophy that individuals at Woodstock "came together" spiritually is one of the main focuses of the film, and I think the split screen cinematography was an extremely effective technique. Another interesting bit I found about the cinematography was the choice in angles in different instances. In general, whenever the camera was on a crowd, it was an overhead shot. When they were shooting interviews, it was at face-to-face; and when they shot the artists, it was always from an upward perspective. For the overhead shots, the objective was to show the massive size of the crowd, which I think was the most effective manner of doing so. The interviews were gripping, and the choice of the head-on angle worked quite well to help portray the individuality of the attendees. Musical scenes where artists were playing were almost given a perspective of the average concert-goer, but I think the angle also gives us a sense that that the musicians were at the center of it all.
What is the American Dream? Is it an idea? Is it something that can be found? Is it manmade? Is the American Dream something that we can taste and see? These are many questions that Woodstock attendees may have had for themselves. Their experiences were quite diverse, as there were various walks of life that showed up to see the music festival. Obviously, we could not be there in 1969 to witness this blissful understanding. Luckily, with the advancement of technology during the period, a documentary film was made of the Woodstock experience. In the video, the viewer was given the chance to become the quest that was Woodstock, to feel the chaos of the event, and to become a special part of the eccentric crowd that perplexed numerous peoples of yesterday. Even in the beginning credits, the viewer becomes a significant part of the experience as David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash sing about the times to come, and the memories that will remain. The song guides them through Max Yasgur’s overgrown farmland, capturing every expansion, from the tall dusty crops to the lone barren field set with what soon will be center stage. It seemed, for the first 15-20 minutes, that there was only music, and never any dialogue exchanged. Could this have been Michael Wadleigh’s point? Who needed conversation when one could just listen, feel, and become found by the lyrics of the new movement? This type of inclusion (or exclusion, if you will) set the grounds for the reason Woodstock existed in the first place. Families, audiophiles, hippies, junkies, nudies, everyone was, quite simply, there for peace, love, and harmony. The film presented an idea for the future viewers of the documentary: that they were starting something new, building from the ground up something that will ease the nation. In addition to the newness, the film stressed (especially through the teenage interviewees) that the world was simply looking for an answer in a time of countless questions: why, why, why, and “what, dude?” It did not matter whether you were there for the drugs or the music. The audience was present for a reason, something bigger than themselves: someone, or something else. Also, the event was free of charge. Freedom was the greatest title to follow when part of the Woodstock crowd. During the entire portion of the “rainstorm sequence,” people bound together for a small time as the crowd “took great care of their neighbor.” Upon the end of the rain, the leftovers became what most likely made Woodstock the most memorable event of their lives. The film focused on the people making music for them selves (as the sound techs decided it would be dangerous to have the musicians electrocuted onstage), slipping and sliding through the mud, and overall, having a blast. Although we only saw a small portion as a class, the film was greatly enjoyable. Today, generations upon further generations will always be able to look back and wonder, wow, how cool that must have been to have seen Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin! Even so, and even if Carlos Santana was on mescaline during his set, let them look and smile, as that was what Woodstock inscribed in history.
Chelsea's ResponseFilm Response: Woodstock by Michael Wadleigh (1970) The subject of the film, in my opinion was the people of that time and generation. In the beginning of the film it showed the people behind Woodstock creating and building the venue. There were also a few of the townspeople they interviewed as well as the workers and a few attendees to the festival. I suppose the split screen throughout the film was to show a newer edge to filming and to also show two scenes going on at one time. For example on one side of the screen it would show the singer and the other side of screen would show another musician or the crowd of thousands of people. The film relates to the paper I wrote about the 60s in a musical way. I do believe I brought up quite a bit of musical references. I love music and I have never been to Woodstock, but I’ve been to Lollapalooza and it is a completely different experience than going to an indoor concert venue. There are more people and it is basically first come, first serve as far as getting to see band or musician perform. The film relates a lot to my paper because I do mention the freedom people had and the uniqueness that came from the people during this time. I believe they said it took about 9 months to build everything for the festival. From my perspective it seemed like a huge deal to many people and to that town since it is such a small town. The entrance of the event was blocked by lines of vehicles so they had to start flying the performers into the festival on helicopters which I thought was pretty cool. The concert was supposed to have cost money, but so many people were breaking in that they just made the festival free for everyone. I don’t think they planned on 500,000 plus people to show. I remember there was a scene when it was raining and helicopters were dropping flowers and dry clothes down to people. I do also recall this one scene that probably wasn’t that big of a deal or noticeable, but I remember they had the film on split screen again and it showed a couple drying their clothes out in the sun. They were in a field and they were just lying with one another in the grass and hugging and I thought that it was a really neat scene to add because of the peace and love part of the festival. I also liked where this fan got up on stage with Crosby, Stills, and Nash and started dancing and then took the singers cigarette pack out of his pocket and started smoking the singers cigarette and the singer didn’t seem to mind and neither did anyone else. I liked that a lot, I really wish things were as laid back today as they were then. My grandmother told me I really missed out. The part where all ethnicities of people are chanting and dancing and singing together was a pretty cultural defining scene as well. It’s great that no matter what was happening during that time, people could still come together and be free and have fun.
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The beginning or opening of the Woodstock documentary was the most interesting to me. It was footage of all the people building the stage, mowing the land, setting up and just getting everything ready. Out of all the footage I saw it was the part that really made me think. You hear about Woodstock and what it was like, all of the people that showed up, all the performers, and what a big deal it was, but you never really hear about all the work and time that went into planning it. You never hear about the before and the actual setup or even who participated in making it all happen. Yes, some people say they didn’t really plan well because of them not getting their permit and having to move it at the last minute, but some planning had to occur or it never would have happened at all.The song that is playing while the film is starting is Long Time Gone by, Crosby, Stills, and Nash. A few lyrics from the song are “Speak out, you got to speak out against the madness, you got to speak your mind, if you dare.” “It's been a long time comin 'It's goin' to be a long time gone. But you know, the darkest hour is always, always just before the dawn.” I believe that this particular song was chosen because it says exactly what needs to be said. It says that this event or festival has been a “long time coming”, and people and times are changing. People are starting to speak up and not follow along with everyone else. They are challenging the “madness”. People mowing a large piece of land, men with long hair known as hippies, men and women riding horses, and many men carrying the parts to build a stage are the first images you see. Showing you the many men on tractors moving all this land is to give you an idea of how many people are expected to come, and how big this festival has been predicted to be. They show you the men and women who are behind it all. They all look young and happy; they would also be classified as hippies. They are a new generation and are doing new things. You are shown all these young people building the stage and all these other things to get prepared, and that is to let you see you who put all the work into this and made sure it could happen.The whole point of the beginning of this documentary is to show you how Woodstock was made possible and to show you the kinds of people who were involved in making sure it would happen. It showed you how this new generation came together to make an idea of something big and worth doing an actual reality. It lets you see that it wasn’t just about having a huge festival. It shows you some of the meaning behind it all, the idea of a generation coming together to try to change things, and open minds.
It is interesting to note the small span of time between the creation of NASA in 1958 and the filming of the documentary “Woodstock,” yet so much of the creation of the film would have been impossible without this precluding establishment. Sound for thee concert, cameras small enough for a small crew to operate, and even microphones used for the interviews. Sound for the concert was engineered by Bill Hanley, speakers were specially built using brand new technology innovated by a researcher from NASA who used that same technology seven years before Woodstock for soil analysis. The main speakers were on columns on the hills and had sixteen loudspeaker arrays in a square platform going up to the hill on seventy foot towers. The later named D140 loudspeakers for years became quite popular and for many years this system was collectively referred to as the Woodstock Bins because of the simplicity and effectiveness. Eclair was breakthrough design, the Cameflex this is a shoulder held portable thirty five millimeter camera with instant change magazines, with 16/35mm dual format option introduced in 1947, played a major part in the film making of all documentaries taking it out of the hands of the big businesses and putting it in the hands of individuals. It could be suggested that the shoulder held portable camera had a comparable effect of free speech as inventions like YouTube and cell phone video recorders. The instant on coaxial design of the camera magazine in the Cameflex revolutionized film making, in particular documentary films, which could now change magazines in seconds without the need to spend time lacing the film in the camera. Though wasn’t available in the states at the time of the filming to the masses is the believed reason such mechanism wasn’t used during the filming of “Woodstock.” The mixing station was built on a platform about seventy five feet from the stage, the crew used custom microphones built from “Shure” factory parts. They closely resembled the popular Shure SM58, the most noticeable difference being that the customs had a brushed chrome finish, like the older Shure 'bird cage' mics. Under the stage there were “McIntosh” amplifiers, both transistorized and tube models. Transistors were new designs improvised by the crew when the estimated crowd of two hundred thousand was blow out of the water when five hundred thousand people showed up. A bit risky, but the crew needed all the power they could get to optimize sound. Bill Hanley was clearly a intelligent man knowing how to custom rig speakers, transistors, and microphones alike as well as how to optimize sound distribution using geometry so that despite the hilly sitting grounds that most of the spectators were perched on, it was a successful concert and “Woodstock” on the technical side a huge success.
Woodstock FestivalOne didn’t simply go to Woodstock: one lived through it.In August 1969, the Woodstock Festival was the largest counterculture event ever staged, attracting half million of people. Music was the core of the Woodstock experience. Woodstock was the birthplace of some musical stars, such as Santana and Janis Joplin. It also was the end point for other bands, such as The Grateful Dead. Other highlights to the concert included Jefferson Airplane; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; and Jimi Hendrix. For some, Woodstock symbolizes all that was wrong with the sixties — the "free love", nudity, and drugs criticized as moral excess. Others idealize Woodstock as a free rock festival that was animated by the spirit of cooperation. Love it or hate it, when people hear "Woodstock", they think hippies – the youth movement. Four decades later, Woodstock has come to mean more than just “Three Days of Peace, Love, and Music”. It symbolizes the dreams, desires and events of the decade, freedom and exuberance. But more importantly Woodstock symbolizes people of all ages, races, and sexes united under the same sky — a great generation, one that will be always remembered as link with one of the most important musical events of all time.Watching the Woodstock Festival documentary made me want to go back to those times, to experiment that kind of freedom and to be a part of an epic, multicultural event! The editing is amazingly sophisticated for that period of time. The use of the split screen and the variation of the screen size, sets up a visual rhythm that intensifies the vibe of the music with its “coded messages” . It’s like breathing the freedom of music trough all your pores. Even the way images are displayed tries to make a point, such as increasing the awareness of the war and the draft. (When Richie Havens sings Handsome Johnny it is filmed from 360 degrees angle and at some point, between cuts aligned perfectly with the beats of the song, you can see a helicopter inspecting the area. The power and urgency of his lyrics calls attention to freedom of speech).Again the movement of the camera, the way it captured the light or the shadowy figure of Joan Baez has a divine impact, meshing with the lyrics of the song she sang (Joe Hill). The whole scene sent me through a bitter spiral of feelings. The camera movements and the editing magically sets every singer on the stage in its own specific light/purpose/mood, but at the same time connects all these parts to a bigger picture. There is also a great arrangement of cinema-verite footage that completes the imagines of the stage. The appearance of a Hindu monk/guru and a yoga teacher who talk about freedom of mind and body creates the impression that Woodstock is similar to Hinduism — a big family of a multitude religions — respecting the freedom of all religions, where there is no wrong path, but rather a unique path for every one of us. At Woodstock, everyone at the event treated each other as if they were family or connected in some way, united by the same goals under a different and yet the same God — the God of freedom, freedom in every sense.