Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Christian Filmmakers: Stop Pleading, Start Presupposing

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After posting pictures of my baby daughter and horsies, I feel compelled to venture out into more controversial territory. Bear with me; it's been quite some time since I've rocked the boat. In fact, I think an explanation as to why will be the subject of an upcoming posts. In the meantime:
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I find that many Christian filmmakers' and ministers' insistence that things be spelled out emanates from the mistaken assumption that the general public is, not only completely ignorant about Christianity, but just plain stupid. If one is not a Christian, they seem to reason, then one must have never heard the gospel in the most basic (intellectually insulting) way possible.

The truth is, we find ourselves in a Post-Christian culture, where the gospel has long been presented and is becoming more often discarded. Repeatedly presenting it, dumbed-down, is not the solution. It needs to be soundly intellectually defended. We're long passed the need to tell the masses the Bible says Jesus died for their sins. We need to offer substantial evidence that the crucifixion and resurrection took place. And no, proving Biblical claims does not negate the biblical definition of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith, but many people incorrectly interpret it as "belief without proof." Yet, when the author of Hebrews goes onto list examples from Biblical history of those who had faith, the list is full of people to whom God appeared in person to bestow His guidance and revelation. Once God does that, it is impossible to exercise faith as many in our culture, Christians and un-Christians alike, incorrectly define it. Yes faith is the "evidence of things not seen." But, the miracles of the scripture are not things unseen. Considering, the Apostle Paul's claim that over 500 people saw the resurrected Christ, I can hardly see how the biblical text could consider the resurrection "a thing not seen."

God is not obligated to hide himself from us so that we can always wonder if He is really there, and thus have faith ("belief without proof") that He exists. God is more than willing to reveal himself to us so that we can know He exists. The faith part is the trust that He will make good on what He said He will do in the future: redeem us, sanctify us, bring us into His kingdom, punish evil, reward good, set things right. These are the things unseen.

It seems too many Christians are themselves unconvinced of the validity of Christianity's historical claims and thus feel the need to plead where they would be far more effective in presupposing. Many Christian filmmakers are evidently terrified of presupposition and accordingly argue that a film that does not acknowledge God or Jesus specifically by name is implying that He is irrelevant. By that reasoning, is a film that does not specifically teach that the earth is round implying that the earth is flat? Of course not. They're taking the Earth's roundness as a given that requires no explanation for, much less pleading with, the audience. In other words, they presuppose it.

Most secular artists opt to presuppose their worldview rather than overtly present it or beg their audience to believe it. If you doubt the effectiveness of their technique, take a look at our culture...our Post-Christian Culture.

Cattle Call Audition

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Production Designer Beth Doster, and actor David Attebury greet Reese, the newest addition to The Oath of Desormeau cast.
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I also wanted to pay tribute to the Doster's Ikea Lamp. Pictured above with its artistic influences, the lamp has been tirelessly working behind the scenes. The lamp is baroque, and we're not going to fix it.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Return to Mermentau

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The Bug sits with Mr. Philip Desormeaux outside his Le Petite Chateau deLuxe, where the bulk of Aletheia Stage & Film Co.'s upcoming film The Oath of Desormeau was filmed. We returned last week to shoot b-roll and pick-ups. Before returning home, we finalized the decision to change the film's title. Mr. Desormeau was thrilled about the title change, as well as the newest addition to our daughter's vocabulary: "Fleur-de-li."
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The bug plays in the Chateau courtyard after a breif but heavy rain.
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She spent a lot of time in the courtyard. Knowing that is where a swordfight in the film occurs, she repeatedly asked to "go see what happened." I got quite exhausted continually re-enacting the battle for her while holding her in one arm and an imaginary sword in the other.
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The aforementioned swordfight. This particular sequence occured in the gates where the Bug played in the puddles.
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Watch the trailer for "The Oath of Desormeau"

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Silent Only So Long

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"If you want peace, then live alone.
If you want to hide, then find a stage.
It's your brief but perfect home
to accommodate your rage."

-Look Around
John Popper
Blues Traveller
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Friday, June 23, 2006

New Post, New Footage, New Title

We've recently returned from pick-up shooting in Mermentau, LA. We came back with some great footage and a new film title.
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Updates and photos of our trip to the Chateau will be posted ASAP.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Preparing for Pick-Ups

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The Oath: Preparing for Pick-ups. Awww Yeah. Sweet!
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Thanks, Brian.
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"You Say It's Your Birthday!"

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Happy belated birthday to Paul McCartney, who, had he not died in a car-crash Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day began in 1966, would have been 64 yesterday. Oh, and if anyone ever wonders why I rarely shave, it's because when I was 16, this picture showed me how cool it was no to.
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

And I'm Thinking..."Is This How People See Me?"

I went on my brother Seth's myspace and found links to these personality tests. They seemed really superficial. I mean...come on,myspace?...but I must admit I'm very impressed with their accuracy. On the other hand, perhaps, like horoscopes, their just studied ambiguities -you read something with vague enough wording, you'll think it applies to you. Maybe that speculation is part of "the healthy dose of cynicism" my last personality tests says I have. I guess those of you who really know me can decide. It will give you an excuse to actuall comment on this blog.
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What type of Christian are you?

Protestant - Non Fundamentalist
You are a Non-fundamentalist Protestant. You don't really have a lot of formailzed clergy. Your worship is pretty free in terms of what and how you worship. You love the Bible. Your pastor preaches almost an hour. You don't receive Communion all that often and you don't really care to either. Jesus is your life and you pray to Him a lot like He's your brother.

Truth be told, I take issue with the last comment. See Item #2 here.
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Which Far out 60's-70's band are you?

Jimi Hendrix
YOUR JIMI HENDRIX! Your definately a dreamer and work hard to fulfill your goals. Your artsy, talented and mysterious!!

Hey Beth, I think that one explains a lot.
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Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle are You?

Donatello
You've been described as 'the brains' of your family or group of friends. You're the natural born, 'Mr. Fixit'. You're also considered the most reserved, preoccupied with your own little thoughts and ideas. But that doesn't mean you don't hang with your family and friends! But, you still find it easy to get lost in your own thoughts...daydreaming often. You'd rather talk things out than fight. You long for a day when there's nothing but peace in the world, and when you can finally rest with your own thoughts. Violence is something the world could completely live without. One of your labels may be, 'true to blue friend'. You're strong at heart and powerful at mind.


In all fairness (and hopefully humility), it is extremely difficult to labeled as "'the brains' of my family." As stated in previous posts, I have very intelligent brothers.
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Your Five Factor Personality Profile

Extroversion:

You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."

Conscientiousness:

You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.

Agreeableness:

You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.

Neuroticism:

You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.
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Saturday, June 17, 2006

It's Almost Been Like Making The Sequel

As much as I've said that I wish the film were done, I am for the most part enjoying the revisits to The Oath that post-production requires. Having to wait nearly a year to do this revisiting has its frustrations, but it also has its special rewards. It's been kind of like doing a sequel...a theraputic, closure-providing sequel.

In the midst of our postproduction duties, we are planning a return trip to Le Petite Chateau deLuxe in Mermentau, LA. I am very excited to go back. I love that house so much, and I will never forget the collective gasp released in the car when Beth, Kristina, and I first saw it emerge from a grove of trees.
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I took this picture of Kristina Ramsey (holding the Bug), Elizabeth Doster, and Philip Desormeaux on our first visit to his Le Petite Chateau deLuxe in Mermentau, LA.
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We knew when we left the Chateau last summer that we would need to return to get b-roll and various establishing shots. However, throughout the editing process, it became apparent that we would need a little more than that, which, at the time, was discouraging. I've never had to come back and reshoot after the wrapping of principal photography. Actually, let me rephrase that: I've never been able to. And, I thought, aside from Chateau b-roll, that would be the case with The Oath as well. However, learning that it can be done, that the resources can be regathered, that so many people who participated the first time are willing to come back, and that God will provide a way, when it seems so impossible, has been invaluable. Moreover, all the reshoots and add-ins vastly improve the quality of the film.
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Principal Photography in July 2005: Production Designer, Elizabeth Doster looks on as Erin Arnold and Santry Rush patiently wait between takes.
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Thank you Kristina, Beth, and all the actors for being willing to revisit this project with me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

New Additions or Editions

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My wife, Kristina Ramsey, who will be the ADR guinea pig...I mean that metaphorically of course...she's certainly not any kind of pig...She's a very, very, very, beautiful woman, a devoted wife, and wonderful mother.
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Due to the success of Scene 0.5 we have decided to reshoot one of our "Night Scenes." This is tentaively scheduled for Sunday (actually Monday) June, 25th/26th. Tonight is our first run of Additional Dialogue Replacement (ADR). For those of you who are not familiar with ADR, it essentially means that we are re-recording the actors' dialogue in a (semi-)studio environment. The actors new delivery must match the lips of the old delivery (from the film's footage) for the process to be successful. My wife, Kristina, has been so kind as to go first. If there are any kinks to be ironed out, we will find them in her run.

Final Rendering ("Scene 0.5" Part IV)

As announced, we shot "Scene 0.5" of The Oath on Saturday, June 10th. Here are some Rendering/Storyboard to scene comparisons:
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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Final Preparations: ("Scene 0.5" Part III)

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The Oath: Nearing completion on Arnaud Rousseau's Chambers. Any part of the room that will be visible to the camera must pass as the interior of the replicated Early 19th Century French Chateau pictured below.
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Principal photography of The Oath actually took place at Le Petite Chateau deLuxe in Mermentau, LA, and "Scene 0.5" must appear to have been shot there as well even though it will actually be shot here:
The actual exterior of the room/window where we are shooting the new scene. Foam paneling, applied on the inside, covers a third of the window as well as its modern, metallic features.
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One of my favorite things about filmmaking is creating illusions. We only decorated the parts of the room that will be seen. Storyboards, animatics, and test Shots allowed us to determine precisely what that will be.
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Creating another illusion. David Attebury, who plays the film's protagonist, Julien Desormeau, assists production designer, Beth Doster. David has regrown his hair, complete with mutton chops, to recreate the appearance he had during principal photography. Incidentally, we attracted the attention of the neighbors...and the mosquitos.
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The final product achieved with duct-tape and fishing-line. The purpose of these branches is two-fold: One, it obviously is intended to create the illusion that there is a tree outside the window. Two, it serves as a fail-safe distraction. Across the street, and visible from an un-altered window, is another modern, suburban home. Should one's eyes be determined to look past David's silhouette (doubtful), and the thick layers of translucent, colored gel (highly doubtful), the eyes will stop with the branches. Even if they don't, by that time the neighboring house is indiscernible. Though it was my idea, I was still shocked and delighted to return to "the set" and see just how well it worked and achieved it's purpose. I was unable to take a photograph, but tomorrow I intend to post stills from the shoot.
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Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Tests Results Are In ("Scene 0.5" Part II)

Today we did some light tests for The Oath "Scene 0.5", which we will shoot at our production designer, Beth Doster's house on Saturday.
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The Oath: David Attebury, who plays Julien Desormeau, stands profile in front of lighting gel's tempoarily rigged to the window.
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Costume Designer Nicol Beck sits in for Paul Stuart, who plays Arnaud Rousseau. In this scene, Rousseau gives Julien Desormeau a ring that belonged to Julien's late father and mother.
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Testing a close-up on David as production designer Elizabeth Doster finishes up her work.
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In true production designer fashion, Beth bolts as soon as she realizes she's on camera.
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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

June 6th, 2006

Man. I thought that all this hysteria over 06-06-06 was ridiculous, and I guess I still do, but it has really been a horrible, horrible day.

Richie

Monday, June 5, 2006

The Oath -0.5

This weekend we will be shooting what is currently called "Scene 0.5" of The Oath at our Production Designer, Beth Doster's house. The very first scene of the film was actually written last to give the story more depth. Not wanting to confuse the artistic staff by renumbering all the scenes, we decided to call the new prologue "Scene 0." Sometime after the first few "rough edit" drafts of The Oath were complete, we decided to add a dialogue-less scene, in which Julien recieves the ring from Arnaud Rousseau, between scenes 0 and 1. We felt this would make the story and the relationships clearer. When all is said and done, the first three scenes in the film will have been the last three scenes to be shot.
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Storyboard of "Scene 0.5": Julien recieves his late mother's ring from Arnaud Rousseau.
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We've decided to shoot at Beth's house because it is far more economic and far less risky than going back to Louisiana. I say less risky, because living in Houston, it is far easier to obtain something should we forget to bring it, than it would be in Mermentau/Jennings. It also gives Beth and her husband, Dan, an excuse to redecorate rooms at their house.
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Julien Desormeau listens to the will of Arnaud Rousseau.
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However, we will eventually have to return to Mermentau in order to get a few pick-ups and several establishment shots of Le Petite Chateau deLuxe, where the vast majority of principal photography took place. These are tentatively scheduled for June 20 & 21.
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Philip Desormeaux's Le Petite Chateau deLuxe in Mermentau, Louisiana. Mr. Desormeux's Catholic Christian faith was of significant influence in the Chateau's authentic French architecture. Here featured, on one of the four miniature towers on the castle's outer wall, is a Norman Cross. Mr. Desormeaux' generosity and kindness inspired us to give our film's protagonist the original French surname, "Desormeau," which means "from the elm grove."
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Wil's Wish-Fulfillment Dream

In response to Wil's final xanga entry on The Beatles vs. Led Zeppelin:

Wil, be careful that your desire that The Beatles NOT be the best band ever does not also skew YOUR objectivity. You're just as likely to want The Beatles to NOT be the best band ever as I am to want them to be the best band ever. I thought you of all people would know C.S. Lewis argument against Freud's wish-fulfillment dream. Perhaps the heading of your next Xanga post should say:
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Wil Ramsey
Currently NOT Reading: The Pilgrim's Regress
by C.S. Lewis

Currently NOT listening to:
Reason
by Richard Ramsey
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However, I must say that your decision to, once again, take the high road in a debate has caused me to, in my remorse, heap burning coals on my head. Your consistent ability to apply the Biblical precepts in your daily life never fails to astound me and inspire me to be a better Christian. And, if you ever use quotes from Washington's Cross against me again, I'll punch you in the face.

Love,
Richie

P.S. Who IS your favorite band?

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Rebuttal to Wil

Wil has issued a response on his xanga to my initial post about him and his favorite band.
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I'll go ahead and get this out of the way. I must concede that The Beatles would indeed perish in a face-melting contest with Led Zeppelin. To deny this would be intellectually dishonest and would severely damage my credibility. You're point is taken. However, I think there is more at stake here than simply melting faces, and there are some points I would like to address.

I must admit, having not seen's Zeppelin's film, I cannot, at this time, compare it to "A Hard Day's Night." I wanted to watch The Song Remains the Same, but I thought it would be the acme of rudeness to break the security seal WHEN I BOUGHT IT FOR YOU ON DVD! Your ingratitude is deeply wounding, but I suppose this all my own fault. The apprentice has turned on his master. I'm afraid discipline must be swift and harsh.

In response to your comparing The Beatles to NSYNC: I don't remember NSYNC ever playing their own instruments, writing their own songs, and producing six albums in their first three years -teeny-bopper though they may have been. So, I very much doubt they would have, like The Beatles, gone on to produce 7 albums anywhere near the caliber of Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album (actually two records), or Abbey Road in the next three years. However, the Ivan Drago/Led Zeppelin defeating Apollo Creed/The Beatles analogy was slightly better, namely because Ivan Drago got all of his initial glory cheating a black man.
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Rocky IV's Ivan Drago, who much like Led Zeppelin, acheived fame and notoriety by cheating a black man (Robert Johnson/Apollo Creed). Moreover, both Drago and Zeppelin were initially panned by critics.
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As for Led Zeppelin's alleged far-reaching musical influence, I must say Zeppelin just happens to be the band that current bands claim to imitate, and less discerning minds take them at the word. They are able to get away with this because Led Zeppelin, with a few exceptions, has one sound largely based on the instruments that they or any rock band plays -lead guitar, bass, and drums. Which particular Beatles era or style do you expect these modern day incompetants to consistently imitate while putting out a record every four to six years?
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Led Zeppelin: Wil Ramsey's favorite band; Richard Ramsey's 3rd favorite.
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Regarding your ad hominem attacks on the orthodoxy or sincerity of my Christian beliefs, I very much believe in the devil, but am somewhat skeptical of the claim that he bought Jimmy Page's or Robert Johnson's soul. However, if you believe this and STILL think Led Zeppelin is the best band of all time, I'm sure you and The Prince of Darkness will have an eternity to "get the Led out." Shoot. You'll most-likely get a live concert.

Love,
Richie

P.S. I hope they'll spare you from having to listen to any of THEIR solo albums.

Friday, June 2, 2006

John Lennon Was Right

Our daughter set up her toys today, compelling Kristina and I to reevaluate our parenting strategy...
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I guess John Lennon was right: The Beatles really are bigger than Jesus.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Wil (Sorry. He wouldn't like puns.)

My brother, Wil Ramsey. Quite possibly the funniest person I know.
The above photo is a still from a video series I did in the summer of 2003 for Sagemont Church's Student Ministry. Wil and I co-wrote this particular episode...and he still kept messing up the lines.
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One of my proudest moments as a brother: A couple of weeks before shooting, I asked a then beardless Wil, in keeping with his character, to dress like a jaded, nearly washed-up rockstar who has been run through the ringer over his band's recent break-up. This is what I got:
The fruitful rewards of my mentorship! I immediately recognized a large part of his inspiration:
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I don't know. Maybe I'm the only one who sees it.
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I fear I may have over-reached, however. Wil recently told me Led Zeppelin could the best band of all time. When challenged, he would not recant.
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Wil, you were just supposed to think that they really rock, all the while keeping them at arms-length due to their blatant plagarism of Robert Johnson. You weren't supposed to regard them as the best band of all time! Where did I go wrong?

I'm praying for you, Wil. Not about Led Zeppelin; about the other thing.

Richie