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Tales from the Trenches: Ringing in the New Year Around the World on DV

By Daniel Kaven

The Tokyo segment from Daniel Kaven's <em>The Glass Pool Incident</em>.

Editor's Note: What are you doing New Year's Eve? Well, if you're Daniel Kaven, you do the sensible thing: Contact, via e-mail, seven filmmakers from around the world, arm them with DV cameras and have them record a day in the life of their respective cities. Then bring the filmmakers and subjects together a year later for a big filmmaking bosh in Las Vegas. The result? The Glass Pool Incident.


My eyes hardened into an unfamiliar daze. Across from me, a middle-aged Japanese karaoke music video producer, with a severe case of bad breath and gingivitis, reflected on his last 70 trips to Nashville, his personal exploits with the King of 'Rock and Roll, and his distaste for any American city outside the country music mecca. My expected collaboration with a bilingual music video producer that would lead me to the pulse of underground Tokyo was dying quickly. Although I was confident in my ability to produce the Tokyo segment solo, this self-proclaimed messiah of karaoke made me doubt the other seven producers.

Four of the seven I had known for over ten years. but of course none of them had actually been involved in documentary production, or operated a digital video camera, before I reluctantly lured them into the project by way of countless Bloody Marys, a quick jaunt to Las Vegas and a plane ticket to an exotic country. I had never met, nor could I associate an image with the other three. These three faceless filmmakers I knew only through the written word, and fbr the sake of my temporary sanity, I intended to reserve the same romanticized image for these last three that the "bilingual music video producer" used to bear.

Despite not having found a single subject for this documentary until after Christmas—and having lost London to a tough bout with the flu and Paris to a paranoid hashish dealer—I returned home with the 43 hours of raw digital video, shot simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, Sydney and Santiago on New Year's Eve 1999, that would come to be known as The Glass Pool Incident. After turning my eyes into small, spherical televisions from marathon-viewing all of the footage, I established an intimate relationship with three DJs, a rapper, a turntablist, a small-time coke dealer, a German video artist named Sirious, a homosexual sailor named Sonnie and his ambiguously gay sidekick Gregory.

My initial fears that the footage shot by the amateur film makers would contrast severely with that of the more experienced producers involved in the project quickly dissolved. Although the framing and movement of each camera proved to be as varied as the climates and cultures in which they were captured, the overall sound/image quality and immediacy with the subjects remained consistent. Often overlooked is the ability of DV cameras to capture incredible sound with camera mounted mics, in addition to their much-lauded image quality. The absence of a boom guy with a two-channel mixer, coupled with the use of a relatively small camera, enabled the filmmakers to move inconspicuously, and the subjects to conduct themselves normally.

Absent from the footage were interviews. Given 24 hours for principal photography and with mostly amateurs behind the camera, I concluded that it was best to simply capture a day in the life of each person and conduct interviews at a later date.

Exactly one year later, this ensemble of modern culture, including all of the filmmakers, will converge at The Glass Pool Inn, a campy Las Vegas strip motel. There. we'll conduct the interviews and have a short screening cut from New Year's 2000 footage and a huge New Year's 2001 party hosted by the featured DJs and rappers. The production at this stage will center around the subjects' interactions with one another, reflections on the last year of their lives, how they were portrayed in the rough cut, their impressions of Las Vegas, how they became involved in the project and what their aspirations are for this millennium.

Sometime in January, I will awaken from a seemingly eternal New Year's Eve party and brave over 100 hours of footage. Despite the collective visions that originally formed this movie, I am not willing to gamble with blind faith while editing. In addition to the arduous task of cutting 100 hours to 100 minutes, post-production will involve the development of The Glass Pool Incident DVD, which will include the four languages in which the picture was lensed, footage not used in the feature, multiple camera functions, a music video featuring one of the principle DJs and a featurette on the making of the movie-which is an incredible story in itself.


Daniel Kaven is a director based in New Mexico and is founder of Entropix Motion Pictures USA. Those interested in the production and/or distribution of The Glass Pool Incident can reach the producers via e-mail:, or telephone : 505.262.9660.