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Master P's Theater

By MIKE MILIARD  |  February 20, 2009

Last month, Proulx posted a video to the site inviting his many followers to "jump ship" and head to his blog, "where I will continue to post videos without concern."

"Wow," replied one fan, "now I have literally no reason left to visit YouTube."

VIDEO: Proulx's tribute to Stanley Kubrick

DIY or do nothing at all
The best part of the Academy Awards? Not the dude with the lockbox from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Not watching self-important celebs drowned out by swells of orchestral strings. It's those tightly edited montages, cherry picking from a century's worth of celluloid. Set to a swashbuckling score, peppered with quotable dialogue, submerging the viewer in a sweeping stream of motion, color, and sound, those distilled bursts of indelible images are object lessons in the power of film — reminders of why we go to the movies.

Proulx will watch this Sunday night's Oscar montages, comfortable knowing — as his fans across the Web will attest — that his own adroitly edited clips could hold their own against anything screening at the Kodak Theatre. Some subtly suss out recurring visual or emotional themes in a director's body of work. Some do the opposite, cutting together counterintuitive juxtapositions. Most wryly commingle scenes from a director's minor works with those from his masterpieces.

The fan base he's amassed has been bemusing, says Proulx over burgers at Leo's Place in Harvard Square. "I thought I was the only one who liked these kind of things, so I was surprised."

Just as he was surprised by the minority who call them "just a mish-mash of random clips" (as one viewer put it). "They say, 'You're not really doing anything. You didn't make these movies. You're just kind of setting 'em to music.' "

Proulx never said he was Francis Ford Coppola. He's just another film-school grad — Fitchburg State, '07 — with a consumer-grade digital camera and few other resources. "You don't have money, you don't have actors, you don't have location," he says. "But I wanted to make something."

He did have 1000 or so DVDs and a copy of Final Cut Pro. And he's always loved the Oscar montages. So he put to work his deep knowledge of contemporary cinema and deft touch for weaving together disparate images.

"I wanted 'em to look like the Oscars. And I wanted to watch 'em whenever I want. So I made my own."

Breaking into the business
In his 1943 essay "Word and Image," Sergei Eisenstein identified five types of montage: metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal/associational, and intellectual. Proulx, clearly, is most at home with the second, toying joyously with frames' visual composition, actors' kinetic movements, and the interplay of music with dialogue and action.

"The music comes first," says Proulx of his process. Using particular songs as a template — a typical video will take three or so from across a given director's work — he'll start mentally sketching out the montage's direction in his head: "That shot from that movie would look really great on that beat of that song. . . . The rhythm is exciting to me. Everything is all about that."

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