“Men in Black” Puts Aussie Videographers on the Map

Imagine your neighbor tells you he’s sighted a UFO. He’s convinced that what he saw was genuine: an alien spacecraft visiting Earth. He reports his sighting to the authorities, and to the local media. In the days that follow, you see reporters visiting his house. You see him on TV and read his story in the newpapers, and you learn that he wasn’t the only person who saw the craft. You were skeptical of his story at first, but now you believe him.

But then, something even stranger happens. One day, a long black car pulls up to your neighbor’s house. Three men in black suits get out of the car and pay your neighbor a visit. They don’t look like reporters or local police. Who are they? You see your neighbor the next day, and he looks shaken. You ask him what’s wrong, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. You’re worried. In the days that follow, you don’t see him entering or leaving his house. Where is he? Days turn into weeks. Now, you’re scared.

This is the type of mystery and paranoia portrayed in the video movie “Men in Black.” The 25-minute-long video was nominated for best concept, best cinematography and best special effects at last year’s Sydney New Video and Film Festival and has won acclaim for its Australian creators, Peter Hardi and Guy Monty.

According to Monty, the concept for the video came to him when he was 14 years old, paging through a book on UFOs. “This one page hit me,” he recalls. “It had these three ominous characters standing in front of a Cadillac, and the picture was dark and gloomy…And I thought, ‘who are these guys?’…It scared the living daylights out of me…I was absolutely petrified. The next day, I decided that if I could recreate what I felt, it would make a really good film.” During the next four years, Monty researched the topic, and eventually hooked up with videographer Peter Hardi.

Hardi spent several of his childhood years in Los Angeles, where he made short family videos with his father’s Betacam video camera and PC. When he was 14 years old, he and his family moved back to Australia. There he began making wedding and industrial videos using a Sony TR55 8mm camcorder, a VCR, an Amiga 500 computer and a genlock. As time passed, he upgraded his computer equipment–first to an Amiga 1200, then to a 386 PC, and eventually to a nonlinear system that included a Pentium 166, a miro DC20 video capture card, a Soundblaster audio capture card and Adobe Premiere editing software. He also upgraded to a Sony TR3000E Hi8 camcorder.

Hardi’s first short video movie “Sink to Sink,” a three-minute video about a chemical spill, placed in the top 30 out of 200 in a local competition. “Every person that saw the video thought I had used film,” he said. “Some even thought it was 35mm film…it was just a basic Hi8 camcorder.” Hardi says this proves that “It’s not the type of camera that makes the difference, it’s how you use it.”

By this time, five years after Guy Monty’s initial UFO inspiration, he approached 22-year-old Hardi with the script for “Men in Black,” and they collaborated. They shot a total of about four hours of footage with their one and only Hi8 camcorder and spent a week editing it down to 25 minutes.

Hardi is a true advocate of consumer-level video technology, and is always willing to praise its advantages over film. “It’s much easier and cheaper,” he says. “You have your 90-minute cassette, you can record CD-quality sound at the same time, and use the same tape while you record good-quality image. The lightinig is a lot easier; you don’t have to worry about it as much as with film.”

The duo plan to release two more short films to complete their “Men in Black” trilogy. Hardi says, “This is only the start for us.”

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