Assignment 3 Creating meaning -“Tea”

For this assignment you will create a short sequence that tells a basic story and conveys implied meaning. The sequence should be based on one of the scenarios below. The sequence must be no longer than 90 seconds. (You may choose to have 60 x 1.5sec shots or 1 x 90sec shot – or anything in between.)
You will write a script, design the shots, record and edit the film. You should focus on meaning. Clearly describe the action or sequence of events and imply a second layer of meaning. Consider the techniques you have already explored for creating meaning with composition. Think about mood, atmosphere and where the audience’s attention is focused. Consider the space on and off screen and the assumptions your audience will make. Planning
• Choose a scenario from the list below
Action                                                   Implied Meaning

Somebody chooses a drink              One of the drinks is poisoned.
A snail makes a journey.                  Humanity fails to progress very quickly.
Somebody posts a letter.                  Somebody is following them.
Two people meet                                They have slept together.
Somebody makes a cup of tea     They are suicidal.
Or you can invent your own scenario along similar lines. Be clear about the action and the implied meaning. If you do invent your own scenario it must be agreed with your tutor before continuing.

• Consider carefully what information you must show on screen. Think about what you need to show. Think about the best framing and composition to clearly achieve this.
• Consider what information you wish to imply. Think about how you can create meaning by re-ordering your shots. Think about other elements you may want to include such as additional shots or sound.
• Storyboard a short sequence. Include as much detail as possible about each shot. Consider the composition, framing, camera movement and sound. Remember you cannot show the implied meaning directly – no flashbacks of the couple in bed, no shot of someone pouring from a flask marked ‘poison’, no shots of your suicidal person imagining themselves hanging from a rope. If you are in doubt about this check with your tutor.

OCA Assignment 3 Creating meaning
You may not convey the exact implied meaning to everyone, but try to get close. Choosing a simple action will not necessarily make your task any easier. You have a free choice about the style and form of your sequence. You can be as literal or as abstract as you choose, as long as both pieces of information are understood. Record and edit your sequence
• Try and stay true to your storyboards during the shoot.
• Do not worry excessively about the quality of the image. Concentrate on what message it conveys.
• At the editing stage start by following your original structure but experiment. Try different versions, see what happens when you change the order of shots. Write an evaluation of your finished sequence (500 words)
• Critically assess your finished product.
• Identify and analyse the reasons for both successful and unsuccessful techniques that you have employed.
• Explain any major changes you made from your storyboards.
• Consider where you need to strengthen your own skills and understanding and explain how you will achieve this.

Tea

I had initially opted to shoot the sequence with a snail on the decking of my garden. I had filmed him making his way from the left of the screen to the right, and I had positioned an A1 green card behind him with the intentions to edit in images of World War 2, the thwarted Budapest uprising, VietNam, the Balkan conflict, 9 /11/ 2001, the Gulf war and Syria. Time has not allowed humanity to learn… I liked this idea but I opted out as I felt I would not be able to use the skills I had learned in this course, as most of it would be green-screened news footage and not anything I had shot.
Secondly I had arranged to shoot the sequence involving two people meeting. I had written a piece featuring two women dining at a restaurant,  with the implied meaning they had slept together. But the logistics of shooting the two actors I had lined up had finally proven impossible during the time available. I was  disappointed I could not make this happen.

Therefore I had to shoot a sequence using myself again as the actor. I am not best pleased that I have had to do this as I really wanted to use other actors, but again, the time frame and organising performers has not been possible this time. Given these unfortunate issues, I am able to submit work that I have worked on with the knowledge that I have at least achieved what I set out to do, despite having to act in it myself again.

Therefore, I present “TEA”:

tea-script

tea-storyboard

An evaluation of “Tea”

From the outset, I am fully aware that this sequence prohibits the image of the tool of suicide. No nooses, pills, razor blades etc. However I chose to show the gun despite this, to convey a possible red herring, maybe a homicidal act rather than a suicide. The character apologises to his daughters, perhaps he is going to kill their mother, for example.

I chose to make sure that the man’s face was not seen during the film, or out of focus from a distance. Specific props were used. The “Best Dad in the World” mug, bank statements and utility bills, for example. I wanted the viewer to be aware that there was genuine love in the household or at least there once was. However the pressure of money, alongside whispered self-doubts and the words of an unloving partner, the breakdown of a marriage etc, is leading the man to desperation.

I found the French singer An Pierle’s cover of Tubeway Army’s Are ‘Friends’ Electric? online and I thought that the obscure lyrics and the haunting piano score would suit. I am pleased with how this seemed to work. There is an almost uplifting rise to the song, that I positioned alongside climbing the stairs and I wanted to represent a “computer game” ( à la Tomb Raider, Medal of Honor ) involving a first person POV shot as he ascended the stairway, the gun in display.

Finally back to the close up of the tea, the camera steams up as it zooms in,which suits the fade out not only of the piece but of the life of the protagonist. I added some non-diegetic moody synthesiser to the fade out, for dramatic effect!

I stuck closely to the storyboard, only removing a shot of a picture frame of his daughters, as I thought this would be too obvious.

In conclusion, I do believe I was very close to being too literal with my piece, but as I pointed out, it was intentional to offer an ambiguity. There is a number of clues to suicide. Feedback that I  received was that the implied meaning was spelled out too closely, but also the ambivalent nature was also noted, one even thought the children were to be the victims and the note was a twisted decision to absolve himself. One particular point was made of why did the character de-robe before going upstairs? I put this in to cloud the intention. Upon reflection, it may have been better to have removed this.

I felt very comfortable with the technical aspects, and despite some probable narrative issues, I am pleased with the outcome. In future, I would most certainly not use myself as the actor, as I feel I need to focus deeper on my film making rather than be spread across different roles in the shoot.

Peter O.

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