Project 18 Motivation

Exercise:
De-edit a sequence Choose any scene from a film or TV programme. Load this into your editing package. Watch the scene a couple of times, try to identify if there is any particular rhythm to the speed of the cuts. Does this change as the scene progresses? Is the rhythm suggested by action – dictating how the cuts should be made, or is it created by the cuts themselves? Cut the scene up into each of the individual shots. Look closely at each shot.

List the elements of composition within the shot and try to think what purpose each element serves. What effect does it have? Identify the motivation/justification for each element. Identify the motivation for each cut. Could you have cut any earlier in the shot? Try to cut each shot down to the absolute bare minimum. Reconnect your shots and see how short you can make the sequence without losing its meaning. Upload your finished sequence and invite comments. Answer these questions: • Does your sequence still convey the meaning you intended? • How does it feel? Has it changed? Why? • Has the feeling affected the meaning?

The Thin Red Line ( dir, Terrence Malick, 1998 )
The opening sequence of this epic cerebral war movie uses long picturesque takes to set the scene. Sequences include a crocodile entering a body of water, trees in the jungle, the inhabitants of the South Pacific island, the local children swimming under sea, an AWOL American GI canoeing with the island’s fishermen. All these shots run ten seconds and over. By shredding seconds off the shots and re-editing them together still keeps the mood, but with much less impact. In the original each shot dissolves into each other and there is a sense of timelessness and calm, as well as peace and tranquil. By joining them together again I opted not to use the dissolve transition to see how this would alter the mood, and yes it affected the ambience of the piece dramatically.

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Project 16 Other narratives

In this project we will consider two areas that demand a different approach to narrative.
Documentary
In some documentaries it is easier to recognise the narrative form than in others. The ‘true life stories’ approach is often structured much like a drama, maybe even including fictionalised scenes or re-enactments to provide the material needed for the chosen narrative. An investigative report has a similar narrative structure. The situation or problem is laid out in Act 1, the investigation carried out in Act 2 and the answers laid out and conclusions drawn in Act 3. In observational documentaries it may be harder to recognise a simple narrative.

A classic observational documentary like the work of Frederick Wiseman takes its cues from the material that is observed. He tries not to impose his preconceptions or influence the action in any way. In editing the film he has to create a unique narrative from the hours of footage observed. Other documentaries have a clear agenda; the starting point for the film-maker is to put across a point of view or discuss an idea. This format is far more scripted; the structure or the key plot points can be laid out in advance. The film-maker then goes out to find or create the necessary footage to fit their script. An example of this might be Michael Moore’s ‘Farenheit 911’ in which he sets out to make a series of points and chooses locations, people and scenarios to test and illustrate these. The narrative here follows the structure of a discursive essay: an introduction, a series of assertions with examples, and a conclusion.
Crudely put, documentaries tend to fall into two categories: those with something to say and those which seek to explore. In the first case the film-maker must fit the evidence and the material they find to their story; in the second case they must try to discover what the story is in whatever they find. In both cases they will have to decide at some point what the story is and create a narrative to tell it.

Viewing
Think of documentaries you have seen and try to identify which category the film falls into:
Asking – the film-maker goes into the project without pre-conceived ideas of the message or conclusion
Telling – the film-maker has a point to make or a message to convey
Pick a film from each category and try to draw a diagram of the narrative structure. (You will probably have to watch them again for this.) You may find there are multiple narrative strands.
Try to include these in your diagram. In each case try to identify the central narrative. Choose a single scene from one of the films and draw a diagram of the structure of the scene.
Upload diagrams to your site.
Compare your diagrams with those of other students.
• Do you notice any patterns? Do your analyses generally agree? Are there any anomalies?
• What do you notice about your diagrams of scene structure?

Asking

My Scientology Movie ( dir. John Dower, 2015 )
Louis Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie” is a good example of a project that is not particularly pre-conceived. Despite Theroux’s extensive research into the subject, the film expresses a somewhat aimless sense, that is a metaphor to the confusion and secrecy that the subject matter is allegedly hidden behind. With total non-compliance from the organisation themselves, which is of course the production’s anticipated outcome, the narrative has more than one strand. Theroux’s attempts to interview the current leader David Miscavige; in failing to do so, to recreate interviews using Hollywood aspiring actors to perform documented incidents; and by telling the story of ex-Scientologist Marty Rathbun.
Having grown up in East Grinstead in Sussex, the home of the European headquarters of Scientology, I have been interested in this subject matter, not simply because of its locality, but also the organisation’s secretive and allegedly threatening stand-point to its critics and ex-members. Guilt is often the default reputation to clandestine activity and the movement appears to have done little to alleviate these rumours since its inception in the early fifties.
This particular scene involves Theroux’s attempt to hand a letter for Miscavige to the gatekeeper at one of Scientolgy’s Californian missions. The letter is rejected and Theroux is left with his own opinion of why, rather than a resolution, something which is common practice whenever investigative reporters and Scientologists converge. (1)

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I preferred to use this format to portray the scene. Still broken down to three acts, the scene is set by explaining a letter is about to be delivered. The conflict is that the security guard refuses the letter, leaving a faux-conclusion as the reporter can only assume the guard is fearful of repercussions from the organisation he defends.

Telling

The Devil and Daniel Johnston ( dir. Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005 )
The artist Daniel Johnston is the lyricist’s lyricist, producing sad songs to die for. His traumatic life, documented via hours of cinefilm and audio cassettes captured by Daniel himself is blended with his artwork and interviews with friends and family,  even his older self in this outstanding documentary biopic. His mental health is recorded via his astonishing scribbled drawings and his unique songs which are brought to life so hauntingly here. The film is a telling of a life story, Daniel Johnston’s creative achievements crushed by paranoid schizophrenia and a lifetime of anti-psychotic medication. (2)

The scene in which Daniel and friends tell of his absorbing obsession with Laurie, the girl of his dreams, is very poignant and depicting of a creepy nature, indicating a very poorly soul, however his muse allowed him to tap into a creativity that is original and personal, which has a rare honesty that I can fully appreciate. The songs that are the result are incredibly touching and reveal an astonishing lyrical genius.

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Non-narrative films
Narrative can be said to exist in painting, in music, and in poetry. Yet any description of these narratives would occur outside the artwork as they themselves contain no description. In describing them you either describe the story that you imagine they were trying to tell or you try and describe the artwork itself hoping this will somehow reveal the narrative you imagined. So it is with more abstract forms of film-making. It is often argued that rather than being non-narrative these films experiment with different forms of narrative. They may not have a plot but all films present a series of images one after the other, so all films present some form of narrative. It may be that the narrative takes place on another level that is not directly evident on screen. Perhaps the film-maker wants to take the viewer on an emotional journey. This journey could be seen as the story that is being told.

Going back to the dictionary definition, narrative is “that which is narrated, a story; a written or spoken account of a series of events in the order in which they occur”. In this case, rather than writing or speaking the film-maker is communicating emotions directly through images and sounds; the events are the emotions you feel as a viewer. There is no need for the images to make sense in a traditional, plot driven, way for there to be a narrative. The narrative could also be conceptual. As a viewer you are forced to ask questions; the conceptual journey you make as you struggle to find answers is the narrative. By definition it would be impossible to describe these film in a meaningful way so it is important that you find and watch some films with alternative narrative structures. You can find examples of this approach to film-making in other areas. They often crop up in mainstream films and are prevalent in advertising and music videos. Look for examples of narratives that are represented without a plot and try out the exercise below wherever you find them.
Viewing
Find some examples of alternative narratives. In each case try to identify the nature of the narrative. This is best achieved by watching the film without any pre-conceptions. Don’t analyse the first time you watch, just watch. Afterwards ask yourself how you felt as you watched. What were you thinking?
• Did the film take you on an emotional journey? Did it cause any reaction – even irritation or boredom? Why was this?
David Lynch ‘s Inland Empire is a difficult film to follow and it takes the audience through what can only be described as a true nightmare, filled with confusing time-frames and red herrings, disturbing imagery, terrifying sounds.
• How was it achieved?
each time the film appears understandable, cuts are taken in such severe tangents, that leave you disorientated and confused.
• What questions were you asking yourself, what puzzled you? What strange ideas popped into your head?
I loved this movie, it was the disjointed nature that achieves its goal the best, it really is a surreal nightmare experience. Few films achieve the distrubing nature of bad dreams.
• Did your feelings or understanding change later when you remembered the film? It is often necessary to watch a film a couple of times before you form a strong sense of it. Of course your interpretation may be very different to someone else’s. This is how it should be. Consider it as a form of poetry. Try to draw a diagram of the narrative. In some cases you may have more than one narrative – for instance there may be a simple plot and a complex emotional narrative in the same piece. Upload your best diagrams to your blog.

After various visits to Inland Empire, I still maintain that it is excellent. With a running time of over three hours, which feels even longer upon viewing, it requires stamina. But with each viewing I find it harder to watch. Part of its attraction is the wonder of what is going to happen next. Just like in a dream. (3)
Inland Empire ( dir. David Lynch, 2006 )
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SOURCE:
(1)  Official film website: http://www.myscientologymovie.com/ – accessed 12th April 2017
(2)  
Daniel Johnston website: http://www.hihowareyou.com/ – accessed 12th April 2017
(3)  
http://www.davidlynch.de/ – accessed 12th April 2017

Project 15 Traditional Narrative

The three act narrative
The most popular narrative form in mainstream cinema is the three act narrative. This is, in a sense, a simple expansion of the beginning, middle, end principle.
Act 1 The beginning. It establishes the background to the story, sets the scene and introduces the characters. Typically Act 1 will represent the world of the main characters in a state of stability. The climax of Act 1 will be an event that upsets this stability. This climax will typically come about a quarter to a third of the way into the film.
Act 2 The middle. The protagonists seek to resolve the problems created as a result of the first climax. The story may diverge, becoming more complex. The climax of Act 2 brings all the threads together presenting the possibility and anticipation of a resolution. This will often be the highest point of tension within the film. Typically this occurs about two thirds of the way through.
Act 3 The end. The final resolution plays out, the characters are returned to a state of equilibrium, their world is stable again.

Viewing
You can do this with any films you watch. Try designing these charts with some older Hollywood classics for a solid three act structure, and then compare these with more recent films. As you watch films, pay attention to the narrative structure. Try and identify if the film conforms to a three act structure. If it does, can you pinpoint the beginning of Acts 2 and 3? Can you identify any other narrative structures?
Try to sketch out a diagram of the structure of the film. Upload a scan of your diagrams and notes to the blog. Invite comments.
Do other students agree with your analysis of structure?

Psycho ( dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1960 )
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Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho has an interesting structure. Although still a three act film, the film uniquely changes protagonist from act one to act two. The first act follows Marian Craine ( Janet Leigh ) as she impulsively steals her client’s money rather than take the $40,000 to the bank on her bosses request. She is in love with a man who wont commit to her because he is broke and she decides this will be their ticket to happiness. Setting off on a journey from Phoenix to LA, she tires and decides to rest at the Bates Motel, owned by the psychotic Norman Bates ( Anthony Perkins ), a character that murders her and also takes the throne for the movie from the beginning of act two until the end of the film. (1)

The Dead Zone ( dir. David Cronenbourg, 1983 )
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Sweethearts John Smith ( Christopher Walken ) and Sarah have their marital plans dashed as John has a car accident resulting in a coma for five years. Upon waking it emerges that John has released a dormant gift of second sight as he goes through his rehabilitation plagued by visions of other people’s futures. He meets an increasingly popular right wing politician Greg Stillson ( Martin Sheen ) and he becomes aware that this man will one day become president of the USA with drastic consequences. Therefore he decides to assassinate him and save the future of mankind.
Although very episodic in its formula*, this Stephen King adaptation by Jeffrey Boam still follows a three act structure, when stripped down to the character arc of John Smith and that of the antagonist Stillson. As the movie industry advanced it is clear that although many films still followed the three act pattern, further options were being explored that blurred the edges of the particular template. (2)
* The Dead Zone was later adapted into a TV series, exploring in greater depth the visions of fate that John sees upon meeting various characters.

Ex_Machina ( dir. Alex Garland, 2014 )
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Caleb ( Domhnal Gleeson ) is an employee of Nathan’s ( Oscar Isaac) corporate BlueBook Enterprises, a fictitious Google-like search engine. Nathan lives alone in his “Jurassic Park” island hideaway. Caleb wins a staff lottery to spend some time with Nathan. This soon reveals to be an experiment, in which Caleb is the human element of the Turing test as Nathan has developed an AI robot called Ava ( Alicia Vikander ).
Ava and Caleb get to know each other and using her programmed sexuality, she secretly persuades Caleb to help her escape the imprisonment, which in itself is pre-staged as part of Nathan’s experiment, however this leads to disastrous consequences.
Still  three-act in its narrative, in a contemporary cinema that is more experimental ( post “Pulp Fiction” ), I selected this film for its impressive example of excellent story-telling. The three characters are superbly developed, and the Turing test is flipped upon the audience, as we all know she is an actress, but we fully submerge in the character of an AI, leading the audience down pathways of philosophical introspection. (3)

Do you agree with other students about their structures?
I looked at both Chloe and Ashley’s structures. Chloe had written a detailed graph based diagram to show the narrative of the 007 film The Living Daylights. She had successfully used the formula to display the flow of the film. Whilst it was easy to follow and was well presented, I had chosen not to use a graph for my structures as I felt that this could result in being unnecessarily complicated, although Chloe’s example was not. However in a structure that is episodic such as The Dead Zone, it could easily be the case.
Look at different ways people have attempted to represent the structure. Try some alternative approaches yourself. Do these different ways of representing a film structure change the way you think about it?
As with the previous question, my flow chart version below proves how complex the diagrams could become. I much prefer the examples I had posted above for Psycho, The Dead Zone and Ex_Machina.

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REFERENCES:
(1) Obituary of Psycho screenplay writer Joseph Stefano, by Ronald Bergan, The Guardian September 2006.  – accessed April 10th 2017.
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/sep/14/guardianobituaries.obituaries
(2) The episodic structure of The Dead Zone, stripped down to the classic three act- formula in Jeffrey Boam’s screenplay. Blog post in Cult Projections by Bryn Tilly, April 2016. – accessed April 10th 2017.
http://www.cultprojections.com/horrorphile/the-dead-zone
(3)
Ex_ Machina in Magic of Story blog September 2015 by Selin Sevinc Bertero
http://magicofstory.com/beat-sheet-alex-garlands-ex-machina-screenplay-breakdown/ Bertero – accessed April 10th 2017.

Assignment 3 – tutor’s feedback.

Please see the link for my tutor’s feedback for my film for Assignment 3. I was very pleased to receive such encouraging words from Robert, as I expressed in my assessment that I was nervous that my approach was too literal. But Robert pointed out that whilst this was possibly true that the showing of the weapon of suicide was indeed, on-the-nose, the emotion of the piece and the approach made up for this by suggesting multiple layers of emotion.

I am therefore delighted that this was seen as the case.

peter-owden-31

Project 14 Camera movement

Some examples of the effect of camera movement:
• to create atmosphere – such as tension
• suggest a character’s situation or state of mind
• to represent a specific POV – for example using handheld camera with intentional movement to represent a subjective POV, or a slow tracking shot to represent POV of a person cruising past in a car
• a dramatic moment – the sudden movement of camera at a dramatic moment.

Find about six good examples of moving camera work that alters the feel and/or meaning of a sequence and add them to your blog.

Below are my selected examples. Mostly genre films, as I have grown up on a diet of these pictures and their specific uses of camera skills are among the reasons why they stand above the rest.

Jaws ( dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975 )

The famous dolly shot, previously a stalwart of Alfred Hitchcock in films such as Vertigo, Psycho and Marnie, here in the monster blockbuster of the mid seventies, “Jaws”, which uses the dolly zoom to extreme effect. Whilst relaxing on the beach, an already suspicious police chief, is shocked as his fears are realised when the shark attacks it’s second human victim right in front of him. By advancing the camera on a dolly track at the same time as zooming out, the subject of the frame moves closer as the background dreamily falls further away. Supported by John Williams’ startling music, it perfectly projects the true horror and shock to the audience. Not only has the shark attacked again, but in front of the eyes of the protagonist, who had previously spent twenty minutes of screen-time trying to convince the island’s committee that this was not a one-off accident and that they open the beach at their peril. It is the climax of the first act, the shark is not moving on, whilst there is food available. The town has to react. (1)

It Follows ( dir.David Robert Mitchell, 2014 )

The opening sequence of 2014’s superb horror film “It Follows”, uses a 360° camera turn to wonderous effect. A semi dressed teen, Annie ( Bailey Spry ) runs out of a suburban house at dawn, startled and aware she is being stalked. She stops in the street, runs further up the street before going back to her house to get her car keys, finally driving speedily away. The camera tracks her as she confusedly panics before deciding what to do. This movie projects way above its contemporaries as it packs multiple splendid frames and set pieces, but this opening scene is a fine example of a skillful cameraman and director at work. (2)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ( dir. Tobe Hooper, 1974 )

Cinematographer Daniel Pearl is the unsung hero of Tobe Hooper’s horror classic. The film deserves the crown as a superior in the genre by the relentless attention to preventing the audience of graphic visuals, but at the same time, one is subjected to uncomfortable scenes of a disturbing nature. The result is truly excellent.
The tension in the scene I have posted below is so beautiful executed. An ultra-hot day and the young couple are about to walk into violence that is beyond comprehension. My particular favourite shot here begins at 04.18, just after the first sudden outbreak of horror in the film. Pam ( Teri McMinn ) is waiting for her boyfriend, whom we have just seen beaten to the ground with a hammer, as she swings on a house swing outside. As she decides to get up and find out why he has not returned, the camera creeps underneath the swing and follows her as she approaches the house. Pam’s hot-pants are obvious here, but its the image of the approaching house that looms above her as she walks forward, almost as if she steps into the monster house’s “mouth”, that is the most startling. The beautiful blue sky is pushed aside as she advances closer and closer to the house. It is a perfect shot, one that is stacked with atmosphere. Pam eventually discovers further horrors that surpass the ghastliness of her boyfriend’s demise. Perhaps the last beautiful image of the film before true terror descends, a monumental and lasting image, in my opinion. (3)

Enter The Void ( dir. Gaspar Noé, 2009 )

Argentine director Gaspar Noé is famous for his French extreme films such as Irreversible ( 2002 ), but it is the experimental English language -shot in Tokyo – movie “Enter the Void” that allows a unique and continual floating camera style to truly utilize his vision to maximum effect. The film is shot entirely as first person POV ( á la “GoPro” ) as we follow a young American drug dealer whilst living in Japan. The scene here is his fatality as he is shot by the police whilst hiding in a bar toilet. It is extremely effective. The following scenes are told by his astral body as he floats away from his corpse to watch upon his beloved sister as she deals with his death and the horrific world of Tokyo’s under belly. (4)

Cujo (dir. Lewis Teague, 1983 )

Before becoming the world famous cinematographer that he is known as today, Jan de Bont is the driving force behind this low budget horror-soap based on Stephen King’s novel. The story, which is often accused of being rather flat, is animated perfectly by Jan de Bont’s superior choices of camera techniques and framing. Countless moments of run-of-the-mill shock tactics are enhanced by interesting dolly shots, angles and ingenious set pieces. Atmosphere is this film’s strength. If you watch the sequence posted here, starting with the rabid dog’s POV as the mother and child arrive, to the clip’s climax and action, the scene is filled with interesting shots that stack up the tension. (5)

Peter O.

SOURCE:
(1) Film Art – An Introduction, Sixth Edition  – David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (University of Wisconsin Press) p231
(2) New York Times website film review and interview with director David Robert Mitchell by Stephen Holden 12th March 2015
(3) Interview with cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 40th Anniversary of the film at The Housecore Horror Film Festival, October 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRUB4xbWW30
(4) 
Gaspar Noe – What’s the Problem? by Steve Rose. The Guardian, Thursday 16th September 2010
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/sep/16/gaspar-noe-enter-the-void
(5) Nope Nothing Wrong Here, The Making of Cujo by Lee Gambin ( Bear Manor Media, 2017 )

Project 13 Non-diegetic sound

Research
Try to find examples of the following:
Intentional confusion of diegetic and non-diegetic sound / • Sound that is hard to identify as either diegetic or non-diegetic
David Lynch, as much as an auteur of distinction, stands out as a master of sound design. His first theatrical release Eraserhead ( 1977 ) has a phenomenal and thoroughly impactful soundtrack. Much of the non-diegetic score blends with the diegetic sounds of an industrial city, based on Lynch’s experience of living in Philadelphia. Factory machinery, blasting sound-horns, chimney reverbs, distant locomotives, all blending in with a continual droning score. The sounds ARE the music score. As most of the film slips into the main character Henry’s ( Jack Nance ) internal daydreaming, the sounds in his head are signified by a deep drone, blurring the line between score and sound design. This continued to be a trait used in almost all of Lynch’s work, The Elephant Man ( 1980 ) , Blue Velvet ( 1986 ), Lost Highway ( 1997 )   and Inland Empire ( 2006 ) being notable examples. (1)

• Music (non-diegetic) used to identify social and cultural references
John Boorman’s Deliverance ( 1972 ) and Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort ( 1981 ) are similar in their plot lines as well as their location in the southern states of the USA. Deliverance has a soundtrack of banjo bluegrass that is significant of its geographical area, whilst Ry Cooder’s score for Southern Comfort is based solidly in blues and Cajun music of the area. With both scores, the mood and atmosphere of the pieces are crucial for the films’ relevant atmospheres. (2) and (3).

• Music and other non-diegetic sound used to create, for example, atmosphere, tension and emotion
Music is such a key part to stacking up tension, creating atmosphere. I have selected The Mission ( dir. Roland Joffe, 1986 ) as my example. The reason being that it was Ennio Morricone’s outstanding score that lead me to see the film at the cinema in the year of its release. I was fourteen, and I fell completely in love with the film, its imagery, its music. So much so that I made it an ambition to visit Iguazú Falls on the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay myself. I have actually been there twice and on both occasions, the film score was my ohrwurm for the entirity of my time there. (4)

• Non-diegetic sound that sets the pace of a scene
John Carpenter’s classic monster sci-fi The Thing ( 1982 ) has a score again composed by Ennio Morricone, but based on Carpenter’s previous film scores.  An excellent example of building atmosphere and one that has a superiority  in setting the pace of the scene. The opening sequence in particular.

Exercise:
Abstract image sequence Choose a short musical sequence (1 minute max). Listen to it a number of times. Make a note of the emotions and feelings you experience as you listen and any images or ideas that come into your mind. Don’t worry about trying to create a coherent narrative, just try and record what pops into your mind. Find images to represent the thoughts, feelings, ideas you have. Record your images and edit them together. Allow the music to guide the rhythm and pace of your edit.
Upload your finished sequence to your blog and invite people to comment on how they interpret your sequence. Look at other students’ work.
• What meaning do you take?
• How does the sequence feel?
• How does it accompany or contradict the music?
• Are there any images you particularly like? Why?

Recording some incidental music for a space between songs on one of my music projects, I had realised was suitable to be added to my previous Stalker exercise. Therefore I decided to see if the would fit well. With a few tweaks and re-recordings I managed to make them synch well together.
The music has a trashy grindhouse early 80s slasher soudtrack feel, and the Stalker scene is particularly set to be the same. I was overjoyed to see how suited they were together.

REFERENCES:
(1) David Lynch fansite. http://www.davidlynch.de/ – accessed 7th January 2017
(2) Southern Comfort soundtrack:
http://www.fast-rewind.com/music_southerncomfort.htm – accessed 7th January 2017
(3) Dueling Banjos used in John Boorman’s Deliverence:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dueling_Banjos  – accessed 7th January 2017
(4) Ennio Morricone interview. The Mozart of Film Music by Adam Sweeting, The Guardian, February 2001  https://www.theguardian.com/film/2001/feb/23/culture.features1  – accessed 7th January 2017

Project 12 – Connecting shots

When considering what else occurs when two shots are joined together it is impossible to ignore the theories of the Russian formalists. This movement in early cinema is typified by classic films such as Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’ which is the mainstay of any introduction to film theory. Essentially the Russian formalists realised that when images are connected together other thoughts and meanings emerge that were not contained in the original images. Up until this point cinema had been very literal, showing simple sequences of events. The Russians pioneered the concept of montage where (what seemed at the time to be) abstract images were cut together with footage to suggest other meanings. The classic example is that of Kuleshov and Pudovkin who cut images of soup, a dead woman on a coffin or a little girl playing with a toy over the expressionless face of the actor Mosjukhin. In each case audiences enthusiastically described the excellent acting of Mosjukhin convinced he had reacted differently in each example. In fact his expression had never changed (see below). The audience had connected the images in their own minds, creating a story of the actor’s internal emotional state.

Exercise: Repeating the Mosjukhin experiment
Find yourself an actor who can keep a straight face, or a human figure or doll. Record them staring motionlessly ahead. Record some images that can represent the thoughts of your character. Cut the images over your actor in different combinations. Attempt to create an impression of what they are thinking. Upload your best sequences to your blog. Ask other students to comment on what they perceive the sequences to mean. Analyse your own sequence and the work of other students. Which sequences work best. Why? Is there anything about the composition or content of the images that makes them work especially well? It is also possible to create meaning by re-ordering elements from within the scene.

For this exercise, I chose to use an action man doll to perform as Mr Mosjukhin. I had attempted using an actor but the opportunity to do so did not arrive in time for me to work on the experiment. However I’m happy to use the humanoid doll, as I feel it adds a further irony on to what I used as scenes that he ( it ) was looking at.
Part 1 – I grabbed a scene from the German TV series Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter (2013- ) showing lots of wartime action. Flicking back to the action man, one can almost see a twinkle of excitement in his eyes, or perhaps a feeling of dread ( PTSD )
Part 2 – Two handsome tattooed men embracing in an act of love. As we see our hero again, there could be a sense of longing, or lust, or perhaps, sadly, a sense of disgust. Only the viewer can ascertain the thought.
Part 3 – The 2016 FA Cup final between Crystal Palace and Manchester Utd. Maybe our action man gets elated or bored by the image of twenty two men and a ball.
Part 4 – As my girlfriend stated upon viewing, the model in the frame has a juicy bottom! Again, the viewer can decide what the action man is thinking about the image.

I enjoyed this experiment, and how the image can insinuate emotion within what the subject is thinking. This is a powerful and yet non-obvious tool. How a character can be charged with thoughts and elevated emotions by how the viewer is interpreting the action.
Most impressive.

Project 11 Screen space : Exercise – Two people communicating

For this exercise you’ll produce a short sequence in which two people communicate across an off-screen space. Don’t use a wide shot – create the impression of the off-screen space through the composition of the shots containing the individual subjects. Read the script on the next page. Carefully plan a series of shots (each containing only one of the two characters). Sketch out each frame. Think about how the size of the frame you choose and the space you place around the characters affects the perception of the off-screen space. Record your sequence using actors or models. You can add an atmos. soundtrack if you wish. Upload your sequence and invite comments. Compare sequences, look at other students’ sequences and leave comments describing what you understand from them. Read the comments other students have left for you. Did they understand what you had hoped they would? Look again at your own sequences, those of other students and any other films. Think about the meanings that the framing and composition in each shot can imply.

Try to identify examples of the spatial composition contributing to:
• the mood or atmosphere of a shot
• your perception of the relationship between the characters
• your understanding of what is happening or what is going to happen
• your perception of how you as a viewer relate to the characters or action.

Script for screen space production exercise.

Fill in the gaps to complete this script before carefully planning what shots you will require. Try to use the minimum number of shots possible. For each shot carefully consider how the size of the frame, and the space around the character, will influence the perception of the wider space outside the frame. Also consider what the frame will suggest about the characters’ emotions and the atmosphere of the shot.

-SARAH is seated alone. She is holding something (a book, mobile, or other item) that has her attention. She seems distracted, absorbed by what she holds.
-DAN is standing [insert some distance] off across the [insert the location that separates them]. He notices Sarah but looks away.
-SARAH looks up for a moment and notices Dan. She reacts with [insert emotion / reaction].
-SARAH continues to look at Dan.
-DAN becomes aware that Sarah is looking at him. He looks up at her.
-SARAH smiles at Dan.
-DAN begins to walk towards Sarah.

“Sorry”

With this exercise I chose to avoid non-diegetic sound and just use the sound of the sea as the main aspect of atmosphere. The characters have clearly fallen out.
Storyboard Frame 1 – Sarah is sitting upon a groin on the beach as the sea in the background is heading towards high tide. As the exercise prohibits wide-shots, I chose a mid-shot, to still allow some of the background info to be apparent but to make sure Sarah is noted as sitting alone, perhaps not in the best of moods. She has her mobile phone with her. ( She is situated to the left of the frame )
Frame 2 -Dan is further across the beach sitting on the next groin along. He has noticed that Sarah is holding her phone, so he takes the opportunity to make peace by texting her. We can tell that from the two shots, that they are not sitting next to each other but a distance of beach is between them. ( By placing him to the right of the shot, it is possible to show distance between them. )
Frame 3 – Sarah, in the meantime has placed her phone next to her, responds to the notification that a text has arrived. She picks it up.
Frame 4 – Close up on her phone. Dan’s text: I’m sorry forgive me?
Frame 5 – Sarah reads and cannot hold back a smile.
Frame 6 – Sarah’s POV shot as she sees Dan set off from the distance to meet her. She heads to join him.

Try to identify examples of the spatial composition contributing to:
• the mood or atmosphere of a shot
The calm sea dictates the scene. Distance is presence by the empty beach that they are situated in.
• your perception of the relationship between the characters
Hopefully its clear by Sarah’s expression that she isn’t particularly happy. She seems pensive at least. By showing her sitting alone, and sitting upon a beach groin, she is contemplating something that is not present.
• your understanding of what is happening or what is going to happen
Once Dan is in the frame, and especially that he is texting his apologies, it is clear that there is a tension between the two characters.
• your perception of how you as a viewer relate to the characters or action.
Dan has clearly upset Sarah. But not so much that they cannot make amends. Who can really be mad at another when next to the calming nature of the sea?

 

sorry-storyboard

Project 9: Light and Colour – Viewing

Viewing- Light
Look for examples of light levels changing radically within a scene. How are these changes
justified or motivated?
Some common examples to look out for are:
• The source is shown in shot, for example we see a lamp being switched on or clouds
passing over the sun.
• An action motivates the change. We see the cause in a previous shot, such as a hand
going to a light switch, the countdown to the explosion or a character taking off
sunglasses.
• Represents an abstract or emotional state, for example a moment of realisation or a
character fades away.
Add any good examples or observations to your blog.
Paranormal Activity ( 2007, dir. Oren Peli )
A fabulous use of  light to create atmosphere in horror films, especially, is the turning on of a light source, to almost relieve the audience of dread in night or dark scenes. Often, once an onscreen character finds the light switch, the terror is either thwarted or suspended to a further moment in time.
However in Paranormal Activity, there is a particularly effective scene where a couple  have been filming their sleep periods due to ghostly apparitions in their house. On one particular occasion, the downstairs light is switched on by something halfway through the night time. An effective scene, setting the following sequences up perfectly, allowing a creepiness to take hold gradually over time. (1)
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Close Encounters of the Third Kind ( 1977, dir. Steven Spielberg ) is a light-show of a film, where effective usage of light to convey atmosphere and tell key plot points, is abundant throughout. The particular scene below is awash with simple but extremely powerful frames using lights as the symbol of the visiting UFOs. As the protagonist Roy, ( Richard Dreyfuss ) is out at work, responding to reports of energy blackouts, he discovers phenomena that is beyond explanation.(2)
Agent Cooper ( Kyle MacLachlan ) is shot and is left lying on his hotel room floor, when an apparition appears in front of him. A giant ( Carel Struycken ) tells him three things related to the case that he is investigating. Bright white spotlight is used to represent the limbo state that Cooper lies within. Cult TV mystery Twin Peaks ( 1990-91, dir. David Lynch ) is again reliant on powerful light symbolism. Various changes in light, almost dream-like in their way, dictate the action. (3)
Viewing – Tone and Colour
Look for examples of use of colour in film to represent:
• change of atmosphere between scenes
• emotion of a character
• general mood or atmosphere of the film as a whole
• a range of feelings, emotions or atmospheres such as love, fear, power and joy.
Add your observations to the blog.
Brian de Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel Carrie ( 1976 ) used an overpowering red hue to enforce the powerful third act climax. Carrie ( Sissy Spacek ) has been humiliated once and for all by her classmates at the senior prom, as she was falsely voted queen and drenched in pig’s blood. Red is a symbolic colour throughout the film ( her first period, her rage, her mother’s fear of Satan, the colour of blood – that is also let in abundance as her revenge is executed – and finally the fire that engulfs the school hall. When the scene turns red in the split scenes used in the climax ( from 02:02 ) on this clip sequence, we know that the chocks are away and that Carrie will get her long overdue vengeance on the oppression that she suffers. Its a very astonishing scene, and one that takes a lot of casualties in emotion. (4)
Enemy ( 2013, dir. Denis Villeneuve ) is presented in a constant mustard yellow hue. Set in Toronto, a teacher ( Jake Gyllenhaal ) becomes aware of his double after watching an actor in a dvd movie. This leads to an increasingly nightmarish scenario of cat & mouse and of confusing timeframes or character twists. It’s an intriguing and disturbing narrative where the colour hues are a definite atmosphere booster. The colour tone is stifling after a while and this adds to the suffocating tone of the story, as the web-like narrative traps the characters inwards. Spiders are a feature throughout the film, ironically. ( The director allegedly  made the cast and crew sign a confidentiality agreement to prevent them discussing the symbol of spiders in the film, although, the general thought is that they represent the main character’s fear of women, ie, the black widow analogy, his wife is pregnant, and perhaps he fears the commitment of responsibility, envisaging this as a web entrapment ) (5)
The intriguing Lost River ( 2014, dir. Ryan Gosling ) uses colour hues to determine multiple layers within the character/ plot development. A single mother desperately seeks work to make ends meet ( superbly played by Christina Hendricks ), represented in a red to magenta hue. Forced to use her physical self to perform in a seedy sado-masochism nightclub, she is the pivotal, central protagonist.

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Her eldest son, Bones ( Iain de Caestecker ) scrounges lead or other metals to sell at a local scrapyard. ( natural colour hues, green, brown, yellows )
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His girlfriend, Rat ( Saoirse Ronan ) trapped in a life looking after her hoarder grandmother, dreaming of a future, lives in a bubble of cold blue hues.
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The town they live in Michigan is dead on its feet, houses crumbling and derelict and business and industry long gone. A neighbourhood nearby has been flooded to make a reservoir, which is the MacGuffin of the story, intrigues Bones to seek his rite of passage, defeating the antagonist Bully ( Matt Smith ), symbolically by name and by nature.
A film suspended on visual metaphors, colour being the operative tool, it is a great example of storytelling by synesthesia. (6)
Peter O
REFERENCES:
(1) Paranormal Activity on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(2) Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(3)
Twin Peaks on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(4)
Carrie (1976) on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(5)
Enemy on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(6)
Lost River on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016

Project 8: Balance – Viewing

Viewing

Look back at some of the work you have already produced. You may well find that you were
already following these rules subconsciously. Try to identify:
• where you followed the rule of thirds.
• where you changed the composition and what effect this had.
The Id Girl
In 2005 I made a short film, The Id Girl, which was inspired by the real life would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr, who in 1981, tried to murder Ronald Reagan to garner the attention of his obsession, actress Jodie Foster.
I centred my story upon a professional hitman, who happens to be obsessed with a glamour actress, telling the story via his disturbing hypnotherapy sessions. The film, which spent most of its scenes in the half-conscious state of the antagonist, required plenty of fantastical imagery and visuals of a dream-like nature.
Upon re-visiting this film recently, I noticed various examples of following the rule of thirds, although, probably at the time, I was not particluarly focusing on that.
Actors: Shaun MacNamara and Ailsa Ilott.
Watch almost any television or film. (Beware: films on TV or even DVD may have been
cropped and/or panned and scanned. In this case the original composition will be
compromised. Ensure you are watching in the original aspect ratio.) Notice that regardless of genre you can see the rules of composition and balance being applied. Pay special attention to the reasons behind the occasions when the rules appear to have been broken.
Look for interesting examples and make notes on your blog explaining what is happening in each. Try to find:
• examples of frames composed according to the rule of thirds
Top: Heaven’s Gate ( 1980, dir. Michael Cimino )
Centre: The Deer Hunter ( 1978, dir. Michael Cimino )
Bottom: The Exorcist ( 1973, dir. William Friedkin )

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Three good examples of the rule of thirds being applied.
In Heaven’s Gate ( Top ), we see the panaramic view of the lake with the two loving characters appreciating the vista in the bottom right hand third of the frame. A shot that symbolises the director of photography Vimos Zsigmond eye for breathtaking framing. Again, Zsigmond is responsible for The Deer Hunter, centre pic. Framing in mid-close up with Robert De Niro’s character Mike forced to play Russian roulette ( ironically at gunpoint ) to the left third with his captor facing him from the right third. Allowing the centre ground to show the threat of one of the captor’s AK-47 barrel and in the background with the picture of Ho Chi Minh ( political leader of North Vietnam ) looking on. A frame that captures many emotive points.
The bottom pic is the iconic framing from The Exorcist, a shot that was used as the advertising image for the movie’s posters, billboards and subsequent video covers. Max Von Sydow arrives at the house of the alleged possession to begin the exorcism. Its late autumn and the foggy weather adds a brooding atmosphere. A light beams from the bedroom window of the distressed young girl, onto the stranger that has arrived, beckoning him inside. Dark blue hues and plenty of shadow, a sinister invitation.

 

• examples of composition balanced between shots
Blood Simple ( 1984, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen )

As used in my previous exercise for mise en scene, here is the same scene from Blood Simple. The characters face each other over an office desk, and the two balanced frames indicating Marty in the left hand third of his frame, and the Hitman in the right hand third of his frame gives a clear balance to allow the viewer to engage the important conversation between the two characters.

• examples of the rules being broken
Left: Close Encounters of the Third Kind ( 1977, dir. Steven Spielberg )
Right: Full Metal Jacket ( 1987, dir. Stanley Kubrick )

The scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind shows the alien space craft landing above the human reception. The frame is almost symmetrical, with the landing underbelly of the craft being the focal point of the scene, brightly lit at the centre top of the frame. Although still in conjunction with the rule of thirds, it is almost seen as central to the frame. I picked this sequence to show a fantastic depth of field as the long shadows gives the impression of depth. It is an extremely hypnotising sequence, both in visual and audial structure.
R Lee Ermey as Gunnary Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, the movie’s pivotal and most powerful character. Central to the frame and the film, all other characters are reduced to insignificance, as that is the desire of the sergeant and the organisation he represents. There are multiple frames similar to this throughout the first half of the movie, as the imposing drill instructor breaks down every character’s resistance and individuality. This is effective powerfully, as upon watching these scenes, the audience is almost dragged into the line of men, almost broken down to accept the terrifying ethos of the United States Marine Corps’ doctrine. When we reach the second half of the film, we totally empathise in the soul-less hell that the war zone dictates. The troops are mere numbers, their characters irrelevant, whatever different backgrounds they have. Even though we can differenciate the personalities of individuals in the platoon, they mean nothing to the war effort.

• tension created by upsetting the balance
Three frames from Salvador ( 1986, dir. Oliver Stone )
The sequence of the assassination of Archbishop Romero ( played by José Carlos Ruiz ) during Holy Communion is a pivotal part of the film. The film’s protagonist, reporter Richard Boyle ( played by James Woods ) witnesses the murder and is drawn further into the politics of the country and thus deepens his documentation of the conflict. The sequence shows the archbishop administering the eucharist meal to various characters, before reaching his assassin, who breaks the balance by spitting upon the archbishop’s hand, insulting him and finally shooting him at almost point blank range through the heart. The scene descends into chaos. The tension, already ignited beforehand by a passionate sermon from Romero and the packed church infiltrated by sinister looking plain clothes policemen and army personnel, we know that Romero’s scathing remarks against the oppressive regime is likely to turn the scene sour. Oliver Stone then leads us into a false sense of harmony, as the communion gets under way with the line up of those receiving the ritual. But then, just as calmness appears likely, the assassin strikes.
• other distinct meanings suggested through visual balance.
Balance is important to show interplay between characters, be it for tension, harmony, friction, romance, terror, lust etc. By giving visually clear indications of whatever emotion or scenario is happening, the balance allows us to become empathic with what is occurring. By disrupting the balance, sudden changes in the status quo can create an incredible suspense to the dramatic flow of the film.
Peter O