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.

Tutor Feedback to Assignment 1

Very pleased with the tutor’s comments. Please click the link below to view.

Peter Owden 1

I was overjoyed to have read the feedback and also a big sigh of relief that the work was met with a positive  view.
With the feedback in mind, my focus will now be on the following issues.
1. To find actors to play in my short film exercises. I have recently moved to a new area and I have put posts up on local FB sites and on Gumtree asking for help. So far I know very few people locally, but in the worst case scenario I have friends from my ex home town I can call to act, in the meantime.
2. To use better formats to upload with. As I have explained previously, currently my camera equipment is rather old and therefore I am using older editing software to put it together. To upload quickly to YouTube I used MPEG2 format and that has meant the frame rate is rather small, and the tutor suggested at least MPEG4. I plan to be upgrading my gear soon, once money is more available and once I have decided on what to buy ( the latter probably the main reason for hesitance ! )

I’ve been gathering ideas of film treatments, as I know it adds further cannon if already armed with ideas and scenarios. I’ve always got stories in my head so its not hard to gather. Its interesting though, that this particular idea just jumped into my head only a day before I embarked on my assignment, overtaking previous scenarios. It has often been said that ideas fly around the ether like radio-waves and its our own antennas that detect them.

Anyway back to Section 2…

Project 4. Camera Angles

The camera angle refers to the position from which the camera, and therefore the audience,
views the subject of the shot. (When I refer to the subject of the shot I mean ‘the thing which
we are primarily looking at’ – it may be a person, plant or inanimate object.)
There are some technical rules that guide the positioning of the camera and therefore the
choice of camera angles, but for now we will concentrate on the effect and meaning of
different angles and how this may affect the feel of a shot.
Definitions
While talking about camera angles it will be useful to understand the following terms.:
-L/A, Low Angle
A shot taken from below the eyeline of the
subject, or where there is no obvious eyeline from
a position that is ‘looking up.’
-H/A, High Angle
A shot taken from above the eyeline of the
subject, or where there is no obvious eyeline from
a position that is ‘looking down.’
-Canted Frame
(also known as a Dutch angle)
The camera is angled horizontally, so that the
‘normal’ perspective is tilted, e.g. the horizon may
run diagonally across the frame.
-POV Point of View
A shot that represents a subjective viewpoint. It
is understood by the audience to represent a
character’s vision.
In the subjective sequence you produced for Project 3, the camera angle was dictated by the
position of ‘your’ eyes, that is, the eyes of the unseen character whose point of view (POV)
the audience was sharing.
The camera angle provided information about where the character was, whether he was
standing or sitting, and where he was looking. In each of these shots you were able to add
nuance and suggest intensity or emotion through the size of the frame but your decision
about where to place the camera was limited.
In this subjective sequence another camera angle, which didn’t match the POV of the unseen
character, may have suggested another character in the room. The camera angle of these
shots would provide information about them.
For instance a low angle shot – with the
camera near the floor looking up at the
character – may represent a drunken friend
sprawled on the floor.
A high angle – looking down on the
character from behind – may represent
someone standing in the doorway.
Objective angles
In a sequence that includes objective shots the choice of where to place the camera is
greater. The motivation for the camera angle is not directly dictated by the action (as it was
when the character defined their own POV). The angle is motivated by an objective vision of
how the scene should be viewed.
The angle no longer indicates what a character is seeing but how the audience should see
the scene. The camera angle influences how everything within the shot and scene is
perceived.
-The same sequence can feel very different when viewed from different angles.
At eye level the scene seems quite ‘normal’. The action is fairly flat and the angle itself gives little away.
-The high angle makes the same scene appear more dynamic and exciting. The character
seems less powerful and significant; there may be some threat from a bigger force.
-The low angle shot is also more dynamic and exciting than the eye level. Here the character
seems more powerful; the sense of threat is more likely to come from within the scene,
possibly from the character herself.
Try to find good examples of camera angles used to create atmosphere or alter the meaning
of a scene or shot. As you watch consider whether the angle affects:
Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
Make notes and, if possible, upload clips or stills to your blog to illustrate them.
 
1. A Clockwork Orange ( dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1971 )
In particular in this sequence at 02.35 onwards, Patrick Magee plays the writer, who was a victim of Alex’s ( Malcolm MacDowell ) previous violence to him and his late wife. A political activist, the writer takes in Alex, after realising he is a victim of a particular prison reform. Only to discover upon hearing Alex chanting “Singin’ in the Rain” whilst in the bath, a song he sang whilst perpetrating the violence against them previously. (1)
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Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
The angle, an extremely low angle looking ninety degrees up at the writer as he (over)acts  horror upon this discovery. Superlative but also extremely effective, to over-emphasize the moment.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
Previously the writer was sympathetic to Alex, allowing the latter to feel at home, although he knew exactly where he was, therefore, inadvertantly giving the game away and singing the tune that incriminates Alex beyond doubt. As the film cleverly exploits the viewer’s emotion to sympathise the abhorrent protagonist, it is at this moment, one feels the threat radiated by the writer.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
The apparent friend to Alex, clearly changes course to be that of a foe. The action leans towards a bitter character, finally able to commit vengeance.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Very much so. It portrays the true horror of realising a moment of vengeance, the flood of emotion of being able to carry out revenge against the former antagonist. We sympathise the true horror of what has happened to the victim, this angle clarifies the sheer horror of it.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
The first forty five minutes of A Clockwork Orange display in graphic detail, in true cartoon form, how the protagonist Alex commits wanton violence against society. This moment is the crux of retribution, not only for  the writer character, but also that of the future society itself.

Ewan McGregor as Renton in this classic nineties film about the drug scene in Edinburgh has many moments of great camera angles and interesting frames, but the sequence where he overdoses and sinks into the floor, accompanied by Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” is astonishing and striking. From this view we see Swanney ( Peter Mullan ) looking down at him, almost as if Renton were in the early stages of his burial grave, and he says “Perhaps sir would like me to call for a taxi!” (2)
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Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
The viewpoint is the subjective POV, indicating that of the Renton character slipping into overdose, looking up at Swanney and the mouldy cieling beyond.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
Yes we sympathise as the main protagonist is probably going to die.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
It indicates that Renton is in trouble. Slipping into a grave like position as the floor he is sitting on, symbolically swallows him down.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Yes, the symbol of slipping into a makeshift grave where he fell to the floor in this disgusting flat is poignant and we face a possible exit for him. The film, however amusing and charming is set in a bleak backdrop, with hope or future so strikingly missing. The expectation therefore is dread, but it is that dark mood that highlights the black comedy which is the movie’s main appeal.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
Considering the desperate nature of the sequence, it creates an incredibly powerful mood. Alongside the music, the scene is one of the film’s most memorable and pivotal, as close as the protagonist comes to his demise, it signifies a point of change.
Jill  ( Claudia Cardinale ) arrives by train at her home town expecting to meet her ( now deceased ) partner and walks through the station office. The camera watches the scene via the platform window and as she exits to the town side of the building, the crane dolly shot takes the camera up the side of the building and over the roof, revealing the dusty Western town as she steps into, with its usual bustling state. Again accompanied by powerful music ( by Ennio Morricone ) the scene is significantly emotional. One of my favourite sequences in cinema, this “spaghetti” Western is a fine example of the depth of emotion that cinema is capable of procuring. (3)
Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
It is a High Angle shot.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
It reveals the harsh wilderness of these fledgling US cities as they are in their infancy. Jill is just being introduced to us in this scene, she is the pivotal character from then on. We have just witnessed the murder of her partner and his family, by the villainous Frank ( Henry Fonda ). This scene, however transitionary, is astonishing in its power.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
She is a tiny cog in this wild west tale, but we will follow her and her grief to discover who is responsible for the slaughter of her family.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
It creates a powerful atmosphere. The film is set in a harsh land during a harsh, ruthless time. Henry Fonda’s performance as the callous assassin Frank could be argued to be one of the most hateful characters on screen, the slaughter sequence is heart wrenching and this particular shot of the township is emotional and shows a sense of hardship that these characters endure. I particularly enjoy how immaculate and beautiful Jill’s character appears against the filth, dust and sweat of the surrounding townsfolk as she discovers that things are not what was expected.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
It provokes a melancholy. We know what has happened to her love, we assume her future will be of uncertainty and retribution.
Hunter S Thompson’s anarchistic story is brought to the screen with incredible authenticity, the film is infested with canted ( Dutch ) angles in many of its scenes to depict debauchery and hedonistic drug binges. The film follows journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo ( Johnny Depp and Benicio del Torro ) on an all expenses paid trip from LA to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle event for Rolling Stone magazine in the early seventies. Chaos ensues. (4)
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Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
Using the image above for example, a view of a hotel receptionist as seen by the characters as they arrive, extremely intoxicated by various substances. The Canted Angle.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
As the car journey across the desert depicted their binge of illegal narcotics, it is not really until this scene that the resulting disarray is truly apparent.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
It signifies both characters’ intoxication.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
The message of the film is the true horror of American consumerism, the dystopic American Dream, seen through the lens of a psychotropic influence.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
The film is a black comedy, the mood is for humour, in which it succeeds thoroughly.
REFERENCES:
(1) A Clockwork Orange on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
(2)
Trainspotting on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
(3) Once Upon A Time in the West on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
(4)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016

Project 3. The feel of a frame

Meaning is about more than simple information. Aside from what you show, the way you show it will alter how it is interpreted. The frame can alter the feel and thereby the meaning of a shot. There are no hard and fast rules about how this will work, it depends on the context – what is happening in the scene, whose eyes we are looking through, and what shots came before. In this project you will explore some of the ways framing can influence meaning by filming a short subjective sequence. Frame sizes You are probably familiar with the terms used to describe different shots, e.g. close-up, medium, wide, etc. These terms are of course relative. A close-up of a beetle will be a far closer shot in absolute terms than a close-up of the Earth from space. A good guide to understanding these relative sizes is to think of the wide shot as a reference against which the other sizes are measured.

Frame Sizes.jpg

The frame you choose can alter how you feel about the image it contains. Tight frames feel more intense and claustrophobic, wider frames may feel more open and objective. A character in the centre of a very wide frame will seem small and insignificant; in a tighter frame they may appear to be dominant in their surroundings. Again this is about the information you provide. If the viewer is forced to look closely at one small item it will take on an intense significance. A character seen full screen is important and significant; the same character seen small, surrounded by other significant space, is inevitably less significant.

Storyboards
Storyboards are illustrations representing the shots within your film. Typically each sketch represents the framing and composition of a single shot. Notes describing action, dialogue, camera movement and technical information may also accompany each storyboard cell. You will find some storyboard templates on the website. For now you only need to sketch out what you wish to put in each shot and accompany this with a description that clarifies what you have drawn. If you are skilled at drawing the pictures will probably suffice; if not, basic sketches and notes will do the job just as well. The process of sketching out storyboards, even if you are not a great illustrator, is very useful for focusing your mind on how the shots will work.

• Find some examples of powerful, emotive frames. These can be paintings, photographs or shots from films and upload three or four different examples to your blog.
• For each image provide notes about what feeling you get from it and how the framing has contributed to this.

1.
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Probably one of the most notorious images of war photo-journalism, this picture “Saigon Execution” ( Feb 1st, 1968 ) by Eddie Adams (1) for the Associated Press of the fatal shooting of a Viet Cong captive by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan of the Army of the Republic of VietNam, still remains to me one of the most emotive and powerful images I have seen. I first stumbled across this picture in my childhood and the image provoked profound thoughts of anger, disgust, awareness of justice/ injustice and multiple internal moral questions. It lead me to study the conflict in further detail and to challenge my own thoughts of war, political positioning and activism. At the time of this incident, footage was also taken by an NBC cameraman which shows the shocking scene in its entirety.
Framing of this photograph would have been instant, but the image has compiled all that is necessary to portray the action, including enough of the street background to show that this brutal execution was carried out in broad daylight in an urban surround.
I think it is necessary here to note Eddie Adams’ own words on the fall-out of the image itself:
” I won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for a photograph of one man shooting another. Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. … What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?’…. This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn’t taken the picture, someone else would have, but I’ve felt bad for him and his family for a long time. … I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, “I’m sorry. There are tears in my eyes.”
( TIME magazine 24/06/2001 )

2.
sonnets2
Susan Backlinie as Chrissie Watkins in the opening sequence of “Jaws” ( dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975 )(2). 

Although probably not the easiest of frames to set up, requiring under water apparatus, powerful overhead lighting, multiple crew personnel, etc, creates an iconic frame of startling atmosphere and tension with such a simplistic fashion.
The movie’s most intense driving force is the build up of tension and suspense without needing to show the antagonist at all. In fact where the movie does lose its power and credibility is when the monster is finally seen ( previously untested physical special effects that frankly weaken the movie’s strength ). With an infamous music score and excellent story telling, Jaws is a marvel of cinema, successfully using powerful images like this one to tell its very simple tale.
Here, as the monster approaches the figure on the surface, the audience is gripped with a gamut of emotions, ranging from titillation to trepidation to terror and to disgust. The flickering moon light silhouetting her body frame as she treads water, enjoying the summer sea temperature, soon to be dragged down to her agonising death. Still powerful even now in a time of CGI monsters and animated frames.

3.
velvet4-thumb-800x495-135718
Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet” ( dir. David Lynch, 1986 ). How to frame the face of  psychopathic behaviour without really trying… Probably winning the first prize for most demented villain in cinema. This disturbing image of the antagonist taking a gas mask full of amyl nitrate ( although originally scripted to be helium ), whilst staring intensely into the camera is a fine example of subjective POV . Frank cooks himself up into an intense stupor of rage, sexual aggression and violence before embarking on a terrifying attack on the movie’s protagonist Jeffrey Beaumont ( Kyle MacLachlan ).
The frame tells all that is needed to tell, spreading dread across the screen, focusing on Frank’s sinister eyes and brow, his intent extremely laid bare. There are other characters in the car but it is YOU ( Jeffrey ) that is the intent of his psychosis. (3)

4.dont-look-now-pond-scene
Donald Sutherland in “Don’t Look Now” ( dir. Nicolas Roeg, 1973 ). I struggle looking at this image, being a father of two young daughters. But I first saw the masterpiece way before then, back in my late teens, and the images and frames in this marvel of cinematography permanently etched its way into my psyche. It really is a fine example of how beautiful horrific scenes can be in cinema, extremely artistic and very powerful. Don’t Look Now is astonishing, truly disturbing as a film and yet intriguing, poignant and suspenseful.
This frame perfectly fires home the anguish of the death of his beloved daughter, in which the whole film remains suspended on.
I love this film, and particularly this frame, how simple the accident was, how heart breaking and emotive the action is. I can barely describe it more. Terrifying. To this day, I still refuse to buy my daughters any red raincoats.

REFERENCES:
(1) Saigon Execution photograph by Eddie Adams (Feb 1st, 1968) – Eulogy in Time Magazine, 2001 – accessed 22nd April 2016
http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,139659,00.html#ixzz2Tnso3aM5
(2) Cinemablography – Making of the Jaws opening scene by Anthony Watkins, December 2014.  – accessed 22nd April 2016
http://www.cinemablography.org/blog/behind-the-scenes-making-of-the-jaws-opening-scene
(3) David Lynch fansite, http://www.davidlynch.de/  – accessed 22nd April 2016
(4) Film School Rejects – Dissecting the Incredible Opening Scene of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now by Landon Palmer February 2015 https://filmschoolrejects.com/dissecting-the-incredible-opening-scene-of-nicolas-roegs-don-t-look-now-42f1c7b3b1f3/  – accessed 22nd April 2016

Project 2. Exercise: Visualisation

Find a quiet moment or two and try to imagine the situations described below. Place yourself in the scene; don’t think about what is there objectively but what you would see if you were there.

1. You are talking to someone in a shop
The person is facing you talking in an animated way, using their hands.
2. Knocking on a door.
You knock on the door. You wait. The door is opened. You may have conjured up some images of things you looked at while you were waiting.
3. You are having an illicit affair.
You are alone having a passionate conversation with your loved one. A sudden sound in the background causes you to glance round.

Once you have conjured up mental images for these scenarios go back to each and sketch out some basic impressions of what you see.  Make notes alongside your pictures detailing the elements that you have included. For each element consider why you have included it.
• What was left out at the edges?
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
• Why did you leave them out?
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?

1. You are talking to someone in a shop

FullSizeRender (12)

• What was left out at the edges?
The vast array of drinks, confectionery, tobacco and other products that are available at the Top Chap convenience store is left out.
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The drinks refrigerators, newspaper stands, other customers, shop doorway etc that are also part of the surrounding scenery are not in the frame.
• Why did you leave them out?
The requirement of the scene is to depict the animated shop keeper and focus subjectively on him. He is the object of the action and with that it is essential to close up on to his image.
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
By revealing enough of the background, ie, the cash register, samples of his stock, various advertising and posters, the viewer can gather information enough to see who he is and where we are. The remainder of the shop can easily be left to the viewer’s imagination given the information that can be gathered by what IS shown.

2. Knocking on a door.
You knock on the door.FullSizeRender (13)

• What was left out at the edges?
No need to show more than the fist knocking on the door and perhaps the house number and the door itself. We can gather from the shot of what action is being set.
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
In my mind I assumed that the number of the house was relevant to the story. The image of the whole house itself.
• Why did you leave them out?
Whether or not the desired occupant is in will add to anticipation and perhaps will lead to suspense as to what exactly is about to happen.
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
This is the desired effect. Are they in or are they not, and what will happen.

You wait….
FullSizeRender (14)

• What was left out at the edges?
An opportunity to focus on the newspaper still not collected by the occupant. This can create tension as to whether there is anybody at home or if in fact whether they are able to collect.
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
Chose not to see if the occupant is visible by any other means, focusing on the newspaper, dwelling in fact.
• Why did you leave them out?
There is a delay in the door being answered, by emphasizing the newspaper allows uncertainty to gestate.
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
As the viewer is being held in a moment of uncertainty, their knowledge of whether the house is empty or not will soon be revealed.

The door is opened.
FullSizeRender (15)

• What was left out at the edges?
Still shown subjectively, the frame shows the woman at home, nervously answering the door. I chose to tie in this exercise section with the following one, in that she is the lover of the illicit affair. Although we cannot see whether she is in the house alone, or whether the two characters are being watched.
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
Perhaps this scene is being watched by a third party. By not revealing yet, we continue to strive further information.
• Why did you leave them out?
For the purpose of ambiguity. Focusing on the interplay between the two characters.
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
By her obvious uncomfortable demeanour, it appears likely.

3. You are having an illicit affair.
You are alone having a passionate conversation with your loved one.
FullSizeRender (16)

• What was left out at the edges?
The contents of the room. By filling the frame with her beautiful face and the window in the background, these are the most important pieces of information needed.
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
Furniture and articles in the room, her belongings.
• Why did you leave them out?
Its her house and passion is growing. The scene requires focus on the tension, the contents of her room is not required.
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Enough information is determined to allow the viewer to gather this is her house.

A sudden sound in the background causes you to glance round.
FullSizeRender (17)

• What was left out at the edges?
The remainder of the room. Enough is shown to explain the shattering of the glass and the bullet hole in the window.
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
Her face.
• Why did you leave them out?
Further tension of how she feels…is it terror, expectation, anger…
• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
The viewer is given a brief moment of uncertainty.

Conclusion:

Which sequences are the most effective and why?
I think the usage of the subjective POV is most effective in creating a tense atmosphere, especially highlighted in the wait for the girl to answer the door. A brief glance down at the unattended letterbox, and finally her opening the door with a nervous look, allowing her to access the fourth wall thus giving the viewer the illusion of them being the lover.

What makes a convincing subjective sequence?
Allowing the object character a chance to look straight at you ( the camera lens ) is convincing in that it specifically invites the viewer to engage in the action personally. Suspense is often increased by this type of sequence. Fine examples of this are The Prodigy’sSmack My Bitch Up” (1) , sequences in Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games( 1997 ) (2) and the recent cinema release,Hardcore Henry( dir. Ilya Naishuller, 2015 ) (3) the latter of which utilises this POV for its entirety,  filmed on  Go-Pro Hero 3 Black Edition cameras. Found -footage horror movies of the late nineties onwards are particularly effective using this, however the audience is aware that the POV is that of the “found” camera, notably “The Blair Witch Project” ( dir. Sanchez and Myrick, 1999 ) (4), “Cloverfield” ( dir. Matt Reeves, 2008 ) (5) and “[Rec]” ( dir. Balagueró and Plaza, 2007 ) (6) and not that of the viewer / protagonist.

What gives the sequence a sense of atmosphere or tension?
Using this POV often requires the action to be in real time, thus giving the impression that “anything could happen”..

REFERENCES:
(1). The promotional music video for “Smack My Bitch Up”, directed by Jonas Åkerlund
(UK 1997), winner of MTV Video Music Awards 1998 for Best Breakthrough Video and Best Dance Video.
https://web.archive.org/web/20030814010040/http://www.mtv.com/onair/controversialvideos/controvids.jhtml – accessed 20th April 2016
(2) Funny Games directed by Michael Hanneke (Germany, 1997).
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119167/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2  – accessed April 20th 2016
(3)
Hardcore Henry directed by Ilya Naishuller (Russia/ USA, 2015)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3072482/?ref_=nv_sr_1 – accessed April 20th 2016
(4)
The Blair Witch Project directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick (USA, 1999)
(4.1) Film Art- An Introduction Sixth Edition by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson University of Wisconsin Press 2001. p228. – accessed April 20th 2016
(4.2) http://www.blairwitch.com/ – accessed April 20th 2016
(5)
Cloverfield directed by Matt Reeves (USA, 2008)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1060277/?ref_=nv_sr_2 – accessed April 20th 2016
(6) 
Rec. directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza (Spain, 2007)  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1038988/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 – accessed April 20th 2016

 

 

 

Exercise: Telling a story. Part 2

Look at other students’ sequences and try to answer these questions:

Once one is aware that the story is a well-known or traditional tale, it is easy to follow the five scene exercise simply because of familiarity to the relevant stories. I have therefore avoided reading any notes or comments that other students have made until AFTER studying their pictures. My intension is to see if I can follow the shots to tell the story and gather which stories they are attempting to tell.


Chloe’s “Hansel and Gretel”
https://chloeclikproductions.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-1-framing/01-frames-in-the-film/

It was easy to ascertain from the first frame which story Chloe had selected, and I was particularly engrossed in her high quality sketching skills ( which of course is not the reason I am studying the piece ). Her frames are clearly explaining the story in adequate detail and I was able to pinpoint the important parts of the story. I did find frame 4 slightly ambiguous and required her notes to set me straight however.
What is the story?
Hansel and Gretel
What information is conveyed in each frame?
1. The children’s father is told by his new partner that the children will have to go ( They are too poor to feed them )
2. A tearful father leaves the children in the deep dark woods.
3. The children discover the house of sweets and are welcomed in by the old lady that lives there.
4. The girl pushes the witch into the oven to allow the children to escape.
5. They are reunited with their father.
What information is necessary to understand the story?
The children banished to the woods by their father as instructed by their new step-mum. The deep woods are scary, and their sanctuary is the sweet-infused cottage which the old lady ( the witch ) resides in. This old lady enslaves the children requiring them to escape.
All is safe and well when they return to their loving father.
What essential information has been left out and/or what is included unnecessarily?
The difficulty to portray the evil intentions of the witch in just five fames for example was successfully described by the frowning old lady. I suppose this is the most complicated part of the story as there are various important points that tell the story in such a concentrated format. She entices the children with the offer of sweets, that she enslaves them to make them work for her and eventually eating them, she is tricked by Gretel and is locked in her own oven whilst they escape. Chloe has managed to tell this well within frames 3 and 4, given the vast amounts of info to portray. With this I cant see any unnecessary information, and information that has been left out can only be conversational or “story-filler” information.

Paul’s “Jack and the Beanstalk”
https://paulslearninglog.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/project-1-frames-in-the-film/

The sketches are rudimentary and tell the story of JATBS with a clearly defined direction. Very successfully Paul indicated, from the very first frame, I was aware of which traditional tale he had selected.
What is the story?
Jack and the Beanstalk
What information is conveyed in each frame?
1. Jack is instructed by his mother to take the cow to market.
2. He is offered beans as payment for the cow.
3. Jack returns home to a disappointed mother with his bag of beans.
4. Jack is chased down the beanstalk by the giant.
5. Upon reaching the bottom Jack chops down the stalk.
What information is necessary to understand the story?
Facing impoverishment, the mother instructs Jack to take their remaining cow to the market to sell. Jack meets a man that offers beans as payment for the cow, of which he accepts. Upon his return, his furious mother throws the beans away, however the beans take root and a beanstalk then grows. Jack climbs the beanstalk and discovers a giant that lives at the very top. Jack steals a harp and climbs back down the stalk, with the giant in pursuit. Before he is caught, Jack chops down the stalk to exterminate the giant.
What essential information has been left out and/or what is included unnecessarily?
Again the tale is rather busy to tell fully successfully within just five frames. Paul has achieved this to good effect, however. I was unaware, or had forgotten the theft of the harp so I was confused as to why he had a harp attached to him. If the giant’s foot had not been in the shot, I would have assumed that frame 4 was indicating Jack to have been climbing up rather than climbing down the stalk. It was not until I noticed this, that I realised the harp had been taken by Jack. I think perhaps the giant could have been given a bigger “part” in the scene, as only his huge foot is seen, but appreciate that perhaps Paul may have omitted him on purpose ( thus allowing the viewer to fear him more, obscurity breeds uncertainty, and therefore develops tension. )
I noticed no superfluous information in any of the frames.

Ashley’s “Cinderella”
http://www.ashley.lauryssen-mitchell.com/2016/02/27/exercise-telling-a-story-part-1/

From the outset again, upon noticing the broomstick and a torn raggedy dress that is Cinderella. Easy to follow, I’m intrigued as to whether yet another busy fairytale can be told successfully in just five frames. I think Ashley has succeeded well.
What is the story?
Cinderella
What information is conveyed in each frame?
1. Cinderella is sweeping up as her ugly step sister or Stepmum head out ( to the ball )
2. Her fairy godmother transforms her dress to that of a beautiful ball-gown, followed by the transformation of the pumpkin and the mice.
3. Cinderella successfully “pulls” the handsome prince.
4. Upon the strike of midnight, she flees leaving her glass slipper behind.
5. The prince finds the girl that the slipper fits, much to the dismay of the ugly sisters watching.
What information is necessary to understand the story?
The stepmum and her daughters treat Cinders as a maid and they head off to the ball. The astonishing Fairy Godmother grants her wishes to attend the ball by transforming her clothes, creating a coach and footmen and of course gives her fetching glass footwear on proviso she returns by midnight. Caught up in the romance of the evening she needs to flee urgently as her deadline arrives, leaving her glass slipper behind. The prince seeks out her identity after a nationwide search with the slipper that can only fit his true love.
What essential information has been left out and/or what is included unnecessarily?
Cinderella is a busy tale, there are lots of essential information that tell the story. Ashley successfully includes as much as is necessary and the tale is told with clear detail. Upon further study I do believe there is nothing I can see has been left out and furthermore there are no unneccessary additions.

Blue Velvet

Just read the screenplay again to one of my favourite movies, Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986) to spark my excitement of taking this course. Full of  beautiful darkness, thoughtful weirdness and noir-like atmosphere. The script read like a pulp detective story, drenched in sweet strangeness that signifies Lynch’s style. When I first saw this film it ignited such a huge creative episode of my life, so it is suitable to start my first post on this blog with a nod to such a fine example of film artistry.bv03 Continue reading