Helena Ruse

This semester in my studio Ways of Making I have chosen to focus on the creation of 4 individual scenes that all revolve around the action and usage of a mobile phone. I chose to investigate the ways in which I could capture this in interesting and captivating way, while also creating an aesthetically beautiful scene in terms of its framing, production design, costuming etc. A big part of my investigation also focused on location, and how a character and their location are related and intertwined. I wanted character and location to feed off each other and almost become the one entity, as if a character feels comfortable and suits the environment they are within. My process began by sourcing actors that could produce natural and convincing performances, through little movement and little physical prompts. They would be on their phone in each scene, acting alone and needed the ability to be themselves completely in each scene, not being too self aware or embarrassed by what they were doing. I decided that I wanted little dialogue in each scene, but the actor to improvise and do whatever felt natural to them.

To me location was so important and I needed to source appropriate and visually stimulating places that each had something different about them. I found 4 very different locations; The Hammer Hall balcony, a bathroom, an empty house and the interior of a car. These 4 locations served as a starting point in my investigation, learning how I could light them using natural light as well as the phone light reflecting onto my actors faces. This was important in terms of keeping the natural reality of a scene, for me this was one of the most important elements I wanted to focus on.

Throughout each week in the second half of the semester I would conduct test shoots for each scene. I experimented in these locations with lighting, trying to capture a scene usually in night time lighting as I found this more visually interesting. These test shoots led me the creation of 4 final scenes. A female actress featured in 2 scenes and a male in the other 2. I discovered through these test shoots that it was important to focus on dialogue, not heavy dialogue but lighting talking to keep a viewer invested and involved in the scene. In my scenes the character is usually involved in a brief phone conversation, giving context to what is happening and creating something a little more interesting. Music and ambient sounds were also important in creating something deeper and more complex in each scene.

I graded all the scenes in a greyscale/black and white colour. I felt this balanced out all my shots, drawing the eye to no particular place but taking in the scene as a whole, again bringing together the character and their location as one entity. It also gave a cohesiveness to these 4 very separate scenes.

The process of producing these final scenes was more difficult than I had initially thought. Producing scenes within a time constraint meant that organising times and equipment had to be done very particularly, which I didn’t do and at times my work suffered from this. I would have really liked to film the car scene again, as well as the Hammer Hall scene to perfect the lighting issues that I faced. Having said this, I really enjoy the end product of all of my scenes and am proud of what I have learnt. I found that sound was an element I wish I had focused on more as some of the most interesting elements of the scenes comes from the sounds that tie each shot together. I am really happy with the aesthetics of all of my scenes, the amount of time that I used focusing on each frame and what was in each frame really paid off. I was particularly proud of the car scene and how each shot is so interesting and detailed. The night lighting and was really complimentary to the scene and created an aesthetic that I hadn’t planned, but really liked. However I was disappointed by the lagging that was created through a careless mistake I made when shooting, something I’ll never do again!

I think that this studio has developed my technical skills as well as my directorial skills. The work that I have been doing can be developed even further past this semester in a hope that it could be included within a short film or the creation of a short film. I really enjoyed the studios aims and structure, in the way that encouraged us to make as much as possible in an effort to learn through that making. The hands on nature of the studio is reflected through my work and the progression of my test shoots to final shoots. This semester has been a real learning curve in the progression of my technical skills and I’ve really enjoyed the nature of the studio and our great tutor Paul. Thanks Paul!

Helena Ruse, Ways of Making, 2016.

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