This semester I allowed myself to explore an aspect of media that particularly interests me, that of action and how intensity can be represented within the frame. The brief itself, which was simply the ‘exploration of different styles of action’, was inspired by a multitude of films, ranging from Hong Kong martial arts cinema to the transition-laden films of British Director Edgar Wright.
My first experiment came directly after watching a particular sequence from Wright’s ‘Shaun of the Dead’. The characters on-screen discuss their plans to combat the zombie apocalypse, going through a number of hypothetical situations, which are all represented through a high-octane montage, complete with crash zooms, whip pans and jump cuts. I attempted to replicate this at home, using an assortment of everyday items (printers, stamps, kettles).
This part of the brief essentially explores how otherwise modest actions can be strung together as an exciting sequence of events. It was in this portion that I first implemented the whip pan, which allows for a switch to another angle without losing momentum. It is also possible to hide an edit with this method.
What was great about this studio was that it taught me a lot about equipment use. Paul held weekly tutorials on specific topics of operation, like white balance, sound, lighting and monitor usage. As these came periodically, it added to my repertoire, and my skill-set and technique improved with the weekly shoots I did.
I started bringing in monitor usage in my second series of shots, for which I invited my friend to act in a ‘studying’ montage. Had I not been exposed to the monitor in an earlier studio, I would have neglected this fantastic tool. It helps, especially with close ups, the filmmaker to clearly envision the shot as it would appear on a widescreen. This especially helped in making the match cut, pointing out details that needed to be changed to reflect the passing of time. In addition to this, it is a good reminder to focus and frame properly and constantly – sometimes, the view finder is too small and finicky to notice that much of a difference.
I feel that this second series of shots encapsulated the power of transitions to enhance the pace of the narrative. Expository voice-overs are one way to tell a story, but how about a dialogue-free, visually driven series of clips? It was this visual dynamic I wanted to explore, thus expanding my brief to not only incorporate on screen action, but also the power of editing and post-production, in order to stream a rapid sequence of events. Here, I made full use of the match-cut, signifying the passing of time through a routine action. The action, or driving force behind the narrative, is hidden under implication.
There was difficulty in organising the final part of my project, which is why shooting did not take place until week 12, but as it was scripted and storyboarded beforehand, the production process went off without a hitch. I had always, from the beginning of the semester, wanted to script a fight scene reminiscent of classic martial arts films. The planning process, however, had me reconsider the nature of how these sequences were shot: to showcase the prowess of the actors, as opposed to the implementation of camera tricks, transitions and techniques to display a brawl. Hence, I switched my focus away from the East, and investigated films like the Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass), and At World’s End (Edgar Wright) to emulate the jumpy, realistic nature of these sequences. Ultimatum proved to be a huge source of inspiration for this particular brawl, and certain chaotic elements, like the shaky cam edit I placed into many of the running segments.
The clip below is indeed a final cut that ties my three different shoots together into one product somewhat resembling a narrative. This was my intention from the beginning, as I feel that action requires direction and purpose to be effective – it works hand in hand with a story, so to speak.
This leads me to the latter half of the project brief, which is exploring mayhem under the context of action. The fight and subsequent chase sequence was all about orchestrating visual chaos into a comprehensible form, and I feel the final edit captures this well, with the mixture of angles allowing for some sort of captivating visual diversity.
It falls down to the power and ferocity of a sequence of videos to drive a punchy narrative. Like Paul says, every edit has to be exciting in some way, so in a brief like this, why not amplify the edits which techniques that take the viewer by surprise? Ultimately, action is used to entertain, to excite, to offer a sense of adventure to the viewer, and this studio has allowed me to concisely research the makings, the planning and the effort needed to construct a chaotic fight scene. It also, has to appropriately involve the characters involved, and should aim to incorporate aspects of personality and meaning to forward the bigger part of the narrative.
I have grasped (slightly) the sheer utility behind editing software’s ability to inject additional meaning and pace to scenes that would otherwise be mundane.
Ways of Making blended the freedom to explore our own brief and prompt whilst also introducing us to the necessary skills and equipment that could be used to enhance our skill as content producers. I was able to develop my ability and confidence comfortably, and work towards a goal I myself had interest in.
FN: This is quite meta, but here is a quick mashup of all the work I’ve done this semester. An action-oriented montage with footage of action to showcase research on ACTION? Priceless.
Justin Luh, Ways of Making, 2016