Experiment. Screen. Sensation

RMIT Media Studio 2019

“The Test” dir. Sienna Macalister

A large part of EXPERIMENT.SCREEN.SENSTATION, as the title would suggest, involves experimenting with our work and delving into areas we might not be comfortable in. Over the semester we were exposed to many different filmic mediums – all of which were experimental – which further unearthed possibilities for our final films. It therefore follows that you’d expect a varied body of work, as each of us will take inspiration from different ideas. I hope that my film contributed to this ethos. I am someone who generally likes to stay in the realm of narrative film and have rarely engaged in something without narrative. Therefore, I opted to produce a film without narrative – stripping it right back to a single room with a single action. The short has no plot, and I hoped that it could therefore engage it’s audience on an emotional level, rather than an intellectual one – I wanted them relating to their own experiences rather than a character on screen.

After seeing my project screened on the night, one of the things that I want to further experiment with is to add more dialogue, as well as play with the pacing. The piece was slightly slower at the start, when the Student hadn’t started panicking, but I think that this could be amplified with more dialogue being added and potentially the use of repetition. The begenning would therefore be slightly less catastrophic, and the build would be more gradual to an entirely calamitous ending, which would then contrast the total silence once the Examiner tells her to put her pen down. Initially, I’d avoided using repetition (or saved it for specific moments) as I wanted as many thoughts going into the piece as possible, and didn’t want to limit it to a few particular sentences that might be spoken, but I think that having repetition would also be an accurate representation as to how the human mind works, with memories coming back to haunt them.

I’m also curious to try an entirely different version – in which the questions on the test will be verbally asked (likely in a factual/professor voice) and will possibly be answered. The questions would likely be about the education system, which would make the film take on the tone of an essay film. The only risk I can foresee with this is that the film will become too prescriptive and won’t offer the audience as much opportunity for reflection.

One piece that I found really engaging was Michael Tucci’s film ‘Extraterrestrial French for Beginners’. The moment where he cut from a shot of teeming human life to a colony of bacteria was incredible. It was a brilliant example of the Kuleshov effect, using two unrelated shots to create understanding. This shot had already been screened once in class but was just as effective the second time round. I also found the way that Michael joined segments together to be captivating – the aliens, the food poisoning, the French-dude dancing – all seemed to flow, even if it was clear that they were separate moments in the film. It had characteristics of  an essay film, but unlike some of the ones screened in class, it was more ambiguous, which I think was a really good take on the genre as it gave the audience more to think about, and added layers of texture to their experience.

The other film that I really enjoyed was Nat’s film ‘7 Minutes’. By using found footage of the boy as a child, the film was able to create a deep sense of pathos, giving the character depth. The pictures floating in the water and then sinking (and burning) was really effective… because as this guy drowns, so do his memories.

Just like the first part of the studio is about experimenting, the second important part is screening. There were multiple opportunities to do this throughout the semester, during class where we could screen works-in-progress, but the biggest screening was the end of semester showcase. I think that there was no substitute for the final exhibition, because seeing work as an audience member helps pull yourself away from the logistics of the work and see the bigger picture. For some reason, having a large screen at distance (and, more importantly, not having access to immediately edit what you’re seeing) stops you from analysing the work minutely. So, although the small details can still be noticed, and a clunky transition still has the potential to break the flow of the film and therefore ruin its magic (not that there was an example of it on the night), they weren’t as prominent as they would otherwise have been – instead of watching for fine details and seeing it frame by frame, you’re able to absorb the work as a whole.


jamesthompson • November 12, 2019

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