Final Reflection

The design of this studio may seem strange, but I found it to be a highly rewarding and insightful experience. While we were only required to do two observations a week I chose to write as many as I could. This led to a very fruitful reflection process within my own observations, as I found the more observations I wrote the more I actively observed what occurred around me and noticed the details in what was occurring. I also found it progressively easier to engage on a higher level with these observations, thinking philosophically about what was occurring, until I reached the point of writing entirely meditative observations, which were the basis of my film pitch and my final film.

For me the act of observation itself has provided unique insights into the subtleties of body language and gesture, the act of observing everyday normality and reality allowing us all to uncover hidden truths and character in our world. It has allowed us to decipher a uniquely visual language, the language of film. For me this realisation was pivotal in how I chose to create my film. I wanted to portray reality in its most realistic and simple form in order to subtly convey my argument. This meant grounding my characters and direction in actuality. I told my actors to act as though they were in a situation they had most likely been in at one point in their lives. I told them the specific beats I wanted to occur and then I let ‘reality’ unfold. This then created a strange mix of actuality and fiction, having no real place in either realm.

Our film, the Other is a very rare project. It is a film one can only really ever create when in university, as it is ultimately for ourselves and no one else. I wanted to make this film for my own philosophical and ideological purposes, to explore for myself an idea that intrigues me, and hopefully encourages others to contemplate and explore themselves. I made this film as an exploration of the human condition through our own individual lenses, as well as my own. I wanted to to try to understand and criticise human behaviour and interaction with the world, while also trying to interpret and express my own views, using film to decipher, unpick and create previously unseen connections between highly abstract and philosophical ideas. In a way this is my mind map of how humanity treats, is shaped by and understands what we have come to see as The Other through our very insular, isolated and individual lenses.

Making something that is ultimately for yourself, that you came up with and wrote, can definitely attract different kinds of people to the project; those who are also attracted to the idea and want to collaborate with you, and those who think the idea is easy to make and will get them an easy mark. I was lucky enough to get two people out of three who wanted to work and collaborate with me on the project. Ryan proved to be an indispensable partner who without I would have no music and no fourth moment to complete the project. Chynnae, although shy to begin with, proved herself more than once, and helped by not only acting but also writing the Facebook post. Both Chynnae and Ryan constantly contributed to intellectual discussions about the direction of the project. Sam however was frequently absent and left editing sessions early. I will admit that this could be due to the philosophical nature of the project and my inability to communicate the complex ideas to those working with me. For most of the project, until at least half way, I felt as though we weren’t all on the same page. It could also be due to the constantly shifting nature of the piece and the ideas constructing the bones of the piece, as my own attitudes shifted.

As the piece was experimental and required observational research as opposed to a script, the basis for the film was constantly shifting, creating a strange, unconventional environment that none of us were really prepared for, at least in a group work sense. I will admit that due to its philosophical nature, I did become very insular in my thinking around the ideas.I tried to bounce ideas off of my group members, but I could see they were struggling with it just as much a I was, so I wound up taking charge. I feel as though my own confusion around the ideas may have also caused greater confusion amongst the group, which led me to take further charge of the project as we were unable to communicate effectively about the topic to begin with. Towards the end of the project though, I feel as though we found ourselves on the same page and so were able to communicate much more effectively, as the ideas had become solid for myself and therefore the group. The ideas felt tangible. I feel as though this issue could have been solved if we had’ve had more open discussions around the subject matter, seeing that as an integral element, rather than trying too hard to be like a ‘regular’ short film production where every role, and the boundaries of these roles, is clearly defined. Nothing should have been compartmentalised, everything should have been disussed philosophically, allowing us as a team to fully understand the concepts we were working with.

I think that this film had another issue right from the beginning. There were too many cooks in the kitchen with nothing to do. The project could have, and should have been completed by three people with clearly defined roles who knew how to execute those roles in the context of the piece. With so many people we often had to sacrifice a great deal of time to discussing scheduling, as well as sacrificing the number of people we could have on set so we didn’t fall behind. Due to the nature of the project, filming section by section and building it up like that, hoping that as we go each piece will fit in with the other, we didn’t really get into much detail about the aesthetics of the production, or other possible areas of development, so it became, in the end, more of a three person project, leaving one person with nothing to do or two people sharing the load of one person at any given time.

Despite this, the project was on track for success, at least in the eyes of the production group, from the beginning. This was mainly due to the unconventional way in which we filmed the project. One bit here, another bit there; by spreading the load out over the course of the five weeks, we were able to not only complete the project faster and more effectively, but we could also experiment more with what we had filmed, seeing how it fit into the puzzle and then, designing and writing the other pieces to fit with that piece. It also gave us time to think of what the next move would be and to constantly assess what was needed, to look at the pieces of the puzzle and see where everything might fit, even as my own ideas shifted and adapted with the film.

In the end did my experimental film satisfy its goal of constructing a fluid argument around this thesis statement?

The below thesis statement was used throughout the process to develop and understand the concepts we were working with in the film. While I did write a second thesis statement at one point, I believe that this thesis statement captures the essence of the question we, or at least I, was curious about exploring and interpreting:

Through romanticism, personification occurs. Realising something is better in turn triggers humanity to want that something to be like itself. Romanticism ultimately occurs through observation of the Other. The Other “is dissimilar to and the opposite of the Self, of Us, and yet of the Same” (wikipedia), that is to say that although the Other is not us, it gives the self meaning and reality, while ultimately being perceived through the lens of the self. The Other is only perceived through the lens of the self therefore it can only ever be a version of the self.

So, was I successful, as the writer, director and editor of the project in exploring and conveying what I wanted to through the film? I believe that I was. What is present in the film may not actively be a representation of the above thesis statement, but it is definitely an exploration of it. As I was explaining the meaning of my film to my parents after they had watched it for the first time, I found myself using a very simple idea to explain it; each scene is a different way, a different observation/critique about observing and perceiving the Other, progressing to the audience ultimately becoming the Other. I just hope that the emotional context and the title of the piece at least make the audience contemplate and want to explore and question their own perceptions.

Reflection #15: The Final Piece

For a while now Robin has been pushing us to develop our concept past the original four moments to include a fifth moment, a moment we originally wanted to include but found the hardest to think of and source. We agreed with Robin that the piece felt somehow lacking without an addition, but it was finding the right part that was hardest. Once we’d completed all the other moments we found that our ideas had broadened and then condensed into a clear vision, allowing us to understand precisely what was needed to fill in that gap.

Using found footage, a motif we had developed throughout the piece, Ryan and I crafted a moment around the way people project their own ideals and desires onto others. This entailed finding footage that showed people treating technology or an animal the way they wanted to treat it, the way that suited their own personal agendas and desires as opposed to the way the animal naturally acts and behaves. We found this in the documentary Snowy, Chilly, Motley… and Me: A Personal View of Pets. As the documentary clinically objectifies these animals and treats them as pets, we were able to take that footage and re-purpose it, using harrowing music to emphasise the indoctrinating nature of what is unfolding on screen, to empahsise the way an animals basic behaviours are stripped to be replaced with cuter ones that fulfill our base desires.

Reflection#14: Collaboration at its Best

On Friday and Saturday I decided to help out on the ‘Merlot with Mates’ film shoot. As I was interested with the film from the beginning, I really wanted to see how it would turn out. I was really glad that I had decided to help out, because as usually occurs, you have less time and less people than you need on the day.

I was really impressed with the way everyone worked together on set. If someone needed something, the next instant someone else would have it for them. The whole core group had organised all of their shots and set-ups prior to the shoot so that on the day it almost felt like they were speaking another language.

The film, while being simple in design was surprisingly complex to execute. We used an expanding pole and two c-stands to hang two LED light panels from. This was our sole lighting source for the whole shoot, but it was highly designed and created the right mood and feel immediately. Again, I was glad that I was there, because I was able to help Jenny, the cinematographer, set up the lighting while the production team conversed about the shoot and what needed to be accomplished.

Through working on this shoot I’ve really learnt the value of specific roles, in particular the use of segmenting knowledge to different departments, only communicating what is necessary to get the job done effectively, otherwise you are left with an inefficient ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ situation. While we narrowly avoided that situation on this weekend’s shoot and still managed to be efficient, it is interesting to see how the system and the machine that drives traditional ‘Hollywood’ filmmaking work, and work surprisingly well at that.

Reflection #13: A Thesis Statement Reveals Itself…

Today, after meeting with Robin on Wednesday and explaining my convoluted mind map to at least three different people as I found that this was the only way I was able to explain my visit for the film to people clearly. But was it really clear? You’d have to ask them.

Since I doubt my beautiful mind map was clear at all:


I decided to rewrite my thesis statement. So here it is, my new two paragraph thesis statement as discerned from the above mind map by yours truly:

Observation is denoted by the romanticism and personification of the Other. Observation is an ultimately subjective act, an act that can only be performed in isolation. This isolation inflates our human desires as well as our selfish attitudes, such as narcissism and arrogance, as the isolated observation of the Other leads us to view ourselves as at the centre of the universe, or at least our perceived universe.

The Other  as observed in this piece is animals and technology. Both have been designed for a purpose by humans, technology built, animals bred for their purpose. As we perceive animals and technology as the Other, seperate and yet a part of ourselves, we told our identity and our understanding of ourselves from our relationship to them. Therefore we create both ourselves and the Other due to our influence on animals and technology.