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‘The Scene’, Semester 1, Media 3

It was the first class of the semester when Paul gave us a camera and a script and said film one shot to cover this. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of such a fulfilling journey that has lead me to discovery the art of filmmaking. I realised in this class how interesting it was to see how differently or similar a text/script was perceived and interpreted. Just from attending the first week of ‘The Scene’ I took away points that have stayed with me throughout this journey, those being, the individual style of the director impacts a film significantly; this course is about individual research and practice; we all have to work with constraints, and this is where the creativity can come from; and a coverage of a scene is cinematic and the way it it made has its own meaning.

A huge part of my journey in The Scene is learning by practice. Exploring this has been an exciting, educational and fulfilling experience both personally and professionally, that has influenced my future filmmaking. I was intrigued to see how learning by practice would help in finding my own Method of Working, and from doing this I found out what I was good and bad at, but most importantly what inspired me to continue. The majority of this semester was about experimenting, so that you could reflect upon this, research, think, and then create something better. It was a process that you would do weekly, by falling down to the bottom and climbing your way back to the top. This was how I formed the basis of my method of working, which lead me on a specific path of scene coverage. Before I came to the making stage, I came across a quote by David Bordwell that inspired my creative process. ‘I, a machine, am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see’. My interpretation is that the director has the power to determine the story and expectations for the audience to follow. I have the power to show people what I want them to see, and I have started doing this through the investigations of external composition.

Before getting to the stage of knowing what my method of working was, I went through a research stage and blogged about every step that I took. It was all about reflecting on your work and researching others’ work and film methodologies. Reflection involves the notion of thinking and learning, as we reflect in order to learn, and therefore we are learning from reflecting. We go through a mental reflection. It is a process with a chosen medium, where we shape and model the content of our reflection into reflective writing.

I started with the thought that filmmaking is a higher order of thinking. You have to think at a higher level to cover a scene successfully and have the greatest impact. From the first couple of scenes that were shot, I started to head down the path of framing, which opened the door to the backbone of filmmaking. I went through stages of decoupage, Mise-en-scene, and montage, then narrowing down my search to something more confined. Framing is carefully considered by the filmmaker to create powerful cinematographic techniques, and allows the director to create a dynamic composition that engages the audience, highlighting the most important features. It defines both onscreen and offscreen space, that creates a vantage point that will create a specific distance, height and angle. The framing will change, depending on what is being filmed.

After filming scene after scene I wanted to focus on something more particular, something that intrigued me. This is when I came across the idea of external composition. It is a form of compositional relationships that is the momentary relationship between one shot and the next. It is commonly used when a character walks out of one shot and walks into the next shot in the same place. To understand this more I researched continuity and the 180 degree rule. This helped me with my investigations, as I wanted to see what was the most successful in scene coverage.

As I went further into the semester I started filming scenes that I had chosen and that I was directing. This was the best way to put my investigations into action, and see it all come to life. This was met with many successes and failures, however that is the beauty of experimenting. When I came to filming scenes in the weeks leading up to the end of the semester, and when I knew exactly what I wanted to investigate, I directed scenes that I did in class, however this time through my own interpretation. To do well in these I had to understand that planning is one of the key elements towards making something successful. I am someone who works better when I know everything that will be happening, and what everyone will be doing. When I directed my scenes I preferred planning on paper, writing everything down; and then planning with the camera. This allows everyone involved with the production to know what they are doing, when they are doing it, and how they are doing it. I conducted a substantial amount of pre-planning before my final shoots.

Through learning by practice, I have learnt what it takes to be a small portion of a filmmaker. The way you have to think, reflect, and learn as the process advances. Personally, the most beneficial part to this semester was all if it, as I started at the bottom, and although I might be a long way from the top, I have confidence in what I have achieved as a director for those scenes. The thinking, reflecting and creating processes that were done throughout the semester helped with that. You don’t just film something because it looks nice, you film it because it is the best way to cover that individual shot, and will compliment the scene dynamic.

Method of Working (Part 34)

34. Screena

For the presentation that is nearing at the end of semester we have to create a 40 clip that shows the work that we have done. Included in this clip is the screen, which is around 30 words with a summary or a definition or a quote from the semester to explain our video. Mine is:

External Composition: A form of compositional relationships is the momentary relationship between one shot and the next. This is hidden within a scene because the audience is unaware of how much the transition between one shot and the next influences our judgments and expectations.

(Video to come)

Method of Working (Part 33)

Simone’s Voice Record Session:

After filming my scene, Simone, another class member, decided to record three of us speaking about our investigations and what our thoughts are with some aspects of filmmaking. This recording is a casual conversation that was taken over a lunch break.

This was a great way to see where we were all up to in our Method of Working, and to see everyone’s views on filmmaking and Uni.

Method of Working (Part 32)

What I learnt from this shoot:

What I have learnt from this final shoot would be that planning is crucial to all stages of filming; continuity has to be correct otherwise editing doesn’t work; sometimes creating spontaneous shots can work well for the overall scene; filming too much is better than not enough; and that working with the locations means for a greater outcome.

Overall this shoot has been a great learning experience both personally and professionally, as I have surprised myself in what I can achieve, and also how I handled the overall shoot with the actors from ‘StarNow’ and filming crew. Using actors was something that I have never done, and getting them for this shoot means that I know the process for future shoots as well.

This whole semester has been little steps, and I still think this shoot was a step, but a bigger one. I will always be stepping up to reach the top, but this was one of the most challenging steps I have done, but I am a better filmmaking because of it.

Method of Working (Part 31)

 Deconstruction and Refection of ‘Carpark Scene Final’

Overall, the final scene that I shot had a positive outcome. Everything worked out well, and it all went to plan with the help of my three classmates and two actors from ‘StarNow’. I filmed some shots that weren’t in my initial planning, however some of these were the ones that worked the best for scene coverage. To reflect upon this process I have broken this experience down into three sections, these being pre-production, production, and post-production stages.

PRE-PRODUCTION: This was the stage that I thought was the most important as it was the time to organise and plan everything that was going to happen throughout the shoot. I wanted everything to run smoothly and go according to plan, so when I got to the post-production stage there were no mistakes that could be fixed with better planning. For this stage I sourced three actors from StarNow, two made it on the day of filming; and I got three of my classmates to act, be sound operator and be camera operator. I was worried coming into this project that I would have no one to help me, but it all worked out in the end. It was the first time for me, organising my own shoot, but overall it was a great experience.

PRODUCTION: The production stage within this process was challenging in ways, but it worked in my favour. Arriving at the location I went to where I planned to shoot and there was no light, so I walked one more level up the carpark and found that it had more natural light that worked with the solid objects within the carpark, creating strong shadows and lines. I wanted this as the filming location, because my previous shoots have been dull. Maree was camera operator, so she filmed the entire scene; Mia was sound operator; and Simone, Rebecca and Jean-Beau were actors. Throughout the filming process there were multiple takes on each shot, as someone would move to the wrong position or say the wrong lines. Once all of these elements were right, there was a successful shot that came from it. The production stage went for just over two hours from the time we set up, to the time we packed up. This gave me enough time to film the scene that I planned, while adding a couple more that were spontaneous. Within this time I also recored wild lines for the audio when the actors say their lines in case it was unclear. In this stage everything went smoothly but we had to alter a few shots because of the sun; this made the frames over exposed. This was one of the problems of the day, working with natural sunlight. You film one shot and its sunny, and the next shot would be dark as the sun goes behind the clouds. Everything was shot in chronological order, so I knew what the shots were and how it would look in post-production.

POST-PRODUCTION: Due to the in depth pre-production and production stages, going into the editing stages proved to be easier than all of the rest. Maybe it is because I feel more passionate about this shoot, or that it is because everything was checked twice in production that there was little to no continuity issues and no other outstanding problems that I had to deal with. The only minor ones that I came across was that the boom pole was visible at the very bottom or the very top of some shots, which meant I had to crop the frame. This meant that I lost some of the framing that I wanted to include, however an audience would not be able to notice this. I started with an assemblage of all my shots to get the correct order, and followed this with a rough cut. This was were I started cutting the shots down to were I wanted them to start and finish. Because I filmed more scenes that I planned for, I had the luxury of choosing the best ones that worked for a successful scene coverage. After I had all of the cut shots in place I worked on the finer details of editing, this being colouring, sound and continuity; allowing the scene to flow on from shot to shot.

Method of Working (Part 30)

Analysis of ‘Carpark Scene Final’:

‘Carpark Scene Final’ begins with a wide shot of a carpark which explains to the audience where this shoot is located. Three characters then walk into the left of frame from behind the camera and the keep walking up the dotted line on the ground. This helps with the symmetrical aspect of the scene, continuity, and working with the strong lines that the carpark has to offer. The camera then cuts to in front of them, and shows the characters still walking; this way the audience can now see who they are and what is behind them. Due to the solid shapes and the time of day, this shot has strong shadows which the characters work with through their movements, which is motif throughout the entire scene. As the male character answers his phone he drops away from the two female characters, and follows the angle of the shadows. This shot has the three characters in the right of frame, which means that something is going to happen in the left of frame. As the male drops into the left of frame it fulfils the audience’s expectations, and makes the shot symmetrical. As he answers the phone the camera cuts in to a MCU, tracking his movements as he walks. The first two shots were still shots, so by having this scene with camera movement, allows it to be a more interactive scene. When the male stops walking the camera puts him to the left of screen because of external composition. This is because when he is on the phone he looks up towards the girls who are in the right of frame, however in the offscreen space. The scene then cuts to the girls walking ahead, where they then turn to face each other. This is a medium shot so that their emotions and lines delivered are what is in focus. During this conversation it demonstrates external composition. It begins with a two shot then cuts to a CU of one character replying. This character is in the right of frame looking left. The audience suspects that she is replying to the first girl, and to identity this, the camera cuts to an over the shoulder shot of one character focusing in on the other. This format for the conversation makes the audience focus on each girl separately, allowing the audience to comprehend their emotions and facial expressions. From this conversation the scene cuts to a wide shot of all three characters, where the two girls are in the foreground of the frame, while the male is on the background to begin with. This suggests to the audience that they need to concentrate on the two girls as they deliver their lines. Throughout this section, the shots cut back and forth of being single shots, and in an external composition format. As one of the girls finishes her final line the male walks past them and the camera follows this movement with a MS. As he hangs up the phone he speaks to the girls in an external composition format, with a reply from one girl in a MS. The character who replies first walks out of the frame in the direction of the male, then followed by the second girl. This shot is similar as the first one, as they walk into frame, and then they walk out of it. Leaving the frame focused on the carpark at the end of this scene, allows the audience to reflect upon what they just saw, and to understand what happened and why.

Found Scene (Week 13)

This scene from ‘Manhattan’ directed by Woody Allen in 1979 begins with a CU shot of the name ‘Elaine’s’, with lights and movement in the background behind the window; suggesting to the audience in the first shot that it will be in a restaurant, as it is also in the evening. It cuts into a wide shot taken from the back of the restaurant showing a group of people at a table; this being the establishing shot. The scene is an example of external composition throughout the rest of the scene, where the group of people at the table are having a conversation. It starts with a CU of character 1 in the right of frame looking left, then cuts to character 2 in the left of frame looking right, suggesting that he is talking to her. However towards the end of the shot, character 2 looks to her side when a new voice is introduced. A CU of character 3 is the next shot, positioned in the right of frame looking both left and right. A CU of character 4 is the next shot, positioned in the right of frame looking right; then character 2 comes back, still in the left of frame. This is one way to see how external composition works with more than two people at one time, and just in case the audience gets confused if they are all talking to one another, the camera cuts out to a wide shot showing the four characters. The next shots show the characters with the camera angles changing depending on who is speaking, and who the audience needs to focus on. As one character leaves the table the conversation becomes secretive, so the camera cuts back to a CU shot whilst demonstrating external composition. This means that the audience can focus on the character’s facial expressions and body movements, which build their overall persona. As character 4 comes back to the table, the camera cuts to a wide shot with all characters visible.

Epiphany (Week 12)

In week 12 there was no classes just a one on one consultation with our tutor Paul. This week I started reflecting about the semester, how far I have come and what I have achieved. It got me thinking back to where it all started and how I came to investigating external composition. This week I mainly reflected and focused on my final carpark shoot that I filmed last weekend. I am into the editing stage of this, and so far it is all working out; however the sound is what is challenging me, because each shot has a different level of sound, so I will need to edit this for the best outcome I am aiming for. The visuals have worked out well, and this is the first time this semester that continuity is not a main issue, which means that the editing stage won’t be as hard. Something that I never considered was putting music and sound effects throughout the scene, and it is something Paul suggested to me. He said that it could make the scene more impactful. This is something that I will be looking to investigate.I will also be putting a voice over of the guy on the phone over the shots leading up to him hanging up, to make the scene seem more realistic.

Found Scene (Week 12)

This scene from ‘L’Avventura’ directed by Michelangelo Antonioni in 1960 begins with a CU of a woman’s face sleeping. She is the focal point of the frame which means the director wants to focus on just her and her body movements and facial expressions. Because the camera is focused on the woman, the audience creates expectations that something is going to happen with her, and she is the main character of the scene/film. She opens her eyes and starts looking around because you can hear strong winds in the background. Due to the woman taking up all of the frame, the audience is intrigued as to where she is. As noted in the past, Antonioni has the camera following the actor’s movements. As the woman turns her head the camera shows more of her surroundings, and then when she sits up the camera tracks her movements, revealing a man sitting in the room. He is like a statue, not moving, even when the woman starts walking around. Having the audience now seeing the back of the woman and the face of the man, makes us focus on him, especially because he has a light projected onto him. The only character moving is the woman, suggesting that the audience should still be concentrating on her. The camera is still when she is moving because her body movements are being emphasised. The woman gets up and walks out of the frame, so the focus is now on the man, although he destroys any expectations that the audience has on him about moving. Another main feature to Antonioni’s films is that when the actor walks out of frame, he cuts to them walking into the next shot. This is exactly what he has done in this scene. The audience can now see a door that the woman is walking towards, and it is finally going to reveal where she is. This shot is a MS with the woman left of frame, and the doors right of frame. This allows the audience to focus on the opening of the door. When the doors are open it acts as a manmade frame, almost like its representing a picture frame. The actor stands to the left so that the audience can see the ocean and the sun to the right of frame. The reason why Antonioni has the woman with her back to the camera is because there is an emphasis put on the location, as the entire scene has been building up to this. The scene ends with the woman walking out of frame and the camera still focusing on the landscape; perhaps this is done for continuity and time passing purposes in the editing stage.

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