Perhaps one of the biggest debates in the current media landscape in Australia is the decline in TV and prominence of online streaming (AKA Foxtel & Netflix). Even though Netflix was only introduced to Australia earlier in the year, its success with the Australian bingewatchers have skyrocketed. This was something the team felt we needed to address in our series pitch.
The series as a product can attract a wide range of audience, from teenagers to potentially the Baby Boomer generation. Coupled with a variety of different genres and Melbourne as the backdrop of the series, Absentia would be a series that would satisfy a majority of varied age brackets and classes of society. Essentially, with its non-linearity, Absentia is a binge series that would be suitable to a medium such as Netflix. The ability for consumers to watch as many episodes as they want in any order possible was crucial to our initial series conception, that people wish to watch a series wherever and whenever they like. If set against a realistic pitch, however, we didn’t want to potentially lose an older audience that may not have access to such medium.
So the team decided to indulge this in our pitch. We created two greatly varying opening sequences fit for TV and online streaming – one that was shorter and more dynamic, the other lengthier and detailed. Whereas our most polished opening sequence, set against a sprightly musical score, appeals to a younger audience with a shorter attention span, our experimental (and I confess more boring) alternative predicts visual settings of future episodes, akin to the Wachowskis’ Sense8 series.
Screening these at yesterday’s presentation, it was amusing to see that our classmates, as prototype to a younger audience, were more intrigued by the potency of the opening sequence for Netflix. A noted drop of interest occurred when the alternative (and longer) sequence was displayed, which goes to show that even though the latter had more substance, shorter attention spans must always be taken into consideration.
With Absentia being an anthology of episodes varying in genre, it was essential that we create an opening sequence that was both visually appealing, yet does not adhere strictly to a specific style.
Here is the unaltered screen grab of the opening sequence’s first shot:
As per Paul’s instructions, I began to play around with the colour grading techniques on Adobe Premiere. From the Video Effects tab of the Effects window, I used Three Way Colour Corrector to achieve the following effects:
Melbourne in summer. The melancholic motif consistent with the episodes are magnified by the intensity of a hot Melbourne
Playing around with colours to portray summer. How does our eyes see clear skies and a brilliant sunlight? Do skies tend to be more blue?
Perhaps Melbourne in the afternoon is more effective symbolically, as Hitch’s life ends?
The group will continue editing the footage and the final sequence will be uploaded on this blog.
In conjunction with the subject of Filming for Writing, Writing for Filming, the group sought to utilise filming as a method of expanding the depth of our characters. As part of our screenwriting process, we shot some of the scenes we had written not for release, but rather to see how our words would be translated on the screen. For myself in particular, a lot of the scenes I write tend to have long periods of silence and awkward interaction between the characters. I favour portrayal of an underlying dilemma through the actors’ movement and facial expression, rather than confrontative dialogue.
This is evident when we shot one of my character episode’s opening scenes. The scene, directed by Julian, was set as a car ride with Thanassis and his son, Manuel, after having just picked up his father from the airport. The silence in this scene is supposed to forewarn a secret between father and son, that would be revealed later in the episode and cause drama amongst the characters – the revelation of Manuel’s homosexuality.
It was disappointing to see how slow the story turned out in this scene. Perhaps it is the lack of visuals in combination with our amateur acting, but I don’t think I was successful in portraying Manuel’s yearning to confess to his father, through the script. Lacking in feedback for my scriptwriting, it is evident that I must continue practicing the subtlety of tension building, keeping the dialogue to a minimum while providing action for the actors to portray the drama effectively.
The only thing I could think of changing as a director (in place of Julian), is to utilise more shots that would maintain the beat of the scene, capturing each of the characters’ minute movement as clues to the coming drama.