Final Project: “Der Schmerz”

Der Schmerz

This project is an amalgamation of introductory static movement and short film direction. Formatted like an old silent film, this short film investigates the direction of movement, characters as occupants of space, and the camera’s intimate approach to an abstract narrative.

Der Schmerz (meaning Grief), is a short film submission for my final project for my studio course, Ways of Making. My intention for this short is to explore the notion of static movement (i.e. cinemagraphs) and how its principles could be used to alter the outcome of a film shot in live-action. Beginning this project, my intention for this collaboration can be seen in this Alexandre Desplat-motivated 30 second sample I made here:

During the “initiative” stages of the studio, Paul invited us to investigate various approaches to filming scenes so we may have a first-hand feel of what grips us in a creative choke we do not want to be let go of.


Nevertheless, the direction of movement is choreographed by the director in regards to the mise-en-scène. 

Direction of movement and characters as occupants of space.
There are minimal movements throughout the film as I was more interested in how the actors would occupy the space around them as opposed to what they occupy. My DOP must have harboured such ill-feelings for me because I was incredibly picky when it came to production day. I constantly moved the camera and thus, him, to perfectly capture that shot.Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.31.13 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.21.04 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.21.40 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.23.01 PM

I was interested in “tight” mid to close-up shots with as minimal use of negative space as possible. Negative space is as unnatural-looking as it is clunky and uncool. Ultimately, it looks quite the unprofessional.

Take a look at the difference between the first take and the last take of this scene:

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First take, the character of the wise old lady looks adrift from the frame as if she was superimposed over the shot of the character of the young man. Reflecting back on our class exercises, I find this to be my arch-nemesis. I always seem to find an excuse to capture “as much” as I can in a frame and in doing so, the supposed focus on a particular element on screen (i.e. a character) is lost. Of course, the use of a wide-shot is very commonly used in films, but their purpose is to establish and to convey a broader sense of space and place.

Por ejemplo:Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.26.17 PM

Intimate approach to abstract narrative.
I purposely made the narrative of this short abstract as to not take away from the visuals. In the beginning, I thought that this ambitious thinking would yield outstanding visual results. To my dismay, I had not thought it through enough. I quote myself,

Miyazaki builds upon the innate ability of humans to sense movement and draws his viewers through this and the explicitness of it, thus making for a profound play on the senses.

Ultimately, I did not weigh in the repetitive value of a cinemagraph as opposed to the one-directional movement of a live action shot. Cinemagraphs are essentially, living images. It gives the viewers the illusion of watching a video (or a photograph) when in fact, they are watching a combination of both.

You see, cinemagraphs cannot be transitional unless I slow their speed/duration down to match the rest of the sequence’s pace. In doing so, however, would mean a distortion of the cinemagraph’s purpose of movement and will take away from its lifelike quality. A conundrum? A conundrum. This is why the only cinemagraph you see in the first cut of this film is at the very beginning. It established the reason as to why the young man was crying and grieving and established the backstory of his conversation with the old woman towards the end of the film. And unfortunately, that’s its one and only use.

At the editing suite.
I found myself dozing at half past twelve with bowls of honey oatmeal lying around my table and a dream sequence of my ambulating to receive my Academy Award. 

Three words: They are your best mates, never take them for granted.

I originally didn’t plan the film to be formatted like an old silent film but after finding an old found-footage documentary on Poland and analysing the bottled-up tears for my bleak attempt at colour grading that yielded zilch, I yelled eureka! I mean, why not format it into a silent film after all? It’s dusty, it’s grainy, it’s noisy and pitched at the highest quality of low. What better way to set a film in WWII by being attractively 1930’s? Below:

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Final Outcome.

What will the outcome be? Will the transition be too jarring? Or will it punctuate the emotional resonance I am trying to achieve in this scene? And if it turns out incongruous and incompatible, could the application of 2D animated static-movement techniques (i.e. Studio Ghibli films) help even this out?

Above is the question I posed in regards to the the transitional use of static movement. In the film, I used the cross-dissolve effect for the “transition to be too jarring” problem. Did the cinemagraph punctuate the emotional resonance I was trying to achieve in the scene? I believe it did, and I deliberately made the length of the cinemagraph scene longer because of such.

I want to focus now on the “application of 2D animated static-movement techniques (i.e. Studio Ghibli films)” to help to even out the incompatibility of cinemagraphs and live-action. Because I want to continue the project further down the track, my next investigation is the use of lighting/colour and continuity.

  • Lighting/colour

For my next attempt, I will “mute out” the “still” parts of the video and add more vibrancy to the moving elements of the image like above.

  • Continuity:  Cinemagraph (repeating) CUT TO live-action shot of the footage before it was turned into a cinemagraph.
    This particular edit, I think, would work well in regards to transition.

Final thoughts.
Ways of Making met my expectations and more. What I enjoyed and appreciated the most was the creative freedom we had to investigate and eventually make a film/sequence/media that we were most interested in. The practical exercises helped in my understanding of the use of cameras and capitalising their attributes and functions to best suit our needs and at the same time, leaving enough room for exploration and investigation.

I enjoyed working with a talented bunch of kiddos who I know will do so well in their own careers as media-makers and I am now even more equipped to use this visual medium to write, produce and direct as much as I possibly can.

Initiative post: inspiration and the study of Static Movement

On my previous blog posts, I have listed a number of directorial inspirations who all shape my creative endeavour in the industry. I focused on Studio Ghibli’s master filmmaker Hayao Miayazaki for a number of reasons that are all encompassed under simplicity and the essence of the human condition. I would like to point out one of the main reasons as to why I think the 2D animation of Studio Ghibli (complemented superbly by a powerful and evoking story), encapsulates this simplicity and essence in an almost indecipherable way to those who are entranced by them:

Static Movement.

You may think that this is a contradiction, but I’ll give you a few scrolls down to see for yourself the very meaning of this phrase.






I inundated myself with titles upon titles from Studio Ghibli and of the same type of animated feature films as an investigative initiative, propelling myself to come down to a conclusion as to why animated feature films really does “soothe the spirit” and envelop you in its fictional reality better than some fictional realities of non-animated feature films.

I found Julien Douvier‘s cinemagraphs, a combination of cinema and photography (black and white photos above), as the answer to the enigma of static movement. Miyazaki doesn’t just choose a certain character (mostly the protagonist) in his films to show movement and action, but he complements this with one another feature in the scene that moves before he completely makes everything else static so the viewers are attuned to only what moves. Miyazaki builds upon the innate ability of humans to sense movement and draws his viewers through this and the explicitness of it, thus making for a profound play on the senses.

Example: the everyday and the mundane


Miyazaki juxtaposes the idiosyncrasies of fantasy and realism in an understated energy that flows though the powerful tool of scene selections. The sounds of the scratching of pen on paper, the scene of the protagonist turning a prawn tempura cooking on oil (above), or even a character simply breathing. In previous studies of films and even in writing books and novels, most discourage the inclusion of the everyday, the mundane or the innate (the human elements that we take for granted i.e. breathing) for it does not egg the story on.

But that is the power behind these films: the marriage of static movement and the inclusion of the mundane. Instead of jarring the viewers, they are instead given a different form of entry into the world of the characters that you are following on screen, you are given entry to not just what matters to the advancement of the story, but to them as characters whether they be a child or an adult, a slippery monster or a gigantic frog.



I did my internship with a great team, super talented, incredibly professional and who knew the ins and outs the film life very well. I admired the director because she knew exactly what kind of shot she wanted and what lens to use specifically in each shot and when the cinematographer would ask if this length is good, she would sometimes agree and sometimes she would suggest a different length instead and I know for sure that to learn this is very very supercalifragilisticexpialidocious- important.

These above gifs make it seem really simple and easy but how does one actually do it? Please, someone actually explain this to me because I will be extremely grateful. And depth of field, I am still very much at a loss as to how to calculate this and how to actually do this using a cameras but I WILL KNOW by the end of this class and don’t you forget it!



Under this context, I venture off in this class particularly, to study the elements of cinemagraph (how exactly to do this using a video camera) and static movement, and to play around with characters and actions and cinematography that would yield results similar to above: an experience of the human condition and the simplicity of realism and fantasy at the same time.

I am also very much interested in learning the the basic technicalities of types of lenses and depth of field to be able to further experiment and successfully make happen combination of cinemagraph and static movement for my final project.


Final Project Inspiration:

For my final project, I have decided to research, build upon and produce a project that is focused on static movement. This could be a non-animated short that feels like and is shot using the principles of static movement and cinemagraph. More on this very soon!

Exercises on Capture and Edit: Abstract Image

Abstract Sound & Vision Exercise

During the Abstract exercises, I conclude that my strength is filming intimate, subject-driven shots and that my weakness…is the very same thing. Whilst editing the footage we captured, I was struck-dumb in three things things, mostly: one, we did not have enough shots to work with, two, it may/may definitely have been a hot day and my brain was a fried, burnt egg, and three, I could not think of a story that will put two and two together to create even a something. I do not have the edited footage right now but I will update once I’ve got them compressed and exported, but I hit a stump staring at our footage we captured. I tried to add some effects like slow-motion and some form of colour distortion to make the video appear bizarre and poetic (yeah, right). That made me feel worse.

I reflect on the fact that natural-occurring sounds in this exercise is the bane of my existence BUT, I could work around this by removing the sounds and adding a music track instead because abstract videos are often not dictated by a narrative and I need to embed that in the back, front and sides of my head. Sound has a profound power that can give meaning to what seems to be inconceivable. 

After having a quick chat with our Jedi Master Paul and further explaining to him what I want to get out of the course, he motions me to focus instead on the other exercise (whose name escapes me) that focuses on shots, framing and composition. However, with abstract image, I am still determined to overcome this particular creative bane of mine and experiment on what sounds and music could do. It would help particularly since I am also learning much about documentary studies and the incredibly contradicting cinema verité and how this form of documentary is motivated by the all-seeing behind-the-scenes eye of the filmmaker.

How does the filmmaker do it? How did D.A. Pennebaker collapse the footages in “Don’t Look Back (1967) because I, personally did not enjoy the abstract ride he put me through mostly because I felt that nothing was going on and nothing was motivated to push the theme forward. If there even was a theme?

Initiative: the practice of simplicity and the essence of the human condition in film

Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki by dono 2015

When I came across my first Hayao Miyazaki film (Spirited Away) three, four years ago, I finally opened the magical door to a world of film in its most simplistic and also in its most grandeur…simultaneously. The stories are etched in a man who, like everyone else, had been a child once, and has discovered the mystical pulling powers of one’s imagination at play. I loved his films for their presence. There is a realism there that is deeper than showing someone suffering from a sort of emotional turmoil or play. His films are like watching a piece of art come alive.

Ways of Making aims to help us budding filmmakers find a way to actually make a film that is a combination of our “creative vision” and our “respect for the subject matter as an active agent shaping the final form” and I am enthused by the idea that I can make a Miyazaki film, or at least, draw from the essence of his films into my own creative works and directorial vision…something I want to accomplish as a director, writer and producer.

In this particular post, I would like to highlight my inspiration of capturing in my future films what is known as the essence of humanity: that even through a non-animated film, one can create a fictional world that could also “soothe the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality”. I know it sounds a little contradictory when you think about it but I think the truth very much lies in what story you are telling and how you are telling it.

I allude to my previous post in regards to my admired directors. I mentioned Peter Jackson for his foray into the genre of fantasy and action and adaptation and creating The Lord of the Rings which is now at the heart of every movie-goer and those swimming in pop culture waters. Though Jackson created a world that Tolkien had already envisioned and blue-printed, Jackson (and his team, of course) chose the characters, inhabited the settings, rode the horses, and sharpened the long swords.

Miyazaki drew his inspirations from his childhood imaginations, and also some books, or graffiti maybe, or a stall at a busy night market and like clay, formed them in an image of his creative vision.

This is the kind of storytelling I want to produce, an exploration of the human condition through humans themselves, perhaps, and a conglomeration of both animation and realism.

A lot to think about but I so very much ready to make this happen.

Ways of Making – a media 6 studio

Ways of Making – an alternative approach to the production of film

Okay but listen….

“A film project invariably requires a commitment to a particular from and its methods of production.

But does this limit the film’s expressive potential?”

This speaks volumes to me. As someone who is inspired by a conglomeration of filmic productions morphed into my own signature, to be able to do a studio where I am able to explore and experiment and therefore create films that is no confined by the traditional methods of production (it’s a concern and I am grateful for inspirationally-iconoclast directors out there), it really makes one want to break through the status quo in a Mad Max Fury road.

Imagine I was naming some directors I admire from the top of my head.

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And I would also like to add Alejandro González Iñárritu in there somewhere for complete and total destruction of the word ridiculous, and this list is continuously growing, of course. There are just so many. But I love the above.

Do you think I can do a combination of all of them and call it my own?

In this class, I believe I surely can.

Let’s go, team!



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