Independent Exercise #1 Reflection

The intention behind this exercise was to capture a scene developed from a script out of context. Originally, I had storyboarded these scene for a different room in the house I was using for the shoot, however, recent re-decorating prevented me from capturing exactly what I had storyboarded. My main focus in storyboarding was to avoid having the interaction of the two characters being simply a shot-reverse-shot sequence, which is generally unimaginative and would not be engaging to watch as a short scene. I decided to experiment with characters entering the scene from outside of the frame. I also decided that tracking shots which would be a good way to add dynamic movement and pacing, as well as build suspense.



My first challenge was adapting the storyboard to the space. The bungalow in which I shot this was an interesting space in the sense that there was a bookshelf built into the desk, as well as curtain, plants and other knick-knacks with which I could occupy the frame. It is, however, significantly smaller than the original space I had in mind which was an obstacle which had to be overcome. A key shot I wanted was to have one character in the frame already, looking about, then have the other character enter, creating a dynamic two shot. I ended up flipping the first frame of the storyboard, having the character enter from left of screen as opposed to the right because there was no space right of screen. The actor (Nadine) entered from offscreen where she was waiting in the doorway, I had her standing just off-screen rather than walking through the door because had she walked through the door it would have indicated she was coming from an outside space as opposed to being present in the room.

With the tracking shot, my intention was to have the character lift the book from the shelf and turn to lean against the bookshelf as she read. There was a couch just behind the actress and so she could not turn around in a way that would appear natural, so the final shot I got was an obscured shot of her face. This was not a huge compromise, although it is unfortunate that there isn’t a decent shot of the characters face in the short scene. Another issue which became more of a problem in post, was how to make the handing of the book appear natural and seamless. I opted to do a J cut as Roger passed the book to Esteban (the actors mixed up the names without me realising until after). The cut masked what would otherwise be an awkward cut of Roger standing, standing, finishing her line then passing the book to Esteban which would have appeared stilted and awkward. I opted for a two shot at the end of a scene, rather than a mid shot of Roger as she delivers her last line to book-end the scene and reaffirm the sense of space.

This exercise was useful in that it forced me to think on my feet on how the scene would look in sequence. The cramped space was challenging in how I could make the eye lines look natural. I also had a bit of fun with lighting. I had 3 lamps to work with. It made the space seem smaller and more intimate. For the mid shot of Esteban (Nadine) I turned one of them off and angled another away so as to not saturate her face. This was a useful experiment, as the light looks similar (if not the same) in the mid shot, but would have looked a lot worse had I not experimented with the lighting.

Analysis/Reflection #7

Unfortunately I missed class on Wednesday and failed to produce anything to show for the class, which we were meant to do over the 5 days following class on Friday last week. I’d copped the brunt of mid semester assessments and clearly didn’t manage my time effectively enough. I am excited to undertake this however, and have some ideas which I will, ideally, complete over the next few days.

The propositions today (Friday), were incredibly interesting and inspired. After presenting, I challenged the ideas I put through in my own proposal. A particularly interesting propositions came from Jason, who talked about focusing on doing exercises based off of a concept with very little pre-production, instead favouring improvisation, with the intention of exploring a new method of film making. This contrasted with my own proposal, which was more of a reflection of my interest in exploring and polishing my understanding of traditional production. Likewise, Maddie’s proposal, in exploring the pros and cons of two vastly different methods of directing also struck a chord. What fascinated me was her explanation of the directing style of Nicholas Winding Refn, director of Drive and Bronson. Apparently Refn shoots everything in chronological order, and only comes to set with a few rough sketches, allowing him and the actors more flexibility and freedom during the shoot. I was relatively happy with my presentation, but couldn’t help but feel like i’d missed the point to a certain extent, given that most of the people after me gave a relatively concise delivery of the direction they intend to take, whereas mine was more like an analysis/reflection post.

My Method #5

venturing into high fiction

– guns

– special effects

– sets

– etc

One of the main appeals of filmmaking is making the impossible a reality. I have always been fascinated by fantasy and science fiction. Yet, even these are extreme examples of what I am attempting to explore and extrapolate in this reflection. something as basic as foreign scenery, a foreign concept or a foreign character for me, at this current time, seems like a daunting and challenging prospect to articulate believably to an audience in film. The thought of using guns in a scene comes to mind. Though I have fired a gun (once), the idea of using them in a film seems hard as it is not immediately relevant to my life and culture. Yet guns (again, an example) are common place in fiction, a well as non-fiction, and as such should be considered seriously when approaching the task of believability in filmmaking. It would certainly be an interesting (and necessary) exercise, either in this course or indecently in the future, to attempt to incorporate elements which are unrealistic into a scene in a way that doesn’t look silly or hacky.

Analysis/Reflection #6

I found the discussion of our ideas and drafts for our proposition supremely useful in pointing me in the right direction for the assessment next week. I managed to smash out a page worth of ideas, based around the various facets I believe are integral to film making, which basically served as a sketch of where my interests lie. The draft read as follows:

As the director, it is my (or our) job to unify performance, style and form in the coverage of a scene. The variety of elements we are required to consider make for a daunting prospect, it is no small task and the responsibility one has to the cast, crew and audience in delivering on one’s vision can be stressful and distracting.

The performance of ones actors is dictated by a number of factors. Appropriate casting, clear and concise direction, and a solid understanding of ones own vision and expectation. Though people often say a bad performance can be disguised in post production or in the quality of form, it is my opinion that a bad performance will always distract the audience in a way that kills the immersion one intends. This knack of good casting and direction is achieved through both experience and intuition.

The films that tend to grip me are often ones with a heavy handed style, films like drive and sin city come to mind. These are both extreme examples of course, there is certainly something to be said for subtlety and realism. The fact stands that style and form are the things which an audience will remember about the film, a kind of generalised memory of the film. Style is not something one can choose, I believe it is something which is distinct and innate to the individual. It is perhaps the most exciting side of directing and film making, along with the opportunity to tell stories, which I look forward to exploring and nurturing as I carry on this work.

Coverage is divided into two stages: What we film with the camera i.e framing and movement. And post production, editing. The coverage we obtain through the camera is immediate, and will hopefully be a product of proper pre production, the framing and movement will be a reflection of a unified style throughout the work. The coverage of the camera however, is immediate, somewhat spontaneous and restricted by time and money. The post production stage is possibly more exciting to me, in cutting up and sticking back together the footage obtained from the production stage, the director and editor get to play with a number of tools that will greatly influence pacing, tone, colour etc. While this also requires some foresight, it strikes me as a much more fluid and experimental process which allows for a greater understanding and realisation of the product which one hopes to produce for an audience.

Considering my reflections, as well as the exercises we have undertaken in class until now, I would be interested in taking the exercises a step further as part of my practical research for the remainder of the semester. I would like to cover a scene based off the same prompt in both a single shot and shoot-to-edit approach, as we have done in class, So that I can further reflect on the two stages of coverage. Furthermore, working with external actors, after carefully selecting them, will give me greater insight and experience in how I will be forced to (and should be) working in the future. I also look forward to more opportunity for pre-production, which will help make the production process a lot more fluid. Doing this a number of times, I am sure that my style will become more distinct and apparent.

It also made apparent more than a few anxieties which I have in regard to how I will approach the rest of the semester. Specifically, I am anxious about collaborators for my project. Obviously it would be suggested that we work with our peers and assist each other on projects. My concern is putting people on the spot, given that it is a pretty big ask for someone to take time out of their own schedule to assist with something as time consuming as a shoot. This is obviously an anxiety I need to overcome, so I will need to talk to more of my peers and gage who might be interested in teaming up and learning and researching the practical elements of the studio together.

Analysis/Reflection #5

The single shot vs. shoot-to-edit exercise we did today was essentially a combination of tasks we had done prior. Different to this was the limited amount of time we had to organise and shoot each exercise. The first was particularly interesting, as our director, Michael, made the decisions to employ zooms, a point which we had previously been told to avoid. The final product, while clumsy at points, actually turned out to be visually interesting and didn’t look as kitsch or amateur as I thought it would. Once again I was acting, however, so I only had so much to do in the exercise. This made me all the more conscious of time wasted figuring out things like camera, framing etc. To me, this illustrated the importance of proper pre production, as well as setting up the equipment and getting the crew organised ideally before the actors arrive on set.

The second exercise I was first AD. On some level this felt like an unnecessary job given the very small scale of the shoot. Learning and practicing the proper protocol and call and responses in setting up a shot was very useful though, as everything I have worked on has been incredibly amateurish until now. The role of the first AD is to give structure, protocol and efficiency to a film set, which allows the cast and crew to function as a machine.

My Method #4

At this early stage in my career (if indeed I can call it a career), the most restrictive factor in my process is budget. After a quick google search of the cheapest successful films made, I discovered that the highest grossing (or most critically acclaimed) low budget film was made for a mere 7 thousand dollars. This film is Monsters directed by Gareth Edwards. The word mere is used with heavy irony. 7000 is a lot of money, especially when I myself am working very little and dependent on youth allowance to pay rent, bills and any other things I must pay for, on top of any luxuries my lifestyle demands. Where does this money come from, how do I get around budget, grants? The idea of grants seems so completely foreign to me that even the thought of applying for one leaves me intimidated and demotivated. Do I then take out a personal lone, as Kevin Smith did when he made Clerks, a risky move which paid off for him, but he is an exception among thousands, and he had the benefit of living in the same country as Hollywood. Obviously these massive budgets are for feature films, and it will be a long time before I am in a position to even consider the possibility of making one. More likely than not, I will be taking advantage on the kindness of friends and milking favours for all they’re worth.

My Method #3

A matter of production, directing and filmmaking as a whole with which I have very little experience is casting. Up until now, I have used friends, though granted friends with an aptitude for performance, in all productions I’ve worked on. My short film in Film/TV 1 serves as a prime example. My lead actor I went to school with and performed alongside him, as well as made our high school short films together. My lead actress was a friend whom had expressed a keen interest in acting to me, and a keen enthusiasm for my project. My key supporting actor was a co-worker who has more professional acting experience than the latter two combined. A Major thing that I must face as a director however, is electing people who (more often than not) I will not know, but rather will be suitable if not perfect for the role intended. I am simultaneously nervous and excited about looking out for talent, holding auditions and working with new people. I think that I am naturally good with people, making them at ease in a new environment, despite the possibility of myself not being entirely comfortable.

My Method #2

When I consider my style (or at least what I could potentially consider as elements of my style) I consider the things which appeal to me, and resonate in such a way which makes me excited, inspired, and wanting to emulate it in some regard. My range of taste is quite wide, I enjoy music, from deep techno to black metal. I love my anime and manga, as well as comics in general. I’ve been an avid player of video games, spending ours binging on playing rather than sleeping. The books I read tend towards fantasy or science fiction, though a lot of other fiction appeals, Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment springs to mind. I’ve travelled thought South East Asia, India, Japan, as well as through and around Australia. I have fantastic and amazing friends who inspire me every day. What interests me is how this huge amount of information I have ingested over the past 24 years of my life will be channeled when I put my mind to creating something. I have created plenty of stuff before, I’ve made electronic music, DJ’d, photography, drawing, etc. but can’t necessarily pick up a distinct style (though many people who know me well would say I have a tendency towards the dark, introspective or epic; I don’t necessarily agree…). Only time will tell, through experience and reflection. More likely it will take someone else to recognise my patterns for me to understand my tendencies. Then I can challenge them.

My Method #1

My largest concern when tackling a film project is to communicate a tangible and organic story. While, arguably, most of fluidity of a film comes in post-production, probably as important is the performance of the actors. Key to this is how the director communicates what he wants and expects from the actor. If the director does not clarify what he/she desires from an actors performance, or if the actor lacks confidence in their action, this will naturally be portrayed on screen. This has become all the more evident to me since, so far, in this studio we have been using each other as actors, mostly likely none of whom are actors, let alone professional actors. A self-conscious performance reminds the audience that they are watching a performance and a movie, a confident performance makes the audience forget they are watching an actor.

Found Scene #2 – Drive: Elevator Scene

Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, is a neo-noir arthouse action film adapted from a novel by James Sallis going by the same name. The film follows the story of an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver, played by Ryan Goslin, who moonlights as a getaway driver. I love this film because of its style, soundtrack, and the amazing performances by the actors in general. I chose this particular scene because I remember how shocked, moved and breathless I was after seeing it for the first time.

The scene opens with a mid shot of the 3 characters in the elevator. Goslings character presses the button to close the door, steps to the right side of frame revealing Irene (Carey Mulligan) before the door slides closed, the camera pauses on this for a moment. Next, a mid shot of the villain, tilted slightly upwards shows him giving Gosling a sideways glance. Goslings back and Irene profile are both in frame, amplifying the cramped nature of the location, while the tilt implies that something is amiss. The camera cuts to a similar shot of showing Goslings character, which for all intensive purposes could be said to be a reverse shot. A steady tilt down follows Goslings implied point of view as he looks the man down, to rest on his jacket, where a concealed gun is visible. It cuts back to the mid worm eye tilt of Gosling, looking away inconspicuously, yet clearly aware of the situation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.54.20 pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.54.38 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.54.59 pm

The camera then cuts to a mid to wide shot of the characters in the elevator, with gosling at the centre of the frame. He reaches behind him and gently pushes Irene into the corner of the lift, far away from the other man. As he does this, the light dims. What looks like the whole lift dimming, creating a more intimate tone, is rather the fill light being turned down or off all together. In doing this, The light which remains on screen seems to intensify around Irene’s face as she reacts in confusion to Goslings actions. Cut to a shot of their midriffs as Gosling places his hand around her waist. The camera tilts upwards (or tracks, in this case i’m not sure what the appropriate term is), the camera is most likely hand held. The camera rests on a two shot of the couple kissing intimately. The action is in slow motion, while mellow, ambient music plays in the background, creating a very intimate yet isolated tone, as if they have forgotten about their place in the world. The fill light brightens as they finish their kiss and gaze at each other, signifying a return to reality.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.55.35 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.55.52 pm

Cut to a wide shot of the lift facing the doors. The music cuts and the action returns to normal speed. Gosling, left of frame, turns his head to look at the other man, standing to the right of frame, who immediately turns to swing a punch at Gosling. Anticipating this, Gosling pushes him in the back and follows through to slam the mans head into the wall. Camera cuts to focus on a mid shot of Gosling, as he throws the man from the right side of the frame to the left. Cut to Irene reacting, frightened and shocked, positioned to the right of the frame, emphasising that she is trapped in the corner. A shot of Gosling throwing the man on the ground is intercut before returning to Irene moving from one side of the elevator to the other, getting herself being Gosling who is in the shot but the top of his head cut out of the frame. Cutting back to the man on the ground, mid shot, shows him blearily moving to stand before a swift kick in the face from Gosling (entering from outside of frame) puts him out of action. We again cut back to the previous shot, Gosling stomps again, his body is silhouetted, transforming him into a figure to be feared, the power behind his stomp is obvious as his knee enters the frame, further assisted by a loud audible crunch, the girl responds to the brutality of the violence. Further emphasising this, the camera cuts to an OTS of the girl as she watches Gosling stomp the mans face in, the scorpion emblem on his back clearly visible, emphasising his transformation in her eyes from love interest to violent man to be feared. A wide angle close up of her reacting, the camera slowly zooms, shaking with fear and possibly grief implies that while she can’t understand the situation, she certainly understands what is happening in front of her eyes. An L cut of the audio of the stomping eases the transition between shots to a worm eye of Gosling stomping, brutally. The anger and aggression on his face transforms the generally placid deadpan character into an explosive force. The camera cuts briefly to the mans skull literally being crushed to the previous shot in which Goslings profile is silhouetted while the focus remains on Irene reacting, before cutting back to the worm eye as he finishes stomping.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.56.34 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.57.12 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.57.22 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.57.35 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.57.51 pm

When the stomping ceases, the camera once again cuts to a wide angle mid shot of the girl. The elevator opens and she walks backwards out of it, exiting the frame, putting distance between her and Gosling. Cut again to a mid shot of Gosling, showing his back turned, the scorpion clearly visible on his jacket. He turns slowly, his sweaty face and bleary eyes lend itself to the emotional violent outburst that just happened. Also implicit, is the knowledge that what he did shocked and scared the woman he loves, so there is a hint of remorse and exposure. The reverse shot places Irene in the centre of the frame, in a darkly lit car park, this makes her appear more isolated. facing the camera and in the centre of the frame, this seems to suggest (as is the reality in the movie) that this is the first time she has seen this side of Gosling, and in her eyes who he really is. The camera rests on this shot for a few beats, not to draw suspense but to lend to the shock the character is facing, unable to come to terms with what just occurred. The camera cuts back to Gosling, staring, blood visible on his jacket, then back again. The door closes across Irene as she stands motionless in the centre of frame, signifying the end of the scene and the last time they see one another.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.58.10 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.58.26 pm

The most obvious thing about this scene is the dramatic contrast between the beautifully intimate kiss shared by Goslings character and Irene, and the gratuitous brutal violence that follows. The on screen action captured in the scene is fantastic as well. Despite the extreme confinement of the lift, all the characters seem move around the entire space, most obviously Irene, who travel from corner to corner, trying to escape the violence. Furthermore, the sound design of the whole scene compliments everything fantastically well. The silence at the beginning builds suspense, the music during the kiss creates a special romantic moment, before cutting out altogether to just have the sounds of slamming and stomping emphasising the unadulterated violence which ensues. The pacing also heightens the drama, opening with a relatively mundane pace as the door closes and the men size up one another. Transitioning to slow motion which goes for about half the length of the scene, as i’ve already mentioned, gives an ethereal romantic tone. Juxtaposing this against the fast paced violence before slowing as he runs out of steam makes for a dramatic and dynamic experience. Finally the scene returns to silence, this time because there are no words the characters can find to address what just happened. No dialogue, just excellent acting, pacing, camera work and sound.

I struggled to find faults or criticise this scene, I’m not quite sure how I would have done it differently. This is most likely because the film is so heavily stylised. One thought that came to mind is the quick cut to the mans head being crushed underfoot, this is the only shot of gruesome violence, and feels somewhat out of place given the extremely short length of the shot. It could have served better to not include it at all, although it does have that cringe factor which compliments the scene. The alternative would be to lengthen the shot, or cut back to it more than once. This might be considered overkill however, and honestly, I like it how it is.