It’s been a BIG semester. It’s not too far a stretch to say I’ve learnt the most practical techniques in the past 10 weeks than I have in three years. That’s definitely personal because I was taught techniques in the past semesters, however I chose to avoid filming and editing – instead sticking to being the ‘idea’ person. I learnt this semester that things will never turn out exactly how you envisioned them… and that there’s something so inspiring in that. Furthermore, just as you don’t need to know all the answers when you start an essay you don’t need to know all the answers before you start your project: You figure things out as you progress.
I was incredibly fascinated with Hitchcock’s ability to achieve that kind of suspense that makes you anxiously sink into your chair. I was much more impressed that he didn’t need to use a loud ‘BANG’ to achieve it either. Through further research I found inspiration in one of the last takes in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. I have already discussed this take in detail in previous blogs however I want to reiterate that I was drawn to the smoothness of the tracking shot, combined with the intensity of Norman’s psychotic gaze. Thus, I chose to attempt to achieve suspense in a similar fashion whereby I used a tracking shot that slowly encroaches upon a central character. However I wanted to add my own touch to this. Therefore I decided I would add a pan from the top of the room (high angle shot) that slowly lowered to a face level before tracking in.
I chose to work with my friend Daniel because I had done so on previous projects, which have been greatly successful in my eyes. I think I struggle to work collaboratively (when it is my personal project) unless it is with people who I know integrate well with my vision. Throughout multiple meeting sessions, Daniel and I decided upon the filming location, the central character, the theme etc. This information is elaborately discussed in my ‘Method of Working’ blog posts.
Come filming day, we were ready to go! Unfortunately – as per usual – setting up the equipment proved to occupy much more time than planned (approx. 2 hrs.). Luckily however, we were not relying on natural daylight to film as the light entering from the window constantly changed, particularly by the time we were ready to film. Once into the motion of filming, things were much smoother. What was so great about this process was how certain hindrances (such as the chandelier intruding on the frame) turned into positive additions to the take.
Upon viewing and editing my takes I took down many notes – both major and minor. The smoothness of the shot, and the exact directional flow of the camera seemed to undermine the potential suspense of the piece as the audience is in total knowledge of the fact that the shot will end in a tight shot on the girl’s face. Luckily we had shot multitudinous takes and I was able to work with shots that had a little bit of a dip before tightening on the girl’s face. I am very happy with the lighting technique in this take. I feel, for the very first time, that I was able to achieve the exact lighting scheme I had envisioned (saturated warm colors: yellow, green, red etc). I feel the ‘hominess’ was established eloquently through the comfortable cream couch, faded green drapes and light stands.
I certainly struggled with creating a soundtrack for this piece. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted but when that materialized I felt it was too explicit and lacked subtlety. I had intended to do a kind of ‘sound’ story of the central character’s life and struggles (sounds of her mother dying, playing in the park with friends etc). Daniel and I then decided to work with simple music/soundtracks and the result was, in my opinion, much more intense. I learnt through this process that the audience doesn’t need to be explicitly told things. I was trying so hard to deliver a narrative and was oblivious to the fact that you can affect the viewer just through a particular feeling you instill in them. The soundtrack trials were fun to work with because I got to experiment with elements such as pacing. I was enlightened by the possibilities of pacing. Suspense can be achieved through timing the sound with the vision alone. This does not mean I must have a loud ‘Bang’; rather, I can gradually build up to a climactic moment etc.
After completing my work on this particular project I sat with Robin and he suggested the idea of attempting a still shot as opposed to a tracking shot. I guess I had never considered the still shot because I always imagined to be encroaching on a subject to create dramatic effect. So I decided to attempt the still shot. I realized I wanted there to be some sort of movement in the shot, just to create a bit of dynamic. I have properly discussed the process and outcome in my ‘Method of Working’ posts however I want to again point out that I found it much less effective for multiple reasons. Firstly, I, the sole character, was blinking multiple times as I stared at the camera, which I find broke the intensity (in the tracking shot I had started by looking away from the camera and then turning to stare at the camera, which meant I didn’t have to keep my eyes fixated for a long period). Secondly I think I needed more movement in the shot – besides just the swaying trees. This would have made the 30 seconds be a little more visually satisfying. I do not however, simply disregard this project, as I believe if I changed these particular elements and had contextualized the piece and character more, the intensity would greatly increase.
Overall, I learnt a great deal this semester. I learnt of the importance of planning but also of allowing yourself space for experimentation. I learnt of the importance of going beyond your intended objective if you find that there is potential for more inspiration in changing directions. I learnt that I truly admire the use of the long take and that it has so much potential, when used appropriately, to create suspense. I learnt that I am majorly interested in the pacing and choreography of the camera movement with the accompanying soundtrack. I learnt fundamental techniques of using the equipment and programs around me (ex3, z7, blondes, premiere pro, dolly etc).
Safe to say I learnt a lot this semester 🙂