In regards to the post-production, Sam and I followed Rosie and Bell’s lead, as the films were like their babies. Rosie was keen to handle the edit and colour grade for her film alone. So Sam and I spent most of our time helping Bell out, as she invited us to help her polish up the film.
First off we tackled the sound design, as the sound we recorded with the Zoom mic’s was pretty poor and the bowls club seemed to have this continuous ominous humming sound which constantly buzzed in the background. We decided to get Michael and Chris to re-record their lines in a studio setup, which we then dubbed over the original audio. We also went through the film and took note of any obvious diegetic sound effects; such as jangling keys or tying shoelaces, which we also re-recorded in one of the sound studios at uni. The actual process of recording the sound was actually much more difficult than I originally thought. As singer I know what goes into the process of recording, but this didn’t help me when it came to matching up movements and sound with the onscreen sample. A simple process like getting keys to jangle at the right time or tying up a shoelace required multiple takes, accenting each sound at the appropriate time. Of course such accents can be adjusted later, but to get the length and texture to an appropriate level is key.
After we’d sorted out sound, Sam and Bell both did edits of the film. Both the edits were great, but we ended up going with Bell’s as it seemed to flow more effortlessly. As a group we mucked around with some preliminary colour grades for the film. But Sam was pretty keen to grade the final product, so she did a sweet colour grade all by herself, making the film look more contrasted, saturated and shadowy. Bell also added a sweet vintage title card to the film, spelling out ‘The Club’. Originally she had it saying ‘The Magnificent Thornbury Bowls Club’, but I managed to convince her to cut it down as I felt it was more punchy. And can the film’s title be longer than the actual film?
In our film we used saturated colour. with not much thought going into it’s use. I think originally we liked the idea of the saturated colour look, and we thought it would add to the surreal quality of the film. But after reviewing how colour is used in film, I began to realise that maybe we should have thought more about it, to use it to greater effect.
In films colour has become an essential component of storytelling, with colour being used to:
Seperate place and time; perhaps to distinguish decades or locations.
Make audiences feel a certain way, by exploiting their innate psychological reactions to specific colours . For example red often makes viewers feel on edge or threatened, whilst blue feels serene and dreamlike.
Symbolise the inner workings, feelings or moral standings of a character. For example one character sickened with envy could become associated with the colour green, their engulfment with this colour coinciding with their envy spiralling out of control.
Differentiate multiple stories.
Differentiate objects within a scene.
Differentiate characters. Often used to create opposites, ie. good vs evil, or trustworthy vs dodgy.
Set the atmosphere and tone for a scene, or the entire film. For example blue can make the tone feel cold and hopeless, whilst browns can make the tone feel gritty and dangerous.
Create a particular colour scheme, that has been pre-decided for the film. Colours can then be used to either balance harmoniously with this colour scheme, or be discordant with it. Allowing the viewer to notice certain things which stick out or don’t belong, hinting at potential character, object or story insights.
Add context to a story. For example a character might say terrible things, but his light pink clothing could suggest that we shouldn’t take this to seriously as this person is gentle or frivolous.
Associate a certain character, place, time or object with something else, perhaps event an abstract idea or emotion. For example a film could use purple to associate an individual character with an abstract idea such as mania, or mysticism, with everything that relates to this character also being purple. When, where and how much this colour is shown and at what intensity could give particular insights into the character, object or story.
Show the development of a character or environment. For example a character could start out wearing white, and gradually transition into wearing red as their innocence is lost.
Colours may cause innate psychological reactions or understood associations but that doesn’t mean colour has to be used in these prescribed ways. For example in one film green could be associated with nature, lusciousness and growth whilst another film may associate green with thoughts of the mundane, lifeless and corporate. The filmmaker is free to choose what colours they want to use to mean certain things, they just have to make this association known to the audience.
After writing up this post I looked back over our film to see how we used colour. Originally I thought that we didn’t use colour very well, because we never really consciously thought about it. But after reviewing the footage I realised that we did use colour appropriately within our film, therefore subconsciously we WERE aware of the colours and how they were being used. For example all the exterior shots of the Thornbury Bowls Club are dark and mysterious, and they also have a balanced colour palette; with green lawns, red power poles and yellow accents. The interior shots of the club room also feature a similar palette, primarily composed of red, yellow and blue. The red light bathing the interior scenes also have a mysterious blood red glow, which works to great effect. The interior shots of the powder room features a complimentary colour palette of moss green, khaki, lemon and dusty rose bringing to life the vintage vibe of the scene and the setting. When more mysterious things begin to happen in the film – occurring in the club room, the colour palette changes from red, blue and yellow, to a hazy purple and yellow. The purple coming from the combination of red and blue lights and the smoke machine we brought. So somehow we’ve got these mystical events occurring under this hazy purple fog. Maybe I should have entitled this blog post: “How we accidentally used colour to great effect”.
The filming was kind of a long process, but maybe it didn’t need to be? Or maybe it did?
The first night of filming at the Thornbury Bowls Club was for a test shoot with mine and Rosie’s camera, to work out which one we wanted to use for her film. The second night of filming involved us getting establishing shots of the location. The third night of filming involved us mainly shooting Rosie’s script. And the fourth night of shooting involved us mainly shooting Bell’s script and getting any other shots we needed to get.
Perhaps we didn’t need an entire night of filming just to get establishing shots and filler shots, but it certainly made it a lot easier having multiple shots to choose from. For the two nights of shooting we certainly didn’t get that much coverage, which meant in the edit we were somewhat stuck using certain shots because we didn’t have other options. This was mainly because of time limitations with actors and batteries on cameras dying and such. I’m so neurotic I would have happily spent two nights shooting establishing shots and filler shots and two nights on each shoot, but not everyone wants to rearrange the rest of their life to fit around such projects. I get a tad obsessive if I’m allowed, which can often benefit me, although I do become a giant pain in everyone else’s ass.
The main thing I learnt from the filming process was that you can plan out exactly what you want to do, and how your going to do it, but once you get into the location with the actors this plan often changes – however, you are still much better of having the plan than none at all! As the neurotic freak I am, I had all the shots I wanted to use storyboarded. I had originally planned to shoot all the establishing shots, stick them in a timeline and then also shoot the other shots (with fill in actors) and add them to the timeline to see how it looked. Of course no one else was interested in spending an entire night shooting the film – but with them as stands in – just so I could complete my psychotic endeavour of creating the faux film, then reflecting on it, then shooting the real thing. This was probably for the best as we’d already spent so much time filming already.
I was kinda bummed that we couldn’t have a second day with both sets of actors, to refine the footage – after reviewing what we’d shot. It seemed much too difficult and demanding to try and get the actors to put in another night of shooting each. So we made do with what footage we had.
Overall I quite enjoyed the filming process and am pretty keen to work on another short film project. I think the main thing I learnt from the process was that it’s actually not that hard to organise if you’ve got the right people and people who are enthusiastic. and that coming out with a great product is not unachievable.
In Bell’s film we tried to make the most of the medium by utilising some tricky slight of hand shots that had our actors moving from one side of the room to another, this got me thinking about how other films do this.
The Graduate is one of those films that stills feels relevant 50 years later. Directed by Mike Nichols, and released in 1967, the graduate is a dark comedy about Dustin Hoffman’s Ben, who engages in an extramarital summer affair with Anne Bancroft’s much older Mrs. Robinson after having just graduated from college. However the relevance of this films lies in the films exploration of loneliness, societal expectations, materialism, and fear about the future/the passing of time.
Mike Nichols was originally a successful Broadway director. We often expect Broadway directors in film to embody a certain ‘style’ of directing, one which relies on a certain staging of long wide shots, with little camera movement and an emphasis on blocking. However, Nichols does not take this route, The Graduate is a purely cinematic experience making the most of the medium. The Graduate is a ‘restricted’ film, meaning it doesn’t give any information other than what the protagonist knows and the cinematography supports this restriction. The camera shows not just what Ben sees but also what he feels, so as a result we experience true subjectivity and find out what’s going on in his head. We get certain images that tell us certain things, scenes that are shot a certain way to tell us Ben’s emotional state, interactions and information are expressed through images as opposed to dialogue.
One of my favourite scenes in the film; the ‘Sound of Silence and April She Will Come scene’ is a perfect example of this. This five minute long scene uses a montage of images and scene transitions to explore Ben’s emotional state, the way he is experiencing the passing of time and his limited interactions with the people around him.
Mrs. Robinson challenges Ben’s sexual adequacy causing him to begin their affair, which he was previously attempting to back out of. This begin’s a number of clever scene transitions that allow us as the audience to experience Ben’s subjective experience of his Summer and his affair with Mrs. Robinson.
First we see Ben slam the door, casting Mrs. Robinson and the room in black. The affair is then by association something dark, something that is hidden in the shadows, something bad. There is a longer than needed blacked out screen. Allowing us to reflect on Ben’s decision and to think ‘what will happen now?, and ‘there is no going back’. In the darkness we hear Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’, originally released three years before The Graduate came out. Many people think of S&G’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’ as the film’s soundtrack song, but it is ‘The Sound of Silence’ which truly reflects the loneliness, isolation and ambivalence of both the film’s lead and supporting characters. This hints to us as the audience that this affair is not something sexy, not something to be celebrated, not something that brings Ben joy. Rather it causes Ben to feel even more isolated and lonely than before, as he says later in the film when describing the affair “We might just as well have been shaking hands”.
A black fade out reveals sparkling pool water that Ben is seen floating on. Once again Ben is not joyous, or celebratory, he doesn’t even look like he’s enjoying himself. The pool almost asks a small relief from Ben’s everyday life, somewhere he can engage in escapism, however he can’t just stay here, and all his problems and fears still simmer in the background. Ben turns to look at his parents as he lounges, the parents representing the oppressive forces of expectation and judgement cause him to leave his escapist pool haven as he’s reminded of his everyday reality. Walking swiftly from the pool inside his home, which cleverly transitions (at 1:49) to the hotel room where Mrs. Robinson awaits him. Ben walks drearily into the room as if in a dream, transitioning from home to the hotel in a daze. Not really attentive to the world around him and not particularly enjoying it. This is further emphasised in the sun by his blank expression as Mrs. Robinson unbuttons his shirt.
Once again the scene transitions from the hotel, to his home (2:31) as we see Ben close the door on his parents and their associated expectations and judgement, transitioning back to the hotel at (3:03). Ben stares at the tv and drinks alcohol, uninterested in Mrs. Robinson as she walks scantily clad around the room, not even saying goodbye or reacting as she leaves the room. Here it becomes apparent that Mrs. Robinson has ironically recreated the emptiness of her hollow marriage in the hollowness of this affair. The scene then transitions again (3:51) back to Ben’s home as he smokes on his bed. Ben once an ‘upstanding collegiate man’ who would never touch a cigarette is slowly corrupted by the affair as we see him drink and smoke continuously without any reward attained from such acts. He dazedly gets back up and walks out the pool, as he mother stares motionlessly at her son – Ben get’s as little from his mother as he gets from Mrs. Robinson, his mother not even properly acknowledging him and him giving nothing either. In one of the greatest scene transitions in movie history we watch Ben jump up out of the water onto Mrs. Robinson (4:59) like a dead weight, his father asking ‘Ben, what are you doing?’ – we all get the implication here. The scene then transitions back to a shot of Ben’s father looking down at him from above, Ben simply replying “I’m just drifting here in the pool” and we see the shot of Ben laying back on his floating pool bed. His father asking “why?” and him replying “Well it’s very comfortable just to drift here.” This last segment of the film is cut off in the clip above, but can be seen in the clip below:
The implication for this entire seen is that Ben, like us the viewer, experiences the passage of time without feeling much at all. He get’s nothing from his relationship with Mrs. Robinson as he gets nothing from his parents, but judgement and expectation. Ben attempts to avoid this judgement and expectation, as well as his own feelings of responsibility by as he states “just drifting here”. Ben lounging on the pool becomes a metaphor for Ben simply drifting through his life, not engaged with the world around him, just simply moving forward in time. Ben doesn’t know what do with his life and he’s unsure about his future, so he flits his time away with unenjoyable distractions such as alcohol, cigarettes, sex and other self indulgent behaviour. But the real discomfort comes from realising that even though Ben is ‘indulging’ himself he is still as sad and lonely as before.
Finding actors for Bell’s piece was pretty easy. She was like “I want Michael Firus and your partner Chris?” and I was like “Yeah sure, he can do it, i’ll let him know.” I’m not sure how happy Chris is when I make decisions for him, but what is love, it its not overbearing?
Finding actors for Rosie’s piece was slightly harder as we had to advertise for them on ‘StarNow’. First we made an add on their website and then waited for the actors to come streaming in. And the actors for the part of the mid 30’s singer certainly did stream in, however the two octogenarian roles had almost no applicants. Eventually we ended up finding the singer through StarNow but had to use Sam’s uncle and his friend as stand in actors. However they were ironically much better than the ‘real’ actor we got from StarNow.
After working with the actors I wrote a list of what I learn from the experience, here is the said unedited list:
are happy to work for free
want to be treated well or feel special/talented/important/listened to/respected
will give you their input
will get tired after multiple takes
won’t want to do long days
are happy to bring costumes or be supplied with them
you should speak to them when they first arrive. Get to know them, tell them your role on the production
don’t talk during their take, or do other things
all attention and focus is on them during their take
get their scenes done in one go if possible
give them feedback about their performance: if you love it tell them. If you want something adjusted let them know
do multiple takes: potentially 3
provide them with food and drinks
have a ‘jacket person’ if it’s cold
give them clear direction
have the crew all on the same page before they rock up
let them check themselves in the monitor, but don’t let them become obsessed with it, or watch it whilst doing their take
let them bring a partner or friend it it makes them more comfortable
dont allow them to take over or completely change your ideas
give them material beforehand so they can work on it and feel comfortable with it
you may never see them again
I’m pretty impressed by how much I learnt from spending just two days working with actors. I guess this is proof that theres nothing more valuable than hands on experience.
Until next time,
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