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.
For our filming projects it was likely there would be limited pans, as our tripods were essentially moulded plastic made to look like a tripod, yet certainly not act like one. This has inspired in me a deep yearning to create a beautiful pan, the likes of which are best left unseen – if you know what I mean.
A lot of the time pans are used in obvious ways, they almost act as an obvious cue for you to look at a certain character, object or space. However, many pans in film remain unseen and it is these which work to the greatest effect. When a pan follows an action so smoothly that you don’t even notice it, you are drawn further into that action, character and world. One director that does this with great effect is David Fincher.
David Fincher tends to keep his camera super controlled, i.e. he sticks his camera on a tripod and rarely uses handheld. This means that when Fincher wants to follow the action of a character that he often uses panning shoots, even when it comes to the smallest movement. This means that Fincher or I guess his cameraman, must be capable of following a characters every movement; with appropriate pacing and timing. So appropriate that the audience shouldn’t even notice it.
In this three minute sequence we have over 10 pans, with all of them feeling very smooth and natural – almost unnoticeable, as they move with the characters. The camera does not move every time a character or object moves, but it does always move when the main object or character of focus is moved. As the audience should be guided to look at this main object it makes sense that the camera is purely following their actions and not the reactions of other characters also. In between pans the camera is locked off and we get to watch the action unfold. David Fincher makes it feel as if you are an omniscient being getting to watch the action unfold, only moving as something or someone propels the action to unfold in front of your eyes.
Pan #1 – 0:01
The camera pans slightly to the left to follow Christy’s (Brenda Song) movement as she enters the room.
Pan #2 – 0:09
The camera pans upward precisely following the movements of Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) as he raises his head to speak to Christy.
Pan #3 – 0:47
The camera pans slightly to the right to follow Eduardo’s movement as he leaves the room.
Pan #4 – 0:53
The camera pans slightly to the right to follow Eduardo’s movement as he answers the phone.
Pan #5 – 1:19
The camera pans to the left to follow Mark’s (Jessie Eisenburg) movement as he paces.
Pan #6 – 1:41
The camera pans to the right to follow Eduardo’s movement as he searches the cupboards.
Pan #7 – 1:47
The camera pans to the left to follow Eduardo’s movement as he puts out the fire.
Pan #8 – 1:49
The camera pans downwards to follow Eduardo’s movement as he squats slightly.
Pan #9 – 1:54
The camera pans upward as Eduardo leaps for his phone.
Pan #10 – 2:03
The camera pans to the left to follow Mark as he paces.
This blog post is all about the setup, which means location and gear, am I right?
The Thornbury Bowls Club was a sweet location, but being the insecure introverted younglings we are, we decided to have multiple backups. These backups included:
The Croxton Tennis Courts:
Whilst certainly suburban and pretty close to all of us, it was maybe a little too edgy and certainly had no ‘club room’ facilities to speak of. Unless an abandoned public toilets counts?
The Eltham Tennis Courts:
Super pretty in low lights and right next to a super sweet train station which added to the visual appeal. However it was in the middle of essentially nowhere and the club room was pretty drab.
Both these locations pale in comparison to the ~ Magnificent Thornbury Bowls Club ~ :
I mean look at this place, it’s a fucking dream. Super close to all of us and with a superb club room. This place would require minimal art department – a dream for povo film students such as myself.
The other two locations were pretty easy to gain access to, but we were intimidated by the bowling club, it was too good?! Still we sent them an email, hoping for a positive reply and alas, they were quite happy to accomodate us and receive essentially nothing in return. It’s always worth asking, I guess?
Once we had the location setup we decided to start organising everything else we needed to get these films done. Which meant organising emailing the ‘AV Loans Guys’ and the ‘Building 9 Tech Dudes’ asking for a: Canon EOS 60D, Canon EOS 6D, Rosie’s Canon Cam, Canon 50mm Prime Lens, Two Canon Kit Lenses, Three Dedo Spotlights + all the accessories, two tripods, a Sony Zoom and a monitor.
After we sorted out the gear, Sam and I started compiling costume ideas, potential soundtrack songs, potential title cards and inspirational screen grabs regarding tone and composition (some of these images can be seen in a previous blog post of mine). Whilst Rosie and Bell further developed their scripts so we could begin sending them out to interested actors, as well as creating draft storyboards.
When presenting our film projects to the class, we suggested that our film was ‘Lynchian’. That our film was more interested in creating a world than telling a story. This world would be colourful, abstract, everyday and slightly eerie – giving it a surrealist vibe, but was it Lynchian? I haven’t see all of Lynch’s films – not even close, nor fully understood many that I’ve seen. There are so many iconic filmmakers today where the essence of their ‘filmmaking’ is more know than their actual films. Ask someone what a Hitchcock film explores, or what a Tarantino film looks like and I’m sure they could tell you. I’m sure they could describe to you scenes from films that they’ve never seen and concepts they don’t even fully understand. For me, Lynch is that filmmaker. I know of him, I’ve seen some of his work, he’s probably the kind of filmmaker i’d love – but do I know that much about Lynch’s films? Not really. I decided to explore the world of Lynch’s filmmaking to understand how he has become known as the master of modern surrealism on film.
David Lynch’s film are often described as Lynchian, but what does a David Lynch film actually entail?
Mundane images turned macabre: representation of the wholesome, with the gruesomeness lurking below.
Surrealism: universe dictated by dream logic – representative of the subconscious.
Film noir tone: dark, edgy.
Americana settings: often small town American life, Industrial wastelands.
Recurring themes: 1950s America, the American dream and the dark underbelly of suburban life.
Recurring motifs: red curtains that obscure the passage of time, deformed bodies.
Recurring characters: complex females that play on archetypal expectations of the ‘femme fatale’ – often reflected in dual roles for single female actresses.
Light & Dark/Dualities: thematic and visual juxtaposition.
Noise: eerie and ambient.
Exposing the strange within the familiar and the reality within the dream.
Everything is stranger than it seems.
No personality is static.
No perspective is objective.
Exploration of the deeper layers of consciousness’ reaction to/understanding of experiences.
Now, once you read all of this, you kinda go – well your film is nothing like Lynch’s films. And you’re kind of right.
Our film doesn’t make mundane images macabre, rather it makes mundane images weird.
Our film is surreal.
Our film doesn’t have a film noir tone, but it does have a dark tone.
Our film explores suburbia, but it’s not American suburbia, it’s Australian suburbia.
We explore the 1950s -’70s Australia, we explore the Australian dream, we explore the dark underbelly of suburban life.
We have no red curtains, just a red light and certainly no deformed bodies.
No complex women here – bad feminists we are (as Yoda would say).
We kinda explore dualities? dualities of fantasy maybe?
Noise is defs eerie and ambient.
Or maybe it’s a little like Lynch’s? It’s like a poor mans Australian Lynch that is seriously under-baked and lacking of budget.
I’m not going to give you a re-run of every little thing my group and I did over the last few weeks, as that would be immensely boring and of little value. I will however break the project down into five major sections written in individual blog posts. These sections will include: the story, the setup, actors, filming and finalising.
Welcome to the first blog post in this series entitled ‘The Story’.
All good films start with a good story – not true, but it sounds like something a student would open a blog post with right?
All good films don’t start with a good story?
Our films didn’t start with good stories, rather they started with tidbits of an idea. The studio was averse to mythologising the script, being much more interested in the exploration of ideas, so I guess thats why we started with tidbits.
The first of the tidbits were compiled from our presentations to the class. Each of us had a variety of different interests but what overlapped was our interest in: limited dialogue, shooting at night, suburban settings, elements of surrealism, beautiful cinematography and interesting shot choices.
Bell and Rosie were keen on writing scripts and me and Sam we’re keen on doing the dirty work? the clean work? the non-writing work! We ended up with two different scripts, with two different sets of actors but both set in the exact same world, perhaps decades apart, or perhaps days apart – it was ambiguous, but we liked it.
Rosies script was an aus-core love story featuring two octogenarians, whilst Bell’s was a surrealist tale of two young preps wandering around a bowls club. Both seemed cool, so we decided to shoot both at our one dream location: The Thornbury Bowls Club.