The lecture covered the key and basic principles of lighting (three point lighting/how to light a scene, fill light, soft light/hard light, diffusing light). A range of equipment was also covered and the uses for different types of lights. The lecture was incredibly useful to our shoots as not only can we transfer this theoretical knowledge to our own shoots, but in terms of practicality there was a lot covered so we are able to tackle mostly any scene that needs lighting (whether it be using the natural light, such as in an outdoor scene, or if we need a specific desired effect). I know that many of the members of my group have never done any sort of lighting before, so it was definitely beneficial to them (particularly the ones on the practical side of the team) as know they possess the skills and knowledge to implement a good lighting set up. Lighting is up there with good sound in terms of how important it is on a shoot so the content covered in the lecture is definitely important and relevant to our projects.
The reading from week 6 about ‘developing’ your crew is only partially applicable to our project. The main factor which makes it sort of irrelevant is the presumption that we are able to hand pick and build our own crews based on a vigorous testing and selection process. Obviously, we have been put into groups so we are unable to do that for this project. However, many other aspects of the reading do still relate – the reading suggests that there should be many test shoots and ground rules should be discussed and decided upon well before the actual shoot so you have a sense of the group dynamic well before it comes time to do the project. This is, no doubt, to minimise conflict on the day of the shoot so it can run as smoothly as possible. From my own experience, I know this to be a great way of ironing out any potential conflict and getting a sense of how your group works together. An interesting point brought up by the reading is to look for people’s personal and communicational skills when you are putting together your crew, not merely at their technical ability. It’s almost as if you look at applicants as if they were in a job interview, weighing a range of factors from everything down to their experience and knowledge to their temperament. The reading is a great reference point for us in terms of actual responsibilities within specific roles – it outlines exactly what is expected of each role and what each role entails. It also makes a list of traits which make a good producer/director/ad etc etc and will help with allowing us to develop our personal traits to match the criteria.
There are many things that would be considered by the director prior to shooting “Blow Up”. Firstly, there would be vigorous rehearsal and blocking done for the movement of the actors since there is so much movement in the scene. It is important to have a clear idea of exactly where the actors will be at what time so the camera operator ensures that the characters are in frame when they need to be. The camera and the framing of shots themselves move tightly and organically with the actors, the camera rarely moves without intention or purpose, generally it is to capture key action/dialogue/responses from the actors. The decision as to where the frame should be and what the ‘key’ action/dialogue/responses are would have been weighed up by the director prior to filming and would be to illicit a particular response. When the camera pans it is to create more physical distance between the two characters in the scene as they walk away from or towards each other. The way in which lines are delivered (space between dialogue, pauses, intonation) and the physicality/facial expressions of the actors would also be something that the director would have put a lot of thought into and this would have been rehearsed. The way in which lines are delivered or even the way in which actors present themselves in a space has a lot of bearing on the subtext of a scene, therefore it would have been crucial for the director to have established this subtext with the actors before making the choices which he did.
The concept of 3 point lighting touched upon in the lecture was not something unfamiliar to me but it was good to revisit the key principles of lighting as it was something I had completely forgotten about. It’s amazing how you forget about such basic things and terms such as “key light” and “fill light” if it’s been a long time since you have made a film. It’s very easy to think that you can just turn up at a location and shoot without changing the lighting whatsoever and it’s interesting to point out that on shoots I’ve been on in the past it often took a lot of work just to make the lighting look ‘natural’. I distinctly remember having to stand next to a light with a big diffuser during one shoot so the light would bounce onto the actor and look more natural. Often the task of lighting is to be completely unnoticed. For our film there are many scenes where this will be the case, but we also want to implement very stylised, harsh lighting in the surreal sequences. Harsh lighting can have a very dramatic effect as it creates shadows and can accentuate features. While the lecture itself didn’t do much to expand on what I already knew about 3-point lighting, it reminded me of a component of a previous course I’d undertaken and the lighting exercises we did to familiarise us with the concept of hard (direct) and soft (diffused) light along with lighting the scene to look like different parts of the day. At a stage lighting course I did at NIDA many years ago (admittedly it was lighting for stage not for film, but the principles are similar) we had the task of lighting a scene to fit a brief. The scene needed to be lit several different times – one exercise was to light the scene as if there was moonlight coming through the window (for which we used a diffuser and experimented with various coloured gels, finally choosing a violet gel). The next exercise was to light the set as if it was daytime, where we used a coloured gel that had the same colour temperature as sunlight. One thing I noticed doing this exercise was that while the light itself might have looked very constructed and fake from the human eye, when you viewed the same setting through a camera it had a very different effect. Gels were picked up different as were the harshness or softness of lights. I think its very interesting that there is such a big discrepancy between what the human eye picks up and what the camera does. I suppose this is why lighting is so important on set.
Our Lenny exercise taught me a lot about the group dynamic we have and how this will relate for our shoot. To be perfectly honest, I was pleasantly surprised with how well we worked as a group and how the Lenny turned out. I was doubtful that the shots would edit together coherently, and although the shot angles could have been better chosen to cut together more seamlessly, it still wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. It did make me realise that we need to be more considerate when choosing our shots and angles and go into the shoot with a very clear idea of exactly where we will be placing the camera for each shot before attempting to shoot, we were limited by how close we could get or how far away to get the shots we wanted, especially considering we filmed our Lenny up against a wall so some things (for example a proper reverse shot for the female actor) were physically impossible or awkward to shoot. I am pretty impressed with how we all came together and the level of professionalism that was implemented on our shoot. I was 1st AD on the shoot which is a role I am quite familiar with and I believe having this experience definitely helped my team to get the whole shoot done on time. I know it is strongly advised against that a member of our team should be 1st AD on the day of our actual shoot, but I am fairly confident that if our shoot is going to be successful like the Lenny was, that I’m probably the best person to do it for our group because of the dynamic we have and how well it worked out for the Lenny. I don’t think as a producer I could sit by and watch someone else come in and 1st AD who doesn’t know the script as well as I do or understand priorities that we have made. I also know, without sounding arrogant, that I’ve had a lot of experience 1st ADing and I don’t have trust that someone else would be able to come in and do a better job.
Having the editing process in mind when approaching your shoot is helpful as you are able to avoid problems that might occur during the editing process, such as missing shots or cuts that don’t correlate. If you approach your shoot with the concept of many smaller shots that will be edited together then post-production is usually more successful and you don’t spend unnecessary time filming long takes. If you ensure that you have enough coverage of a scene then you also avoid missing crucial footage.
Dually, this allows for more creative license in the edit suite and you are afforded more options in shaping the flow of your film. If you shoot the same scene from multiple angles and shot sizes with editing in mind, the editing process is allowed its creative or experimental potential. You are able to pick and choose until you find the perfect combination of shots and angles.
1. Clown Train utilises many different types of sound to create the soundscape that informs the genre of the film and the general mood. The use of silence between atmos sounds creates tension and draws the audience in – this is done in many horror or thriller films, where sometimes the complete absence of sound is more tense than the moments where there are sound. The eeriness of the train and the isolation the protagonist is supposed to feel is alluded to through synth drones, high-pitched drones and other features in the soundtrack. These drones and high-pitched notes reach a crescendo at points of ultimate tension (for example, before the Clown gives the punchline of the last joke). The foley of the train noises is altered through post production to enhance the reverb and create an eerie, echoey feel so we are at once given a sense of place and context as well as creating a mood. The same is done with the foley of the fluorescent lights flickering – they become exaggerated and enhance the sense of desolation and tension. These are all typical of a horror or thriller genre and the audience immediately connects with a genre and an expectation for the film. Another genre film which uses sound to inform the space it is in is the horror/thriller film The Ring, particularly in this scene where the girl comes out of the television. There is a distinction between the two ‘spaces’ depicted on screen – in the room of the character who is about to be attacked, the eerie drone as well as television static (which would not be that audible in real life) give a sense of unease and the room itself is made to sound cavernous and therefore isolated. This is done through the resonance of the telephone as it rings, the amount of noise made when the character throws down the television remote and the echoes of his footsteps. In contrast, the scene with Naomi Watts that it is intercut with has a very different soundscape and sounds just like any other normal room. There is not a lot of echoing or reverb and her lines sound dull or natural. Like in Clown Train, the atmos track and eerie sounding music comes to a crescendo when the big moment of tension is about to occur.
2. In the week 3 reading “Creating the Sound Design” there was much exploration into what makes a good sound designer. The reading defined the difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’ which is something I never considered before – the point that was offered is that if you’re not truly focusing on listening then sound merely becomes a part of the environment or background noise. If you’re listening to your iPod on the tram but aren’t focusing on it intently then the music that is coming through your headphones isn’t truly registering with you. There is a difference between listening to a record in a quiet room whilst doing nothing else but engulfing yourself in the sound than listening to music or sounds purely as background noise. This point was so important because a good sound designer is perceptive of this and understands how to properly listen – isolating particular sounds, taking stock of all of the sounds that surround them in an environment, ‘selecting’ what the are hearing and having the ability to separate these sounds. If you are unable to properly listen then you are unable to create an authentic and believable soundscape with layers, distance and dynamics like in a real environment.
The reading also touched on the fact that sound designers very often have distinct styles, motifs and techniques that may be resonant through their different work. I thought this was interesting and I wondered how sound designers can maintain their distinctive style when crossing genres or briefs – for example, how can a sound designer create the soundscape for a romantic comedy and then a horror whilst still maintaining their distinctive style, artistic license and individual flair? If you look at the work of directors such as Tim Burton or Baz Luhrman it is easy to recognise the distinct style that carries through all of their films in how they appear visually or the ‘vibe’ they create. It never occurred to me that this might be the same with sound designers and the reading points out that there are many ways in which sound designers make choices which are completely up to their own creative license (for example, some sound designers choose to have quieter background noise so they can bring this to a crescendo in a moment of tension).
4. Aside from some unrealistic plot components, Rolling was a light-hearted and enjoyable short film. The first thing I noticed about the film (which is a device that always captures my interest) was the fact that the reveal or big ‘plot event’ is at the beginning of the film – you are shown the protagonist’s house full of toilet paper and made to wonder what were the events that led up to it. Generally, films that implement this device are successful in engaging the audience’s interest and attention from the onset. The casting of the male character was well done and the direction for his timing and delivery of lines helped the character to come across as authentically awkward (and somewhat hilarious). The dialogue written into the script for his character was believable and the way he delivered the lines didn’t seem acted or contrived. On the other hand, the script for the female character was lacking some authenticity or believability, coupled with the delivery of some of her lines (particularly when she says something to the effect of “did you want me?”). Immediately I was made to be aware I was watching an actress delivering lines, pulling me out of being engrossed or lost in the story. I liked that the plot was fairly simplistic and light-hearted, although the resolve seemed very far fetched (would the girl really turn up to this stranger’s house with the remaining toilet paper and then invite herself in) and at the same time fairly predictable for a romantic-comedy style of film. The production design for both scenes were authentic though this is perhaps because the locations were well chosen, rather than having a lot of thought put into specific design components.
QUESTION 1- This semester I want to improve on my ability to write narrative for film. I’ve always struggled with creating film scripts or telling a story within a time frame as my strengths have always lied within more abstract or non linear forms (for example music videos or experimental audio-visual formats). As I have already had significant experience with the production process (involving all aspects from pre to post) I don’t believe the course will directly expand this knowledge, rather consolidate the knowledge and experience I already have. Therefore, I intend on using this course as a means to experiment in roles I would previously not have taken on (for example cinematographer rather than being producer or director as I usually would) and improving on these skills so I am confident in more roles than I used to be.
QUESTION 2- Jasmine’s lecture on screenwriting didn’t particularly offer me anything new to think about as I have already studied screenwriting in the past and very similar ideas were explored. The most resonant idea that remained with me was the concept of giving your protagonist a very defined ‘want’ or ‘need’ and then creating clear and often impossible obstacles that disables them from getting what they desire. Jasmine was very adamant that conflict is a very important part of screenwriting and I agree with this in the respect that the majority of the films I enjoy surround the protagonist being at odds with something (whether it be an obstacle, their own desires or another person or ‘antagonist’). Jasmine also suggested that if you are struggling with coming up with ideas to reflect on the sorts of movies and television shows that interest you and see if there is any underlining concept, theme or idea that resonates with you. The only problem I have with this suggestion is that it is sometimes difficult to avoid cliches or end up mimicking something that has already been done before if you are using already existing films as points of inspiration for your own.
QUESTION 3- From the week 2 reading “slogans for the screenwriters wall” I most identified with the concept of ‘show-don’t-tell’ particularly in relation to acting technique and choosing actors who identify with this principle. Rather than having to spell everything out literally using dialogue, a good actor should allow the audience to join the dots or read between the lines. Often there is more said in a pause or an expression than in a line of dialogue – for example, a long pause could mean more than a short response. Dialogue should be analysed so the actor is able to provide a subtext if needed, giving scenes or events in the film more depth or meaning. This principle of ‘show-don’t-tell’ also relates to directors and screenwriters. Not everything needs to be spelt out in the audience – if it is an important plot point that your protagonist is a School teacher, rather than have the character state their occupation or make mention of this through dialogue, show the audience simply by alluding to this occupation through props lying around the set (for example, a pile of assessments to be marked). Choices made by the director should reflect this idea as well, particularly in casting and design. Certain facts or concepts about the characters or the story should be evident merely through the production design, costume or casting and should not need to be explicitly written into the script.