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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reflection/Epiphany 4

This weeks major exercise had us split into groups of 10, that were in turn split again in 2 groups, an executive and support, which we would swap half way through the exercise. This exercise, when it was put forward to us on the Wednesday, felt a lot more like what we had done in Film TV1 than in this course so far, specifically in reference to the opportunity for pre-production. Unfortunately for us, we had very little pre-production done by Friday morning. This is mainly due to the fact that we didn’t have time, we were given the exercise Wednesday and were shooting on Friday first thing in the morning. Thankfully, Natalie had written up a rough shot list which she posted on the Facebook group we created for the exercise.

Friday morning we were missing a number of group members, although most arrived just in time for shooting. The other half of our group seemed more prepared and ready to go than ours so we jumped into filming. I was on sound which I feel quite confident with. Watching the other group work first gave me a better idea of what our limitations were, how I could work around these, as well as inspiring me get more out of our shoot. There were to major challenges I identified. The limitations of the space and our limited time frame. The time frame was the most obvious challenge, it affirmed my apprehension about spending too much time on individual shots, consequently the first group to shoot ended up having to scrap a shot, thankfully this was a non-essential cut away of the protagonists feet which ended up being of little consequence. The location was the most frustrating however, as it was a confined area with very little variety.

Natalie asked if I would like to direct, which I said I was happy to do. Despite directing being my preference, I initially decided to take a step back and give someone else the opportunity to do it if they felt strongly about it, which no one seemed to. Since we only had a shot list, and very limited time, I had to make quick decisions about were to place set-ups and how I would frame them. Expanding on this, I was always conscious of what Paul had said in a previous class, that we should weep overtime we look through the lens” because the shot is so good. While this is obviously hyperbole, I recognise the pressure and expectation as a legitimate challenge we should all be striving to achieve. I did not weep at any of the shots I framed. This is not to say that I don’t think that they were any good, it’s just that they were nothing special. One of my primary concerns was creating a sense of depth, opening up the shot so it didn’t feel amateur and restricted. I worked with the space I had and felt that what we did manage to capture was quality despite the locations confinement.

Everyone worked really well as a team, in both groups. It worked to my advantage that I had seen the other group shoot first. So far as concise epiphanies go, I would say that the biggest thing that jumped out at me, and something I am conscious of in my ‘method’ is the importance of pacing. Too many times on shoots there have been moments when people are standing around, getting bored and not knowing what they should be doing at a given time. As a director, it’s easy to get caught up with your own job and vision and forget that you have a crew of people waiting on you. With this in mind, I was extremely conscious of maintaining a solid working pace, as well as not dwelling too long on a single shot so that no one is ever bored or disinterested. This also improves the quality of the work, in regard to acting in particular. Giving an actor too long to dwell on there actions, or having too much time between takes breaks confidence and rhythm, which results in a weaker performance. We finished under time, which I took as a good thing, given that we had all the shots we set out to achieve. It did make me question if I had just done a rushed job, however I truly feel that I can recognise it as a positive quality of my directing style.

Reflection/Epiphany 3

The first individual directing exercise we did on the Friday of week 3 was interesting and challenging on a number of levels. Since we had 6 people to get through, time was clearly the biggest issue. It is hard enough to articulate a vision to a crew and actors, especially if the actors have very little experience. The location we chose gave us a variety of choices, the building which served as the background for most of our scenes is an interesting old (possibly gothic) style building with lush green plants in garden beds along the side. This would help us ad depths and contrast without having to do anything too tricky with the camera. On top of the building, there are ledges/benches bordering the nearby lawn, which we used as seats for the actors as well as a platform we could (and did) use for the camera set-up.

This was also the first time this semester that we used the mixer for the microphone, so it could be said this is the first time we had used a “full” kit as a group, minus lights etc. Each time we shot a scene we would swap roles, which worked really well for us, I specifically remember Simone asking about the mixer and expressing an interest in working with it.

For my shot, the intention was to pan from a mid shot of one character placed in the left of the screen, to then pan across to the other character in mid on the right, then continue to pan as she walked away until eventually stopping at a long shot as she turns around to address the other character. The most difficult part of this was the panning itself, Jason had to pan the camera pretty much 90 degrees which made it difficult to control. The other issue with this shot was the pacing of the action, given that it is meant to be a smooth continuous pan. My direction was for Simone to wait 2 beats after Maddie delivered her line, to the stop at a spot I marked while blocking. The end product, which I only saw once in class the following week, I was actually really pleased with. I achieved a very rough sketch of the shot I had imagined in my mind, so mission accomplished I suppose.

Another revelation that came out of this exercise is that I noticed how much more comfortable people have become acting in front of the camera. While in the early weeks people would immediately express their reluctance to be in front of the camera, there is basically none of that now. People are even enjoying it. I did drama at a very young age and continued through my high school years, so I would consider myself a confident actor, despite not having really done it for a few years. I have felt a little uncomfortable doing it in these exercises, I think this is because there is a difference between playing with acting around actors and people that don’t want to do it. This is certainly changing, and I think this fact has been an invaluable lesson from this studio.

Reflection/Epiphany 2

Possibly the most exciting thing that stuck out to me this week was just a comment by Paul about the course to come. While a week ago I had changed my preconception about the course, I still hadn’t completely comprehended the aim of the unit, beyond better understanding movie’s and movie making. In talking about the assignment which we are expected to articulate our work methodology and style, he mentioned that this was the primary aim of the course, to come up with our own method and style. While it’s obvious that this is expected, given that we are doing an outcome halfway through the semester in which we literally have to articulate this, I’m excited because this has been a source of some anxiety for me in the past. I am very much looking forward to discovering the bones of my creative pallet, the work I do on this unit will most likely have a dramatic impact on any future work that I do.

Already I have noticed, not just myself but all of my peers, getting more confident and fluid in the exercises tasked to us. I gain more confidence from the knowledge that these exercises will only become more challenging and exciting as we have the opportunity and forum to practice the technical skills necessary and grow creatively.

Found Scene – American Psycho: Business Card Scene

This scene for American Psycho takes place before any actual murdering takes place. It is in this scene where we meet his first victim, Paul Allen. The main function of this scene however, is to illustrate the competition in status these men are constantly participating in, and how much Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale’s character) cares about these things.

The scene starts with a shot of Bateman and Luis Carruthers discussing his reservation at Dorsia. The camera tracks forward to rest on a mid-shot OTS when Bateman replies, “lucky I guess.” Carruthers compliments his suit. Camera changes to a mid shot of Bateman, his fist resting on a chair in the foreground, with Carruthers in the background, illustrating him as an annoyance to Bateman, his positioning being less significant than Batemans fist. Bateman slaps Carruthers’ hand away when he touches his suit, providing a logical point to cut to the next shot.

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The camera tracks Paul Allen as he enters from the left side of the screen to approach Bateman. Quick cut to Bateman of him reacting to Allen acknowledging him by the wrong name, checking his tie, before cutting back to the previous shot. The voice oScreen Shot 2015-03-15 at 4.06.30 pmver begins, explaining the situation. As the voice over happens, there is a cut to Marcus Halbistram, the person Allen confused Bateman for, panning from left to right as he enters the room and shakes hands with a colleague, Halbistram nods in acknowledgement toward the camera as he enters, as if he is acknowledging the voice over talking about him.

Cutting back to Bateman, the shot is an awkwardly framed close up, contributing to the feeling of restrained frustration implicit in Bateman’s face. There is series of fast cuts back and forth between Allen and Bateman as they exchange snide remarks, until it cuts to Craig McDermott, accompanied by Timothy Bryce and David Van Patten, entering the board room. McDermott calls out and compliments Allen on the “Fisher Account”, more quick cuts as Bryce inquires about squash.

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The pacing of the scene slows dramatically as Allen takes his business card and flagrantly passes it to Bryce. The camera pans to follow the card as it changes hands, there is a whooshing sound as it happens illustrating the significance of the card. Allen then moves to exit the scene, discussing his dinner plans, dropping that he has a dinner reservation at Dorsia, When he mentions Dorsia, the camera is focused on McDermott, Brice and Van Patten who all respond with contained shock, before cutting back to Allen shaking hands with an extra.

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Bryce and McDermott make comments before the camera cuts to Bateman removing his business card holder from his breast pocket, cutting to a close up as he opens its. The motion is accompanied by the same whooshing sound as before, and the sound of the case being flicked open is reminiscent of a sword being drawn. Quick cut to Bryce inquiring if its a gram (of cocaine), before cutting back to Bateman placing it on the table, “new card”. Close up of the card on the table, the camera rests on it for an extra beat. Batemans colleagues all lean forward and praise the card. Cut back to Batemen looking very smug with himself, citing the various characteristics of the card. Van Patten then places his card on the table in response. Cut to the two cards adjacent to one another, with Brice’s voice cut over the top exclaiming, “that is really nice.” Cutting back to Van Patten once more, he declares the characteristics of the card before requesting acknowledgement from Bateman.

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Cutting to close up of Bateman, the camera is framed slightly off in such a way that it amplifies the tension. Bryce then ups the ante, pulling his own card out and placing it on the table. The camera cuts to a close up of the card, in the same fashion as the previous ones. Once more cutting to Bateman, he is starting to break, barely able to get his words out through frustration, then requesting to see Paul Allens card.

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His colleagues exchange a glance, before looking away, Bryce takes a second look at the card before looking around, this gives off an air of significance and intimidation surrounding the card. There is a slowly building hum as this exchange takes place before turning into suspenseful strings as it cuts to a close up of the card. The card is framed and lit in contrast to the others presented in the scene. It takes up most of the frame, is slightly tilted and lit in such a way that it almost spotlit. Batemans voice over exclaims all the things that a so great about the card in exasperation. The camera cuts from the card to an extreme close up of Bateman, who looks as if he could feint. This sentiment is further signified when the camera cuts to a close up of Bateman and Carrathers, Bateman lets the card slip from his fingers before Carrathers asks him if something is wrong, “your sweating.”






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Scene in Cinema – Reflection/Epiphany 1.5

When I chose The Scene in Cinema to be my first preference in the studio ballot, I did so for two reasons. 1) I thought it was going to be like an intensive cinema studies class (which I do not have as my major) and 2) Paul and Robin were taking the studio. From the brief description, it basically just said that we would be looking at scenes, what makes scene work, and discussing this. However, given that Paul and Robin are taking the course, I was sure that there would be at least a small practical element.

I was very surprised to turn up to our first studio and find a stack of cameras and tripods in the corner. After a very short introduction, we were split into groups to start working on a scene. My preconception of the studio, while not incorrect, seemed to be a far cry from what we were actually doing. I am very excited for the course to come. What Paul has said about the main aim of the course being to develop our own method and style is inspiring and motivating.

Scene in Cinema – Reflection/Epiphany 1

Our first studio for The Scene in Cinema had us doing practical work right off the bat. We were split into groups and given a prompt with which we had to block and organise a scene with no pre-production planning. This was a fantastic way of giving us all a taste of what we could expect from the course in the semester to come.

The differences between our scene and the other, with the same prompt was vast. Our shot was basically just a pan to rest on the actors. While the other had the boss positioned in from of the camera OTS, while the employee comes into the right side of the shot, basically facing the camera. The difference in status is made immediately clear, giving the boss and imposing and almost ominous tone, while the employee looks small and weak in comparison; at his mercy. Should have recorded to see how ours look, as i was acting I didn’t really get a chance to reflect on framing.

The real scene which our prompt was ripped from was essentially a combination of both, with some differences and was lot more dynamic. The actress enters the scene, speaking to the boss off camera. Upon announcing her engagement, the boss enters the scene shaking her hand. The boss then moves from screen left to right, changing the dynamic of their relationships, making it much more comfortable and casual.