Archive of ‘Studio reflections’ category

Creating dialogue

Writing from a child’s (and adult’s) point of view proved to be a challenge, seeing as how the way we speak is very different – not just in terms of age, but also culturally, as I had to consider the different slangs and ways in which they used certain words when compared to here in Australia and back in Malaysia.

As I did a bit of research on how I might go about this, I stumbled upon a book by Richard A. Blum which proved to be helpful. In his book was a chapter on realistic dialogue, and he stated that ‘dialogue should be motivated by the circumstances in the scene and should be consistent with the character development already established’ (Blum 2001).

As I began to think a bit about our few characters, I thought about the profile we had created for them, and tried to make dialogues that suited with their personalities. To give you a better idea of what I will soon explain, here is the link to the script.

A sweet, socially-awkward girl. She is introverted but joyful nevertheless. 
I made her social awkwardness evident through the way she interacts with her new ‘real’ friend, Chelsea. On the other hand, her joyful attitude can be seen when she is playing with her imaginary friend, Sam.

Stella’s imaginary friend. He has a sweet and charming character.
He is submissive to Stella, for example when he agrees to use the purple crayon when Stella tells him to, or when they are playing ‘Hairdressers’ together, where Stella chooses the hairstyle that he will have. This submissiveness is also for the fact that he is merely something Stella brought to life.

Stella’s neighbour, who later becomes her friend. She is a talkative, inquisitive child.
Her talkative personality contrasts against Stella’s quiet nature, and this can be seen when the two interact for the very first time. She uses a lot of questions and longer sentences compared to Stella’s short, seemingly disinterested replies.

Stella’s mother. She is constantly concerned about Stella’s well-being.
Her concern is seen on the times she checks on Stella and finds her playing with nobody, and when she is on the phone with a family friend. She is also the one who invites the neighbour over for tea and encourages Stella to play with Chelsea.

By thinking about our characters’ personalities and how they would react or respond to situations, I was able to come up with dialogues and actions that suited accordingly. Additionally, I got comments and suggestions from my team and other friends as to whether or not these characters’ dialogues suited their ages and personalities. Brushing it up along the way, I was able to improve it over several revisions.

This was a fun and interesting exercise for me, as I have only done one other short film throughout my schooling life, and so do not have much experience with creating solid characters or writing scripts. I reckon that I might have to make a few other changes along the way as the weeks come and go – as if we as a group have not already gone through that – but as that is all part of the learning experience, I believe that that would be exciting nevertheless.

Blum, RA 2001, Television and Screen Writing: From Concept to Contract, 4th ed., Taylor & Francis, UK, pp. 81-90.

Storyboarding and characters

As I wrote this script, I started visualising in my head what it would look like on screen. Seeing as how there are quite a few characters in our short film, we wanted to go with ensuring that more focus is put on the main character – the little girl, Stella.

With that, we decided that we want to capture our short film in a way where the spotlight is on Stella and her interactions with the two other children in the story, allowing viewers to see things more from a child’s perspective.

With this scene, I imagined that Stella’s mother, Mia, is never completely seen. We don’t ever see her face throughout the entire film, but we do see bits and close-ups of her – from the waist down, or just her mouth, or her back.

In a short film about a little girl and her relationship with her parents, ‘The Quiet Room’, director Rolf de Heer uses ‘various techniques to intensify the sense of being inside a child’s head, from stylised lighting to upturned camera angles emphasising adults towering over children’ (Lopate 1997). In our short film film, the children play the most important roles amongst themselves, and so we want to ensure that the focus is always on them.

Scene from ‘The Quiet Room’ (1996).

This shot is an example of how we want the adults to be portrayed in our short film – physically there and still a part of the child’s life, but not entirely a dominant character.


As with the above storyboard, only bits of Stella’s mother, Mia, is seen. The overhead shot with Stella colouring with Sam suggests what it is like from an adult’s perspective, but by seeing it in this way, it is also about how a child expects an adult to view them – in this case, that Sam exists. The close-up on Stella’s face is aimed to ignite a sort of attachment to the character, as we are fully focused on the joy she feels when she is around her imaginary friend.

Lopate, P 1997, ‘When the ‘I’ in a Film is a Child’s’, The New York Times, viewed 11 April 2016, <>.
The Quiet Room 1996, short film, Australia, directed and produced by Rolf de Heer.

Reflection: I Am Sam (2001)


To give myself further ideas of how a little girl would talk or react to certain things, I decided to watch ‘I Am Sam’ (2001), a story about a mentally-challenged single father and his daughter.

What I got from the little girl’s character, whose name is Lucy, is that she is a very inquisitive and straightforward child. She is also capable of making her own decisions and is adamant as a child naturally should, for instance, when a child insists to do something or demands for a specific toy. I allowed a bit of Lucy’s character to feed into the two little girls we have in our short film, seeing as how their conversation is actually the build-up to our climatic scene.

More than just observing how a little girl reacts to the world around her, I also paid attention to the way some of the parts were edited. Seeing as how I am going to be editing our short film, I took notice of some techniques I could draw from this movie. As an example, scenes with Lucy and her dad playing or having fun together were slowed down, causing more vivid emotions that allowed me to take in what was going on. As for the more climatic, dramatic scenes, the editor made lots of cuts and close-ups on faces, and that gave me a panicky sort of feeling.

By analysing the little things that make a film, I believe that more than visual aesthetics, editing plays a big role as well. The choices one makes when it comes to video editing is crucial to the progression and chronology of a story, and those choices we make will influence how the audience views the story and ultimately how they will react to it (Bell 2009). Paying attention to where and how we edit is fundamental to a good film, and I hope that I will be able to achieve just that with our short film. 

Bell, J 2009, Editing: The True Storyteller, Center for Digital Education, viewed 26 March 2016, <>.
I Am Sam 2001, film, The Bedford Falls Company, USA.

Stripping it down

I love the idea of stripping everything down to its essentials and telling your story with just the necessary pieces in front of you.‘ – Ray Wong

The above statement is one by director Ray Wong, who directed a sci-fi short film called Burnt Grass (2014). He was on a low budget when he and his crew made this short film, but he chose to make it work. He focused a lot on planting the idea of this ‘sci-fi mechanism’ and said that by doing this, he allowed the audience to do the interpretation and thinking whilst he had the freedom to explore the relationships in the film (Wong, 2014).

Our short film too had a lot of stripping down to do. As we began to think of ways in which we could put more emphasis on the message we wanted to convey, we began to strip it down, removing elements that weren’t necessarily essential to pushing the story forward, and instead worked on the things and relationships that mattered.

We decided to put more emphasis on the children in the story, focusing it more on Stella and her relationships – with her imaginary friend, Sam, and a real girl, Chelsea. We even removed some of the details about the children that we initially had. By doing this, we were able to have a clearer direction on where we want to bring this film, which is more to the topic of imaginary friends and how this child overcame that.

I believe that there is still a bit more to work on, and my group and I will be evaluating and polishing it over the next few weeks.

Burnt Grass 2014, short film, Canada, directed by Ray Wong.
Vez, E 2014, ‘Stripping Science-Fiction Down to its Essentials with ‘Burnt Grass’ Direction Ray Wong’, Directors Notes, viewed 6 April 2016, <>.

Reflective report

When you find that one thing that inspires you and pushes you forward, that is also when you will be putting yourself on a journey of progress, in discovering your strengths and potential -in this case, as a filmmaker and creative individual. One thing that got me wondering throughout this learning process is how one can come to truly and strongly believe in their own idea. Why I say this is because there is a huge difference in pitching an idea you conjured out of the mere need to, and pitching an idea you have a heart for. I want to explore this thought as it was a hurdle I went through, and I also want to discuss the process of how this story came to be.

I came to notice this as I was pitching different ideas to my lecturer, James. My group mates were away for the week and I knew we had to come up with something. I found that the more I tried to concoct a story, the more complicated it became. So I began to carefully reflect back on the first idea, which involved telling the story of a painter’s life – how she was a prisoner of her mind, and how she countered near-death experiences through art. Wheeler-Smith (2014) states that ‘an individual’s sense of self and identity may also be connected to his/her ideas, thus promoting feelings of psychological ownership and possessive attachment’. Her statement resonates with me, as I found that the ideas I kept coming up with after that never strayed far from the original one. One of the reasons could be the fact that as an art enthusiast myself, I often find comfort in drawing when I have to cope with difficult times, and I wanted the painter in this story to illustrate that. The problem was, as much as I enjoyed the elements in this idea, I had to come up with something better; something simpler.

Throughout the weeks, I found myself struggling to explain our (rather complex) story, not just to my lecturer, but also to some of my classmates. No matter what sort of ideas I found myself coming up with, it just didn’t quite click. ‘The productivity of language can just as easily lead to confusion and ignorance as to enlightenment and progress’ (Stratton 1999). This proved evident in my futile attempts. Drawing from that statement, I decided that I had to narrow it down and pick a few themes and elements that stood out most to me – strength, faith, death, woman… just to name a few. As I critically thought about those few things, a vision of a short film slowly began to form in my mind.

I realised that I had to delve deeper into the reason behind why I do what I do. One thing that Harris (2014) mentioned is this: ‘Creativity is not just found in the process of ideation (idea generation); it is found in the process of defining criteria for choosing the idea that moves forward’. He also wrote about how this process aids companies’ attempts to define their value system and also what they deem most significant. As I read that, it got me thinking about how creativity isn’t just about coming up with a good or feasible idea – it is about having an idea that resonates with you (and your team); one that you can be proud of because it tells people who you are and what you believe is important.

I wanted the focus to be on the idea of death, which is also relevant to the prompt my group was given, so I started thinking about how I could push this story forward. So just as how, be it in art or photography, the idea of having contrasting elements is encouraged, I decided I wanted to do the same with this short film. Extending from an idea mentioned by Elder (2008) in his book, this sort of separation is necessary but ‘recognising affinities among things is [also] required to place the perceived object in a context’. Having that said, this ‘principle of unity-in-difference (Kontrast-Anologie)’ led me to think about how it would be relevant to come up with something cohesive that revolved around the topic of death, yet something that could conquer the preconceived fatalities of it.

Death is something people often dread – it is not a topic very much celebrated. To have strength and joy in the face of something this serious is what I believe children could have, simply for the fact that their innocence and carefree personality is their driving force. It is said that children who are fearless tend to ‘develop stronger internalisation’ when they are very close to their mothers and when their mothers are responsive to them (Damon, Lerner & Eisenberg 2006). So for this short film, I wanted to portray the confidence of a little girl and her loving mother, unwavering even in the face of death. The story revolves around this little girl who faces a medical condition and her companion, who is Death in the form of a little boy. I chose to use children to contrast the severity of sickness and death, to the carefree nature of the young.

To add to the essence of joy radiated by the children in this short film, I felt like using warm and bright tones would be our best bet. After all, what better way to overthrow death but to have a positive outlook? We will be experimenting with a lot of high-key lighting and controlling the warmth of our shots through colour grading. This sort of lighting often illustrates feelings of warmth, cheerfulness, expansiveness and energy (Stinson 2004), and that is exactly what we aim to have with the children in our film.

Upon having these plans laid out for our short film, it was then that I knew I had an idea I really wanted to pursue. It took a while to get to that point, but the journey I took on coming to this point was a defining one for me. As we spoke a little more as a group, we began to take on the idea of this girl having Death as some sort of imaginary friend; a metaphorical reminder that all things come to an end. In an article in The Straits Times (2012), Ng states that imaginary friends help children cope with life changes. Moreover, her youth and innocence allows her to see this entity as a life form, as compared to her mother who – at her age is already bruised by age and worldly troubles – cannot.

As we continue to think about how we might develop our short film, one thing I hope we will be able to put our focus on is the meanings behind the elements of our story. It would be interesting to create a short film that is also an artistic piece, with hidden metaphors that convey a message to our viewers. In efforts to do so, one thing I will personally be doing is some research on topics like children, death, and imaginary friends. I believe it would be an interesting blend. I also intend to watch a couple of films to gain better ideas and more inspiration from other passionate filmmakers. Our intention is to create a film that expresses our own creative direction and we will continue to work towards delivering that.


Damon, W, Lerner, RM & Eisenberg, N 2006, Handbook of Child Psychology, 6th ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey, pp. 326-327.

Elder, B 2008, Harmony and Dissent, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Canada, pp. 132-135.

Harris, LVA 2014, Idea Engineering: Creative Thinking and Innovation, Momentum Press, New York, pp. 122-124.

Stinson, J 2004, ‘Light Source: Lighting for Mood’,, viewed 3 April 2016, <>.

Stratton, J 1999, Critical Thinking for College Students, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., USA, pp. 61-62.

The Straits Times 2012, Imaginary friends help a child cope with changes, viewed 4 April 2016, <>.  

Wheeler-Smith, SL 2014, ‘Ideas as the Territory of the Self’, Graduate School of Business Administration, viewed 2 April 2016, <>.

Reflection: David Lynch – The Alphabet

The visuals and sound design on this short piece was great. I’ve always been one to appreciate art (be it film or paintings) that are both dark and odd in its own ways, and I have to say that David Lynch is luminary.

What am I researching? Why am I researching it? 
I have always been a very visual sort of person, but the sound design on this piece was almost enticing. The first time I watched it was in our studio class. The second time, however, I decided to leave it playing without looking at the video. I decided to focus all my attention on the the audio. It was great, with it sounding as disturbing as it looked. I hope to further explore that as it is certainly different from the way I used to see films.

What have I learned?
I have a tendency to disregard sound design, simply for the fact that I enjoy looking rather than listening. However, this has made me realise how beautiful a film can be, and how audio and visuals are made to work together.

Where is this leading me? 
Hopefully to experimenting with different sounds when it comes to making short films. I might even want to think about something that is solely (or heavily) focused on just sound.

Possible future research directions:
How to actually produce a soundscape that is random yet meaningful. I feel like I really don’t know much about how it actually works, or how one can make it work, but it’s definitely something I’d like to really play around with.

Reference list: 
David Lynch The Alphabet, video, Matteo Pini 2014, 6 February, viewed 8 March 2016, <>.

Questions/Ideas/Topics to follow on: 
– Tips on sound design
– Different sounds for different genres

Reflection: The Philosophy of the Short-story

“Though the Short-stories of the beginner may not be good, yet in the writing of Short-stories he shall learn how to tell a story, he shall discover by experience the elements of the art of fiction more readily and, above all, more quickly, than if he had begun on a long and exhausting novel.”

What am I researching? Why am I researching it?
This was an interesting read, considering how one can relate short stories and novels, to short films and movies. This reading mentions that short stories have ‘limitless possibilities: it may be as realistic as the most prosaic novel, or as fantastic as the most ethereal romance’ (Matthews 1901). It makes me wonder how I might broaden my horizons and experiment with different genres.

What have I learned?
Short films have the ability to touch people in ways that movies cannot. Matthews (1901) noted that short stories have the ability to impress its readers with the belief that it’d be ‘spoiled if it were made larger, or if it were incorporated into a more elaborate work’ and I believe that that is the same with short films.

Where is this leading me?
I think it would be very beneficial for me to watch more short films, to grasp a better understanding of various stories by different directors. It would be a good source of both information and inspiration.

Possible future research directions:
It would be great to be able to develop my stories and characters in a way that would make my short film more meaningful, and I would like to venture into achieving that.

Reference list: 
Matthews, B 1901, The Philosophy of the Short-story, Longmans, Green, and Co., Cambridge, USA.

Questions/Topics/Ideas to follow on:
– The need to watch more short films
– Coming up with in-depth thoughts and ideas

Reflection: You and the creative process

“… I saw that each took a long time to gain possession of their artistic core. Only slowly and imperfectly do we grasp what drives us. Yet something within must know all along. Because when you look back, you see you have steered a consistent course anyway.”

What am I researching? Why am I researching it?
One thing I’d like to have a better understanding of is my voice, more specifically when it comes to film or art in general. I enjoy art, especially drawing, and something I’ve been struggling a lot with lately is finding my style. Reading this chapter by Rabiger (2006) widened my perspective, and I am keen on being on this journey of the self.

What have I learned?
Rabiger gave interesting insight to what he believes art is. He says that art strives to ‘explain, question, or celebrate what we feel most deeply, what we yearn for and protest against, so that making it is rooted in our most abiding preoccupations’. To me, this was meaningful because of how I was reminded that it is all about giving back to the world; about how much you can allow people to feel what you feel about a particular issue.

Where is this leading me?
I hope that the more I delve into creating, the better I’ll understand myself and why I do art. I sometimes think that art is all about self-expression, but more than that, it is also about telling people a story that they would be able to feel for, and I hope that I would be able to do just that in the upcoming short films I’ll feed into.

Possible future research directions:
I’m keen on finding my voice and exploring different options by studying what other artists have created. It’s so important to be constantly inspired.

Reference list:
Rabiger, M 2006, ‘You and the creative process’ in Developing story ideas, 2nd ed., Focal Press, Amsterdam, pp. 15-19.

Questions/Topics/Ideas to follow on:
– Filming styles
– Renowned filmmakers

Reflection: Small Deaths by Lynne Ramsey

This is a short film that deeply intrigued me, not just for the brilliant sound design and how it was so visually appealing, but also for how the story was told. Some of the scenes were rather dark and incredibly confronting, and as I progressed deeper into the film, it got to the point where I actually felt uncomfortable.

What am I researching? Why am I researching it?
That knot I felt in the pit of my stomach while watching Small Deaths (1996) is something I’d like to think about and research on. I’m quite interested in story and character development, and I believe that this short film excelled at just that. I want to know how I might create a story that would be powerful enough to touch viewers.

What have I learned?
More than having a short film with great audiovisuals, it is also important to have a story that is both solid and fluid. What I mean by this is that although there is a strong storyline behind it, it also leaves room for interpretation.

Where is this leading me?
Hopefully, this will lead me to creating stories that will make people feel. Discomfort and a sense of conviction is something that’s not easily achievable, but I feel that that is what makes a great film.

Possible future research directions:
“Writers find inspiration wherever they turn … Even the craft itself may inspire.”
As I read this excerpt by McKee, it got me thinking that more than the inspiration behind a story, is the way you film and edit, for even that can change a viewer’s perception of things. What I’d possibly like to explore is how to craft an entire piece in the best way possible.

Reference list:
Small Deaths by Lynne Ramsey, video, Cannes Films 2013, 26 December, viewed 2 March 2016, <>.
McKee, R 1999, ‘Structure and meaning’ in Story: Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting, Methuen Publishing, London, p. 112.

Questions/Topics/Ideas to follow on:
– Story and character development
– Cutting and editing

Reflective essay – Exhibition group task

Before coming to Melbourne for my Degree, I did my Diploma in a Malaysian college that placed a lot of emphasis on practice-based learning. This meant a lot of hands-on work when it came to our assignments, plenty of planning for events, and a whole lot of being placed in real-world circumstances. Over my two and a half years in college, I grew to be very attached to any roles that involved PR or design, and that is precisely why I chose to be in the PR team for our SIGNAL exhibition.

I did my best to take the initiative to ensure that we had a clear list of things that had to be done, so that everyone knew what had to be accomplished. By working on checklists and also formatting a calendar of various events and deadlines, I did this in hopes that as a team, we would be able to help each other out when it came to completing the tasks that we were assigned to. I also worked towards getting conversations going within our Facebook group chat, monitoring and checking up on my teammates every now and then. One thing I’ve learnt is that communication within the group is extremely important, as that is how you keep each other accountable, making certain that everybody is in the loop and knows what is going on.

Being in college taught me how to make physical press kits that were attractive in design and precise in information. Rose did a great job with the poster and flyer designs, and the website was set up very nicely by my group mates. I worked on writing the press release and compiling the press kit, as most of them were unsure of how it was done. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to bring this knowledge to uni, and I worked with my PR team to create a press kit that we could look back and be proud of. I enjoyed how cohesive the group was and the individual efforts that they put into making it work. It got a little stressful at some points, especially when not everyone had settled their thumbnails and blurbs – this meant a delay in the biographies for our website, and that also caused a minor hold up in the completion and delivery of the press kit. However, it was all the more comforting knowing that we were in this as a team.

Once the posters and flyers were confirmed, I got them printed with Robbie and found a day to put them up around uni. Getting some help from my PR team, a few of us got moving and had all 40+ posters up in less than an hour. Many hands make light work, and the evident teamwork was tremendously encouraging. I also divided and distributed the flyers among ourselves so that we could go back and cut them up in our own free time. The booklets, on the other hand, were printed a day before the exhibition. However, due to some technical difficulties with the printer, the double-sided pages were not aligned and the entire stack could not be saved.

It was then that Nicolette asked if anybody could come in earlier, before our exhibition’s opening night, to reprint and settle the new booklets. In that crucial moment, it was heartening to see some of my classmates offering to lend a hand. I, too, decided to help out with the booklets, because I know exactly what it’s like to have to mend a mistake. I remember once having over 500 flyers printed with a minor mistake, and the work was only made lighter – and possible – with help from fellow teammates. The students in this Media studio have taught me that is so essential to have a sort of urgency and care towards the projects that you work on, for things will only be made difficult without cooperation.

In terms of our RMIT exhibition, I must be honest and say that I did not do much except contribute all my previous semester work, as well as a short edited video of our dinner party at Testing Grounds some weeks ago. What I’ve learnt throughout this ‘Specific to Site’ studio is not solely dependent on what I’ve achieved as a student studying Media, but the experience I’ve gained from my fellow classmates. Truly, they are inspirations – not only through what I’ve iterated regarding their excellent teamwork, but through the work that each of them have produced. Artistic in scale and rich in ideas, I can say that the past semester has ignited within me the drive to give my very best. Also, of course, none of this would be true if we didn’t have an excellent studio coordinator, Robbie. He pushed us out of our comfort zones, what with having to interact with the artists from Testing Grounds (all of which we previously have never said a word to); encouraging us to take matters into our own hands by taking up various roles for our exhibition(s); all while guiding us through and assisting us in producing exceptional content for all our projects.

As I reflect on the past semester and consider the various things that we have accomplished and attained as a class, I can say that I’ve learnt a lot as a student and practitioner, and I’m thankful that I scored my first choice when I balloted for this studio. I look forward to the adventures ahead, and am positive that this was a uni experience I am unlikely to forget.

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