Week 4 Epiphany – The Scene in Cinema

In Wednesday’s class this week, our week 3 Exercise shoots were pretty much shot to pieces by Paul (and inadvertently Robin as well). I was quite surprised, as you can probably tell by my week 3 reflection. Although I knew that this was not the greatest shot I’ve ever directed because we were incredibly pushed for time, I thought it was at least a more refined version of the shot I had constructed in week 1’s exercise when I had the same script. In saying this, on the day of the shoot, I never actually looked back at the takes we had done because we needed to rotate roles as quickly as possible. I am now realising the huge importance of this task. When Paul screened our shots from week 3’s exercise in class, I noticed quite a few little mistakes I had made in terms of composition, particularly leaving too much head room for characters in the frame.

By simply looking back over the footage on camera during the shooting process, I could have potentially constructed far better scenes than I have done over the past few weeks in this studio. Firstly, if my group and I had have watched our footage from week 2’s shooting exercise, before packing our equipment up, we may have been able to re-shoot the shots we had forgotten to white balance properly or possibly chosen another location so that our shots were not so overexposed. During the editing process for this scene I realised how hard it is to try to salvage footage that is out of focus or ‘blown out’: it is essentially impossible. Therefore, I have realised that it would be worth trying to get the takes as close to perfect as possible during the shooting process instead of having to fix things in the editing room.

I am now facing a similar problem with week 4’s exercise. I have just looked over the footage we shot and realised that there are quite a few takes where the reflection of our camera and crew are visible in the glass of the suites where we were filming. Granted: it was a difficult location to shoot in because there were reflective surfaces everywhere and we don’t have display monitors available to us to be able to have more than one person overseeing the take. However, I think we should have looked over our footage once again after we thought we had finished our scene just to make sure everything was ‘usable’. This problem could have of course been helped if we had more time (we didn’t even get to shoot every shot we had originally planned), but as Paul and Robin have been drumming into us: there is never enough time, even in the professional industry of film production.

Other than the reflective problems, I thought our shoot went well. After having delegated roles, blocked out and roughly planned how we were going to realise our script on Wednesday, the group put together a shot list, storyboard and floor plan. This organisation meant that we were able to start shooting as soon as we were set up in our location on Friday. Nevertheless, somehow after all this planning and rationalising, I feel like we lost a lot of the creative ideas we had for covering this scene during our early discussions about the script. Maybe it was because the location was quite restrictive (it was difficult to move the camera around in a tight hallway of reflective doors), or maybe it was due to time restrictions; I think when faced with constraints a lot of people go into automatic mode and revert to ‘easier’ shots. Originally, we had talked about doing a lot of ‘frames within frames’ shots, because the location and the script (titled ‘Doors’) was almost shouting at us to do it. Although we got a few frames within our compositions, I think we could have utilised this part of the set a lot more. We were also talking about using the reflections from the glass to our benefit by possibly pulling focus from one character to the other character’s reflection by positioning the camera at a 45 degree angle from the glass. But during the manual process of actually getting all the equipment in there and positioning the actors, I think our more experimental ideas were thrown out the window and we regressed back into a more conventional mode of filmmaking.

I guess one of the things I’ve taken away from this exercise is that this may be the only time we get to break the rules and make mistakes with our filmmaking, so why not make the most of it? Today we ‘crossed the line’ and we filmed two subsequent shots from a similar angle that may turn out to look like a jump cut. But why not? We wouldn’t be able to play with camera coverage this much in a professional circumstance, so we may as well do it at university while we can. It’s really a great place to stuff up, if we stuff up at all, because whatever happens, we are still able to learn from it. I am really enjoying this course at the moment because it is giving us this freedom to make mistakes and in doing so, some really interesting, experimental scenes have been created.

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