Week 8 Research

This week I decided to do some further research into the shooting methodologies of various directors. I was trying to find someone who was ‘in between’ the organic shooting style of Nicholas Winding Refn and the calculated shooting process of Alfred Hitchcock. I found Woody Allen. Although I think you can tell that his process of filmmaking is not completely planned out in preproduction, (because of the naturalistic dialogue in a lot of his creations), I never actually knew how he went about shooting his films.

He proclaims that he lets the content of his films ‘…dictate the form’; meaning that his camera coverage is first and foremost designed to respond to the narrative (Geffner 2008, para 2). Rather than storyboarding his shots however, he rigorously blocks out the camera coverage and character movement on the day of the shoot. This is because he attests to having written all of his films with certain shots and character movements in mind. He will spend the majority of the shooting day setting up and choreographing shots before bringing in any actors. He prefers to frame up the shots himself and then show his DOP who will give him feedback and then light the scene.

In regards to actors, he doesn’t like them to rehearse, so when they come on to set, he will just show them exactly where they need to stand at certain points in the script and the rest is really up to them. In an interview with David Geffner from the Directors Guild of America, Allen says that ‘more than 90 percent of the time, the actors are fine with my blocking. But sometimes they’ll say they want to change it and, of course, we try that. I’m certainly not going to force an actor into something he doesn’t feel good about doing’ (2008, para 4). Allen is renowned for letting his actors have quite a lot of freedom with his material. He will only ever really ‘direct’ them if they make a mistake that contradicts the story (Prigge 2013). He was quoted saying ‘I give my actors a lot of freedom to improvise. I never want an actor to feel stuck with my dialogue, or that if he has ideas he can’t bring them up during the scene’ (Geffner 2008, para 5).

In terms of actually filming shots, he only ever does one or two takes. He believes that once everything is set up and the actors are working well, the first take of a shot is usually the best. However, he generally does a second take, just to see if the actors can ‘top’ the first, but he claims that mostly, they don’t. He also only shoots a shot from the one perspective, he doesn’t ‘do any coverage’ (Geffner 2008, para 8). Although some directors gain time through shooting a shot or a scene from multiple camera positions, where the order of the shots will be determined in editing, Allen gains his time ‘in really perfecting the setup’ (Geffner 2008, para 8).

I think Allen’s shooting method may work well for me as it builds on Nicholas Winding Refn’s filmmaking style. What I didn’t like from last week’s shoot is that I found myself feeling quite unconfident on set because I felt like the actors were waiting on me. However, if I do my ‘improvisation’ (setting up camera positions and lighting) prior to having actors in, this pressure will hopefully be lessened. This should also allow for a more relaxed shooting environment, where the actors will feel comfortable to ad lib (within the constraints of a prose).


Geffner, D 2008, ‘Working with Actors (Woody Allen)’, Welcome to the Machine, viewed 27 April 2015, <http://onewaytv.blogspot.com.au/2008/12/working-with-actors-woody-allen.html>.

Prigge, M 2013, ‘‘Blue Jasmine’ cast talks Woody Allen’s odd directing methods’, Metro, viewed 27 April 2015, <http://www.metro.us/entertainment/blue-jasmine-cast-talks-woody-allen-s-odd-directing-methods/tmWmgy—64R6yu23yrYaQ/>

Week 7 Reflection

For week 7’s shoot I decided to use Nicholas Winding Refn’s style of shooting that I wrote about in My Method of Working Part 4. This was the beginning of my individual investigation and the first scene we had to shoot outside of class. I loved this because I got to use my own camera, which I am a lot more comfortable with in comparison to the Sony EX3s we generally use in class. The problem with this was that because I was shooting on a DSLR camera there was no viewfinder (only a digital display screen) and the in-built microphone produced pretty appalling audio.

The night before shooting I had a look over the prose (not script) I was working off and found a location for the scene. I then quickly drew some ideas onto cue cards so that I could show the actors what I wanted the shots to roughly look like while on set. These were not shot by shot storyboards, they were literally just random concepts I thought might work well on screen.

On the day of the actual shoot I found that there were some definite advantages and disadvantages to this method of filming. I think shooting in chronological order is a good idea when implementing such an organic process of shooting. I found that this method helped me to come up with new ideas while I was on set because I was readily responding to how the actors were using the space and how they were reacting to each other. If I had not shot the sequence in chronological order, I could not have so readily included new ideas into the scene.

For instance, the first shot was a complete fluke. Even if I had properly storyboarded this scene beforehand, there is no way I would have come up with a shot like this. For some reason, on that day outside, there was a beautiful light, which was just catching on the trees. Somehow I found some leaves that framed the shape of the character’s head perfectly and so I decided to shift the focus from the leaves to the character, which created a smooth transition, drawing the audience into the scene.
Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 5.21.18 pm
Coincidentally, exactly where I wanted to put the tripod there was a concrete garden bed, which made it impossible to stabilise the tripod. However, this (I think) worked to my benefit. Having a quick look through the camera, I realised that a slightly hand held style would emulate a voyeuristic point of view shot (as if someone was staring at the character from behind the tree). This shot essentially established the entire tone of the scene: slightly creepy, awkward and tense.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 5.21.54 pm

Having the cue cards helped to give me some direction while I was shooting and they became a springboard for other ideas. I had mainly drawn out frames that explored how I could use the mirrors in the location. However (as you can see below), a lot of those original concepts did not eventuate. This was either because I realised they wouldn’t work once I got on set, they didn’t suit the tone I was going for or they ended up morphing and developing into different ideas. In some ways I think this kind of general planning is better than definitive storyboards. Often I feel like I have to follow a plan when it is put in front of me, which makes it difficult to think of other ways of possibly covering the scene.

11119534_10152781885839080_1691742195_n11165997_10152781885704080_1335806997_n  11169018_10152781885854080_398957385_n 11180265_10152781885834080_1199742147_n 11186357_10152781885809080_1777465805_n 11195336_10152781885924080_850689172_n
Nevertheless, there were some downfalls to this method. Firstly, although I was using my own camera and I was only working with a very small cast of friends, I did not feel overly confident or comfortable during the shooting process. Maybe it was because I am not used to improvising on set, particularly when I’m the one making all of the decisions, but I found myself constantly apologising to the actors. I felt like I was wasting their time, because I was running around trying to find ‘the shot’ and they had to stand there waiting. Sometimes I’d start recording a take and then I’d stop everything because I didn’t like it or I had thought of a better way to cover it. During these instances I just felt a bit all over the place, like the shoot was a complete mess. It became a heavily emotional process, which was not necessarily all good or all bad. When I completely plan out a scene before going into a shoot, I feel like there is a sense of separation between me and and what is being recorded, because it has already been predetermined in a way. Whereas with this more improvisational approach, I was so intensely involved in everything that was being shot that it really affected how I felt. If something wasn’t working, I would get really upset/annoyed/angry, because there was no plan to rely on. Conversely, if something turned out well, I would be overjoyed. I distinctly remember when the shot below was recorded. By this point in the shoot, the actors were working really well together, the light was just right and I was happy with the framing. I was so thrilled with this take that I got the actors to come and look at it on the camera and I decided that it was perfect, so we moved straight onto another shot. In retrospect, I really should have done another take because that was the hardest shot to colour grade (I had been having lighting problems throughout the shoot because my only source was daylight and the weather conditions had been changing every few minutes). Thus there are pros and cons to becoming so emotionally involved with a project.
Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 7.21.50 pmScreen Shot 2015-04-27 at 7.21.29 pm
It probably would have been better to have a crew that could help me operate the camera and audio, so then I could have solely focused on directing. However, with this method of shooting, I felt like I really needed to be looking through the camera at all times so that I could physically move it around to find the framing I wanted. This method was so far removed from Hitchcock’s style of shooting where everything was rigorously planned out in advance so that he never actually needed to look through the viewfinder of the camera. In reality I think that I might have felt even more uncomfortable having a bigger crew, because it would have meant that there would have been more pressure on me to direct everyone and keep the shoot running at a decent pace.
Subsequent to filming and editing, I have thought of different compositions and framing techniques I could have used and I wonder that if I had have spent more time in pre-production whether I would have thought of these and been able to implement them into my work. Although I think this organic process of filmmaking is great, as a director using this method, you have to be willing to accept that sometimes you are going to miss things simply because your mind isn’t given enough time to thoroughly think through the scene. I think that sometimes letting your mind stew on an idea for a while can help to develop the concept; I’m no psychologist, but I know when you are struggling to think of something, your subconscious will continue to work in the background to try to solve the problem. In the end, it really just comes down to spontaneity verses planning. At this stage, I’m still not sure which side of the spectrum I favour, but I guess that is what my entire investigation is about.

On the whole, I was actually pretty happy with how the footage came together in the edit. I think I still have a long way to go until I find the best shooting methodology for me, but overall I really liked the idea of shooting a scene chronologically and sketching rough ideas of how the scene might look before going ‘on set’. Ultimately I would like to work these processes into my final method of shooting.

My Method of Working Part 11

As mentioned in My Method of Working Part 10, I am hoping to continue my research into the shooting methods of various directors, in order to inform my own filmmaking. Each week, or maybe every second week (depending on how much pre-production needs to be done), I will shoot a scene using the method of a different director. Even though we have been doing exercises similar to this each week in the course, I still feel like I don’t know exactly which shooting method works best for me…yet. After each shoot, I am planning on reflecting on my progress and this will ultimately determine how I go about shooting my final scene.  In saying this, I am not too concerned about the final product, I am more interested in exploring the process of shooting a scene and how this affects the quality of the camera coverage. Ultimately, I am undergoing this research to prime my ‘future self’, so that I understand which methods help me to produce the best possible work that I can.

This week I decided that I should investigate how one of the all time ‘greats’ of filmmaking went about shooting his scenes. Alfred Hitchcock’s films were what really started getting me interested in cinema; and although I got the chance to analyse a lot of his films throughout my high school years (Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958)), I never got to research how Hitchcock actually went about creating his films.

To begin this investigation on Hitchcock, I watched an interview he did in 1976, where he suggests that the best way to go about making a film is to ‘put it down on paper’ before going into the production process. This is because he believes it is too difficult to improvise when there are ‘electricians’ and other crewmen standing around waiting to shoot. He explains that it is too costly to improvise while on set, but that the improvisation can be done earlier, in his office, where it is quiet and he can concentrate properly. Hitchcock is known to have meticulously storyboarded every shot of his films prior to shooting so that when he got onto set he could show the actors and crewmen exactly what the finished scene would look like (or at least what he hoped it would look like). These storyboards not only included the framing, but the costuming and lighting designs as well. Due to this extensive pre-production process, he is reported to have never needed to look through the viewfinder on set because he could already see what it looked like in his head.

In this interview he also talks about directing his actors. He digresses that he is very lenient with the way that his actors play their roles, in fact, he doesn’t really feel like he directs them at all. Essentially he would let them do whatever they want, until he believed it was ‘wrong’.

In terms of editing, because he was so fastidious with how a scene was covered, he ultimately attained ‘final cut’ without actually needing to cut the film himself. In contrast to how most directors work today, where they shoot the same scene from many different perspectives and then decide how to order the shots in post production, Hitchcock tended to ‘edit in camera’. He only filmed the shots he had already planned out in the storyboards; usually no more and never any less.

Week 6 Epiphany

For a while now Paul and Robin have been telling us that it is important to write about our ideas, because it is very difficult to develop and refine our thoughts simply by thinking about them. Writing is always something that I’ve found useful for developing my ideas and I generally end up writing a lot more than I had originally planned. Take my ‘Doors’ scene deconstruction as an example; I could never have guessed that I would write over 1000 words about a 4 shot scene, but that’s what happened. It wasn’t until I started writing that new ideas came to me, which linked to other ideas. Ultimately I think any process that actualises a thought process can help to generate new ideas or refine them. Although I do not mind writing, my favourite form of ‘idea generation’ is talking to people. Not only does this process force you to put ideas into your own words, it helps you to explain them clearly, so that someone else can understand what you are talking about. The other night, my dad asked me what I was researching and so I told him a bit about Andrè Bazin. By telling him about my research I was able to clarify exactly what I thought the most significant parts about Bazin’s theories and critiques were and structure them into a blog post. Dad also asked me questions about Bazin, some of which I hadn’t even considered being important and others I didn’t know the answer to. This inspired me to do more research in order to find the answers to his questions.

In Wednesday’s class, we discussed our ideas for what we wanted to do for the rest of semester in small groups. Beforehand we had a short amount of time to start jotting down our main ideas, so that when it came to talking, we had a sense of what we were going to say. Prior to this lesson, I had some vague, disparate ideas about what I wanted to do, but nothing was really coming together. I think listening to Paul and Robin speak about their plans for the semester, then writing about my own ideas and finally speaking about them was an invaluable exercise because it helped me to collate all of my ideas into one unified plan. Sometimes this process of simply putting thoughts into words is all it takes to come up with a solid idea.

I also think filming helps to generate ideas; it is just a more practical way of doing it. Paul has been saying that if you just start writing, then an idea will eventually come to you (this theory is the basis of the ‘free fall’ writing technique). This is similar with shooting a scene; even if you don’t really know where you are going to end up, it is useful to just start filming and often the organic process of improvisation will spawn some really interesting outcomes.

On another note, the best thing about Friday’s class was watching the other class’ edits of the same scene we had done in week 5. What my group had interpreted as being quite a slow, awkward scene between strangers, had been turned into a fast-paced, suspenseful, action sequence by a group in the other class. This proved how different people can take very different meanings from the same piece of text. It also exemplified the power of the director as a creative force (or maybe the editor in this case, I’m not sure), because this group had obviously taken the scene and completely made it their own. Their sequence had been graded so that the colours were saturated, which established a stylised and rather dramatic aesthetic. Extreme closeups of one character’s feet pacing were interspersed with a slow zoom towards the other character, which built to a climatic ending featuring explosions. The scene was also intensified with the use of an ominous, tension-building soundtrack. All in all, I found this edit to be extremely effective; it was rather inspiring in terms of showing what you can do with very little resources, non-actors and a limited amount of time.

Reflection on Performance

Because I have already posted a lot about week 4’s exercise, the ‘Doors’ shoot, (My method of Working Parts 1 and 3, as well as in Week 4’s epiphany), I have decided to write a post about both this shoot and week 5’s shoot, mainly in relation to performance. For both of these shoots we had a rather large crew (about 10 people), but these were both split into two again so that we had an ‘executive’ team and a ‘support’ team. The ‘Doors’ shoot was the first time I had ever really been a part of such a big crew. It was all just incredibly exciting to me, because for the first time I felt what it might actually be like to be part of a proper shoot. Even though I was acting, which is definitely not my forte, I had one of those moments, where I had no doubt in my mind that this is really something I want to do for the rest of my life.

In terms of performance, I think most of us as directors are not primarily concerned with how the actors actually act. Mainly we concentrate on where the characters are going to move in the space and where they are going to be positioned in respect to the camera. I guess this has a lot to do with the fact that the majority of us are not actors, nor do we want to become actors, so whether we perform well or not doesn’t really bother us. Another reason is that this course is mainly geared towards refining our camera skills, rather than our acting or even directing of acting skills. Thirdly, because we are only shooting scenes (rather than whole films), the characters cannot be fleshed out or developed that much. Particularly because we are only receiving the scripts for a scene, without knowing what the rest of the film is about, we cannot gain a deep understanding of a character, because we have no context, other than a short prose or piece of dialogue. This was my main problem as an actor in our ‘Doors’ shoot. None of us knew exactly what character types we were meant to be playing. We couldn’t even decipher what kind of genre this scene might have been made for. For all I knew, my character could have been a murderer in a horror film. Another problem is that now we are all much more comfortable with each other, we all end up laughing throughout the shoot, which can sometimes cause problems when someone cannot contain themselves… that person is usually me. At the end of every shot in ‘Doors’ I would make two critical mistakes 1. I would look straight into the camera lens when I thought the shot was over and 2. I would crack up laughing. This was a big problem when I had to edit the footage. It made me realise how important it is to continue a shot on a little bit more than might be needed in editing, because ultimately it is always better to have more usable footage than less.

These mistakes helped to inform my methodology of directing for week 5’s Friday shoot. I was co-directing the single shot shoot for the scene about ‘the system going down’. Although we still had problems with actors laughing, I think the performances weren’t bad. One of the things I did to prepare the actors was give them a bit of a back story to their characters and the overall story. We made up a storyline about one of the characters losing her parents’ contact because they were astronauts (or something along those lines). I think that this helped the actors get a feel for the kind of characters they were meant to be portraying and in turn, how they would go about delivering their lines. Another thing that helped the overall performance was making the actors feel comfortable. Recently I read Alan Rosenthal’s section about interviewing in his book ‘Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos’ (2002). Even though Rosenthal is a documentary filmmaker (rather than a fictional filmmaker), some of the lessons in this were helpful, because he was talking about how to get the best performances out of people who weren’t actually actors. One of the things he kept coming back to was the importance of making the person on screen feel comfortable. Sometimes the camera, audio equipment and crew can seem a bit daunting (even to people who have been behind the scenes on shoots). It makes a difference when a director makes an effort to talk the actors, to brief them on the scene and exactly what they want from the actor’s performance. This way the actor will inevitably feel more confident and relaxed, enabling them to give their best possible performance.

Research on Andrè Bazin

Andrè Bazin (1918-1958) was a profound cinema theorist and critic, whose writings for Esprit and Cahiers du Cinèma have become some of the most influential pieces in the history of film. During World War II, Bazin realised that there was a need for a new kind of film critic. Most film reviews at this time, even in Bazin’s home country of France, were written about popular Hollywood films and mainly concentrated on the narrative of films. However, Bazin wanted the public to become aware of how films were actually created and so he began to write about the lighting, camera, set design, editing, music, scripting, acting, and direction of films. He believed that his criticisms would encourage the public to analyse the cinema experience and would inspire filmmakers to reconsider their work and their subjects. After France was liberated from Nazi rule, he decided to create a journal solely devoted to the art form of cinema, and thus, in 1951, Caheirs du Cinèma was born.

Bazin is considered to have given rise to the French ‘New Wave’ film movement during the 1950s and ‘60s, as well as the auteur theory of cinema. Unfortunately, he suffered an early death and was not able to witness the flourishing of his ideas that primarily eventuated after 1958. His articles call for a ‘personal cinema’ as he believed that a film should represent a director’s ‘personal vision’. He considered the director as a film’s principle creative source and in turn believed that a film should reflect the director’s unique ‘stylistic signature’. He favoured films that ‘resisted formulaic cinema and who demanded a different relation of language to material and of spectator to spectacle’(Dudley 2013, p.168). For instance, he often praised Italian Neorealist films like Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) and documentary art films like Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922) which were primarily made on location, without conventional story lines or definitive scripts. Andrew Dudley asserts that Bazin’s ‘… goal was never to elevate cinema to parity with…traditional arts [theatre and paintings]; rather, he believed, cinema’s “documentary” attributes set it adjacent to the arts’ (Andrew cited in Bazin 1971, p. xiv). Ultimately he saw cinema as a different type art form which could reflect the individuality of its ‘author’ and of reality itself. However, it is important to note that he did eventually distance himself from the strict ideals surrounding film authorship as he ‘felt that it ignored the commercial context in which most movies were produced’ (Cardullo 2011, p.9). In essence, he thought that it was difficult to attribute a certain film’s style solely to the director when there were often many contributing factors to the overall ‘distinctiveness’ of the text. Nevertheless his film criticisms and theories became the basis for others’ writings on authorship, which eventually developed into what we know today as the ‘auteur theory’.

Bazin’s article ‘The Virtues and Limitations of Montage’, in his infamous collection of works ‘What is Cinema?’ (translated by Hugh Gray in 1971), displays his bias toward ‘the long take’. He contends that montage sequences are ultimately less realistic than long takes because they ‘disrepect’ how time and space exist on Earth. He uses the example of anthropomorphism in children’s films. He explains that because animals cannot feel the same emotions as humans, and (in basic terms), they cannot act, montage editing must be utilised in order to ‘trick’ the audience into attributing human feelings to real-life animal characters. Bazin discusses Jean Tourane’s Une Fèe pas comme les autres (1956) whose animal characters never ‘actually do the things they seem to be doing. When they do, it is by trick, either with a hand offscreen guiding them, or an artificial paw like a marionette on a string’ (Bazin 1971, p. 44). Thus, he demonstrates that even though there is great power in editing these juxtaposing shots together to create a story, the apparent action the audience is viewing does not actually exist and on some level, they are aware of the illusion. Therefore, he argues, long takes are a more pure form of cinema because they have a ‘straightforward photogenic respect for the unity of space’(Bazin 1971, p. 46). He contrasts Une Fèe pas comme les autres with Albert Lamorisse’s film Ballon Rougge (1956), which uses long takes and visual ‘physical’ illusions to trick the audience into thinking that the Ballon entity can move by itself, rather than utilising montage to create the illusion. Bazin asserts that ‘the important thing is not whether the trick can be spotted but whether or not trickery is used, just as the beauty of a copy is no substitute for the authenticity of a Vermeer’ (Bazin 1971, p. 46). With this quote he seems to suggest that a ‘real’ illusion (one that could be witnessed in actuality) is more powerful and believable than the illusion of montage. Another reason that Bazin seems to favour the long take over montage is that he believed it left more room for the audience’s subjective interpretation of a film. He felt that montage limited the possible different readings of a text and that long takes demanded more involvement from the audience because these type of shots did not spoon feed information to the viewers. Ultimately he argued against the Soviet montage filmmakers of the ’30s and ’40s who believed that editing was the foundation of film. Instead, Bazin praised long takes and the mise en scène of a shot, which he felt represented ‘true continuity’ and were a ‘step toward the attainment of total realism on film’ (Cardullo 2011, p.7).

Bazin’s writings were heavily influential, particularly for other writers of Caheirs du Cinèma. François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard are amongst those who took on Bazin’s theoretical ideals and realised them through their own films. The year after Bazin’s death, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) was released in dedication to Bazin at the Venice Film Festival. This film, along with Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima With Love (1959), are considered the first films of the French ‘La Nouvelle Vague’/New Wave (Dudley 2013). This cinematic movement was characterised by the use of hand held cameras, long takes, real world locations, improvised dialogue and discontinuous editing, which were all in some way inspired by Bazin’s theories (Make A Wave – French New Wave 2012). Bazin’s writings also influenced other film theorists. For instance, Andrew Sarris, the writer of The American Cinema, furthered Bazin’s fundamental principles of film authorship by formulating ‘the auteur theory’.

Although Bazinian theories of cinema have been heavily debated since their conception, no one can deny the large impact Andre Bazin has had on cinema as an art form. His ideas surrounding content and form, adaption, montage, neorealism and authorship (to name a few) are now being studied in universities around the world. Prior to Bazin, cinema was a rather unexplored theoretical field. It was in fact he who ‘projected that distant day when film studies would enter the university curriculum – and it was Bazin more than anyone else who played the role of midwife’ (Cardullo 2011, p.2).


Bazin, A 1971, What is Cinema? Volume II, University of California Press, London, England.

Cardullo, B (ed) 2011, André Bazin and Italian Neorealism, Bloomsbury Publishing, USA.

Dudley, A 2013, Andre Bazin, Oxford University Press, Oxford, USA.

Make A Wave – French New Wave 2012, Characteristics of French New Wave Films, Make A Wave – French New Wave, viewed 11 May 2015, <http://makeawave-frenchnewwave.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/characteristics-of-french-new-wave-films.html>.


My Method of Working Part 10

Recently Paul suggested that maybe I ought to think about what else I want out of this course, because ultimately this studio is about investigating through making – the ultimate goal is not to create something perfect for a show reel, but to research and develop my methodologies of working (as this post title might suggest).

At the moment, I think that my favourite type of research has been looking at how the directors (of films I like to watch), actually go about creating and covering their scenes. However, I do actually want to make a scene this semester…

My original thought was that I wanted to use some of my friend’s scripts as the basis for my work. So maybe I can incorporate both of these things – the theoretical and the practical.

Maybe I can use the same kind of scenes – one from a prose and one from a script and do different exercises (like the ones we’ve been doing in class) and then work out from there, which shooting method works best for me.

In order to do this I would like to refine my technical skills (camera, audio and lighting), because I am still not entirely confident with the equipment at hand. I believe that even if I’m not going to be actually controlling the camera, audio or lighting for my shoots, I still need to have an understanding of how everything works. This way I know the constraints that the equipment poses and how I can, I guess, exploit the equipment to create the best possible results. These technical processes will not be the main concentration of my work for the rest of the semester, but I still think it would be worth having classes assigned to furthering our skills in DOPing, audio and lighting. Ultimately, without learning how to use these ‘tools’ we have no way of realising our ideas.

Scene Deconstruction (My Edit of ‘Doors’)

My edit of ‘Doors’ begins with a mid long shot (that becomes a mid closeup) of Van walking down the stairs. Originally we were planning to follow this shot with a closeup of Van’s feet to create more of a montage sequence, but unfortunately we ran out of time to shoot it. I think this initial shot would have worked better if we had let Van walk out of frame at the end, so then when she walks into frame in the next shot, the space and time of the scene would appear to be continuous. Although I included a cross dissolve transition to represent the passing of time, in retrospect, I think a blunt cut would have made my edit look more polished. At the time I was worried that joining the two shots (the one where Van walks down the stairs and the one where Van walks towards the hallway of doors) would create a jump cut. But after watching other’s edits of the same scene, I realised that cutting straight from one shot to the other looked fine.

The next shot is a hand held mid closeup of Van walking towards the hallway of doors and checking if anyone is there. Although the circular motion of the camera is quite shaky as it follows Van around the wall, I think it adds to the suspense of the scene. The movement is rather disorienting, which evokes a sense of anxiety that seems to suit Van’s emotional state. The intimacy of the framing also intensifies the action in this shot. However, I think the camera coverage could have been slightly improved if the camera had moved around Van a touch more so that we could see Cine coming out of the room; or if the camera was able to capture the characters’ reflections in the opposing glass door.

As Van abruptly jumps behind the wall to hide from Cine, the scene cuts to a wider long shot of Cine and a mid long shot of Van. By cutting the scene on this action, perceived continuity is created between the two shots, as well as a heightened sense of drama (the editing helps to quicken the pace of the scene and emphasises the character movement). This shot draws the audience’s attention to Van, because she is situated in the front-most plane of the composition and is starkly contrasted against the white wall behind her. However, once Cine walks forward, she positions herself on the same plane as Van so that both characters appear to have equal ‘dominance’ in the scene. Both characters then exit to the right side of frame.

In the next shot, the characters enter from the left side of frame. Although this is technically breaking the 180 rule, I think it makes logical (temporal and spatial) sense because the characters still appear to be on the same side of each other as they were in the previous shot. I think I could possibly have gotten rid of the first section of this scene, where Van and Cine walk down the hallway, and just cut straight to when they open the door. Originally I had thought that this discontinuity would appear jarring for viewers, but now I feel like it is uninteresting to witness the characters simply walking down the hall. By cutting straight to an ‘event’ I would have quickened the pace of the scene and in turn held the audience’s attention for longer.

The rest of the scene plays out as a mid long shot, which incorporates many other frames within frames. To add a sense of surprise we had X walk in from behind camera. This is probably my favourite frame of the scene. I love how X is back lit, which creates an ominous silhouette, and has his arm positioned so that he frames Van in the shot as well. Generally I try to refrain from making my films black and white, unless the colour scheme is somehow motivated by the narrative. I felt that this palette suited this scene because it heightened the ‘film noir’ undercurrent of the storyline (our group felt like this scene could belong to a murder mystery film). The down lighting and the silhouette of X also lends itself to the film noir genre, which is historically filmed in black and white. Other than that, the colour grading helped to emphasise the contrast between characters. It draws the viewers attention to Van who stands out from the dark background because she wears a starkly white t-shirt. It also helped to create a unified sense of space. When viewed in colour, the shot on the stairs seems to be completely removed from the rest of the scene because the background is a lime green colour (whereas the rest of the shots were filmed with a white, black or glass background). This desaturation also aided in the ‘masking’ of the red recording light of the camera which could be seen in the reflection on the glass walls in a couple of the shots.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.35.07 pm

The opening of the sliding door  in this shot serves the purpose of blocking the audience’s (and X’s) view of Cine, so that when she comes ‘out of hiding’ it makes sense that X is shocked and asks who she is. Although the framing here is relatively perfect in regards to X’s silhouette, I think there is too much room between Van’s head and the top of the frame (and eventually X’s when he moves away from the camera). I think the symmetrically of this composition works well, however, the positioning of the camera could have been brought slightly more forward (so it just caught the edges of the doorway), or pushed right back. Originally we had planned to actually shoot this sequence as a long shot to emphasise the hollow expanse of the hallway, but we ran into troubles with the sound equipment because it wasn’t able to reach the characters on the other side of the door. (Below is a photo we took during the pre-production stage).

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.41.25 pm
Although we clearly had problems with the reflections of the crew in this space, I think the sliding door worked well in this scene because its movement is quite dynamic. It serves to ‘reveal’ Cine as she appears in the doorway, her reflection repeated and refracted in the opposing glass walls.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.37.25 pm

The door then ‘blocks’ Van, which focuses the audience on the conversation between X and Cine (below).

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.38.52 pm
The slamming of all three doors creates a satisfying feeling of closure as the characters disappear from the frame. I think I could have magnified this action by simplifying the sound effect so that it sounded like one big, unified ‘bang’, instead of three slightly out of time slams. It also would have been better to cut straight to black, because the fade out of visuals seems almost too smooth for this abrupt ending.

My Method of Working Part 9

In addition to what I wrote yesterday about what I wanted to do for the rest of semester, I would also like to do some of the shooting exercises we have been doing, but maybe explore the methodologies of other directors I have been researching. For instance, I could try out Nicholas Winding Refn’s style of roughly planning out a scene in drawings on index cards in preparation for the shoot. Then, in collaboration with my actors, I could film the scene without a script, experimenting with the camera shots I think will work best with the character action… or something along those lines anyway.

I have also been thinking about whether or not I want to worry about lighting in my scene. The positive side of using artificial lighting is that it will make the scene I create look far more ‘professional’ (if utilised adequately). It can also help to evoke a certain tone to the scene. For instance, soft lighting (using a three point lighting system) can create a more glossy, romantic feel in comparison to a chiaroscuro lighting effect which employs harsh shadows and silhouettes. I would like to learn how to set up these lighting systems because I don’t have much experience in this area. However, ultimately this course is about how we can cover a scene using a camera. Thus, I am still unsure if I want to focus on lighting as well, because I feel like this could take away from the main point of this course which is to research the concept of camera coverage.

My Method of Working Part 8

So what would I like to do for the rest of this semester? Or maybe more specifically, what would I like to work towards this semester? Ultimately I would like to create a professional looking scene (as a director and maybe DOP as well) from a script or possibly just a prose that has already been written. I would personally like to use some of the classes to plan out my scene (i.e. storyboard, make floor plans, shot lists and decide who will act in and crew my scene). I have also really enjoyed doing the shooting exercises in class and I think that doing things hands on is the best way to learn so I would like to continue doing a few of these to further my skills in ‘DOPing’, sound recording and directing. I also think it is generally the best way for us to experiment with camera coverage and to develop our own styles as filmmakers.