Sunday, 9 December 2012

Week 8 (Tues 27 Nov)

In today's seminar, we returned to the subject of realism from the previous week, and applied this to our film pitch, this time, imposing the restricitions of Dogma 95 and seeing if we could work around that curveball and see if we could still deliver a good product. Last time, we did a pitch for a slasher horror film, The Housekeeper. However, given the rules of Dogma (everything must be diegetic and not 'post' work), we had to rule this out and start again, making it more like an Agatha Christie murder mystery, still set in a dark house, where a family is celebrating a wedding, and one by one, they get killed off, the horror being more akin to Psycho and The Haunting which were more about atmosphere and tension than straight up gore and guts.

Then, in the lecture, we watched the first episodes of Game of Thrones, a medieval fantasy based on a series of popular books, and Awake, where a police investigator is living two seperate lives where a member of his family died, and trying to work out which one is real. Through this, we got into discussing the concept of Fantasy and the Fantastic:
  • Fantasy, despite the common usage of the term, is not strictly just a genre as many other film types utilise elements of fantasy (things that don't esit in the real world), such as horror and sciene fiction.
  • Often includes elements from mythology (such as monsters, gods, heroes and 'other' worlds), as well as playing with idea of different realities and even having its own world and culture (including races, language and history)
  • More often than not is heavy on special effects, practical and digital, to create the worlds and creatures within it.
  • Like realism, often considered its opposite (even though one can have elements from the other), many other elements make up what can be considered a fantasy (subject material, tone, style form and themes). Also, there are even different categories and approaches, such as a personalized/subjective fantasy (dealing with a character internally, like his/her mind, like Inception) or post modern (which has a self-awareness to it, and even acknowledges elements from other sources).
In closing, today's work, as with last week, gave me a new way to think about these 'styles' and 'genres' of film making, making me look at them from more than just face value, and delve a little deeper into what they can do and offer. And the challenge of making a horror under the Dogma code was interesting, though obviously frustrating given that horror relies on a lot of outside work that Dogma does not permit.

Week 8 (Mon 26 Nov)

Today's subject was tragedy, and in the lecture, we watched the classic film noir, Out Of The Past (1947), starring Robert Mitchum and directed by veteran Jacques Torneur, which dealt with a retired private eye who is called back by an old employer, and in turn, confronts people from his past, including a woman who he once was charged with bringing back to his employer, but then got involved with her. Eventually, this relationship leads to his downfall and death.

Then, in the seminar, we took a much broader examination of tragedy:
  • Tragedy actually means 'Goat Song' in Greek, and is derived, presumably from ancient Greek festivals and rituals.
  • Some authors and analysts likened it to a season in the year (Tragedy: Autumn, Comedy: Spring, Romance: Summer and Satire: Winter).
  • Despite its name, tragedy is not necessarily the same as tragic (i.e. a child dying is tragic, but is not necessarily a tragedy), rather, tragedy in this sense is more do with hubris (excessive pride, and how that causes a fall. It was Nietzsche who argued that individualism (standing out from the crowd) can lead to a person's downfall.)
  • There are only 33 tragedies left in existence, and between them, only 3 surviving authors (Aeschylus (who pioneered the second actor), Sophocles (who introduced the third actor) and Euripides (who has 19 surviving plays).
Then, on the note of Ancient Greece, we then looked at Artistotle's Poetics and looked at some of the terminology he utilised when discussing tragedy (Aristotle believeing firmly in the primacy of plot over other elements):
  • Mimesis: Imitation (which is what Aristotle is the basis of drama)
  • Katharsis: Cleansing/purification
  • Peripetein: Reversal
  • Anagonosis: Discovery
  • Harmatia: Mistake
  • Mythos: Plot
Then, we were set a task, in groups, to come up with a tragedy, incorporating these elements, but in a modern setting: My group came up with a story about a kindly working-class man, also in a loving relationship with a woman, who, after winning the lottery, lets the money go to head and indulges in various vices, especially drugs, which in turn leads to mental disorders that turn him aggressive and violent, even going so far as to attack his girlfriend. She leaves and, realising what he has done, commits suicide out of shame.

In conclusion, today's lesson had a lot of depth, and it enlightened me a lot on Tragedy and how it was not as straightforward as one would assume or think, having more elements and, as mentioned before, not necessarily synonymous with tragic as one who think at first.

Week 7 (Thurs 22 Nov)

In today's lesson, we looked at the role of a producer, and the entire production that a film goes through:

A typical film production timeline- 
Pre-Production
  1. Script (and synopsis)
  2. Hire cast/crew
  3. Storyboard
  4. Location planning (and permissions, if needed)
  5. Health and Safety
  6. Scheduling
  7. Equipment hire
Production
  1. Filiming
Post-Production
  1. Transfer & Log
  2. Logging/Binning
  3. 1st Assembly
  4. 1st rough cut
  5. 2nd rough cut
  6. Final rough cut
  7. Graphics/music.sound effects
  8. Fine Edit
  9. Colour grading/audio mix
  10. Final cut agreed
  11. Save/backup
  12. Export
  13. Upload
  14. Final Film
After, we looked at our previous week's task, concerning the ten shot footage, and gave constructive criticism to one another concerning elements such as sound. lighting, framing and editing: My group's work was initially praised, but after discussion, many felt the music was a little too overpowering, and the object in the package was a little confusing and didn't really fit with the tone we set.

Also, we quickly looked at the scenes each team decided to recreate: ours was a tie between Taken (as mentioned in a previous post) and the toilet scene from the comedy Bad Teacher, the reason being our concern over the complexity of the former (being one continous take) and the locaiton of the latter (finding a suitable toilet and time in which to film). We decided to go back once more and re-evaluate possible ideas.

In conclusion, I felt today's lesson, while not as interactive or practical as some of the past ones, was still engaging and I myself was surprised at how much there was to deal with in professional film making (I have film production experience, having made short films before, but never to this extent or with this many stages).

Week 7 (Wed 21 Nov)

Today, we went to a workshop in DMW4 and looked at titles and title sequence.

We began by taking a look at some titles by legendary designer Saul Bass, such as his titles for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, and how he used animation, strong colours and bold lettering to grab the viewer's attention right off the bat. After, we opened up Final Cut Pro and began to experiment, typing in a title (and playing around with the font type and colour) and using keyframes to animate movement, with the computer filling in the rest between KFs, making it look as if the text was spinning around the screen. Afterwards, we tested our work out on top of acutal footage (pre shot footage of the Grove), laying it on top and then, using these 'special' points around the text, anchored it to a set part of the screen, and even if the camera moved or pulled back, the text stayed on that spot and shrank/followed that part of the image instead of moving around unattached.

To close off, today's lesson was relatively short, hence why this post wasn't as 'meaty' as others, and there wasn't that much in the way of industry 'technobabble' or specific 'artistic' terminology. However, in spite of that, this was a really enjoyable lesson and it actually surprised me that tools we use at university are used by industry professionals, rather than being dumbed down 'beginner' versions.

Week 7 (Tues 20 Nov)

In today's seminar, we returned to the subject of genre, which we had began to discuss the previous week (with elements such as style, Location, Conventiom/cliches, Character types. sound/music and its effect on the audience). Springboarding from this, we were divided into groups and asked to come up with an idea for a film within a specific genre. My group pitched a horror film set in an old dark house, dealing with a group of teenagers (complete with the requiste blonde, black character, older macho and innocent youngster) who decide to have a party, unaware of the sinister and murderous Housekeeper, who makes sure that those who come to stay, never, never leave.

Then, in the lecture, we watched the Dogma 95 (a code of film making that ditches a lot of the polish of more conventional film making, and goes for a more realisitic, gritty style and tone) Danish film Festen, centering on a rich family with a dark history of abuse, unravelled during a birthday party, and after, discussed the subject of realism in film: What is makes a film realistic (form, style, subject matter and tone) and how it differs from the formative (fictitious/made up). To delve a little deeper, how a film's 'realism' can be presented/percievecd can also include these details (some of which, Festen and other Dogma films utilise):
  • Appearance (grounded in something we know/truth)
  • Documentary aesthetic
  • Accuracy/true to life
  • Location shooting
  • Honesty
  • Subject matter
  • Psychological realism
  • Critical construct (opinions)
Also, we breifly touched on major movements in realist film making, like the French Poetic (1930s, centers on the working class and utilised long takes), Italian Neo (1945-1952, used non-professionals as actors and had low production values, mainly using location shooting), British Social (often known as 'Kitchen Sink', focusing on the working classes and having  a very strong regional element) and Latin American Third Cinema, as well as questioning Reality TV and if it does portray a believeable reality, or if it devolves into caricature and is more for entertainment value than a genuine representation (like Big Brother, Jersey Shore or I'm a Celebrity, when we see some of the challenges the contestants are given ot some of their behaviour, and if that has a rehearsed/scripted feel to them at times).

In closing, today we covered quite a bit of ground, and the highlight was discussing realism and seeing how many different elements can make up that up, and the many forms it took over the years. Also, Festen was a very interesting and different film experience, being funny and disturbing in turn.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Week 7 (Mon 19 Nov)

Today's sessions focused on figure sin mythology, and so, in the lecture, we watched the classic French silent film, The Passion Of Joan of Arc (1928), directed by Carl Dreyer and based on the last days of Joan and her trial by the English. The combination of Richard Einhorn's heavily religious and choir-based score, with the despair and wide eyes of Maria Falconetti as Joan gave the film an emotional, entrancing quality though never delving into the saccharine.

Then, in the seminar, we presented our presentations on mythological figures, mine being on Helen Of Troy, and going over her influences on various arts and media, as well as operating the powerpoint for my team. The other presentations included Robin Hood, Faust, Don Juan and Joan of Arc. Through these, and in subsequent discussion, we saw that many of these characters were base don historical figures or older texts and legends that, through revision, expansion and adaptation, has evolved and changed into what we know today.

Then, we had to pitch a modern, filmable take on the mythological character we had studied. Our version updates the characters to the present time, and changes the conflict from nations to major fashion houses who are at war, and in the end, the 'Trojans' of this story end up having their company collapse after Helen uncovers illecit practices.

In closing, I found today's subject really interesting, once again connecting back to what we discussed with Campbell and seeing how much of popular culture and characters can be traced back into the far depths of human and artistic history. And on a final note on the film, it very much showed that silent films aren't just goofy, over-acting actors and Chaplin/Keaton-slapstick shenanigans, but can tell surprisingly moving and compelling story.

Week 6 - Reading Week (12, 13 & 14 Nov)

This week, we had Reading Week, a time to study and prepare any major assignments for the various modules that make up the course.

Here's how mine went:
  • Monday:
At the end of the previous lesson, my group was set a task where we had to go off and research a mythological character, and make a presentation out of research (consisting of the original story, film & TV, literature, art, music and business). I was tasked with music (albums and their names, musicals, songs etc.) and I was also the builder of the presentation, compiling the information the other had found out concerning their categories into slides.

I felt that this went well, and everyone contributed their piece. In particular, this gave me chance to know the others better and we got on really well with each other, without the awkwardness of say, an ice breaker session.
  • Tuesday
I was to rondevous with my group from Film Language and Production, and discuss ideas for a recreation of a scene from a film. However, not everyone showed up (just me and Zane) and, though we discussed clips, mine being from the 2008 action film, Taken, we felt it was better to bring the team together on Facebook later and discuss our various clips and ideas for recreations.

This was rather dissapointed by the lack of appearances this day, and I feel we should have had a much stronger and clearer line of communication with the rest of the team to make sure that everyone is there on time and ready to go.
  • Wednesday
Today, we a different group from Film Language and Production, we had to redo the ten shot sequence, but with moving footage instead of stills like last time. Renting out sound equipment and a camera, we went to the park and recreated a scene where two characters meet ina  park, and exchange a mysterious package. I was the sound technician for this task, ensuring there were no unwanted sounds or static while we were filming, as well as helping to transport equipment. However, after viewing our intial footage, we found it unusable due to an incorrect shutter speed, as our camera op had forgot to set it properly. We tried a second time, only to find it was still wrong, but third time lucky, we got it right and we left the footage to our editor to put together, adding in music to add additional tension and suspense.

Once again, the thrill and joy of a pratical assignment, as well as getting in a few good laughs from some hiccups and errors here and there, made this a fun assignment and we worked well as a team, with no real arguments or disputes between members, and even with the mistake concerning the footage, the team just got togther and did it again, undaunted, which really impressed me and showed me their commitment.

Week 5 (Thurs 8 Nov)

In today's workshop,we looked at editing (and composition to an extent), and how important it is to have a consitency and continuity between shots in a sequence so it doesn't feel jarring (lighting, shot size, position of the actors, time, space etc.) To illustrate this, we watched the opening scene from the noir classic The Maltese Falcon, and saw how direcotr John Huston carefully chose his shots so as to 1) Mask the fact that it's a set, 2) Convey what the actors are feeling through shots and body language rather than obtusive and excessive dialogue and 3) Keep the 180o rule intact, never making the sequence disorienting or jarring, keeping everyone on their point of screen space.

After, we were sent on our task: in groups of about five, we had to go off and shoot a ten shot (static, sans dialogue) sequence that had a beginning, middle and end. My group went off and shot a piece where two girls, sat in a hallway within the university, exchanged a mysterious book, hiding when another boy came by, implying some sort of backhanded scheming.

In closing, today's lesson was very insightful, David explaining in a good amount of detail each of the elements, and I found it surprising how technical even the simplest of shots and sequences can get, and how even a slight error can be jarring and mess up an entire sequence.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Week 5 (Tues 6 Nov)

In today's sessions, we looked at Character and Performance: in the seminar, we took a look at the basic components of a character and performance in Film & Television:
  • Script (how it is written)
  • Performance (Histirionic/pantomime, Naturalistic, The Method and Self-concious)
  • Convention (what we expect from them)
  • Star Persona (The star power and perception of the actor)
  • The relationship between characters and audiences
  • Character elements (Name, key relationships, desires, psychology, function within the narrative and development)
Additionally important was Recognition (Turning sounds and images into something we as an audience can recognise and uderstand), Alignment (our investment and insight into the character and his/her mentality and views) and Allegiance (Our judgement on their views and ideas). The types of codes and ideologies that form part of these include Gender, Ethinicty, Race, Point of view, Class and the character's position within the narrative of the piece.

Then, in the lecture, we saw the documentary Man on A Wire, about a french tightrope walker who walked across the twin towers of the World Trade Center back in 1974, and afterwards, we looked at Genre, which are catergories of similar compostions of media (horror, musicals, action, comedy etc.), made up of elements such as setting, Costumes/props. character types, narrative, themes and style, and their effects:
  • Leads audience interpretations
  • Creates viewer expectations
  • Gives creators ideas how to construct a piece
  • Industry strategy (appeaking to a certain demographic)
Also important to genre was users (the audience, the industry and the media), each of whom contribute to a film and its perception:
  • Industry (production, schedule, broadcast, marketing, stars)
  • Media (cultural impact, reviews, debates, advertisement)
  • Audience (vieiwing, evaluation, fans, legacy)
However, genres are not set in stone, and can be combined as a hybrid of sorts. For example, Man on a Wire was a documentary, but also had elements of a thriller and heist/caper film. Similarly, film makers can play with conventions and subvert audience expectations/misdirect them, such as a film within a film/meida within media and subverting cliches and having something unexpected. happen/plot twist.

In conclusion, today's subject was fairly interesting, especially in examining elements of character and how many different factors can into it and differentiate between one we care, and one we have no investment. It's almost akin to a scientific formula in a sense.

Week 5 (Mon 5 Nov)

NOTE: The title from now on will be shortened to just week number and date.

Today's sessions were focused on the subject of fairytales: In the lecture, we watched the French musical-fantasy Donkey Skin (1970) by director Jacques Demy, which tells the story of a princess who, being desired by her father, is forced to flee, disguised as an ugly crone wearing the titular skin.

Then, in the seminars, we were then asked to pitch a fairytale film based on one from our own cultures/heritage. We went with a french tale about a girl who is sent by her evil stepmother to a forest, where she meets a talking tree who guides her to a witch, and then, after performing a set of fixed objectives for her, is given wishes. When she returns, the stepmother sends her own daughters out who, not complying with the rules and being rude to the witch and tree, end up getting their wish twisted and get killed.

Our adaptation included setting the story in Norman Brittany (circa 900AD), giving the main girl a name (Valerie), adding in additionally backstory (Valerie's mother died a long time ago, her stepmother's former husband died suspiciously, the witch refering to a possible past encounter with Valerie's mother, have the father going off sailing abroad to earn money after the wasteful habits of Valerie's stepmother etc.

In closing, today's session was quiet fun, the group bouncing around a lot of ideas and us even having fun with how far we could push the envelope in terms of taste and darkness in our version (we had the sisters die via raining gold!) and everyone contributed to the discussion.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Week 4 Of University (Thurs 1 Nov)

Today, we began to look at pre-production and the role of a producer, but before that, we had an opening activity: we, in groups, pretended to be a production company whose six-strong documentary crew had gotten trapped in a cave and could only be rescued one at a time, with the last two being most likely to die, and we had to make a decision of who went first.

The people we had to pick from included Helen (a pregnant woman with two children), Amy (an elderly woman who was the presenter and something of a celebrity), Ralf (who is unpopular with the crew and may have fascist leanings), Lev (who, despite having a background of accomplishment, had a drinking problem), Mimi (who's new and has a rich father) and Louis (who may or may not be the father of Helen's child). My group elected to have Helen go first (unborn child), then Amy (age and celebrity status), then Louis (fatherhood), then Mimi (her father could sue us), then Lev (who does have some achievements to his name) and finally, Ralf (who was unpopular with the crew and may be a neo-nazi).

Afterwards, we were spilt into two groups, each with a producer (I was for my group) and asked to go off and do pre-production for a shoot of two montages (including location scouting and a pitch). We split the roles amongst ourselves (director, location manager, lighting, sound etc.) and then went off around the univeristy to look for ideal locations, and then how we would set up our equipment within them.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed today's activities. My team were very commited, they knew what they had to do and got on with working professionally as a film crew without any difficulty, and I gained more appreciation for the work a producer does and how important it can be to keeping things running smoothly on a film.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Week 4 Of University (Tues 30 Oct)

In the seminar, we looked at Sound & Image, though more specifically focusing on sound and its subcategories (Dialogue, Music, Sound Effects, Silence and whether the sound is Diegetic (in the film) or Non-Diegetic (added in post) and its effects (Space, Time, Emotion, Coordination, Disruption, Symbolism, Perspective and Subjectivity).

To better understand how these elements were utilised, we look at extracts from a variety of sources, and examined what from Sound & Image applied and how it was used. First, we looked at the opening credits for the television sitcom, Cheers:
  • The photos used in the credits are of parties from different times in the last two centuries, obviously emphasising the title.
  • The theme song is light hearted (again, going back to the title) and sets the jovial, not-to-be-taken-seriously tone of the show.
Then, the opening of Neighbours:
  • The theme song outlines the premise of the show, talking about the neighbours and their relationship.
  • We see a roll of all the characters, or at least the main ones, from the show.
  • The bright colours and title effects firmly set it in the early 90s.
After, the opening from the dark comedy-drama, Six Feet Under:
  • The music is somber, fitting the subject material.
  • The images used are from a morgue preparing a body and the actual funeral.
  • The flower and tree withering emphasize the theme of 'death'.
Then, the opening to the 10 O' Clock news on ITV:
  • The combination of dynamic music and the bell chimes attract the audience's attention and give a sense of immediacy and importance.
  • The opening cinematice flies across London and ends on Big Ben, which are iconic images of Britain and make it more relevant to the British audience.
Then, moving onto film, we looked at a segment from the 1955 french film, Les Diaboliques:
  • The lack of music and use of sound effects (breathing, creaky floors) creates a sense of isolation and loneliness.
  • The opening of the door and sound of the typewriter creates suspense as to what's on the other side.
  • The sudden scream of the woman draws the audiences' attention.
And finally, we looked at the Chuck Jones directed Looney Tunes cartoon Duck Amuck from 1953:
  • The orchestrated music at the start sets up the expectation of seeing a swashbuckler, which is then shattered, playing on audience expectations.
  • Carl Stalling's music underscores nearly the entire cartoon, both as part of the jokes (changing music as the backgrounds are manipulated) and even providing Daffy's footsteps.
  • There's a gag where, when Daffy tries to talk or use a guitar, different sounds come out of his mouth (like a chicken and a donkey), once again, playing with sound and expectations.
Afterwards, in the screening, we watched an episode of 24 and an episode of Breaking Bad, then in the actual lecture, we looked at Character & Performance: Generally, in films and TV, characters are definined by the following traits -
  • The script (how they are written)
  • Performance (how the character is acted by the performer/actor)
  • Convention (what we expect from a type of character)
  • Star Persona (the celebrity status of the actor/performer and how that can affects perceptions)
  • Relationship between characters and the audience
Then, we took a quick look at the difference between characters on TV and characters in film, mainly that television allows for more character growth/development/elaboration, thanks to the episodic format, than film where you have a set time limit, and in film, the development is more of a transformation/revelation/epiphany. Additionally, we took a look at the three keys to character response, which are Recognition (turning what we see into something that we can understand), Alignment (access into the characters' world and mind) and Allegiance (our judgement on the characters' views and morals).

Then, we looked at how a character is created (Name, their key relationship, their Backstory, their goals desires and finally, their function/purpose within the narrative) and how it could be performed (Histrionic/Pantomime, Naturalism, Method acting or self concious).

My closing statement about today's work was that, like prior weeks, it felt a tad rushed, especially the lecture at the end, and I still feel that it should be first, then the screening so we have an idea of what to look for. Apart from that though, once again, it was interesting to break down these elements and see how much of an effect they have on use as both an audience and as makers.

Week 4 Of University (Mon 29 Oct)

In today's lecture/screening, we looked at Folktales and Ballads, specifically the adaptation of The Decameron (10 Days in latin, a book with 100 stories) by noted Italian Film maker Paolo Passolini (some of his hallmarks being the lack of professional actors, a 'raw, grainy, rough' quality to the footage, and the upping of the sexual elements) which picked only nine stories to adapt, those being:
  1. A young man who is duped by a woman into thinking she's his sister and gets robbed.
  2. A young field hand goes to a convent disguised as a mute and ends up having sex with all the nuns.
  3. A woman who cheats on her husband with another man, whom she convinces her husband to believe is buying a pot, and even has sex while he cleans it.
  4. A dying 'collector' lies to a priest about his sins as a bet with his friends, and ends up being elevated to sainthood after death.
  5. (Which becomes an overarching story, intersected throughout the remainder of the film) deals with a painter and his crew who paint a fresco for a church, and some of the characters from other stories appeat to him in a vision he has while painting.
  6. A rich girl and a boy from another family sleep together, and when discovered by her father, end up marrying to avoid shame.
  7. Three brothers kill the lover of their sister, and after he appears to her in a dream, digs up his head and places in a pot of basil.
  8. A priest tries to take advantadge of an old ma
  9. n's wife by claiming he can turn her into a mare.
  10. Two men bet that, after sex, if one dies, he will come back to tell the other if he is in hell.
Afterwards, in the seminar, we discussed where Passolini's interpretation differed from one of the original stories, the one about Lorenzo and the Basil Pot:
  • The film segment starts at the discovery of the affair, whereas the book starts long before.
  • The sexual element is alot more explicit.
  • The way Lorenzo is killed by the jealous brothers is shown (running after him with daggers).
  • The setting has been changed from Messina to Naples.
  • The foucs of the story is more on the brothers than the sister.
  • The ending has been changed (the film one ends with her putting Lorenzo's head in the basil pot, whereas the book has the brothers discover this, take the head and eventually, she cries herself to death).
Then, we looked at the basic elements of folktales, specifically the character types, following the example from the book Morpholgy of the Folktale (which can also be combined into the same character):
  • The hero (protagonist/someone who wants something)
  • The villain (antagonist/impeeds hero)
  • Donor (provides useful.magical item to hero)
  • Dispatcher (send sthe hero on the journey)
  • False Hero (someone who pretends to assist the hero but impeeds them actually)
  • Helper (an assistant to the hero)
  • Princess (what the hero wants/the reward)
  • The Princess' Father (the character who rewards the hero)
After, we were split up into groups and asked to make up our own story, set in modern times, that utilises these character types. My group came up with the following story:
There were two brothers (the hero and villain/false hero, respectively). One day, the bad brother kicked the mother (princess) off a chair and gravely injured her. He tried to lie to his brother about what happened, but a neighbour (dispatcher) alerted him to the truth, and he rushed to the hospital, driven by a friend (donor/helper). There, the doctor (princess' father) told him that his mother would be alright.

My final thoughts on this are that, once again, the analysis of these classic stories and finding out that they have more depth than at face value is absolutely fascinating to me, and we had some interesting discussions in class because of this. Plus, what we had looked at with Myths and Campbell parrallels with this as well, gvien the similar breakdown of familiar elements and cliches, and that a lot of old stories derie from classic mythology.

Week 3 Of University (Wed 24 & Thurs 25 Oct)

I put these togther because both deal with the same concept, Sound:

Wednesday
Today, I had a workshop on Sound in Editing. Using a short film set in a cafe as the basis, the class imported it into Final Cut Pro and from there, looked at the sound part of the film,and experimented with it, altering the levels, seperating the layers from each other and then, exporting one of the sound segements into Soundtrack Pro and altering the pitch to make it less harsh before exporting it back into FC Pro. This was a relatively short workshop, so aside from having to share my computer with anther student (who was very cooperative and paitent), there isn't as much to comment on.

My thoughts on this are that, while the lecturer was not as charismatic as some of the others (like Eddie or David Cottis), he was very helpful and took his time, and the work in and of itself was very straightforward and easy to understand. Additionally, I had used FC Pro before, so I was able to get on with the work fairly quickly.

Thursday
Today, we had another workshop on sound, though this focused more on the actual recording of it, using items like the radios mics and the shotgun/boom mike (and looking at the importance of the Signal-Noise ratio, with Signal being the actual 'good'/wanted sound, and what should be more dominant in the ratio).

We also looked at how sound is measured (in decibels, as well as dB FS, for the pressure level, and, in terms of the actual recording, the two settings, Bit Depth (16 or 24 bit, with the latter being the ideal one) and Amplitude (loudness). Additionally, in order to capture good sound, you must record at double the sample rate (if you want 40, you must record at 80) and the range and types within:
  • 0 - Threshold of Hearing
  • 20 - Quiet Room
  • 65 - Normal conversation
  • 75-80 - Film Conversation
  • 120 - Jack Hammer/Jet Engine 
Also, we looked at what was the ideal range (never go to 0: much too loud and ruins recording/overmodulates. The headroom should be between 0 and 10, and the reference level should be about 20). Afterwards, we went out in groups of four and shot a short piece using a scene from Little Miss Sunshine, spliting up into two teams of two: one for acting, the other for camera and sound, using the boom mic. The sound recordist and cameraman worked closely to ensure the sound was not too strong, though when I took on sound duties in my team, I didn't track with the actors, so I ended up losing them.

My closing sentiments are that this was probably the most fun I've had thus far with any of the workshops: the group activity was very straightforward and it was good to finally get some hands on experience with the equipment and feel closer to being in a more professional working enviroment.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Week 3 Of University (Tues 23 Oct)

In today's Communicating seminar, we looked at Editing, which can be divided up as follows:

Relations
  • Graphic Relations - The relationship between two images/shots in a sequence
  • Spatial Relations - the locations/spaces of a piece in a sequence
  • Temporal Relations - the passage of time in a sequence
  • Rhythmic Relations - the pacing/speed of a sequence or entire piece
Continuity
  • 180 rule - an invisble that places each character on a set side of the screen/space, and if crossed, can feel 'wrong' or jarring for a viewer.
  • Establishing shot - a shot that establishing a location (usually either the first or the main one) in a film/TV piece.
  • Transistions - more fanciful/elaborate ways of going from shot to shot i.e. dissolves, wipes, fades etc. Can be used to show passage of time.
  • Matching shots - shots set in the same space looking exactly alike, without drastic changes between them.
  • Invisible - editing that doesn't draw attention to itself
  • Temporal and spatial - the time and spaces/areas/locations that the narrative takes place in being consistent and not jumping around without rhyme or reason.
After, we took a look at excerpts from The Manchurian Candidate, MTV Cribs: Ludacris, Battleship Potemkin, an advert for Lurpak, Bonnie & Clyde and an episode from C.S.I, and looked at what, which and how some of the aforementioned concepts applied to them, as well as how the camera was utilised:

Manchurian Candidate
  • Establishing track across the bedroom to the man (main character)
  • Cross-dissolve between the man's sleep and his dream
  • The camera pans around the room till it blends into the communist laboratory
  • Continous cutting between the 'dream' and the lab.
MTV Cribs: Ludacris
  • Establishing shot a rapid series of cut coming closer and closer to the front door.
  • Rapid cuts (sometimes, between shots in the same room from different angles)
  • Fast camera moves and tracks around the rooms in the house
Battleship Potemkin 
  • Continous crosscutting between the soldiers and the fleeing people
  • Quick cuts of closer shots within same scene or space
  • No camera movement: it is nothing but straight, still shots.
An advert for Lurpak 
  • Establishing shot is a low angle of the bottles in a fridge (like tall buildings in a city)
  • Lots of quick shots and editing, creating a feel and stlye akin to an action film.
  • Additionally, we get extreme closeups of the fork beating the eggs, the fire in the cooker and the inside of a cheese grater.
Bonnie & Clyde 
  • Establishing shot is an extreme close up on a woman's lips (revealed to be Bonnie).
  • Some frames in shots missing, causing sudden 'jumps' in movement.
  • Sudden 'crash' zoom on Bonnie on the bed.
  • The bed bars and their shadow give a bit of symbolism: Bonnie feels trapped in her dull life.
  • All set within one space (Bonnie's room).
C.S.I
  • Camera work is very basic, mainly consisting of close ups and mid shots.
  • Quick dissolve into CG body of murder victim, but apart from that, there are mostly straight cuts.
Then, in the afternoon lecture, we watched Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, paying particular attention to its use of sound: aside from its soundtrack being primarily just one piano with some occassional saxophone here and there, used to accentuate the tension or mood of certain scenes, throughout, we re-hear the same recording of the young couple in the park, but used in different contexts i.e. later, it's used to explain why they commited an act of murder as opposed to earlier where we think they're the ones whol will be killed. Not to mention, when we do hear the piano, sometimes its diegetic (part of the world in the film, via a radio or vinyl record).

Afterwards, we briefly touched on the next subject, Sound & Image, going over the basics:
  • Diegetic (what exists in the world of the film i.e. music from a radio, sound of cars in a street)
  • Non-diegetic (what's added in post i.e. a film's score/soundtrack)
  • Dialogue (the words a character says/thinks. Gives us insight into them, their relations and provides other information.)
  • Music (used to add mood, emotion, tone and even depth to a scene or sequence)
  • Sound Effects (the thud of a bat, the bouncing of a ball, the click of heels etc.)
  • Silence (used to add tension/create suspense)
And some of their effects:
  • Space (the size of a set/location)
  • Time (how long something may last/music can bridge time gaps)
  • Representation (how an idea/group/concept is presented)
  • Emotion (what does the audience and the characters feel)
  • Symbolism (what other meaning could something have in a scene other than the obvious).
My closing thoughts are that, like the previous, the concepts were very interesting, but the last half of the lecture was a tad rushed again, and I would have liked to discuss some of these ideas in a little more detail. Apart from that, I gained a little more understanding of how much of an impact sound and editing can have on a piece, and how it can affect one's feelings, reaction and thoughts on a piece of media.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Week 3 Of University (Mon 22 Oct)

Today in the lecture, we (the class) watched the French short film The Red Baloon (1956) and looked at it within the context of a fable (a story, usually involving anthropomorphised beings, like animals or inanimate objects, with some sort of moral at the end):

  • The opening shot of the dark buildings against the early morning sky seemed reminiscent of a painting from a storybook, where many would have read fables as small children.
  • The baloon seems to be alive or sentient in some regard, following the boy around and obeying when told things by him and becoming enamoured with a blue baloon, effectively, being anthropomorphised like a lot of characters in fables (i.e. the tortoise and the hare, the fox in Fox and The Grapes, the raven in story of the raven and the water jug etc.)
  • The baloon at points has a mischevous quality, heckling the boy and other people around the town, again, like a character in a fable.
  •  The other boys steal the baloon and throw stones at it, conjouring an image akin to Christ's abuse at the hands of the romans, recalling the fact that some fables (and parables, which will be brought up later) have their routes in religion.
  • The end, where all the baloons come and fly the boy away, is very reminiscent of the strange or fantastical endings or turns in childrens stories, as well as being open to interpretation, again, like fables.
Then, we saw a short film, The Stag Without a Heart, which was normally a gallery piece that played on loop. The story, told entirely from a man sat on a bed, dealt with a stag who, tricked by a wily fox, get his heart torn out by the king of the forest, the lion. Regretful, the lion gets the heart of another deer and gives it to the stag. The fox returns and tricks the lion once again into killing the stag, making him think the stag will 'spill the beans' on his methods, the loop emphasising the neveredning cycle of manipulation, the beginning where the fox meets the stag matching up with the end where the fox goes off on the lion's orders.

Afterwards, in the seminar, both fables (the most famous ones, like the aforementioned Tortoise and Hare, written by the greek Aesop) and parables (religious stories, most famously from the Bible, with some sort of lesson or moral at the end) were discussed. We then watched Disney's adaptation of The Tortoise and The Hare, making notes of changes and alterations made to the story:
  • The story has been Americanized, notably with the Hare, who has been made into a American jock/sports celebrity type, complete with boxer robe and cocky attitude.
  • The addition of female characters, both as background characters and the four rabbit girls who flirt with the hare (potential sexual element?)
  • The addition of jokes/gags (mainly visual/slapstick).
  • More acute humanisation (the addition of clothing)
Then,  after reading a version of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the class was split into groups to come up with their own versions of the core idea of the story. My group changed the story's setting to the beach, and instead of a wolf, it was drowning. And after that, we took a closer look at parables and looked up the story of the Prodigal Son and how it fits into the concept of the Hero's Journey, which we looked at last week:
  • The son goes off to another land (Crossing the threshold)
  • Wastes his money on drink and pleasure (Temptation)
  • Goes back to his father (Atonement with the father)
My closing thoughts are that, once again, its interesting to see how universal and timeless these stories are, and how they can still remain intact and have the same morals in them regardless of how many times they have been adapted and modernised, and, in the case of the Disney version, think about elements that don't seem to be of major importance, but do affect how the story feels, flows and how the moral works.

Week 2 Of University (Thurs 18 Oct)

Today, we had our lighting workshop with Eddie, introducing us to lighting equipment and how we prepare for that. First, we went over the lighting plan and Three-Point Lighting, comprised of the three most important lights, the Keylight (lights front and can control brightness of the actor/subje cts), the Fill light (from the side and helps balance shadows) and the Backlight (seperates the actor(s)/subjects from the background) and, as the title implies, sets them up in a triangular fashion.

Next, Eddie got some of the class to get up and prepare the equipment, showing how to do and NOT to do certain things (get the tripod out first, open the barndoors on the lights if on, putting cases in the way of equipment, only 3 lights per electrical ring, check the equipment beforehand, don't force the stand, weigh down lights with sandbags etc.) and then, when the camera and lights (in this case, two pampas lights and one smaller lamps which can also be attached to the ceiling) were set up, I did camera duties and we (the 3 others who were on the lights) tested out the different lights on another classmate who was in the middle of the lighting triangle, and we saw how each light, as mentioned before, affected his appearance on the screen.

Then finally, Eddie talked about gels, sheets of colour that can change the intensity and colour of light, such as blue, white and orange, as well as the gain controls on the lamp to affect the light's intensity, and the 'barndoors' on the actual lamps to direct and increase or decrease the amount of light and where it points.

My closing thoughts are that I quite enjoyed this lesson, mainly due to Eddie's blunt and upfront approach while taking it with a bit of humour and cheek, his actual experience in the industry I imagine becoming an invaluable assest in the coming months when we will go out and shoot or work on film jobs during summer breaks. Additionally, though the lights were bulky and need quite a bit of attention, it was fascinating to see how a slight change in temperature or direction could alter the feel and mood of a scene.

Week 2 Of University (Tuesday 16 Oct)

Today, the Communicating In Film seminar went over Narrative, discussing the elements such as Story (What the piece is about), Plot (what actually happens/the events), Diegesis (what the characters do/hear/see within the film), Time (When things in the plot happen), Space (Where they happpen i.e. Locations), Cause and Effect (Something happens and its effect(s)), Dialogue (What a character think/feels/can be used to inform us of details like backstory) and even Credits (can set the tone and transmit a lot of information about the upcoming story. In this case, we watched the opening to Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and from there deduced the story's tone (dark), the setting (American city/urban) who the characters were that were going to appear and their relationships with one another (hugging each other, smiling to one another, being close etc.)).

We also quickly touched on what is different between Film and Television Narrative, mainly that TV offers you more time to explore themes and characters thanks to episodes/parts, however, visually, film is more basic with less edits and less extravagant cinematography/camera experimenting, usually just close ups, midshots, some tracking and a few wide shots, mainly to establish location. Following on from this, we watched the last episode of the famous sitcom Fawlty Towers and examined how its narrative was structured and utilised:
  • The opening credits established the location (a dreary hotel).
  • The plot was mostly a contstant stream of gag setups and then the punchlines, with some running ones like Manuel's pet rat escaping and the health inspector, which culminated at the end of the episode in one final joke).
  • Set within one space (the hotel, with loads of miniature spaces, like the rooms, kitchen, bar and restuarant).
  • There was not much editing variety (nearly all straight cuts) and the camera work was mainly static, with some instances of tracking or zooms, but not much, as well as mainly using midshots and closeups for reactions to the jokes.
  • The time the story took place was over the course of 2 days.
Afterwards, in the lecture, the class sat down and watched Alfred Hitcock's Rear Window and examined its narrative:
  • Credits (the opening credits show us the neighbourhood within the apartment blocks, showing us the different neighbours (like the ballet dancer 'Miss Torso', the elderly couple who sleep outside, 'Miss Lonely Hearts' and the couple who will become important later in the story, as well as our main character, played by James Stewart).
  • Story (RW is about Stewart's character, the photographer Jeff, who, housebound after breaking his leg, begins to suspect that one of his neighbours has murdered his wife.), 
  • Plot (Over the course of the film, we learn about Jeff's background and follow him and his associates, the nurse and his girlfriend, as they attempt to unravel what happened in their neighbour's apartment, once even breaking into their backyard and into their apartment to look for clues and evidence that the man killed his wife, befor efinally Jeff and the killer have a confrontation and the killer is arrested).
  • Diegesis (the sounds of the neighbours, the street below i.e. vehicles, music from the piano players apartment and what Jeff sees through his window, using his eyes, binoculars and finally, camera).
  • Time (The plot takes place over several days, though some time has passed before the story starts due to Jeff's injury).
  • Space (The entirety of the plot takes place within the apartments, mainly in Jeff's one.), 
  • Cause and Effect (Jeff's suspicions get the girlfirend and nurse involved, he brings in his private detective friend and then his investigations arouse the suspicion of the killer, who then confronts Jeff and tries to kill him).
  • Dialogue (We get told about Jeff's relationships, his prior job and about his accident, as well as background on the various characters, like the nurse who cynically recalls some of her past clients).
Finally, we quickly went over some of the basics of editing for next week i.e. Graphic Relations (the relationship between two images), Rhythmic Relations (tempo/pacing), Spatial Relations (space/locations) and Temporal Relations (the passing of time between shots) and quickly touched on the concept of Classic Hollywood Cinema (1917-1960), which Rear Window was made at the tail end of, and some of its traits i.e. heterosexual characters, seamless editing that doesn't draw attention to itself, a plausible premise, no amibiguity (very clear characters), straightforward motivations and a set, clean ending.

My thoughts on Today's lessons were that, while the materials and ideas presented were very interesting, I wish we had a little more time to really explore and better understand them, as at points (mainly due to time and watching the pieces of media) it felt a tad rushed and the 'lecture' part of The Lecture, right at the end, also felt like this and I wish, maybe, we could start a little earlier to allow for more lecutre time to properly look at what's being presented.

Week 2 Of University (Monday 15 Oct)

NOTICE: Blogs will now be broken up according to days and subjects from now on, allowing me to be more in-depth and specific than the prior format.

Monday: Today's lecture was viewing the 1939 musical classic The Wizard Of Oz, following on from reading the first chapter of Hero With A Thousand Faces and examining the Hero's Journey and how the film utilised aspects of this structure:

SEPERATIONS
1. The world of common day (Dorothy is a poor country girl who lives in the Kansas countryside, the dullness and 'ordinary' aspect emphasied by the monochrome used to film these scenes).
2. The Call to Adventure (Dorothy's dog Toto is taken away, and after it escapes and meets with her, they decide to run away).
3. Refusal of the call (Dorothy decides to go back home to her aunt after talking with a travelling mystic).
4.Crossing the threshold.(the tornado sucks Dorothy up and transports her to Oz).
INITIATION
5. Meeting allies/mentor? (Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Good Witch, who help her on her journey to see the Wizard).
- Boon/goal (The group must recover the Wicked Witch's broom for the Wizard to prove themselves worthy of what they want).
6. Apothegis/Mastery (The group overcome the Wicked Witch and defeat her).
7. Goal of the quest (they retrieve the broom and the Wizard shows them that what was in them all along (Lion-courage, Scarecrow-intelligence, Tin man- a heart), though Dorothy gets her desire to go home later thanks to the Good Witch after the Wizard flies away).
RETURN
8. Refusal of the return (she will miss everyone there, having grown very attached to the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow)
9. Crossing the threshold (she clickes her heels, says 'There's no place like home' and goes home, revealing the whole thing to be a dream.
10. Helpers in our world (the farm hands, Dorothy''s relatives and the mystic all come by to check on her and explain what happened to her).
11. Freedom to Live (Dorothy's adventure is over and she is back home with all those she loves).

Afterwards, in the actual 'Storytelling seminar, the class went over the aforementioned structure of the Hero's Journey once more (bringing up other aspects of it not used or not relevant when examining Wizard Of Oz)) and thought of other pieces of fiction where these elements could apply:
SEPERATIONS
- Helpers/Aids/Mentor (can appear earlier in the story. Famous examples include Alfred from Batman, The Fellowship in Lord of the Rings, Abu and Carpet from Disney's Aladdin tc.)
INITIATION
- Meeting with the goddess (meeting the love interest i.e. Mary Jane in Spiderman, Evey in the Mummy films, Ilsa in Casablanca, Adrien in Rocky etc.).
- meeting the temptress (femme/homme fatale/bad girl or boy of the story, like Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy).
- Atonement with the father (making peace with elders or the past i.e. Simba seeing Mufasa's ghost in Lion King, Vader and Luke in Return of the Jedi)
RETURN
- Escape with the boon (getting away with the reward/prize/experience i.e. Scrooge learning the true value of Christmas in A Christmas Carol, Rick leaving the ruins of Hamunaptra with Evelyn and a bag of treasure in The Mummy etc.).
- The Master of both Worlds (achieivng something in both/overcoming the obstacles i.e. SImba overcoming his past fears and becoming King of Pride Rock in Lion King).
- Resurrection (a return to life/rebirth (though not lieral) i.e. The Doctor's regenrations in Doctor Who, Gandalf going from Grey to White in LOTR etc.)

My final thoughts were that this was a highly interesting set of lessons: the dissection of all these classic films that have become part of popular culture and how much they have common with each other and older stories was absolutely fascinating to me as someone who has dabled in writing before, as well as being a film buff in my spare time.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

First week of University (8/10/2012-11/10/2012)

This blog will now be an ongoing log of my activities and evaluation of said activities during my time of studying film at Middlesex University.

First week-

Monday: We began with a lecture, watching the 1962 short film La jetee, a sciene fiction tale that deals with a post apocalyptic world where people have been forced underground and used in time travel experiments. Among them is a man, a former soldier, who survives the early trials and is sent back to Paris, meeting up with a young woman and having a relationship with her. Eventually, he outlives his usefulness and is killed in Paris, his younger self witnessing it (as the man remembers the death of someone in his youth) and thus bringing events full circle. The film is composed entirely of black and white photographs, with narration and sound used to tell the story, giving a sort of surreal quality, especially some of the photographs of the underground world, such as the scientists with large, black glasses, giving them an alien, nightmarish appearance that fits the dark tone perfectly. Additionally, the actors have to really entirely on body language and facial expression, given the storytelling style, and they pull it off rather well and you believe in the relationships and tribulations that the characters go through.

Then we went to the seminar, our first 'storytelling for the screen' session, where we met with David Cottis, our teacher, and, after a brief icebreaker where we talked about some of our interests, we examined creation and Fall myths, such as the Zoroastrian (Persian) version and the original creation story from Genesis, which included several differences from later versions of the tale, such as the snake that tempts Adam and Eve not implied to be Satan and the mention of several asian rivers such as the Euphrates where the creation and the actual garden of Eden take place. Through examining them, we discussed Manichaeism (Good vs Evil in black and white/basic terms, and how it's a very western idea, as opposed to the Persian myth which is more ambigious (grey) with who is in the right) and the idea of Felix Culpa (the happy/joyous sin, akin to the mistakes people make in the journeys of their lives) and how some believe that, without it, we wouldn't need Jesus to redeem the world and perhaps, the serpent helped early man gain knowledge and that the Fall of Adam & Eve was a good thing.

Tuesday:
We went to the the first seminar on 'Communicating in Film and Television' and began by going over some of the basics of film/Television analysis, such as Cinematography, Narrative, Editing, Lighting, Sound (and sub-categories like costumes, props (which relate to Mise-en-Scene) and themes). Then, we broke up into groups and assigned categories (mine did Cinematography) as watched the 'kitchen-sink' drama 'Wasp'. Observing the film, we (my group) noted the entirety of the film was shot handheld, giving a raw, rough, almost documentary type of feel, which with the council estates and working class characters of the story, as well as the opening shots using a tinted lens to emphasis the filth and grime of the council estate. Additionally, we noted the film used a lot of over-the-shoulder shots, where we would see the scene from behind someone or something, such a book rack or one of the children, making us feel more like we're there in a more physical sense, and frequently used tracking shots, following the characters around, again, emphasing the camera as sort of an invisble eye/unseen observer.

Thursday:
Today, we did our camera induction as part of the first workshop on 'Film Language and Production 1', where we were introduced to our first cameras (which took SD cards as opposed to video tape_ and began testing them by quickly shooting some footage of us asking each other a question about something that we couldn't see in that person. Coming back, we then analysed the footage and noted issues with lighting and colour balance, as well as sound quality. After, we were showed the buttons and switches on the cameras that controlled the white levels and exposure of the footage, as well as practising with the special microphone for the cameras to improve and focus sound. After class, we were sent off in groups of four to shoot a short 2-5 piece dealing with the motion of an object within a static shot and then show in next week's session.

Conclusions: The first week went rather well, I felt. The groups I were with were well behaved, friendly and did not come off as stubborn or difficult at all, in fact, some seemed very keen on their respective subjects, bringing up ideas and information I wasn't previously aware of! As for the lecturers themselves, they came off as knowledgable, commited to their work and not closed off or distant from their students, and the activities presented did give a good taste of the course and posed an interesting challenge, especially the 'Storytelling' session where we discussed mythology, which fascinated me.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

My Youtube channel (SavageBroadcast) and what I make there

As I have metioned, I have a youtube under the name of SavageBroadcast.
(To find out more, visit the channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/SavageBroadcast?feature=mhee)

Here are some examples:
My review of the film Wyatt Earp (1994), which is part of my MOVIE-NUT review series.

A discussion video about parody films. Part of a spinoff series of the main MOVIE-NUT series, which talks about aspects of films rather than reviews.
A seperate rant/discussion series that talks about various groups, theories and attitudes, and tries to provide a certain perspective/answer.

Fag Ash Lil - Short 2012

Last spring, I was involved (but not in control of) a short film project about smoking. This short piece chronicles the last days of an addict smoker, her first smoke and its subsequent effects.
(To see full film, please follow this link: https://vimeo.com/63697850).



My Production Roles:
Camera, Editor, Special Effects

Camden Services News Report - 2012


A couple of months back, I did a report on a London Borough, Camden, and the cuts it was taking towards its services. I then presented my findings in the form of a television news report.
(To see full film, please follow this link: https://vimeo.com/63658354).