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.