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.