Wednesday, 30 January 2013

My term 1 projects

Here are all the films I was involved with during this term:

Spirit of London (camera, co-director):  http://vimeo.com/50925760
Unity of Action (Production): http://vimeo.com/51651111
Lighting (Production): http://vimeo.com/52095840
Sound (Sound, camera, co-director): http://vimeo.com/53023245
10 Shot (Sound, camera): http://vimeo.com/53841740
Recreation (production, editor): http://vimeo.com/54509349
Spotlight (editor, actor): http://vimeo.com/57448191

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Production update (Thurs 10 & Fri 11 Jan 2013)

Returning to the Grove before the official start date of the new term, Nina and I resumed editing, finishing the rough cut, altering the shots to try and remove the camera via cropping and tranforming, went over the sound, re-recorded the voice of the director (which I filled in as the original actor was no longer available) and inserted that, and finally added titles and music to the film.

Week 11 (Thurs 20 Dec) and Term Evaluation

Today, I carried editing under Nina's direction, laying out more of the sequence and, in particular, focusing on a segment that involved the audio from one clip playing over a completely different one, and it took a good bit of refining to get the timing and tracking right so as not to throw off either the viewer or the rest of the sequence.

Then, at about 4:00pm, we, along with Yahya and Jessica, were called into a tutoral wiith Helen to discuss our progress thus far. After relaying the details of our production, at where we were at at present, she then took a look at our rough cut, and pointed out a damning flaw: the camera was visible in several shots via a mirror! Though I protested that, given it was a dressing room, it could be dimissed as a background prop, and any image changes would be visually harmful, Helen argued otherwise and said it would be better to find a way around this or alter the shots to mask the blatant gaff.

Afterwards, we all agreed to meet up again after the Christmas break and continue editing. In conclusion, I feel this term, while the occassional communication blunder and the setback of the last assignment for Film Language were definitely setbacks and extremely irritating, to be a very promising strat: I like the people in the class, who all have various talents and are committed, the tutors are well versed in their subject and are understanding, and the work has definitely intrigued me and my creative instincts a number of times, especially in the Storytelling module, where I feel we got into some really interesting discussion and got to play around with many ideas and concepts.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Week 11 (Tues 18 Dec)

The seminar returned, once more, to the subject of Representation, as discussed in the past two weeks (how something is shown i.e. culture, race, gender etc.) and today, we looked at one specific element: stereotypes (these can relate to portrayals/representations of gender, class, race, sexuality, age, ethnicity etc.)

To better understand this, we watched the first episode of the popular sitcom Modern Family, and made observations of any stereotypes present on the show:
  • Siblings bicker and fight with one another
  • The South American woman is shouty and married to a rich older man
  • Little sisters makes remarks/sarcastic observations
  • The elderly dad is judgmental and does not like gays.
  • Teenage girl is fiercely independent and complains about the family embarassing her
  • The white, blond wife is a home-maker/stay at home wife
  • Gay couple being prissy and picky
After, we quickly looked at the idea of Narrative as a form of ideology (how a film presents a certain i.e. The American Dream (anyone can achieve great things with hard work) in sports films, heterosexual romance in romantic films etc.) before we did a short exercise where, in groups, we had to come up with an idea for a film about an event in history and how we would both reaffirm/converse certain ideas and beliefs, and how we would challenge them, and my team chose to tackle the afghan war:

Conservative:
  • Invaders come to bring peace and freedom, and crush terrorism
  • Britain backed American in a righteous cause
  • We brought Afghanistan democracy
Challenge:
  • Invaders come for purely selfish reasons (such as oil, political authority, and stamp out oppostion)
  • Britain was forced into backing America by weak ministers
  • We destablised the country even more, and paved the way for more corruption and violence
However, I was not able to attend the afternoon lecture, where they screened the infamous film The Room, directed by Tommy Wiseau, often considered one of the worst films ever made, since I had to go off and do editing with my team for their short film in DMW4 up until about 6 in the evening. Hence, my closing evaluation is in two parts: First, the lecture, while a little short and a bit undercooked (I wish we had unpacked and examined the ideology aspect a little more) definitely presented some interesting ideas, especially with the exercise, and Secondly, the editing went really well, the team being supportive and the director being very clear and co-operative with me to help bring out her vision on the screen, and was very easy to talk to.

Week 11 (Mon 17 Dec)

Today, we looked at the conecpt of the Three Act Structure: in the lecture, we watched Throne of Blood (1957), a Japanese samurai film based off the Shakespeare classic Macbeth, by legendary director Akira Kurosawa, and follows the story of a proud general who, much like the original play, after hearing a prophecy from an old woman in the woods, sets out on a murderous path that will see him become the ruler of the land, and then lose it, egged on by his scheming, manipulative wife. The film boasts some great black and white cinematography that has a very 'western' feel with its grand wide shots of the land and castle.

Afterwards, in the seminar, we looked at the 'Three Act Structure', comprised of the following elements:
  • A defined Beginning, Middle and End in the plot
  • Status Quo (the state of the world as is)
  • Inciting incident/Tilt (Something happens that changes the world)
  • Act 1 Climax: One way Door/Point of No Return (No going back/things never the same again)
  • Act 2 explores the repurcussions of the events in Act 1
  • Midpoint (where things/situations shift/change/switch)
  • Act 2 Climax: When payoffs begin/events reach crisis/breaking point
  • Scene a Faire: The payoff/resolution
  • Act 3 Climax: Restoration/establishes a new status quo/world.
Also, we took a quick look at Conflict and how it is utilised in stories: there is the Intra-Personal (inner conflict, like psychological/moral/inner demons), the Inter-Personal (Between people i.e. arguments, debates, battles of interests/ethics/ideas etc.) and the Extra-Personal (Between people and Greater Powers i.e. society, the original status quo, gods etc.)

Then, we did an exercise where, in groups, we went off and created a three act story for a major Hollywood film: my team decided to that most classic of American traditions, the sports film, with our plot focusing on an armless basketball coach who trains a team of underachievers and failures at a summer camp and, after they learn his origin (he used to be a great player, until he lost his arms in an accident) and gain respect for him, takes them all the way to the championships. However, some of his peers question his motivations, accusing him of using the team to leave out his own desires for glory. In the end, though they don't win, the team and coach have grown as people and learnt to triumph over adversity (cue the obligatory 'It's not about winning' type speech).

To close, today's sessions weredefinitely interesting, with the one-two punch of seeing a film by a master such as Kurosawa and how he interprets a classic story to suit his own cultural ideas and sensibilites, and the fun of being in a group and batting around ideas and possibilites with where could we go with a story like this, and how much we could 'Hollywood-ize' it.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Week 10 (Thurs 13 Dec)

Today's workshop began with going over some sound equipment, and going over a special type of portable mic we could use in future production (going over its buttons (your standard play/pause/stop, volume control and a few others that affected sound), software (all the different functions and options the mic gives you for storage, sound levels, quality etc.) and the media it took (SD Cards).

Then, we got into the meat of the session: the directing workshop. We had to go off, in teams and make up a floor plan for a sequence where Character A goes into a room, Character B is sat at a desk, the two talk, A makes a remark and then leaves, and present that before the entire group and talk about it and why it should be selected. After the team with the best plan for the sequence was selected, the entire group was marshalled out to various crew roles: I was made boom operator (and teamed with another classmate who was the sound recordist). After we got the equipment in place according to the flooor plan, and the director had checked everyhting, we began shooting part of the sequence, and to be honest, I found the boom mic quite heavy and substantial, and it was a strain on my arms and back, though I had to surpress the pain and stand still to record correctly.

To close off, today's session, aside from the arm ache, was quite interesting, and being able to finally get into a full blown filming scenario was quite riveting and engrossing, and the enitre crew got on with the task without messing around or slacking off.

Week 10 (Tues 11 Dec)

Today seminar was focused on analysis/essays and how to write them properly. First, we ran through some guidelines and tips on how to write good, interesting essays:
  • Double spaced and the standar font is 12
  • Italicise the titles of films and television shows
  • Include the director and year when you first mention a title. Additionally, mention the actors the first time you mention their characters.
  • Don't make the arguments overly personal (I like/don't like).
  • Spellcheck/proof-read.utilise correct and approriate terminology.
Similarly, we then discussed analysis and how to write those correctly, which utilised very similar rules (checking, be objective, bring up evidence and don't assume anything, be structured but not a checklist etc.) and with that, we then took a look at the essay we had to write over the christmas break and what questions we had available to make the core of it:
  1. Are there problems with a texturlist (specifics i.e. genre) approach to film and TV?
  2. Does the camra offers window into the world (Realism)?
  3. Is fantasy purely escapist?
  4. Choose a piece and discuss how it shows (any 2 of) gender, sex, class, race etc.
  5. In what ways have film makers sought to challenge conventional represnetations?

Then, in the lecture, we saw the French drama La Haine (1995), centering on three French youths who lives on a council estate and the troubled lives they all lead, the film commenting on social and racial issues and divides, and how the different classes are treated by society. Following on from this, we returned to the topic of representation (how something is shown i.e. race, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, ideology etc.), but this time we looked at more specific eras and styles (such as Latin Third Cinema, which shows the harsh reality and poverty prevalent in South American life, New Queer Cinema, which began around the early 90s and challenged the conventional portrayal of homosexuals in film) and even pioneers (such as Spike Lee and Todd Haynes) and their films (City of God (2002), Jean Luc Goddard's Weekend (1962) and the acclaimed 1970s miniseries Roots, which centered on several generations of black slaves.)

To conclude, I felt the lecture was more compelling than the seminar, mainly becuase a lot of film history and theory was thrown up and discussed in a decent amount of detail, as opposed to the latter where it was more like, ironically, just a checklist of what to do and what not to do. Additionally, it was interesting to see how many aspects of a film and its world can eb analysed and dissected when discussing all the different types of representation, as mentioned before.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Week 10 (Mon 10 Dec)

Today's lecutre and seminar was devoted to plays and in particular, the idea of 'The Well-Made Play', a certain way of wiritng scripts that I will discuss more in-depth later in this post:

In the lecture, we watched Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), a film that follows a troubled young couple, the husband commiting adultery with his wife's sister, and how an old friend from the husband's past comes in and affects their lives, in particular, his strange hobby of filming women talking about sex and their sexual choices. There are a few twists in the film that were very well done, utilising the titular videotapes to control the distribution of information (something I'll get to in a moment).

Then, in the seminar, we began to discuss the concept of the Well-Made Play: it was a style of play writing that originated in the 19th century by playwrights like Eugene Scribe, Henry Gibson and Victorien Sardov, and is made up of several elements:
  1. Late Point of Attack: Act 1 starts later in the story (important events have already occured, backstory is given through exposition).
  2. Turning point: a major change in relationships
  3. Choreography of Knowledge: how information is distrbuted between the characters, and how long it takes for them to find out something (Three ways to distribute it: Less than the audience (creates mystery), Know as much (allows for identification) and Know more (creates suspense).
  4. Strong curtains: Major turning point/revelation/reversal at the end of Act 1
  5. Reincorporation: Some element from earlier is brought back into the story
  6. Scene A Faire: the obligatory/expected scene.

Getting into groups, we had to come up with a scenario for a well made play: Our story centers on a psychologist, John, who suffers from depression due to his work, not to mention relationship difficulties with his wife and daughter (Late point). Eventually, one of the wealthier patients convinces him to join  him in experimenting with the pharmaceutical drugs he's prescribed (turning point). The strange new behaviour prompts curiousity and suspicion, who eventually discovers John's abuses, and after confronting him (Strong curtains), vows to go straight, though before long he cracks again and relapses (reincorporation). In the end, he dies from an overdose (Scene A Faire).

We also quickly looked at Farce, a style of writing that pokes fun at the 'Establishment', and is based around the characters' desperation/misunderstandings, a main component and source of humour being Qui Pro Quo (two people talking), which leads to misunderstandings, the big laugh being born out of the other character finally realising what the other meant. Capping off, we split into pair and wrote a quick Qui Pro Quo, mine dealing with two posh hunters, one of whom accidentally shot a dog, but the other believes it was his wife.

To conclude, today's sessions were extremely interesting, and it really amazes how many details and components make up a piece, since usually we just think of plays and stories in general as just plot and characters when in fact, there is a lot more going on and there are more conventions involved.

Week 9 (Thurs 6 Dec)

Today, we didn't actually have a full lesson, rather, we had an appointment with Eddie to pitch an idea for a film based on a story we worked on in Storytelling for The Screen, having gotten ourselves into teams (whether in class or through Facebook), as well as providing production paperwork.

However, we missed this bit of information, and so only showed up (the team made up of myself, Ertan, Gergo and Jessica, though she wasn't there) with only the script. Before too long, we were 'hauled over the coals' by Eddie, explaining to us in 'his' style how badly we had messed up something this basic, which was worse than normal given that this whole tutorial, aside from not being able to proceed as it should have due to lack of said paperwork, but it also acted as a dry run for actual pitches that will have to do if we want to get our films made by the industry, and this made us look really bad and incompetent.

Also, he questioned the viability of the project, given that four people was far too small (some of us having to take maybe three or four jobs, not helped by Gergo's departure in two weeks time for Christmas) and that, coupled with the earlier blunder, made our project, as it stood, unviable.

I was very dissappointed, both in the team and myself today: While I do say that the lecturers could have done a better job informing us of the need for paperwork in class instead of on Facebook (where it quickly became lost among all the posts), I feel we should have been better organized and maybe thought things out better, maybe have an extra meeting the previous day just to iron out any 'bumps'. Also, I feel it was a tad selfish for to take on the majority of roles (I was director, camera and editor, as well as co-writer of the script), given that I would have to lead the team when Gergo went, instead of dividing them more carefully.

Week 9 (Tues 4 Nov)

In today's sessions, we returned to the discussion of fantasy and the fantastic on Film and Television (as mentioned last week, this can involve conecpts such as magic, myth, the otherwordly/alien, alternate realities, time and space manipulation, as well as mediums such as special effects and animation). First, we went back over one of the shows we had seen last week, and made some notes about how these apply to it:

Awake:
  • The running question of which life is real and which is fantasy, distinguished both by the differing colour tones and the different coloured armbands the main character wears.
  • The clues/events in one timeline affect the clues/events in the other, like the same number appearing in both, signifying different things (one is an address, the other a parking space number).
  • The show playing around with the timelines and how 'real each one is, such as having the two psychologists analyse and criticise each in other in their respective timelines, as well as the use of self-harm to try as establish one timeline as the 'correct' one.
Then, we took a look at Game Of Thrones, and, in groups, tried to think of how we could construct an essay on the show with the central premise/question being 'Realism Reveals Truth. Fantasy is Escapist': we argued that fantasy can exist within realism, and vice-versa, given how character interact with one another (much like real human beings), as well as the us eof racial and social commentary and ideas, something also present in more realistic fiction, which can be applied to the different creatures and civilizations. Additionally, through added research into other big fantasy series, we could show how widespread this is and how they use akin to GoT.

AFterwards, in the lecture, we watched Disney's Enchanted (2007), a film that both celebrates and satrizes Disney's long tradition of fairytale films about princesses, princes and magic and how that is brought into a 'realistic' world and how it then affects said world (everyone singing along with the princess for the arbitrary musical number seen in a lot of Disney works. In fact, the director was Kevin Lima, who also did Disney's Tarzan (1999), one of their animated musicals.)

Afterwards, we moved on to a new topic: Representation (resembles something or someone, often involving sex, class, gender, ethinicity, sexual orientation (also crosses into stereotypes) and how they are shown within a constructed reality (Film, TV, literature etc.). A key component to this is the idea of Polysemy, which essentially states that not everyone will view a representation of something the same way (one may see it as offensive and harmful, the other may say it's dead-on and accurate to the truth). What's more, the cycle of Reference (who/what), Production (the context) and Reception (the influence/interpretation) also play a large role, as each one affects the other (someone may be viewed in a certain context and that in turn affects the interpretation. For example, Mommie Dearest (1983) portrays legendary actress Joan Crawford (Reference) as a psychopathic control and clean freak, like the book it was based on (Production context) and in turn, recieved a lot of controversy when it was released (Reception).


In conclusion, today's sessions were still interesting, though the seminar felt more like it was scratching the surface, rather than delving into the material and really asking questions about what fantasy is. The lecture on the other hand, was more thought-provoking and it does get your mind going on how much of our media is made of certain representations of certain groups (like blacks are frequently shown in gangs, gays are shown as silly and over-the-top etc.).

Week 9 (Mon 3 Dec)

Today's sessions were devoted to looking at 'comedy': In the lecutre, we watched the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), centering on the relationship between two reporters, one of whom intencds to leave the other and settle down, away from the hectic world of journalism, with another man. The film utilises screwball (a 30s/40s style of comedy that poked fun at society and archetypes), situational (what characters and the environment around them do and cause) and verbal humour (one-liners, remarks, sarcastic observations and conversations) to create jokes, assisted by the chemistry between the actors to make the jokes really pop and get a laugh out of the audience.

Afterwards, in the main seminar, we took a closer look at comedy: The actual origin of the word isn't so much just 'funny', but actual relates to having a certain view of society and the intergration of a character into/within said society, and the name itself derives from Ancient Greek for Festival (Komos). Additionally, there seem to be two specified 'eras' of comedy: 'Old Comedy' (defined by writers like Aristophanes and dealing with a central character (A Hero, though not necessarily somone good or noble) who constructs a society (not necessarily always a complete culture, but an idea or concept), dealing with the oppostion to it, inviting in possibilities for ridicule and sympathy, and eventually triumphing against all odds, rewarded with some type of power and sex. This principle was most famously defined in works like Lysistrata, which actually was banned during WW2) and 'New Comedy' (defined by writers like Menander and Plautus (often called the Father of Western Comedy) which often deals with a young man who desires a woman, but an older relative (Senex) is in his way, and in order to overcome them, they enlist the help of the 'Cunning Slave', and from there, misadventures ensue until the two youths are married. Other characters include the Miles Gloriosus (a macho soldier who also desires the woman), the Stupid Slave (a foil for the Cunning Slave), the Parasite (a flattere/kiss-up), the Courtesan (prostitute/rival female) and the Slave dealer (pimp).

Our first task was to go off into groups and come up with a film pitch that played out like an 'Old Comedy': my team came up with the idea of a lazy man who decides to create a world of coffee via a machine so he can stay awake and work, and along the way, encounters oppostion from the mayor, a coffeeshop manager and an insomniac. In the end, he suceeds and, bringing the town fame and fortune in the process, becomes mayor himself.

And then, we had to come up with one for a 'New Comedy': Set in a law office, the story follows a young worker who fancies a young lawyer (whose father is also the boss), and enlists the help of the two cleaners to win her affections whilst also overcoming a rival lawyer who also desires her.

In closing, I really enjoyed today's work: aside from watching an excellent film which is still every bit as fun today as it was all those decades ago, getting to just have fun, playing with ideas and throwing ideas, sort of like how actual Hollywood comedies are written, was terrific and some of the most fun I've had in a while.

Week 8 (Thurs 29 Nov)

Today's session was made up of two parts: looking at the recreations of scenes from the different teams, and then looking at brainstorming.

First, we looked at the concept of brainstorming as it pertains to film, looking a tit as if we were going to develop and/or pitch an idea to a production company, and looked at some helpful ways to make it easier and more straightforward:
  • Form: What type of film is it? (Short subject, feature length, episodic, narrative etc.)
  • Subject: What is it about? (Themes, genre, ideas i.e. Horror, law, corruption, spiritual etc.)
  • In a Sentence: The idea in its most basic form (A soldier fights mutants while trying to save some scientists/A man goes on a journey to rediscover his spiritual indentity)
  • Key words: Words that summarise the idea/ideas for the piece (For an action film ala Rambo: war, violence, sex, explosions, villainy, comedy, conspiracy etc.)
Then, if things were desperate/writer's block, we looked at the ideas generator, a system that can assist in coming up with concepts: Research (Passive i.e. watch some films, read a book or do some internet browsing/Active: go out and investigate, utilise resources available to find something of interest), Reflection (what have you done before, and does it have anything you could revisit/expand upon, or have some type of connection between them, like a theme, character or idea), Brainstorming (just go wild and throw out as many ideas as you can, and see which ones you like the most) and Emcompassing (immerse yourself in a subjetc of your own interest and see what can be yielded there).

Additionally, one can also use these other avenues: Critique (get feedback/input for your project/idea), Collaboration (find someone you have a 'spark' or 'flare' with, assisting you in your creativity and providing with possible ideas), the triple R rule (Research, Represent and Refine: Find out information, how you can pull it off, and then, polish up/tighten to what is needed and essential) and S.C.A.M.P.E.R (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other use, Eliminate, Rearrange, which is more or less an expansion of the Triple R concept).

Also helpful are Protoypes/tests (see what does/doesn't work), storyboards (getting across a accesible, more immediate version of your idea), Ask an Expert (call on outisde help for adivce if you are going into new/unknown territory), Audience trials (see how others respond to your idea and how it's presented), Documenting (recording how things go and be able to evaluate so as to come to the best possible conclusion for your project) and Time (don't rush it, give it the time and space to germinate and grow to give you more options and ideas to play with and test out).

To illustrate this, we each wrote down an idea on a piece of paper, gave to someone else and then, with this new idea, we began to play with it, noting down ideas and directions for the piece. The on I recieved was about someone who makes a mistake, and I chose to expand on this, making akin to 28 Days Later, and Contagion, an science-ficiton thriller centering a scientist who make a product that puts millions at danger, and his race to try and stop it from being abused by higher, darker powers.

Moving on to the other part, we looked at each other's recreations and gave feedback afterwards on how well it was made and how well it matched the original: my team's piece, the recreation of the bedroom scene from Requiem For A Dream, was praised for its ambition, but was criticized due to the shots not being as well colour matched as in the original, and occasional issues with the croping and framing, making characters look a little 'off'. However, the lesson, at this point, was cut short as Helen had to rush off for personal reasons.

In closing, I felt today's lesson was fairly interesting, and the tips and tricks we learned today I imagine will come in handy at some point, either at University or at some point in the future in my creator, and as for the criticism of the piece, I understand and I admit that, due to the time pressures and the editing being taken over partway through by someone else, the work may have ended up not as polished and fine tuned as it could have been, but I can learn and take away from that for the next time.

Week 8 (Wed 28 Nov)

Today was focused on editing the 'Recreation of A Scene from a film' assignment (the scene choice had been changed,and now we selected the bedroom scene from Darren Aronofosky's Requiem for A Dream). During the last two weeks, the rest of the team had gone out and filmed the scene (staying up until past midnight to get everything done!) and now, I stepped in to play my part, having been selected as editor of the final piece.

Zane, our team leader and director, and Zay, our producer and production assistant, brought in the footage via memory cards and memory sticks, which I then imported onto a Mac at DMW4, and then went through and renamed each of the clips according to their shot type and what was in it (e.g. CUDavid4: The fourth take of a close up on of the actors) or in their relation to narrative (e.g. MSBeautifulgirl2: the second take of David saying 'You were the most beautiful girl I had ever seen'). After, I opened up Final Cut Pro, imported the clips into it and then began to build the sequence, assited by a timeline provided by Zane that told me what clips needed to be where, as well as having the original scene on hand for reference (meanwhile, Zay worked on fixing up the sound from the seperate recordings (one done by the actors to a microphone for better sound quality), which she would later give to me and I would, in turn, import and add to the film).

What made this unique, and challenging, for me was that the scene had two different shots running simulatenously within the same frame, which I was able to accomplish via shrinking two shots down so each would occupy half of the screen (they would occupy different layers on the FC timeline). In some cases, I had to alter the colour or temperature of the shots if the light was too strong/weak, or crop the shot if it was a little too big and didn't sync up with the other one.

 

I was editing from about 12am to about 7pm, with a lunch break circa about 2, whereafter I had to leave due to personal circumstances (I leave in another part of London, and I travel by Underground, so I couldn't be too late in case of delays or accidents. Additionally, I have elderly parents.) I had completed half of the sequence (having to sync up different shots within the same frame eats up considerable more time than editing a more conventional scene), and exported it online to Zane, who checked over it and finished it up.

My final thoughts on this are that it was both a very interesting but also frustrating experience: it gave me a new challenge with the syncing, and it was interesting to find out how it was. However, this also meant, both due to this style and my inexperience with it, that editing, a field I have experience in, was slower than normal, and I feel that, had I not been bound by personal circumstances, I could have worked longer and gotten the whole thing done.