Monday, 6 January 2014

Yr2 Week 10 (Thurs 19 Dec - Adaptation Rough Cut screenings)

With a box of chocolates being passed between us, courteously supplied by David, we viewed each others rough cuts for the Adaptation short film for Producing and Directing.People went for a diverse selection of tales, whether it be horror tales like Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, or more dramatic affairs like A Streetcar Named Desire. Ours, based on The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night Time, drew an overall positive response, with praise going towards the lighting and performances. However, criticism was leveled at the actual edits and the pacing, which some felt was a little too quick and jarring, not giving scenes enough time to breathe. Jack conceded, and admitted there was some extra material he could put back in, to help smooth it out.

A this point, not much to say, as the film is still a work in progress, but I personally agree with the complaints as I too felt it moved a little too quick, especially considering some of the heart felt emotions that this film was trying to bring out in the audience, especially the letter reading scene with the mother's beautiful narration. Still I have faith in Jack to deliver, and well, sayonara 2013, hello 2014! A whole new year of opportunities, trials and laughs. Can't wait!

Yr2 Week 10 (Wed 18 Dec - Film and Innovation)

Waking up a 6 today, I got in earlier to begin editing the film down in the Grove's DMW4 suite on Final Cut Pro. However, complications arose, and I nearly threw the damn thing out: the film was incredibly grainy, no doubt brought on by a slight bit of overexposure and my rush yesterday cost us. Also, the two were slightly out of sync by a few seconds, not to mention, despite my careful planning and rehearsal, my shoulder got into the shot a few times when it came to the back view. Even when I cropped and then resize, the grain became more prominent, and though I tried a bunch of filters, none would cut down the grain.

Concerned, I showed the footage to the res of the team, who shared my woes. However, Catherine and Iordache had a last minute brainstorm: we put the film into Windows Movie Maker, synced it up there, and then added the music underneath (we chose a brass piece with a slaptick-y sound to it, a slight bit of meta commentary on our situation). With our fingers crossed, we went into class, and set up the projectors back to back, with the class sat on either side.

Feedback was surprisingly fair, with many feeling it had potential to be expanded, and sort create a continuous sphere of movement with say, thee or four screens, almost like being inside a person's head. With that, we breathed a sigh of relief, and said our thanks. In fact, that's what I wish to say to and about my team: I owe thanks to everyone for pulling through with this, in spite of the odds, whether it be Iordache & Catherine saving the film at the last minute when I was ready to throw in the proverbial towel, or Hana and Andrew   assisting with supplying materials and/or performing on the day, even though the latter had reasons she could not come, she still offered to assist during the edit. I tip my ha to all of you, and let us pray that our next project goes far more smoothly.

Yr2 Week 10 (Tues 17 Dec - Producing and Directing screening & 2 screen update)

Around 3 in the afternoon, we filmed our 2 projector piece, though alas, not without some difficulties ( we were supposed to film at 1:30, but Hana couldn't make it, so we had to hire the second camera from the loan store, which was both closed and had a large cue waiting. And then, the only ones left were7Ds, which took the larger memory cards that we did no have). Instead, we had to do a circuit around the university, racking first from in front, then behind, Andrew as he walked around. thankfully, everyone was patient, and we got it done fairly quick. I would edit the next day.

In today's screening, David now having returned, we watched acclaimed Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci's 1970 film The Conformist, based on a 1951 novel of the same name, bu is told in a different manner, non-linearly, as we follow an agent of the Fascist Italian government, Marcello, both during and before WW2, as he is sent to murder a critic of the government over in France, but during this, we get glimpses of his past and how he became so cold and distant.

Throughout the film,we cut back to Marcello in a car, driving to what is eventually revealed to be the murder of the target and his wife out in the woods. Some have argued, and I myself see this to an extent too, that the car is a physical representation of the journey into Marcello's psyche, with the drive being a sort of analyst, listening in, and the seat of the car acting the 'psychiatry couch'. Furthermore, through the flashbacks, we see Marcello's past trauma, such as a homosexual encounter in his youth and what he thought was murder when he shot the other man, another driver (however, later, he survives, and pins the murders of the couple on him, a sort of revenge on the man he believes ruined his life), and as a by-product, his search for 'normality' and 'acceptance' by society, shifting sides when needed just to fit in, as evidenced in he end when he turns on the fascism after they are ousted from power.

Also to note are Vitotio Santorio's wonderful cinematography, making use of bold colours, especially during a scene where Marcello and the wife talk, and there are these strong, bold blues coming from the window, or the wonderful wide angle shots of the fascist building, emphasizing the space/ego of the party, as well as why the film is non-linear. Originally, Conformist was linear, but then the producer, a relative of Bertolucci's, brought in Franco Arcalli, an acclaimed Italian editor who was renowned for being able to drastically change film during the editing phase yet still have them flow and work well. Rather than fighting, the two men got on really well, and it was Arcalli who came up with the non-linearity and turning certain scenes into flashbacks.

Frankly, I don't know what more to say. Great film (photographed by one of my favourite cinematographers), great bit of film history, and a strong reminder of how a film can easily change at any point during production, and just how significant work in 'Post' truly is.

Yr2 Week 10 (Mon 16 Dec - Screenwriting the Short Film)

Like past weeks, both of today's sessions with David were devoted towards revising our  scripts. In fact, it was our last session for the year, and one student complained of a lack of farewell treats!

So, my final feedback for Eye in The Shadows? Well, it was good, yet again praising it for its cartoon humour, but there was concern about the believability of the girlfriend character's reaction to her boyfriend's activities, some wondering if it was a little too bombastic and goofy, as well as minor feeding back on some other spelling/grammatical errors I missed. In all frankness, I was relieved that the script was still working and generating a good amount of laughs, but I certainly do see the validity of the primary criticism, and I will go back and retool it so the last scene flows better, as well as maybe tone it down so it doesn't seem too wild and cartoonish. After all, too much of a good thing...

In closing, working with David and the group was great, as they were very supportive and attentive, which makes a great deal of difference to me and my confidence.Also, seeing the vast amount of different and creative ideas on display for my classmates, whether it be Lynchian-style romance, a dark comedy about educated drug dealers or even dark, sexual passion between a doctor and her patient, gave me a new level respect for my already valued classmates and their natural talents.

Yr2 Week 9 (Fri 13 Dec - ADR Induction)

Though I had been in the room previously for the recording of material for the Adaptation short, this my proper induction to the recording studio, as well as the ADR process (Automatic Dialogue replacement): using a short film from a previous year as our base, we each took turns going into the studio and recording lines of dialogue, syncing up and timing with the movement of lips on the screen. Of special note, this film was lead predominantly by women, and most of us in the group were male. Cue falsettos and many a 'Trap' gags.

We also did regular sound, such as he sound of walking heels or even how to simulate the sound of weaponry going through flesh, using a case of fruit supplied by our guide, Pete, as well as an assortment of blades and hammers to demolish melons and cucumbers. Once all this good fun was wrapped up, Pete then went onto Pro Tools in the booth, and began syncing up the recordings, creating 'guide tracks' with lead-in beeps to get the timing right for syncing, both during and after recording. his was rather simple basics, and Pete assured us both that his services were on hand, should we ever need assistance with this, and that there would another workshop in the future to go over the finer details.

In the end, this was good fun, and though it may not have been overly comprehensive or detailed, we had done a Pro Tools workshop before so we weren't entirely lost or unable to follow Pete, who actually does better teaching small groups and get into it more than say, when he has a whole room of people in a larger space, and frankly, the aforementioned escapades were worth the time spent!

Yr2 Week 9 (Thurs 12 Dec - Producing and Directing workshop)

In today's workshop, we returned to the field of acting, but this time, instead of the director's view, we looked at it from the actor's P.O.V, specifically, the art of improvisation (more on that in a bit).

We began by looking at 'Movement Psychology', an idea first proposed by Rudolph Laban (1871-1958), who felt hat motion is bought on by desire, an that by studying those movements, it could say a lot about a person. his later refined by others into 8 Basic Efforts, which also double usefully for actors to figure out little mannerisms, quirks and characteristics of their characters. he 8 are as follows, which are made up of 4 continums (Weight i.e. Strong/Light, Space i.e. Direct/Flexible, Time i.e. Sudden/Sustained and, though not used here, Flow i.e. Bound/free, which are self explanatory when it comes to the question of movement):
  1. Pressing (It is a 'Direct' form of action, it is 'sustained' for a period of time and it is 'strong'/requires strength)
  2. Flicking (It is a 'flexible' action, it is sustained, and it is 'light'/doesn't require much effort)
  3. Ringing (flexible, sustained and it is strong)
  4. Dabbing (Direct, it is a 'sudden' action, and it is strong) 
  5. Slashing (flexible, sudden and strong)
  6. Gliding (direct, sustained and light)
  7. Thrusting (direct, sudden and strong)
  8. Floating (flexible, sustained and light)
This, in turn, can be broken down further as 6 character types/inner attitudes:
  1. Near vs Remote (the physical, how in tune someone is with their environment)
  2. Awake vs A Dream (the intellectual and the conscious)
  3. Stable vs Mobile (the emotional aspect of a person)
To get to really soak this in more directly, we did a quick movement exercise, walking in different positions and walks, expressing our sentiments (loose and relaxed, direct and straight etc.) and how much that says without any sort of dialogue. And now, to the highlight of the evening, the activity: in groups, went off and had to improvise a scenario, with two acting and a third directing. I went off with Kacper and a girl (I apologize as I don't recall the name right now), and we came with a scenario where, after a length of time, a young man tries to rekindle the trust of his love, but she knows about his habits (gambling and other vice) and rebuffs him. The scene played well, though many felt it rambled at points, and given the short time we had to come up with the scenario, the two made up more material as they were performing (not a bad thing, necessarily, as that was the point of this session, but it was a little hindering in terms of narrative, though again, not the focus.)

To conclude, today was a good bit of fun, and once more, gave me a chance to flex my directing muscles and work with actors, finding quirks or ironing out bugs in a performance (not the most technical description, but you get the point) and well, we had a good few laughs. Always a great way to end a working week.

Yr2 Week 9 (Wed 11 Dec - Film and Innovation & 2 Screen update)

Today's session saw the return of Guy, who, in advance of our screenings next week of our two projector pieces, gave us a quick tour back into the depths of film history, with two early art films (in part, undoubtedly, to help fire up our visual skills and imaginations): first up was Return to Reason (1923), which was a sort of visual experience, using a series of contrasting symbols and shapes on the screen, along with dashes and flashes of light. It almost sort of felt hypnotic, in sense, like one of those entrancing kaleidoscopes, with its constantly shifting and moving imagery. The black and white also gave it a nice sense of atmosphere, which has helped it not age too badly, and not feel as flat or stagey as some silent films can.

Next up was a true sensory experience, a sort of David Lynch of the early 20th century: Ballet Mechanique (1929), complete with a score composed in 1999 (worthy of mention, both because of the score itself, a sort of storm of noise made up of clanging and clinking and ringing, like machines in a factory, and because this was actually the score the directors, Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphy, originally desired, but it was too complex for their time). As the title implies, the mechanics of various machines are on displays (engines, clocks etc.), often refracted/reflected within the same shot to create strange images of say, two pendulums swinging into and fusing into one another. This is intercut with images of a women looking about, heavily made up, as well as images of people at play outside in a park, sort of implying a connections between the mechanics of movements in a human, and then the ones in machinery. In fact, the woman takes on the aspect of an automaton (a robotic puppet, most famous in the 19th century, like the chess-playing Turk.). Mixed together with the noisy soundtrack, and you just get sucked in and mesmerized by the strange combination of imagery and sound.

Moving along after that mind-melt, my team met up after class and we went over our ideas, bringing in drawings, plans and sketches of what we wanted to do. We settled on a merging of two ideas: screen A would be devoted to the front, while Screen B would be devoted to the back, and we would sync them up via two camera rolling at the same time. Why? to track what goes on as we walk, turning the screens into 'windows on the world'. We settled to shoot on Monday, and I and Hana agreed to supply cameras, with Andrew playing our 'guy. Fingers crossed...

Yr2 Week 9 (Tues 10 Dec - Producing and Directing screening)

Today's session was actually pretty short, as neither Eddie nor David were not in today, so were simply watching Hearts of Darkness (1991), a documentary, co-created by Francis Ford Coppola's wife, Eleanor, with footage from the actual shooting of his masterpiece Apocalypse Now (1979), and just how problematic it was, whether it be rumours in the press, terrible storm weather wrecking sets or the governments calling away vehicles to fight rebels in the middle of a scene. I would summarize, but I already made a full review of the film, available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ5XVV09Ajc

Really, I can't say all that much; the review pretty says everything I could about the film, and I can see why it was chosen, since it reinforces what we saw earlier in Lost in La Mancha, and just how chaotic shoots can get, especially when you have such a huge reputation as Coppola, and how it is important to persevere in the face of great odds. After all, the challenge is one the pains, and joys, of true film making.

Yr2 Week 9 (Mon 9 Dec - Screenwriting the Short Film)

Much like the previous weeks, both of today's sessions with David were devoted towards revising our short film scripts.Let's not dilly-dally, and get to the point.

Today's feedback for Eye in The Shadows

Again, quit good, laughs being generated quite regularly by the cartoon humour, as well as the improved ending and removal of slightly racy elements (instead of racist skinheads, now the bomb duo were mad football fans) though the ending had yet to be finished, as the changes meant I had cut out the original ending involving the girlfriend sleeping with an old man who ran over the lead, as well as some minor beefing up of criticism and more reactions from the lead as he endures these fantastical tortures. I certainly see the validity of the calss' issues, in fact the later I noted myself earlier, and I will go back, patch it up, as well as finally sort out the ending once and for all.

Adaptation shoot day (Sat 7 Dec - Producing & Directing)

Today, rising early at six, was the day to shoot our adaptation of Curious Incident: we went over to our location, the flat of fellow students Harry, Jesper and Alex. We met up, and set up for the first scene, where our father and main characters would be talking whilst watching the television. I was D.O.P, setting up the lights per the pre-planned specifications, as well as assisting Jack with camera duties. (The lights were Pampa, and brought the previous night via taxi).

At around 8 or so, our actors arrived, and Jack rehearsed with them while I finished up prepping. Before long, we got the shoot underway: in addition to our team of four, we also got help from the aforementioned inhabitants of the house, primarily in the sound department, with Harry and Alex taking the boom and recorder.

After about four takes, we then slightly re-set up for the next shot, shooting the same scene but from the side. After finicking around with the reflector board to find the right angle,, we got it in the can and moved on. Next was the scene where our main character is investigating the living room for his journal, and digging through the sofa. Once again, not a drastic lighting change, save for some more tinkering with the reflector.

With that done, we moved along to setting up for the hallway, a logical choice as it was right between our first and third location, the son's bedroom (as played in the finished motion picture by Harry's). here, only one light was required, right at the end of the hall. Here, we shot the scene of both our lead, and his father, entering the house respectively.

Next came a shot set in the kitchen, where our lead continues his investigation. Once again, just a solo light. And then came theb trickiest shot, and the one that ate into most of the shoot: the scene in the son's bedroom where he reads his seemingly dead mother's letter. The challenge of this was finding the right timing, in order to sync up with the recording we had done of the actress the other day in the Grove studio. After setting up the light in the room, absolute silence was demanded by our director, and we went take, after take, after take, with even the simplest creak, giggle or whisper botching the sound and concentration of the scene.

After what seemed like an eternity, we broke for lunch and set our father actor on his way. Our lunch consisted of a simple salad and some pasta, cooked by our producer Tara. Done, we then took care of the last major scene, which involved a careful synchronization of both pampa lights with our lead switching on the light in his father's bedroom, documenting the last phase of his investigation. This was broken down into a set of shots: the first handheld, track him as he entered. The second from under the bed, the third of him opening a draw and pulling out a tampon, the fourth him playing with said object, the fifth of him opening another drawer and the sixth, him uncovering the journal, along with his mother's letters. It was an exhaustive shoot, to say the least, lasting till about some time after six, and the heat brought on by the pampas in closed rooms was not exactly comforting, though not insupportable, by any means.

With that wrapped, we hired a cab to take the equipment back to Pat's residence (he and Tara would then return it on Monday), and we made our way home. Really, this shoot was straightforward and not overly complex, but time was the recurring issue, with shots taking longer than we, especially the bedroom scenes, and when you are working ina  warm environment for a long time, you inevitably start to feel a little drowsy and tired, and though this never slowed down us down, I feel it somewhat affected focus, though not to an absurd degree, and we slightly slowed down as a result.

However, the team worked smoothly, Jack handled himself well and was very thorough with the actors, and we managed to keep morale going strong throughout the day, and we extend a great deal of thanks to the flat owners, who let us use their place for the day and were willing to help out, as well as put up with our intrusion for so long!