More John Storey Junior Memorial Scholarship Reflection

As part of a scholarship I received I was encouraged to observe what goes on in other countries, and how we can maybe apply it back home as a way of improving what we already have. Sometimes it was easier to notice what I had at RMIT and not at Université Paul Valery then to notice what UPV had that RMIT didn’t. However, eventually, some things stood out (in both fields): 

  • social media as a classroom aid, as productive rather then counterproductive – the French university where I studied was, in some respects, a little behind the times, that, combined with my Dad (the academic) deciding to get twitter made it apparent that we do a great deal of positive learning and communication around learning via social media and there are still plenty of options for improving this!
  • cinema is something we should just do – maybe I’ve been taught to overthink it, I know this was true of my short film that I agonised over far too much! – picking up a camera and getting out there (especially for documentary making) might just be the most productive thing to do (of course when money and the time and effort of other people come into play planning is important, but not when it stops you from getting things done!)
  • maybe French students are taught that things could always be better (a harsh marking scheme and a critical approach), but maybe we are far too built up, infact creating and then inflating egos and self confidence – we are all important and special, but not more so then the person we sit next to on the tram
  • and in both contexts, it’s easy to get help if you are willing to ask for it!

One of my fellow exchangers posted this link on our group page, the last one, No one read your blog, don’t reference it, may be true. If it isn’t, I hope I’m not boring you with all my reflections.

“it’s all about us”

Last week’s guest lecture looked at the relationship between the actor and the director.
The reading for last week was titled The Director and the Actor.
And finally something hit home.

We have been going through this whole production phase so very focused on us. On the makers, and on the making. Yes, our task is to make, and we came to university to learn how to do that, but this semester I believe I have forgotten (if only partially  that we make texts for an audience. Year Twelve Media (yeah, going all the way back to the industrial system of a high-school education) was so very focused on selecting an appropriate audience, and working to those constraints. I suppose that helped guide us, to an extent. But there really hasn’t been much mention of audience (for FilmTV, or Integrated Media). Maybe we were meant to figure it out ourselves and I just missed the boat….

Even then, the creation of our films so far has revolved around the crew. Learning to be a crew and learning how to crew. So, the lecture was very pertinent  As much as this kind of tunnel vision has enabled us to hone in on what we need to do, there is still a great deal more then just us and our work that makes a film come together.
When we filmed our Lenny III, I got some friends to come in and help out and act for us. No, I twisted their arms and bribed them with food until they agreed. My words to my non-actor, camera-shy friends were, “It’s really not even about you, it’s about us” I told them we need to practice our roles behind the camera, and we need someone infront so that we know when we are stuffing it up completely.

But it’s not.
The actors want it to be about them. The make-up will want it to be about them (to an extent).

The actors will want to use this, they’ll want it to be great (just as much as we do – I hope!).
And we need to remember that.
Sure, it’s about us learning. But there is more then one party involved in the process.

Director v Director of Photography

Where one role starts and another role ends is perplexing me at the moment, as is how much control each person should have. I know, every project is different, but, how does it work ideally. Is there even an ideal way to have it work?

Having written the script I find myself frequently coming up with new (and what I’d like to think of as fantastic ideas for) shots – but that’s not my job.
Who is meant to be responsible for the storyboard; the director, or the director of photography, or both?

My cinema subject last year studied the role of the auteur/ever-controlling-director, and from that I thought that that was the best way for projects to work. (Being the control freak I am, I can easily see myself assuming that role, doing everything that there is to do.) But, the most recent lectures (especially Robin’s lecture on cinematography, and the one on lighting too) have highlighted that to produce an all around fantastic film you need to draw on the expertise of others.

… furthermore … this week’s reading, The Director and the Actor cleared this up a bit for me.
As I understand it, the role of director is not as all encumber-some as I once understood it to be.
The director is not all there is to the piece (especially in this piece of such a collaborative nature).

 

How much inter-connection is too much?

My latest revelation: I think I should tweet more. Twitter seems like one of the best tools around once you actually start to use it, but people criticise it all the time.
I only just connected my WordPress with my Twitter. I’d been hesitant, I didn’t want people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook to read my blog – I’m shy and a little insecure about my writing, and my writing style. Well, the cat’s out of the bag on that now, and I guess I will be linking this post to Twitter too seeing as how I just blabbed about it…. what a mess…. expect no hashtags…

Maybe it had to do with privacy too, I wan’t keen to make myself public on the internet for all to see and connect the dots across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and WordPress. But working for Bianca from Alphabet Pony and Dizzy Digital made me think twice about that. To gain exposure right now, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You need to connect all those platforms to generate click between them! Get your Instagram followers onto your blog (especially if that’s where you’re making money), or over to you business’ Facebook page and then onto the main site. The blog is designed to function like an online portfolio, a showreel, a CV and if I can post decent, interesting content on Facebook and Twitter, what’s the harm in having them all connected?
Surely, if I don’t connect them, someone else will when the next all-new all-encompassing app comes out?

Who’s the one actually auditioning?

Auditions on Friday showcased a range of talent.
It was a really interesting experience – and sometimes it left me wondering who was auditioning for whom?

I organised all the auditions through Star Now (see our post here) and despite the somewhat vague casting call we got a range of responses.
Leaving the age range open seemed the best thing to do at the time – mostly because Paul and Christine talked about the older actors being nutcases – and it was good, but now we have a more specific idea of how we want the characters to be it seems like it would have been better to just have it open to over 35.

Overall it was a positive experience. Using the space in the basement worked well (although directing people to it was tricky). Filming the auditions was the best idea and talking to a fellow actor who does auditions proved useful in knowing how to run things to appear professional about it.
We tried hard to run it smoothly and professionally despite being nervous ourselves – I feel like we are

Some of the interesting things:

– People lied about their age.
– People came late, and then took up other’s time (holding up even our director).
– People were so nervous they were shaking, and others just made us nervous.

We were even fortunate enough to get those kinds – the ones Paul told us to be careful of – the know-it-all professionals who believe that they themselves are doing us a favor by appearing in our student film…. while there were others who were keen just to gain experience from the opportunity.

Anyone who plays a part in the film is really doing us a favour it’s true, but we want them to treat the experience with a professional manner so as we can do the same – that way we both gain something from it.

“Cinematography IS the story”?

The film Family Time (screened in the week 6 lecture) is another great example of how the cinematography transcends the script. Coming away from the film I remember the shot of the mother framed by the passover in the wall, and the son, all cramped up in his room. I don’t remember the dialogue. And I had to stop and think about how the ending came about.

Unfortunately, because I have been struggling to stay on top of things recently my last answers to the questions posted for Week 5 were submitted too late (cue the obligatory bashing of keyboard to express frustration “sfbwlbgg;g;ahgptiptangngnwphmhrhofjp”). After writing about Family Time I was reminded of that work I did (and my 30% from the quiz! – again: “eobgsbwogwgbigbgogrbe”) SO, I thought, I’ll post my answers in my blog!

Q: My assertion that “the cinematography IS the story” is wrong-headed.  That a film’s meaning is both inherent in, and influenced by, its cinematography is probably more accurate.  But this might be no more true of the cinematography than it is of the film’s sound, production design and performances.  What do you think?  How might a film’s content transcend the script/text on which it’s based?  Can you think of any examples from your own film viewing?  Might your project do this in some way?  How?

A film’s meaning is inherent in the cinematography for me because when I come away from an amazing film, I am left thinking about that amazing scene, where this happened, or we saw this, and not that line where person x said x to person y. 

I feel like it can also depend on what way you decide to go about creating your film. Do you start with an overall idea of genre, and style, or is there a specific character you want to explore? Or, do you purely want to create a film that has a narrow depth of field in every shot? and then work from there. All elements (cinematography, sound, performance, production design) come together to produce an effective film, but there are cases in which the film has a very strong visual effect and the cinematography plays a big part in. Epics such as Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola) truly incorporate the sound design and cinematography to achieve the overall effect. This film transcends its script through the detailed and highly thought out production design, amazing performances and careful editing. The cinematography stands out in scenes where images are superimposed over one another. The film is rich in action and offers so much for the audience to look at.
The cinematography in Scorsese’s 1993 film The Age of Innocence is influenced by the mise-en-scene. With sets that are so full of objects (food, paintings etc), slow camera movement is necessary in order to appreciate the film’s mise-en-scene. It is also befitting – you really want to look at what is there. I came away from my first viewing remembering the visual effect rather than what actually happened.

These are two examples that I feel demonstrate a film’s story can be inherent in its cinematography.

In our group project, we don’t want to rely on script to dictate the narrative. In fact we don’t want to rely on dialogue at all. We hope that the mise-en-scene will be rich and carry weight in the overall style of the film and developing the characters (their background, lifestyle etc.) We hope to achieve this through thorough planning and gathering of a range of props to create a very engaging design. The van in which our two characters live needs to be full of stuff in order for the audience to understand that they live their lives there. There needs to be a shot (like one of Scorsese’s slow pans in The Age of Innocence) so that the audience can see, and understand their lives, in order to connect with them. .

Q: Select from one of the readings from week 5 and briefly describe two points that you have taken from it. Points that excite you, something that was completely new to you.

Scorsese writes “I love the restrictions of the frame” – this contradiction intrigues me. I have always considered more so what I can put into the frame rather than what I can hide outside of it. But this is an element directors and cinematographers would use all the time. I always wanted to think simply about how I could fit all the important information inside the frame.

For me this statement really opens up a new way of storytelling, one more about withholding information (visually rather then simply within the plot). It is something that I have seen take place when watching films, but I have never really thought about how I would or could use it in my own work.

Secondly, Scorsese’s concept that a master shot is just for him is also an interesting idea and follows on from his quote that the frame’s limits can be used creatively. The idea that we could exclude an establishing shot from the beginning of a scene seems totally unconventional, and as a film student, I do not intend to let that happen to my group project. However, I can see how no establishing shot can create a new level of engagement and add a layer of mystery and intrigue (if the other shots are executed correctly).

On the other hand, tightly framed close-up shots (without any establishing shot), can also be effective in creating a close connection with characters and putting the audience right in the action, in the moment.

KORSAKOW FLIM AND REFLECTION

EXPLORATION

Martin Scorsese writes that he “love[s] the restrictions of the frame”¹. It can exclude and it can include. It can restrict the knowledge of the audience if we choose for it to do so. Whether they are conscious of it or not, directors produce films indicative of the way in which they see the world. In cinema studies we  are always taught that directors do everything for a reason. In my own practice (and especially in group work) I have felt that this is not always the case, but perhaps it actually is – the reasons are just not apparent to myself at the time of ‘making’.


At first, my Sketch Tasks did not appear to be linked, there emerged no common thread; sometimes they felt like they were about nothing (something that looked nice, something that was interesting at the time). The videos are as they have been designed to be; raw, unplanned, dirty, unrehearsed. But they do have things in common. In the creation of my sketch tasks, I have selected what is in the frame, and what is outside of it. Sometimes this was a conscious effort (excluding my shadow or reflection in order to create a more mysterious feeling), other times it was not – but it happened all the same. When I consciously engaged with my surroundings (and broke away from the digital grind) I did not find it hard at all to uncover material that I felt was worthwhile capturing. Once I began to practice experiential learning (as outlined by Mason²), I found I was more frequently stopping to think about what I was looking at and hearing. I found it easier to spot things that would spark my interest.

INTENTION

In my Korsakow film I have set out to connect all of my films in a way that is poignant and reflective of my own experiences. The biggest, most obvious connection being that all the sketch tasks were created by me, and therefore indicative of the way I see the world.
My sketch tasks, being varied and experimental have no common thread – they are not even filmed using the same devices. I used as many different apps and camera devices I could get my hands on in order to best experiment and appreciate what certain devices and applications could provide and others could not. (See earlier posts in regard to my anguish about Android apps)

I thought long and hard about what text I could use to connect the videos and the process and kept coming back to the idea that I wanted to communicate a particular viewpoint (my own). I have chosen to use text from Voltaire’s Candide,  because I want my creation, my k-film to be meaningful. Voltaire’s works are of particular interest to me and I find it to be a fairly accessible text. Moreover, the phrases I selected can all stand alone, and at the same time when strung together they create meaning.

REALISATION

I began this task feeling that it was largely an exploration on my part. Having no target audience outlined (in the structured, regulated way one would expect from a media task), it seemed as though we were making it more for ourselves, then for an audience. Like much of the content uploaded onto the internet it begins by being made by the maker, for the maker. Some of it is worthwhile, some of it not so. That is why we need filtering online. My work was not created with an intended audience, it is an exploration of the software. However, I would be interested in receiving feedback from the online community. I am interested in learning more about the people who use Korsakow, and the audiences they target with their works.

I found structuring the kfilm a difficult task. It does allow for a certain degree of manipulation of what can come next, however, I felt that my kfilm would work better if it was more random. It was perplexing to note that  when I began my first draft, using a limited array of keywords,  the same videos would turn up until their ‘lives’ had been depleted – and then the film would abruptly end. Following this I began to re-think my keywords, grouping my videos to create a structure and flow; ordering (or ranking them) to pave the way for the ending  – sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. Unfortunately, I feel this is inherent in the nature of Korsakow and the kfilm.

I feel that I have been successful in creating a series of sketch videos linked in an interactive and engaging way. Whilst there is no apparent narrative nor an intended audience, there is a common thread in all the videos. The text is all derived from the same source and creates and interesting story about my work and my shared view with Voltaire on the world.
(I feel it’s more appropriate to use story rather then narrative, but I’m still not really sure that is even the best term for it!)

Watch the film here!

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