Lena Dunham: Creative NonFiction

Lena Dunham is my new favourite.
Yes, I know, again a bit late coming to the table… Girls and stuff, I’ll get there, the internet is just a tad slow chez chateau Triolet and my laptop has no memory.

Creative NonFiction is a one-hour long film Dunham made whilst in College. It is great, and it kind of isn’t. It almost does sit somewhere towards the more non-fiction end on the scale of truth.

More then anything (more then the fact that I seem to have found a kindred spirit, someone I can identify with 100% in Dunham) I like this film because I am beginning to realise the importance of just doing things, maybe they don’t have a big budget, flashy cameras, or a great editing suite, but the fact is she made a film – and it’s really not that bad at all.

Maybe the shots could use work, maybe the acting isn’t great, but it’s 50 or so minutes of actual produced work that makes sense, and is entertaining.

It is especially interesting to note the creative process Dunham used when creating the work. As outlined in the conversation, she had the scenes on sticky notes and would just go through it slowly – it’s a really interesting approach… something to keep in mind.

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Documentary Studies 101

I am finding Documentary Studies to be far more interesting then I ever thought it would be. But also rather overwhelming.

If everything is clear, and laid out in fiction filmmaking – in how to achieve the look; a well-made, polished, even fashionable film (pull focus… ) – documentary filmmaking is on the other side of the world.

And to make a documentary here, in Montpellier truly seems fitting.

The raw, sometimes harsh, nature of the camera and the sound add a texture to the final project. (All the same there is still much that can be, should be, well-polished and neat) But the documentary does not demand perfection in the way that the short film does. In fact, maybe the short film demands it more-so then a longer length film (or a television episode). Lighting continuity, editing faux-pas can both often fly under the radar with a longer piece (or a well known TV series *cough* Offspring – I still love you to bits), but in the short film everything matters. Characters need to be developed quickly, but they cannot be too stereotypical! The story needs to not be overly complex, but it needs to be engaging, and not let the audience work out the end too quickly.

Let’s say there exists a scale, a line, joining fiction and non fiction. For what IS fiction and what IS not? How can we classify it? To what degree? Essentially, even a fiction film could be a documentary; it is the act of recording a group of people (actors), doing their job… right?

 Let’s give the scale seven degrees (or really it should be eight… these french, can’t even count):

0. Camera Caché  – Hidden Camera
The camera is hidden so that no-one knows that action is being filmed/recorded.

  1. Camera à l’exterieur
    A camera is set up, for example, outside a window of a classroom looking in. Easily forgotten or unnoticed, the subjects are not necessicarily told that they are being filmed.
  2. Suivre en accord
    The subjects are aware that they are being filmed and
  3. *I missed what this level is called* something like mise-en-scene du réelle dans la réelle – it is the act of filming with the intention of narrating – those filmed are aware they are being filmed so maybe they recount stories… but the scene is left largely untouched by the director (however much untouched a scene can be given the obvious presence of a camera)
  4. Provoquer une situation du réelle dans la réelle
    The act of asking people to do things, to come into the room, and cause a scene. Everyone is themselves, but it begins to blur the lines because a definite intention has entered into a real-life scenario.
  5. Fait le tournage en décor réelle, mais travailler avec des comédiens, suivent la réelle.
    Here, the perspective of the audience begins to change, it is clear that the situation has been fabricated.
  6. Je tourne en studio – construire des salons, pas limiter par les horaires, par du bruit – les modéles/comédiens/personnages peuvent jouer leur propre rôles mais créer des situations/scenarios – shot in studio, but with actors/people/comedians who play ‘themselves’
    Here we begin to question how to judge the film because many more elements are under the control of the director – mise-en-scene, even to a point the writing or construction.
    Is it a pychological drama, or a docco?
  7. Total fiction
    This is filmed in studio, the production revolves around mise-en-scene, creating drama and being technically correct. The audience is aware that all (or most) has been constructed.

So, somewhere in the middle there exists a pseudo documentary/fiction group of works that are especially rule-breaking… The stuff of Bresson, and of pieces of Godard where some elements of control have been given up generating a new effect.

The Project evolves…

So, this post is typical, it’s predicable, but I feel that it’s worthwhile writing about all the same…

I’ve organised auditions and sent an excerpt of the script out to all auditioning. I’ve been hesitant as to what I should send out. Firstly because I don’t want the dialogue to be that important in the final film, but obviously, it is important for the audition and secondly, because I am looking to the actors we chose to further develop the characters. Paul has mentioned several times that we can’t hold ourselves to a particular look, or image, we need to be open, and expect the actors to eventually know more about the characters then we (or I) do.

So that I had something decent to give the actors, I fleshed out the scene in which Bill and Linda fight about their lifestyle and their relationship and in doing that, in over-writing it I got  new perspective on where their relationship should move to. In early draft stages I was stuck on this 1 minute per page. I found it hard to write, to add in more – but not have unnecessary dialogue (even though it may appear that most of the dialogue in the first draft was unnecessary…). The script was coming together in a new way, right in front of my eyes. There was more meaning – Linda needs to be in the drivers seat of the car, she was driving the two of them, and in the end Bill, now in control, drives off. It’s all laid out, right there. In writing more then I needed I was able to create a more finite image of how I want the film to look – the way I want it to finish.