Research and Ideas Development -FMP

13th March 2017

At the moment my idea reads as this:

“The film focuses on a uni student living alone in a small, messy apartment. They’re responsible for looking after people’s souls from birth to death,a role their family has taken on for generations and the souls are represented by glass jars littered around the apartment. When the film starts, you see they’re tired of managing the souls, they’ve stopped seeing them as people and just see them as a chore. Only one day they lose one of the souls, they are forced to face up to the fact that it was actually a human life and this wake up call changes their view on the whole soul keeper situation.”

I need to develop this into a story that has a clearer and more specific beginning, middle and end, because at the moment the story doesn’t have much substance to it.

I received feedback on my idea from a tutor and they suggested that it would make more sense if the souls were being cared for after death, rather than from birth to death. This got me thinking about a character from Greek myth, called Charon.

Charon

  • Ferryman for the dead
  • He ferried souls across the River Styx, which divided the living world from the underworld
  • A coin was placed in the mouth of the dead as payment to Charon
  • Those who couldn’t pay the fee had to wander the shores of the River styx for 100 years

After researching Charon’s character, I’ve realised that he doesn’t have as much of a connection to my story as I thought and it’s not inspiring any development in my idea. However, whilst researching this, I read more about the underworld and discovered something that I think could be a good basis for my idea.

The Underworld

  • there’s three sections, Elysium: For distinguished souls, Fields of Asphodel: for indifferent souls, Tartarus: for the wicked souls
  • The important part is that that there are judges of the underworld who send the souls into the different sections. These judges remind me a lot of the character change I was talking about with my tutor and I want to work this idea into mine.

Retelling old stories through film is incredibly common, a lot of old fables such as The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel are remade time and time again in various ways.

Sometimes the films stick very closely to the original story, such as this short film by Elliot Rausch.

This film is based of an infamous parable called the Parable of the Mexican Fisherman. It has no official author or verification, but is a very popular story people use to explain how to be more with less and this.

The script in this film is not an original one, Rausch has kept the words of the parable almost exactly the same as they are and has built up the film around this already existing script. The thing I like about this film is it’s not claiming to be an original and it doesn’t try and take the story and reimagine it in a quirky way. There’s no added scenes, no exciting twists, it’s simply using the medium of film to bring new life to an old story. The parable has a beautiful simplicity to it and this has been reflected in the filmmaking style.

However, I don’t think this is how I want to create my film. Unlike El Pescador, the judges in Greek myth don’t appear in a  nice concise story like the Mexican Fisherman, they’re more of a background character, so there’s no story for me to adapt. Instead, I’m going to just take the basics of the greek mythology I researched to develop my own character.

Updated story:

My film is going to be a short fantasy drama. The protagonist is now going to be Joe Minos (king Minos being the name of one of the greek judges) who is scruffy-looking, appears in the form of a 19/20 year old and lives alone in a small flat. The flat is situated on the divide between the living world and the afterlife. Newly departed souls are given to him on his doorstep by a delivery man (a nod towards Charon delivering souls to the underworld)  and Joe has the job of sorting souls into heaven and hell.

Synopsis:

The film begins with Joe receiving a new batch of souls that need judging. At first, he procrastinates as much as possible to try and avoid the job, but eventually caves and begins sorting them. Whilst reaching into the box, he accidentally drops one of the soul jars, breaking it open and releasing the soul. Seeming to care more about the fact that he got glass on his carpet rather than that he damaged a human soul, he goes to clean up the broken pieces, but as soon as he touches it, a memory flashes briefly into his vision. Shocked by this, he drops the piece and stumbles back. As he does, more memories flash up, ones of newborn children, going for walks and sitting in the garden with friends. The memories start to build in volume and Joe looks more and more pained. He begins to realise that these memories are the ones that escaped from the soul and he’s watching a person’s life go by. All of a sudden, the memories stop, and the film ends with Joe sat in a small coffee shop, watching people laugh and interact, finally beginning to appreciate life again.

 


27th March 2017

The cinematography

My protagonist spends a lot of time on his his own and because of this, there is very little dialogue throughout the film. Instead of telling the story through speech, I need to figure out how I’m tell it visually.

The main emotions in the film that I need to express are

  • boredom (talk about colour)
  • loneliness/ isolation (talk about frames within frames)
  • disassociation (talk about zoom out)
  • sadness (developing into joy) (expand on using colour & also extreme close ups)

Colour – Boredom developing into joy

Although this story takes place in an apartment, I want to get across to the audience that to Joe, the responsibility of sorting the souls is no more exciting than a mundane office job. I think the best way to do this is through colour grading.

All of the pictures above are examples of office scenes in movies and I’ve noticed a pattern in the way they’re coloured. Scenes like this are often very cool toned and/or the colours are desaturated and the lack of colour is almost clinical and suggests a lack of joy and life. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an especially good example of this.

In this film, I feel the character of Walter Mitty goes through a similar story arc as my protagonist. Both start off life in a soul-sucking (pun intended ;) ) office job and for both of them, their attitudes and perspectives on life are changed for the better by a single event.

The colour change throughout this film is subtle, but you can see it clearly when you group shots together like this. The stills above are from the second half of the film, once Mitty has escaped his office job. You can see that, compared with the group of photos before this one, these shots are far warmer in tone and contain more dashes of colour, such as pops of red. It gives it a breath of life that the office shots are lacking and portrays how much more alive the character of Mitty feels.

For my film, I can use this clinical blue colouring in the majority of the scenes that take place in in his apartment, to show his feeling of disconnection. I can also use the idea of switching to warmer colours for the final few scenes of my film, where my protagonist ventures out into the human world. I want to show his emotions coming back as he experiences human connection for the first time in years.


5th May 2017

Long shots – loneliness and disassociation

Loneliness, I feel, is perhaps one of the easier emotions to portray in film, as there are many different shot types and angles that can show this, so it’s all about picking the style you like the best. One particular film that I am very taken by is Birdman. The camera style in this is very unique, in that it is entirely handheld and is made to look like one continuous shot through clever editing. The thing that grabbed me the most about this technique, is how it isolates Riggan Thompson, the main character. The camera, whenever it’s on him, is constantly tracking him, following him around, keeping him alone and centred in the shot for much of the film. This clip is a good example:

This shot follows him so closely, often keeping the rest of the shot out of focus, so that even when the background is busy, it feels as though it’s far away and he’s in his own bubble. It’s the same feeling I want to try and create for my actor in the film, the feeling of being cut off and distanced from life. This kind of camera movement that follows a person’s actions is something I want to try out, to see if it would be worth including some shots like that in my film, so I did this small test shoot to try it out (the review of the clips I shot is over on my testing blog post):

The camerawork in all of Birdman is an inspiration to me, but this little bit especially is something that I not only appreciate, but also feel like could be beneficial to the film I’m making. The shot moves from close, to mid, to a two-person and then back to mid in a single, seamless take and this is something that I want to incorporate into my film. As my film focuses almost entirely on a single character throughout, I need to find interesting ways to film them to avoid it getting boring.

Something about this shot I like is that the lack of cuts compliments the person’s acting, giving you time to study every inch of his facial expressions and body language. You can see the slight drunken stumble in his walk and the look of confusion and carelessness. I stated in my project proposal that I wanted to explore “how to frame an actor within a shot to best compliment their performance”, so this piece of research is perfect for me.

The best part about this shot in my opinion is that although Keaton is clearly the soul focus of this shot, the camera doesn’t stick religiously to his movements, but drifts around as if becoming distracted, first by the fairy lights, then by the shouting man. I believe that when you have an amazing tool such as a camera, there’s nothing wrong with giving it a bit of it’s own personality in the scene and having the camera movements so prominent instead of trying to hide them can add an extra layer to the shot.

After my test shoot, I decided that, because I will be filming in a small apartment, this specific type of shot would be less effective, however, I can still use the idea of shots following a person’s movements as well as the ‘multiple shot types within one shot’ effect.


15th May 2017

Frames within Frames – isolation

A classic way of showing isolation and confinement is putting an actor in-between objects in the foreground to create a smaller frame within the frame of the camera. It doesn’t have to solely be used to show confinement, sometimes it’s used to draw attention to something in the shot, but for my research purposes, I will be focusing on specifically this.

A very nice example of this are the prison scenes from The Grand Budapest Hotel.

See how they’re framed by doors, windows, even other people and all this staging emphasizes and exaggerates how cramped it is in the prison, especially in the bottom right picture. Even though logically you know there’s more space behind them, the way they’re all crammed into the small frame of the barred window makes for a very claustrophobic image.

A great video I found that shows frames within frames being used effectively is this video essay about the film ‘In the Mood for Love’. In this film, the two main characters go through a traumatising period where they both discover that their partners are cheating on them. In the area where they live, gossip spreads fast and eyes are always on them, leaving them to feel pressured and constrained by the social nature of their peers. To show this, the director uses frames within in frames to the extreme and having every single shot for the first 15 minutes be one. The heavy-handedness with which this is done is surprisingly not entirely noticeable, but what it does do is effect the subconscious, making the viewer automatically feel the same confined feeling that the protagonists do.

An interesting example from this film is this shot:

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 00.45.19

It may not be the most exciting shot to look at, but what it does do is show how frames can be made using normal objects, rather then the more conventional door frame or window, that you see Wes Anderson use a lot in his films (see above). The reason why I was drawn to this shot is because I feel like it’s something I could use in my film. As my character spends a lot of time sitting at a desk, there isn’t any opportunity to try framing him in doorways, but this shot is something i can do. By putting objects in the foreground of a shot, you are not necessarily creating a new frame, but what you are doing is making the original frame smaller and more crowded, giving the actor less room to move around in and this creates the same feeling. This gave me some inspiration, making me think that if I took some of the soul jars and placed them in the foreground of some of my shots with my actor in the background, I could create a similar shot and using his own soul jars to confine him in the frame could show how trapped he feels in his job.


 

Writing a script with no dialogue

For my film, the majority of it will contain no speaking, other than a small three line conversation at the beginning. However, as I outlined in my pre production post, I still want to write a script for it, so that I have something to give my actors and also to help me when I come to plan my shots. So I did a little research to find out how others went about it.

I found that the best source of information was from screenwriting forums, as there was always lots of opinions from different people that you could scroll through and make an informed decision.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 09.32.33

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 09.34.00

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 09.33.33

For writing lots of actions, the general consensus seems to be to avoid large paragraphs and keep the action to groups of two to three lines. The people in these forums also provided links  to examples of scripts written like this, such as The Artist

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 09.37.58

or Shaun the Sheep

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 09.39.55

As you can see from these two examples, the writing is all split up into small chunks. This is especially obvious in the extract from Shaun the Sheep. There is quite a lot of detail in the words and the fact that each important moment in the scene is given it’s own line. Doing it like this makes it a lot easier to read, as the spaces in the lines subconsciously make you slow down when you read it, so you can appreciate it more and also get into the rhythm of the scene. It also could be a way to mark separate shots. Again, reading through the Shaun script, you could picture each line as one shot. This isn’t as true for The Artist script, where the action is sectioned into slightly bigger paragraphs and the scenes aren’t broken up into separate lines, but are written as one block of writing.

I feel like for my film, the style that the Shaun the Sheep script is written in will be more useful to me. The way The Artist script is written suits it being a feature length, as you’d expect there to be a lot more going on in it, so the larger paragraphs make sense. For my film, a lot of the actions are going to be small and subtle. I like way the Shaun script is done, because they’ve still managed to fit a lot of information into only a few sentences. Also, I said that I wanted to write a script to help me plan my shots and writing it like this and writing it like this will give me an idea at where the natural points to cut will be.


 

Evaluation, post script: Now that I’ve finished the final draft for my script, I can see how pg 2much this bit of research helped me. I followed the style of the Shaun the Sheep script as you can see and it helped me to get the pacing of the script. It also made it easier when I came to storyboard like I predicted it would, as it meant that the action was already vaguely split into different shots. Generally, being someone who’d never written a script before, I found it very useful to have examples of other scripts to refer to, so that I knew how to structure and word my script.

 

 


19th June 2017

EVALUATION – POST EDIT

How useful and influential was this research to my final film?

 

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3 Responses to Research and Ideas Development -FMP

  1. Dom Bush says:

    Production Meeting Notes from 03/05/17

    Struggling to write the script currently but first draft close to completion. Will run it by family friend to get feedback.
    Will go back and check the proposal brief on the college blog, add a sentence about what we are going to see. Draw up a detailed schedule.
    Visual storytelling is a topic for research. Look at music videos especially.
    Research on steadicam techniques. Tests. Frame within a frame concepts.
    Every frame a Painting is a great resource, especially the quadrant video.
    Has an actor in place who will be good for the role, I suggest looking for a back up just in case. Location ideas are good but that needs to be solid now, with a back up in place.
    Need to make of list of critical planning docs. Suggested would be treatment, storyboards, shot list, call sheet, basic risk assessment.
    Look for interesting jars, they will raise the production value significantly. Sophisticated colours, not lurid ones.

    Like

  2. Dom Bush says:

    Production Meetings – 17/05/17

    Struggling with an ending, though there are three possible ones.
    Best to write them down and show them to people to get feedback before moving forward.
    Need to start seeing some of the typed up development work coming though now, the post is looking very bare.
    Tests are also a priority at this stage and need to be showing up on the blog.
    Steadicam tests
    Long shot focus tests
    Filmed conversation
    Analyse all these thoroughly
    Need to think carefully about which jars to use.

    Like

  3. Dom Bush says:

    Blog comment – 23rd May
    Still hoping to see more development coming through here Kitty, and some tests of course!
    The project is looking good though, what are you going to shoot for the ending????? How will you conclude this story?

    Like

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