Testing & Development – FMP

May 2017

Birdman Test Shoot

 

This clip contains the original clip I was trying to recreate and the two takes I did for the test shoot.

What went well

I used a 35mm lens to shoot this on. In Birdman, as he gets closer to the camera, his face distorts slightly, giving it an edgy and uncomfortable feel that I actually really like. After doing a bit of research, I found this article which is giving advice on the best lenses to use for portraits. I found out that 50mm lenses are usually used for closer face shots as they give an image that is truest to life. A 35mm lens distorts a face if it gets to close, giving it the very subtle fish eye look that I like so much in Birdman. I decided to try it out in this test and I really like how it looks. It’s most effective when she’s walking round the corner and moves across the frame of the camera. I think this effect is something I could use during the flashback scene in my film, because this scene is when the film gets a little weird and builds up, so the distortion of the face coupled with hand held camera movement and close shots will hopefully create a slightly unsettling look that will provide a contrast to the first half of my film, where everything is more subdued.

The other thing I liked about this, was the shoulder rig I used for the camera. In my head, I’d planned to use the steadicam as I thought the shoulder rig would give too shaky a shot, however I found it a lot easier to work with than I thought I would. It wasn’t too uncomfortable and might actually be easier to hold up than

Problems

One of the main difficulties I found filming a shot like this, was keeping her in focus as she moved closer and further away. As I had the camera on a shoulder rig, trying to hold up the camera with one hand whilst changing focus was hard as it was heavy, which resulted in the shot being wonky and a bit too shaky. To combat this, I could put the f-stop up higher, creating a deeper depth of field and meaning I wouldn’t have to change focus as much. I could also have someone on set change the focus for me while I manage the camera. This would require quite a bit of practise, however focus pullers are common on sets so it’s clearly achievable.

Because the shot wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping for, I wanted to try using the steadicam for a long shot like this to compare the two. For this, I recreated a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This shot is great, as it contains a wide shot, two-person shot and two clearly defined and well-framed single shots. However, I found that I really struggled with the steadicam, even more than the shoulder rig. Unlike the shoulder rig, where the weight is more spread out, the weight of the steadicam is very concentrated and acts all on the arm that’s holding it up. I’m not the strongest person in the world, so keeping it steady, whilst also concentrating on moving through the motions of the shot was very tricky. It’s not a smooth shot like I would have hoped, my steps clearly show on camera.

What these two tests made me realise, is that although whichever one I choose to film with will not produce the clean film that you see in the clips I tried recreating, the shoulder rig will be a lot better for me to film with. I’ve estimated that my filming days are going to be quite long and as I get more tired, the equipments going to feel heavier, so I choose the shoulder rig, as it’s easier to manoeuvre and hold up for long periods on time.

One other thing I took from these test shoots, is that when planning out shots that contain multiple shot types, it’s useful to create small storyboards that split the shot into it’s separate stages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drawings aren’t good, but thinking about it as separate shots helped me to focus on getting the frame right, because it gave me target frames to hit in both shots. If I do use any shots like this in my film, when it comes to the storyboard, I’ll draw them as part of the board like this, then link them together with arrows to I know which ones are single shots.

All in all, I’d say this test shoot was very helpful to the development of my film. Whilst it hasn’t given me inspiration for a specific shot, it has helped me decide what equipment I’m going to use for filming, which is good as it means I can book it out early to ensure I get everything I need for filming. It’s also given me ideas for how to structure my storyboard. A I’m working entirely from my storyboard rather than a shotlist, it needs to be laid out in a way I can clearly understand.


 

Testing for my long shot

Following all the development I’ve done on my script, I wanted to test out the one long shot I’ve planned for it in my storyboard. The reason for this is because neither of my test shoots above were especially successful, but it’s shots like those that this one in my film is based off, so I want to make sure it’s worth putting in.

pg 1

The shot I have planned is one which goes from a wide of Joe sitting on the couch, tracking him walking towards the door where it will turn into an over-the-shoulder shot of the conversation between Joe and the delivery guy, before finally turning into a centred portrait shot of Joe as he closes the door on the guy and walks out of frame. This shot will be cut up during editing for the conversation, but the actual shot will hopefully be done in one take. Here is the test shoot I did for this:

Positives

The camera is a lot steadier than it was in my previous test shoots. The reason for this is because I looked up ways to make shots look steadier and came across a useful article that provided tips on how to do it.

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“the further the camera is away from your upper body…the harder it will be to keep steady”. Last time, I had the camera at the end of the shoulder rig, so this time, I brought it up, closer to my face.

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Although this tip is for still shots, I applied it to moving, bending my knees and taking larger steps as I walked to lower my centre of gravity and make me more stable.

The other thing I like about this shot is how the separate camera angles are visible, but they still flow together to form one shot. I did the same storyboard planning for this one as I’d done for the others so I knew which marks to hit, which helped me.

my shot

I also made sure for the over the shoulder shots, not to break the 180 degree ruler, meaning that the shots cut well together.

Negatives

Again, I can tell focus is going to be a problem for me. I was not quick enough on the focus change for the OTS, so Izzy had already started talking while still out of focus. A way to avoid this that I learned from another cinematographer I met on a film I worked on, is to mark out where you need to turn the focus ring to before you start filming with something that can be wiped off easily, like chalk. This means that when you come to film, you can change focus quickly and know exactly how far to turn it, no guessing.

Something else about this shot is that if I do it in my actual film, I’ll need to focus more on getting the framing right, because in this it was quite sloppy. At the beginning, I made no effort to get her centred or make the shot straight, but it’s little things like that, that can effect the quality of your film.

Conclusion

After these three test shoots, I have made the decision to have this shot in my film, but to made it the only long shot in my film. After scouting for locations, I’ve realised that all the locations will be too small and the actions of the actor will be to subtle to bother doing any long, complicated shots like this. The reason they work so well in Birdman and Raiders is because the subjects are constantly moving and changing location, meaning that there’s always new angles to get within a single shot. However my actor won’t be doing much walking round, so I feel like it’s best to focus on close shots.


 

Filming a Screen

One final thing I wanted to figure out before filming as how I planned to film the screen pop ups I’d written in my script. I’ve managed to get my hands on a working old CRT monitor and computer, which I think add nicely to my film aesthetic, however, I know that filming a screen is essentially impossible because of the flickering and the only way to fix flickering is to run it through a programme you have to pay for, which I want to avoid.

Here’s what it looks like to film the screen. It’s very distracting and there’s no way I can put that in my film as it looks unprofessional.

I found a YouTube video that claimed to have a way to get rid of flickering without an expensive programme.

He said to put two of the same clip one on top of the other on your timeline, set the one on top so it plays a single frame behind the one underneath, then change the opacity of the clip to ‘overlay. So I tried this.

It definitely toned the flickering down slightly, but it’s still very noticeable and not something I want to put in my film. Also, doing this causes all the colours on the screen to become too bright and contrasted.

I decided to try taking a photo of the screen and simply using that instead of a shot. To make it less apparent that it’s an image, I added a slow zoom in using keyframes.

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Clearly I’d have to hold the image up for longer so people can read it and a better picture would be needed, but I think this looks quite good and actually, because it’s a still image it’ll be easier for people to read what’s on the pop up, which is good because they’re key to understanding what’s going on in the film.

I feel fairly happy with my solution to the filming-a-screen problem I was having, however I don’t think it’s a perfect solution. Had I the time or the skill, I would have maybe done something like green screen and add a fake screen in after, or I would have made the effort to run it through an anti-flicker programme online. However, as it’s only two short shots in my film, I’m willing to let it slide and to put the images into it.


19th June 2017

Testing Evaluation

The main knowledge I gained from doing these tests, is what equipment to use. I had been debating whether using the steadicam would be better than the shoulder rig, as it gives a smoother image, but recreating the scenes from Birdman and Raiders of the Lost Ark showed me that the steadicam is only steady if you’re strong enough to hold it up and therefore, the shoulder rig would be better to use over long periods of time as I’d get less tired. I also, through the same tests, decided on what lens I wanted to use. I’m not generally very good with lenses, I don’t know much about them. But by putting the time in to research lenses and what they’re used for, I not only found out how to get the shot looking like I wanted, but also gained some new knowledge about lenses that I can take forwards into other projects.

If I could do this project again, I would definitely do more testing related to my film. I feel like, out of all of the phases of my film, my test shoots were the the place that I put the least amount of work into. You can see in my final film, that the tests that I did do had an influence on my film.

The movement in all three of these shots, for example, is directly related to the first three test shoots. The testing I did for how to film a computer screen was also really helpful, because as well as giving me the idea of using an image instead of video, it also showed me that having the computer turned on during my film would be a bad idea, as the flickering on the screen would be distracting. Instead, I kept the computer turned off throughout the whole of filming and inserted a clip of him turning the monitor on, so the continuity wouldn’t be broken. Because of the success of what testing I did do, the benefits of doing it are obvious and I feel like I should have made the most of it. If I were to do it again, I would pick a couple more scenes from my film that I think could do with some practise. I would liked to have practised my montage scenes, so that I would have known what pace to cut them at, because I spent a large amount of my edit trying to get them right. Had I already done it in testing, I would have been able to edit them straight away.

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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:

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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.

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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

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or Shaun the Sheep

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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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Ideas Generation – FMP

 14th March 

Helping my Idea Generation

Coming up with ideas is something that definitely comes easier to some, but it’s a skill that everyone can develop with enough dedication. The more you immerse yourself in film and actively try to come up with ideas, the easier it is, because you absorb knowledge and you learn what points need to go into an idea to make it good.

For me, my main struggle with ideas generation is motivation. I become easily disheartened if I can’t come up with an idea that I think has potential and even when I do, the pressure of actually having to make the idea a reality is too much and I find it easier to instead set it aside for “another day” (i.e. it stays undeveloped in my notebook). I also struggle finding inspiration. Beginning a new project is daunting and sometimes I don’t know where to start drawing ideas from.

For me, I think the most important thing to combat my lack of motivation and inspiration is a bit of a lifestyle change. Instead of spending all my time in the house, on my phone, I should spend more time going for walks, eating healthy, visiting new places, essentially anything that involves taking care of my mental and physical wellbeing. I know that if I feel better in myself, my mind will be calmer, collected and more receptive to new ideas. Also, by getting out the house more, I will be surrounded by new and changing scenery, meaning there will be a lot more inspiration for me.


15th March 

Today was dedicated to creating a strong base for our ideas generation. The biggest danger when trying to come up with ideas, is tunnel vision; deciding on an idea straight away and becoming so attached to it that you don’t allow room for alternate ideas to come to life. If you want to make a film based on a theme, you have to explore that theme before you do so, because this ensures that you’ve thought it through fully and it inspires new ideas that you wouldn’t originally have thought of. It also means that if your plan for one film falls through, you have multiple developed ideas as backups. The exercises we did today helped us to keep our options open and helped my mind feel clear and concentrated.

Mind Maps

Mind maps are a great way to explore something because they don’t have a set end, you can keep adding until you’re getting down to very specific points and this is usually where ideas start to rise from. I find these diagrams the best way to write up ideas, because they allow me to write down thoughts without too much thought and revisit points I made that I might otherwise have forgotten or not taken the time to consider.

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From these mind maps we made, we pulled a few points that we took away to do a bit of research on, to see if we could split them up into some more specific points. I chose to research future identity, because it seemed like quite an interesting and complicated topic. It’s all about how the life you are exposed to as a child shapes who you are when you grow up. There’s lots of information online about all the different cultures of the world and how they can influence a person. This idea could be taken in lots of directions, there’s an opportunity to bring up cultural appropriation, immigration, the celebration of individuality etc. For me, it made me think about how different people can be once they’ve grown up compared to when they were kids, once they’ve built up an image for themselves. I think childhood honesty could be a really interesting base for a film.

Going for a Walk

Walking is a fantastic way to help idea flow, because taking time away from phones and computers allows you to draw inspiration from the real world around you. I used the walk as a time to contemplate the ideas we had explored during the brainstorming session, to see if I could start to expand on them and form them into some sort of idea.

This is my unedited stream of consciousness that I wrote down after the walk:

(About Identity)

Nobody knows your true self but you, everyone who sees you has a slightly different image of you in their head. Children show their truest form to the world, because they haven’t yet been conditioned by society and not only have they not yet learned how to control their emotions, but they haven’t yet learned that they need to. I think if you are of sane mind, it is altogether impossible to hold onto this childhood innocence, because as soon as you become even slightly aware of the world around you, you become lost in it. Even those who claim to be free of society, the “free spirits”, are still attached to it, conscious of it and have to actively avoid it to carry on portraying this lifestyle they’ve created.


21st March

Storytelling

Why tell stories?

Telling stories is something humans have always done, right back to cavemen painting on the walls of caves. The thing that prompts us to tell stories, to share with others, is the simple fact of being human and searching for those connections and emotions within each other. Stories allow us to live in other lives for a while, to experience something other than everyday life and to escape.

Defining what a story is, is difficult. It’s giving information over in a way that’s interesting to the viewer, that’s relatable and emotive to them. With every story, there’s always that emotional arc in it that leads to an ending and an ending must be in a different place to the beginning. For a story to be satisfying, it’s important there is some form of journey in there.


22nd march

Generation

Before I started trying to pin down any ideas, I wanted to first explore why I’d been attracted to identity as a theme. I hoped that connecting it to me personally would be a good base to build an idea from, because as I’ve confessed before, I often find the beginning of ideas generation daunting and am never sure where to begin. I used this to narrow it down a bit and provide me with some inspiration.

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This mind map led me towards three topics that I felt could work as film ideas, they are the ones circled with pink. The thing that seemed to interest me the most about identity was the thought of how unique and interesting people are. Everything from the way people move to the way they dress has a beauty to it that I want to document and that’s why this point pulled two topics from it. But identity also made me think about how difficult it is for someone to feel comfortable in their own skin and how so many people in the world feel lost.

I took these three points and expanded on them in a separate mind map. I started this new map so that I could explore all of them in greater depths, with the intent of having at least three actual workable film ideas once I’d finished it.

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The pink arrows are the points that I felt had the potential to be film ideas.

  • Hiding away from society in a box (a film to highlight the controlling nature of society and how difficult it is to escape that)
  • Someone forgetting who they are and finding out something bad once they’ve pieced the memories back together (a film to explore the parts of a person that make up their identity and the assumptions we make when we look at a person)
  • Someone who had disassociated with the world has an experience that changes their view on everything  (a film to portray the feeling of being lost in the world and also the value of human life)

23rd March

Deciding on a main idea

Idea 1: Hiding away from society in a box.

Expanding on the idea:


23rd March

Idea Feedback

Short summary:

“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 got lots of constructive feedback from my peers on my idea. Through the 10 pieces of feedback I got, there were a few queries that were repeated by multiple people.

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  • Why a uni student? Is it necessary to the story?
  • How are you going to clearly get across to the audience that they’re souls?
  •  How are you going to communicate the information you need to with just one character and almost no dialogue?

Why a uni student?

This is an interesting point and something I’d never considered, but I can see why people were questioning it. I picked “uni” as a way to explain the sort of age I wanted my character to be, as well as to explain their state of living, because this ‘disheveled youth’ look is one that you see a lot in the gritty realism dramas that inspired the kind of aesthetic I want in this film. But if someone is looking after souls, which is an incredibly important job, would this setting make sense? I think I need to do a bit of experimenting and try changing the setting of the film up, as well as maybe the character, to find one that makes sense to the story.

How are you going to show that they’re souls?

I’d already stated in my paragraph that I’d imagined the souls being represented by glass jars, because it means they can be put all around the apartment, on tables, shelves etc. and I think that filling them with something that’ll make them stand out, like little lights or coloured water, could make for some very nice shots. However I understand that that wouldn’t make it obvious enough and I think the only way to properly get it across that they’re souls, would be to include it in the dialogue somewhere. This would probably mean I’d need to bring in another character, so I need to have think about who they might be and how they’d fit into the story.\

How are you going to communicate information over with almost no dialogue?

This is essentially the same problem as the last question and I think the best way to solve the problem will be to consider a second character.


28th March

Shapes

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Scrapbook – FMP

Useful Videos

In the Mood for Love: frames within frames  – video essay on having objects in the foreground creating a frame around a character & what this shows

Sherlock, how to film thought – video essay, good example of how to fit lots of information into only 4 minutes

El Pescador

The spielberg oner – long takes w multiple shots

Greek myth – charon

Greek myth – the underworld/ the judges

RotLA drinking contest long shot

 

 


Useful articles

How to make a computer pop up

How to write flashes of images in scripts

how to write scripts with no dialogeu

how to write no dialogue 2


songs

life – broughton

 

 

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Unit 11 – Progression

My next step in m progression to being a filmmaker is university. I’m using university as an opportunity to develop and refine my filming skills, as well as network with other filmmakers. I applied to five universities through UCAS, which meant inputting all my personal information, along with a 4000 word personal statement, that would be sent of to my chosen universities for consideration. UCAS is a fantastic website that has lots of helpful information on it to guide you through the application process and I found using the videos they provided helped me a lot, especially when writing my personal statement.

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Final personal statement

I’ve always been a creative person and have enjoyed exploring the world around me through art, writing and most recently, film. The lightbulb moment for me was when I discovered that there were colleges and universities offering film courses that could allow me to pursue it as a career. Suddenly, I understood that working in film could be a reality and a course in film would not only improve my skills, but would also enable me to develop a specialism within the film industry. Since my interest in film began, I have immersed myself in cinema as much as possible. I’m currently at Kendal College doing an Extended Diploma in film production. It’s been the best introduction to film I could ask for, giving me enough practical skills and general knowledge to broaden my understanding of film workflows. The course introduced me to all aspects of film production and while I am enthusiastic about all of them, I’ve found myself drawn increasingly towards cinematography. Because at college we are taught how to use the exposure triangle, mise en scene, composition rules and other such techniques effectively, I have been able to explore cinematography in greater depths and the way that art and science can be combined to produce such strong emotional responses never fails to amaze me. My course
has highlighted some personal qualities I have that help me in film. It’s shown me that in a group I am able to find my voice and contribute creatively, whilst also making sure to listen carefully to what others have to say. Good teamwork is a key part of a successful film, and I have discovered I am strong at keeping a crew grounded and on task. I am good with time management and organization. As well as studying film, I’m also working towards an A-level in maths. This has meant that I’ve learnt to plan my time so I can stay on top of the work for both. By studying film and maths, I’m keeping both the creative and scientific sides of my brain active. Outside of college, I’ve been involved in a number of extra projects in film. I volunteered to be a runner for a professional film that was being shot locally, and this was great as it gave me a feel for what the pace and atmosphere of a film set is like. This experience led me to discover the BFI Film Academy run by Signal Films, and again this has been good for me to see how a crew works together within their separate roles. It’s also given me the opportunity to meet people that share my interests and will work on future extra-curricular projects with me. The most incredible experience for me was representing Kendal College and winning the gold medal at the final of the WorldSkills Video Moving Image competition, a national competition for college students. Sixty teams entered into the passing stage, but by the finals there were just five. The final took place over three days and in that time, my team and I planned, pitched, filmed and edited a four-minute film, based on the brief “dreams of the future”. We were praised by the judges for our excellent teamwork; each person in the team had their own role (director, cinematographer, sound recordist and editor) and we put a lot of effort into our respective roles, whilst always supporting and giving peer feedback to each other. Our attitude was personable and professional, and our time management meant we finished comfortably within the deadline. I was the cinematographer and the judges noted that the shots were vibrant and nicely framed. Quoting the judges, we were told we’d “be an asset to any production team”. It’s experiences like these that have solidified my desire to explore film at a deeper level. I’m hoping that a degree in film production will open doors
for me and give me routes of progression into the industry, by building up my confidence using film equipment and working on set with the cast and crew, as well as giving me the opportunity to make professional connections with people in the film industry who can support my work in the future.

The personal statement is the most important part of the application, as it’s a chance to really prove to the universities that you are a promising student who would be an asset to the course, so I wrote three drafts of it previous to the final draft to make sure that it was the best it could possibly be. I included everything I’d done related to film that might be of interest and tried to show them that I have qualities that would help me go far in the film industry.


Application Tracking

Once my application was sent off, I could follow it’s progress on UCAS’ tracking page.

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So far four out of my five choices have given me a conditional offer. I picked each university carefully to suit me and what I wanted to get out of uni. As I want to specialise in cinematography, every course I picked offers the option in second and third year to choose a specialism and focus on it. Also, all theses courses have specific sections in their tutoring that focus on cameras and lighting. I made sure to compare universities on websites like Unistats, to find out which had the highest ratings for student satisfaction, as well as the amount of people that entered employment after finishing the course and what level of employment they entered into. This was a big concern of mine as I know how difficult it is to get jobs in the film industry, so my main focus was finding a course that would best set me up for life after university.

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Unit 11 – My promotion and presentation techniques

As I learnt from my research into marketing techniques, it’s important to be active on social media as a filmmaker, in order to promote your work and gain a following. The first site I have set up is a Facebook page and this is where I will focus most of my efforts into marketing myself. The reason I’ve chosen Facebook as my main platform is because I have more followers on my private on there than on any other social media and therefore have more people to invite to like my film page. Facebook pages also have a far more professional look than say, a Twitter or Instagram account, as they are specially designed for business use, so give you the option to add email addresses, phone numbers and links to other sites.

This is the information I’ve chosen to add to my FaceBook page. The key part was to link my Vimeo page as that’s where people can view all my work and I’ve also added in my Email address. As you can see, I’ve created a Gmail account specifically for film. I did this because it shows a professional attitude, it’s easy to hand out if ever people ask for an Email and it keeps all my film work separate from general emails and spam so that no important emails get lost in the feed.

 

On the very front of your page you can choose what kind of button you want there.

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I chose the send message button, so that if anyone is interested in working with me or wants to ask me to make a film for them, they can quickly and easily contact me.

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In addition to that, I’ve set up an automated reply that pops up as soon as someone sends me a message. Again, it’s all about appearing professional and by receiving a message straight away, the person will feel recognised and assured that their message has got through.

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In terms of telling people about my myself, this is what I’ve written. The ‘about’ section is the first thing people will read when they go on my page, so I kept it short and to the point. Originally it was “aspiring cinematographer”, however I took out aspiring, because it sounds more professional. The ‘story’ is something people can click on if they want to find out more about who I am. I made sure to add WorldSkills in there as it shows that I am a capable filmmaker.

The biography is something that I will use on all platforms, including my Vimeo page.

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All my information for my Vimeo is the same as on my Facebook and as you can see at the bottom, I’ve added a link to my Facebook page. That link is the start of me building up my online web of links and as I move to more platforms, like Twitter, I can add these in.

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For my actual page, I’ve tried to choose thumbnails for my films that show my composition and colouring skills, as I’ve labelled myself as a cinematographer and need to prove that I know what I’m doing. If the film has a title, I made that the thumbnail, because I feel like you can tell a lot about a person’s work aesthetic by their choice in font type and colour.

If there’s one thing I’d like to change about my Facebook and Vimeo, it’s the profile picture. Currently, that’s the only photo that shows me doing anything vaguely film related, but it’s not the most obvious picture. I’d eventually like to create my own recognisable logo, but for now I have two choices. either I use a shot from one of my films as a profile picture, or I get someone to take a close up picture of me with a camera. It depends on whether I want my face to be part of my brand or not. Keeping my face out of it all might look more professional, however I like the idea of having my face in it. It connects me to my name and gives it a more personable feel.

My next step in my marketing process is to create a website. On my website, as well as having all my main films, a biography and links to my social media, I’m considering also adding in a blog page, where I can upload weekly, or at least bi-weekly blog posts. These will range from updates on current projects I’m working on, discussing film technology/filming techniques/specific filmmakers and reviewing films. The aim of the blog is to keep me in the loop of the goings-on in the film industry so I always remain in the know.

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Unit 11 – Bio

Finished bio

I’m a filmmaker based in the Lake District with a love for storytelling. My interests lie in directing and cinematography and I have experience working on music videos, short drama films and multi-camera live band shoots. I was also cinematographer in the team that recently won gold in the Video Moving Image category at the national WorldSkills UK competition.


I researched a few filmmakers to help me write this bio as I wasn’t sure how long it should be or what sort of information I should put in it. Each persons bio was only a few sentences long and all followed basically the same pattern.

– introductory sentence, say what you do and where you’re based

– Expand on specifics, like what your specialism with and what kind of films you like to make

– Say what you worked on in the past

– Include anything notable you’ve done (e.g. Any awards you’ve won, any big-name filmmakers you’ve worked with or any big companies/films you’ve worked on) This point could also be worked into the first sentence “I’m an award winning filmmaker”.

Tom Read bio

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Giuseppe Abba bio

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These are bio’s from two old students from my film course. You can see that they’ve taken different approaches, Tom’s being more to-the-point and Giuseppe’s being more wordy and informative. I decided to follow a structure more like Giuseppe’s and use write it in first person, because I like the personable feel, it seems more friendly and approachable.

I’m using this bio for my Vimeo, however for my Facebook page, I’ve decided to change it to third person.

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I did this because I feel like Vimeo is more a place for networking with other filmmakers, so it’s okay for it to be more personal, whereas on Facebook, it’s more about business and promotion, so I want to look like more of a professional, rather than just a young film student.

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