BSA231: Peaky Blinders

I’m very taken with this series at the moment. In fact, “taken” might not be quite a strong enough word because I’d more consider it to be my favourite thing.
It’s such a beautiful production, and so well written with a brilliant cast so it’s no wonder I’m loving it.
I had seen it on Netflix for a while, but had scrolled past thinking I’d watch it another time. Then I discovered that one of my favourite actors, Tom Hardy, had a role in it and I was down… and by down I mean I just sat myself down right there and then and started watching.

I quickly forgot that I was waiting for Tom hardy to make an appearance (turns out I had to wait for the second season anyhow) because the cinematography was so beautiful and the writing of the show so good.
One of the things I noticed was the unusual style of framing. It doesn’t happen all the time, but occasionally there would be what I would refer to as “negative space”. It’s not strictly speaking negative space, but the reason I call it that is the subject of the shot is in the corner of the frame with the background, while important to each location, is flat and appear more like a backdrop from a stage play. I noticed this particularly in the first season (in fact, I think the two examples below are from the first episode). What I really enjoy about these two shots is that they are balanced out; the characters in the bottom left corners are balanced by the horse/chandelier in the top right.

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Another thing I liked about the cinematography of this series the unconventional use of “looking space”. Normally a character will be framed on one side of the frame and looking into the space on the other. Peaky Blinders is often framed in the opposite way with the character looking to the side of the frame he is on, leaving the space awkwardly open. This kind of framing is purposeful and not done just to be different. In the scenes these examples are from, I think this framing represents this character’s mindset about the situations. This character, Tommy (Cillian Murphy), is always looking ahead, considering the future, and working towards that. To me, this framing represents the character’s situation in which he is seemingly stuck, but the fact the he is looking to the side of the frame, into what we as the veiwer cannot see, shows how he is thinking outside of, and is somehow able to see beyond his current situation.

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The example below is the brother to the shot above as these two characters are conversing in this scene. Major Campbell (Sam Neill), the character below, compared to Tommy above has plenty of looking space and always uses it. This, along with the relaxed feeling of the mid-shot framing, allows the character to appear and feel in control and be confident. Tommy on the other hand, is framed in a close-up and only occasionally looks into the space in the direction of Major Campbell. Although this framing and these actions suggest Tommy is trapped with no way out, the nature of the character, as discussed earlier, suggests he is more in control than he appears and sees a way out of his situation that is not clear to the viewer or Major Campbell.

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The shots below are here mostly because I think they are beautiful shots that do a really good job in capturing the character’s emotional state.

As far as I can tell, the first shot (and a lot of others in this series) are lit naturally and, as I’ve explained in a previous post, I really love natural lighting. This particular shot, I think beautifully captures the emotions of the moment – Tommy is surrendering and preparing to die while maintaining a sense of pride and courage. The low angle suggests Tommy is less powerful in this situation (because he has accepted his defeat), but the stance of the character indicates his courage and pride as he is holding his head high.

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I particularly like the lighting and the shallow depth of field in this shot below. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about shallow depth of field that I like, but whenever I see it in film or photography, it really captures my attention. In fact, this often happens in Peaky Blinders, so I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy this series so much.
What I enjoy about the lighting in this shot is how soft it is, but also the way it is very minimal and creates a lot of shadows on the right side of the face. To have Tommy fully lit in this scene wouldn’t make sense for the world it is set in or the time period. Peaky Blinders is set in the late 1910s – early 1920s so the inside lighting of houses at that time would have been quite dim. The series is also set in the city, in an industrial area, so the air would likely be quite smokey.

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The shot below is from the “Gypsy fight scene”. The actual fight in this scene is all slow motion and is really very beautiful, but some parts are quite unusual as they are out of focus, like the example below.
Another part of this show that I really enjoy, which I have’t mentioned until now, is the music and how it compliments each scene is accompanies. Most of the music in this series is performed by Nick Cave. The creator of the show, Steven Knight, didn’t want to have period music because he thought it would be more relatable more a modern audience to hear modern music. I agree with this decision, I think period music would have changed the feeling of the series completely. The music that was used makes it feel quite gritty and I really like that.

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This is the “Gypsy fight scene”that the screenshot above comes from. Although this particular clip is four minutes long it’s worth the watch because I think it gives a good overview of the general style and feel of the series. It’s also a great example of the music that is used.

 

BSA231: Walking, Locationing and Screenplaying.

This morning I got up early and went for a walk (like I’ve been planning on for the past few weeks) around the river beside Thompson’s Bush. While I was walking I was looking on the edge of the bush for an area where I can have the reveal of my character’s bodies. I did have in mind an area where there is also a small playground because there is a lovely area with a couple of large trees and some small bushes on each side of a small patch of grass. In my mind this area would be ideal for the reveal, but I didn’t take into account that the trees aren’t native bush like the rest of the locations I’ll be using and there’s also a lot of traffic noise. I considered not recording sound here and recording foley at a seperate location or just having a kind of buzz track and messing with it a bit and adding sounds such as a heart beat to try and mimic the way your head fills with sounds which become slightly distorted when you start to panic. I may do this anyway with whatever location I end up using, but I will need to record other sound here as this will be the location where my characters actually converse.
As I got further along the track I was walking, there was another clearing which would be much easier to record sound at. I do think that it could be a challenge to get clean sound anywhere in Thompson’s bush as it is in the middle of Invercargill so there is likely to be traffic sounds. I plan on walking around the bush with Josh sometime in the next couple of weeks to pick the places where we will film so I will make sure to pay attention to what I can hear while in there.
I also plan to return to the first location I mentioned and take photos as I might be able to use it in another place in my film or maybe in another project in the future.

In other news, I’ve been working on the screenplay for this project which is beginning to take shape. My aim is to have the first draft of it finished by the end of the weekend, so once that is done I will post an excerpt.

BSA231: The In Between

Last week I was putting together ideas that were in the horror genre. I knew then that wasn’t really what I wanted to make, I was really just using those ideas to spark others off, and since then I have developed an idea that I am really quite excited to make. Since I haven’t completely developed this idea into a full story, I have decided to just start writing something so that I have something down on paper. When Duncan Sarkies was here earlier in the year I remember him telling us to just start writing something, no matter how bad it is or how little sense it makes, just as long as you get something down on paper/on the computer, and this has stuck with me. That advice helped me to write a short piece earlier in the year that I was quite proud of which I also turned into a screenplay that I quite liked, so I thought I would give that a shot for this project too.
I really enjoy writing in the first person and that’s how most of the stories I write are told and, in my opinion, that’s how I write best, so that is the way I’m writing the beginnings of this film.
The basic idea of this short film is that a girl has died and is stuck in “the in between”, but she doesn’t know she has died.
This idea came from a thought that had been running through my mind. I imagined a girl slowly approaching a body, but when she turns it over, she sees herself.

The screenshots below are from How I Live Now (2013), a Canadian-British film set in England. I really enjoyed the cinematography in this film, it feels very delicate and peaceful. This is the kind of feeling I’d like to achieve for my film.
In the scene that the first three screenshots are taken from, the weather was quite overcast, and I really like the atmosphere it creates and how it seems to reflect the character’s mood.

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I am setting myself a couple of challenges for this project and one of them is to use only natural lighting. The Revenant (2015) is my biggest influence for this challenge as it almost entirely uses only natural lighting. There was only one scene where artificial light was needed which was a scene at night around a campfire due to some issues created by the wind: “We had to lay a bunch of light bulbs around the fire to create a cushion of light,” Lubezki admits. “That’s all the light we used.” [1]

I’m pretty sure it seems like I’m being lazy not wanting to use lights in my film, but I honestly just want to have the challenge of making something look beautiful naturally. Obviously, the weather is going to be really important for this shoot. Ideally, I’d like it to be a little overcast, I don’t really want bright, glaring sun. Having this story set in “the in between”, it doesn’t make sense to me to have bright, warm sun because that suggests life and, as morbid as it sounds, the weather in this story needs to reflect the loss of life. As I mentioned earlier, I also really like the atmosphere and mood it creates.

 

I had a scene in my head, and I couldn’t figure out what it was from, which was pretty similar to my general idea: A girl was crying over her dead body once she had realised she was actually a ghost. Eventually I figured out that it was from an episode of American Horror Story: Murder House. Even though I couldn’t figure out where it was from I was taking a bit of inspiration from it for the mood of my story as it is quite an emotional scene and, even though I don’t think my character will be crying, the whole situation is emotional.

 


  1. http://variety.com/2015/artisans/production/the-revenant-cinematography-emmanuel-lubezki-1201661435/

BSA227: Sand Water

One of the challenges Kate and I are facing with our project is finding a way to make sand move like water as our story involves a planet where the water is still and firm, like sand normally is, and the sand is fluid.
Kate found the below video where a guy is walking down a sand dune and, with each step, the sand slides down in waves in front of him.
If we filmed this on a phone (since we can’t take any other cameras to the beach) we might  be able to do this, but I think it would really only work as POV shot and I don’t think that’s what we had in mind for this scene.

 

Another option, and one that I am really keen to explore further, is using a sand art technique. I admit, I found it hard to stop watching these sand art videos – they are so captivating.
I think that trying to make sand move like water in this way would be really effective. When the sand is thrown in these videos it creates a water-like effect, so I think that would be really fun to play around with for the planet in our story.

 

This ‘Titanic’ sand painting had a particularly interesting feature which we may be able to utilize; finger prints in the sand that look like water drops.