BSA306: The Blair Witch Project

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The first time I saw The Blair Witch Project I was alone and it was night and yes, it had me on edge. I thought it was cleverly done and you can see how, when the film was first released, people believed it was real. Comparing this, the original, to the latest reboot where everyone knows the story and the tactics the filmmakers used during filming, it’s far more successful in my eyes. I think a lot of that relates to the realism in the performances. In The Blair Witch Project, the actors were sent into the forest, given a few directions on where to go and the base of the story, but they weren’t aware that the film crew would be sneaking up on them and scaring them lifeless in the middle of the night. I think this created really authentic reactions. There are some moments where some silly kinds of things are said that make the viewer think “really? you wouldn’t really think that… you’d do this instead”, but I think those moments make the story feel more real (like the filmmakers wanted) because that’s probably what you’d do in that situation when you’re going slightly crazy. Blair Witch (2016), on the other hand, doesn’t feel as authentic because everyone knows the story, they know it’s not real, and the filmmakers know this. We, the audience, now have the “behind the scenes” knowledge of the first film so we aren’t going in blind and so there’s no use for the filmmakers to attempt what was done with the original and try to fool the audience.

The promotion of The Blair Witch Project was done very cleverly. The filmmakers maintained the pretence that the film was in fact a documentary by releasing promotional poster that read “missing’ with the faces of the actors. At the premiere of the film, the actors were not allowed to attend to, again, make the audience think it was real.  These strategies contributed hugely to the success of the film which had a budget of $35,000 and made over $248 million at the box office.

 

Blair Witch Project

 

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BSA306: Run Lola Run

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Directed by Tom Tykwer | Released 1998 | Germany

Run Lola Run received 18 awards, including the German Film Award for Best Feature Film, two for cinematography and two for editing.

This is a very fast paced film with little to no lulls. It holds your attention throughout with its interesting use of integrating live action and animation, time lapses and the idea that the smallest action can effect someone’s entire life.

I enjoyed the use the split screen in moments when key actions were happening on the left side, and Lola was running on the other. It wasn’t distracting as the audience understands the action on the right and is able to concentrate on the left, but will still be aware of major changes on the right.

The main themes in this film are the race against time and the idea that we cannot control our lives. The race against time is shown quite obviously in Run Lola Run through the story as Lola is desperately trying to deliver money to someone before 20 minutes is up. This theme is reinforced through the constant visuals of ticking clocks.
The idea that we cannot control out lives is also quite clear throughout the film. In fact, the whole idea of the story runs off this concept; something goes wrong, so Lola has to try and fix it.
There is perhaps another, even more obvious theme; life is a circle. Lola’s day does, in fact, become a loop where her day restarts so she has another chance. There is a great visual during the animation sequence which show this theme brilliantly. Lola runs through a spiral tunnel and then, a little further on, down a spiral staircase. These spirals suggest the loop, or circle, that she is about to experience during her day. I think this ultimately pertains to the idea that events in life seem to repeat themselves, yet each time there are slightly different circumstances that come into play that allow things to work out slightly differently in the end.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film. It was more engaging than I initially expected and I would most definitely recommend it.

BSA306: Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is an American animator who has received over 250 awards for his films. His best known work includes World of Tomorrow (2015), Billy’s Balloon (1998), and Rejected (2000). His work is often characterised by hand-drawn stick figures, black humour, and surrealism. He animates in a traditional style, choosing to use pen and paper over the more common digital methods. Hertzfeldt will then photograph the drawing with antique 16mm or 35mm cameras. It is not unusual for Hertzfeldt to complete all of the work on one of his films by himself, meaning he is the writer, director, producer, animator, photographer, editor, voice artist and more.

My personal favourite of his works is Rejected. The film is a collection of shorts which are said to have been rejected after Hertzfeldt was commissioned to create them for commercials and television networks. However this is fictional as Hertzfeldt has never done any commercial work. Rejected was inspired by the fact that, after Billy’s Balloon, he received many requests to do commercial work, but declined. Instead, he eventually decided to create a collection of the worst possible commercials he could think of.
Rejected was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 73rd Academy Awards.

BSA306: British New Wave

British New Wave was a film movement in the 1950s and 1960s in Britain. The films that were produced as part of this movement were often considered “kitchen sink” films as they looked at the everyday life of the working class. Before  the British New Wave, British films were often focused on the middle-class and working-class characters would appear as little more than comic aid or “‘salt of the earth’ cannon fodder.” (Wickham, n.d.) Instead, British New wave put the working class in the center of the story, focusing on their lives seriously.

The only British New Wave films that focus directly on conflicts between the working-class and middle-class are Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top (1958) and Tony Richardson’s Look Back in Anger (1959), whereas many of the later films of this movement focus on the conflicts among those in the working-class (Wickham, n.d.).

I think one of the biggest attractions of British New Wave films is the sense of realism in the stories and characters as they are familiar settings, situations and people.

Some of the most notable modern films that were influenced by British New Wave films are Trainspotting (1996), The Full Monty (1997) and Billy Elliot (2000). Like the films from the 50s and 60s, these films follow working-class characters through their everyday lives. These films, instead of being considered British New Wave films, are instead considered “underclass films”. Similarly to British New Wave films, underclass films, especially of the 1990s, tend to focus on the gender anxiety of male characters and the New Labour politics of ‘rebranding’ UK (Seino, 2010, p. 16).

“The 1990s is the decade of the British social realist film which explores the concept of British identity. It also presents a new national identity of ‘Britishness’, which was represented as the UK‟s creative cultural industry.” (Seino, 2010, p. 21)

 


Fig. 1. Retrieved from: http://img.moviepostershop.com/saturday-night-and-sunday-morning-movie-poster-1961-1010272536.jpg

Fig.2. Retrieved from: https://alchetron.com/cdn/A-Taste-of-Honey-film-images-2ecb3ade-36d0-465a-9e48-d439038ce62.jpg

Fig. 3. Retrieved from: http://www.impawards.com/1959/posters/room_at_the_top_xlg.jpg

Fig. 4. Retrieved from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/502784a984ae2d2eef45097c/t/50470dd8c4aa7e7d99020cb3/1346833881207/b70-7101.jpeg

Fig. 5. Retrieved from: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMDQwMmI3YzctNWI3Ny00YWI4LThiOTItNDJkOWRhOWE2MDlkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTAwMzUyOTc@._V1_UY1200_CR77,0,630,1200_AL_.jpg

Fig. 6. Retrieved from: http://rarefilm.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Billy-Liar-1963.jpg

Fig. 7. Retrieved from: https://cdn.bleedingcool.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/trainspotting-poster.jpg

Fig. 8. Retrieved from: http://www.impawards.com/2000/posters/billy_elliot_ver1.jpg

Fig. 9. Retrieved from: http://www.impawards.com/1997/posters/full_monty_ver2.jpg

Seino, T. (2010). The 1990s to present: New labour and the new millenium. Realism and Representation of the Working Class in Contemporary British Cinema. Pp. 16 – 21.

Wickham, P. (n.d.). British new wave. Retrieved from: http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/445176/

BSA306: Dogme 95

Dogme 95 was a film movement that began in 1995 and ended in 2005. Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg created the movement, writing the “Dogme 95 Manifesto” and “The Vows of Chastity” which detailed the rules of this movement. The key idea behind this movement was to exclude the use of elaborate special effects or technology, which were taking over the film industry at the time, and focus on the traditional values of filmmaking through story, performance and theme. [1] Some of the key characteristics of Dogme 95 films were that they were shot on location, the camera must be handheld, the film must be in colour, and the director must not be credited. [2]

The Museum of Arts and Design celebrated Dogme 95 with their cinema series The Director Must Not Be Credited: 20 Years of Dogme 95. The series featured work from Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Jean-Marc Barr, Daniel H. Byun, Harmony Korine, Kristian Levring, Annette K. Olesen, and Lone Scherfig. [3]

One of the things I look out for in a film is well written (and performed) characters who feel gritty and real, so the idea of the rules in the Dogme 95 movement really interested me. From the glimpses of the Dogme films that I saw in the documentary The Name of This Flim is Dogme 95, stripping back many of the artifices of modern film making seemed to allow, or perhaps force, the actors to give more of themselves to their performances, in turn creating more natural characters. As I am focusing on what can make a film, or story, feel more authentic in my research this year I will now be looking into Dogme 95 and possibly using this movement as an influence in my end of year project.

BSA306: Baraka

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Directed by Ron Fricke ❖ Released 1992 ❖ Non-narrative film

Admittedly I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did. I hoped I would like it, but I actually really, really liked it.

Baraka is Ron Fricke’s 1992 non-narrative documentary film, with no dialogue or voice-over. It was shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period. This film is a follow up to Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982), on which Fricke was the cinematographer, which is a similar non-verbal documentary film. Fricke set out on his own with Baraka to further expand on the styles and techniques used to capture Koyaanisqatsi. 

Baraka, shot on 70mm, combines photographic styles such as slow-motion and time-lapse. In 2007 the film became the first ever to be restored at 8k resolution.

The film explores themes of religion, materialism and social change.

BSA306: Motion Capture

The Motion Capture Society details the history of motion capture and the various things that influenced it right back to 1774 when Johann Heinrich Lambert developed “spatial resection”.

Motion capture first began through rotoscoping where footage of a live actor or actress would traced over so the animated characters would have more fluidity. Rotoscoping was devised by Max Fleischer in 1915 and used in his series Out of the Inkwell. Walt Disney adopted this method using it in the 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Since the method was so successful in this film, Disney continued to use it in other features like Peter Pan (1953), Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Sleeping Beauty (1959).

 

Rotoscoping is still used in the industry today. One of the most famous examples in recent times comes from A Scanner Darkly (2006), Richard Linklater’s feature based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name.

Motion capture for computer character animation began in the 1970s. It works by recording details of body movement, most commonly with humans, and then transferring those details onto a computer animated character. Gollum from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was created this way, as was Davy Jones from the second and third instalments of Pirates of the Caribbean. 

 

 

BSA306: A new Project

The challenge ahead: research a topic, technique or style etc. that interests me and produce a body of work based on my findings.

Obviously my biggest interests are film and photography so my research will be focused around elements of these mediums. I am considering the idea of a multi medium project that uses both film and photography. I would to try taking the same techniques, ideas or styles and presenting them as works of photography and film to then compare the final products, even though I feel it could be very ambitious with the work load I am about to take on. I would compare them in the way the idea is portrayed, how it is received and whether or not the pieces are translated in the same way. Alongside this I would be interested to know which piece myself, and others, found to be more successful.

I definitely think the question I will be exploring will be based around the idea of the piece rather than the techniques used in it. That being said, I would love to explore the use of low lighting to create mood and emotion in this work.

This article discusses lighting techniques in film and the effects they have on the subject.

In this blog post from a cinematography student, backlighting, and when to use it, is explored. I found this interesting because I was thinking of predominantly featuring silhouettes in my project and those are created by backlighting the subject. This blog post discussed various forms of backlighting the different moods each creates. Perhaps I could try and utilise as many of these techniques as possible to create different moods through the lighting.

I love the lighting used in these images by Babak Fatholahi.
What I like about the first image is the sense of mystery that is created by the lighting. I would love to try something like this in my project because I think it feels very sombre, like there is something lost and this is emphasised through the fact that we can only see the model’s face and everything else seems to fall into the shadows.

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© Babak Fatholahi

This second image has a very different mood to the first. It’s still very dark and “moody”, but I think the emotions felt from it are almost opposite. I feel like the use of lighting and the model’s pose suggest hope and determination. I always like to try and find a story within an image and to me the story in this is one of a woman who has been trapped in a dark place, struggling with life, but now she is beginning to come out of that place and move on into a happier and brighter future. Even though that sounded incredibly cheesy, I would love to try and create that kind of feeling, or story, in my own photographs for this project.

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© Babak Fatholahi

 

I found this essay interesting as it looks at the use of lighting in several scenes in Casablanca (1942) saying, “Casablanca is considered by many to be the finest example of the film noir style of the 1940s”. This essay focuses a lot on the use of lighting to represent emotions or the state of mind of the characters.


 

The next step for me in this project will be to decide what exactly my focus will be. I do know that I will be focusing on emotion in film and photography, but I’m not sure just yet whether or not that will also relate to lighting. Though I am interested in how lighting can effect the mood of a scene or reflect the emotional state of a character, I’m not sure my interest is strong enough to keep me enthusiastic and invested throughout the project.