BSA206: Scary Stuff.

When asked to think of a scene in a movie that really scared me as a child I immediately picture on particular moment from The Wizard of Oz involving The Wicked Witch of the West. It isn’t when she melts like most people think it might be, it’s when her face fills the screen as she laughs. The Wizard of Oz was my favourite movie as a child and I would watch it as often as I was allowed, but I couldn’t watch that one scene alone. As a child, it felt as if she was bursting out of the screen and was directly in front of my face, laughing at me. In fact, that scene and that feeling made me think the triangular shape of the moths that would sit on my window were the tip of the witch’s nose. It took me a while to get to sleep sometimes. If I watch this scene now I no longer find it quite so scary, but the little Johanna within me still cringes. Although, I do notice that the witch’s face doesn’t seem as big as it did when I was small.

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Trying to think of a scene in a movie that scares me now like this scene used to doesn’t result in much. I find that I’m more likely to be disturbed by something and have that stick in my mind rather than something scary. I’ve certainly been scared plenty of times during films – The Conjuring (2013) had me on the edge of my seat and hiding under a blanket the whole time (like just about any of James Wan’s films), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) gave me the shivers, and I stupidly watched Case 39 (2009) alone and I think that speaks for itself – but there isn’t anything in particular from these films that really scared me or made me look twice in the dark. The things that really stick with me now are the things that I can relate to my life, the things that could actually be possible.
I remember watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and seeing Leatherface hook a girl in the shoulder and collarbone with the kind of hook we would use in the woodshed to move bales. That gave me the shivers and really stuck with me. I think that is because I have often been around those tools being used and know how easy it would be to get in the way and have one of those hooks land in your arm. I also just really hate the idea of sharp things landing in people and I don’t really trust people with knives or other sharp things, so that may have something to do with it too.

There’s another scene from a movie that disturbs me far more than the hooks in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Again, it’s something that could plausibly happen, although I’ve never actually been around anyone in this particular situation.
In Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. II (2013) there is a particularly horrific scene where the lead character, Joe, terminates her pregnancy alone on her kitchen floor. It’s brutal. I won’t go into detail. Before watching this film I had known that abortion was an horrific ordeal, but this scene made me realise that on a new level.
Nymphomaniac certainly focuses on a delicate and controversial topic and is quite graphic, but I did enjoy both volumes. I found it quite refreshing that it focuses on such a sensitive topic and doesn’t shy away from being really honest about it.


References

  1. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth32537/m1/1/med_res/
  2. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/60/29/45/6029452d4879136b1a5ec8782b6a1dfb.jpg

BSA206: Cinèma Vèritè and Direct Cinema

Cinèma Vèritè and Direct Cinema are styles of documentary filmmaking, each having a different take on the presence of the filmmaker. They were developed in the early 1960s when film cameras were being made a lighter weight making it possible for filmmakers to do away with a large crew, studio set, tripod-mounted equipment and lighting. [1]

Cinèma Vèritè was invented by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin who was inspired by Dziga Vertov’s theory about Kino-Pravda, but the term was coined by Georges Sadoul.

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These styles of filmmaking are quite similar as they both strive to give the truth, but each take a slightly different approach. Cinèma Vèritè allows the filmmaker to be involved in the film and even speak or appear in the film – their presence is meant to be felt in this style of documentary filmmaking. Direct Cinema on the other hand is an objective style of documentary filmmaking, opposite to Cinèma Vèritè, where the filmmaker is invisible – almost like a fly on the wall.
Examples of films in these styles are Chronique d’un été (1961) (Cinèma Vèritè), On The Bowery (1956) (Direct Cinema), and Sofia’s Last Ambulance (2012) (Direct Cinema).

 


References

  1. https://ideasfilm.org/cinema-verite-direct-cinema/

BSA231: The In Between Pt II

I’ve been working really hard on my screenplay over the past few days. It seems to have taken a long time to actually get to the point of writing it, but I think the time that I spent planning out the bones of the story has really been worth it. The screenplay isn’t quite finished because I don’t yet have an ending – I’m finding that part really difficult because I don’t want to give it a cliche ending or have it be a let down. It really needs to do the story justice.
To start with, I thought this story would be a drama, but through the process of writing it, I think it’s turned into more of a thriller.
There’s minimal dialogue which isn’t what I originally intended, but it serves the story far better this way. I think it’s quite an emotionally driven story so it doesn’t need dialogue to convey how the character is feeling. I imagine this being shot so it almost feels as though the audience is seeing the events unfold through the character’s eyes, so they experience it themselves, like POV.

Just because I don’t want to spoil the story, I’m only going to include a short snippet of the screenplay as it stands.

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In other news, I have hit a little bit of a speed bump. I am meant to shoot this weekend (7th, 8th, 9th October), but the weather looks really wet for those days and since my shoot is all outdoors, I can’t do it. Instead, I have postponed my shoot and it is now happening on the afternoon/evening of the 18th October and 23rd October. These days aren’t consecutive because I have to work around everyone else’s days since they had already booked.
I’m hoping and praying that the weather on these new dates will be dry!

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On Thursday this last week I went to Parks and Reserves to get location release forms signed. Before hand, I went with Josh for a drive to Sandy Point to see if we could find any alternate locations to Thompson’s Bush. I was a little reluctant about using Sandy Point as a location because, even though it’s a beautiful location, I feel it is almost becoming her used in student films. The reason I am going to need to use it is because it is quite, unlike Thompson’s bush where there is a lot of traffic and industrial sound since it is right in the middle of town.
I do have permission to use both Thompson’s Bush and Sandy Point, but I have permission for my original dates. In the next day or so I will need to go back to Parks and Reserves and ask for permission for the new dates.


My cast and crew are confirmed! Lily will be played by Chanelle Hammond, who I met during this year’s 48 Hour film challenge, and the boy will be played by Taylor Clive, Josh’s younger brother. I’m really stoked with this cast (small as it is), because I had Taylor in mind while writing the story, and Chanelle perfectly fits the physical image I had of Lily and I know she will do a great job.
I have a great crew on board for this project. It’s a relatively small team, but I know they are all really hard workers and will work well together.


In some ways I’m quite happy I have an extra two weeks to organise for this project. I had been feeling very stressed about getting everything sorted (including finishing the script!), but now that I have this extra time I think I will be able to run a much smoother set.

One of the things on my to do list is organising a small photo shoot for the photos Lily finds in the film. I am currently organising a day and time with Chanelle to do this as she will need to “model” in the photos. Thankfully I have the extra time for this as Chanelle is away at the moment and wouldn’t have been back in time if I had been shooting this weekend.


In the next few days I will be working on Josh’s shoot, but once that is finished, or when I’m not needed, I will be finishing up this script and then starting on shooting scripts and shot lists.

And in between that time I will be organising short photo shoots for a photography project that I will be entering into the Southsure Emerging Artist Awards along with this film.

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.

BSA231: Locations and Ideas.

For my end of year project I have the option of making a short film, a documentary or a web-series. The idea for this project was to use one of the scripts written for the final assessment in our Screenwriting paper. Before I wrote that screenplay, I checked with my tutor on whether it would be compulsory to use it for this upcoming assessment. I was glad when he said it wasn’t as the idea I had was one one that I didn’t want to make into a short film. I would be happy for someone else to do it, but I just don’t want to. I guess part of the reason was that it was quite a personal story, but also it was a piece of writing in my mind and that’s the way it should stay.
Instead, I would like to be able to experiment a bit with this project. I think this would be a great opportunity to try something that I haven’t don’t before. Having watched The Blair Witch Project for the first time recently, I thought that would be a genre I could have a bit of fun experimenting with. I’ve been trying to think of a story I could write in this genre that uses The Blair Witch Project as inspiration, but it’s very difficult to think of something without copying this film or others that are similar.
Another film that has been influential while finding ideas for this project is The Revenant. I thought this film was really beautiful and I found it interesting that it was all shot on a wide lens, but what really grabbed my attention was that it is all filmed using natural lighting. This really grabbed my attention as I find lighting to be quite a frustrating task. It takes so much time to properly light a scene so if I could do my project using only natural lighting it would be so much easier. That being said, I do understand that I will need to spend a bit of time researching and testing how to get the best lighting and making sure I can properly expose everything before I actually begin filming.
Before I commit too much to this, it would probably be wise to actually write a story/screenplay.

I moved recently and where I moved to overlooks Thompson’s Bush. I thought this would be an excellent location for the style/genre of film I am thinking of doing so I went for a walk yesterday to take some photos and get some inspiration.
I had one or two ideas that I will be thinking on more to see if I can create a relatively original story from.
There were a couple of spots on the track I was walking that would definitely be usable, and also a couple of old bits of clothes hanging off branches which got me thinking about how I would set dress (if at all) if I do end up making a kind of horror mockumentary.

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An old shirt hanging from a branch back in the bush

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BSA231: I made a Promotional Video

I did it. I made a promotional video.

The last few days of putting together this video were quite stressful. After I realised I didn’t have the footage from David’s interview, I organised to reshoot on Monday. Monday came and I was feeling pretty good about everything. I got the gear I needed and Josh, Kate and I headed off to Queen’s Park again (we were a little late, but we did make it) where we reshot the interview with David. It was a really quick reshoot (we finished in about 15 minutes) and I think shooting outside, not requiring lighting, helped with that. Having done the interview once before, David knew exactly what questions I would be asking and what he needed to say in response to them so that was a huge help too.

I was really happy with the footage when we got back to class and I was looking over it, but I hadn’t recorded the audio right. I had recorded through the wrong input on the Zoom mic and so what I had was more of an ambient recording – David was very quiet, I was loud (because I was holding the Zoom), the children in the background were clear, you could hear the wind and the birds too. I think I nearly cried at that point, I was so disappointed in myself. I also felt terrible that David had gone out of his way to help me a second time and I had messed up that time too.
Ideally, I would have liked to have reshot a third time, but I felt so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to ask David. I also didn’t have enough time as another classmate needed the camera I had been using that afternoon. Instead I just sat down and continued editing.

There were a few things I ran out of time for in the video I submitted; I didn’t have a name title for Rebecca, I didn’t have credits and the music ran for a little too long after the video ended.
Before I hand over the video to Rebecca, I’m going to fix these things. I’m also going to offer to Rebecca that I reshoot David’s interview again, and possibly her own, if she isn’t happy with the video.

So I could put it here on my blog, I uploaded the video I submitted for assessment.
Once I’ve made the necessary adjustments, and shown Rebecca, I will upload the final one.

BSA231: A Crazy Week of Filming

This week has felt twice as long as it actually was. The only down time I had was for about two hours on Thursday and that was only because I ignored what I could have been doing, but I felt it was important to give myself that little bit of me time.

On Monday I had to run off in the middle of class, dragging Josh with me, to film the B-roll for my promotional video. I had a friend come along to act for me, not that much acting was required – all she needed to do was write on some paper and look through a book.
I had arranged with a lovely lady called Cynthia at the library to borrow some of Dan Davin’s books, but when I went to get them she also gave me a folder that included all sorts of correspondence, financial documents and pamphlets relating to Davin and his work so that was a bonus. I had Sarah, my actress, look through this book as we filmed. She ended up getting quite engrossed in it and read most of it while Josh and I worked around her figuring out different shots.
It was really great to have Josh with me working as camera operator as it took a little stress off of me which made it the whole process go much smoother.

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B-roll of Sarah before colour correction
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B-roll of Sarah before colour correction

 

Monday evening I met with Kate and Aaron at the Stadium to film basketball and athletics for the Special Olympics training. I really enjoyed this shoot, it was quite a relaxed environment and the athletes were a lot of fun to work with.
Kate asked me to work on camera for this and I found it was a really good environment for me to try different things without any pressure. Not having to concentrate on anything else, but the camera was really nice.
After the training at the Stadium, we went along to film them playing indoor bowls.


I think that Tuesday went really well even though there was a lot going on. I was part of three different shoots on that one day. Josh and I went to get the second part of my B-roll, the Dan Davin bust at the Community Trust, at 11am, then at 1pm Josh, Teneill and I met David Dudfield at the Band Rotunda in Queen’s Park for my first interview. After that we all headed to the Museum to shoot Josh’s B-roll, and then we all went back to the Band Rotunda at 3:30 for my second interview with Rebecca Amundsen who is the chairperson of the Dan Davin Literary Foundation.

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Dan Davin bust
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Rebecca Amundsen interview

We had a tiny bit of a break once that was all done, but then Josh and I met with Kate to go to the Rowing Club to film the rowing training for Kate’s promo. Josh was on camera for this part and I wasn’t really doing anything, but I really enjoyed just watching the process. I find the athletes really inspiring, they are really motivated, work very hard and are so dedicated to what they do.


On Friday I finally got the chance to review my footage. Everything looked really good and I was very happy with it, but there was one problem – I couldn’t find David’s interview.
I think I must have somehow managed to not import it. I nearly cried when I realised I didn’t have it and would have to reshoot. I had felt so good about this assignment when I had finished all of my filming nearly a week before it was due so it was quite deflating to have that happen. Thankfully, we had been given an extension giving us until Tuesday 23rd at 4pm to finish the promo video so on Monday I am reshooting the interview with David.