Archive for March, 2012

Oh shit.

Posted: March 27, 2012 in Stuff I make, Words of inspiration
Tags: ,

I just worked out what my film is about:

It is about finding the strength to have empathy in a harsh, judgemental and selfish world

How far does someone have to be pushed before they choose to emotionally shut themselves off from the world?

Somehow that has got to happen in two minutes. Crikey!

Hello everybody and welcome back! It’s now time for the second instalment of The Tasks.

Part a) Choose a cinematographer that you think has a visual style that might suit the film you wish to make this year. I want you to post (or link to) a clip or two of their work that most excites your creative imaginations. Discuss the artistic decisions made by your chosen cinematographer and how you think they help the tone, clarity, detail, meaning (or a million other things) of the story.

Part b) I’d also like you to do some research into the technical approach of that cinematographer. What did they do technically to achieve the look they were after? Did they use candle light and panty hose, did they retro fit a toy helicopter to fly their camera across rooftops or did they source old lens to create a particular feel?

Alright, first of all, I haven’t yet considered the visual style of my major film this year (naughty, naughty!). I hope that I might be able to explore my two-minute film? Or at least, I am, since I have posted this. Also I am mixing up parts a and b, because I don’t think I can talk about one without the other.

At its most basic, my two-minute film, tentatively entitled Beat, is about two police officers waiting around at a crime scene for the cleaners to arrive. In my mind, it is set in a busy suburban area, with lots of colours, lights and visual detail. I want the city itself to be as much a character as the police officers, and want to depict a gritty, real, 24-7 living city. I’m seeing browns and oranges and greens contrasted against the night, people moving around. Not quite in a documentary style, but as though the viewer is being invited in to see a moment in the day of this place, one story out of the countless many.

If you want to read a current draft, here it is: https://theprocrastinatingfilmstudent.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/2-minute-film-script-draft-2/

So with that over, now I need to find a cinematographer. Being that my cinematographer knowledge is roughly zero, this shall be a mission of discovery!

There are two films I think have a “look” that I am interested in exploring. Firstly, Night on Earth, directed by Jim Jarmusch, with cinematography by Frederick Elmes. I have chosen to specifically talk about the New York segment of the film, both the most relevant, and my favourite.

Beginning of the “New York” segment

The opening of each segment is always still shots of the city in question. Usually not the glamour or the landmarks either, but closed shops and signs and back streets. This is ‘macro’ view of the world, before the characters Yoyo and Helmut are introduced in the ‘micro’ world.  Jarmusch and Elmes create the feeling that the characters are only small players in a moment of time in the city. The shots have been deliberately chosen to show the viewer the ‘real’ side of the city. Most shots are not romanticized nor purposely gritty and rough. They are to create the world that the characters live in, and to offer the viewers a glimpse of a real world at a time alien to them.

The still, slowly paced out shots give an atmosphere of quiet observation. The camera and editing don’t tell the story, the city does.  This is highly effective at offering the film’s viewers the opportunity to look in and observe the world for themselves, but never does the film stop to judge. The world and the characters are what they are. The all the shots in this segment sit quietly with the characters as they go about their lives.

In all the segments, the view of the world shifts from the outer in the city, to the inside of the taxi (the world of the character) and then back out again. I think this is important in carrying the film. You ask yourself what (if anything) has changed, and you are reminded that this is only one of the countless stories within the city. This shift of perspective through the camera shots brings a satisfying conclusion to each story. The shots change to being out in the real world again, and we leave the characters forever.

A second film that has inspired me is the Australian film Balibo, directed by Robert Connolly, with cinematography by Tristan Milani.

The reason the cinematography grabbed me in this film is because of the stark contrast between the ‘current’ world with the characters Roger East and Jose Ramos-Horta  and the past world of the Balibo Five.

Trailer featuring both cinematography styles.

Cinematography is fairly conventional throughout Roger and Jose’s investigation, though the use of actual locations and shots of East Timor bring realism to the film. The parallel action in the film follows approximately the same locations and action. It is confronting to see a peaceful village in the past instantly destroyed and overrun with soldiers in the present. What strengthens each section is the contrast between them. The realism of the ‘present’ time, with its consistent time span and uncovering of the mystery causes the candid, documentary-style ‘past’ time section of the film seem much more idyllic, yet constantly threatening.

What I found most interesting was Milani’s use of gritty 16mm to capture the journey of the Balibo Five, emulating the cameras the journalists themselves carried, as well as offering a journalistic, documentary style to the film. The dramatic tension throughout is high, as the viewer is plunged straight into the action, moving with the journalists at all times.

“Final Showdown” scene for the Balibo Five

There is almost constant movement and candid action in these shots, as there would have been in the real footage of the journalists. The viewer is made to feel like they are looking in at a long-lost moment in time, especially when all of the journalists’ equipment and stock is burned at the end.

The Balibo Five sections of the film carried a great deal of poignancy, especially during some of the happier scenes when they get to know the locals in a village and when they go swimming. As their tragic fates have already been sealed in the other, later section of the film, the viewer is left to feel helpless, watching on as though everything has already happened. The grainy, nostalgic, newsreel feel gives a feel of observance, and the viewer feels helpless to change anything.

2-Minute Film Script, draft 2

Posted: March 21, 2012 in Stuff I make
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Because my major production has been giving me a headache, I’ve been working on my smaller film. Here it is, the day before I hand it in for feedback.

Ext. City. Just after sunset.

A shop is closing up for the night. People and cars move across a bridge. An electronic Billboard lights up the street. A tram pulls around a corner. Police sirens fade into the background to the sound of traffic.

(All these shots are optional/changeable. They are intended to establish the city, give it character. Show the many possible stories of this city, before focusing on one)

Ext. City Street. Night.

A few people shuffle along the gutter, around a crime scene roped off with police tape and then back onto the pavement. A few people peer in at the remains of the crime: A mess of blood, a sodden towel and a half full bottle of water.

Two police officers stand sentry, idly watching the crowds. One is an old, hardened sergeant. He has been around the beat for years, and this is just another night. He checks his watch. The other is a rookie constable, barely out of the academy. He nervously adjusts his cap.

Constable

It looks much redder than I thought it would.

Sergeant

Huh?

Constable

The blood, I mean. I thought it would’ve been a bit more brownish, you know?

Sergeant

You reckon that’s just from a little cut? Why don’t you ask the poor bastard whose guts are spread out on the pavement?

The sergeant laughs. The constable smiles nervously, trying to hide his naivety.

Constable

D’ya know if he’s alright?

Sergeant

Bah, wouldn’t have the faintest bloody idea. They had him packed up well before we got here. But what do you think? They taught you some things in that place, didn’t they? Jesus…

The constable glances in, visualizing the blood spilling out of a human body. He tries to lighten the Sergeant’s gruff mood.

Constable

Guess he’d be feeling a bit sore then?

Sergeant

Probably too damn pissed to feel it. Fucking Abo’s. Can’t hold their bloody drinks.

The sergeant digs around in his jacket and pulls out a small flask.

Sergeant

Then the next thing you know it, they’re smeared out across pavement. No wonder they’re a bloody endangered species these days!

The sergeant finishes and takes a heavy swig from his flask. The constable shifts uncomfortably, unable to reprimand his senior. He glances around, trying to gauge the reactions of the sergeant’s remarks from passersby. From the crowd, a teenager takes a picture on his iPhone of the bloody scene.

Constable

Excuse me, you can’t do that-

Sergeant

Show some bloody respect, you filthy scoundrel!

The sergeant makes a show of chasing after the youth, before returning to his post.

Sergeant

Fucking vultures.

He takes another swig, and waves the flask at the constable, who shakes his head.

Sergeant

Ah, whatever.

Constable

When do we know anything?

Sergeant

What? Oh!

The sergeant laughs, loudly.

Sergeant

What you see is what you get, kiddo. A couple of blokes, pissed no doubt, tearing each other up on the streets. Probably be the last we hear of ’em, s’long as they’re both still alive.

The constable twitches.

Sergeant

Someone’ll press charges, someone’ll get their arse kicked I’d say. Open. Shut. And hopefully we’ll be home before fucking daybreak.

He spits on the pavement.

Constable

And that’s it?

Sergeant

Ha, you think you’re on fucking telly do ya?

The sergeant fiddles with the cap of his flask as the constable watches the road. A cleaning van pulls up alongside the curb. A man in heavy duty cleaning gear steps out then, and the sergeant hands him some paperwork.

Cleaner

So, all right then?

The sergeant nods, an then turns to the constable.

Sergeant

Thank Christ. I thought we’d be here all night. You sure, kiddo?

He waves the flask in front of the constable again. This time the constable accepts, and takes a nervous sip. The cleaners get to work.

EXT. CITY STREET. NIGHT.

The officers and cleaners are gone. The police tape has been removed. Crowds move through as though nothing has happened. A siren is heard in the background.

A couple of years ago, I found myself fascinated by the world of surrealism, especially in film. I did try to use elements of surrealism in my year 12 Media production Get Out (whether that was for better of worse I don’t know).

I suppose opposite to having a concrete story and characters and plot, I find the focus of the visuals, the music, and the symbolic nature of everything so interesting. I don’t find any need to intellectualize anything, just see the absurdity for what it is.

Anyway, I found a couple of short films on YouTube that were my inspiration, I thought you might enjoy them!

Three-Minute Film School:

Severance:

The following scenes are taken from the 2005 Australian Western The Proposition, directed by John Hillcoat and written by Nick Cave.

The  scene depicts Mikey Burns being lashed for crimes of rape and murder, cut with scenes of his two brothers, Charlie and Arthur,  and other outlaws deep in outback Australia.

What grabbed me the first time I saw this film, let alone this scene, was the poignancy of all the characters’ stories. In what is portrayed as an uncivilized wasteland, all the characters have carved out enough of a living just to get by. This, along with the sharp juxtapositioning of shocking violence of this world create an engaging conflict.

When I saw this scene for the first time, I felt very uneasy. The beautiful singing Samuel, who turns out to be one of the most violent characters in the film, sets a conflicting, heart wrenching tone to the flogging of Mikey, the most innocent and child-like of all the characters in this film. The music creates connection between the brothers, despite their physical distance and differences.

The mise-en-scene is stunning. The harsh reality of the place is captured in the worn and dusty costumes, the thousands of flies, the endless brown surrounds. Wide angle shots let the viewer become immersed in the world, and the people looking on. It is almost like a close study. You can see the weariness in their eyes, the flies on their backs, the pool of blood splashing onto the ground.

Ultimately the horror of the scene is the moment the music ends. The viewer is plunged straight into the audience of townspeople, watching indifferently the violent punishment. Forty lashes, and blood is being squeezed into the dust. The dull thud of the whip and the incessant counting the only sounds now. The beauty of the singing, the longing and the loneliness, make the real world seem very cruel and bleak.

It’s this violent, captivating scene that is a major turning point in the story. All is lost for Stanley, who is left feeling guilty for punishing a likely innocent man, breaking his promises and finding himself jobless. Charlie, who has struggled in his loyalty to his brother Arthur, has not killed him, breaking his promise. This cruel, indifferent world has reached breaking point, and so have the characters, leading them to their final showdown.

It’s these sorts of scenes that although make me feel very uncomfortable, stay with me for a long time. So bravo, Mr Hillcoat. You’re just lucky Nick Cave found you first.

I decided I wanted to make stories on film around about when I was seventeen; at some stage between filming my friends jumping up and down on a trampoline on a metaphorical musical acid trip and being crushed by a human wall of death whilst recording a local hardcore gig (evidence of both are unfortunately available of YouTube).  I can’t say it was ever a conscious decision, but I began to realize my love for creating stories through film when I started staying up all night and spending all weekend editing school movie projects and drawing storyboards just for the fun of it.

What appeals to me is both the immersion and the economy. With film, unlike any other art form, I have the ability to direct my audience into my own world, the movement, images, music and sound, are all cohesive in creating a world to share with others, no other is quite so sensually engaging . And it can happen so quickly. The power of all those elements together can turn an epic story into a single glance. You can write for pages about a sunset, or a busy street or a dying old man or anything, but nothing compares to taking the audience into your world and giving them the real thing.

First, and foremost, I love writing and telling stories. I have ever since I learned how to write, and my primary school years were filled with ghosts, friendly monsters, one-eyed aliens, thieves and isolated Antarctic communities. I loved the way I could use language to express feeling and images and thoughts. A tree was always more than a tree, every word could be loaded to have many meanings, and there is so much that a reader can imagine and interpret in a good story. It was always a creative challenge I loved doing for as long as I can remember. This just naturally progressed through my years at high school to sounds and moving pictures.

I won’t lie, it’s definitely the spectacle of film which I think triumphed over other storytelling. At school, every kid had to write a short story or a poem at some point. Whether it was any good is up to interpretation, but there wasn’t anything nearly as impressive as being able to dim down the lights, and have everyone absorbed in your creation.  The sounds and colours and images and everything just draw people in, and excite them. They are in your hands until the final credit rolls. This is how I want to share my stories.

The Staven Files

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Words of inspiration

Sup everybody, and welcome to the blog of the procrastinating film student! It is my hope that I may eventually write witty and inspiring things here. The blog has been named, I am writing my first post, so far, so good.

So, following that grand introduction, a bit about the nut behind the keyboard. I am a second year Bachelor of Film and Television student, who is living with Dad five days a week in South Melbourne (soon to be St. Kilda, if all goes well).  I hope that this year, I might be able to finish writing more scripts, rather than starting them for a page or two, then hiding them under obscure file names on my computer.

So far, so good. I was so busy procrastinating the beginning of this blog this weekend, I managed to write the script for my first film of the year. I’d like to call that being productive. I hope this is a consistent trend.

I enjoy playing the guitar badly, cooking with too much garlic and trying to imagine what my life would be if it was set to a sound track (I like to think I’d inspire a sort of epic sweeping orchestral score, dotted with Rocky Horror style musical numbers). I’d like to get around to watching all the classic films I have yet to see, and have been meaning to see.

Thank you for your time. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.