Daniel Henshall as John Bunting in Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown (Photo IFC Films)

I finally got around to watching Snowtown last night, after loads of people had told me to. Perhaps by myself in the dark at night wasn’t the best way to do it though. It was the performance of Daniel Henshall as John Bunting, Australia’s most infamous serial killer, which made it such a gripping and disturbing experience.

I flicked through the special features on the DVD, and I found the original casting clips of several of the characters. I watched Henshall’s and was impressed with his ability to carry the constant threat of violence, and lack of compassion even in audition. It is a chilling performance among many other great performances.

Throughout the film there was hardly a scene in which Henshall isn’t smiling, relishing in his power. The way in which he is shown manipulating all who are around him, and slowly tearing them apart is so much more horrifying for all the pleasure and lack of empathy he shows. He takes Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) to show him the bodies of Gavin and Barry, showing them off to him like trophies. This complete disconnection from the horror of his actions is confronting. He grooms Jamie to be a part of his sadistic, perverted lifestyle almost effortlessly; such is his charisma and ability to manipulate.

It is interesting to note that not once is the audience given a moment to feel sympathy, or a see a weakness in his character. He is positioned to be in control in every scene he is in. He is always loud, opinionated, and dominating in whatever conversation he is in. Yet, underneath his jovial and blokey manner, there is always the threat of violence, and the audience is enthralled, just waiting for him to explode. As the film is based on a true story, and a very well-known one at that, it is always a challenge to bring such infamous characters to life. Henshall creates the perfect portrait of a serial killer, exactly how I would have imagined him.

So now back to our scheduled work…

BLOG TASK 3: (due week12 semester 1)

Given the screenwritingexercises you have been doing the for past few weeks you should by now be experts at discerning a stories central dramatic question, defining character choices and nominating ‘whose film’ it is.

I would like you to take a short film or substantial scene  and analysis it in the following ways:

1. Establish whose story it is?
2. What is the central dramatic question of the short film/scene? When is the question asked? When is the question answered? Is it answered in the positive or the negative? Is it answered at all? How does it (or not) reflect the thematic questions of the scene/short film?
3. What choices does the central character make that defines their journey through he scene/short film?

AND GO!

The vignette above, Cousins comes from the larger piece Coffee and Cigarettes, directed by Jim Jarmusch.  The scene revolves around the relationship between the famous Cate Blanchett, playing herself, and her fictional cousin Shelley.

Although we first meet Cate, waiting for Shelley, it is clear that this is Shelley’s story, as she attempts to reconnect with her cousin, as well as undermine her glamorous lifestyle. The central dramatic question is will Shelley gain the respect of Cate, and fit in with her famous life? Whist, yes, I know I should be trying to find something more ‘practical’, this seemed to be the only conclusion I could find.

The dramatic question is posed right near the start of the scene. Cate doesn’t not remember the name of Shelley’s boyfriend, and has not read any of Shelley’s letters. Shelley attempts to empathise with Cate about the frustrations of the paparazzi and being famous, but is in fact attempting to undermine her. The two women then continue to not connect, with Shelley undermining Cate and refusing to share her boyfriend’s music. Cate gives Shelley a bag of ‘swag’, failing to understand how frustrating her privleges are to those outside the glamour of showbiz. The answer to the question is a resounding no. Whilst Shelley initially tries to copy Cate and be like her when they order coffee, she is reduced to mocking her hand gestures by the end. The two promise to catch up again, but the chances of it happening for a long time are unlikely. It seems that the cousins will not be able to find a common ground.

At the conclusion, Shelley defies Cate after she has left, removing her glamorous fur coat, revealing a T-shirt. She orders a double tequila and lighting another cigarette. She is told she is not allowed to smoke in the lounge, despite doing so earlier with her cousin, again emphasizing the difference in class and lifestyle, and how irreconcilable their worlds are. Curious it is that Jarmusch chose to use Cate in both roles, perhaps hinting that the fame is really the only thing separating them.

Throughout the scene, Shelley is the far more active one, and her major actions are –

  • Offering Cate a cigarette and smoking with her.
  • Attempts to copy Cate whilst ordering coffee.
  • Adds five sugar cubes to her coffee.
  • Admits she has used Cate’s name to get into a club.
  • Confronts Cate about not reading her letters or listening to her boyfriend’s CD.
  • Refuses to share her boyfriend’s CD.
  • Admits she didn’t send a CD after all.
  • Subversively suggests her gift from Cate is swag.
  • Affirms Cate and thanks her, though she is really attempting to undermine her status.
  • Refuses Cate’s offer to go up to her room.
  • Takes off her glamourous coat, orders tequila and takes out a cigarette.
  • Puts away her cigarette.

Through these actions the viewer can trace Shelley’s awe and jealously for Cate, which slowly turns to contempt. She has attempted to fit in with the glamourous lifestyle, talking about her boyfriend’s band, and discussing a club she has been to, but she finds herself ultimately disgusted by the lifestyle: “It’s just funny, don’t you think? When you can’t afford something, it’s like really expensive, but then when you can afford it, it’s like, free. It’s kinda backward, don’t you think?”

Here is a short piece. I met a particularly colourful character whilst waiting for trams tonight. His name was Ray, he owns a whitegoods store, was about forty-five, wore a suit, had been drinking, and was very friendly. Here is what happened when he found someone else to talk to. We’ll call him George. This has mostly been taken from memory, though the last part, mostly involving John Travolta, came from a discreet voice recording I tried to get. I have attempted to copy the conversation as best I could, but unfortunately there are gaps. But never mind, Ray had some interesting things to say:

Ray, on Marriage and Whitegoods

This is a piece that was written on the journey to and from VCA on the tram today. I haven’t written the script yet, and I’m using this spare time to try and get right into the back of my story, and explore the origins of the characters. This is a diary entry from the protagonist, James, probably from a time after the period in which my film ill be set. It explores the first night he suffered sexual abuse by his mother, and some back story to their relationship. This isn’t a back story set in stone, but it gave me an interesting insight into the psychology behind the Mother-Son relationship in my story.

22/5/12

It wasn’t that weird at first. She used to come into my room some nights after I had gone to bed and show me pictures of my Dad. Ones from when he was younger, fooling around with all his friends, and ones of him and Mum, before stuff got bad. She won’t show me the later ones. I always wondered if there ever were any. She told me over and over, and I had to admit I shared a certain likeness to my father. I looked nothing like her. There was something in the eyes, and the chin.
This one particular night she came in. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the night of what would have been their tenth anniversary. I think she’d been crying. Her face was still a bit red, and her voice slightly haggard as she came to say good night. She tried her hardest to hide it, though some of the photos were stained, and still slightly damp. I tried to hug her, but she felt stiff, strange, distant. And then in a moment she became like water, and fell into me, squeezing me tight. She wore that exact same perfume that night I would come to dread over the coming years. Light and fruity at first, then fuller, richer beneath.
She pulled away from me, as suddenly as she had fallen, and looked me dead in the eyes. “It’s been ten fucking years, and now he still won’t leave me alone! Bastard!” she slapped me sharply across the face. My cheek stung, but I sat for a moment, too stunned to say anything. Then I sobbed, unsure of what was wrong. She grabbed me and pulled me in tight. She stroked my hair softly, just as she used to when I came to her, fearful from some nightmare. I quickly hushed in her warm embrace, still confused about her reaction to the hug. She spoke quickly and softly. “It’s okay, darling, I’ll be here. You won’t leave me. I love you, don’t fret. You can’t leave me”. She rambled on. I think she was comforting herself more than anything else. I felt her free hand begin to trace to bones of my skinny chest. Her caressing touch was so soft and gentle. I didn’t move, but as her hand moved with more urgency, I shifted back. She held me down tighter. “It’s okay darling, I’m here” she cooed, trying to abate my agitation. Her hand then went lower, reaching my leg, though I didn’t move then. My mother knew what to do, and I loved her. She was all I had. But somewhere in the back of my self I knew this was something I couldn’t tell anyone else. It was something so intensely private, but I’d never felt so exposed in all my life.
After what felt like an age, but was really only minutes, she left me. “Now go to sleep honey. I’ll see you in the morning”. She smiled and tucked me in as though nothing had happened. “It’s okay, not many people know what it’s like to have to grow up without a daddy. We’ll keep this in this room, special yes?” I nodded mechanically at this, not knowing what it entailed. “I love you James”. She kissed me on the forehead and left me alone in the dark. I lay awake for hours afterwards. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so exposed and ashamed and love at the same time. I tossed and turned, weighing up the feelings in my mind that I knew I could share with anyone. I finally fell into a restless sleep. I was ten.

Monday was finally the big shooting day. My cast and crew braved the cold and the myriad of curious passer-bys to shoot this little film.  The final shooting locations were in Prahran, on Commercial Rd and Greville St.

I scored some fantastic performances from the talented Jeremy Kewley and Lucas Linehan, who nailed the necessary ‘one-take wonders’ needed to squeeze the four-page script into 400ft of film stock.

There was some fantastic visual stuff going on, especially at the Greville St location in front of Greville records, and the red and blue flashing lights worked nicely.

Tuesday night was unfortunately very wet and miserable, as well as being my designated night for collecting my city ‘atmos’ shots. I believe that we found some interesting features of the streets, especially a big ‘liquor store’ sign. How very fitting for the script!

Anyway, here are a few stills from the shoot:

The other night was the first location search for my film Beat. I need two locations. One needs to be a busy street with shops and a service lane, the other needs to be some shops in a quiet place (like a lane or carpark) that I can cheat to look busy.

I also took the liberty of taking a few shots that I felt captured the atmosphere of my piece. These were shot with a Canon 7D with an 18-135mm lens. Where I could, I kept my settings at the widest aperture, ISO 500 and shutter speed at 50 in order to emulate the amount of light I will get out of the film stock, though this was often not possible.

I will need somewhere that has access to power. Iwas unable to find one, but a ‘nice’ carpark with a few shops would be ideal.

Also I would like to apologize for the horrific formatting of this post. I still haven’t got my head around it.

Corner Fawkner and Acland StThis Milk Bar was very close to home and one of the first shots I took. I like the look of it, but nearby restaurant noise and music made it a bit unusable. I think I perhaps want a bit more of a ‘metropolitan’ feel? This was at the corner of Fawkner and Acland St, St Kilda.

The Laundrette and car park were two contrasting places.  The laundrette had the advantage of being well lit and open throughout the night. The car park with its dim light and dump masters gave the ‘dirty, gritty’ feel I’ve wanted. Might make for a good shot in the film opening.

The following photos I took because I liked the colours and atmosphere. I cannot necessarily recall where I took them all, but at least one of them was taken from a tram.

The soft focus of the city lights, oranges and reds and warm greens contrasted against dirty blacks and browns. Although I don’t feel I’ve captured a busy, living place, if I could liven up this sort of atmosphere, it would be perfect.

Some more locations for filming:

 An arcade at the back of a carpark near a supermarket on Carlisle st.

 Near a pizza restaurant.

 An undercover car park.

I didn’t find any places I specifically wanted to use, as none suited my needs. I found wandering the streets at night very interesting. I think that I understand my film visually a lot better now.

The other day, I found what I hope will be suitable for my film. A little lane off Chapel st in Prahran. I’ve forgotten its name at present but I am going there tonight with my camera. I will use the clothing store/ record store as the main background. Here are some photos I took at dusk. There is a convenient car park just across the road, and it is close to public transport.

Now I just need to work out power…

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
Tags: , ,

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: