Posts Tagged ‘night on earth’

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.