We eventually settled on this design for our film poster. straying away from the idea of busts we settled upon using a scene that is similar to a frame from our film in order to draw an obvious link. At the same time however, in order to avoid using one persons concept more than the others we elected to come up with a handful of other ideas for alternate posters as a group and pin them up in the background of the main posters.
Below is the primary concept of our poster and preceding this post (Alternate Post Ideas) is the scans of our background posters.
Our film is stereotypical classicism. A realistic world with the one aspect that is added to take the real and give it a childish sense of fantasy: the alien.
The gritty northern drama aspect of the film – the lack of dialogue, the bleakness of the cinematography, the slow, wavering pacing – are all complimented by the childish charm of our protagonists, who are essentially both the same… an old alien man, unaware of the ways of our world, and Kat, a young girl who prefers to live in a fantasy Sci-Fi. Classicism in our film is used to put a realistic perspective in place; a realistic situation which audiences, both young and old can relate to. The young for the opportunity of meeting an extraterrestrial, innocent being made to teach and nurture, and the old for the sense of betterment, and forgiveness with the deliciously creative minds of young children.
The realism in our film comes from the harsh reality of Northern England in the 80’s era. The drab and serious tones that come from aspects of the film bring it down to reality, giving the realism side of our classicism piece. The character of Uncle is taking on the embodiment of this realism by being a stern, grumbly man. This constant mood of flat and depressed personifies the time period and the resonance of this character on the scenes that he is in.
Another factor is the dysfunctional family that Uncle and Kat live in. This projects the reality of the world, that everyone wasn’t a perfect happy family and that many had broken families. by incorporating this it is like recording the history of the time period instead of what the media presents a family to be like.
Our film, being more on the realistic side of the spectrum, doesn’t have must formalism in it. However, there is one particular scene that is more formalism than classicism. The scene is that of when the alien comes to his demise at the hands of the Uncle. The last shots of this event bring the formalism side to the film. The shots consist of the characters of Kat, Uncle and Him being plucked out of the real world and into this dark and isolated specter. With surrounding black backgrounds and only a singular light to show the character. These scenes are done to show the full extent of emotions from each character as the life-changing event occurs. It brings them out of the normal world and into their own. This can be seen as formalism as this can not occur in real life or even an exaggerated world. It brings the audience into their minds and shows how each character is feeling at this point in time.
A good example of this is in “LA LA Land” when Mia is singing ‘Somewhere in the Crowd”.
Realism, Formalism and Classicism. Three different styles of film making that sit at varying points on the same spectrum.
Realism is the type of film making most preferred by the Lumiere brothers to name an example. In realism, there are no trained actors or sets or even lighting; everything is acted out by untrained bystanders and the plot of the film revolves entirely around day to day events without anything that isn’t outside of the realms of possibility in the real world. each scene is hot using real buildings and locations as opposed to perfectly designed sets, the actors play themselves and the only source of lighting is that which is present in the world; the sun, street lamps, etc. In a similar vein, usage of advanced camera equipment is minimal beyond the camera itself; a tripod at most.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have formalism which is totally unconcerned with the trappings of reality. The use of artificial sets is prevalent in the style and the focus is often on extravagant and outlandish plot lines that are set in equally odd worlds rather than any sort of accurate representation of reality. Georges Melies for example sent several people to the moon (which has a face) in a bullet where they encountered aliens, fled in terror, got back in the giant bullet, turned around and went home; all without the aid of any oxygen devices. Formalism is more akin to 20th century art than any other type of film, the fact that both formalism and surrealism saw their rise in the same century is likely no coincidence.
Sitting right in the middle of the two styles as a way of bridging the gap between the two is classicism. In the modern era classicism is the dominant form of film making. Elements of realism appeal to an audience as it grounds the film and aids in relating to plot lines and characters but too much realism makes for a very boring film in the eyes of many viewers. This results in a sort of pseudo realism that, in a way, fools the audience into believing in the many characters. Take Rambo for example. We know that realistically one half naked man can’t stand in a field with an assault rifle, take on a small army and not reload once. We choose to believe it however. this goes a long way to explaining the rising popularity of superhero films.
The rest of the group all created their own variations on our poster premise.
With Star Wars in mind I began a draft of my poster for our film; busts of characters such as the alien dominating the background, smaller busts of the uncle and policewoman and a full bodied scene of the two children in a sort of triangular shape.
Below are the callsheets for two of our shoots. Every major shoot has an associated callsheet and the vast majority of the small, extra shoots have call sheets. This has prevented any mishaps in regards to timing, costumes or locations and is something I feel is neccesary for a smooth filming experience.
In the interest of keeping abreast of the filming process we have endeavored to document our plans in the log book we have kept. Below are several of the pages.
UNCLE: Douglas Rooks. 60+ y/o. White British.
If you take a look at any of the film projects made at Titus Salt School, DR is the go-to actor. We have had the opportunity to work with him on several occasions and have never been let down by his talent. He has the great look for a roughed-up nasty detective/father-figure. He appears to be excited for the project.
KAT: Libby Aske. 9 years old. White-British.
We chose Libby because she has the perfect look for a bright and inquisitive young girl, and has acting experience. She is impressively mature for her age.
HIM: Peter Cook. 80 years old. White-British.
Our decision to have Peter as the alien character is based on his lanky, though wise and aged appearance, as well as his boyish mannerisms which will carry through on screen.
TOBY: Evan Hughes. 14 years old. White-British.
We chose Evan with thanks to the drama teacher at our school. He was recommended to us as he has experience with acting – including acting groups etc – as well as links to the TV/Film industry through family. He looks young for his age and appears to be mature and easy to work with.
Rufus: Winston. 4 years old. Dog.
Winston plays perhaps the most important side role in the whole story; that of Rufus, Kat’s dog.
And that rounds up our cast list. Due to the nature of a short film the cast it’s a short list but I do feel that we have some not inconsiderable talent on hand.
On Sunday the 10th of December – escaping the snow by the skin of our teeth – we hosted a full cast and crew meeting at James’ house in order to present the actors with the initial call sheet and a thorough overview of the production schedule. We feel that this further gained people’s interest in the project, and excited them.
Recently Disney have made a move to acquire Fox’s film components. Fox have retained their news and sport channels but they are selling off everything they have in relation to film and entertainment, including movie licenses such as the X-Men which is likely to have interesting ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The asking price is $52.4 billion and is clearly Disney’s next step on the path to “unlimited power.”
Another interesting facet of the deal is that if Fox’s acquisition of Sky goes through before the Fox Disney deal then Disney will also gain control of a majority share in Sky as well. Thanks to the concept of consolidation control of a full 90% of the American media has gone from the hands of 50 separate companies in 1983 to a mere 6 companies now. Somewhat worryingly with the acquisition of fox, Disney will control the equivalent of two of those companies and as such will have a huge amount of sway over what reaches the public, especially with the inclusion of Sky.
The most important aspect of character creation in film is making the audience care about them, something that is exponentially harder in a short film simply due to the fact that you have substantially less time to develop the character to its fullest extent as one can in a full length production.
Making the Audience Care
To start with, making the audience care follows a handful of general rules. One aspect is the viewer’s imagination, many films have had romantic scenes for example in which there is no dialogue, only music and we, the audience, fill in the blanks ourselves. This freedom of interpretation with characters, the ability to impose one’s own ideas on a character or scene, helps with relating to a character.
Another integral point is the characters ‘itch’, their drive to perform certain actions. A mother characters ‘itch’ in a drama for example may be to work two jobs in order to provide for her two children. This is naturally a very stereotypical example but it holds weight nonetheless as a prime example of a character with a goal, a motivation. To see a character working towards something humanises them and allows the audience to relate to them, another important factor in making a character likable.
The aforementioned importance of relating to a character is perhaps the most important of them all as some degree of emotional resonance is required to understand a character, any character be it hero or villain. If the audience has no avenue through which to invest themselves in a character then they won’t be able to bring themselves to care what happens to them.
In Relation to a Short Film
In the context of a short film as compared to a full length feature film or TV series everything has to be condensed; characters still have motivations, back stories and blanks which the audience fill in themselves but for one you can only develop a small handful of characters at most due to time constraints and secondly you have to exercise efficiency with your shots in order to both develop a character and not spend so long making us care for the character that there’s no time for them to actually do anything.
What follows is the newspaper I have created for use in two separate scenes. Our intention is to acquire some blank newspaper to print it on a couple of days before we first use it on set. This will give it time to acquire small stains and crinkles which will further enhance the integrity of the mise en scene.
Below is a mood board of the eighties style of clothing, its relevance to our film being our slightly retro backdrop. this gives us an idea, a visual indication of the sorts of clothing that would be appropriate for our cast.
In the interest of propriety we reached out to the parents of our chosen child actors for their permission and any conditions they may have for us with the below permission forms.
For our short film with it being our own ideas and style we’ll have to come up with our own look. This will involve pre-production research into colour grading and how it will affect the feel of the film. The colour grade of certain scene can even effect the mood of the scene, for example: warmer colours are more associated with happiness and comfort, while colder colours are associated with comfortableness and loneliness. Moreover colour grading can be associated with different time periods and equipment it is filmed on. This can be things like: super 8 and super 16 film.
In our film we are going for a kind of style that takes inspiration from super 16’s filmic look while also making use of the current technology. This can be achieved by having similar colour science, with things such as grain and yellow mid-tones, but while using the same frame rate and sharpness in current camera technology.
In film most people use look up tables (LUT’s). These are presets that are done by professional colourists to give a shot a certain look and feel. By having these settings as LUT’s it allows you to have certain settings applied to multiple shots in a package that allows you to use it on multiple projects. We think in our short film it would be easier, but more time consuming to create a colour grade for each individual scene rather than trying to find a LUT that can cater to the short film as a whole.
We created a few looks that give the type of feel that we are going for:
Super 8 Inspired:
This grade is heavily inspired by day light super 8 grading. Super 8 has a very heavy emphasis on yellow in the mid-tones and heavy grain, with the addition of very soft images only achievable by turning off in-built sharpness in a modern day camera. In addition to the the shadows and highlights are raised to give it that soft non-contrast look.
Super 8 Cool:
This grade is very similar to super 8 daylight but similar to dim lit or night time shot super 8. With the obvious mid-tones being much colder and the image being overall darker as super 8 could not handle dim or low light as well as 30mm or modern day full frame.The blacks in super 8 and as well as super 16 are often not as dark or crunchy as normal film black, in addition to the whites not being true white and being more of a grey tinge. This is a staple part of both super 8 and super 16 film look.
Super 16 Inspired:
With super 16 the light and colour performance was much better than super 8. This allowed for better work in dim light and retaining more richer colours. With super 16 the mid-tones kind of role off of the highlights to create a nice soft look and the shadows are quite bright in some areas. It has less grain that super 8, but in this grade we decided to add a grain overlay to give it a more authentic look. In addition to this the colours are more well balanced, so we decided that we would decided to give it a more colder look that warmer. with magenta and yellows in the highlights and greens in the mid-tones to counteract.
Catharsis; “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” This is the traditional interpretation of the term catharsis as coined by Aristotle sometime in the fourth century BC. Literally meaning to cleanse oneself emotionally, the term was picked up first by literature and, much later, by film. In the context of a story catharsis is the moment of relief when the villain is defeated for example, or when the hero escapes a trap. Every film worth its salt has a moment of catharsis, romances have the characters finally fall in love, action has the hero defeating the villain; it goes on.
By its very nature catharsis can occur several times over the course of the film and to a degree it is dependent upon the viewer and what they view to be a stressful scenario. In our short film for instance we have three major points of catharsis in the plans; finding out the old man has powers, discovering he is an alien and the suggestion that he has survived at the end. These points of catharsis bring me onto the next point; its not always about stress in the traditional sense, it is more akin to anticipation in some cases. What defines something as catharsis is the release, not the emotion itself.
Due to the nature of film making there are likely to be several more instances of catharsis on a smaller scale but they have not been fleshed out as of yet as integral to the plot. If more moments end up our film, they’ll likely be spontaneous or incidental additions.
Binary opposition is essentially two concepts that are the opposite of each other; hero and villain, man and woman, young and old, kindness and cruelty. All these are very simple examples of the concept. It more predominantly applies to a media text in regards to characters. In our production the binary opposite is that of the uncle and the alien; both are seemingly older men and yet that is where the similarities end. Where one is gruff the other is gentle, one is rude and abrasive whilst the other is considerate and kind, loud and mute; it goes on.
Binary opposites always have a link in some way, shape or form otherwise they wouldn’t really be considered opposites, they’d simply be unrelated. In the traditional example of hero and villain the link is usually their point of contention; the princess, the kingdom, the world, etc. The common link between our characters is Kat, she is what forces them to interact within the plot at all and as such provides them with something in common with which to establish their ‘binary opposition’.
Todorov’s Three Part Structure
In perhaps the best simplification of narrative structure Todorov tells us that every media text follows equilibrium, disequilibrium and resolution. In our production the equilibrium would be the point at which Kat and Toby are communicating, meeting up and so on; the world is as it should be. Following this is the disequilibrium in which the alien is discovered and continues all the way through to his ‘death’ which is the resolution (his hinted survival is also part of this). In a sense our narrative structure goes against convention as the disequilibrium is not the negative point, the resolution is.
Todorov’s Five Part Structure
On a related note, Todorov also invented two additional parts which constitutes a five part structure; equilibrium, disequilibrium, recognition of the disequilibrium, an effort to restore the equilibrium and the resolution. The two new stages (third and fourth) add more detail to a structure when the concept is laid out, aiding the planning process. This detail splits the aliens arrival in two; the aliens arrival itself (disequilibrium) and the children’s discovery of him (recognition). The first attempt at resolution is the uncles attempt to remove the alien from his house, something that ends in seemingly tragic failure and, obviously, the other three stages are as above.
Written by Alfie Tennant
Catharsis is an Aristotelian term. “Fear poisons life with anxiety” “Catharsis can flush the feeling from our minds; clears the air” “Catharsis is the sense of purgation or relief.”
It can be put as the “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh” moment. Watch either of these examples which show some of the biggest a-ha! moments out there.
Considering that a catharsis can be as minute as possible, and many can occur in just one text, what moment in the Iron Giant clip was the catharsis?
The realisation of his powers as an alien robot you say, superb! Well it’s important to notice that a catharsis is a device that truly makes a film.
Why are we interested in catharis? Short films are short by definition and we feel that for it to be an enjoyable short, it needs some sort of key catharsis.
Another reason why we chose the Iron Giant clip was because it is an example of a Sci-Fi text. Why is it?
The advanced alien robot character might be a hint.
Science Fiction is defined as a genre having conventions of advancements in science or technology.
Because of the broadness of this genre, having such a wide scope for writers and directors to play with, there are so many different uses of the term science fiction – and it’s easy to forget that.
Most people, in thinking about ‘Science Fiction’ might sigh and think of tinny products like Doctor Who, Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. On the other hand, people may leap straight to the bigger Sci-Fis; Star Wars, Blade Runner, or Alien.
Many forget about controversial texts whioch are less-conventional, i.e. Inception, Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ex-Machina. These are texts which don’t fully adopt the many conventions of Sci-Fi, and only focus on one.
The Iron Giant is again, an unusual Sci-Fi, as it’s only defined as being so because of its sole robot element.
Sci-Fi is a genre that allows for so many ‘cool’ things to happen. It’s a genre that is entirely speculative, most of the Sci-Fi’s out there present issues which could happen/have already happened. The iconic ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….’ tagline is a way for nerds to uphold the slightest possibility of some form of Star Wars situation happening at some point somewhere – it simply can’t be disproved. This way, Sci-Fi films can complete the utmost form of escapism – by creating situations so far from our own, that we may temporarily forget that our own issues exist in the 90 minutes whilst watching a film.
For short film purposes, much of Sci-Fi is based around an idea that is simply developed over and over until you’re left with something so epic that the idea is lost under all the layers of Hollywood ganache. With a short, you can explore an idea, and only the idea. The actors won’t distract you from it’s meaning, and there isn’t enough time to ruin the idea, unless you’re a remarkably bad filmmaker.
Short films are used as devices to showcase a particular artist’s style. Our short film will need a particular style in order to follow conventions of the format.
Looking at films like Under The Skin and Ex-Machina we can see a bleakness in the way that the stories are presented both visually and dramatically. This is in stark contrast to many of the over-sensationalised Sci-Fi blockbusters. Some directors and artists carry their styles across their films. Wes Anderson for example is famous for his almost-symmetry, his technicolour wash palette, and his slow, calculated humour. Michael Bay on the other hand is famous for his over-use of slow motion, shiny objects and explosions. Each of these will have picked up their styles from other directors, authors and artists alike. Now it’s our turn to do the same.
Moonrise Kingdom provides our character material – the humour between them.
Stranger Things gives genre and setting, the retro-futuristic 1980s charm. We’d love to explore an 80s style in our short film.
E.T. gives the relationship between an alien and a child.
Donnie Darko provides thought-provoking dialogue useful in shorts.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople is genius for it’s use of comedy between the two lead characters, Taika Waititi knows best.
Her has a palette which is a bleak entanglement of Blade Runner and Donnie Darko.
True Detective provides both stunning and sinister visuals.
The Iron Giant gives the perfect sweet narrative and relationship that we aim to create in our short.
What will influence our style?
Our idea goes like this: A young girl and her friend encounter an old alien man who appears to have no recollection of where he is. His only method of communication is through the use of electrical devices.
We decided that some of the themes that should come out of our short film will be:
Coming of Age,
It’s an ambitious idea, but between the four of us, we’ve had a lot of practice. All we need to do is have careful time management, to be respectful of our actors and crew, and to think about the story the whole time. We are lucky in having access to a wide range of technologies, such as high-end Nikon DSLR cameras, lenses, and film-quality sound equipment. The fun side of the production can come in practical and visual effects, which will be used sparingly, but even so – practice with these will be fundamental.