Second Shoot – A success. 18/12/17

In the first scene of this film making showreel, I have included footage from what we shot on Monday the 18th. As you can see, this is not a scene it is just a visual compilation set to the OST Soundtrack which I composed and recorded myself. The fact I’ve used it as a device to apply to University with, showcases the shoot’s success.

James Wentworth-Weedon – Filmmaking Showreel from James Wentworth-Weedon on Vimeo.

We arrived at 09:30am, with all the equipment. We set up quickly and the cast arrived by 10:00am.

 

Simpsons said it first.

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£52 billion dollars. Is that what it’s worth to bottleneck our sources of media, strangling yet another source of news and politics. Disney have made a deal with 20th Century Fox‘s Rupert Murdoch, in which they inherit “its 20th Century Fox movie and TV studios, cable networks and other international operations.” When this deal commences, Disney will take Fox FX, National Geographic, Sky, and Hulu.

As you can see in this disgraceful diahegram, we can see that Disney will eradicate 1/6 of the major media companies. Disney will inherit $78.4bn of market capital.

This deal strikes us as being peculiar as Murdoch has been focused on expanding his conglomerate as opposed to selling it. However this deal may prove a step in the right direction for Murdoch as he wished to focus on the news side of the business. This also makes sense as Fox executives believe that their film and TV assists wont be able to keep up in the world of merging media companies.

This deal also effects the sky news bid for the 61% that fox doesn’t own yet. This will directly effect the bid as Disney owning fox then takes over the offer and can end up buying into the rest of the Sky stocks. This outcome is highly supported by the UK government due to the mixed history of the company, such as the Phone hacking scandal.

 

Casting.

HIM: Peter Cook (my grandad). 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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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UNCLE: Douglas Rooks. 60+ y/o [not too sure]. 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. 

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Full Cast Meeting – 10/12/17

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Libby (Kat) and Evan (Toby) looking very interested in my presentation. 

On Sunday the 10th of December – escaping the snow by the skin of our teeth – we hosted a full cast and crew meeting at my house. It was 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.

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Peter (Him LEFT), Annabelle and James (CENTRE), Libby and Evan (RIGHT). 

This meeting, though painful to host on a Sunday morning at 10am, was fantastically productive, as it boosted the confidence of everyone involved – especially the two younger actors. It cleared up everything to do with narrative – i.e. the police aspect of the story. Also, some ideas were floating around the room – for instance, Libby contributed greatly towards a moment in the 5th scene of the short. Moreover, the meeting ensured that the actors knew where they needed to be and when. 

 

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It was also a great opportunity to capture head-shots of the actors.

Creating a Character in a Short Film

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.

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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.

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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 likeable.

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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.

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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.

Breaking down our audience

To ‘break down’ is to take something apart into its core components. When this term is applied to an audience this definition transfers over largely intact and as such we ask the question ‘What are the core components of an audience?’ and come up with the following sections; age, gender, ethnicity and class. There are other factors but we shall get to those later.

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Class

Class relates to audience due to simple fact that one’s class is the outline for one’s lifestyle. This has a massive amount of influence over what appeals to an individual and as such it’s an integral point of consideration in the decision making process as it is one of the things that allows for a producer to tailor their production to an audience type. For example our production would be targeted at the middle class as they are the primary consumers of mainstream media.

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Age

Age is another important factor due to the effect age has on a person’s character; with age comes wisdom as they say. Taken literally this suggests that older audience members prefer slower paced, introspective productions such as detective shows or period dramas like Downton Abbey. Younger audiences however are generally more inclined to a preference for fast paced action piece. Obviously this is a sweeping generalization but we can still learn something from it. Based on this alone it would make sense that our target audience would be younger rather than older.

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Ethnicity

Ethnicity is less important in the modern era due to the fact that there’s a lot more cultural crossover between races and as such there’s less of a stereotype as to what movies each race prefers. Furthermore, races are featured with more and more diversity in film and as such in most every film there’s someone for each viewer to identify with.

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Gender

Gender is the final significant factor to consider when breaking down an audience. There tends generally to be a marked difference in the filmic preferences of genders. Stereotypically men would prefer action sequences and testosterone fuelled action heroes whilst women would prefer a romance or romantic comedy. This is always something to consider when discussing the demographic of an audience.

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Our Audience

To conclude, based on these factors our target audience would be Caucasian, middle class men in their 30’s. To explain;

Middle class – Middle class people are the primary consumers of television and film and as such it makes clear sense to target them primarily.

White/Caucasian – Caucasian individuals also tend to watch more films and television as well which stereotypically goes hand in hand with the working class

Primary age: 30s – People of middling age tend to be a sort of middle ground for preferences in film; not drawn in completely by pure action, special effects and excitement and with some appreciation for the slower, more thought provoking pieces that stereotypically appeal more to older viewers.

Secondary age: 13-18, Tertiary age: 65 plus – these two ages are the two extremes of a viewer base and as our film includes both of the ages preferred styles of film we can safely label them as secondary and tertiary audiences.

Gender – Gender tends to be mostly neutral but sci-fi stereotypically attracts men more than women as a general rule. It’s not particularly something we have to focus on when filming.

 

Gettin’ That Look.

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 callousness 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:

Original Image:

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.

A pleasure to make.

Higher Coach Road Young Artist Group Video

Matthew and I were tasked with creating a bid video for the Higher Coach Road Young Artists Group. We were skeptical about going down and seeing what was going on. However, by the end of the project, we were amazed by the dedication and bigheartedness that this group exhibited. Nicola Murray, the art teacher, is has one of the brightest smiles you will see. An overwhelming selflessness by all members of the group was felt, there is a symbiosis, and furthermore – “something special” – going on down there, just on our school’s  doorstep.

This was a way for us to network our film-making skills among the local community. Our tactile use of sound equipment and cameras to create a documentary-style was excellent practice for our upcoming short film and future projects. We have a meeting with the Bradford Chief Executive of Film.

This was truly a pleasure to make.

What Makes A Good Character?

REALISM

We are humans, we have a lot of experience in understanding how characters behave. Even with texts that don’t feature humans – it would be foolish or art-house to create characters who are unrealistic.

RELATABILITY

If we can’t relate to a character do we really care whether they succeed or not. In every story we’ve ever read we for at least one moment consider ‘what if that were me’?

ACTIVE

A protagonist should certainly be active. It is their job to move the plot forwards. If Luke didn’t really give a sh*t that Vader planned on expanding the Empire by any brutal means necessary, you wouldn’t really have a Star Wars Nonology (I patented this word, it is mine now.)

MOTIVATIONS

Internal or external – a character’s motivations shape all their decisions. We as viewers have our own motivations. They might not be as far-fetched as plunging a ring into Mount Doom or finding the Lost Ark, but  still, they’re there.

FEAR

Spooky stuff makes people move quicker.

INTERNAL CONFLICT

This makes a character more realistic. If you can’t imagine an omnipresent soliloquy going on in someone’s head – tearing their decisions apart, then they’re a very dull character.

LAYERS/NUANCES/COMPLEXITIES

Anton Chigurh is a beautiful character. People come away from every film and know something about a character. In Indiana Jones, he doesn’t like snakes. It’s not quite as simple as that. People aren’t as simple as that.

Kat in our film, for example, is complex as she is provided with her emotional turmoil in the realms of her distorted father figure – this explains why she is so interested in gaining another.

 

What’s all the fuss about Science Fiction? Why do people love it so much?

Blumler and Katz can tell you the answer.

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Perhaps the most important part of this ‘basic model’ for us is the ‘entertain’ section, particularly the escapism part. Sci-fi and Fantasy are the two genres that most facilitate escapism. This is largely due to their setting, a reality that is usually so far removed from our own that we can ‘escape’ into this universe and not think about our own lives. When watching Star Wars for example you become absorbed in the story of heroes and villains, of star ships and laser guns and you don’t think for a moment about how it relates to your own existence. This is the purpose of sci-fi.

Even in productions like our own that have limited sci-fi elements and focus more on characters (soft sci-fi) the principle of escapism still applies heavily despite being set in a world very much like our own, perhaps even more so in a sense. It could be suggested that a sci-fi set in a world like our own in fact facilitates a greater degree of escapism as it becomes much easier to inject oneself into the narrative.

 

 

Media theory in relation to our screenplay

Catharsis

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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

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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’.

Furthermore, we have an instance of binary opposition between Kat and the alien. A young human girl, and an old extraterrestrial man. Although, their physical being is not what ties them together – their shared loneliness and sadness is what binds them.

Todorov’s Three Part Structure

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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

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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.

Storyboarding Progress

We feel it’s important to storyboard at the same time as the script is being written in order to clearly visualize every second of film. I personally love story-boarding – it encourages excitement for the actual ‘look’ of the film. It feels as if it’s coming together nicely. It also encourages us to think more logistically about how we will execute a shoot.

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This image shows us in a meeting regarding our thoughts on whether the shots are appropriate and work well with the script. 

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At this stage, we have constructed 56 frames which equates to about 2.5 pages of script, or 2 minutes of footage. Each frame is unfortunately not as well-coloured or polished as my GCSE work.

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A gorgeous, but unnecessary amount of detail was used in the GCSE trailer. Perhaps if we had focused more on shot framing and focusing and movement, the trailer might have been better, and less time would have been wasted. As long as you can understand where the subject is in the frame, what time of shot it is, the equipment; lenses and camera information i.e f-stop, and most importantly camera movement – you’ll be good.

Here is our preferred, more efficient layout. Less space is wasted in text boxes. sb layiout

Despite the aversion to detail – it is important to add some details in to strengthen the mise-en-scene. For example, here – I have a clear image in my head of what I want Kat’s bedside table to feature. In a couple months time on a stressful shoot, will I?

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Script-writing

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WE DID IT! By ‘it’ I mean part of it, but that’s a big part of it. Every film you have ever seen has had a script. In preparation to write this script, I had practice with others. For example, my Last Night script was a great challenge for me in writing multiple overlays of dialogue. However, this one is somewhat important to me, so I researched scripting in detail.

ALTERNATIVE SCRIPTWRITING

This is a fab read, which goes into the theory of dialogue and how people talk to each-other. Furthermore, it shows how to create tension in certain scenes in film.

Overlaying dialogue makes a scene feel more realistic, in real life, conversations are most often simply a battleground for word count.

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It took us a good while to get this script polished up. Researching character, establishing each of their mannerisms, looking into how we want to get people to like/have a bittersweet taste for certain identities in the short is all part of how we can make a meticulously well-crafted script.

 

On Set with Children; the Guidelines

There’s a lot of guidelines when it comes to working with children in a professional capacity, understandably so. Insurance policies, consent, counselling; the list goes on. Much of it doesn’t apply to us directly due to our situation (that of a school film production using the child of our teacher), what is important however is the onset conditions stipulated in Channel Fours guide on the topic. Transport is a nonissue but what will have to be given some thought is food, drink, shelter from the weather and timing.

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Food and Drink

Perhaps most important is our ability to provide something the children will enjoy. In my experience, the more content a child is the less likely they are to pitch a fit and whilst, of course, the wonderful Miss. Aske may be quite the consummate professional we still need to make sure that food is plentiful and drinks are warm in the interest of her happiness. Nobody performs as well if they’re belly is rumbling every two minutes and their throats gone croaky from so much talking; a decent snack is necessary for everyone’s enjoyment.

Shelter from the Weather

One of the obvious drawbacks to filming in the midst of a British winter is the miserable weather. Whilst a lot of our scenes are indoor shots, several of our more integral scenes take place out in the open. Due to our locations, the moor for example, we intend to insure that everyone there has thick coats and waterproofs to hand should the weather turn awry. What use is all that lovely food if you’re too cold to enjoy it?

Timing

In accordance with guidelines we intend to keep our filming sessions well below the nine hour threshold, especially with the outdoor scenes. Obviously those hours will not be nonstop filming, breaks will be provided as and when they’re needed. With such a loose schedule of breaks we intend for the filming process to not be tedious but instead enjoyable for everyone involved. Weary kids are not conductive filming after all.
There’s a lot of guidelines when it comes to working with children in a professional capacity, understandably so. Insurance policies, consent, counselling; the list goes on. Much of it doesn’t apply to us directly due to our situation (that of a school film production using the child of our teacher), what is important however is the onset conditions stipulated in Channel Fours guide on the topic. Transport is a nonissue but what will have to be given some thought is food, drink, shelter from the weather and timing.

Food and Drink
Perhaps most important is our ability to provide something the children will enjoy. In my experience, the more content a child is the less likely they are to pitch a fit and whilst, of course, the wonderful Miss. Aske may be quite the consummate professional we still need to make sure that food is plentiful and drinks are warm in the interest of her happiness. Nobody performs as well if they’re belly is rumbling every two minutes and their throats gone croaky from so much talking; a decent snack is necessary for everyone’s enjoyment.
Shelter from the Weather
One of the obvious drawbacks to filming in the midst of a British winter is the miserable weather. Whilst a lot of our scenes are indoor shots, several of our more integral scenes take place out in the open. Due to our locations, the moor for example, we intend to insure that everyone there has thick coats and waterproofs to hand should the weather turn awry. What use is all that lovely food if you’re too cold to enjoy it?
Timing
In accordance with guidelines we intend to keep our filming sessions well below the nine hour threshold, especially with the outdoor scenes. Obviously those hours will not be nonstop filming, breaks will be provided as and when they’re needed. With such a loose schedule of breaks we intend for the filming process to not be tedious but instead enjoyable for everyone involved. Weary kids are not conductive filming after all.

Flicker concept art: ‘The TV’

This is a concept drawing of the effect of the glowing TV, with the bright, colorful light silhouetting the  characters: Him, Kat and Toby.

To create this powerful moment we will need to use some form of lens-racking or flare added in post. Furthermore, if needs be the TV can have an ARRI with color gels in front of it to synthesize the TV’s power.

Presentation about our pitch presentation

RESPONSES TO PITCH (1)

The pitch was a great success.  We managed to get the origin of our idea across, with our research of short film conventions, i.e. catharsis, mimesis etc.Then Sci-Fi films and style influences.We were then able to ease the audience into our own idea.This part of the pitch was engaging with the audience, we believe that we gained their interest and conversed with them positively about the narrative, and shooting experience.We think that the audience took to the idea, and were struggling to pick out issues with the narrative of the story – we had planned this reasonably meticulously, so this was relieving. The flow of the presentation and our articulacy of the pitch was a great success. The only issue could be perhaps, we planned it so much that we failed to leave room for people to butt-into the narrative.

RESPONSES TO PITCH (2)

Once we had completed our pitch we had time for feedback and questions from the audience. Mostly it was really good feedback, but there were also areas brought up that were areas for concern at the time. Some of these were able to be corrected on the spot and others were ones we needed to go away and look at in more detail to help have a smooth adventure through the process of filming and editing. We had a positive reaction to the original idea of using electric as the aliens power due to this allowing us to have freedom to show how he uses his powers in any way we can. We have managed to come up with the class that we may want to show what happened to the aliens parents through the tv showing a spaceship crashing into something.

RESPONSES TO PITCH (3)

The concern of the films length was the main concern that was raised from the pitch. With our ideas quite firmly set in stone we have a good idea of how long the film is going to be, however this doesn’t allow us space/time to add in an extra shots that may arise from on set ideas. To resolve this issue we are going to manage scenes, both on set and in post. We have already cut a shot that we were going film on the moore that would have prolonged the scene to an unnecessary length without enough content in the scene. In addition The main montage scene that we are going to shoot will be cut in post to be as short and snappy as possible to allow the feel and content to be put across easily. Moreover throughout the post production phase we will be pacing each scene by carefully splicing shots together. By doing this it would allow for longer scene that are more necessary and give more meaning to the scene/film.

RESPONSES TO PITCH (4)

There were a few issues with our concept that members of our enraptured audience shook themselves from their awe induced silence to point out to us. *winks* For example, some people took issue with the idea of an old man being so exposed to the cold as he would be on the moor top, continuity issues relating to child actors potentially getting drastically different haircuts and how we intend to film the scene in which the old man falls down the stairs. The following slide intends to reach a conclusion as to how we shall resolve these problems effectively.

RESPONSES TO PITCH (5)

The pitch was useful to us. We discovered that there was a clear issue with the timing of our short. It will not be short at this rate. This is undoubtedly the main issue. We seek to resolve this by cutting unnecessary or irrelevant scenes.

  • We had a scene in a morgue that was a stupid and ridiculous idea.
  • We plan on making the transition between the moors and the town shorter, like only seconds.
  • We aim to make the montage scene condensed, and the pacing of the rest quite generous with time. This will ensure that we have time to hold onto shots for dramatic effect, but also make the appropriate elements snappy.

We also have the issue of practical effects, which we need to research in detail until we have planned each one we will use in detail.

RESPONSES TO PITCH (6)

Our next steps are:

Writing a fully-fleshed out treatment of the short film. Here we will see the scenes that are unnecessary/too ambitious.

Drafting out some scripts for certain scenes. Draw out our storyboard.

Looking at our actors – screen-tests etc. Seeing if they’re capable/the best person for the role.

Practicing practical effects, how will we do the flicker effect? Looking into dimmers as they give a more realistic imitation of a power surge.

Researching Style

Wes Anderson is a great example of someone who has formed an almost completely original style. He has managed to take a range of styles from French new-wave  cinema and greek theatre to weave an almost pristine, distinguishable style. He is famous for creating films like The Royal Tenaunbams, The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom. each of these have conventions such as the symmetrical 3:4 filming style, meticulous real-time action, a technicolor washed pallet, unique dialogue and stage-like direction. As Wes Anderson did, we wish to take influence from a range of sources. He will provide us with some of the symmetry and real-time synthesis. We would argue that these devices work in favour of a small-town effect; everyone knows each-other and everything about them.

Nicolas Winding Refn is famous for his use of the quadrant system, as you can see in the video. This makes every frame a delicate construction, ensuring that each part of it aids the narrative and character in equal measure. This is an ambitious device to embroil in our film. It will certainly be the case that it will be a push to be directing child actors, old actors and camera crew at the same time as making sure that each quarter of the frame creates its own meaning. Although, in a short film, it is beneficial for us to have each frame as fully-loaded as possible as it’s essential to get as much meaning across as possible in so little time.

We want opportunities of comedy in our film. Otherwise it will be a bit weird, then a bit sad, then a bit happy and have the emotional range of a slightly salted potato. Edgar Wright is the king of British dead-pan comedy. Our film will have a lot of opportunity of that.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”

The iMom, a short film that actually makes my mouth water. Saying that is tragically cringe-worthy, however some aspects of this short may create that effect. Nevertheless, it is, no doubt, a genius production.

We immediately understand that the iMom is a dystopian Sci-Fi film. A ‘sleazebag’ (as I’ve referred to him in my notes) Hollywood robot salesman speaks in a teleshopping commercial which is almost as unbearable as that Gtech vacuum salesman on UK TV. So, we then straight away conclude that whatever he is selling must be as stupid as he is; often the case. Through the use of diegetic action occurring in the form of a commercial, it gives us a wider scope for the issues at hand – the immaturity in the parents of the future, as well as the cataclysmic relationship dysfunction which clearly occurs as a result of the iMom. Parents don’t need to be parents in the sense that they’re bereft of all chores that are known to us as being parent-defining.

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This initial shot of a baby is somewhat sinister. The de-saturated pallet, the way the baby looks away from the TV screen represents ignorance; a key issue in the short. Furthermore, we are fed a horror convention here, the image of something so sweet as a baby, left vulnerably open makes us, as viewers, uneasy. The baby seems to be ignored. This leads to our suspicions that the iMom is an incapable supplement for the real mother figure.

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The mise-en-scene in this second shot is beautifully constructed, with the wine glass as an instant incongruity with the child sat,  reading behind it. We can understand that the wine is not the child’s, but the voice of the negligent mother in the background, on the phone, alludes to the image of her being irresponsible. Her phone call already denotes that she is going out, instead of taking care of her child. She is a victim of the technology around her. Furthermore, she then goes around the corner to discuss an issue with a friend, about her child who is sat in the same room. This quickly shows her reluctance to openly discuss issues with her kid. We, as an audience, are provoked into thinking about the responsibilities of a mother, a real one – not the iMom. The shot shift on the dialogue “Fucking kids” – is a aside that no mother would conventionally make.

Being an Australian piece of text, the discussion of the Bible in this short can be looked at more closely. Traditionally, religion is forced upon children in the US and AU families of our presumed white, middle class. The mother’s confusion on the bible in this text shows us the world’s loss of faith as a result of possible advancements in technology. The ‘mother’ is an inconceivably holy image. Her distraction by her phone is the cringe-worthy aspect of the film, I think that it doesn’t make sense. The character is pulled in a variance of ways, so personally I think it complicates the plot. However, I do suppose that the mother needed some form of likability.

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The mother is somewhat ignorant of the robot figure. The boy is weary of her presence.The slow, mechanical reveal of the iMom is sinister. Naturally, man has designed a young, beautiful figure, whose actions are character-less. The mother leaving and saying “goodbye my little chicken,” turns out to be a vital plot point. Nicknames are fatal.

“There’s no way I’m going to stop hitting the clubs… Wednesday, through… Fri- Sunday!” This dialogue highlights the immaturity of the young couple. It makes the iMom, and Sam, more intelligent than the rest of the world./ This ties in with the iMom’s discussion about the bible’s:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”

Who is she? Is she the sheep, or the wolf. or is she the blessed fruits? “Blessed be the fruits.” Then what is the earth? Adult humans are the wolves, products are the fruits, children are the sheep.

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Just a nod to the gorgeous cinematography used in this short. 

The smeared lipstick, the reversed images on the screen, the unusual string noises build up to a large crescendo where the iMom had cooked the baby instead of the chicken. Genius catharsis. It all alludes to the message, we deserve it; we’re stupid.

‘The Black Hole’ Sci-Fi short deconstruction

Being one of the shorter shorts, ‘The Black Hole’ by Phillip Samson and Olly Williams is an intriguing, yet short and sweet film about greed.

The film’s ingenuity comes from the application of a science fiction element to a man’s everyday mundane life. We begin with a slow, calculated track towards the average-looking, graying, white middle-aged male character. The colour pallet is almost desaturate, and the LED illumination of the room is almost sickening. The man seen is carrying out the tasking job of photocopying, and he introduces himself with a sigh. The lack of any non-diegetic sound adds a layer of ‘drab’ to the piece instantly, only the sound of the malfunctioning photocopier is what carries through the scene. This could be the directors’ effort to introduce some sort of psychological device which frustrates the viewer. We, as modern humans, are frequently met with malfunctioning devices like these, and as is a phone vibration terrifying in some cases, a ‘bleeping’ sound can be easily infuriating. This adds to our despise of the lead character. ‘F**KING FIX IT’ we may demand.

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The black hole its-self is quite a stunning use of design. It’s simplicity is beautiful, and the blackness which finally sucks the man in is symbolical of his greed. In an effort to layer up the Sci-Fi element, they have used a conventional ‘hum’ which can be quite daunting. This, as a red light to the protagonist, and him passing that, shows him in a foolish light. We know straight away that he will abuse his power.

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We, as viewers, are disgusted in this lame and pathetic sack of s*** when we see him violently munching on a snickers bar, which he almost certainly does not need. The black levels in the short are maximized before detail is lost. This aids the representation of human greed. Furthermore, it ties in with conventions of alternative Sci-Fis such as Under The Skin or The Thirteenth Floor, as Science-Fiction being presented in a darker way.

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Perhaps the classic case of being ‘bitten in the ass’ is presented here. A hint of viewer satisfaction can be felt when we see the man get trapped, and the paper so smoothly fall off the safe wall. The tapping on the inside confirms he is still alive, and not turned into some form of cosmic mush, but the sound of the photocopier at the end is almost shocking. We feel a sense of danger about greed. It is very much an educational piece.

I present to you, ‘FLICKER’!

Watch this clip and have a think about what aspects of it are interesting, where the catharsis/pivotal moment lies.

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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.

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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.

Why did we/James want to do a Sci-Fi short?

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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.

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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.

What will influence our style?

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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.

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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.

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We decided that some of the themes that should come out of our short film will be:

Loneliness,

Friendship,

Coming of Age,

Innocence,

Paternity

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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.

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Ideas. Big ones. Well not that big but promisingly above average.

As a foreword, are not, and will not be affiliated or paid/sponsored by Costa Coffee. 

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This wasn’t much more than an excuse to spend Monday evening in Costa. But we also happened to accumulate our ideas and gather together a surprisingly thorough film idea. The award of the evening goes to: Alfie. He gave the idea that gained the most “Oooohs.”

We needed a plot as we knew we’d need to present the idea very soon. Matthew and I had been discussing the story in depth since the early summer. I had come up with the initial idea of an old naked man on the moors, rather controversially, as I was on a run in my local area.

We sat down for 3 hours, formed our characters, discussed our style, and had  a lot of coffee. Here’s some proof that we did work.

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drawings