Secondary Research : Developing A Narrative
Syd Field ‘The Definitive Guide To Screen Writing’
Syd Field argues that a screenplay is a story mainly revealed in pictures and is about a character doing their thing. As in all good stories he states, there should be a beginning, a middle and an end though he notes it does not necessarily have to be in a linear order. He points out that the beginning is ususally around a quarter of the length of the film and is where the set up happens. That is, where the context, story, characters, background to the conflict, the dramatic need, circumstances and relationships are established. Moving on, he explains the middle section is where the dramatic action / confrontation happens. Where the main character encounters conflict in that they meet obstacle after obstacle to achieving their dramatic need. He points out that this section is generally half the length of time of the film. The end section he claims is where resolution occurs, where we find out whether the main character is successful or fails and represents approxiamately a quarter of the films length in time.
He explains that the narrative progresses through these different parts with the help of plot points that hook into the action and turn it round to lead on to the next stage. A plot point at the end of the set up stage he claims is an essentail function of the main character and leads to the start of the confrontation action. Then he argues there should be another essential plot point towards the end of the confrontation section that alters the direction of the action and leads to the resolution stage.
Beginning Middle End
approx approx approx
1 quarter of time half of the time 1 quarter of time
Set up Confrontation Resolution
plot point 1 plot point 2
Syd Field talks about the importance of knowing your character inside, out to develop a good narrative. He advises researching interior elements of their life that have formed them ;- what they need in life, think, feel, want, their attitude, point of view and critical incidents that have shaped them. Also he advises researching exterior elements of their life; what they do in their private, personal and professional arenas. He points out that some people begin developing a narrative by knowing what happens to their character but alternatively a narrative can suggest itself and develop from having this good understanding of your main characters and what their dramatic need is.
Wilst reminding us that conflict is created by having obstacles in the path of the main character Syd Field claims it is important to have the main character causing the action and not just reacting to things. He notes that there can be several plot points in a narrative and suggests a narrative may be enhanced by having subtext. He also makes the important point that it is important in film for the audience to be shown things by the characters actions (without being spoon fed ), instead of being told things by a series of ‘talking heads’ (too much dialogue).
Visual Storytelling in Film making
Stanley Kubrik and Visual Storytelling by Carlos Rivera Fernandez
In this short video Carlos Rivera claims Stanley Kubrick is most people’s greatest director of all time. He shows how Kubrick uses exposition shots and camera techniques that show facial expressions of the main characters to build a vissual narrative without dialogue. He then explains how Kubrick doesn’t allow the audio to take over because afterall it is film and not radio, but uses it to complement his visuals.
Simon Cade : DSLR Guide
Simon Cade in this useful video -advises film makers to not just use over the shoulder shots and dialogue to explain things but to look for opportunities to tell a story visually. He claims this is quicker, more interesting and a more powerful way of showing emotion and conflict. He adds that we should allow the audience to think for themselves and make their own connections. He shows us a couple of examples of how you can use simple visuals ideas to show lots of information about the plot. He reminds us that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ if used in a clever way and that we should concentrate on finding the best visual way to show our subject matter. To learn and get inspiration he suggests studying the films you enjoy and noting how they do it. He advises positioning the camera so it frames what you want the audience to focus on and that film makers concentrate on angling the camera and directing the lights to show the mood of the scene. He points out that costume, props and location can be used to show a lot of details about the character and help tell the story and notes how using symbolism to suggest something is often helpful to allow the audience to interpret images themselves for example, a red rose to symbolise love.
Storytelling with Cinematography
In another video Simon Cade cautions us to not just focus on making pretty pictures. He counsels us to remember the basics of cinamtography is about knowing what to include in the frame and what not to include. He advises we leave some mystery for the audience to allow them the satisfaction of figuring things out for themselves but suggests we do try and cram as myc story into each shot as possible. He argues that each shot must add to the story in some way and not just be about having a nice landscape. He reminds us to be suprising for our audience and to be unpredictable with our shots.
In this short video by Directors Vision we are again advised to show rather than tell our story. We are advised to only have things in our shots that help tell the story. A good place to start we are told is with what the characters are wearing as costume tells us so much about the characters background. We are also advised to remember locations can help tell the story as the let us know where our characters hang out. Finally, we are advised to catch facial expressions and body language to show emotion instead of using dialogue.
How to Create A Cinematic Film With Shot Choice:
In this online tutorial we are told the easiest way to achieve a cinematic look is to go from wide shot to close shot, switching between the two and mixing up the order in which we we go from one extreme to another in. We are advised that often this is best achieved by switching from a wider lens to a longer lens and choosing carefully where we put our jump cuts. We are reminded that wide shots are good for establishing what characters are where and then to zoom in on one character perhaps from the same angle. We are cautioned that this doesn’t always give us the look we are after but that the more visual contract we include in our films the more attention grabbing they will be for our audience.
Using Powerful Camera angles and Shots for Filmmaking
Darious Britt in this information packed video goes through the different names for the most common shots used in films and gives us a useful reminder / overview of what they are used for as follows:
extreme wide shots for establishing location, where the characters and for good clarity
wide shots / full shots for establishing the relationship between the character and their location….we can see most of the character and get a sense of where they are. Also good for showing isolation of a character or loneliness.
Medium full shot / westertn shot for focussing more on the characters face or what their arms are doing as in a western.
Medium shots where we see just abouve the waist and can see detail in the actors face and something of what they are doing. Here we can connect on an emotional level but still see some of the surroundings.
Medium close up, this allows us to emphasize an actors face and see their expressions
Extreme close up, here the face fills the frame and we see in detail what they are expressing.
Insert shots, where a relevant object to the story is emphasized.
Point of View shots to see through the eyes of a character and see things from their perspective.
Over the shoulder shots, again to see a characters point of view but more framed with a sense of the other person.
Darius explains how lens choice will affect the look and feel of different shots, then moves on to remind us that using different camera angles can dramatically affect the emotional impact of our scences:
camera at eye level has an emotionally neutral effect. We see eye to eye with the characters.
Low angle shots and extreme low angle shots are used to make the character appear stronger, more powerful and dominant to different extents
Hight angled shots are used to make the character appear weaker and more submissive.
Over head shots give an objective view of the action and are an unusual view, useful for psychologically distancing the audience from the scene.
In this book by Jennifer Sijll, we are advised to use the x axis to show conflict where two forces are aimed at each other with the antagonist right to left as this goes against the direction of reading, as we are shown in the book, can be seen in the opening sequence of the film ‘Strangers on a Train’.
We are advised to use the y axis to set up a linear route that represents safety and normality, that can then be broken to suggest a departure from this by changing the path suddenly. The example we are given here is that of the train shot tracks in the film ‘Strangers on a Train’.
It is suggested that we use diagonals to show difficulty or easiness for instance, going against reading direction and gravity is used to show the hardest route our character can take and vice versa. The example given to illustrate the point here is that of Stewart’s axe scene in the film ‘The Piano’.
We are informed that we should use the z axis to control depth of field and the size of something in the frame and we are given the example, of the snowball scene in the film ‘Citizen Kane’ to emphasize this point.
Imbalance, we are counselled is used to show initial conflict and to symbolize realtionships and using circles in our shots , we are told can be used to suggest confusion, repetition and time.
Mastershots 2nd Edition : 100 Advanced Camera Techniques To Get An Expensive Look OnYour Low Budget Movie.
In this book by Christopher Kenworthy, again circling is mentioned but this time we are advised that it can be used to show characters on the brink of an argument, much like animals would circle one another before a fight for example, vulctures or sharks.
It is explained how we can use having a character knocked to the ground in a conflict to powerfully show a shift of power and having a character down on the floor shows an imbalance between them and is useful for portraying which character is dominant in that point of the narrative.
At the moment of defeat we are advised to make it very clear which character has won to signify the conflict is over.
We are advised the best way to give an audience a shock is to have something jump in to shot filling a previous empty space and are advised this works best when there are no cuts, as it misdirects the audience more.
Below are some of my past posts showing my research and reflection on directing. From it you will see where I am in terms of directing and working with actors. In this project I shall be using this research as I have before but shall be expanding on it by delving into choreography as I am planning to direct and work with a dancer. The research on choreography can be found further down in this post.
“Create your own method. Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg you.”
Stanislavsky was one of the most experienced and devoted directors when it came to working with actors. He was the director and along side Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, following an 18 hour discussion between the two he became cofounder of the world renown Moscow Art Theater. He spent around 40 years studying actors ways of working as well as using his own background in the craft. This was in the early days of psychology.
Two actors who Stanislavsky studied in great detail were Eleonora Duce and Tommaso Salvini two Italian actors held to be the best realistic actors of there time. From his studies he decided that feeling and truth are strategic components used to help unlock creative intuition and that the way to command truthful performance lies with the subconscious. Based on this he became the first recorded person to attempt to develop a psycho-technical training method for actors which should allow for the actor to form a neurological pathway between the conscious and subconscious to make a false belief that would draw out life like performance.
“Create your own method. Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg you.”
Stanislavsky said this quote in the knowledge that art changes according to societies beliefs and needs. For example in the days of early Christianity many pictures were icons depicting religious figures and symbols whilst in modern day western galleries pictures are more reflective of money and mortality with the likes of Damien Hursts half cow and Tracy Emins messy bed.
Characteristics are the things that make up a specialism while context is the background surrounding it.
My chosen specialism for this project is directing, in particular the working with actors side of things.
To direct a film you have to be able to clearly envision it in your head so that you know what you want. you have to be a good team player with the ability to get the best out of people in the role of a leader. You must have a respect for your craft and the craft of all those around you so for the the technical side of directing I believe a basic knowledge of all aspects are important as this will help yo to know what is possible and what could be pushed to new boundary’s. To direct you must be able to thoroughly read the script then use your understanding of shot types to make a shot list which will aid you in communicating the films look to others.
The characteristics of a director list from http://filmschools.com/resources/top-10-qualities-of-a-great-filmmaker goes like this:
Great filmmakers must have a strong sense of authority. They are responsible for leading a team to create an outstanding finished product and must command the team to ensure they are working at their best.
Great filmmakers must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to clearly articulate what their production goals are and be able to work with all team members to accomplish that goal.
They must be very creative, and able to generate ideas for stories, backgrounds, music, and other elements involved in a film production.
Great filmmakers must be able to make firm decisions and stick to them to help ensure production stays on track.
A great filmmaker has a tremendous sense of drive and ambition. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to rise to the top of the industry and make great films.
- Grace Under Pressure
Great filmmakers are able to handle pressure well. They understand that complications will arise during the filmmaking process and are able to handle the stress.
- Open Minded
Great filmmakers are open-minded to changes in their ideas. They accept input readily and consider other points of view without judgment.
- Problem Solving
Great filmmakers can quickly address problems that arise during production. They are able to identify problems and figure out the best way to fix them.
- Technologically Savvy
A great filmmaker is familiar with many, if not all, of the technological elements that are involved in the film making process, and has a grasp on what is feasible and what is not.
Great filmmakers have terrific vision and can see the film from its conception through to its final product. They never lose sight of the ultimate goal.
Authority ensures that I am getting the best out of your cast and crew and means that you are going to do your best to keep them happy whilst ensuring that they are working all out towards your vision. Even though in industry this can mean having them work grueling hours in many conditions a good director should be able to use there authority to keep the team motivated and working. an example of a director who uses authority could be someone like Alfred Hitchcock however he abused his authority and over worked his cast and crew by making them do take after take after take without breaks. This shows that though directors need authority they also need self control and empathy otherwise people will hate to work along side you. there is an article here about directors who actors love to work with and why: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/jun/23/actor-magnets-terrence-malick-brad-pitt
Communication means that as a director I will have to be able to get my ideas across whether that is by word of mouth, emails and various other forms of online communications and demonstration such as shot lists and story boards so that everybody knows what my intention is and how I expect them to achieve this goal so that they can do there jobs with confidence. Directors communicate in the same ways to communicate different ideas but to do this you need confidence and patience so that if need be you can go through the idea one too one so that anyone can understand regardless of wether there brain works differently and needs a different approach.
Decisiveness is important as it means that if a problem arose and I needed to inform people as to our alternative as I director I shouldn’t stumble around making an idea then deciding to change it without giving that idea a good effort unless absolutely necessary. This means that I should be able to inspire peoples confidence by not being knocked down when something needs to change and that I can be comfortable too make a snap, but not rash decision and make it work. This is important as without a decision everybody will be held up which will lower the moral of everybody and create an aura of doubt.
‘Be decisive and live with the consequences good or bad. Trust in yourself that you’re going to get it right most of the time and that, when it really matters most, that you’ll get it right’ – http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/07/04/film-schooling-insider-insights-on-indy-filmmaking-be-decisive-in-production/
There is another list on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_director#Characteristics:
- Those who outline a general plotline and let the actors improvise dialogue. Notable examples include Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Guest, Spike Lee, Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Barry Levinson, Jean-Luc Godard, Miklós Jancsó, Gus Van Sant, Judd Apatow, Terrence Malick, Harmony Korine, Jay and Mark Duplass, and occasionally Robert Altman, Joe Swanberg, Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini.
- Those who control every aspect, and demand that the actors and crew follow instructions precisely. Notable examples include David Lean, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Victor Fleming, Erich von Stroheim, Frank Darabont, Sam Mendes, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Demme, John Frankenheimer, James Cameron, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Andrew Bujalski, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Bay.
- Those who write their own screenplays. Notable examples include Woody Allen, Werner Herzog, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, George Lucas, J. F. Lawton, David Cronenberg, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Ed Wood, David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pedro Almodóvar, John Hughes, Nick Park, Edward Burns, Kevin Smith, Todd Field, Cameron Crowe, Terrence Malick, Oren Peli, Eli Roth, Harmony Korine, Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Daryush Shokof, Oliver Stone, John Singleton, Spike Lee, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Haggis, Billy Bob Thornton, James Wong, Tyler Perry, Robert Rodriguez, Christopher Nolan, George A. Romero, Sergio Leone, Satyajit Ray, Joss Whedon and David O. Russell. Steven Spielberg and Sidney J. Furie have written screenplays for a small number of their films.
- Those who collaborate on screenplays with long-standing writing partners. Notable examples include Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga, Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams, Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown/Tony Grisoni, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson/Noah Baumbach, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi/Paul Schrader/Jay Cocks, Yasujirō Ozu and Kôgo Noda, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière/Luis Alcoriza, Krzysztof Kieślowski/Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Rajkumar Hirani/Abhijat Joshi/Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Frank Capra/Robert Riskin, Michelangelo Antonioni/Tonino Guerra, Billy Wilder/I.A.L. Diamond, Sergio Leone and Sergio Donati, Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, and Christopher Nolan/Jonathan Nolan/David S. Goyer.
- Those who edit their own films. Notable examples include Akira Kurosawa, Alfonso Cuarón, David Fincher, Mike Cahill, Jean-Marc Vallée, Steven Soderbergh, David Lean, Don Coscarelli, Charlie Chaplin, Robert Rodriguez, Rajkumar Hirani, James Cameron, Ed Wood, Gaspar Noe, Takeshi Kitano, John Woo, Andy Warhol, Shinya Tsukamoto, Kenneth Anger, Gregg Araki, Gus Van Sant, Xavier Dolan, Ben Wheatley, Kelly Reichardt, Leni Riefenstahl, Kevin Smith, Rodrigo Cortes, Joe Swanberg, Steve James, Jafar Panahi, Ti West, Joel and Ethan Coen and many indie, Internet and arthouse filmmakers.
- Those who shoot their own films. Notable examples include Nicolas Roeg, Mike Cahill, Peter Hyams, Steven Soderbergh, Joe Swanberg, Tony Kaye, Gaspar Noe, Gregg Araki, Robert Rodriguez, Don Coscarelli, Josef von Sternberg, Shinya Tsukamoto and Kenneth Anger.
- Those who appear in their films. Notable examples include Clint Eastwood, Orson Welles, Mel Gibson, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, John Waters, John Carpenter, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Anger, Michael Landon, Woody Allen, Jon Favreau, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Michael Bay, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Charlie Chaplin, Terry Jones, Edward Burns, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sam Raimi, Roman Polanski, Erich von Stroheim, Billy Bob Thornton, Sylvester Stallone, M. Night Shyamalan, Harold Ramis, Robert De Niro, John Woo, Kevin Smith, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Takeshi Kitano, Kenneth Branagh and Ed Wood. Alfred Hitchcock, Abel Ferrara, Shawn Levy, Edgar Wright and Spike Jonze made cameo appearances in their films.
- Those who compose the music score for their films. Notable examples include Charlie Chaplin, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Carpenter, Mike Figgis, Hal Hartley, Alejandro Amenábar, Satyajit Ray, Robert Rodriguez and Tom Tykwer.
- Another way to categorize directors is by their membership in a “school” of filmmaking, such as the French New Wave, the British New Wave or the New Hollywood school of filmmakers.
This list focuses more on the variety of characteristics that directors have had and shows that the role of director has a great deal of room for diversity.
Film directors have creative control over the project. They are there to ensure everybody is working well together to achieve your vision. they work closely with actors in order to help them create the characters and performance. As a director your mood can and will effect the moral of the entire cast and crew. it is important for a director to have good people skills and it is increasingly important that they are kind to there cast and crew. The role of director has changed very little through history the first directors however acted alone as they would work the camera and that would be all (no sound). The first moving image director could be considered Eadweard Muybridge who used multiple cameras to capture images of motion which he then put on a disk that when spun would create the illusion of movement (the zoopraxiscope) since then the medium on which films are played and recorded has changed but the role of director hasn’t as Eadweard Muybridge had creative control over his work and worked to achieve his vision. by 1896 the first film lasting over 1 minute was directed by Alice Guy-Blaché she is thourght of as the first female director and is the earliest example of a modern stereotype director. She experimented a lot with the Chronophone sound syncing system, interracial casting, and special effects and color tinting. in this way she will have worked with a team of film makers bringing them together from across nations to achieve her vision since this time the only thing that has changed about the role is the size of the team people manage, the technology that it is recorded and played on and society’s attitude towards content. In the last few years with the digital revolution and availability of equipment there has been an incredible increase in the number of directors and the amount of content being made for various mediums.
what went well:
- My research of Stanislavsky as a relevant practitioner went well because I learnt about not only how he worked with actors but how he developed his methods of working with actors. Because of this his techniques should help me when working with people in the future as it has in this project.
- In my research I managed to find a large collection of ‘Bafta guru’ videos consisting of actors talking about there careers including what they like about working with certain directors. From this I was able to find out about how different actors preferred different styles of working on characters from sit down chats to method acting which made it easier to prepare for working with the different types from a directorial position.
- The specialism research into the characteristics of a director was helpful as from it I learnt what would be expected as a minimum from me as a director in terms of behavior and responsibilitys.
Even better if:
- In this project I found the researching of context behind directing difficult as the context being the factors surrounding the field effectively means how the role formed and has evolved I found this difficult as to know what parts of film history were really relevant I not my strong point however despite this I did find some very interesting so from this I know that next time I do context research I should probably find films simlar in style to my own and focus on the history in that genera rather than general film history.
- The collection of Bafta guru videos could each have been broken down into bullet points and then each point expanded on to find out why there suggestions do/don’t work in terms of emotions and social interaction. The reason I didn’t do this is honestly because I didn’t think to during the project. I will do this with some of the better videos on my next project where i’m working with actors.
- In this project I haven’t found any related videos which may have helped me to convey ideas to people as I could have used screen grabs and clips to give them a visual indicator.
- I should probably choose a living practitioner next time either as well as or instead of the deceased so that there is a possibility to contact them.
what went well:
- Writing the script went well as it showed me an area of film that I have done very little work on in the past. I really enjoyed the script writing as it felt as though I was conveying my ideas better and could go back and change / add details without loosing flow.
- As a planning exercise I met up with some of my actors and ran through some characterization games and exercises. i made sure to give them varying characters so that I could see the types of character they best portrayed and enjoyed playing so that when writing the script it would become easier for both sides to engage with the story as the story was meant to revolve around them. I also brought along some props to see which items interested them the most so that I could used some props as a narrative push.
- I wrote a shot list for the film that worked well for getting an idea of how the final film might look in terms of shots. this helps for letting people know were they need to be so that if I had any crew they would know how to shoot it the way I would like it shot.
- I did some lighting tests that helped me decide on the sort of lighting I would like to try out and how that lighting would then be setup in the final shoot.
what I could improve:
- My location organisation was to be honest appalling. I firstly assumed that the dark room would be free and that I could work with my original actors for a short time in there. so I had to set up then de-set up and move to a much brighter location which in turn rendered the script fairly useless meaning that the piece became a one shot improve which didn’t edit well but was performed well which in a way made it more disappointing that I wouldn’t be able to use it as I didn’t have time to get the performance to be repeated from alternative angles so I felt like a let down here, but used the experience to notice that giving a short amount of time on the script then using it as a base for an improv gave a more naturalistic performance. If I was to do it again I would ensure I had the right location and had more time with the actors.
- I wrote many scripts over the course of this project the first of which was to long and the rest of which weren’t as refined so next time I would work very specifically on one script idea and make sure it would suit the brief perfectly then ensure the performers are given plenty of time to learn it.
- the shot list could have had a storyboard to go along side it so that anyone i’m working with has a visual clue as to whats being done. I could also have expanded it with more shot choices and possibility’s for a more free and diverse edit.
This is the result from David LaChapelle’s direction with a behind the scenes despite the fact that I wont be using Prima ballerinas it is an excellent resource for seeing how they follow the action and keep the dance alive.
From the video you can see that there are many pieces of equipment used to create motivated camera moves that follow the action these include tracking dollys, stedicams, tripods and drones. In a web page that I shall tag below the dancer Sergei Polunin says “We need LaChapelle in the ballet world. We need something pop ― we need something that is now. And David is the best to shake things, to hype it up. For people to talk about us. I see him as a visionary for the future of ballet.” This shows that dancers whom I would imagine will form part of my audience for this project, may like to see contemporary filming techniques like those seen in music videos.
Planning : Secondary Research
How to Make A Short Film
Darious Britt in a very helpful video claims when making a short film, the shorter the better. This he claims it what audiences and Festival organisers prefer and is less costly to produce. He advocates ‘knowing your resources’ for instance, if you don’t have a horse don’t film a horse race. He recommends we show rather than tell what you want to communicate and to avoid narration except perhaps when showing irony. That we should aim to have a strong opening to make a good first impression and grab the audience. He advises including conflict and focusing on isolated events rather than trying to cover someone’s life story. He advocates choosing a filmic subject that suits having a camera pointed at it and counsels that giving your character a goal outside themselves makes this easier. He prescribes keeping the number of your characters to a minimum to reduce the problems of people dropping out. He cautions us to keep the number of locations to a minimum to make managing practicalities easier and to keep better control. He recommends keeping to subjects you know something about but says we shouldn’t be too nervous about taking risks with a short film for example, by claims having a character who isn’t likeable isn’t so much of an issue when we only have to engage the audience for a short spell. Finally, he prescribes watching lots of other shorts so we know what the cliches are and so can avoid them and be more original.
Visual Storytelling With the 5-Shot Method for Video Sequences
Shruti Shekar in this short online tutorial outlines 5 important steps for us:
Brainstorming ….jot down all your ideas for filming, different things you want to film, type of mood, shots you want
Build a storyboard …write this out or draw with stick figures what every you prefer, know what each sequence is going to cover
Build a filming schedule juggle sequences into Interior and Exterior sections. Then again into scene locations. Then schedule so not everying is crammed into one day, have balance and thing about practicalities. Decide when you want to do the exterior shots so you can have consitency….weather conditions etc
Do a B roll……take extra footage just in case….such things as shots of your actors hands, eyes etc….these can be useful later for editing and can particularly help with tranisitons and for avoiding jump cuts.
Edit label your footage …when you did what…..so it is easy to find and you can put it together as per your storyboard.
How to Shoot a Very Short Film w/ cheap gear: Pre-Production
In this online tutorial tutvid advises
a) To make the Story the most important element you consider
b) To decide on an overall genre, style and mood
c) To build a storyboard reflecting the mood
d) To choose your location, try using google earth to see where the sun is at different times at your location….where the shadows fall etc This he claims is vital if using natural light but always helpful for letting you know best time to film to get right mood ….and for continuity.
e) To make audio a high priority and get some good gear for this that is available at quite reasonable cost.
FilmRiot : Prepping For A Short Film
Ryan Connoly in this video for Film Riot reminds us that prep is vital to ensure that things run smoothly in our film projects. He states that it is important to establish your idea first and research it and then to create a written outline of it. He then advises going through the script with different coloured highlighters to identify what needs there are in different areas for example, use a yellow hightlighter to identify where there are prop/set design needs, a pink highlighter to identify special makeup needs, a blue hightlighter to note special camera and lighting needs and a green highlighter to identify vfx needs. He suggest delegating this task if you can. Once the different needs are highlighted in this way he states you can use the highlights to draw up separate lists of what each area needs. For example, you can use all the blue hightlights to draw up a list for lighting and camera special needs such as a fog machine needed, fan needed, specialist filter needed etc. He argues you will then have a shopping list of things you need , people you need, tasks needed to be done etc and again he suggests this is a good time to delegate tasks and resource gathering to others.
Next Ryan, states you should share your mood boards, reference material, playlist and script with others that need it for example, the actors or collaborators.
He then suggest you should play out the film in your mind to produce a shot list. Then he argues you should go over your shot list a few times , trimming it down. Then he suggests you can move on to doing a story board. He points out there is software available to helf you do this for example, Shotpro (a newish ipad app).
The next step he claims is to identify possible locations using google if necessary.
He then advises putting together resource lists of everything that might be needed from gaffa tape/your swiss army knife to food and drinks for the cast and crew. He then states it is vital to then make sure everything is layed out the day before and is tested to make sure it is all working and that everything is formatted and charged etc.
Secondary Research on How To Do A Call Sheet
The website Starboardmedia advises including the title of your film at the top in large type and stating what number the call sheet is. This they say is particularly helpful if you have cast and crew that are involved in a number of productions.
Then they suggest you have weather information and the call time stated clearly. They suggest the main production person should be identified, followed by the contact details of the rest of the cast and crew.
They then advise having an outline of the schedule and a clear note on the wrap time.
They suggest providing a map of the location next to details of how to get there. In the location address they advise to include a post code and remind us that many people have sat navs now so this is particularly helpful for them.
Next they advise having some health and safety notes and finally some production requirments so people know what to expect and can prepare themselves for example, include advice on the facilities available, clothing advice, notes on equipment they may have to use etc.
This website provides some useful templates for those interested to use. I would advise instead to copy and paste useful bits to make your own version.
Sand Creature Makeup Ideas /Exploration
The main question that arose during feedback was how is the sand creature going to be created.
I first thought about using CG cracked makeup effect as I had during my last film ‘Facade’.
I then found the following inspiration tutorial on youtube :
One way I could apply this to my film would be to try doing it as a base layer with a body spray of spray of colour on top. This would create the from the earth look that I am going for. To have this style creature I would use earthen and desert colours such as black, brown, orange, gold and grey as this will establish that this character is a personification of the environment. I could also change it up and use make up to try a more tribal style like that seen in ballet Rambert’s portrail of ghosts.
This design could be adapted to be more desert esque i.e. a cattle skull or sandy colours, patterns and it ties nicely with the stereotype of a sand wraith.
Because it fits the stereotype the audience will automatically gain an understanding of what is going on which in turn makes the narrative easier to follow.
The down side to this is the make up would be time consuming and could have a number of continuity issues as it will come of between and during performance. Due to the organic nature of clay this would be particularly difficult with the first example of make up as the cracks would keep changing.
Secondary Research on How to Design a Costume
Ngila Dickson costume designer for ‘Fellowship of the Rings’ in the video below, suggests costume designers should start by considering the hints in the script and she uses the example, Sarumen the white to make an obvious point. She advises we consider where the film is set ,what historical peroid it is set in, who the main characters are and how their status relates to others. For example, she adorned Gladriel in a white floating, semi transparent lace gown adorned with excquisite pearl beads to show she is a beautiful and ethereal being, quite separate from the tellurian inhabitants s of middle earth. She reminds us costumes should aid the actor to get a sense of the character and that designs need to consider what the charaters have gone through for instance she notes they may need to give a sense of age and time or in contrast to look pristine.
Edith Head costume designer for Paramount for five decades, in the video below, makes the point that costume design is not about being fashionable or looking pretty it is about being appropriate to a story. She suggests a costume can bring another layer to a scene for example, a black dress worn by a young girl may show she is feeling down or alternatively a sparkly dress may show this same young girl is trying to cheer herself up. She adds though that a costume should never distract the audience from the actor for example, a sparkly dress should not perhaps be worn during an emotive scene where a young actress expresses tears of sadness.
Michele Clapton : Costume Designer for Game of Thrones (see video below) remarks that she considers the wealth of the character and their relationship to others, the climate, what the character does in their costume for example, eat, sleep or fight, the attitude of the character for example, are they elegant or more or a practical person. She points out that colour and tones are very important to suggest things like relationships between characters and warmth of a personality and she advises to avoid trying to sanitise a look but to instead keep it real.
BAFTA Guru Costume Design in Focus series 2014 :-
• Daniel Orlandi costume designer on ‘Saving Mr Banks’ discusses the importance of working with the director to be true to their vision, think like a psychologist to figure out the character.
• Sheena Napier points out the importance of working in collaboration with the actor….seeing how they look in the costume and colours. She talks about how she is inspired by the internet, books, paintings and photographs.
• Colleen Atwood costume desginer for ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ claims it is important to show the world the character is living in from the point of view of the costume. She talks about establishing a working relationship with hair and makeup departments to work collaboratively. She also mentions the need to think about costs and availability of having enough fabric for costumes especially when a large number of costumes are needed and advises us to consider options such as using a cheap and plentiful supply of fabric you can add a print to yourself.
• Michael Wilkinson costume designer for ‘American Hustle’ on this issue advises costume designers to stick with their own ideas but negotiate. He gives us the useful tip of looking through the monitors to check how the clothes look under the lighting used to check the tone, texture and vibe is right. He adds that everything matters when a camera can zoom in closely…..an audience can see if a costume is clean or stained and this gives them clues about the character. Offering more practical advice he suggests how the clothes affect the sound may also need to be considered.
BAFTA ‘The Session’ series 2016 :
• Paco Delgado costume designer for ‘The Danish Girl’ says a costume can be used to give the characters point of view and he explained how he used stiff, buttoned up clothes to show how the main character felt imprisoned in mens clothes.
• Jenny Beavan costume designer for ‘Mad Max’ explained how the director’s look for he film was inspired by having watched a ballet and how the texture and layering of the fabric was important for instance she used delicate, light bandages to emphasize the purity of some of the female characters. She advises dressing the characters according to their needs when devising a costume.
• Sandy Powell costume designer for ‘Carol’ and ‘Cinderella’ advises working closely with the director but also with the visual effects team for example, to see if using accessories on a dress can be used to show magical transformation of butterflies by a fairy godmother. She suggests showing the journey a character has been on when dressing them.
Another approach would be a CGI sand creature. This would require predesign sculpting texturing weight mapping rigging animating and compositing. This takes a lot of work and would require be to better learn the 3D engine such as blender or maya which would again take time and would differ from the particle cycles I would use for the fire effects. a great industry example of this can be seen with the likes of Ang lee’s the life of pi –
An alternative approach could be to try and make a puppet. This would require some complex movements as it is a dance but unlike cgi this wouldn’t require any makeup redo time and so would have very few continuity issues. The main difficulty is enabling movement whilst maintaining aesthetic like that seen in Speilberg’s ET
Primary research on Animals people associate with fire: for inspiration for my Sand creatures movement
As a small piece of primary research I asked a small group of dancers what sort of animals that they would relate to fire, they came up with : an eagle, a fox, and a lizard / dragon. I found videos of each of these suggests that I could use as inspiration for movements during the dance:
The eagles spreading movement stands out as a usable move that may look really nice especially if its used with a jump as this would create a very large movement that could show a turning point or climax within the dance.
The jump and bury movement from the fox is interesting as it uses a nice pause before the release of energy which could inspire movement so that when controlling the fire there is a slight build up of energy before it is released.
The reptilian movement of the Kimono dragon is really nice as it is so contrasting with most quadruped animals and would nicely separate the traveller and sand creature taking away from the humanity of the creature.
Interviewing a Choreographer / Dancer Teacher as Primary Research for my dance film :
I bumped into Ms Aleyna Woodend whilst having a coffee with my family at Stollers in Barrow In Furness, she is someone I originally met when I took typing lessons after school a few years ago and she expressed an interested in what I was up to now. On learning I was planning to do a film with a short dance /combat piece, she explained that although she is retired now that she had been a LAMDA trained, dance teacher in her time and had a wealth of experience in choreography and performing. She very kindly offered to visit my home so I could interview her on how to start and to give me some top tips.
When Aleyna visited me at home as agreed, she had remembered I had wanted to do a dance/combat piece and had brought a CD of some music for me which she felt would be good to use because it was from the action film The Matrix and she had brought some teaching/choreography resource packs from LUDUS dance school for me to borrow. We listened to the track and looked at the resources and then had an informal chat over a coffee.
Aleyna advised establishing the basic story / theme first including: how many dancers there are to be, why they are fighting, how the conflict is resolved, props to be used, what sound track I want to use and how long the dance is going to be.
She explained how she used music as her main stimulus when choreographing and how she would match the climax of a fight with the crescendo of the music and we discussed that movements can be added to go with the beat or be off beat. Aleyna suggested using movement words as a stimulus to devising moves and she gave me a list of words she had prepared for me to think about, these were as follows :- space, stretch, speed, stamp, squash, slide, stillness, shrink, stumble, shake, stop, strong, sink, saunter, stalk, sag, sudden, spin, shiver, swirl, swivel, soar, spin, sway, swoop, swiftly, silence, shape, spring, slither, stretch, small, spiral, stance, support, shield, shimmer, settle, explode, advance/retreat crush, dart, leap, bound, balnce, drip, collapse, drift, jerk, punch, slice, smash, reach, pathways, crumple, frail.
Finally, she suggested speaking to Saxon Meadowcroft a dance teacher in the area about having some lessons in classical ballet to get the basic techniques and to enquire about using the hall at North Scale for rehearsing. I thanked Aleyna for her time and advice and I promised to keep her updated as to how I get on and to return the resource packs. Aleyna expressed an interest in attending the screening of my film and I agreed to see whether this would be possible or to send her a link to view it on either youtube or vimeo.
Secondary Research on Choreographing a Dance/Combat Scene
Ludus Dance Company Teacher Resource Packs x5
From reading the teacher resources packs I noted the following useful points : –
Dancers could be asked to consider weapons and how they could depict them in their movements. Dancers could think about different fighting styles, battle formations, changes in speed and proximity to others to suggest conflict.
Dancers should be encouraged to be aware they are telling a story and depicting a mood to the audience. They should be aware of the emotions they are showing.
The era and culture being portrayed may be relevant for example, are you showing English Soldiers or perhaps Ninja warriors.
Consider how the characters would walk as a good starting point. Are they predatory or afraid.
Consider the energy the characters have.
Consider what props will be used and the environment.
Make sure the dancers are warmed up.
Allow the dancers to explore and improvise so they have some ownership of the piece.
Use picture, poems, words, videos, emotions for inspiring dancers to improvise.
Consider using repetition of movements particularly if there is a chorus.
Consider who you are making the dance for and how it will look from their point of view.
Decide on the music, how clear you want the beat to be, how will it give a sense of momentum and progression.
Consider what can the body do, where can the body go, how can the body move, who/what can we dance with. What overall structure will the dance have.
Get the dancers to think with their hearts not just their heads and to just jump in and improvise / move spontaneously to your chosen music. Observe and perhaps film then to select movements that are most appropriate and discard unnessary movements. Refine your selection then combine the refined selected actions to create phrases then use transitions to form sequences with a beginning, middle and end,
Use all the body to show poise and stillness where appropriate. In particular,consider opening and closing poses.
Consider causes of conflict and consequences for example, if I hit you will you hit me back or will you avoid further conflict.
Ask dancers to consider personal experiences of conflict in their life and to draw on them Ask dancers to think about how the emotions will be expressed by their faces and body parts. Ask dancers to think about things that will escalate a conflict and the costs and benefits of fighting to the character, the dangers and opportunities.
Designing Dances : How to Choreograph in 10 steps
In this online article by Melissa Cyr 2016 we are advised to :-
1. find inspiration in music, stories, emotions, different dance styles, historical periods and places.
2. choose the music first and edit it so it is of the right length.
3. identify a theme, story or feeling
4. map out your timing and sections on paper
5. envision the dance as a whole, how the floor /space will be used, the different levels of it ie, the depth, length and height
6. account for dancers skill levels
7. choose steps
8. try it….
9. check audience can relate to dance
10. recycle learning from elsewhere.
Health and Safety / Risk Assessing : Primary Research Interview.
As my mother Mrs Cheryl Taylor is a trained nurse, first aid responder and Health assessor with nearly 30 years experience in her field, I thought it would be useful to interview her to see if I can get some top tips from her sharing her knowledge and experience. She was horribly camera shy but happy to help and after I asked her to introduce herself and talk about health and safety considerations she talked in detail without the need for further prompting and questioning from me. The main points I have noted from this interview are as follows:-
there are lots of health and safety regulations that come under the umberalla ‘Health and Safety Act 1974’.
if employers / project managers want to keep their staff and equipment safe, follow the law and follow their insurance policy requirments they need to carry out risk assessments for all work sites, work activities and they need to take into account individuals needs.
It is important to consider …how people are going to access and exit the site. How are they going to get there and back safely, refreshed and comfortable. Will they need lifts, maps, instructions, escorts, refreshments, access to a secure place to change and keep their belongings, access to a toilet.
The site needs to be visited and assessed for hazards and the level of risk
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm such as a fire and the risk is an estimate of how much of a threat it is…or how likely the hazard is to cause harm.
My outside/ sandy locations present hazards from the weather….the sun, rain, and wind and from the sand, fire, public.
The activities we will be doing present hazards for consideration including :- from carrying heavy and valuable equipment, dancing outside in the sands exposed to the elements.
The individual needs of my staff and crew need taking into account. Do they have any medical conditions such as epilepsy we need to know about, do they need access to certain medications, do they have any allergies etc.
A risk assessment then moves on to cover how to reduce, avoid or minimize the risk of the identified hazards. Basically, the things I can do and put in place to hopefully avoid harm coming to any of my cast, crew and the equipment.
Following this interview I thanked my mother for her time and for sharing her knowledge and I promised to involve her as a first aider in my shoot days. This primary research has left me feeling more confident about my shoot days, more prepared and more like a professional in my approach. I also now know I need to seek out some first aid and risk assessing training for myself in the future.
In my film I want to try out some new visual effects in terms of partical simulation and rotoscoping.
Upon searching the internet to find out if there were any new techniques in after effects for making rotoscoping easier than frame by frame with the pen tool. very quickly i came across cc’s rotobrush and refine edge tool. the rotobrush tool uses the colour diffrence information to locate the edges of objects in the frame it then searches for those same edges in each frame of your footage. The downside of this is that as it is such a powerful tool it will take a long time and needs a large ram and cpu and can still run very slowly (though still faster than frame by frame by hand).
For creating fire I came across this tutorial on controlling particals in cinema 4d. This introduces a number of settings to use when creating fire with particals much like auto desks fume fx. This also teaches me some basic manipulation and collision techniques that I could use to make it easier to composite later on. as an alternative i also found this after effects tutorial in case i cant pull of the partical effects like those shown above.
This method would be a lot more pc friendly but gives much less control and so i wouldn’t use it unless it proved necessary. so i shall do this in testing to see if i can play with some settings and pull it off.
The two videos above demonstrate a practical and cg way of creating a fake sandstorm which could be an interesting addition to my film as it could be an interesting ending. the practical one in-particular seems really cool and is something i would be keen to try out.
Secondary Research into Pitching a Film
What To Do When You Pitch Your Script
Jacob Kreueger advises spending time making sure you pitch your idea to the right person where possible. Find out if they produce your kind of films and that you have mutual interests. He suggests you shouldn’t get into used car salesperson mode because if you have a good idea or script you have something valuable that the right people will really want. He adds that if your find yourself in a situation where you are pitching to someone who doesn’t have an interest in your type of film then make the most of it by asking for advice instead, networking by perhaps asking for introductions to the right connections.
How To Pitch Your Screenplay or Film Idea.
Paul Castro succinctly points out that it is very important to state the title of your film, to state the genre then to outline what your film is about in a cinematic, dramatic way with passion and enthusiasm. He advises matching the frequency / world of the person you are pitching to…..the pace they like to talk at and style of address they prefer. He adds that it is vital to believe in yourself and how you can add value to the listener’s business.
The Art of Pitching a Movie Idea Using the Rule of 3
Director Marc Zicree argues that it is essential to treat people how you would want to be treated yourself when pitching. He explains that you need to keep your pitch brief and not pitch about every beat or shot or you will bore the producer. He says never pitch in an inappropriate place for example, at a social gathering….and explains his idea of meeting someone 3 times before pitching your idea so more of a relationship is built up and the process is more respectful. He advises doing your research on the person you want to talk to and their right hand staff and to consider talking to these people first at events. He suggests showing your dedication and integrity by putting your own money into your ideas and by showing you actually do what you are going to say ….unlike 99% of people in the business who only talk about things. He tells us that being consistent, dedicated and
disciplined is important and that we shouldn’t focus on trying to be rich and famous but more about being free to do meaningful work…. What a lovely guy!
WikiHow to Write A Film Pitch
Wikihow advises us to follow the following 8 steps :-
1) Think of a tagline…one sentence to outline your film and grab your audience’s attention.
2) Include just the highlights in your pitch don’t go into too much detail.
3) Use your characters name to progress your story.
4) Keep your pitch short.
5) Include any suprise endings.
6) Avoid using cliff hangers.
7) Think about who will be listening to your pitch and what they need you to tell them.
8) Tell them your contact details.