The Poster from Helen Rosemier on Vimeo.
The brief for this assignment was to produce a short sequence of no more than five shots, which tells a simple story using images alone.
I ran through several ideas and eventually settled on one which utilised my immediate resources: a good friend, a grumpy husband and three black cats.
The basic story is that a woman has lost her cat and, as part of the search, is putting up ‘Missing’ posters in the neighbourhood. We see a busybody looking at the poster and then removing it. Later we see him with several cats and finally watch him add the poster to his collection – the implication being that he is stealing the cats.
I scouted out suitable locations nearby to film the first three shots and then spent a huge amount of time trying to get the cats to all be around at the same time for the fourth frame. It also became obvious that on top of the frustrations of working with animals, it is not always a good idea to enlist an opinionated husband!
I introduced key props (such as Sara wearing a hoodie and Matt wearing a shirt and tie, spectacles and smoking a pipe) to add atmosphere and to assist in conveying their characters. We prepared the posters and then tried various options for showing all three posters at the end as this was the critical chilling moment: the reveal.
Evaluation of finished sequence
With hindsight this was quite an ambitious project for my first assignment. It relied heavily on two people and three cats which certainly created stressful challenges.
My aim was to tell a dramatic story in just five frames. I wanted it to be intriguing and slightly creepy at the end.
Frame one was shot from the top of our building, revealing a woman walking around erratically holding a piece of paper. The high angle was chosen to show her as small and isolated (lost?) but with the added dimension of it almost seeming like CCTV footage. This person in a hoodie is acting quite suspiciously. I hoped this would hook the viewer right from the beginning.
The second frame shows the woman walking towards the camera. We still don’t know what the small poster is about and the actor looks mean and moody. This static camera angle with the actor approaching quickly and directly was designed to increase the mystery and tension.
Next a fussy looking man in a wheelchair (possibly a war veteran?) rolls up to look at the poster and then removes it from the telephone pole and takes it away. The framing and angle were slightly to the side of the poster this time to create more empathy with the man, whom we assume, at this point, is an overly-enthusiastic Neighbourhood Watch type of guy.
The fourth frame shows the man in his home, lovingly feeding and stroking his black cats. This begins with the camera moving in from the hallway as I wanted to convey some sense of voyeurism here to maintain the tension and intrigue a little. This is a neutral camera angle to allow us to watch the apparently harmless man with his pets. For continuity he then looks at the poster again and smiles.
The final frame shows the man adding the poster to his collection of missing black cat posters, including one drawn by a bereft child, and admiring them as he smokes his pipe. This was positioned to show his (slightly crazy) satisfaction and to give the audience time to look at the posters and fully realise that he is a cat thief.
I think the framing worked quite well to convey all the information that I need to show and to maintain interest throughout. Hopefully the viewers will follow the story and be entertained by it. The last two frames were the most challenging. I would have preferred to have been able to focus in on the cats more, without showing the man so blatantly, which I think would have been more interesting and dramatic. It was not possible to make that work with just five frames so I hope that this final version is an acceptable solution.
The key area that I need to develop is in planning everything more thoroughly before the actors get involved. I need to give myself time to try different angles, all lens options and a variety of approaches to get exactly the right shot. This will help me to be a better director and to stay true to my vision even when other people are making suggestions about how things should be done.