Saturday, July 27, 2013

Assignment 1: The Poster

The sequence

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.

The storyboards

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.


  1. Love it! Especially that handsome fellow with the pipe... he's got a future in Hollywood, you mark my words ;-)

    My only critique in terms of clarity would be in the first shot, I didn't realize she was supposed to be looking for something like a lost cat, I thought she was either looking for cars as she crossed the street, or was doing something dodgy and didn't want to be seen. But maybe you wanted some ambiguity there so the punch line would have more punch? If that's the case, then it's perfect...

    1. Thanks Sarah - I deliberately wanted to keep the mystery in that first shot so that the final 'reveal' had maximum punch. Cheers for the feedback : )

  2. Wonderful! For some reason I nearly immediatly knew what's going on, maybe from looking at the storyboard pics before.I like the first frame view angle from above. good job!

    1. Thanks Pascal, I have now moved the storyboards down in the blog post so as not to give it away with my AMAZING iPad drawings x

  3. Well done! The cats were quite cooperative, thanks to your little tuna water trick.

  4. Helen, I'm so proud of you! What a great little video! I purposely watched the video before I read any of your notes so I could see if your intentions worked. They did! I love the camera angles and I think you accomplished what you set out to do. I'm with you on prep time - spend a lot of it beforehand so you can let the directorly advice roll off your back if need be. My own humble suggestion would be to somehow have the cat thief compare the poster to the cat in the last shot as he smiles. BTW, Matt looks very sinister in a shirt and tie!

  5. You have really moved on I can see! I love the high angle of the first shot and it has great atmosphere and light. You have edited the second shot well so that the story is easy to follow. In particular I like the way the poster is stuck over the camera as if it was the wall/tree. I think I would have liked the third shot to start where the second finished with your actor taking the poster from where it was stuck (if you see what I mean) revealing your second character but the way you have done it gives us good information about him. Your fourth shot is great in that the viewer feels as though he/she is looking secretly at the scene - great stuff! The little twist at the end adding the poster to other "lost cats" is a very good ending.
    Well done to you!

  6. Brilliant ending and you've captured some really good facial expressions! I think it was a good move to put Matt in shirt and tie as it adds to the secret life of an uptight 'middle-class' male. The cats played their parts beautifully.

    Long time no see! Hopefully we'll catch up some time. I'm still disappointed that you can't go to Arles.


  7. Great story with great resolution at the end. It kept me to asking "What is on the paper written?". Matt is really good actor.
    All the best.

  8. I loved this Helen, well done. Nice story, nice surprise ending and very well put together. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.