Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reflections on tutor report from Assignment 2

The headlines from the my tutor’s feedback on the second DFP assignment are:

“I feel that this is pretty successful in achieving that major aim of the assignment to get you to make a short film that creates an atmosphere from the visual elements in the shooting.”

“I think you need to ask yourself if the movie itself in total tells us something we don’t already know, or at least think we know …does it tell us as much as it could about being that particular wheelchair user; could it be even more personal? It may be that you need to exaggerate or repress certain elements to achieve this, even to totally inventing something to do it.”

I think I understand what Peter is getting at here and, although I cannot immediately think of how I could have achieved this specifically, this idea will help me going forward.

What seemed to work well…

  • Ensuring that people do not feel sorry for Matt and avoiding comedic levels of anger or frustration
  • Shadows from the blinds looking like prison bars to accentuate sense of confinement from disability
  • Peter liked how there was no clue to Matt’s physical state in the first shot - I hadn't thought about this before
  • Shot 3 – the view of the skirting board seemed to be a hit with everyone
  • I seem to have managed to show the repetitiveness of the struggle but by creating new situations (eg shot 3 compared with shot 7) so not boring
  • The choppy editing in shot 9
  • The smoothing of the duvet over the red towel
  • The feeling of confidence and control when Matt puts his music on (Peter thought it was acceptable for this to be considered as diegetic as it was not a soundtrack as such and did not have a major effect in setting the overall mood of the sequence.)
  • The few seconds of contemplation at the end of the sequence

General comments

Re: having to edit down the sequence to fit within the timeframe: “Often tightening up is beneficial to the overall project, however long or short it is.”

Always have more footage than you need as re-shooting or filling in is not good.

“As you get more advanced in your audio editing – perhaps with more advanced software or simply more experience with what you have – you will be able to add different sound clips from sources other than the camera and/or recorded at a different time. This can give you much greater control.”

Areas to consider and develop

Whilst acknowledging that it is good to “make work about what you know”, Peter has suggested that as I progress I should “stretch that idea at least to breaking point and beyond!”

Shot 4 – view of the shower curtain.  The comments were:  “You might like to think about how this scene relates to all those other shower scenes that we are familiar with. Do these connections add to or detract from what you are setting out to do?”

I had wanted to build some anticipation and highlight our sense of voyeurism and I think this was partly achieved. I can see now that this might come across as a bit of a parody if the viewer was thinking of Psycho. And it is a rather overworked device, I suppose.

Action points

Peter was very supportive of my comment that I need spend a lot more time actually shooting and editing sequences. I need to set myself some targets for this, whilst leaving enough time to work through the exercises and keep on top of the mind-expanding theory stuff.

I have finally worked out how to add ‘labels’ to create a navigation menu. I have broken this down into: Assignments; Exercises; Experiments; Film reviews; Interesting links; Reflections; Research and Study visits.  This is already feels better – I can see where the weak spots are on my blog (although a lot of these areas have been covered in my handwritten log/course folder) and I have a renewed sense of purpose!

Suggested reading/viewing

BFI box set of films from the British Documentary Movement between 1930 and 1950 that are well worth studying:

For a different take on narrative, Carol Morley: and if you want to take her further The Alcohol Years dvd is worth getting.

The shorts made as music videos by Michel Gondry, many (most?) rely on animation techniques but are still worth analysing. E.g. :

Comments from fellow students:

Stuart:  I liked the film! I was constantly wondering whether your husband was ‘acting’ or whether he’s really like that every morning. ;) There’s a really strong sense of frustration and annoyance throughout the whole film. I loved the way you also used close-ups of the wheelchair to portray frustration - we didn’t always have to see Matt’s face. For example, getting his chair stuck on the corner edge of the wall and having to shuffle his way back and round again - the audience could see the markings on the wall where he’d had to do this before, so it helps build up the feeling of frustration because we can see that it’s something he’s had to deal with often. And the same with coming backwards out of the bathroom door, having to get the wheelchair perfectly aligned with only 1cm either side of each wheel in order to get out - and all done as close-up’s again. Great stuff!

I think the only negative criticism about it from me is the focus - but that’s the down side of filming on the 2-inch screen on a DSLR. There were shots where the depth of field was so shallow that it felt like the wrong thing was in focus. For example, I think in one shot the dof was so shallow that your husband’s shoulders were in focus but his hair was blurred. It felt odd to see his head out of focus. I’d have probably put the alarm clock in focus during the opening shots until your husband woke up. Then we knew for sure where the sound was coming from - even though I’m guessing you added the sound as foley, did you?

Nico: Just watched your film and I must say that you did a really good job on it. As you said in your notes you did not want anyone to feel sorry for Matt but every viewer would have sympathised with him, where we leap out of bed and not even think about simple things like getting into/out of the shower/bed/bathroom, he does exert more effort into those tasks than an able person. 

I love the low angle shot at flood board level when he comes around the corner, its a very graphical shot and the fact that he has to do a two point turn around that corner makes it even stronger.

I think the effort it takes to leave the bathroom scene is very strong too, as the viewer you almost want to reach out help. I think both lighting and the sound of the chair here really helps and it ends nicely too with the chair coming towards camera.

In the dressing scene the bright yellow wall and even the light coming through the blind lifts the scene and even though we see that Matt has to work a lot harder to get dressed it does not feel oppressive. 

I like your ending too, I am a big fan of silhouettes as they are very graphical.

One thing I would suggest and I only say this because it took me a long time to convince myself because I got so worried about composition that I never wanted to move the thing. Try and add a bit of movement to the camera, not on every shot, and when you do it just very subtly, less is more, it may not work on every shot and you may not even like it to start with but when it does work it feels like cinema. 

You should be proud of your film, its got good framing, your sound is good but I believe the best part of it is that you started with a very strong story and that is what makes this film so compelling. So well done.

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