PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY – SCENE TWO

I feel as though I was more than prepared for shooting this second scene which concludes the film and brings it to its tragic ending. Concerning location, I had done extensive amounts of research, planning and tests shots that really worked to my advantage during the shoot in that I really had gotten the right place to film which lead to no problems shooting there. You can see my work with locations around the area and specifically around the area my group decided to shoot at by clicking on the hyperlinks provided.

Cinematography was not an issue either. I had previously captured the car featured in scene extensively and was more than familiar with its shapes, which made me confident in making it look attractive in my shots. Examples of photos I shot can be seen below.

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I had planned out what lenses to use for each individual shot, such as the first shot, being a wide shot, being filmed with a wide lens (18-55mm). Another example would be the close ups I featured in my scene which I filmed used a 55-200mm lens. Using a lens like this that’s capable of zooming in so far creates the isolated feel I wanted for the scene by compressing each layer in the frame in on each other. This isolated feel is also created by being able to get up close to our actor, Peter Glanfield, which also emphasises his emotion in the shot.

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Here’s the owner of the car, Andrew Bell, posing a model to experiment with lighting before filming commenced. This gives us more time to experiment, concerning intensity and positioning, and more time to shoot.

Lighting a scene is vital in filmmaking. Rarely can you approach a location and immediately start to film. As well as creating an atmosphere, lighting is significant in showing everything in the scene clearly. The camera is not nearly as sensitive to light as the human eye; just because you can see what’s in the frame well doesn’t mean the camera will achieve the same. I used three-point lighting for my scene which I discuss extensively in the video below.

Despite having these three studio lights, I decided to substitute the backlight for the car park’s street light as it seemed to appear more natural. I think the shots looked great with the lighting and everything that’s significant in the frame is lit clearly and effectively.

2The image above was captured at the final position the camera poses during the first shot of the scene which was achieved using a crane. I think this is one of the best lit shots of the sequence due to the focus on the car, the insignificance of the background and the all-around well-lit subject. In order to achieve this shot, I first realised the natural light source was coming from the right side of the frame and so, to make a natural-looking shot, I positioned my key light here, and to balance it out and to light the car’s grill I used a fill light.

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Here, you can see the role the key light played during a shot later in the scene.

3For the safety of everyone involved in the scene, Andrew took the time to go through the actions Peter would have to undertake for the second shot. Under my direction, Peter had to get in the car, appear preoccupied and anxious before starting the car, turning on the headlights, appear to run over a push-chair and show his reaction all in one shot. Using a 200mm zoom lens was how we achieve the effect of running something over. As I mentioned before, zoom lenses compress layers in a frame and so while the push chair was a few feet away from the car, it appeared inches away from the grill. This made the shot safe and unthreatening to those involved.

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IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

One half of Electric Egg -  Steven Hatton

One half of Electric Egg –
Steven Hatton

During the first few sessions of the BFI course at Lincoln University, as a group we were lucky enough to be taught by the video production, photography and animation company; Electric Egg. This consisted of Neil Baker and Steven Hatton and amongst the vast knowledge they handed over to us to feed off concerning the origins of cinema, the manipulation of film reel, how to “read” a piece of filmmaking and much more, a book was mentioned to us as valuable learning material. It was stressed that us students got our hands on it and as days passed I began to hear more and more about this book, such as from my Media Studies teacher who also recommended it to me.

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My copy of Murch’s masterful “perspective on film editing”.

The book is “In The Blink Of An Eye” by Walter Murch, which serves as a “perspective on film editing”. Editing is a huge part of making a film. The “puzzle”, which is a word Murch uses to describe the process of piecing together a movie in post-production, can make or break a piece. It can create and stimulate effects whilst being capable of r undermining or destroying others and so the editor, or the editors in some cases, play a vital role in the creation of a film, or any form of moving image for that matter.

Murch’s book works to my advantage through the “wealth of first-hand knowledge” it communicates and every page thrives with information from an experienced, talented and intelligent film editor. Early in the book I realised the significance, the freedom and the true, inevitable effect editing has on the audience. It is not an element of filmmaking to be over-looked and should be taken very seriously and executed with much care and thought.

As Fred Zinneman describes in the book, Murch’s piece acts as “wealth of first-hand knowledge about the mysteries of giving birth to a film”. As a “perspective on editing”, it truly helped me identify the psychological reasoning behind a cut and the vast possibilities a sequence of clips can have if edited together differently. It has significantly influenced me by giving me a deeper understanding of how editing works and the priorities a film should have. Murch’s “Rule Of Six” puts “emotion” at the very top of a filmmaker’s priorities, and this idea is something that has significantly influenced my filmmaking for the better. The second half of the book discusses the change to digital editing that has occurred over the last decade and details Murch’s experience with Final Cut. This serves me nicely since Final Cut Pro is the editing system Jannath and I will be using to assemble our film, Screen Three,

THREE-POINT LIGHTING – HOW I LIT ‘SCREEN THREE’

In a group of two when making a film production, one must take on a wide range of roles in order to make the film happen. In the video above you can see my contribution concerning directing and cinematography with my focus on how I lit each scene. In a close look at the set of my second scene, you’ll get the chance to hear about the composition of Three-Point Lighting, its uses and effects, and how I applied it to my film ‘Screen Three’.

“HOW DID YOU DO THAT?” – IMAGE MANIPULATION AND ENHANCEMENT

This post is all about the processes and technologies behind beginning to create a poster for our film, “Screen Three”. In the video below I talk about editing Jannath’s sketch, taking this image as inspirational for our poster photo and editing this photo on PhotoShop.

The slideshow below will give you a closer look at the plans we did for our poster. Clicking on each image will enlarge them and will feature more details and them and how they’re made.

The original sketch that served an a draft for our poster communicating content and composition.Art by Jannath Hussain.

The original sketch that served an a draft for our poster communicating content and composition.Art by Jannath Hussain.

The edited poster plan achieved through Adobe's PhotoShop.

The edited poster plan achieved through Adobe’s PhotoShop.

THE CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS

So what’s going on with mine and Jannath’s short film production? Thanks to our great organisational skills and my motivation I’d say we’ve worked at a good pace and right now have done a considerable about of work. Despite this there is more to do and it’s time to clarify what’s done and what’s to be done.

SCENE ONE IS DONE. This is the cinema scene and perhaps the most complex and difficult part to film however, it’s over and done with. The footage turned out great, the shots were nicely executed and the actors’ great performances really shine on screen. The audio recording, despite moments of noise, is at a great quality. I’m really happy with the result which has been taken to Final Cut Pro editing software and is almost complete.

What’s next is the second scene and part of this has already been executed by myself. I took the time out to organise the shoot which revolves around a car parking lot. The location and date has been set, the actor involved is ready to go and the car is available for us to shoot. All aspects of our pre-production has been completed and so I’m ready to take on the task of filming when it happens. After this is completed, all that needs to be done is editing it all together, finishing the film poster and the film review page. It’s likely our film will be close to being done by Christmas.

DIRECTING ACTORS

Whether we know it or not, we are truly blessed to have the internet at our disposal. Amongst other things it acts as a superb tool to educate the world and with this in mind, I took a lot of time out to learn more about DIRECTING.

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Film Riot is such an awesome YouTube channel where the host and film-maker, Ryan Connolly, gives back to the filming community with tutorials, behind the scenes of his work and his own short films. In the video above he talks about something very important and that’s working with and directing actors.

What makes the video I’ve featured so good and so helpful is having professional actor, Todd Bruno (right), by Ryan’s side to further the educational supplement and to get a personal viewpoint from an actor. The duo discuss acting, directing actors as well as answering questions from guys like me who want to know more about this subject. Connolly and Bruno had amounted their relations from their work on Ryan’s shot film “TELL” which he wrote and directed while Bruno played the lead acting role as “Taylor”.

In a close look into filming day two of their short film, actress Bridget Kelly is interviewed  about the director she wants to work with. Information that this is relatively rare to come across and very much helpful is educating a director. One of the most important things for her is for her to “trust the director” and “they have no what they want”. This is understandable and something I felt I’ve tried to achieve for my own work. With “PRAY” I took my time with shooting to really tell my actors what I was going for for certain shots and angles and passages of dialogues so while I meditated and revised that they got to know what I was going for.

Bruno discusses similar ideas with Kelly by saying it’s important to be “close” to a director, “to become friends” with him/her and it’s helpful to get to know each other. “The more intimate, the better the product.” The film set, he notes, is a place with “high intensity”; people are running around, things need to be done quickly and to a high standard while money is being spent, and, refering to the director, an actor needs to “rely on the person in charge of everything “. This trust is there so as an actor you can “put yourself in their hands and give yourself over to them”.

Similarly Connolly discusses them from a director’s point of view. Any sense of discomfort is no good during a film production especially for an actor. I know this from working with amateur actors who aren’t confident in the craft. Them feeling not right damages their performances significantly and so it’s important their in an environment they’re happy in. Although Connolly notes that this method of directing is “my method, not the method,” he continues to say how he talks to his actors directly after cut. He’ll begin with “what the actor did right” and “lead to the bad” whilst focusing on keeping “the actor’s confidence fully intact”. This balance between criticism and keeping their confidence is a difficult one but one that needs to be done, and done right, I’ve learnt. Afterall, the director, as Connolly puts it, is supposed to be the actors’ “safety net” as someone to fall back on. As a director you need to be someone who’s approachable, a good communicator and someone who does their homework and knows what they’re doing.

What does Connolly expect from his actors? Well, in my opinion, what every director should expect on an established production.

  • They need to know their dialogue. Not knowing this slows down principle photography dramatically and gives off an unprofessional vibe on set. Not knowing the dialogue means a lack of preparation of behalf of the actor which may mean they’re not ready to fulfil their role.
  • Actors need to understand and have a grasp on their character’s “motivation”. What’s driving them in a certain scene? Why are they there doing what they’re doing? Answering these questions and adding them into a performance is vital for an actor.
  • Similar to the point above, actors must have a understanding of their character. From looking at the script, perhaps one might imagine and construct a past for their character that might create a more in-depth performance on screen.

This being said, actors have the power to evolve the character if the writer or directing likes where the path is taking their film. Connolly notes that this happened in “TELL”. Todd Bruno added something to “Taylor” that his director admired and thus was added in the script, and so the actor/director relationship is very much a collaboration.

Studying this discussion has been immensely helpful in furthering my understanding of how to work with and direct actors. Although learning on set through directing first-hand is immensely important, one must not forgot there is a whole world of directing out there to learn from, thanks to videos like this.

Below is the short film “TELL”; the film the duo are discussing in the video at the top of this blog. With Ryan Connolly putting this thing together and Todd Bruno’s acting role, this is not one to be missed.

LOCATION SCOUTING 101

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Location scouting is a vital process in the pre-production stage of filmmaking and it is a “location scout” who has the specific job of searching for suitable areas for a crew to film. Being in a duo making this film it’s no surprise that we’d each have to take on a wide variety of roles to makes this production happen. Although I direct, and more, I had to play the location scout also. I tested the suitability of locations to the task at hand and took into consideration many factors, such as:

  • overall aesthetics
  • financial cost to production
  • logistic feasibility including but not limited to distance from base of operations or other locations scheduled
  • availability of parking and facilities to keep crew and talent (principal actors or models and extras) safe and dry at all times
  • availability of electrical power or feasibility of bringing in generators for lights and electrical equipment.
  • available light (indoors or outdoors) and weather conditions (outdoors)
  • permission from and cooperation of location owner and neighbours, local government and law enforcement

I had already done a substantial amount of scouting through test shots which you can see in another blog and although the locations weren’t up to the standard I expected or desired, they helped me understand what I needed for the second scene for my film. Having a bright, friendly atmosphere just wouldn’t match the dark, isolated mood of the cinema scene that’s featured before it and so I needed something different.

The difference would occur if we shot the scene at night. I’ve attempted night-test-shots before but not in a suitable location until now. Although we’d be vulnerable to weather conditions, we realised a suitable location for our scene would be a parking area of our school, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, which takes advantage of an number of factors:

  • Does not interfere with public since it’s in a private area
  • Close to home and the storage of equipment, transport will not be a problem
  • Lit nicely and atmospherically prior to film lights being set
  • Has access to electric supply, if arranged, for lighting equipment
  • Nice area filled with both foliage and industrial backgrounds that’ll suit the scene visually
  • Not near any busy roads so recording unnecessary sound won’t be an issue
  • Arrangements for the location can be done easily and efficiently since we’ll simply have to contact suitable members of staff
  • Vulnerable to rain which is a quality we wanted to create a more intense scene.

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I also checked out the spot at night, getting a high view to look down upon the parking lot below. I did this since this is when we’ll be shooting and so taking a range of photos of this time will give a better understanding of what shoot will look like. The photos and checking out the location first-hand has been very helpful and opened my eyes to the possibilities of the scene. I learned more about the spacing of the area so I could imagine when everything goes such as our dolly for the scene, lights and camera positions.