Beginning production – Test Footage

Today marked the first step in production. Unfortunately, the weather was horrendous and not what I had in mind for my shoot at all. Everyone I was working with said it would be a better idea to film the following day, as it’s forecast better weather. I made the executive decision to film on both days, today being a practice shoot and then tomorrow being the final take.

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The main problem I encountered was the weather. It was very grey and cloudy which made the majority of my shots look dull and overexposed. I managed to colour correct them slightly in post production, however it’s always easier to make a clip brighter rather than trying to fix overexposure.

The shots from today were filmed from the back of a van using a Canon 70D and a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens. I was not able to achieve some shots I had in mind, as I forgot to bring my 75-300mm lens, which would have helped me to produce a few close up shots. Tomorrow, I will make sure I bring all my equipment to prepare for every eventuality.

In one of the shots, you could see the flickering orange lights of the van on the protagonists shirt. In tomorrow’s shoot, I will avoid this by having him further away from the van but by using a longer lens, I can achieve the same shot but without the flickering lights.

I firmly believe that having a practice shoot today was worth my time. It has given me a lot more confidence in my work and I’ve had a chance to reflect on how to make the shoot tomorrow better than the one today.

Below I have linked a 20 second edited piece of test footage. This footage will most likely not be used in the final film, however if things do not go to plan in my second shoot, it can always serve as backup footage.

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Blog The Week – 20/05/17

This week has been solely about planning, preparing and research. At this point I have completed all the planning documents and research necessary in order to begin production. I researched music and its importance in films; and the emotional connection it creates. As well as vehicle/pedestrian collision scenes in films and what message they convey. Through this research, I have made many decisions such as the executive decision to have barely any dialogue in my short film. Instead, I am going to portray the narrative and emotions of the characters through the means of music, sound effects and carefully selected visuals.

Over the next week I intend to begin production so that I have enough time to complete filming and post production and not leave everything to the last minute.

Storyboard

I find visual and kinaesthetic learning quite helpful and that’s why I like to create storyboards. They help for me to visualise and begin to plan the course of the film I’m about to create. Furthermore, they allow me to start thinking not just about what I want my film to be like but how I’m going to achieve that.

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Upon creating this storyboard, I have begun to realistically think about the time and effort necessary that I need to put into this project. I have a rough indication of the direction that my film is headed in and hopefully I can begin now production.

Updated Proposal

Through the course of this project, the concept and narrative of my short film has changed and evolved. Some of these changes have been personal preferences and others have been to make sure I can realistically get the film finished to the best of my ability before the deadline.

Last year, something that brought my grade down was the absence of updating and reflecting on my initial proposal and concept. Therefore, for this project, I have rewritten my proposal to fit the current concept of my short film.

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Research: The Importance of Music in Film

I decided to research the emotional connection between a film and its soundtrack; and in particular, how choosing appropriate music can have a monumental impact on the success of a film.

For me personally, music is also incredibly important in the process of thinking of ideas. Whenever I experience a creative block, I like to listen to instrumental tracks and imagine movie scenarios in my head. During the start of this project, I was really struggling to think of an idea I was satisfied with enough to dedicate my time to spending weeks creating. At that point I was under quite a lot of stress and decided to put on music to get my creativity flowing. The track I put on was ‘How This Came To Be’ by Tom Rosenthal. Whilst listening, I imagined a man dressed in a suit riding his bike in time to the music. I didn’t have an official idea at the time, but I knew that I wanted to base the narrative around that one scene.

I emailed Tom Rosenthal asking for his permission to use the track in my upcoming project and he informed me of how to get my hands on a high quality copy of the track with creative licensing.

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Tom Rosenthal’s music can be described as well crafted alternative indie pop songs, which definitely suits the indie drama theme of my short film. In the initial scene that I want this track to be used in, I want to portray a very nostalgic feeling, which Tom Rosenthal’s music conveys very well. In addition to this, the lyrics sync up with the visuals being presented to the audience. In the first verse of the song, Tom Rosenthal sings “Follow me now, there is somewhere I would like to go” which fits together nicely with the imagery of a man cycling.

In order to get a feeling for the emotional connection a soundtrack has with the narrative of the film, I have been listening to numerous cinematic soundtracks. One of which is the ‘Interstellar’ soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer. My favourite track in particular, titled ‘Cornfield Chase’ is primarily played on the pipe organ, which are usually played in churches. Hollow echoes of a pipe organ being played in a church perfectly illustrates the emptiness of space and in a way, the contrast to religion is very interesting considering that the film defies many religious beliefs.

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I read somewhere that the pipe organ is used, the further away from earth we are in a film. Perhaps the pipe organ is a way to symbolise thinking about the safety of home, much like the main character misses his home and his family back on earth. The resonation between what we hear and what we see creates a lot of tension in the film. Particularly in a scene where a character attempts to perform a dangerous docking manoeuvre. The track overlaid onto this scene is called ‘No Time For Caution’ and starts off with atmospheric tones. We are then introduced to a gradual organ and then at the cue, a pipe organ comes in. I researched into the specific music terminology and it turns out that Zimmer uses a musical form called passacaglia when he put this cue together. A passacaglia is a musical form based on repeating the melody in the bass line. In the track you can hear how it continues, leaping from instrument to instrument for the latter half of the piece which creates tension when you watch the scene, as your mind is trying to process numerous different sounds at once.

One other thing I find incredibly interesting about the sound of the film, is that when there are cutaway shots from outside the spacecraft, the audio is completely silent. Of course this is to represent that sound does not travel through space but in my opinion, it also helps to create an unnerving tension and the feeling of emptiness in space, which leaves the audience in suspense as they wait for the audio to begin again.

Often, film scores will contain leitmotifs. Leitmotifs are a reoccurring theme in musical compositions that are associated with a certain character, idea or situation. Hans Zimmer incorporates a couple within the Interstellar score. The track ‘Cornfield Chase’ is considered the main theme, due to its use throughout the film whenever there is a hectic situation. In addition to this, a couple of the other tracks such as ‘Stay’ are just remixed versions of the track ‘Cornfield Chase’. Perhaps a better and more well known example of a leitmotif is from the Star Wars film score, composed by John Williams. The Luke Skywalker leitmotif theme is undoubtedly the most memorable because it also serves as the main title theme that opens every episode. Although the Luke Skywalker theme is the opening music, it is interesting to note that it is not the overriding theme within the franchise. More prominent is the Darth Vader theme, a leitmotif theme used whenever Darth Vader enters a scene. Leitmotifs are important, specifically for characters, as they help us to pick up the tone and atmosphere of the scene much quicker. As an audience, we are aware that the tone of the film has changed to a slightly more sinister atmosphere and that a certain evil is present when we hear the Darth Vader theme.

I don’t intend on my films having leitmotifs as per say. My film is much too short to be able to demonstrate recurrent themes. However, I am planning to have a different mood of music depending on which character is on screen.

In conclusion, I have learned that music is one of the most important aspects of film in terms of creating a suitable atmosphere and allowing the audience to easily judge the tone of a situation. I have also learned that in certain situations, the absence of music can be even more powerful, and create even more tension. Through this research, I have decided that to keep dialogue in my film to a minimum. Too many modern films have characters that speak whatever they feel, instead of creatively showing it in a visual and oral manner. That is why I want to take it upon myself to try and tell a story through the selection of appropriate music, sounds and carefully shot visuals to convey the character’s emotions.

Research: Vehicle/Pedestrian Collisions in Films

In films and tv series, people often get hit by cars. Sometimes the character darts out in front of the car, sometimes, for whatever reason the driver has lost control, but in the vast majority of scenes I’ve watched of vehicle/pedestrian collisions, neither the pedestrian nor the driver have been paying attention resulting in tragedy. But what does this mean? Often, in more cases than not, recklessness of hope in a cruel and unfair world is summed up on screen by scenes of a pedestrian collision.

I intend to film a man crossing the road on a bike but just before he gets hit by a car, the scene will cut to black, however the audio will continue to play for a few seconds afterwards. This will reduce the need to film real stunts yet still give a believable impression on the audience that a pedestrian collision has taken place.

A film that demonstrates this incredibly well is ‘Me Before You’ which tells the tale of a lady that takes care of a rich man after he becomes paralysed upon being involved in a motorcycle accident.

 

This example ties in well with my own short film. The scene in which the man gets hit by the motorcycle is in fact a flashback, which is exactly how I intended on presenting my own crash scene. Another reason for picking ‘Me Before You’ is due to the way the film creatively avoids showing the audience the crash, yet the audience are still aware that it happens. This was achieved by cutting to black and then having sound effects such as nearby people screaming and the sound of tires screeching. This is exactly the effect I am looking to execute in my short film.

Another example of a pedestrian collision is from the tv series ‘Skins’. At the end of the first series, one of the leading characters gets hit by a bus whilst on the phone to his ex-girlfriend. This crash scene is more graphic than the first example as it actually shows the character being hit by the bus, however the scene is quick and no injuries or blood are shown on camera. A similarity between this example and the first is that both characters are on the phone, which links back to my previous statement about most pedestrian collisions happening due to inattentive pedestrians and/or drivers. I chose these examples in specific because I intend on having the pedestrian collision in my short film to be caused by talking on the phone.

Obviously, films like ‘Me Before You’ often have a budget of at least $20 million and I do not have this kind of money to spend on a film. Usually, I refrain from including action scenes in my projects for this reason, as I believe low budget action is a surefire way to make your work look unprofessional. However, in order to improve my filmmaking skills, I need to challenge myself. The key importance of this research is to study how to make low budget action look tasteful and semi-professional. As previously stated, the main way in which I will achieve this will be through an emphasis on audio over visuals. Sound effects of a car screeching to a halt and people screaming will allow the audience to visualise the scene for themselves and will allow me to avoid trying to create a low budget scene of a character actually getting hit by a car.

At this point, I think I’ve researched everything necessary to make sure my collision scene looks and sounds semi-professional. In conclusion, I believe that vehicle/pedestrian collisions in cinema are extremely effective as a storytelling technique. Not only do they convey a visual representation of tragedy but they can also be used as an interesting way to end a conversation between two characters.

 

Shot list

  • Blue sky passing by
  • A title appears over the shot of the blue sky
  • A man cycles towards the camera
  • The camera is positioned behind the cyclist as he cycles away
  • The cyclist pulls to a stop, gets off his bike then sits down
  • He gets out his phone
  • He puts in his earphones, the shot lingers on his face and then goes black when he closes his eyes
  • A shot of street lamps
  • A shot of a wait signal
  • A shot of cars passing by
  • A shot of a man that looks identical to the previous man is sitting on a bench talking on the phone (a bike is next to him)
  • He gets up and walks away with his bike still talking on the phone
  • He begins to cross the road
  • He hears a car coming towards him and turns to look at the car before it hits him
  • It cuts to black but the sound continues
  • The previous shot of the main with his eyes closed, opens them
  • He looks down at his phone and deletes a voicemail
  • He gets up and gets back on his bike and rides away
  • He gets to a graveyard, gets off his bike and walks up to a grave
  • He stands above the gravestone and places some flowers next to a photo frame of someone that looks identical to him
  • He says “Hey brother”
  • The End