Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Eager Student - The Final Cut

This short practice film was originally made as a practical exercise undertaken in the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). The module's practice was undertaken between October 2011 to June 2012 and it provided me with a hugely enriching experience. For a more detailed overview of the module and the projects I undertook as a part of it, see Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience.



Together with the other versions of The Eager Student produced by the other groups of the module, our cut was screened as part of a shared feedback session: The Eager Student - Feedback

The Eager Student - Editing


This post was originally written as a reflection a practical exercise undertaken in the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). The module's practice was undertaken between October 2011 to June 2012 and it provided me with a hugely enriching experience. For a more detailed overview of the module and the projects I undertook as a part of it, see Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience.


The Eager Student was a 1 minute practice film we had to produce for the Planning and Making Film module. Told in two scenes, the story is of a student going to her class and realising that she has arrived at the wrong time.


26/10/2011

It was when we came to edit The Eager Student that the problems of continuity became apparent. While filming we had tried to illuminate as many as possible, but the constrained time limit prevented us from being perfect in this respect (a storyboard would have also helped here).

The main problem with continuity was that Sally’s actions didn’t always match-up between shots. In the LS she would be sitting back in her chair and MS she would be sitting forward. 

An example of bad continuity

Initially, we rearranged the order of the shots, away from how they were set out in the script, in an attempt to revise these continuity problems. But we found that it changed the rhythm of the action so much we lost the beats that were established in the original script.

So we went back to the order as the script dictated and eliminated the continuity problems as best we could. The final cut is still, exceedingly, far from perfect and, indeed, the usefulness of storyboarding and rehearsing before filming become very apparent. Also, the first scene could use some colour correcting; that is, currently, beyond our capabilities.

Aside from the issues with continuity and a very brief one with the sound, we spent an hour and a half editing and it went very well. Emily operated the Mac while Jenny, Sally and I made suggestions, and only when we were all happy did we export a final cut. Certainly, this experience has taught us the importance of having good continuity! As well as allowing us to get to grips with using Final Cut Pro (not to mention the horror of using a Mac). 


Want to see the result of the editing? The Eager Student - The Final Cut

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Eager Student - Filming

The Eager Student was a 1 minute practice film we had to produce for the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). Told in two scenes, the story is of a student going to her class and realising that she has arrived at the wrong time.

The module's practice was undertaken between October 2011 to June 2012 and it provided me with a hugely enriching experience. For a more detailed overview of the module and the projects I undertook as a part of it, see Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience.


24/10/2011

First off, I was extraordinarily stressed! Stressed because I had done constrained filming like this before and I knew it would be hectic, even with planning. With The Eager Student each production group was given only 55 minutes in which to shoot it. My group had already drawn up and decided on a shot list, which I had typed up. However, we had not been told which seminar room we would be using to shoot, so we didn’t produce a storyboard. We were fortunate, though, to be one of the groups going second, which gave us 55 minutes to decide on our roles and draw up a floor plan (we now knew what room we would be using). 


The floor plan for scene 2

Sally had already made it clear that she didn’t mind being the actress and Jenny said that she was quite eager to do sound. Whereas, Emily and myself had no preference, so we tossed a coin – Emily would take care of the cinematography; I would direct and fill the production manager’s role.

Overall, the shoot went fine. It was stressful, but we didn't have any slip-ups (because we had planned ahead). What made the shoot go all the more smoothly was how Emily and Jenny just took to the equipment (this is where taking the equipment out on the previous Wednesday paid off). Therefore, I was able to focus all my stressful energies on actually directing the shoot.

The shot list / shooting order

The only shots that proved somewhat problematic were the first two we shot; these being shots 1 and 5 of scene 2. With shot 1, the Very Long Shot for the opening and closing of scene 2, Sally’s actions in the first take looked too staged. So, there on out, instead of her entering an empty room with the lights already switched on we had her turn them on when she came in. But that still looked a little too staged so we did it again with her coming in, walking past the light switch, stopping, coming back to the light switch, switching the lights on and then continuing as the script dictated. It took four attempts to get this just right. However, on the fourth take Mike (our tutor) walked in, so we had to do it one time! With shot 5, the Medium Close-Up of Sally sitting at the table, it took us a few takes just to ensure that all of Sally positioning and actions would match up with the continuity of shot 1.

After this we managed to shoot everything in one or two takes. That said, I was still incredibly stressed with the knowledge that time was ticking away. But, I won’t apologise for this because, if anything, it kept us moving forward and focused on the task.

The final two shots, for scene 1, we did incredibly quickly; because we had barely ten minutes left and the corridor was heaving with students. However, this had a positive effect because it ensured we didn’t waste time trying to set up the elaborate VLS to MS, that we had originally planned. Instead, we did a rough and ready set-up that worked fine. I even managed to persuade two random students to play two random students in the shot. Emily and Jenny suggested that we should do a close-up of Sally, which I didn’t feel we needed, but we did a very quick close up take anyway (just in case). Then we wrapped! 

Logging and capturing the footage on the mac was fairly straightforward. We decided against editing it, because I was completely drained and it was Jenny’s birthday. So the edit would have to wait until Wednesday.  

The whole process was astoundingly stressful and, from a whole hour of directing without any water, I had lost most of my voice. None the less, I still thoroughly enjoyed directing and was positively buzzing for hours after it. So, yes, more! I want more, please!

After the filming, came The Eager Student - Editing

Monday, 24 October 2011

Three Weeks In: Planning to make a film



This post was originally written as a reflection on my initiation into the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). The module's practice was undertaken between October 2011 to June 2012 and it provided me with a hugely enriching experience. For a more detailed overview of the module and the projects I undertook as a part of it, see Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience.

This post is just a catch up on what I have already done since I started the Planning and Making a Film module.

Week 1 Seminar 03/10/2011

Notes for the module
This was a general overview of the course and how it is assessed, together with an introduction to the Broadcast Lab. The class was also registered on the Broadcast Lab’s catalogue system; this now enables us to reserve and borrow equipment. 
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We we’re given an introduced to the module blog: BSU Making A Film 2011, which we're all expected to contribute to. In our first blog posts we had to select five short films less than 8 minutes long and say 3 good things, 2 bad things and 1 thing we would improve about them. We also had to select our favourite and state why. You can see my contribution as reposted on this blog here.


Week 2 Seminar 10/10/2011

For the first half, we were given a demonstration on how to operate the Z1 camera.

In the second half we were given a 12 page script: Where Will it all Stop, which is the script we will produce for our practice film. Personally, I don't think much of the story. However, for a script which requires us to nurture a variety of filmmaking skills it is a very good script to use.

The Gatehouse, where the Broadcast Lab is located  (it's much bigger on 
the Inside).

We were also arranged into our production groups with each group consisting of four people. So two groups will produce an individual adaptation, with one group taking the first half and the other taking the second. I was put together with Jenny Banks, Emily James and Sally Overton, and we do not yet know which half of the script we will be making.

The blog task for this week was to write loglines (a one or two sentence description of a screenplay) for the five films we had presented in our first blog posts. In addition to this, we had to choose an additional film to present and write a logline for it. We were also encouraged to write alternate endings for Where Will it all Stop. You can see my contribution as reposted on this blog here.


Week 3 Seminar 17/10/2011

We were given a demonstration on how to retrieve and log footage from the Z1. As well as a very brief demonstration on how to edit on Final Cut Pro.   

We looked at how to take a script and break it down into beats, from which you can then decide on what shots to use. We were shown how to mark this on the script and how to create a shot list. 


Some notes on using a clapper board and breaking down a script


Finally, we were given a 1 page script: The Eager Student, which, in our groups of four, we will have to film and edit in the next session. 

Week 3 continued 19/10/2011

I suggested that me and my group should meet to take a Z1 out and have a practice on it. This I did with Emily and Jenny. Using our notes we managed to get used to operating it.

Week 3 continued 20/10/2011

Me, Jenny, Emily and Sally met up and decided on the shots we wanted to use for The Eager Student and in what order we wanted to shoot. Now all that remains is to shoot it...

... and you can find out how the shooting went right here: The Eager Student - Filming

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Me, My Blog & the Destructive Urge to Create

“Making movies is the most wonderful thing in the world. Working with friends. Entertaining people.”
-          Ian Mckellen as James Whale, Gods and Monsters (1998).



Me and my trusty JVC hard disc camcorder
Currently, I am studying Film Studies with Creative Writing with Planning and Making a Film in my second year at Bath Spa University. In terms of my career aspirations and general interests these three subjects cover both, and I’m very much loving Uni life because of this. The process behind the creation of a film has always been something that has fascinated me. While I have certainly studied many aspects of film production, up until now, the only practical experience I have had has been on  my JVC Hard Disc Camcorder and has been incredibly amateurish (but, that is not to say I haven’t enjoyed it).  

Following in the same vein of my other two blogs: Something to do with Film and Something to do with Writing, this blog will record my progress and development, inside and outside, of the film production part of my degree (If I am referring to the name of my course, Planning and Making a Film, I may abbreviate it as PAMAF, as its a hell of a lot shorter).

The content of posts, primarily, will be reports of what I have been up to and achieving week by week. I may also post reviews or suggestions of any course related books or resources I have used. However, because the three parts of my degree are in quite closely related areas it may be that posts will be spread across blogs, and I will post links where necessary. I’m also blogging about this module on a shared blog: BSU Making A Film 2011again I will post links where necessary.

I welcome comments, criticism and suggestions, but If you should comment all I ask is that comments are expressed politely.
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Lastly, I have always enjoyed making things - the fact that I have created three blogs in quick succession is testament to that (I also hope they don't all collapse under the strain). But is making movies really the most wonderful thing in the world? Well, I believe it is and, this is the important point, I want this blog to illustrate why it is. So, let's get started - lights... camera... action!

Please note that I have now combined the Something to do with Film/Writing/Making Films blogs into one blog under the Something to do with Film banner.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Me, My Blog & the Unbearable Existence of Not Writing!


“If you are an aspiring writer – write! Don’t think about writing. Don’t plan to write. Don’t hope to write. Just write…”
-          Neil Gaiman, Doctor Who Confidential (2011).


Me in the TARDIS
A student of creative writing, film studies and film production, I am currently studying at Bath Spa University in my second year. Fortunately, for my sanity, these three subjects are the holy trinity in my life. Although, it does have to be said that Doctor Who features on par with the trinity, but Doctor Who is a whole other belief system in itself! At the moment, it feels that not a second of my Uni life is being wasted, as it centres on developing everything I love. Hence, the reason for this blog – just another step forward in that development. 


There are three purposes for this blog:

  1. To act as a journal to chronicle my development as a writer in my Creative Writing Degree.
  2. To act as a canvas on which I can present any observations, or anxieties, or suggestions, or anecdotes about writing, obviously. I will also post reviews of things I have read and any other writing related stuff that can be cooked up into a blog post, it’s too early list everything I haven’t thought up yet.
  3. Bar far, the most important - to keep me writing! There are periods, especially as a student, when writing is as rare as a money tree. No more! There is no reason for me not to be writing when I have a blog to update!

In relation to my writing, the blog will be concerned, primarily, with Scriptwriting and Life Writing, as these are the two that I enjoy the most. Of course, I will endeavour to touch upon other types; it may even be that I start taking a shine to another type of writing, but, these will be the two that I focus most on, for the time being.

Comments, criticisms and suggestions are absolutely welcome, but should be expressed politely and with a positive attitude. Naturally, as this is a writer's blog, I would like it to have a writers' workshop feel.

Alongside this blog I will also be running two others: Something to do with Film and Something to do with Making Films. As their names suggest they will be focusing on the other areas of my degree: Film Studies and Film Production. And, yes, I am mentioning them, purely, for advertisement.
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Finally, I would just like to finish, with something that links up with Neil Gaiman’s quote, by saying that writing can be an absolute pain in the behind. But, once you start writing and then keep yourself committed to writing, it’s surprising how quickly you start to enjoy both the process and the outcome. So, blog, here goes…

Please note that I have now combined the Something to do with Film/Writing/Making Films blogs into one blog under the Something to do with Film banner.



Tuesday, 18 October 2011

An Edison Masterpiece?

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931)
Whatever you may think of him, there is one thing that cannot be denied, when it came to filmmaking – Thomas Edison produced films of a very high picture quality. This is something of a testament to the investment he put into developing the technology and processes needed for filmmaking. 

That said, though, the content of his films very rarely warranted such a prestigious presentation; the film form and narrative quality are incredibly crude and hardly improve in all the time that Edison was producing films.
Today, I was shown a film Edison produced and distributed in 1912: The Land beyond the Sunset. It is, in short, a very precious film! Precious because it is a very rare example of an Edison film that not only looks good but also feels good (or bad, depending on the ending). The plot is simple but, because of its use of a rather dark subtext, it is certainly far in advance of Edison’s other films. The film form, also, feels mature and confident. 

Having never seen this film before I was very surprised at the level of its quality and the choice of its subject matter; it is not at all what you would expect from Edison or the period it was made in. It is hard to imagine that the money grabbing Edison would be capable of producing a silent masterpiece, and yet, here is that silent masterpiece! 

The Land Beyond the Sunset

Monday, 17 October 2011

Teeth

(Dir. John Kennedy & RuairĂ­ O'Brien, Ireland, 2008) 


I have watched this film a good few times now and each time it continually manages to tickle me. The lack of any dialogue emphasises the visual gags, while the music maintains the serene and humorous tone of the whole piece. From the opening shot, evocative of a jaw line, right down to the performances, this is a grotesquely charming and clever short film. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Me, My Blog & My Declaration of Principles

“People like that have something inside... something to do with death.”
– Jason Robards, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

Me and my Tommy gun glass
I'm currently in my second year at Bath Spa University where I am studying Film and Screen Studies with Creative Writing with Planning and Making a Film. A mouthful, I know, but I’m loving every second of it! Life outside of Uni is pretty much the same as life inside of Uni – everything revolves around film and writing (and drinking). I’m very proud of this fact and I can, wholeheartedly, say that I am doing what I love, 100% of the time. I consider myself to be a cinĂ©phile and, for me, the world makes a hell of a lot more sense when seen through a film. Therefore, it is about time I started a blog to chronicle this lifestyle and world view.


While this blog will deal with my personal interest in film it will also, invariably, explore topics that I am studying in the Film Studies part of my degree. I will also be running a companion blog: Something to do with Writing, which will deal with my development as a writer and the Creative Writing part of my degree. Over the two blogs I also hope to chronicle my progress in the film production aspect of my degree, although, this may become a blog in its own right. However, with or without it, this blog is my opportunity to explore and share my love and interest of what I consider to be Humanity’s greatest art form.


Specifically, some of the things I will blog about are:

  • The best films ever made, naturally.
  • The worst films ever made, even these you can learn things from!
  • Film reviews and not just what is at the box office, but a healthy diet of Hollywood, pre-Hollywood and non-Hollywood (World Cinema is a phrase I refuse to use).
  • Short films, currently, I don’t give them enough attention.
  • The film Industry, past and present.
  • The technologies of filmmaking, new and old.
  • Filmmakers, big and small.
  • Film form, its application and evolution.
And much more...


... but, if I were to list them all I would be here all day! Suffice to say, though, I want to explore film through a very broad spectrum; only then can I expand on my understanding of the many aspects of film. This is why feedback is so important and I really do welcome comments and criticisms. Film is best when it is shared and the same is true of film analysis.


So, to get the ball rolling, I will start with a reference to what is, many would argue, the greatest film ever made:


Charles Foster Kane's Declaration of Principles, Citizen Kane.


Therefore, My Declaration of Principles is thus:

1. I will write a blog that will chronicle and explore my love of all things film.

2. I will also write it to encourage further exploration in areas untouched and invite discussion and comment from other like minded people. People with something inside… something to do with film.

Signed:
Peter O'Brien

Please note that I have now combined the Something to do with Film/Writing/Making Films blogs into one blog under the Something to do with Film banner.