This reflection post was originally written for 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.
As a class we sat down and looked at all the versions of The Eager Student that had been produced; the other versions can be seen here. As we did this we discussed what we liked, what we didn’t like, what could be improved and what to avoid when making Where will it all stop.
The feedback we received on our version of The Eager Student wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Some of the things that were criticised are as follows:
- How I had Sally (the eager student) come in and switch on the light, and then switch it off again when she left. Many people saw this as unbelievable and not what they would do.
- Another thing, something that a few of the other groups had done, was how we included the eager student leaving, which wasn’t in the script, and which Mike (our tutor) pointed out as being an unnecessary piece of action.
- A couple of people cited our use of a handheld POV shot as sticking out too much from the other smooth and non-handheld shots.
One compliment we received from Mike was how the cut in the middle of our POV Pan was symbolic of a blink. This was not the case at all; we cut it purely to reduce the length of the shot (as speeding it up stuck out like a sore thumb).
Below I have outlined the key points which I extracted from the session and which will need to be considered when making Where will it all stop.
Establishing the Character(s)
One of the concerns that Mike kept bringing up was how the character of the eager student hadn’t been properly established. It is all very well establishing the situation, i.e. that a student comes into a class room and realises she has arrived at the wrong time, but if the filmmaker doesn’t allow the audience time and opportunity to connect with the character, i.e. with a close up fairly early on, then why should the spectator care about the student in this situation. Furthermore, why should the spectator care about the film?
Finding a way to establish and enable the audience to connect with the main character(s), right from the start, will be crucial in making the spectator want to keep watching When will it all stop.
Cutting on Movement
The idea of trying to disguise a cut is made all the easier if the spectator is given other things to focus on, i.e. the action of the character in the shot. Cutting with the action also makes the visual narrative run smoother because it doesn’t feel like it is just stopping and starting. However, matching the action is key, because if the continuity doesn’t match up then the illusion will be destroyed.
The idea of using a ‘sound bridge’ was also suggested as means of smoothing a cut, i.e. allowing the sound from one shot to carry over into another.
Timing of Action
This is something I was aware of when editing our version of The Eager Student, with the opening and closing shots of scene 2. If you are going to hold with one shot then make sure you get the timing of your action spot on, because if it isn’t and the action unintentionally drags on you may not always have another shot (like us) to cut to.
So rehearsal will, absolutely, be essential in getting this right!
Again, planning seems an obvious way of maintaining continuity but even then you can miss things (as we learned when editing our version). This is something that needs to be considered during both pre-production and production.
Balancing Light Sources
This was something that showed up in pretty much all the versions of The Eager Student. It was just a case where the light from the lights in the room wasn’t really balanced that well with the natural light coming through the window.
The switching on and off of the classroom lights in our version was cited as being unbelievable, because it was something that a lot of people couldn’t see themselves doing. When we were shooting it was something that I put in because I thought it would look more naturally and, personally, is something that I would do. However, while this criticism was being voiced it occurred to me that it was less important with what I can identify with and more important for it to be something that the majority of the audience can identify with.
But this all said, none of the mistakes we made were as bad as the ones made in the short film Game Over, which Mike showed us and which can be viewed here.
With the conclusion of The Eager Student, this is where we move onto the next practical exercise of the module: Where will it all stop - Pre-production Meeting #1