Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tell no one - Back to the Secret Cinema botch-up and how it will impact its ongoing reputation

The lack of a clear explanation from the Secret Cinema organisers is hugely frustrating and slightly worrying in terms of their claims that the Back to the Future show is still going to go ahead today, so we shall just have to see, but at least they are staying true to the inherent philosophy of Secret Cinema - tell no one.

Last week Secret Cinema was set to open its latest offering - an immersive cinema experience based around Back to the Future... and then they cancelled it and then they cancelled it again; both times without providing a clear explanation. 

After a week's delay the show is set to launch today, but with many of the patrons left refunded and disgruntled, how will this setback impact Secret Cinema's ongoing reputation?


There is no question that the organisation of the Secret Cinema events are a logistical nightmare and a delay such as the current Back to the Future one was always going to happen at some point. 


"We are extremely sorry for the delayed communications of the last week. We know we let our audience down and will do everything we can to make it up to them." 
- Fabien Riggall, founder of Secret Cinema


The lack of a clear explanation from the Secret Cinema organisers is hugely frustrating and slightly worrying in terms of their claims that the Back to the Future show is still going to go ahead today, so we shall just have to see, but at least they are staying true to the inherent philosophy of Secret Cinema - tell no one.


Tell no one - they got that right!




In a sense, the fact that this happened with Back to the Future is a blessing, because it's part one of a trilogy, so if the organisers really wanted to redeem their reputation and build on what they have done this year, then it might in their interests to offer the full trilogy as a show in the near future and give all the patrons who fell by the wayside priority booking at a reduced rate next time around.


I was tempted, Back to the Future is one of my all time favourite films.






Secret Cinema and its public awareness has been steadily climbing over the last 10 years and, in addition to the Back to the Future show promising to be their biggest offering to date, the public awareness of it has completely eclipsed the coverage of the previous shows and especially so now that it has suffered this huge setback!

The type of highly immersive pubic exhibition experience Secret Cinema offers is still very much in its infancy, so hiccups are to be expected. This fiasco has identified a major public relations flaw in the overall Secret Cinema operation that, unlike with their previous minor slip-ups, they are really going to need to address this time around, once they (hopefully) get Back to the Future running.







Fortunately there is a growing taste for a public film experience superior to what the cineplexes are currently offering; by its very existence, this is something of which Secret Cinema is more than aware. Secret cinema has public demand on their side; a public that is now demanding them to sort their act out and Secret Cinema will go on to do just that.


London's very own Hill Valley bringing you right into the film.



The spectators active participation is an integral component of the experience that Secret Cinema offers; if Secret Cinema did not think or value this, then we would not have Secret Cinema, we would just have another cineplex offering.

The cancellations are unfortunate for all the patrons who have been brushed off, but this will no doubt improve Secret Cinema's public relations from here on out and increase the future public awareness of the tantalising experience it has to offer... when it goes to plan.

Ultimately, one thing is for sure: Secret Cinema is not a secret any more.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Two Hearts of Harold Lloyd's Girl Shy - A Critical Film Review


In many ways the sheer ambition and scale of what Lloyd does with Girl Shy’s race sequence tops what he did with the building climb in Safety Last, albeit horizontally.

Harold Lloyd! If you have not heard of him or have only vaguely heard of him, then you need to keep reading this! 


Unlike Charlie Chaplin or Laurel & Hardy (I am currently looking into Buster Keaton), I was not a huge fan of Harold Lloyd until, until I had the privilege to research his life and films for a research portfolio I had to assemble for the Understanding Hollywood module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). 

The research and writing was undertaken between November 2011 and February 2012 and I continued to explore his work even after the portfolio was completed. This critical essay forms one component of that portfolio - a portfolio that was awarded a first.

What follows is what I originally wrote in the submitted critical review, more or less. I hope you enjoy discovering the deeper complexity and tenderness of that most famous skyscraper dangling silent comedian - Harold Lloyd.

“The image of Harold Lloyd dangling from a clock attached to the face of a skyscraper is by general agreement the most famous shot of American silent comedy” (Steven Jacobs 2010:152). 

Lloyd hangs out in Safety Last“To his chagrin, Harold Lloyd was labelled as a stunt comedian; the picture of him hanging from a clock seems to be all that people remember” (Brownlow 1979:144).


This iconic image comes from Lloyd’s most recognised film Safety Last (Dir. Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, USA, 1923); as Paul Merton comments: “In Safety Last Harold Lloyd climbs to the top of his profession” (Merton 2007:182). Certainly, if you are talking about Lloyd finding his own niche in the silent comedy genre and in creating an iconic image then, yes, Lloyd does climb to the top of his profession. 

However, if are talking about Lloyd’s diversity as an actor then Safety Last really doesn’t hit the mark, not by a long shot:

“He was an outstanding actor – his facial expressions were so subtle that you sometimes thought that, like Keaton, they never changed. And yet they could convulse you all by themselves” (Brownlow 1979:144).

Beneath this initial comic façade there is a far greater actor and, in quite a few of his films, this performer gets to stretch his acting muscles - especially so in Girl Shy (Dir. Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, USA, 1924).



In Girl Shy Lloyd plays a character named Harold Meadows: a tailor apprentice to his uncle (Richard Daniels), Harold suffers from a severe stutter that is induced by a fear of woman. 

To combat this Harold works on a book “The Secret of Making Love,” in which he writes about various fictional love affairs he claims to have had. 


One of the fictional episodes from "The Secret of Making Love".

We see two of these nonsensical episodes illustrated with two stereotypical women of the 1920s: the Vamp, who he wins her over by ignoring her, and the Slapper, who he wins over by throwing against a wall. 

The episodes are clear indicators of his lack of knowledge of women and for which he is later mocked: “I suppose you can look right into the depths of a woman’s soul.”

While this is indicative of a lack of knowledge it is not a lack of respect, and this is one of the film's biggest strengths. By: “putting them on pedestals and worshiping them” (Everson 1978:271), Lloyd was one of the comics who actively embraced and promoted women. Therefore, his shyness of woman is just an indicator of his respect of viewing a woman as something so special she is unattainable. 

From when I originally wrote this critical review in 2012.


This changes when Harold becomes entwined with Jobyna Ralston’s character Mary Buckingham. After Mary’s Chihuahua jumps from a moving train; in one of the film’s best visual gags, Harold comes to the rescue and scoops the little dog up as the train rolls on. After returning the dog to Mary, due to the train’s no dog policy, what follows is series of antics in which he helps Mary cover up the dog’s presence. 

These involve Harold pretending to have a bad case of the barks, munching on a dog biscuit and hiding the dog under the long, grey beard of an old gentleman (Gus Leonard). It is through these gags that a deep bond develops between the two of the the characters.

Harold, in turn, is genuinely flattered when Mary discovers his manuscript of “The Secrets of Making Love” and asks to hear about it. The sequence ends with Mary enthralled by Harold rattling on about his book; both, however, are unaware that the train has reached its destination and the other passengers have exited the train.

Hiding the dog on the train (3:27).

This section of the film is significant because it is here that the first major shift in Lloyd’s character occurs, he goes from a timid tailor’s apprentice, who can barely look a pretty girl in the eye, to a resilient individual, who is willing to make himself the fool just to help a pretty girl. 

This is key to understanding the difference between a Harold Lloyd gag film, e.g. Safety Last, and a Harold Lloyd character film, e.g. Girl Shy, in the gag film the gags are supreme, but in a character film the gags are there to serve the characters.

However, aside from Lloyd, and to a lesser degree Ralston, there are not any other unique or wide ranging characterisations that stick out. If we are to follow the opening credits in which only four of the characters receive onscreen credit, then the most important characters in the film are Harold, Mary, Jerry Meadows and Ronald DeVore (Charlton Griffin). 

DeVore is the antagonist and fellow admirer of Mary; he is also a bigamist. Griffin is not inclined to do much acting because with his moustache, skeletal face and beady eyes, DeVore already looks very vile and incredibly shifty.

DeVore is playing a stereotype, but it is a reductive stereotype: reducing the bigamist’s personality to very little, as one intertitle says: “Ronald DeVore - the type of man that men forget.” 

As Lloyd already had an affinity for respecting woman, clearly, his attitude towards a bigamist is plain - in the film Harold throws a stone at DeVore’s head.

After a long night of writing- exhausted, just like Harold.



On the other hand, with Daniels’ character Jerry Meadows (Harold’s uncle in the film) there is a characterisation, but only in so far that if Girl Shy wasn’t already a comedy, Harold’s uncle would be the comic relief character. 

Indeed, all of the emotion and pathos is attached firmly to Lloyd’s and Ralston’s characters; but agreeably so, seeing as this is a romantic comedy about their interplay with one another.

Another significant character shift comes when Harold discovers that Mary is about to marry DeVore; it is also in this scene that Harold discovers that DeVore is a bigamist! Now Harold’s destiny is set: he must stop the wedding ceremony and save Mary! Thus the film itself also enacts a shift as the character element begins to fade out and the gag/spectacle element starts to fade in. 

Aside from a brief reprise in the closing minutes, from here on out the film is concerned with visual gags in what is considered: “the greatest race-to-the-rescue sequence of the entire silent cinema” (Vance et al., 2002:108). It even went on to influence the chariot race in Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (Dir. Fred Niblo, USA, 1925) the following year. 


Some of Lloyd's races to the rescue (3:47).

In many ways the sheer ambition and scale of what Lloyd does with Girl Shy’s race sequence tops what he did with the building climb in Safety Last, albeit horizontally.

The race sequence is filled with different forms of transportation: foot, cars, motorcycle, streetcar, horseback, horse and carriage. It needs to have different forms of transportation considering it clocks in at twenty minutes! 

However, the length of it does not, by any means, compromise the visceral impact of the sequence. Lloyd may not have been a through-and-through comedian, with a Vaudevillian or Music Hall background, but he was a genius when it came to exploiting physically distressing situations for comedy:

“Lloyd did it exceptionally well-perhaps too well; some people still reject him for making them feel uncomfortable” (Brownlow 2002:13). 

One line of criticism maintains that: “Lloyd tended to be dismissed as a mechanical comedian, too concerned with laughs for their own sake. Gilbert Seldes, chronicler of the popular arts, declared that Lloyd had no tenderness” (Brownlow 2002:10), while this Is certainly true of Lloyd’s early comedies, how someone can say there is no tenderness in a film like Girl Shy is madness! 


The silent beauty of Girl Shy (2:38).

Tenderness is an essential quality of the Harold Meadows character.

On the other hand, when talking about the race sequence this line of thought does hold some weight. In one sense, the spectator does not care about Mary, as inhuman as this sounds, because Lloyd’s brilliant physical performance and orchestration detracts all of the spectator’s attention from the eventual goal of the race: to prevent the wedding ceremony - to save Mary! 

This is something that Lloyd himself agreed with, as he: “believed the chase sequence – which he loved – overwhelmed everything that preceded it. (Vance et al., 2002:108). However, it would be unfair to accuse of all the race sequence as being like this and while most of it is an elaborate side track, the emphasis is placed back on Mary in the final minutes of the race, as evidenced with the increased amount of cuts back to her.

Mechanical comedies?


It has been commented that: “The Girl Shy chase was the heart of the entire picture” (Correll 1992). While this is true in illustrating Lloyd’s brilliance as a visual comedian and in the sense that: “Harold decided to make that film based on the chase” (Correll 1992), it is not in terms of how Lloyd and Ralston interplay with each other in the narrative, as Vance says: “The love story in Girl Shy was the start of Lloyd’s maturity as a filmmaker” (Vance et al., 2002:115). 

Ultimately, it is still a compliment to say that Girl Shy has two hearts: a character heart and a gag heart.

With his everyday quality and horn-rimmed glasses, It has long been held that Lloyd’s Glass Character was the inspiration for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. Certainly, this comparison explains Lloyd’s mass appeal as the Glass character and of a film like Girl Shy, because Lloyd plays an average looking person who achieves incredible things: “he draws on ordinary life and people could recognise themselves” (Brownlow 2007). 

Girl shy Harold and less shy Mary Buckingham.

Lloyd’s skill as a versatile actor allows his Superman quality to be infectious for his audience: “Lloyd’s own charm, his innate optimism, and his aggressive pursuit of success, elements so typical of the 1920’s, all combine to give his films a perennial freshness and zest” (Everson, 1978:276) and, with its two hearts pumping this freshness and zest, Girl Shy is a prime example of Lloyd’s infectiousness.



Bibliography

Brownlow, K. (1979) Hollywood: The Pioneers. London: William Collins Sons & Co LTD.

Everson, W.K. (1978) ‘Comedy’. In: American Silent Film. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc, pp.260-280.

Jacobs, S. (2010) ‘Slapstick Skyscrapers’. In: Paulus, T and King, R. eds. Slapstick Comedy. New York: Routledge, pp.152-168.

Merton, P. (2007) Silent Comedy. London: Random House Books.

Vance, J. and Lloyd, S. (2002) Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated.



Filmography

“American Masters” Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius, 1992. [Online] Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjq41EFgsuM&feature=BFa&list=PL8314099849315292&lf=plpp_video

Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (1925) film: Dir. Fred Niblo. 143 minutes. USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Girl Shy (DVD); Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. 87 minutes. USA: The Harold Lloyd Corporation, Pathé Exchange, 1924 (2007).

Memories, Secrets and Gags: Kevin Brownlow Interview. (2007) DVD. [9 Disc Harold Lloyd: The Definitive Collection]; 29 hours 06 minutes. Optimum Releasing Limited.

Safety Last! (1923) film; Dir. Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. 70 minutes. USA: Hal Roach Studios, Pathé Exchange.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Retelling a Story: The Eager Student Redux


Sometimes the first way you tell a story isn’t always the best way; sometimes you have to go back and retell it a different way.

This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for 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.


Technically, I feel that I have gained a great deal from the module. From being the cinematographer on Where will it all stop and the Lighting technician on One Door Opened I now understand much more about how light works and how the manipulation of light, both inside and outside the camera, can inform the story you are trying to tell. In terms of organisation and group work I have gained a great deal of experience and learned some valuable lessons here as well.

Editing is something that I am stronger with now and together with the theoretical skills editing One Door Opened has provided me with I feel that I am better suited to assemble a succinct and engaging story. To illustrate this I have gone back and re-edited my group’s version of The Eager Student. Now with a slightly altered premise - a student has gone to her seminar, discovers it has been cancelled and then leaves - I have re-assembled it into something that tells the story in a form that, I believe, is much more engaging.


The Eager Student Redux

I think this process of re-jigging a story sums up the module and filmmaking as a whole. What I have learned from the making of One Door Opened and by analysing the adaptation of Busybody is a story can improve and be told more effectively the more it is worked over. 

One Door Opened was originally told in a script that we deemed to be slightly bloated, so we cut out quite a bit and preserved what we thought was the story. Then in the editing suite we cut it together as the shooting script dictated and realised that there was even more material we could get rid of. Once we had done that other people looked at it and suggested some lines of dialogue be removed here and shots be changed there. Even after submitting the final cut, I now look at One Door Opened and think it can refined further. 

Therefore, a narrative film can be vastly improved the more it is recycled through the various stages of its creation. The Filmmaker’s Handbook explains this process perfectly when it quotes Robert Bresson:

“My movie is first born in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected onto a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.”

Sometimes the first way you tell a story isn’t always the best way; sometimes you have to go back and retell it a different way. This understanding of how the filmmaking process evolves a story is something which builds greatly on the knowledge I have already gained from the other parts of my degree, Creative Writing with Film and Screen Studies; as well as my previous filmmaking experiences. Therefore, I believe that the module has contributed greatly to my skills as a storyteller, both in script form and in visual form. 

Skills that I plan to put to good use!

And I did, want to find out how?

Fencing: an examination of the sport and an exploration of the documentary medium

Or head back to Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience and have a look through some of the other material I generated from my experiences in this module.

The Final Cut: One Door Opened


let’s muddle everything up, let’s play around with continuity, let’s put some jump cuts in, let’s overlap things, let’s distort the image, let’s make the noise of the cars outside so loud that it deafens the audience and makes the front door look truly indomitable, let’s just give the film a disjointed feel like it is confused and scared – let’s make the film become Amelia and her anxiety.

This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for 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.

Here I present my final thoughts on the final cut of One Door Opened and, crucially some suggestions on how we could have vastly improved this "final" cut. Truthfully, I do not consider this the final cut of the film, it is not good enough to be a final cut, this is merely the module submission cut...



I think we definitely picked the right actress for Amelia; Helena does a remarkable job in conveying Amelia’s anxiety.



Richard, equally, does the job at playing the concerned and reasoning delivery man.



I think some of the shots we have are effective at representing Amelia’s smallness in comparison to house’s overbearing presence and, at times, even make her look trapped.



However, now that I have finally stepped away from editing and had a break, I still think the film is too long! As I said with sound, not enough effect is made of it and, therefore, the film plays much slower than it could and should do. I think something taking too long to happen in film and not being very interesting can cause the spectator to lose interest, as was the case with my group’s version of The Eager Student. This risks happening at certain points in One Door Opened, such as in the shot where Amelia retreats back from the door and takes her coat off – it seems to go on forever!


As I said in the editing section of this post, the last 6 minutes of the Workprint contained the main struggle of the film and were preserved accordingly. However, since writing this blog post and analysing Busybody in comparison to my own script, my thinking is now - to hell with that! As I said with sound, I feel we need to intensify Amelia’s anxiety in the structure of the film itself. 

Therefore, let’s muddle everything up, let’s play around with continuity, let’s put some jump cuts in, let’s overlap things, let’s distort the image, let’s make the noise of the cars outside so loud that it deafens the audience and makes the front door look truly indomitable, let’s just give the film a disjointed feel like it is confused and scared – let’s make the film become Amelia and her anxiety.

Aside from editing, though, I think we should have put more thought into the visual design of the film before production. One of the problems is the camera is always still. If we had used more camera movement; moving the camera in what is otherwise a still environment could have done wonders to visually represent Amelia’s unease. 

In Martin Scorsese’s 1995 gangster film Casino there is a wonderful shot where Ace (Robert De Nero) is waiting to get on the phone to talk with Nicky (Joe Pesci) to decide on a place to meet.


In the voiceover, Ace explains that Federal Agents are listening in but if it’s a domestic call, e.g. Ace’s wife talking to Nicky’s wife, then the Feds have to stop listening after the first couple of minutes. As soon as Ace hears the Feds click off he grabs the phone and as he does this the camera zooms in and slants to the side.


What started off as a very calm, static shot has suddenly taken on a whole new frantic energy as Ace and Nicky have to quickly decide on a meeting point before the Feds start listening again. Now, I’m not saying we should have used this shot in one of the phone conversations in One Door Opened, but I am trying to illustrate the change of mood that can made by simply moving the camera. 

Also, the phone conversation with Richard (1:00 - 1:47) and the second phone conversation with the mother (2:48 - 3:25) visually look exactly the same and, personally, I think we should have either altered the camera positions or changed the location of one the phone conversations. 

From having edited it for two months, I know the film inside out, but I still have a hard time remembering that there are two different phone conversations that happen in the living room. The reason why this happened is because my mind blends the two very similar visuals together.


I think, If you’ve got an 8 minute film of which about 5 minutes takes place in the same corridor the need to visually mix up the rest of the film becomes obvious!

Overall, for something that tells the story of someone who is afraid to leave her house and then manages to, the film does basically achieve that. However, for something that conveys just how scared the main protagonist feels going through that scenario, the film leaves a lot to answer for!

With the adaptation of Busybody I said that more suspense and jeopardy needed to be injected but what’s great about Busybody is it still works without that. On the other hand, One Door Opened is a film that absolutely needs to exploit suspense and jeopardy to be truly believable in the story it is trying to tell. 

If we really presented just how hard it is for Amelia to leave the house it would be all the more powerful when she does actually manage to do that. The film would then have a truly satisfying conclusion.


However, once again, I’ve probably been slightly negative [critical - it's a good thing] here (If my group is reading this, I did warn you). I think what we have produced is still worthy of recognition in its demonstration of the theoretical and technical skills that we have acquired and refined from the beginning of the academic year. 

While I feel there is more that can be done with our edit, I am still pleased with the time and effort that has been put into it. While I do feel the effect could be intensified, I still think that our adaptation of One Door Opened tells the story we set out to tell.

Next: Retelling a Story: The Eager Student Redux - this is where I wrap the module up and bring my experience within it to a conclusion. 

The First Adaptation: Busybody


I’m looking at it from a writer’s point of view. One of the requirements of writing a character is you have to believe in that character and understand the motivations of why they do what they do. 

This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). The module's practice was undertaken from 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.

In this post, I take a slight detour from One Door Opened, as I review and reflect upon the adaptation that was produced from the short film script I submitted for the module - the script I called Busybody.

Busybody - the first adaptation (6:29).

What is first apparent from this adaptation is that it has restructured the scenario of my original script. The scene where we discover that Natalie spies on people, which acted as an abrupt revelation towards the end of the script, is now placed at the beginning of the film.


Natalie the voyeur.

You could argue that by doing this Natalie’s secret is revealed too soon for the ending of the script to be truly effective. But in actual fact the scene is ambiguous, both visually and narratively, in that, we don’t clearly see Natalie so there is nothing to suggest that this is the same character we see in the next scene. 

Also the subject matter of a character secretly taking photos of other characters throws out many possibilities of what this character could be: paparazzi, extortionist, private eye or spy? 

Therefore, one of the strengths of turning this into the opening scene is it throws out many possibilities as to what type of film the spectator is about to see and, together with the unease that is created from the subject matter, the scene acts as a good hook to get the audience intrigued to watch the rest of the film. 

The restructuring also works in reducing the length of my script, for instance, in the script the revelation of Geoff’s spying and then Natalie’s spying happened in two different scenes and represents two different beats of the story. 

In the adaptation they have been combined through parallel editing. However, by doing this, it removes any opportunity for jeopardy and suspense to be exploited. The reason why I had the two revelations happen separately was because it gave me this great space in between where I could put Natalie in a situation that created jeopardy.

From the 1st draft of Busybody, which you can read here.

I wrote Busybody as a partial homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window: both films are about spying on people (voyeurism), both the protagonists are photographers who have broken their leg while taking a risky photo and, as a result, both have casts on their legs. The great thing about a leg being in a cast is it restricts movability - perfect for creating jeopardy.

Towards the end of Rear Window Thorwald (Raymond Burr), the film’s antagonist and a murderer, discovers that Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) has been spying on him. Thorwald, therefore, goes over to Jeffries flat to “take care of him” and as Jeffries is essentially disabled from the waist down he finds himself in an especially precarious situation.


The confrontation of Jeffries and Thorwald (3:06).

Natalie’s search for the batteries has a more frantic pace but I wanted to convey the same sense of unease and jeopardy that is in the Rear Window scene. I feel that this element of jeopardy should have been exploited more in the adaptation! 

Although, there is one point during the adaptation where jeopardy has been slightly exploited (5:02 – 5:32) but not for long enough to create a response in the spectator. I think the fade to black, after Geoff comes in and sees Natalie has discovered the remote, should have been held for longer before it cuts to the next shot of Tom. 

It would put the audience on edge and provide them with a little bit of time to ponder what has happened to Natalie. Also, it needs to be held longer anyway because the quickness of the transition is too clunky; it needs to be smoothened. 

However, saying this, I don’t think enough effect has been created in my group’s adaptation of One Door Opened in its representation of Amelia’s anxiety. The reasoning for this was because we had been hesitant to do so; instead electing to focus on the plot and I suspect this was probably the same thinking with Mali’s group. 

When I wrote Busybody my intention had been for it to be as much Geoff’s story as is it was Natalie’s, even though the story is seen from Natalie’s point of view.

Geoff and Natalie meet for the first time.

My intention for Geoff was always of someone who was fundamentally a good man but had a bad habit, which has got a bit out of hand. I’m not entirely happy about how I handled it, but what I tried to convey in the script was Geoff’s disillusionment with his family (which also explains why he is moving out of his house for a smaller flat).

From the 1st draft of Busybody, which you can read here.

The short segment above should also account for why Natalie stays with Geoff at the conclusion. It’s not just down to a shared interest in spying but also because Natalie senses Geoff’s loneliness; which, furthermore, is one of the reasons for his spying. 

I feel that this part of Geoff’s psychology has been lost somewhat in the adaptation. Or, at least, simplified into something that verges precariously close to the stereotype of the “dirty old man”, something I tried to steer clear of in the script. However, I could be jumping the gun a bit here; I think Sam Morgan as Geoff does a very good job in dispelling this stereotype and maintains the dignity of Geoff as fundamentally a good man. 

This all said, though, I’m looking at it from a writer’s point of view. One of the requirements of writing a character is you have to believe in that character and understand the motivations of why they do what they do. 

However, Jenny could argue a similar point with my group’s adaptation of One Door Opened, in that the removal of the flashback scenes reduces the psychology of Amelia. But we removed them because they were not part of what we saw as being the main story and all they did was slow the main story down. I’m assuming Mali’s group has removed some of Geoff’s material for the same reason – they have extracted a simplified version of the story.

Looking at this adaptation it is clear that Mali’s groups have taken all the information in my script and have distilled it down into a very basic and fundamental six and half minute form. The psychology behind Geoff’s motivations is not the story of my script, it is only a layer of it that builds upon the theme at the core of my script – the theme of voyeurism. Fundamentally, my script is about the meeting of two people who share the same interest in spying and this is exactly what this adaptation presents.

Sam Morgan as Geoff is a masterstroke (he looks like a lite version of Eddie Marsan)!

When I was editing One Door Opened I could hear him speaking as Geoff from across the room and he sounded exactly how I imagined Geoff would speak. He’s a bit younger than what I imagined but, none the less, he’s still old enough to pull it off and certainly has that doddering quality that I tried to write into Geoff.

With Ana Owen as Natalie (or Natalia in the film) I was, at first, a bit more hesitant.

Ana Owen as Natalie.

I had imagined Natalie being a bit bubblier and Owen comes across as very serious. One of my aims in the script was to contrast the very dark internal urges of Natalie and Geoff with the external friendliness of both their characters. 

However, Owen as an actress has obviously made the character work for her. Natalia may be a bit more serious than Natalie but, none the less, the way Owen plays her makes the character believable, which is better than a performer playing a character that is unbelievable. 


Ana Owen auditioning for Natalie/Natalia. Video from Adam Coumas on Vimeo.

But now, having watched her audition, I can certainly see why Owen was cast. Here she does seem bubbly and I would have liked to have seen more of this in the film. But that is just a personal preference and it shouldn’t detract from the very good job that Owen has done in the finished film. 



Overall, I think the decision to go with professional performers speaks for itself in the very high quality of the performances and, as with the high quality of the CCTV shots, adds a whole other level of credence to the film. 



Finally, I particularly like how the ending of my script has been taken one step further, as opposed to Natalie and Geoff watching Tom, they are now watching us: the audience.


We are voyeurs too.

Not only does this bring the theme of voyeurism in the film full circle – first we were watching them, but now they are watching us. 

Additionally, it also presents a truth to the spectator: just by our urge to watch films everybody is a busybody.

I absolutely love that about this adaptation. 

Next: The Final Cut: One Door Opened 

What you don't see: Sound


We could fill some of this silence by manipulating the sounds we already have, or we could add some music, or both. However, by not doing one of these three options, I believe we have stunted the film’s potential to create an audio effect that enables the audience to experience and, therefore, understand Amelia’s anxiety.

This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for 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.

Your sound is important. Let me repeat that in case you didn't hear me: your sound is important. Sound is just as important, if not more important than the visuals! Look after your sound!



Sound is the one aspect of making One Door Opened that I feel has been [criminally] underexploited. Very early on Tish and myself made a decision not to include a musical soundtrack so we could instead focus on the use and exploitation of sound effects. As was the intention with the lighting, our thinking with the sound was to give the film a very naturalistic feel and then to use the manipulation of everyday sounds to suggest the presence of Amelia’s underlying anxiety. 

My thinking was something along the lines of what had been done with The Black Hole.

There is no music in this film and the only sound you have is diegetic: everything that you would expect to hear in an office setting. But when the Black Hole shows up it is accompanied by a new whirring, ominous sound which is suggestive of danger and makes the audience take notice. Now, with One Door Opened, I’m not suggesting that we should have introduced non-diegetic sounds, such as the whirring noise, but if we had fiddled with the sound that was already in the film to give it an intrusive quality the audience would take notice. I believe this would have made Amelia’s anxiety into a much stronger force and, therefore, would have supplied a much more satisfying conclusion when she eventually overcame this intrusive force. 

Another sound factor that has let the film down was the faulty microphone cable we were lumbered with on the first day of filming. It wasn’t completely useless but it obviously had a dodgy connection on one of the plugs as we had to continuously fiddle with the wire to reduce the amount of static. Overall, we managed to cope with this setback but there were a few instances where the microphone cable let us down; a case In point is in the quality of sound from the first phone conversation (0:00-1:00).


The recorded audio is of an extremely poor quality and it was Richard Wood who urged us to get Helena in so we could re-record the dialogue. However, after arranging it with her twice and then being let down twice we asked Rich to see what he could do with it. While the dialogue is now clearer than it was before the quality still sticks grates like a bad cough!



To have got Helena in for a recording session would also have been useful because we could have recorded some dialogue for the scene where she is searching the kitchen for paracetamol.




The problem with this scene is that it is not entirely clear that Amelia is looking for paracetamol! What the scene shows you is a person looking in a cupboard, looking in a draw and then running out of shot.


But, the great thing about this scene is you don’t see Helena’s face so it would have been very easy to pop in some dialogue. Nothing fancy, just under her breath going: “paracetamol, paracetamol”. After all, that’s exactly what people do when they are in hurry and looking for something – they remind themselves what they’re looking for. Furthermore, it would have enforced the paracetamol’s presence as a major narrative thread that runs through the film. 

I think a valuable lesson has been learned to ensure that when you secure a performer’s services, in addition to the filming date(s), you also secure them for a sound recording session after the shoot. Regardless whether you need it or not, have that option available and set in stone beforehand because it will come with a sense of obligation on the performer’s part. 

While we have not really done anything with the sound In One Door Opened, you could argue that the absence of any music and added sound effects does still maintain the naturalistic feel that we wanted. You could also argue that the quietness of the film and its continual presence throughout is the audio embodiment of Amelia’s continual anxiety. 

Although, I personally feel that it still needs something to complement and counterbalance this quietness. It would serve in upping the pace a bit more and it would make Amelia’s anxiety into a more overtly overbearing presence. At the moment the film seems too quiet and runs the risk of losing the spectator’s attention. 

As I’ve already said we could fill some of this silence by manipulating the sounds we already have, or we could add some music, or both. However, by not doing one of these three options, I believe we have stunted the film’s potential to create an audio effect that enables the audience to experience and, therefore, understand Amelia’s anxiety. 

 Next: The First Adaptation: Busybody

Plugging the Gaps: Pick-ups



I think having the right shots to tell the story can not be emphasised enough. If we hadn’t bothered to get the pick-up of Richard with the crate and Richard had made it to the final cut as a “pervert” instead of the “concerned delivery man” the film would have been a disaster.


This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for 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.


A point that had been raised in the Peer Review session was that Richard didn’t comes across as a delivery man because we never saw what he was delivering. Furthermore, this added to image of Richard’s motives seeming less genuine and more perverted. It also didn’t help that we he was peeking through a letter box spouting a line like: “I’ve got something for you; maybe you could give something to me?” This we promptly deleted! However, it was suggested the best way to establish him as a delivery man would be to insert a shot of him in the front garden with the delivery crate. This was a shot we didn’t have so, during the Easter break, we went and filmed it.

As soon as we inserted it in everyone said it de-perverted Richard and if its inclusion removes the perceived perversion of Richard then its inclusion is vital! Its inclusion also helps to further enforce Richard as the same delivery man who is heard on the phone earlier. Therefore, this shot is well worth the effort we put into getting it.

The second pick-up shot we filmed is one that I pushed for throughout the whole of the editing process because, in my mind, this single shot explains a great deal about Amelia's motivation to trust Richard.


Earlier in the film she asks Richard if he can add paracetamol to her delivery; he tells her, though, that it is too late and rings off. Now jump to later in the film when Richard is pleading for her to give him the keys. Amelia doesn’t give him the keys not just because he is a friendly person; she gives him the keys because he has gone to the trouble of getting the paracetamol, even though he said he couldn’t, and demonstrated that he is an admirable person clearly willing to go out of his way to help her. 



Originally, in our Rough Cuts he does post the paracetamol through but, because there is no close-up, you don’t actually know it is paracetamol. I believe you need to establish that it is paracetamol simply because it is the culmination of a major narrative thread of motivation throughout the film. It is what doesn’t initially come through the letterbox at the start (0:23 – 0:47); it’s what her mother is asking after for the Grandmother (0:38 – 0:47); it is what Amelia pleads Richard to get (1:20 – 0:44); it is what Amelia attempts to get herself, then fails (1:48 – 2:37); frantically, it is what Amelia searches for through the kitchen (2:38 – 2:47) and, ultimately, it is what gives Amelia the motivation to trust Richard. Therefore, the paracetamol is what enables Amelia to leave the house and supplies the conclusion to the story. 

I think having the right shots to tell the story can not be emphasised enough. If we hadn’t bothered to get the pick-up of Richard with the crate and Richard had made it to the final cut as a “pervert” instead of the “concerned delivery man” the film would have been a disaster. This also goes a long way in showing the usefulness of a test screening because, as has been the case with our film, they can reveal major faults in the film. 

Next: What you don't see: Sound - your sound is important. Let me repeat that in case you didn't hear me: your sound is important. Sound is just as important, if not more important than the visuals! Look after your sound!