Our final assignment for MDA 1400 (Production Theory and Practice) required us to create a film that explores what the notion of ‘Space’ meant to us. The film could be up to 3 minutes long, and could be any format of genre (apart from a music video). We had to work in director/producer pairs. As I produced my last film for the module, I would direct this one. I partnered up with Samuel Ellett, who took on the role of producer for the film.
Immediately, we began formulating ideas. We approached this task by asking ourselves the question; ‘what does the word Space mean to you’. With film in mind, I initially thought of space in filmic terms; more specifically how film-makes create the notion of space, within a frame. This train of though led me to the concept of ‘offscreen space’; space within a scene that exists within the diegesis of the film, but is not shown within the frame. By using offscreen space, a film-maker can hint that there is a larger environment, or an event happening outside the frame of the film, without actually showing it to the audience. Here is an example from the film ‘American Beauty‘ (Sam Mendes, 1999):
Observing this scene, audience can confidently assume that this girl is in a bedroom, lying on a bed, talking to a boy. However, we never see the room entirely, we don’t see a bed, and we don’t see a boy. The entire environment surrounding this female character is simply suggested through visual and audio details. We see that she is lying down, covered in a blanket, which we associate with a bed. This, accompanied with the closed blind, bedside lamp, and pyjama top that the character is wearing, creates an entire environment off screen that the audience passively assumes is a bedroom. And finally, the boy talking, along with her eye-line and reply to his comment, confirms that there is a secondary character within the room.
This idea of offscreen space interested me a lot; how small details on screen can create an entire environment. I wanted to incorporate this idea into the film. Samuel, when asked about the word space, thought of social spaces, and how people communicate within these spaces. The idea that different spaces may change the way that people communicate to one another, for example; in a pub, people tend to behave and communicate in a relaxed, social manner. Whereas in, say, a train carriage, people tend to behave and communicate differently; usually much more quiet and reserved.
We decided to merge our ideas together and ultimately make a film about social spaces, concentrating on how small details of these spaces add to the atmosphere of the larger environment. For example; if the walls in a pub are a dark colour, the space is warmly lit, the floors are wooden, and there is relaxed music playing in the background, it would be a completely different atmosphere to an office with bright white walls, and harsh, flickering fluorescent lighting. These small details can completely change how people feel, behave and communicate with one another within these spaces, and this is what we planned to explore in our film.
We decided to make a film that consisted of a montage of different locations, without actually showing the locations as a whole. We wanted to shoot small details of these locations, details that people would not usually concentrate on, and put them together in a fashion that would let the audience come to the conclusion that they are observing, say, playground. We would also use clear, diegetic sound to create an atmospheric film that would immerse the viewer. Here is a piece of paperwork that Samuel and I created displaying some our concepts and ideas:
After coming up with this basic idea, we began to structure the film; although there would be no narrative to it, we still wanted consistency and some form of a structure. We decided that there should be 3 shots to each location, and they should all be around the same length in time. For example, if we were shooting in a pub, you may see an empty beer glass, a dart board and a pool table accompanied with relaxed music and audio of people chatting in the background, before cutting to the next location. We also liked the idea of juxtaposing very different environments, for example; if the first location in the film is a quiet library, the next location could be a noisy/busy street. We thought that this harsh contrast in atmosphere between each location would keep the audience engaged, and would be a good approach to the film.
After coming up with an idea, we began to think practically. We concluded that we should use a mix of real locations, and recreated locations. The reason for recreating locations was because we wanted to add a nightclub scene, and a bedroom scene to our film, because they are two locations with very unique atmospheres, and people behave noticeably differently in them. Shooting in a nightclub is difficult as it requires permission, lighting and we would be surrounded by (possibly drunk) people, which can cause many problems; so we decided to recreate a nightclub. Seeing as the film is only concentrating on small details of spaces, this would not be too difficult; I planned, as director, to create this environment by shooting in room G231 and using props (such as speakers, beer bottles, glasses etc…), lighting, extras and adding an audio track. We also wanted to recreate a bedroom scene in which a couple are in bed, cuddling with eachother; this was simple, we just needed to find 2 actors. The rest of the locations would be real locations, and we planned to go out with a camera, over the course of 2 days, and capture what we could, leaving room for improvisation. We hired Simon Bogdan as our DOP, and used a Canon 7D camera to shoot on. Here is a schedule that Samuel made of our shoot:
The shoot went smoothly, there were no problems. We hired Adam Shearing and Glendha Tafny as extras for the recreated scenes, and they turned out very nicely. After the shoot, I went back to the locations with a shotgun microphone and recorded some ambient sound to add to the film in post, along with some sound found on the internet. One I had all of the rushes labelled, it was time to start the editing process. Samuel had hired Yasmin Stewart as editor for our film. The edit took about a day to complete, Yasmin did a very good job. We had also hired Ana Colaço as sound designer, it was her job to take all the sound that we had recorded and found on the internet and add it to the film. Once this was done, I put titles and credits on the film, deciding to give it the title ‘Details’. Here is the final film: