MDA 1400 – ‘Space’ Assignment Presentation

Everything, MDA 1400 Production Theory and Practice

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:

Spaces Intro

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:

Schedule for shooting ‘Space’ project

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:

‘Details’ – MDA1400 Space Assignment – Rudi Leandro, Samuel Ellett from MDX Film on Vimeo.


MDA 1400 Advert Assignment

Everything, MDA 1400 Production Theory and Practice 2

For our MDA 1400 (Production Thoery and Practice) module, we were required to produce a 30 second advert for a product of our choice. We were put into producer and director pairs; I was paired with Jhenelle White, who took the role of producer, so I took the role of director. We both sat down and began formulating ideas. We thought about some of our favourite adverts, a lot of which happened to have comedic styles, which led us to the conclusion that comedy is an effective way to make an advert memorable. With comedy in mind, we began thinking of a suitable product. We wanted to use a product that didn’t already have too much of an advertisement campaign under it’s belt, so our audience wouldn’t already associate the product with a pre-existing slogan or advertising ‘gimmick’. We also didn’t want a product that had been portrayed in a ‘serious’ manner in previous adverts, as our comedic advert would be inconsistent with the product’s reputation. We decided to use ‘Halls’ cough sweets as our product, as there is no current advertisement campaign for it, and the majority of previous Halls adverts have been comical.

We began coming up with an idea for the advert. As the advert had to be 30 seconds, we wanted to make something simplistic, yet effective. We decided that we wanted to portray the effect that Halls cough sweets gives the consumer, in a visual manner. Here is the script:

Hall’s advert script

Once we had the story, we began hiring crew and actors for production. After hiring a DOP and an actor, Jhenelle began finding props and locations, and I began storyboard the film. We booked room G321 in the Grove building at Middlesex University as our main location, planning to dress the set to make it look like an office. We thought that this room would be perfect with it’s white walls and table. Our second location we needed was a green frield; for this we chose Hendon Park, as it is close to the university and it fits the plot of the film. Once we had the locations, and the props in place, we wrote a 2 day shooting schedule, and we were ready to shoot the film.

The shoot went smoothly, and there were no problems. We shot in the field first, as there was only one day in the week with nice weather. During the ‘office scene’ shoot, we dressed the set to make it look like an office. To do this, we placed a desk by the window in the room and put an Arri light on the outside, to give the impression that the office could be located in a high rise building. We then added props to the desk, such as a computer, a keyboard, papers, a coffee cup, sticky notes and picture frames/pictures to give the impression of a real, working office desk. We also added a large piece of white cardboard to the side of the desk to make it look like a divided office ‘booth’. Jhenelle also added make-up to the actor to make him look as if he had a nasty cold. There were no problems with the shoot, everything went to plan. Overall I believe that the final product is successfully and fits the brief. Here is the film:

Halls Advert – Jhenelle White, Rudi Leandro from MDX Film on Vimeo.


Everything, MDA 1700 Film Communicating in Film: Styles and Movements

Momento is the second feature film from director Christopher Nolan. It was also his first large budget, mainstream Hollywood film. The story revolves around a man suffering from an extreme form of short term memory loss, as he attempts to discover who murdered his wife. In order to do this, he creates a system, utilizing notes and tattoos on his body to remind him of his progress in his investigation.

The story is told in a very unique fashion. The chronology of the film is entirely non-linear; it starts at the end, and is told backwards. In other words, a scene will play out, and then the next scene will take place ten minutes before the previous scene in the chronology of the film, and then the next scene, 10 minutes before that. On top of this unique structure, the film is also inter-cut with a secondary timeline, a series of flashbacks that begin before the initial timeline, and work their way up to the present by the end of the film. The two timelines are divided visually, one is in colour, and the other is in black and white, simply to differentiate one from the other. The ultimate effect of having such a unique chronology, is a film that is told entirely from the first person, revealing information to the audience at the same pace as the protagonist is learning new information; there is no dramatic irony in this film, the audience know no more than the main character.

If the film were to be told in a linear fashion, it would not be a first person experience, as the protagonist, due to his memory loss condition, would have forgotten all of the information that he had previously learnt in the film, yet the audience would have gained information, causing dramatic irony and ultimately separating the audience’s experience from the protagonist’s. Because of this, Memento requires some active reading from the audience; the film is much like a puzzle, as the audience have to actively think about the information being communicated to them in order to make sense of the narrative.

In order to keep the reverse storyline comprehensible, each scene is related to the next. For example, if the previous scene consists of the protagonist talking to a woman in a cafe, the next scene will end with the protagonist entering the cafe and sitting down with the woman. Each scene overlaps into the previous one for a few seconds before cutting to the next one. The separate, secondary black and white timeline is also connected to the main, colour timeline via objects, notes and dialogue. The film is also narrated by an internal monologue of the protagonist to. The narration is not entirely necessary to the narrative exposition, as it could all be revealed through visual storytelling and dialogue, however it would be fairly incomprehensible without some kind of an explanation, so the narration does improve the film. 

The film fails in the final sequence. Up until this point, the entire film consists of brilliant, innovative visual storytelling. The entire mystery of the film is told almost entirely through a unique, visual exposition that not only complements the broken nature of the plot, but is entirely unique to film as a storytelling technique. It is a good example of a story that is far superior when portrayed through a visual medium; the use of notes, tattoos, objects, characters and locations to progress the narrative is close to perfect. Which is why I always find it odd when it comes to the ending of the film. This brilliant build up ultimately leads to a scene in which the entire mystery of the story is simply told to the protagonist in a dull dialogue scene. Nolan uses one of film’s most prevalent fallacies; he tells us, and doesn’t show us. Up until this point the film is entirely driven by excellent, innovative visual exposition, which leads me to believe that Nolan didn’t know how to finish his film, copped out, and just decided to literally tell everything to the audience in a speech at the end. This, in my opinion, is what makes the film fall just short of greatness.

Chungking Express and Godard

Everything, MDA 1700 Film Communicating in Film: Styles and Movements

It is quite obvious that ‘Kar Wai Won’, the director of ‘Chungking Express’ (1994) is influenced heavily by ‘Jean Luc Godard’ and french new wave cinema. Not only is Chungking Express similar, stylistically, to Godard’s work, but it is also influenced both thematically and in it’s narrative. Here are some similarities between Chungking Express and Godard’s 1960 film ‘Breathless’


Chungking Express borrows many camera techniques from Breathless; handheld camera shots help give both films their gritty, realistic feel. This, accompanied with the long takes during dialogue scenes gives the camera a human personality. The camera feels like an extra presence in the room. Both films also incorporate many big close ups on character’s faces, emphasising their facial expressions. These techniques ultimately bring the audience closer to the characters, letting them empathise with, and understand them on a more human level, as they observe the scene from the perspective of another character (as opposed to simply observing characters through an omniscient camera, with no personality, as you do while watching a Kubrick film).


The most noticeable similarity between the two films are the frequent use of jump cuts to progress time, and communicate information. Breathless is famous for being one of the first films to use jump cuts as a stylistic element, and a regular form of narrative exposition. The editing style in Chungking Express is directly influenced by Godard. The film also uses other editing techniques such as freeze frames, recurring imagery and montage which are all present throughout Godard’s work.


The narrative of these films are both driven entirely by one underlying theme; love. Both films follow characters who have fallen in love with someone, yet this love isn’t exactly mutual. In Breathless, the girl, whom the male protagonist loves, turns him into the police, resulting in his death at the end of the film. In Chungking Express, both love stories are left open-ended and ambiguous. Love is both complicated and dangerous within these stories.


Both of these films have very naturalistic performances and dialogue. There are often scenes within the films where two characters are having normal, everyday conversations which don’t necessarily have much to do with narrative progression. This, accompanied by the cinematography, gives the characters a real sense of authenticity.

The locations

Streets, small cafes and bedrooms. These films are set in two of the most photogenic, aesthetically pleasing cities on Earth; Hong Kong and Paris, and yet the film-makers have chosen not to portray these cities as the grand, extravagant metropolises that they are known as. We see little of the famous landmarks and buildings that are associated with these locations. Why? Because the film follows realistic, everyday citizens. These people wouldn’t be visiting these tourist attractions if they live in these cities. The choice of small, humble locations adds to the overall realism of the films.

National Cinema Exercise – MDA 1700

Everything, MDA 1700 Film Communicating in Film: Styles and Movements

National cinema exercise. Choose a decade, choose a nation. Discuss the key films released during that period and what unites/divides them. Do they fit into first, second, third or fourth world cinema?

New Hollywood, The American New Wave, Post-Classical Hollywood… These are terms used to refer to a period in American cinema, between the late 1960s and early 1980s, in which a group of experimental film-makers, sometimes referred to as the ‘movie brats’, emerged and decided to challenge classical film-making techniques, breathing new life into an artistically and financially depressed Hollywood. Many of these film-makers were young, fresh out of film school and had been picked up and given movie deals by large production companies who, due to a financial depression, had nothing to lose. It could be argued that these film-makers simply happened to be in the right place, at the right time. Here are a few of the many major figures during the New Hollywood movement, along with their most well known work during this era:

  • Martin ScorseseMean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull
  • Woody AllenAnnie Hall, Manhatten, Sleeper
  • Francis Ford CoppolaThe Godfather part 1 & 2, Apocalypse Now
  • Stephen SpielbergJaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Stanley Kubrick2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining
  • Terrence Malick – Badlands, Days of Heaven
  • Dennis HopperEasy Rider 
  • Mike NicholsThe Graduate
  • Brian De PalmaCarrie 
  • Sidney Lumet – Dog Day Afternoon 
  • Ridley ScottThe Duellists, Alien

A lot of film-makers during the New Hollywood era were heavily influenced by ‘French New Wave’ cinema from the 1950s and 1960s; film-makers like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard who’s intentions were to challenge classical film convention. The New Hollywood film-makers were very much influenced by auteur theory, an idea that also came out of the French New Wave. An ‘auteur’ is a director who has full control over his film. Auteur theory argues that a director is to a film, what a writer is to a novel. In other words, an audience watching a film directed by a true auteur should be able to tell who the director is, simply by looking at the screen; the film would have the stamp of the director, a recognisably and distinct style that sets them apart from the rest.

All of the directors listed above can be referred to as auteurs. You could watch a Scorsese film from the 1970s and instantly know that you are watching a Scorsese film due to his stylistic choices, dialogue, shot selection etc… That being said, there are still some notable film making techniques that were commonplace during the New Hollywood movement. Many of these techniques broke the ‘rule book’ of classical Hollywood editing, cinematography and writing. For example; the use of jump cuts (also largely used during the French New wave), line crosses (breaking the 180 degree rule), whip pans/zooms, sudden changes in cutting tempo etc… Many of these techniques were directly used to take the audience out of the movie, to jar the audience and remind them that they are watching a film, as opposed to using the ‘invisible’ techniques from classic Hollywood to let the audience forget that they are watching a film and get lost in the story.

A lot of (not all) the New Hollywood film-makers wanted the audience to be conscious of film-making decisions, especially editing, which up until that point in American cinema, had remained an invisible art form; the final shooting scene from ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, the transitions in ‘Easy Rider’, the breaking of the fourth wall in ‘Annie Hall’, the famous bone-to-spaceship match cut in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ are all good examples of this.

In relation to the question, it is difficult to categorise the New Hollywood movement into first or second world cinema. Technically it would be first world cinema, as it is still Hollywood, and many of the films/film-makers were huge, blockbuster, money making machines. However, the movement adopted so many second world cinema ideas and techniques, such as the rejection of Hollywood convention, and auteur theory, that it could be considered as an honorary member of second world cinema.

Poetry and Dreams

Everything, MDA 1700 Film Communicating in Film: Styles and Movements

For our module ‘MDA1700 Communicating in film: Styles and Movement’, we were required to visit a surrealist exhibition titled ‘Poetry and Dreams’ in the Tate Modern art gallery. The exhibition houses artwork from famous surrealists including Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Man Ray. As we looked at the artwork, we were asked to think about 3 aspects that relates to our film course, or more specifically, what we had been learning in relation to surrealist film.

1) Can you see any similarities between any of Dali’s paintings here and ‘Un Chien Andalou‘?

There were 3 Salvador Dali paintings in the exhibition:

Salvador Dalí ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’, 1937 © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2015

‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’ (1937)

Salvador Dalí ‘Autumnal Cannibalism’, 1936 © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2015

Autumnal Cannibalism (1936)

Salvador Dalí ‘Mountain Lake’, 1938 © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2015

Mountain Lake (1938)

All of which, I thought, have noticeable similarities to Buñuel and Dali’sUn Chien Andalou‘. The first, and most obvious, similarity I saw was the use of multiple images, personified in Dali’s paintings through ‘double images’, and in Un Chien Andalou as match cuts/transitions. For example; the slicing of the eye with a straight razor in juxtaposed with the thin cloud passing in front of the moon in Un Chien Andalou (as seen below).

This technique of merging two similar images together can be seen within a lot of Dali’s paintings. In the Metamorphosis of Narcissus painting, Dali has used a double image to represent the transformation of Narcissus (from the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus); 2 figures can be seen, one is the body of a man crouching in a lake, and the other is a hand holding an egg from which a flower is growing. Although both figures are entirely different objects, they both have the same basic form/structure. The same technique can be seen in ‘Mountain Lake’, in which the lake can also be seen as a fish, through double imagery.

2) Apart from Dali’s paintings, pick out two other art works that have made an impression on you. How have they engaged your interest and curiosity? How do they convey meaning? How are ideas communicated in these surrealist works?

Joan Miró ‘Painting’, 1927 © Succession Miro/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015

Joan Miró – ‘Painting’ (1927)

This painting grabbed my attention when I first walked into the exhibition. I think the first thing I noticed was the striking, vibrant, bright blue canvas; it’s almost monochromatic aesthetics stood out from other paintings with more diverse colour palettes. I love the simplicity of the painting; the small simple forms, and vast empty spaces. The manifesto states that the artist associated the colour blue with dreams. I read this painting as a visualisation of what it actually feels like to dream; small, vague, ambiguous forms and images appearing from the deep subconscious (the blue) that could be fully open to interpretation.

Dorothea Tanning ‘A Mi-Voix’, 1958 © DACS, 2015

Dorothea Tanning – A-Mi-Voix (1958)

I enjoy the raw energy of this painting. How the artist managed to depict such intensity and movement with such muted, dull colours is impressive. The artist quotes: “I just wanted to paint a white and grey picture that would still have colour in its veins as we have blood under our winter-white skin”. I believe that she captured exactly what she set out to. The forms within the painting are abstract and open to interpretation but, to me, it looks like 3 people sitting around a table; a man in the middle and two women beside him.

3) In addition, think about Hitchcock’s Vertigo that was screened this week. Do you find that the film has any association with what you looked at in the exhibition?

Hitchcock, in general, had many associations with the surrealist art movement. He even worked on a dream sequence with Salvador Dali in his 1945 film ‘Spellbound’. Vertigo’s dream (or nightmare) sequence, I think, directly references surrealist art. The portrayal of dreams through abstract imagery and unstructured logic, as seen in many surrealist paintings within the exhibition, is referenced heavily within this sequence. The overall plot of the film itself is very surreal, and it deals with similar subjects that surrealists did such as the psychology and the subconscious.