Our 4th assignment for the ‘MDA1300 Film Language and Production’ module required us to create a film that concentrated on continuity. The brief stated that the film must be a scene consisting of no more than 10 camera set-ups, and this scene must include a character ‘giving an object’ to another character. Here is our completed assignment:
‘The Exchange’ – Continuity Assignment. Rudi, Abdi, Ezera, Joao, Aleksandra, Barushan. from MDX Film on Vimeo.
‘The Exchange’ – Continuity Assignment. Rudi, Abdi, i Ezera, Joao, Aleksandra, Barushan. from MDX Film on Vimeo.
As the director, I decided to shoot the film in a puzzle-like fashion. By this I mean that the information is communicated to the audience gradually throughout the film, through visual exposition, and only by watching the film to the very last shot, will the audience understand the scenario. In other words, every shot is crucial to the narrative. I decided that the best way to portray the narrative, in this ‘puzzle-like’ fashion, was to give the audience their own disembodied point of view on the sequence. The film is not shot from either of the character’s point of view, due to the fact that each character is already fully conscious of the scenario that is about to take place, and I didn’t want the audience to know what was going to happen, before it happened.
I concentrated on how shot selection can put emphasis on the continuity of a scene. This aspect is most notably present during the physical ‘exchange’ in the film. There are 3 shots that make up the passing of the briefcase, and 4 shots that make up the passing of the envelope/newspaper. This puts emphasis on continuity, as only 2 shots are necessary in order to achieve a continuous cut. Here is a shot-by-shot analysis of the film:
– Shot 1 (tracking tilt on Character 1) – In the beginning of the shot, we see nothing but legs and a briefcase. The fact that this is the first thing that the audience sees in the film, and the fact that we are tracking closely with this character, communicates that, potentially, this is an significant character, and the briefcase may also be significant. The camera then tilts up, to a low angle close up of the character. We see that the character is dressed formally, in a smart shirt and tie, suggesting that this man has some kind of ‘business’ to attend to, rather than anything social. The low angle shot of the face not only introduces the character, it also reinforces the suggestion that this is a significant character, and the angle itself makes the character seem intimidating. This, accompanied by the style of music playing, suggests that whatever business this character may be attending to, may very well not be legal.
– Shot 2 (Tracking shot of briefcase) – This further reinforces the audience’s suspicion that their is a significance to the briefcase, and that the character is attending to business. It also has a connection to the next shot in the sequence (note that in this shot, the character is walking from left to right).
– Shot 3 (Tracking shot of newspaper/arc shot to Character 2’s face) – There is a graphic match cut here, from the tracking shot of the briefcase, to a tracking shot of a newspaper being carried by a man, in a different location, walking in the opposite direction (from right to left). The graphic match cut shows that there is some kind of connection between the two characters. The fact that Character 1 is walking from left to right, and Character 2 is walking from right to left subconsciously tells the audience that the two characters are walking towards each other, and are possibly going to meet at some point (you could argue that this may suggest that the characters are walking away from each other, however the fact that there is a large building directly behind Character 2 suggests that this is unlikely). The camera then tracks around (arc shot) to the front of Character 2, moving into a low angle close up of his face. This shows that the character is dressed formally, has an envelope in his suit pocket, and again, introduces the character, adding an intimidating factor to him. With these aspects, along with the fact that the audience already suspects that Character 1 is associated with business, the audience can assume that Character 2 is associated with the same business.
– Shot 4 (Panning shot of Character 1) – In this shot, the camera pans with Character 1 as he walks down a path and sits on a bench. The change in location shows that time has past since we last saw him, and that he has travelled some distance. The fact that he sits down on a bench suggests that he has reached his destination.
– Shot 5 (Long, 2 shot of characters and bench) – Here we see a long shot of Character 1 sitting on the bench alone. He places the briefcase onto the bench. Due to the previous shots, the audience can assume that he is awaiting the arrival of Character 2. Character two then enters the frame, sits down and begins to read his newspaper. The audience already suspect that both character are involved in business together, and the fact that the briefcase is positioned between the two of them on the bench suggests that the briefcase is an intrinsic part of said business. The long shot (slightly zoomed in to flatten the background), puts emphasis on the fact that the audience have their own point of view in the seen. We are observing these characters and their actions, as if through a microscope, rather than empathising with one (or both) of them from a human level. This shot lasts for a while, the character do not look at each other, suggesting that they are trying to not seem suspicious. This building suspense, the audience at this point can be sure that something is going to happen between these two character and the briefcase.
– Shot 6 (2 shot, focused on Character 1) – In this shot, the camera has moved to a much tighter 2 shot. We see Character 2’s face to the far right of the frame, slightly out of focus, very close to the camera. Character 1 is positioned at the end of the bench, in full focus, slightly off centre to the left. The focus in this shot is on Character 1, suggesting that he is about to do something. Character 1 then looks over to Character 2, looks back ahead, and reaches his hand out for the suitcase. The fact that character 1 looks back ahead after briefly looking at Character 2 enhances the suspicion that they may be taking part in illegal activity, and are trying to look as least suspicious as possible. This is where the emphasised continuity comes into play.
– Shot 7 (Tracking shot of briefcase) – This is a simple insert to show the exchange of the briefcase. The shot consists of a tight angle of the briefcase, as it is slid along the bench by character 2. The camera tracks with the briefcase. There are no faces in shot, only the briefcase, this adds a heightened sense of significance to the briefcase.This shot is also used to add continuity to the film.
– Shot 8 (Close up of Character 2) – Here we see a close up of character two, as the briefcase slides into frame. He then looks at the briefcase, looks back ahead and reaches for something in his pocket. This shot has 3 purposes; it adds continuity from the last shot, as we see the briefcase slide into the edge of the frame. Having Character 2 look at the briefcase shows his interest in it, and him reaching for something in his pocket gives motivation for the next shot, adding continuity.
– Shot 9 (Close up of envelope) – This shot, shows the exchange of the envelope. The camera is tight and we see no faces. We see Character 2’s hand take an envelope out of his pocket, and place it in the newspaper, the camera pans with the envelope. He then begins to close the newspaper. This is another simple insert shot used to add continuity to the film and add a heightened sense of significance to the item. The shot is not held long enough for the audience to see the envelope fully, leaving the item unknown, similar to the black briefcase.
– Shot 10 (2 shot, focused on Character 1) – This is a shot from the same angle as shot 6. In this shot, Character 2 is closing the newspaper, with the envelope inside, and Character 1 watches, before looking ahead. This shot is similar to shot 8 in purpose, however this time the focus is on Character 1. The fact that he is looking at the newspaper shows his interest in the item concealed within, it also adds continuity from the last shot with the newspaper being closed, and also adds continuity to the next cut.
– Shot 11 (Long shot) – This shot is from the same angle as shot 5. It is the final shot of the film. Character 2 place the closed newspaper on the bench, he then stands up, takes the briefcase and exits the frame. Character 1 when stands up, takes the newspaper and exits the frame in the opposite direction. This shot is continuous from the last shot. Going back to the same angle we were at when the characters first meet, shows that business is now finished, and the characters will now leave, the fact that both characters exit the frame in opposite direction confirms this.