Recreation Assignment: The Godfather.

Everything, MDA 1300 Film Language and Production


Our next assignment in the MDA1300 (film language and production) required students to recreate a scene, or segment from a scene, shot by shot. The video could be no longer than 90 seconds and it had to replicate the chosen seen as close as possible, from lighting and location, to acting and costumes. After some discussion, my group and I decided to recreation 90 seconds from the final scene from Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ (1972). We chose this scene because it would be fairly simple to recreate without a budget (that and because it’s one of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema). We were in a group of 4. 2 of our group members acted as Kate and Michael (the character in the scene), our other group member was in charge of sound and I directed, shot and edited the film, however we all worked in collaboration, everyone had contribution to all aspects of the production.

Overall I believe our recreation is very successful, some things proved difficult to recreate (such as location, and acting), however the timing of the shots, the lighting, the grade and the angles I feel are close to perfect. Here is the film (our film plays alone in the first half of the video, then there is a split screen comparison in the second half):

MDA 1300 Assignment 5: Rudi, Lukas, Glendha, Roy – The Godfather. from MDX Film on Vimeo.

There really is not much to say about this task, due to the fact that it didn’t require much creativity, in film making terms, it was an exercise concentrating on film craft rather than film theory. We were simply following what we see within the scene we were copying. The assignment required a fair bit of re production, I had to make a storyboard from the screenshots in the original scene, as well as record the timing of every shot. I also made a shot list, one in order of the original scene, and one to show which order we would shoot in. One of our group members also watched the scene and created the script for the actors to read.

The most difficult aspect of the shoot was undoubtedly the acting, and the timing of the acting. Lighting also proved difficult, we used 2 ‘3 point lighting kits’ to recreate the aesthetics. 2 red heads were the primary source of lighting in the scene, 1 shining through the window from the outside, and the other bouncing off the wall to replicate the soft lighting in the scene. It was also difficult to get the timing of the cuts right in the edit. In conclusion I feel that our group was very successful in this assignment, our end product was pretty much as close as we could get to the real thing.

Continuity Assignment

Everything, MDA 1300 Film Language and Production

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.

 

 

The Night of the Hunter: Exposition and Symbolism

Everything, MDA 1800 Storytelling for the Screen

There are so many things that Charles Laughton’s 1955 film ‘The Night of the Hunter’ does right, it makes it difficult to concentrate on only two aspects. However in this post, I shall be concentrating on 2 aspects of the film that I would argue are among the most important to it’s success; exposition, and symbolism.

Exposition:

Many films that have a lot of dialogue become bogged down in verbal exposition, committing one of film’s most prevalent fallacies; telling and not showing. Instead of visually communicating to the audience, many filmmakers chose to have a running commentary of explanatory dialogue, telling the viewer exactly what is happening for the majority of the film.

Exposition through dialogue isn’t a bad thing, when done right. Some films succeed in having the perfect balance of both verbal, and visual exposition. ‘The Night of the Hunter’ is one of those films. A good example of this is the introduction of the mother character. The mother is lightly and ambiguously introduced earlier in the film with one shot, but this is the first time she is properly introduced as a character (unfortunately I could not find a video clip, so I am using screenshots):

  image1

The two children (John and Pearl) are looking at a watch in the window, when an old woman comes out, asking where their mother is. John explains that she is working at a shop called ‘Spoons’.

 

image2image2image1

 

The children then walk down the road, arriving at ‘Spoons’. In this shot we can see the shop sign, and a woman standing in the window. John previously explained to the old woman that his mother was working in ‘Spoons’, and the audience now sees a woman standing in the window of ‘Spoons’, this is enough information for the audience to assume that the woman in the window is John and Pearl’s mother. The film then cuts to a tighter shot of the woman looking out of the window, and an eye-line match cut of the children, assuring the audience that this is the mother character.

This is a good example of how juxtaposing exposition through both dialogue, and visual storytelling can introduce a character to the audience, and progress the narrative of the film. The film is full of efficient storytelling similar to this, and the use of visual exposition makes this a story that is unique to the medium of film.

Symbolism:

Symbolism and representation can be a very powerful tools in film, and ‘The Night of the Hunter’ is full of it. The film utilises symbolism and representation throughout it’s entire duration as both a narrative technique, and to enhance the film’s themes and ideas. Here are some examples:

 

image2 (1)

 

Here we see an image of the film’s antagonist ‘Harry Powell’. The symbolism in this shot enhances the sinister nature of the character. In order to explain this image properly, I shall give a bit of back story about the character, and what the audience know about him at this point in the film. At this point, it has been communicated to the audience that ‘Harry Powell’ is a thieving, misogynistic serial killer who uses a twisted form of religion (Christianity) to justify his actions. He even calls himself a priest. This shot takes place shortly after Harry meets the husband of a soon-to-be widow (her husband is on death row). He discovers that the woman has a large amount of money in her possession. This is fortunate to Harry, as he shall be released from jail in the next few days. In this shot, Harry is thanking God for this discovery.

The symbolism is quite subtle, but effective. Harry is speaking to God, his hands are together as if he is praying, and there is a knife held in-between his hands. This isn’t just any knife, this is the knife Harry uses to kill his victims. This is a very strong comment on Harry’s ideology, his hands being a symbol of God, and the knife being a simple of murder. It shows how this character manipulates religion to the point that an obvious immoral action (sin) is seen as a moral action by him. It’s not only a comment on his character, but a comment on religion as a whole, and how it’s teachings can be twisted and interoperated in such a way that evil actions are believed to be justified.

 

image1 (2)

Another piece of symbolised prevalent throughout the film is Pearl’s doll. This symbolism is more obvious, and is a form of narrative exposition, rather than character exposition.  Anyone who has seen the film will know that the money is hidden in the doll, the same doll that is almost always in the same shots as the children, often between the both of them. This has a very literal meaning; it shows how the money that Harry is looking for is right underneath his nose, adding a sense of dramatic irony to the film, and it also shows how the only thing standing between Harry and the money is the children. It could be argued that this is a comment on morality; the fact that Harry never gets his hands on the doll, belonging to the children, represents how good/innocence will always prevail over evil/corruption (The children representing good, and Harry representing Evil).

Exposition and symbolism are just 2 of the many things that make ‘The Night of the Hunter’ a truly great film.

Sound Assignment

Everything, MDA 1300 Film Language and Production

Our next MDX1300 assignment brief required us to produce a short documentary consisting of 2, 60 second interviews that concentrated on sound. The sound on the first interview was to be recorded with a tie mic (lapel mic), and the sound on the second interview was to be recorded with a boom mic, however both interviews were to also be recorded with the camera mic, simultaneously on a different channel.

We planned to make the documentary about Middlesex University, or more specifically the BA Film course at the university, because we had access to all of the resources we required on location, and we could interview Middlesex students who would give us insightful information on the subject. These two interviews would be intercut with juxtaposing imagery relating to the narrative, and detailed cut-aways of the interviewee (eg: close ups of their eyes/hands). We also decided to cut from a mid-shot to a mid-close up half way through the interview, when the questions about the film course arise. This would not only break up the static nature of the interview, making it more more engaging (less boring) for the viewer, but it would also enhance the relation between the interviewee and the audience, by focusing more on the subjects face than any other aspect in the frame, during the questions about the course.

Here is the film:

Interviews – Regina, Rudi, Claudia, Simon from MDX Film on Vimeo.

I was happy with the finished product, and I feel, as the director, that I effectively translated my vision onto the screen. During the next MDA1300 class, we watched the documentaries made by the multiple groups in our class, and gave constructive criticism to our peers. After viewing my group’s film in class, the tutor gave us some feedback. Some of the points made I agreed with, such as the lack of related imagery to cut away to, however this was possibly the first time I disagreed with some of the points made by the tutor.

Before I go into detail, I would like to add that our interviewees were students on our course, who were somewhat camera shy. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the brief didn’t required us to use students in our group as the interviewees, however, it did. If the brief was more flexible about this, I would have chosen subjects more confident in front of a camera.

Our tutor’s main criticism was on the detail close up shots of the interviewees eyes/hands, he argued that they were unnecessary, ‘awkward’ and did not suit the formal nature of the interview. Admittedly, the movement of the hands were somewhat unnatural, and the sound on the extreme close ups were not synced to the imagery, however I would argue that they were totally necessary to the film. The serious nature of the interview was not a directorial choice, the seriousness, instead, arose from the lack of confidence of the interviewees (no smiling, no laughing, etc…). The fact that the interviewees seemed emotionless on camera was the exact reason why the detail shots were necessary.

The close ups of the eyes and hands helps portray the interviewees on a more ‘human’ level. The eyes, after all, are the window to the soul, a viewer can learn a lot of information about a character from their eyes. This is why I chose to include a close up of the subjects eyes in the film. The close up of the hands puts emphasis on what is being said by the interviewee, the hand movement, again, portrays the subject at a more ‘human’ level. If I were to have the interviewees sit there, emotionless and not moving throughout the duration of the interviews, it would contradict the tone I was attempting to achieve, and more importantly, would be boring for the audience. Furthermore, we also added an uplifting soundtrack that plays throughout the interviews to make the interviews more lighthearted, and less serious.

‘Serious’ and ’emotionless’ was not the tone I was attempting to achieve with this film. This is not a professional production, and we did not have the flexibility in the assignment to chose our interviewees, if we did, these issues would have not occurred. Yes the hand movement was awkward, yes the close up of the eyes were not synced up to the visuals (we were only allowed to use one camera), however, the very fact that we included these shots, along with changes in camera angles, juxtaposing imagery and lighthearted music shows a very conscious directorial decision to lift the overall tone of the film. I am surprised that our group was criticised on the performance of the interviewees, and not the craft of the film itself.

On the other hand, the sound on the film was referred to as ‘textbook’, by one of the tutors in the seminar, which is good seeing as it was a sound assignment. The lighting, framing and mise-en-scene was complimented on, and referred to as looking ‘professional’. The film also fit the brief, so overall it was successful.

‘Blackmail’ – Sound in film

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

Sound has always been a part of film. Even during the ‘silent era’, music was used to complement the moving image. Sound combined with the moving image is irrefutably effective in achieving reactions from the viewer. I would like to talk about the first ‘talkies’, or the first films with synchronised sound. More notably; Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 film ‘Blackmail’. ‘Blackmail’ was the first British film with synchronised sound, and is an interesting film due to the fact that, arguably, it was the first film to use synchronised sound as more than just a gimmick.

To explain further I shall have to backtrack to 1927, when an American film titled ‘The Jazz Singer’ was released. ‘The Jazz Singer’ was the first feature film ever to use synchronised sound, however, the synchronised sound in this film was not used to any noticeable artistic effect, but rather the film was largely used an excuse for Hollywood ‘show-off’ this new found audio technology.

Alfred Hitchcock, being the genius that he is, decided to take a different approach. He decided to take this new technology, and use it as a storytelling technique. the film ‘Blackmail’ used sound as a form of narrative exposition. Here is an example: (In the chronology of the film, this scene takes place after the main character, played by Anny Ondra, has just killed a man, by stabbing him to death.)

In this example, Hitchcock has manipulated the dialogue in such a way that it evokes empathy towards the protagonist. The main character (the blonde girl seen in the close up) has just murdered somebody, and has a feeling of overwhelming guilt and paranoia. These over-looming emotions, felt by the main character, are emphasised through the use of sound, by lowering the volume on every bit of dialogue spoken by the woman, apart from the word ‘knife’. By doing this, the audience hears sound from the protagonist’s perspective, it puts the viewer in the shoes of someone guilty of murdering a man with a knife. Any mention of the word ‘knife’ would get said person’s attention.

Obviously the word ‘knife’ is not used this frequently in everyday conversation, however, from the perspective of the protagonist, paranoia may cause her to feel as if she’s hearing the word ‘knife’ an excessive amount of times. It is more than likely that the word ‘knife’ was not used this much in reality, therefore the sound is used to express the auditory hallucinations one might feel when suffering from paranoia.

This was a very important film. Hitchcock has effectively used dietetic sound to express the emotion of a character, and evoke empathy from the audience. This added an entirely new layer to film that had not been present before. It opened up new opportunities for film makers; exposition through sound.

20 second shot assignment.

Everything, MDA 1300 Film Language and Production

In the ‘Film Language and Production'(MDA 1300) module, we have been learning about cameras. Our first class included an in depth lesson on the ‘JVC H100’ video camera. We were taught about white balance, exposure, shutter speed, image formatting etc… During this class I realised that I have far much more knowledge on the theory side of film, rather than the practical side of film (meaning, I am not very knowledgeable on the mechanics of the camera or sound equipment, for example. I do feel, however, that I have a decent understanding of film production.) As I am interested in Directing, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as directors need a good knowledge on film theory. However, I am very eager to learn about the practical side of film making.

At the end of the lesson, we were given our first assignment for the module. This assignment was to loan out a ‘JVC H100’ camera, and capture one 20 second shot, that is unique to the camera’s point of view. Meaning a shot that only a camera could achieve, and not one that a human can see with their own eyes, for example; a zoom.

I originally planned to have an elaborate shot involving fake blood, a knife, a corridor, a shower curtain and 2 actors. I even shot it, however when I viewed the shot on my computer, something was wrong with the image. By that time, I had already cleaned up the set and the actors had left. Reluctantly I deleted the footage, and ended up shooting a dolly zoom of my iPhone propped up against my window. Other than the shakiness of the shot, due to the fact I had no dolly/steadicam, it turned out rather well. Here is the shot:

MDA 1300 Assignment 1 – Rudi Leandro from MDX Film on Vimeo.

Spirit of London

Everything, Independent Studies, Productions, Ideas and Reviews

During our induction on the course, we were given an assignment. We were split up into groups of four and were handed a brief in which we had to shoot a short 90 second video entitled ‘Spirit of London’. The film had to explore any aspect of London, and was to be shot on a digital stills camera, or a mobile phone camera.

We were given a day to plan, and about 3 hours to shoot the film. Our group decided on a simplistic approach, due to the lack of pre-production time given to produce this film. We decided to make a short documentary, comprised of on-street interviews. As interviewers, we asked the public to “describe your experience of London in one statement”. We then took these interviews and juxtaposed them with related imagery of London.

Unfortunately I had no DSLR camera to shoot with, so my iPhone camera had to make do. I used a ‘Zoom h1’ microphone to record audio (which isn’t the best). Here is the film:

 

Spirit of London from MDX Film on Vimeo.