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.



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.

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.