Session 1 – Lambeth CLC – 17/11/10

Mark Reid (BFI) leads, supported by film-maker (and project leader) Emma Sullivan:
Students are informed that there will an emphasis on play and practising in the initial weeks. Last year the theme was Camera Movement, this year it’s Hiding and Showing or Revealing … throughout all aspects of the film: stories, character, shots & editing etc.

Ice breaker: discuss films with a secret

Clip 1: 1st few mins of A Close Shave – discussion of hiding/showing:

  • Framing
  • Lighting/shadow
  • Unexplained/enigmatic behaviour
  • Unexplained Sound
  • Effects/consequences being shown before the cause/source
  • Reflections of people, mirrors

Clip 2: He Dies at the End

Show film, stop it strategically and chat about how people think the film will end: kills himself / monster / scary face and a shrieking sound / Heart attack / gets run over /

The text/questions on the computer screen play on people being afraid of technology

Watch it again making a mental note of what is hidden…..

(shadows, suggestion, filming his back, The Ring, scary thing is that your curiosity can get you into trouble, the subliminal, sound of clock not seen, close-ups of parts of his body)

Emma’s critical observations: one film, one guy, one room, being asked questions, who is he? why the questions? Precise opening, don’t immediately see his face,  typing, see still shots on table first,  see photo but not him necessarily, comic monster sound, moving in shot, badge, pot plant, objects, these close ups have pay offs later on, objects related to questions later, basey sound, creaky chair, breathing sound, industrial humming, shot of dark doorway, his point of view, fear of unknown, yellow titles, why questions suddenly removed from computer and onto the film screen? (these are questions in his own head), economical story telling, loner? It’s night-time, clicking, sound effects, tilted angle, sound makes you ask questions.

Clip 3: Virus – Similarities with previous film? story is driven by a computer, in a dark office, sense something in the shadows, same quizzical expressions, foreboding, watching & being watched

Ask students how story will end and to finish the story in 3 shots: she gets shot / web cams limit you to only hearing / how to keep it scary but working in the techy environment / death virus / is he looking at her in real time? / already downloaded the virus / whose phone is it that keeps ringing? Hers … so she’s already dead / ominous nosebleed / shrieking in both to make you scared / no speaking, suspense and withholding information

Who’s behind the videos? Viruses come from nowhere/invisible forces…. No individual person responsible for the deaths. Previous person who dies appears behind you and you get the video of his death before you die.

Emma: How could we ruin these films? … if the blokes talked: it’d break the spell, if it turned into a reality TV show/game show, a ‘candid camera’ moment, phone-jacker, someone farting.
Emma: if the monster was introduced at beginning it’d ruin the scare factor, film maker drip feeds and doesn’t reveal too much too soon. Controlled manipulation of secrets and surprises drive the narrative.

Homework: A half-glimpsed portrait: students to use phones to take photos of family or friend, but only a part of them, an aspect, to evoke a feel or a suggestion of who that person is … (eg. Brandon plays tennis so it could be a photo of a tennis ball) Take a minimum of 6 shots.

General observations:

  • the value of a themed approach to film language analysis, with structured, repeated exercises – letting the creativity emerge from constraints
  • in contrast with the kinds of constraints imposed in a school context, they have the luxury of time to enable independent thought processes to develop; time to study and interpret a film (which is likely to be beyond the usual teen cultural repertoire) in a critical capacity with the insight of a professional – does it get any better than this? … yes… they get to mobilize/materialize this learning by making their own pieces next week.
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