Showreel

One of my last activities for this semester has been to create a showreel of all the work I have undertaken so that I have a quick video to present to potential employers.

Creating this piece was fun and it made me realise how far I’d come in completing all the tasks this semester. I have felt extremely overwhelmed at times but I’m really glad I stuck with everything and now I have all these works to show for my efforts. Wrapping everything up with my short showreel piece was exciting and a little sad! Even though I felt overwhelmed and downright stressed out at times this semester I now realise how much fun I had being a part of these creative processes. As I’ve stressed multiple times over the year I have no prior experience with any of this sort of stuff so I’m extremely proud of what I’ve managed to achieve this year.

I consider this showreel to be a crowning glory sort of piece, a little something to quickly show my hard work from this year. With this piece I say goodbye to RMIT Post Graduate Studies, I hope this will lead to more creative adventures.

 

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The Actor and the Director

John Boorman’s chat with Sydney Pollack in the piece Acting is doing (In Projection 3: film-makers on film making, Boorman & Donohue 1994) is an interesting look at the relationship between directors and their actors.

I found it particularly interesting when Pollack pointed out how extremely different acting is for theatre performers and film actors. I hadn’t considered these points before as I’m not a huge theatre buff so I had never considered how different their method of preparation must be to that of film and television actors. Pollack points out how the theatre actor must be an independent performer, as when their performance really counts there is no director present – there is only the actor and their audience. I realise how true this is now and it makes me wonder how differently directors must approach producing a play as opposed to creating a film. Another point Pollack makes that resonated with me was the fact that the most crucial time during the creation of a film is editing. Having just completed co-creating my first nonfiction and a fiction pieces I can vouch for how right he is in this point.

I never realised just how much work the editing process is, you can get the most perfect performance from your actor but if you don’t have the right shots to get it all flowing together you will have no film. So therefore Pollack seems to say when you are working with film as your medium your actor is not as important as your editing process. Obviously the same cannot be said of theatre performances as these require no editing.

Another point Pollack discusses, which I would imagine is relative to both theatre and film/television actors, is coaxing a great performance out of your actors. Interestingly enough Pollack was originally an actor himself so he has an insight into what kind of encouragement will work the best or what kind of techniques might coax the best performances. Pollack says he actually likes to say as little as possible to his actors regarding their performances and what he wants from them. I find this extremely interesting and I did experience similar feelings on the set of our short fiction film Toothless, I found it was better to let the actor’s performances flow naturally and not to interfere. He speaks about how the actor can be unpredictable and again I can relate to this, I was very impressed and surprised by the natural chemistry and flow between our two actors.

Overall I think the relationship between the director and the actor is always important, if you have a stuffy and negative relationship with your co-worker the chances are the product will be affected in the long run and your film may suffer. Like any other workplace a film or theatre will work best when the creative energies flow harmoniously and both the actor and director are both comfortable with each other and trust each other.

 

References

Boorman, J. & Donohue, W. (eds.) 1994, Projections 3: film-makers on film-making, Faber and Faber, London, pp. 59-68

Fiction vs Non Fiction

Fiction and Non Fiction: The great divide? (In Documentary: the margins of reality Ward, 2005) is an interesting look at the elements of documentary vs drama and what makes a documentary authentic.

The piece raises interesting issues about how reconstructed scenes of true events using actors can call into question the validity of a documentary. I had never really thought about this point before, having grown up watching many crime shows with reenactments I found them to be a natural part of re-telling a true story, I hadn’t considered the fact that since they are technically not a 100% true representation of the events they may cheapen a documentary’s authenticity.

One of the first documentary films to use highly stylised reenactment scenes was Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line (1988). The Thin Blue Line (1988) tells the story of the death of a Dallas police officer and the man who was wrongly accused of his murder, who then spent years on death row as a result of this. The film is a mixture of interviews with the accused, the police officers who arrested him, witnesses who testified against him as well as the man who is largely thought to actually be behind the murder. These are interspersed with reenactments of the murder itself, which are shot in a highly cinematic style and accompanied by a haunting Philip Glass score; these elements certainly make certain parts of The Thin Blue Line (1988) feel more like a stylish fiction film piece rather than a documentary. The film was actually rejected from Best Documentary consideration at the Academy Awards because the critics deemed it a fiction film due to the reenactment scenes. It is hard to know where to draw the line in these cases. The Thin Blue Line (1988) is truly probably my favourite documentary and it is because of these haunting reenactment scenes and the beautiful music that accompanies them that this is so, but do these elements detract from the film and categorise it as a fiction work?

Of course when you ‘reenact’ scenes with actors you always run the risk of misrepresenting what happened, a person who was there might remember something differently to what actually happened – or flat out lie. It is a valid point to consider that reenactments present a certain level of dishonesty in a documentary however I believe a documentary is always presented on how the film maker understands the facts in any case. Unless a film maker was actually at the scene of what they were documenting most of the time they are using second hand information regardless of whether they use reenactments or not.

Another issue raised in the reading is that of feature films that are ‘based on true events’. This type of film uses actors to tell a true story. It is difficult to distinguish just how this is different from using reenactments, as essentially making a film based on true events using actors is the same sort of thing as using reenactments; only it takes up the whole film instead of just segments of it. However there is always the case that a film may have the tag line ‘based on true events’ and take complete liberties with these events. For example the Aussie slasher film Wolf Creek (2005) claims to be based on true events – yet it takes immense liberties with these events to create tension in its run. The events the film claimed to be based upon were the two infamous cases of Ivan Milat (the backpacker murderer) and the disappearance of Peter Falconio; however what transpires in the film is completely different to what happened during these cases. There are only vague similarities between what happened in real life and what occurs in the film. Films that claim to be ‘based’ on a true story basically take a license to manipulate the story how they wish as they have only claimed to be based upon the story – so often films (Wolf Creek (2005) being a prime example) can cite famous cases and gather attention for their film and then write whatever they want.

This is a clear distinction from the use of reenactments in a documentary film as these reenactments work on the premise that they are trying to follow the true events as closely as possible.

Overall I think it can be a thin line (perhaps a thin blue line?) as to what can be considered an integral and authentic documentary, people have different opinions and overall it seems critics do not appreciate reenactment scenes, however personally I find they can enhance the movie going experience and if they strive to achieve the utmost accuracy I see no problem with the use of reenactments in documentaries. The Thin Blue Line (1988) is a masterpiece, and that is largely down to its interesting and new (at the time) style.

 

References

Ward, P 2005, Documentary: the margins of reality, Wallflower, London, pp. 31-48

The Thin Blue Line 1988, motion picture, American Playhouse, Channel 4, Third Floor Production, USA

Wolf Creek 2005, motion picture, The Australian Film Finance Corporation, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Creating a career portfolio

To create a career portfolio I decided to go with the website flavors.me, I had already created a web portfolio here last semester so I was relatively familiar with how it worked and I had looked at other people’s profiles on there and thought they looked fantastic. I liked the layout and the simplicity of the website.

I decided to create a new page for this task instead of trying to tweak the one I created last semester and use that, this time I also purchased the domain so I could customise it and use it any way I wanted. Since I have purchased the domain I have the advantage of being able to add as many links on the page to different social media/media webpages as I like, this is extremely advantageous.

On my page I have put links to my WordPress blog, this is where I have completed and submitted a lot of work this year so I think it’s a very important link to have on my page, potential employers can get a gist of what kind of work I have been completing as part of the RMIT course work.

I also put a link to my LinkedIn profile as this gives a glance at my working history and work contacts.

I included links to my Flickr and Twitter pages, which admittedly I do not use as much as I could but I intend to change this in the future and use this applications more. There is some uni work and also travel photos in my Flickr albums so I thought including this would be a good idea as it gives a glimpse of the work I’ve done as well as the places I’ve been.

I included a link to my Vimeo channel which holds many samples of the work I’ve been doing this semester.

I decided not to include a link to my old flavors.me page as I thought this would be a little confusing and counter-productive as the new one I have created will be my primary page now.

The customised links I provided were a copy of my CV which gives a more detailed look at my study history, a ‘Works’ page on which I’ve provided links to the projects I’ve completed this year as part of this course, and a ‘Showreel’ tab which provides a video splicing together all my different projects to give a quick glimpse of what I’m capable of.

I found inspiration in these different flavors.me sites that Paul linked us to have a look at, they all look extremely professional and I tried to use different aspects from each of them when I was creating my own page.

Example 1 , Example 2 Example 3 and Example 4 .

I’m happy with the way my page turned out, I will continue to tweak it and upgrade it so it is ready to use should a potential employer be interested.

Without further ado here is my Career Portfolio .

Lenny Recut

This is another recut I decided to make from our Lenny footage. I have simply added more shots of the different actors we used and I also added some royalty free music that I think adds to the scene.

I decided to re edit the Lenny footage I already cut together just to see what I could do differently this time. It was a fun little exercise and I enjoyed playing around with the footage both times. I still had trouble matching up the audio to the video for the scenes where we didn’t shoot with sound, I think this may be something I need to work on in the future as I found it quite challenging both times.

Interview Exercise

 

The interview exercise we had to shoot in class was a great learning curve into how to edit sequences effectively.

I was a little challenged with this as Matt, Mel and I shot the interview quite simply without any different angles or any breaks to cut between as we didn’t really realise we would be editing it afterwards into a clip.

With this obstacle I found it hard to edit the clip as I didn’t know what to do with it to make it any different, or change it up. We also encountered a problem in that after we shot the footage we realised you couldn’t really hear Mel asking Matt the questions about his bike (this was most likely my fault as I was doing the audio for this clip, sorry guys!). After thinking about what I could do to turn our footage into a cohesive clip I finally came up with some ideas.

First of all I decided not to use any of Mel’s questioning, as unfortunately you couldn’t really hear what she was asking. Instead of using the questions we asked I edited three different parts of the 5 minute clip we made using three different parts with Matt discussing three different aspects of biking (we weren’t given a topic for the interview but Matt decided to grab his bike and chat about that).

Instead of using the questions I simply edited in a crossfade effect so it was clear to the audience that the interviewee was now discussing something different. I think this worked effectively as you can tell when the crossfade comes in that Matt has finished discussing one aspect of bike ownership and moved onto another.

I also zoomed in on one part of the video so it appeared we had taken the footage from a different angle. I think this also helped to emphasise when different questions were being answered and different topics were being discussed. It also helped in that it made the video a little bit more visually interesting, instead of just one shot of Matt from the same angle/distance the entire time.

Lastly I added a royalty free music track to the piece, just to give it a little bit more flow. I think this helped and I turned the volume down on the music track so it didn’t drown Matt’s voice out.

Overall I was happy with how the edit of the interview turned out. It was still a little rough but I think it turned out OK, and it was a great experience to edit it and learn how you can change things up even when you think you have no options.

Forbidden Lies

The audio in Forbidden Lies is very well layered and interesting to analyse. Had I not been asked to undertake this task I would never have noticed all the different small sounds that make up the short clip Paul linked us to. There is a lot going on in audio in this piece, I listened intently to the clip and noted the following sounds, in order, throughout the sequence:

  • Music, singing
  • Birds tweeting
  • Bell dinging
  • More birds
  • Bells chiming
  • Car engine
  • Bells chiming again
  • A ‘whoosh’ sound as the girl throws her shawl out of the car
  • A thump as the shawl hits the ground
  • Footsteps, crunching sound as a woman walks through a sandy desert
  • A gust of wind
  • A register dinging sound
  • Book being placed on the table
  • Computer keys typing
  • Bell chiming again
  • Sound of a camera snap
  • Sound of a heart beat
  • ‘Swooshing’ sound as the map switches around
  • A ‘rattlesnake’ sound
  • Sound of money being taken out of wallet
  • Coins, coin hitting a counter
  • Another camera snap
  • Sound of rustling through a drawer
  • Sound of cigarette lighter igniting
  • ‘Swoosh’ sort of sound as the cigarette package disappears
  • Construction sounds as the Hyatt hotel disappears from shot
  • A ding sound
  • Sound of a mobile phone snapping shut

 

I was amazed there were that many sounds in such a short scene, only around 3 minutes long! In my opinion I would imagine most of the sound effects were sourced from other places and not recorded by the film makers themselves. To be honest I wouldn’t know exactly where the sound effects may have been sourced from, perhaps a royalty free website or a sound effects website. It would be extremely easy to source these effects from a website and then simply add them into the project in post. Using editing software, for example Premiere Pro as I am familiar with, it is extremely easy to manipulate clips and place whatever you want into the sequence. I would imagine this is how the sounds in the sequence have been added. It is of course possible that the sounds were recorded by the film makers themselves and sourced that way, they would have obviously been recorded at a separate time and then added into the film in the post production.

The music is also very interestingly used in Forbidden Lies, when I first started watching the clip Paul had linked us to I almost thought I was watching a Bollywood rom com production. The music is over the top and cheesy and it then suddenly cuts to silence in the journalist’s office as she tells about how everything we just saw (images of men and women happily laughing and gazing lovingly at each other) is a lie. The sudden snap out of the romantic portrait first shown to us is extremely effective. In another sequence where the journalist is trying to track down dates of when certain businesses opened (to prove that the book she is discussing is based on lies) the music playing in the background is a repetitive and zany tune that gives us the feeling of going around in circles.

Overall the sound effects and music work extremely well in Forbidden Lies to emphasis what the film maker is trying to tell us. We don’t even notice all these small and subtle effects but they heighten the viewing experience for us.

No Direction Home

No Direction Home

No Direction Home opens up with a clip of Bob Dylan singing at a concert. The lyrics that he croons: ‘With no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone’ sets the piece for us. We suddenly cut to a black and white silhouette of a tree accompanied by Dylan’s voice over talking about how no one can make time stand still. We are then shown photos of what looks to be his childhood residence with the title card reading ‘Many years earlier’. It’s obvious from this opening sequence that this is going to be a retrospective piece that helps us get to know the man behind the legendary music.

As Dylan explains to us his first encounters with music, finding a guitar in his Father’s house, finding a mahogany radio with a turntable that he opened up to  the record ‘Drifting too Far from the Shore’ (which plays in the background), he speaks about how after he listened to that record he felt like somebody else, perhaps like he wasn’t even born into the right family. This insight is interesting and gives us a look into the beginnings of a wonderful relationship with music for Dylan.

Next we’re shown images of his old hometown, grainy black and white images of an emptying place where the lively hood seems to have vanished. This is a nostalgic looks at Dylan’s childhood as he talks us through the cold winters he spent wearing several shirts to keep warm.

It’s clear from this introduction that the piece intends to be a nostalgic homage to Dylan’s childhood and how he grew up. From the first clip of him playing at the concert I imagine further into the film we may see more material of Dylan performing, and I assume there would be a lot more information about how exactly Dylan got into music. The way Dylan first speaks about music and how it changed him leads me to believe we will be shown this revelation that seems to have occurred within Dylan when music came into his life.

I think the opening scenes work well to tell us this is not just going to be about Dylan’s legendary career but about how that career came to be, as well as what influenced him and what made him the artist he is today. It seems to be that Dylan craved more from life then his ordinary upbringing could offer him and music came into his life at just the right time to provide that outlet. What came out of that combination was one of the greatest artists of all time.

Keyboard Shortcuts

This semester I have been using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 to do my video editing. I must admit that I am very new to the editing process; I had no experience with this sort of thing before the start of this year. Last semester I found Final Cut Pro to be very overwhelming so I decided to use a simpler software called Wondershare, since we didn’t do a huge amount of editing in semester one I managed to get away with it. This semester however was a whole different matter; we were tasked with shooting our own fiction and nonfiction films and obviously editing them afterwards. I realised soon enough that Wondershare was just not going to cut it. While the software was fine for simple editing I knew that for editing a film project I had to upgrade.

I decided to go with Adobe Premiere Pro as Paul mentioned that RMIT was going to be switching from using Final Cut primarily to using Adobe. At first I was completely in the dark and feeling very overwhelmed, however after watching Silvi work with the software (as she was very familiar with Premiere Pro) I started to pick it up and feel more comfortable with what I was doing.

Admittedly I’ve never really been a big user of keyboard shortcuts; I have never really bothered to learn them before and usually I simply just do things the long way. However I did find a few of the shortcuts on Premiere Pro to be very helpful and time saving. There’s the obvious and probably most used short cut:

Ctrl + C = copy (or Cmd + C on a mac) and then Ctrl + V = paste (Cmd + V on a mac), this common short cut came in very handy during editing as it’s a lot easier to simply copy a clip of footage and paste it onto the timeline when you need it again, rather than having to go through the entire clip again and find the place where you need the footage from (one of our clips from the Burger Off rally was 40 minutes long! Needless to say going through it to find the exact bit of footage you wanted was a little painful).

Ctrl + S = save (Cmd + S on mac) was another helpful shortcut, although Premiere Pro auto-saves itself for you which is also very helpful in case your computer should crash or some other disaster should occur.

There are some additional shortcuts I didn’t utilise yet I think would have been extremely helpful and I plan to use in the future.

Ctrl + Z = undo (Cmd + Z on mac) I think would come in very handy in the future, there were many times when I made a small error that I needed to get rid of or added an effect I wasn’t happy with afterwards, and instead of going into the menu each time to delete it I think it would be much more time efficient to simply use this shortcut. I will definitely keep this in mind for the future as editing is a process of layering and trying new things out.

Another shortcut I think will be valuable in the future is Ctrl + N (Cmd + N for mac) which creates a new sequence in your project. We used many sequences in our projects this year, for our Non Fiction project Silvi and I made 5 different video clips and it was much easier to simply create these all in different sequences rather than use a different project file altogether, that way you can easily switch between sequences to work on different clips quickly, rather than having to open a new project which takes a minute or so with Premiere Pro. It also came in handy for editing rough cuts, instead of editing in the finalised rough cut sequence it was good to create new one to edit our work in so that if we were unhappy with the new changes we made we could always go back to the initial rough cut. Considering how many new sequences we made across both projects I think this would be a very handy shortcut to utilise.

End of the Line

I found End of the Line to be a fascinating documentary, I was very impressed by the fact that it was made by students.

While I found the documentary interesting it was also a little saddening and macabre in a way. The way the participants were introduced was particularly interesting.

The obvious note would be that the older generation of participants have nothing but praise for Broken Hill, yet the younger generation seem to think it is a dead end sort of place with no opportunities. These two very opposite trains of thought present us with two very different positions and conclusions that we can draw. Is Broken Hill an untainted paradise, free of the hustle and bustle of the city, or is it a dead end with no prospects?

The way the participants are presented to us seems to almost answer this question for us. When we are introduced to the older participants we have their dialogue telling us how amazing Broken Hill is and how much better it is in comparison to the city; yet we are shown dry, bare and dusty country landscapes with broken down cars and other sorts of debris, we are shown images of dry and cracked ground and barren land while this dialogue tells us of the riches of Broken Hill.

There is an interesting piece of dialogue layered with this dry and barren imagery, one of the older ladies speaks about living in the desert and about how God took the Jewish people somewhere where they were not dependent on the river.

Earlier the same lady also speaks about how she has come to Broken Hill basically to die. She says she has come to Broken Hill to die in the desert, and that she has met others in the same situation. These lines of dialogues, though short, evoke rich imagery of religion and mortality. It is an interesting concept to specifically come somewhere to die.

It’s also interesting to note most of the older participants who speak highly of Broken Hill were born there, so it also arouses a sense of nostalgia from them as they state that they could never live in the city, you wonder if they would feel the same way had they been born elsewhere. This is particularly interesting to compare with the younger generation who are interviewed, they talk mainly about how there’s nothing to do in Broken Hill and how eager they are to move away.

End of the Line accomplishes a lot in such a short amount of time. At first view I took the documentary as a simple interview piece but upon re-watching it several times the issues it addresses in its short run time is remarkable. It is really almost a piece about the battle between different generations, how different people see the world now as to how they did many years ago. I found it a touching piece, about a place that seems to be now lost in time.