Project 6 – Mise-en-scene exercise

Production exercise – Produce 4 images with a particular feel

1. An oppressive, cluttered space

I feel this does look cluttered and oppressive. However, there is also a sense of activity because some of the objects are rather jolly such as the shining wrapping paper, floral fabrics and (on closer inspection – interior design magazines). The area has a workman like feel and suggestions of creative activity.

2. An open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item.

This is an attractive but rather abstract picture. Location and context are not clearly apparent. Strictly there are two intriguing items. The balustrade in the foreground is perhaps more intriguing than the easily identifiable painting of a sunflower. The flash of light from above has the unintended pleasing effect of brightening the sunflower and emphasising it further.

3. A stark, empty hostile space

I don’t think this photo is really hostile. The image is interesting but ambiguous rather than menacing. The indistinct shadow could forebode some threat but might as likely be the shadow of some hanging laundry. (In fact the shadow is of a coat hanger and a wire letter rack) The panelling isn’t strictly stark which further reduces any harshness by bringing in the striped pattern. But the minor cracking of the paint between the slats does suggest maybe an element of being old and uncared for.

4. A warm, friendly, cosy space

This image is cluttered but cheerfully so. I think the flowers and mothers day card suggest a friendly family environment. A mixed variety of books suggest lots of activity. The neat little drawers add a little intrigue as they are unlabeled.

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Couple of comments on the Coen Bros & Revolver

I watched some of a Coen bros film last night (ladykillers) – lots of sharp observation – really nice camera work. Tarantino/David Lynch maybe. I also have some criticism – I feel somehow obliged to admire the cleverness but I’m not sure about the pacing – I found Barton Fink dragged a little and I fell asleep during the Big Lebowski – I’m allowed. No super heros right!

Also found Revolver interesting – I think it could have been salvaged in the edit – but it was also so obvious that the small time crooks where the prison neighbours – not sure that could have been handled more cleverly.

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Screen writing

Over the past year I’ve also taken 2 screenwriting courses at OFVM (Oxford Film, Video & Media.) My scriptwriting course had the interesting side effect of making me think a lot more visually as a director. I’ve come to realise the importance of imaginative visual storytelling. It does come down to the script – but not necessary the dialogue. Before taking this course I’ve comitted the sin of trying to tell the plot through the dialogue. I find it a bit ironic that its by learning about the process of writing that I’ve realised how much should be visual, sound and atmosphere rather than words…

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Assignment 1

Who is it?


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Framing Project 3 – Storyboard notes

(In progress – draft post to be updated with scanned images:)


– You look around your empty room

Wide pan or fast montage of parts of the room (e.g. close ups on objects/mid shots of mess)

– Nothing interests you

A defocused wide? shot of the floor?

– You notice a bottle

Extreme close up of the bottle or maybe a deep close up taking in glass in the forground and some surrounding chaos

– Something attracts your attention, you look round

Sound – a beat before – shot of door or maybe a window

– Nothing happens

hold previous shot for a beat then pan back to bottle

– You look back at the bottle and pour yourself a drink

track staggering (handheld?)towards bottle then close up with hands in shot pouring drink

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The feel of the frame

Rachael, Bladerunner:

The billowing smoke creates an ethereal mask which emphasises the character’s vulnerable beauty. It’s also reminicent of the close up of Celia Johnston surrounded by steam train smoke in Brief Encounter. But in Bladerunner the character is an adroid so there is an absurdity in the fact that she is smoking. The strong directional lighting from the rear left of the frame further emphasises her glamour and feminity in contrast to her android reality but is in line with her self perception as she doesn’t know she’s not human.


Stary Nights, Van Gogh:

Swirling stars in the sky dominate this painting, broken only by the huge cyprus with the town below insignificant. The emphasis on the stars suggests turmoil in the perception of big themes because the majority of the frame is taken up with these other worlds – far distant from the tiny town below. The foreground cyprus also adds a physical barrier between the artist’s location and the human level of activity in the distant town.


Opening sequence, Once Upon a Time in the West:

The wide frame emphasises the sparse, remote landscapr. We are behind the foreground figures this makes us uncertain of who these characters are. But their juxtoposition to the distant figure indicates confrontation with these faceless men and so creates a strong sense of tense menace.

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Framing – Visualisation exercises

1. Talking to someone in a shop I would see..

The person from head to waist (taking in both talking and moving hands) and some of the shop around them. Most probably I would focus in on different elements such as..

The persons mouth talking

their hands moving

I might be distracted by things on the shelf behind them

and maybe glance away at a product of interest.

2.  Knocking on a door:-

I see the door

I knock at the door

I glance away while I’m waiting (maybe see a rural road & or people)

Mr stick answers the door (some of the interior would be visible beyond him)

3. An illicit affair:-

Up close talking to lover

glance quickly at the door

In this scene I’ve left out details of the room as I visualised focusing in on the lover rather than noticing surroundings. Sound is oviously missing (from all of these scenes). The lover’s reaction is also missing when the protagonist looks away at the door.

Further notes


The first image is a midshot – it is rather distant but infomative because we see most of the person and products show what kind of shop we are in.

The close ups on the mouth and hands communicate clearly that a conversation is underway (at least that the shopkeeper is speaking) but give little information about context.

The images of being distracted by products on sale give more infomation about the protagonist’s thoughts and further infomation about the shop’s wares.

Knocking on a door:

I think this is the most succinct sequence of images as it is a familiar situation and therefore easy to read. The 3rd image, waiting for the door to be answered, gives further infomation about the location of the door. Is isn’t clear though why the protagonist is there and who they are visiting. Further infomation might be visible in the details of the door and surroundings, from the Mr Stick character’s appearance and behaviour and from elements within the interior in the last image.

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Reviews of short film evening at Bafta

This evening I’ve been to Bafta (which still sounds dead classy:-) ) to see an evening of shorts including one I worked on as a spark, Vincent. Its great to see one of the shorts I’ve worked on finally realised and on film. The 16mm did look grainy on the full screen but I really liked it. I was nicely put together with some pleasing cutaways and a great performance from actor, Bill Thomas. Brian the DOP was there along with the camera crew, Mazin the director and the sound recordist. Bill also came along- although I think he missed the film (I wonder if he chose to.)  I skipped the networking opportunity to meet the director of The Moon is Velvet.” I felt I’d bent Brian’s ear for long enough although I may have been mistaken – either way – I wandered off around the west end, had falafel in pitta and went to take a look at the light well etc. around St Martin’s on the Strand.


Regarding the other films:

The first film, The Moon is Velvet,  had a high budget and looked really good. They’d used some clever bluescreen work and real water. It was quirky whimsical film but quite soulful.

Vincent was the second film followed by Transference. The script was quite funny in parts although I think I agree with Brian who didn’t think much of it. It was OK but shot as a pretty straight couple of reverses – a shot out of the window or maybe of the bridge ( as mentioned in the script)  would have improved the sense of production value. It got some laughs though.

The final film, Taylor’s Trophy, turned out better that I expected. It starred an obviously caracatured chav but was actually rather cleverly scripted. The characters seemed quite unsubtle at first but further complexitiy is revealed and the central character turns out to be far sharper than I expected. I was expecting a ganster yawn fest and was treated something more of a traditional farce.

After chatting to the team I headed off in to the west end, bought falafel in pitta and went to take a look at the a carefully unobstrusive new light well at St Martin’s on the Strand.


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Function of a Frame

For this exercise I chose the painting Work by Ford Maddox Brown (Manchester City Art Galleries).

The whole painting shows a large number of people all occupied in their own activities. However, taken as separate frames, I was able to invent relationships between the figures and make up a simple narrative.

Frame 1.   Impoverished Lord Dean discusses a robbery with his steward. (Voice over the following frames as the participants roles are discussed).

Frame 2.   Dick and his men will pose as labourers until the coast is clear. They will transport the paintings and silverware in covered wheelbarrows.

Frame 3.   The children are close by ready to break in, act as go betweens and create a distraction if needed.

Frame 4.   Molly will maintain the lookout and send word with one of the children if the owners return too soon.

Frame 5.   Lord & Lady Vickery leave their town house.  The robbery is a foot….  

As a story there are obviously some holes in the plot (like aren’t there going to be some servants left at the house) but as an exercise I can see how focusing in on specific details provides a basis for a consecutive narrative. As the frames are taken from an existing painting there are details in each which might be removed if I’d chosen from scratch. I might have left out the baby as plot complication or wanted to see more or Molly’s face for example.

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Framing coursework

I realise I haven’t posted my coursework since the first task so I’m redresssing that. I got so obsessive about getting something shot for my first assignment that I’ve neglected reflecting on the coursework itself – which is more the point of doing this course.  So, again, I’m re-booting mentally to give some time and thought to the course.

In some ways the material seems deceptively simple so I find my self wondering if I’m missing the point or not pondering deeply enough. But thinking about thinking doesn’t produce much so, trusting to having some level of ability, I’m starting work on the 2nd framing task.

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