Archives de l’auteur : Broughton High School

Week 5 – Static Frame Dramas (Part 1)

In our fifth and sixth weeks of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project we began to apply what we had learned about the long take from Lumiere minutes to drama. In general, some of the class seemed to find the ‘documentary’ specification on the Lumiere minutes quite restrictive (some of the groups had already cheekily started to stage a few of the occurrences in their Lumiere minutes!) so I was keen to allow everyone to now effectively try the Exercise 1 again, but this time free to explore the expressive potentials of the static long take.

In particular I encouraged the students to think about;

• dynamic blocking of the action so that the actors (and thus the audience’s focus) moved between foreground, middleground and background.
• to use offscreen space to create a sense that there is more to the scene (and the storyworld) than what we are seeing
• to think about interesting spaces to stage the action. Ie. ways in which we could use doors, windows and mirrors to block action in a dynamic manner.

We watched the shot from Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Climates where Bahar is lying in the foreground, sunbathing on the beach, and Isa appears out of the sea (in the background of the frame) as an out of focus blur. Walking slowly towards the camera, he then leaves frame on the left, and then appears, in focus on the right, in the foreground of the shot. The effect is thrilling – we both get the sense of a layered, and very convincing reality, and a beautifully composed, dynamic aesthetic space.

With all these things in mind, we set off to make our own films, and think of ways we could use the components of a single static frame to tell a story.

Connal, Eilidh, Gregor, Nicola and Chris’ film

The film made by Connal’s group was the standout film of the week.
Perhaps most impressively, the film manages to convey a powerful sense of drama from an extreme wide shot. Even though we cannot hear what Connal and Eilidh are saying to each other, we can tell what is happening from their body language and the performances, even when Connal is 20 – 30 metres away from the camera.

Also extremely impressive is the way that the film uses an interplay between foreground and background. Connal’s appearance in the foreground towards the start of the film is very exciting – we have gone from distanced observers, to the action happening right in front of us. The action then moves away from us again, but as a wonderful coda, a passing pair of observers move into the foreground and – now offscreen – tell us something about the situation we have just witnessed that Connal doesn’t know.

One footnote that came up in our discussion about the film in class was the distracting presence of Chris, sitting at a bench, on the left hand of frame. Although Chris was – by the groups admission – just an extra in the film, his presence is so conspicuous that many of us in the audience thought he had been put there for a reason, and had a significant part to play in the drama. This leads us to a good lesson in literal ‘direction'; when we are directing we must all learn to read frames as an audience would, in order to ‘direct’ the eye to the right place in the frame, rather than risk the audience puzzling over misleading details in the wrong part of the frame!

Just a footnote however, on a really remarkable piece of work! Well done guys…

Alicja, Ebba and Davids film

Alicja, Ebba and David’s film also makes accomplished use of blocking to tell a story about a nasty argument.

What is particularly impressive about the film is the way it uses a pair of doors – and what we can and can’t see, and what we can and can’t hear – to tell the story. I was impressed by the way that the film created a space which we could partially see, but couldn’t hear. It created a space in the film which was tangible, and yet withheld from us, which is, in my opinion, a very clever filmmaking device It got my imagination working, as to what the fight was about, what was being said.

The sense of space was also dynamic, rather than static and at parts the enclosed room was opened up to us, the audience to hear some of the things being said.  David exited the room early on in the film, and Ebba shouted back at him angrily. In that moment we could hear what was being said, but as the doors closed the space was again closed off to us.

Alicja’s entry into the space also broke up the encounter in a way which was interesting and helped offset the artifice of the staging.

Samantha, Anna and Desmond’s film

Samantha, Desmond and Anna’s film provides us with an intriguing, but oblique sketch of a potentially rewarding use of a long-take static frame.

The composition of the shot is excellent, using diagonals to create a sense of depth, and with a powerful (and dynamic) sense of background and foreground. Desmond sits in the right hand foreground of the frame, supposedly reading a book, and with his body language enclosing off the foreground part of the frame so it is private to him and us. He (and we) watches Samantha as she tidies up the room. She moves around, the blocking making dynamic use of both foreground/background and onscreen/offscreen. Desmond watches her, and seems to want to talk to her. She before she leaves he makes a quiet, nervous attempt to talk to her, but she doesn’t hear.

I was very impressed by the way in which the film  – within a static angle (without use of montage or camera movement) cordoned off part of the frame as private space for one character and the audience. What might we see that Samantha cannot? A wedding ring? A knife?
We talked about how there was potential to explore the frame more, to make the action more dynamic. Desmond could sit down into the frame, and at the end of it, could turn round towards the camera into a closeup, to look after Samantha. We also talked about the group could have made more use of the foreground space that we could see but Samantha could not.

 

Catégorie : 2. Tournage des exercices, b.Raconter | Laisser un commentaire

Weeks 3 and 4 – Exercise 1: Lumiere Minutes

In our third week of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project we started to tackle the first exercise, filming our ‘Lumiere minutes’.

In preparation for the class, I had gone out to film my own Lumiere Minutes (which you can see here), and in particular I had tried to focus on examples which showed;

• the importance of CHANGE within the shot (rather than filming something that stayed the same for the whole minue)

• the importance of depth within the shot (a dynamic interplay of foreground and background)

• that Lumiere minutes did not have to be wide shots, and sometimes what was out of frame was just as interesting as what was in frame (we talked about this, in terms of onscreen and offscreen space)

• the way that sound and picture could act in counterpoint to each other

• and finally, that Lumiere minutes could – if well enough thought-out and prepared -convey a sense of emotion, or tell a story.

We also talked about the possibility of using the Lumiere minutes to express ‘dialect’ in cinema. We talked about how the neorealist movement (of which Andre Bazin was such a champion) represented, for filmmakers like Rosselini, the entry of ‘dialect’ into cinema. We talked about how the Lumiere minutes, within the international framework of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project were an opportunity to voice our own ‘dialects’ in film form – to find moments of our lives that speak of the places, people, stories that are significant for us. Some thoughts from the discussion that we had about the relevance of ‘dialect’ cinema to the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project can be found here.

We watched through my examples, alongside some of the early films of the Lumiere brothers, and some of the films shot by the other Scottish film tutors.

In particular, I showed everyone Yasmin’s Lumiere minute, which creates a visual story with light – a darkened scene is briefly illuminated by the sparks of a welder. We talked about how space in cinema is created with light (cinematography), and how light can be a powerful tool in creating visual narrative.

Everyone then set out to track down their own Lumiere minutes. In doing so, we all found that capturing a small, self-contained, ‘authentic’ slice of life wasn’t the easiest thing to do under pressure! Nevertheless, the group came up with some great results, some of which you can see below…

Jasmin’s lumiere minute challenges the traditional maxim about working with ‘animals and children’ by capturing (in close up, no less!) a minute in the life of a Broughton pigeon! What is truly wonderful about Jasmin’s film is the surprise reveal, about half way through of a second participant in the action! In the class we talked about the power of reveals in cinema, and Jasmin’s film does that wonderfully, echoing a history of visual gags (the most recent of which I saw in House of Cards last night…)

Eilidh’s Lumiere minute captures a cacophony of noise and activity, at a Friday afternoon band practice. The cacophony is also visual – there are so many characters, so many activities, so many places for the eye to go. Eilidh’s film has a  a subtle sense of narrative/development in that, as things go on, the chaos seems to cohere into a more focussed rendition of a song! I was particularly impressed by how Eilidh managed to capture the moment without making her participants selfconcious, the mark of a skilled documentary maker! One of the greatest issues I have encountered in my classes across the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project has been people looking at the camera, so Eilidh did well in avoiding that, to give us a fascinating perspective on the chaos of teenage life!

Samantha’s Lumiere minute – shot out of school at the Transgression skate park – uses camera placement to maximum effect. Samantha locates the camera in such a manner that the movement of the skaters creates an intensely dynamic interplay of foreground and background, onscreen and offscreen. I particularly like the way the skaters disappear offscreen into the dip, the speed with which people move from extreme background to extreme foreground, and the moments when skaters tear round the lip of the ramp in the foreground of the shot.

Joanna’s Lumiere minute is a slice of skilled observational documentary, and places two different actions in counterpoint, in diadic composition in the two halves of the frame. There is the movement of the cleaner, from the background, to intimate foreground of the shot, and then back to the background. Meanwhile, Joanna’s frame allows us to eavesdrop on an amusing conversation between a young boy and the receptionist about the school’s cultural program.

 

Cara and David’s Lumiere Minute is wonderfully dynamic  but breaks the rules slightly in that the line between observation and staged participation becomes somewhat blurred! Nonetheless, it makes great use of background and foreground, onscreen and offscreen action to create an extremely dynamic frame. Particularly, the way that the action starts in the background, and then moves to the foreground is very exciting for the viewer. Mark Cousins has written a great piece in Sight and Sound on the importance of what he calls the ‘Z-axis’, the axis of foreground to background, and how that can be used to thrilling affect, particularly in horror movies when things that only the audience can see creep slowly in from the background…

 

Lauren and Gemma’s Lumiere minute shows us how careful we need to be not to draw attention to ourselves, when the presence of the camera is quite overtly called attention to in the last few moments! Nonetheless, Lauren and Gemma chose a great frame, (with a nice sense of depth and diagonals) and which has a nice sense of onscreen/offscreen action, through which we can get a sense of what life is like in Broughton High School on a Friday afternoon . I like the way the children file through the frame, and the core focus upon the cleaner working her way down the stairs.

 

Finally, Mr Cairns captures a wonderful wee vignette of a goose at Broughton pond in his own contribution to the Lumiere minutes. The centre of an elegantly composed frame, I love the way that Mr Cairns captures a development from motion to stasis; the moment when the goose reacts to offscreen passers by and freezes…

 

 

Catégorie : 2. Tournage des exercices, a.Regarder | Un commentaire

Broughton High School – Week 2 – Off the Leash!

In our second week of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project, we felt that – after a two hour session of discussing and analysing clips the previous week – we all wanted to get our hands dirty! And so, full of new ideas and new perspective, everyone set out to try their hand at using long takes for the first time.

We wanted to keep the brief as free as possible, to let everyone respond to everything they had heard and seen, in any way they wanted. The only rule was that the films all had to consist of one single take – everything else was up for grabs!

Myself and Mr Cairns weren’t quite sure what to expect, so we were absolutely delighted when the results came in.

Two of the best films to come out of the session were the films made by Jasmine and Alicja; two very different films which both displayed a remarkable early understanding of the possibilities of the long take.

 

Jasmine’s Film

The film made by Jasmine’s group is naturalistic, but deceptively so, as it has powerful sense of poetics. I was very impressed in particular by the way that Jasmin and her group used space in the film, and the different emotional effects of different locations. The lift is simultaneously a lift, and a claustrophobic, bleak, ‘suspended’ space that expresses a powerful sense of emotion. This led to a great discussion in class about how space is both ‘literal’ and expressive in films; it both tells us a story we are to believe is happening to a real person, in a real place at a real time, AND at the same time has to compose itself poetically, in order to create expressive affect. Some of the thoughts from our discussion can be found here.

Jasmine says;

Our first few sessions revolved around long takes and how they are used to film particular things, such as an intense scene, to show the pain of a certain character. We were shown examples in which long takes did this, and discussed how difficult it must have been to film without getting anything wrong. We were then sent off in small groups to create our own individual long takes, with some sort of meaning behind them. My group decided on a simple take from a desk to a lift- no talking just action. The person was sitting at the desk obviously stressed due to their work, they then shoved the keyboard aside and went from the classroom to the lift. When they were inside the lift, they stopped halfway, suspended, and slowly sat down. I think this take was quite intimate as it showed you a personal moment you would not usually get to see unless of course you were the one experiencing it. We then showed this to the rest of the group and got back good and bad feedback from both Jamie and Mr Cairns, as well as comments from some of our peers. I found this part particularly useful as it helped us develop our skills further as well as feeling happy with what we achieved.  

 

Alicja’s Film

The film made by Alicja’s group was a totally different kettle of fish! Alicja likes making films in a playful, surrealist style and her first attempt at shooting a long take was no exception. We had talked a lot in our Introduction to the Long Take about the ideas of Andre Bazin, and the sense of ‘reality’ that a long take can create. So, with all that in mind, I was surprised and delighted to see Alicja take things in a completely different and entirely individual direction!

Interestingly, although there is a feeling of strangeness in Alicja’s film which undermines a clear sense of reality, the central presence of a clock in the frame means the very real course of time is foregrounded.

The surreal feeling in Alicja’s film is aided by her inspired choice of a high angle, which has the effect of isolating her character from the rest of the world – which we can hear (and which is referred to throughout the film) but cannot see.

Alicja says:

In the last couple of weeks we have been learning about the ‘long take’, it’s qualities and how to use it. In order to develop our knowledge and capability of successfully creating and shooting a long-take film, every session we acquire a new skill whether it is to do with the world out of the shot, creative and effective framing or embedding drama and story in the shot. 

 

Message from Martin Cairns

Finally, heres a word from Mr Martin Cairns, seasoned veteran of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project, and leader of the pack at Broughton High School;

Bonjour and welcome to our blog.

My name is Martin Cairns and I am the teacher at Broughton High School in Edinburgh who is responsible for our Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse group. We have been working on this project since last October and have found the process both challenging and interesting. The focus last year being on camera placement made for some fantastic films although, in a sense, this was to be expected as the participants were forced, by this brief, to consider and vary how they constructed every shot. This year’s challenge, the long take, was at first glance a little scary. The requirement for choreography, dramatic justification and expert camera wrangling made this feel on the verges of impossible in a school setting with very limited technology. However, as we have proceeded through the initial activities, I’m pleased to report that we are making headway with this challenge. Our film maker Jamie Chambers, has made the process clear and interesting. His selection of exemplars has ably illustrated how highly dramatic effects can be achieved without a budget or with limited access to resources. Starting out with a discussion of Bazin and moving through slapstick classics from Buster Keaton all the way up to Terence Davies, Steve McQueen and Joss Whedon we have been on a whistlestop tour of cinema history which has been enlightening and rewarding. Each week we have been starting out with a viewing and discussion activity and then the students have gone out to reflect what we have discussed in a short single shot film of their own design. The results have been mixed of course but the students have created some fantastic examples of the variety of ways in which the long take can be used. 

Last year I was very proud of what our students achieved and this year I hope that we can do even better. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career to take a group of students to Paris and see their work screened in all its glory on the big screen. To have their work so clearly appreciated by an international cinema audience and singled out for praise by Alan Bergala was an inspiring experience for our young film makers and one which they will never forget.

Au revoir pour maintenant

Martin Cairns

Catégorie : 2. Tournage des exercices | Laisser un commentaire

Broughton High School : Introduction to the Long Take

Bonjour!

We are the Broughton High School Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse Group, from Edinburgh, Scotland.

We are led by Jamie Chambers, a filmmaker from Edinburgh, and Mr Martin Cairns, who is the Broughton HS Media Studies teacher, and who led the Broughton Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse program from 2012 – 2013.

Our classes take place on Friday afternoons, in the media studies classroom on the 2nd floor of Broughton High School – and as a result they are OPT-IN only! We are all here because we WANT to be!

We are aged between 16 – 18 and already a pretty advanced bunch when it comes to filmmaking; a lot of us were involved on the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse program last year, (and some of us – Anna, Samantha, Danny  Cara, Chris, Claudia and Adam), went to Paris to screen our film The Box). Many of us have already made several films, and are part of other Scottish filmmaking groups like Screen Edinburgh and SKAMM (Scottish Kids Are Making Movies).

We are all very ambitious, and rightly so – a lot of us would like to go to film school, and become directors, editors and camera people.

We are all delighted to be part of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project, and we will look forward to sharing our work with you in due course!

Our first session : Introducing the Long Take 

We started off a first session, which was back in November, with a general introduction to the idea of the Long Take.

In picking examples to share with the group, I (Jamie) had two particular selection criteria;

• the first was to weight things towards examples that felt achievable for young filmmakers without a budget. We began with the opening of Touch of Evil, one of the greatest feats of cinema, but then problematised its relevance for us – for after all, we will never be able to afford the type of grip equipment, complex lighting, and controlled production design that enabled Welles to perform such cinematic acrobatics.

I told the class that there was a certain stigma of ‘showing off’ that has becoming attached to long take, what with successive MALE directors (starting possibly with Welles and the feats in Touch of Evil and Magnificent Ambersons, and then Altman riffing off Welles, and then Paul Thomas Anderson riffing off Altman, and Joe Wright trying his luck) trying to outdo each other in a very expensive game of one-upmanship!

Instead, I tried to show examples from filmmakers like Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who (like Welles, Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson), has a rich sense of the cinematic, but achieves it through highly economic means! For further reading on the discussion we had about achievability, go here; http://understandingcinema.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/achievability-in-the-long-take/

• My second aim was to pick examples from the work of directors whom I believe are the most important filmmakers of TODAY. I felt it was important to give a sense of how the long take was being used – round the world – by the most relevant, exciting directors working in the present moment. As a result, we watched (and continue to watch) examples from Paul Thomas Anderson, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Alfonso Cuaron, Terence Davies, Matteo Garone, Steve McQueen, Christian Mingiu, Bela Tarr and Joss Whedon.

Whilst I think it is very valuable to have a canonic understanding of the long take, I think it is also profoundly important to engage with how particular cinematic grammar and syntax is being used TODAY, around the world. The long take is, in many ways, an alien style of filmmaking for those of us used to mainstream cinema. And thus, I felt it was important to show that the notion of the long take was something that was far from antiquated, far from being a museum piece. It is an intensely vital style of filmmaking employed by many of the best directors working today.

Catégorie : 1.Présentation des ateliers | Laisser un commentaire