When it came to writing a shot list for my film and the corresponding storyboards I had a number of influences and pre-determined ideas in mind for choices of cinematography. As The World of Night was a heavily character-driven piece I kept in mind how facial expressions and character mood would play a key role in the film being believable for an audience. Wes Andersons 2012 feature ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ had a lot of influence on my project in terms of film making mechanics. Shooting on Super 16 allowed the film makers to record for 20 minutes at a time resulting in a lot of the dead pan close ups of the young inexperienced actors being used in the final cut. Apart from what dialogue is recited from the script I wanted to capture as much of the characters faces and expressions as possible to create an emotional connection with the audience.
The use of long dolly shots too in ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ inspired my camera work. I prefer to film hand-held instead of a tripod but the dolly really allowed us to put lots of nice motion in to the piece and some shots in particular such as the band stand shot have so much added beauty with the help of this piece of equipment.
Why did we choose Brighton as a location for the film? Brighton’s beauty and the diversity of its eclectic surroundings was for us the perfect setting for a film about escaping to the playground of reality. Does having a short film about lucid dreaming set in a seaside holiday town suggest that lucid dreaming is a holiday from life or reality? I think Southern England’s seaside getaway really represents the characters escape from the problems in his life. Stephen LaBerge wrote, “Lucid dreaming is a laboratory for experimentation and a playground for developing new ways of living”.
The choice of lighting and by combining the shooting of day and night, interiors and exteriors really bodes well with the films theme and context. Another film that really struck me when searching for inspiration was Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 Russian film, The Mirror. This theatrical, surreal and slow-paced triumph uses some really nice juxtaposition throughout its various dream sequences creating a spooky temple of thought provoking visuals. I really wanted our project and storytelling to come across as surreal as this film which is something I would attempt being presented with the opportunity of shooting the film again. However reflections on inspiration and idea generation are always reminiscent of Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author, where the writer and creator are unrelated. Do we create or combine, or is combining creating?
What could have been better about the film and why?
I want to mention the script when making critical reflections. During pre-production we had three, maybe four drafts of our script and I believe further drafting and testing of the script could have contributed towards a better narrative flow. Perhaps there is too much story crammed in to ten minutes? Watching over the rough cut I noted that there seems to be too much of a jump through time which doesn’t correspond too well with what is seen on screen. There are some really strong parts in the script for example the poetic diary scene monologue but there was much room for improvement in the form of a more exciting dialogue in conversation between the characters. Perhaps introducing another character or having more contact and chemistry between the characters Blake and Ronnie could have developed a more dynamic story.
As a result of some of the poor lighting on our night exteriors, the camera suffered a little from having to raise the ISO. This is a regrettable error on my part but looking back on the production stage was there much I could have done to prevent this? The type of locations we wanted to use at night time were lit reasonably well for the human eye. More thorough testing of the camera before shooting in these lighting situations could definitely have alerted my attention to this. Without a budget that allowed location lighting and generators however I am happy to put up with some digital grain in exchange for Brighton’s beautifully lit seafront.
Codes and Conventions
Roland Barthes’ study of semiotics and connotations demonstrates how a lot of information can be drawn from signs and representations within an image. Barthes notes how wine in French society from a bourgeois point of view is part of a healthy lifestyle which is contradictory of its inebriating hence counter-productive reality. This led me to reflect upon the cinematography in my film and what subconscious messages may be generated from visual signs? The connotations given to the audience from the angelically lit band stand scene I believe reflects the narrative stage of advanced equilibrium, spoken of by Tzvetan Todorov. As the two characters dance it hints at a revelation of happiness emancipated by something bright and beautiful standing out from the darkness.
Another subtle effort in establishing narrative conventions was a difference in hand-held camera and tripod steady camera in representing the difference between visual stability and instability within the story. On the opening scene shot on the beach I wanted to go hand held to convey the troubled nature of the main character Blake coinciding with the instability in his life. Furthermore I wanted to correct this instability in the final scene to again reflect Todorov’s ‘advanced equilibrium. By using steady shots here I wanted to subliminally stabilise the mood on screen.
Undoing genre conventions
In relation to unique selling point I wanted to think about undoing genre conventions. Does the spacey synth music go against the grain of the typical romantic drama? How has the culture mesh of psychology and romance had an effect on the films function and USP? However during the early stages of idea development my original USP was a mash up of lucid dreaming and Irish culture. Does my USP seem to have diminished somewhat? I think shooting the film in Ireland with an Irish cast would have been an interesting creative spin on the idea but I am glad for sticking to my plan to shoot in Brighton which produced something more visually exciting that I could have hoped for in the Western Irish countryside.