Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Back To School: DFTV 2- The Sequel

I'd barely rubbed the sleep from my eyes in Heathrow and before I knew it, Monday morning had rolled around and we were back at uni again. I know, it's been FOREVER, right? We finished at the end of June, although we hadn't actually been in the building for any sit-down classes for weeks before that. So now, some four months on, I'm craving some intellectual structure in my life again. I'd expected it to be like last year, with a little bit of everything being thrown at us, but no.
Last week, we had three days of intense writing theory with Richard, which was the best thing for me to get my brain ticking over again. Even my blogging, which was always consistent if nothing else, fell by the wayside over the summer as I joined the ranks of full time bar staff. Fulfilling? Hardly. But it was an easy lifestyle to slip into and it didn't require a huge amount of brainspace. The push into having to think of ideas again was a huge challenge, especially as my head was still fuzzy from Delhi. Admittedly, I don't think my ideas were the best, but I'm pretty excited at developing one of my ideas from last year into a longer script. I'd shelved it last year because it was too 'wordy' for a 5 minute script, and as a result the synopsis I came up with was kind of...forced. During my tutorial Richard made some suggestions as to how I could change it to feel more 'organic' (incidentally, our word of the week) and to break it down into beats rather than charge in and start writing a script with no idea how to finish it. I was alot more enthusiastic about it once I gave some thought to how and why the characters are in their situations, rather than pushing things along for the sake of getting to the end.

As part of our class on suspense and tension, there was an interesting little challenge (there had to be one, right?). After some traffic mishaps- which I thought I'd managed to escape in first year, but hell to the no- I turned up a little later than anticipated and was totally confused by a box in the middle of the room. It was on a chair, and looked like a perfectly innocent gift box... OR WAS IT? We were given cryptic hints, and eventually were told that in ten minutes one of us would receive a phone call from Andy. We had until the time it rang out to guess what was it the box, and by the end of it the tension really was unbearable. Plus, there was £8 at stake and I had a duff bank card and no loose change. Eventually, a phone rang- but none of ours were going off. It was coming from the chair. We ran towards it screaming, "PHONE! THERE'S A PHONE IN THE BOX!". As we lunged forward to grab the box there was.... nothing inside. The ringing continued... from underneath the chair. D'oh!

On Friday we had our first editing lesson in what seemed like forever- and along with it a shiny new editing system AND a new tutor. It was good to start from the beginning, as Final Cut last year left me with severe eye strain and (I'm convinced) a tiny bald patch from tearing my hair out trying to edit a mere two-minute film. Thankfully Aldo (our new tutor) kept going back over everything to make sure we were all up to speed, and even asked if he was going slow enough. I wanted to ask him to imagine he was talking to someone with a mental age of 7, but I didn't want to look like the class eejit and I pleasantly surprised myself by being able to keep up. Success!

It was straight to the AGOS Foyer after this, for an Open Day workshop on camera. Basically I had to explain to potential applicants how cameras work and answer any questions they had about it. Given that schools today have way better amenities than when I was there- my Higher Media Studies film was shot on a handheld camera- I felt like I was fudging some answers a little, but for the most part I felt like I could answer their questions with some confidence. My greatest triumph was when one girl asked about lighting gels and "could you not just fix it in post production". This meant I got to do a little speech on how I hate digital colour correction and the reliance today on fixing everything afterwards. OK, so I might not have a tonne of experience to my name, but I know what I like and how I might like to work when I'm a bit more accomplished. I think you should always shoot a scene as closely to what you want it to look like as possible, and therefore only have minimal changes to make afterwards. Otherwise what's the point? What if you don't like the edit either? Then you're stuck with rubbish raw footage AND a rubbish final result *steps off soapbox*

We got an email last week too, asking if anyone was free to shoot a fashion show in the Corinthian. Anxious to get on the camera again, I fired off an email right away. It sounded really interesting- filming a show by five Textiles masters from the Glasgow School of Art, in glamourous surroundings, and all for Children In Need. Perfect! Harry and I were the lucky ones chosen, along with Hollie and Courtney from first year. I was a bit worried about looking technically retarded in front of the first years, especially after the talking-to we'd gotten over our Candid Cabaret footage (hint- it wasn't great). Still, being on camera for our end of year film had given me a renewed sense of confidence. As long as I kept the shots themselves fairly static, without trying anything fancy, I could concentrate on keeping everything in focus. I find this really hard because for the last two years I've known I need glasses to correct my poorly-focussing eyesight... it's just something I've never had the spare pennies to do. Or rather I have, and have just spent them elsewhere.

Not only that, but I somehow found myself playing go-between between the organiser, James, and the rest of the crew. After a mini-panic attack on Sunday morning when I realised I didn't have any first years'numbers- in fact, I hadn't even had a chance to meet them yet- we all met up in good time AND we found somewhere to stash the kit overnight. Even a small shoot, which had nothing to do with us organisationally, requires soooo much planning on behalf of the camera crew- NOT how I'd imagined spending my only day off that week, but it's good to get used to the professional practice!

After a quick run-through, we had an hour or so to make sure everything was perfect. I felt so frumpy in my all-black filming gear though- and being around statuesque rail-thin models meant I felt guilty for even thinking about being hungry! Still, I heard some fierce looking male models pass comment on my hair, which gave me a little bit of a spring in my step, so it wasn't all bad. The shoot itself went without a hitch, and the organisers were so accomodating with EVERYTHING. All in all, a great little day, some more experience under our belts and with the prospect of another job filming another fashion show, it turned out to be beneficial in mroe ways than one. All we have to do now is edit the tapes... it'll mean less sleep and will most likely severely cut into my precious few hours off but hey, that's what Red Bull and power naps are for.

This week we've been back on camera- well, we were on Monday and Tuesday, but illness and trying to lead a double life finally caught up with me and I was only in on Monday. We were introduced to filters, matte boxes, new tripods and follow focus... I was quite excited, as this means we're now learning how to construct a scene, and tailor it to how we want it to look, rather than just sitting the camera down, focussing and hitting [REC]. For me, it's a really interesting new direction as I'm really interested in cinematography. My only problem, I think, is my lack of belief that I can actually do it. It takes a while for things like this to register in my brain and camera class always leaves me feeling...well, a bit thick really. Everyone else seems to have that little bit more experience in some way or another, and I get really frustrated when I feel like I'm being left behind. That, coupled with tiredness, left me a bit disheartened but I know that I NEED to be able to do this... for the girl who's never had much in the way of definite direction before, I'm determined to get myself up to speed!

After a full day of sleep in between popping painkillers and generally just feeling out of sorts, I was raring to go today. Especially since we were staring at 2pm- double win! Sadly, when we got to our screening, Andy revealed the first film of the new film was.....Metropolis. NOOOOOOOO!! I watched this at Aberdeen and while I loved the production design (I think I've mentioned this before), I found it really frustrating that huge chunks of the 'action' were missed out and the running time stretched my patience without really keeping me interested. I'd hoped all the silent films we watched last term would've changed my opinion somewhat, but no- I still don't like it. As much as the production is stunning, and incredibly technologically advanced, the story and characters weren't really that interesting to me. The message of the film is solid enough- 'the mediator between the head and hands has to be the heart'- but it felt really heavy handed in delivering it. It's difficult to comment on the acting; the lack of dialogue in silent movies means every expression has to be super-exaggerated. In Metropolis it came across really pantomimey, although this feels like nit-picking given the confines of sound.

Sooooooo, that's me pretty much all caught up on the goings on of the last couple of weeks. It's been hard to get used to the routine again, and even for us our timetable's been pretty hectic. Still, I've really loved being back and as soon as I get used to the work/uni balance again, I'll be right as rain. Especially now that I've made my peace with Mahara...and all it took was "copy & paste"...

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