Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Learning Curve, And Being Way Off Course

Thank heavens for Sundays... if it weren't for them I wouldn't have any days off at all. Between classes, shoots, lugging kit, work... sometimes I feel as if I'm trying to live multiple lives at once. It's exhausting, sure, but sitting blogging while listening to some Cure is my new favourite way to reflect and such. And what a couple of weeks it's been!

We had our first classes with more new tutors in the last few weeks. First up was Zam Salim, who taught us about the principles of directing and working from a 'vision'. On our first day, we had to bring in a film which inspires us, show a scene to the class and explain what we liked about it and why. Since my film for Andy's assignment is Natural Born Killers (no eye-rolling please), I decided to show the opening scene. I really loved seeing everyone's choices... they were all so different, some I was aware of, some I'd seen, some I'd never even heard of. We also had to prepare a director's treatment to present to the class based on these films, as if they hadn't yet been made. This was really interesting- looking at what sort of things went into making up even a short scene, what things had to be taken into consideration, and how some films even get made in the first place. I especially liked kidding on to be Oliver Stone- turns out I know far more about the production of NBK than I thought I did!

Zam's classes really me with looking at films in different ways and in breaking them down, which fed into the work we're doing for Andy. Making up my director's treatment made my presentation on the Wednesday ALOT easier... well, perhaps 'easier' isn't the right word, but I had a tonne of research at least. Despite my better efforts, and attempts to drop some shifts in work, I turned up about a minute after the door was closed, even though I'd been in uni since 9am... medicating my own insomnia works for getting me to sleep, sure, but it doesn't make the waking up part any easier. In my zombie-like state I felt nothing my a sudden lurch in my stomach when I ran in behind everyone else, especially since personal-life things had been more than a bit rubbish that week and I was having severe trouble concentrating. Still, I needn't have worried too much. If anything, I'd OVER-prepared and tried to cram too much in, but after the Q&A and an email discussion with Andy, I managed to narrow down what I was going to focus on for my essay. Now to get writing! *cracks knuckles*

The following week we had classes with Peter Mackie Burns (hereafter known as PMB), with whom we learned how to work with actors. It's a strange thing, but I'd never really considered it... I mean, I knew if I were ever to direct I'd be working with actors- otherwise there's be no film- but I hadn't really thought about the practicalities of it. It reminded me alot of my days in youth theatre, looking at things like blocking and staging. Other things made me look more closely at the role of cinematographer- cheating angles and positions, framing and arranging shots in sequence that would cut easily, rather than just shooting a bunch of pretty individual shots. We had two classes in which we read over a script (the one we were going to shoot scenes from) and then the next week was all about rehearsing. Some scheduling conflicts meant I went from 3 shoots to FIVE... three assisting and two as Director of Photography/'focus wrangler'. Camera assisting was easy-peasy... mostly it involved marking up tapes, recording timecodes, holding a reflector at odd angles (thank you, residual Delhi training) and singing to the camera so it didn't feel frightened at being outside in the cold.

It also involved alot of sitting and waiting... something which a DoP or camera op certainly never gets to do. On Tuesday, I found out that Paul- who was originally meant to be directing, who I had rehearsed with and everything- was ill, and had been replaced by Dilara. Which meant there was no time for rehearsals and we had to be there an hour earlier than intended. Also, while I do enjoy a nice frame and a pretty picture, I have ALOT to revise on lenses, lights, filters and all the other little technical bits that go with putting together a shot. At one point in the afternoon my arm actually broke out into a rash and looked as though it had been clawed at by a mountain lion. We had no end of trouble with outside light too, especially as we didn't have any... y'know... other lights. Still, we eventually wrapped and me, my migraine and my half-gnawed arm shuffled home for a little sleep.

Thursday involved camera assisting again twice, once for Murdo and again for Gavin. The lousy tornado weather didn't help matters any but everything seemed to run smoothly and thankfully the day didn't feel as heinously long as anticipated. Friday, however, was my second shot at DoP'ing and again the memory blanks and standing feeling like a proper lemon not knowing the answers to any questions came back in spades. Once shooting started I was fine though- and even managed to help solve a tricky problem of cheating 'being in a cupboard'. (hint- thank you again Delhi training for my shoulders of steel). I really love the look of a handheld - or shoulder mounted- camera, and I find it far easier to follow actors' expressions and movements when I don't have a pesky tripod in the way. It helped that the whole week was a learning curve for the actors too, so we all felt a little bit out of our depths.

Overall then, an exhausting week, one in which I didn't see much of my bed and ended it looking like an extra from The Walking Dead. Still, the shoots all ran on time, we managed to pull everything together despite difficulties in pretty much every area and we came out of it still close as ever. AND in getting involved with the actors, managed to branch out into other areas of the Academy too. I've spent the last couple of days indulging in lie-ins, y'know, just because I can... I like to think I'm storing my energy up for the next round. I'm really looking forward to adapting what I've learned into the Urban Endings brief. Hopefully my obscure angles and ridiculous attempts at timecode from the Photoboard shoot will have resolved themselves too...?

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