Sunday, March 30, 2014

Screenwriting Brainstorming; Preparing for Narratology Film Script Review

Today, during period 1, please complete the following:

1. Complete your reading of your chosen script:
As you read, please examine the genre, the plot structure, the character portrayal, the setting, POV, and intended audience. What elements of the film script are formalistic, which are classical or realistic, etc. How does the film script adhere to the rules of the genre (what are those rules?) and find examples of the narrative style. Take notes and be prepared to write an essay on this next class.

2. Work on your original film script brainstorming exercises. See below for some advice in coming up with ideas. Use the graphic organizers to write and plan your original film script. You are NOT writing your idea yet. Everyone should work alone on an idea. The chance to collaborate will come soon.

Use the handouts and organizers presented today if you need them to help you. During 2nd period, we will screen some films from the 1930's.

Screenwriting Tips
1. Most of writing a screenplay (about 65%) is done in planning and prewriting.
2. Writing a screenplay is a succession of breakdowns: moving from the general to the specific.
3. Don't write a script for a movie you yourself wouldn't go see.
4. Remember the goal of every writer is to get an "emotional" response from your audience. Scripts that are too bland or boring or cliche, only anger an audience (and don't usually get made in the first place).
Writers think in different ways:
1. Inductively: from specific to the universal
2. Deductively: from the universal to the specific
3. Logically: How one thing causes another thing to happen
4. Non-logically: Absurdity or mere coincidence
5. Creatively: discovering hidden connections or relationships between two unrelated things (i.e. metaphorically)
It's okay to think in any of these ways. No one way is the right way. You, of course, can also combine these ways of thinking too. Be creative!

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading/analysis of your chosen film script. Take notes and be ready to write a review/essay on narratology next class on your chosen script. This would be an in-class test.

Please read the article on Walt Disney & Snow White for Friday. Write a written response to the article and include information about the first Disney film you remember seeing, or if you have been impacted by Disney films/studios, etc. talk a little about your observations/memories. This paper will be handed in as participation credit FRIDAY.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Laurel & Hardy; Hal Roach; & the Golden Age

Hal Roach was born in Elmira, NY (near us!), before moving to Hollywood. He worked for the Pathe Exchange Co. before working for MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) as a producer. He is best known for producing the comedy teams of Laurel & Hardy and The Our Gang (or Little Rascals).

Laurel and Hardy
Not all silent film stars made the transition to talkies. One comic duo that did, however, was Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This iconic duo made over 100 films together, initially short films, before expanding into feature length films by the end of the 1930s. More can be examined by clicking on the link of their name above. Here are a few clips/films:
The Little Rascals (various clips/films):
Whatever Happened to the Little Rascals (information, although a bit grim)

The 1930's: The Golden Age of Film

The 1930's is considered the Golden Age of Film. Please review and take notes on these following film clips. You should note who is starring in which roles and how certain actors and directors helped shape the genres we now recognize in film today. You will be tested on the material found here, so please watch attentively and make some observations about film in the 1930's.

As for camera work, there are few tricks being used with cameras. Angles are mostly eye-level, with medium, long, and close up shots being used with transitions such as the wipe, the iris, fade to black to indicate scene changes. There is still rear projection, tracking shots, dolly shots, and elaborate sets (particularly for war and epic films), but overall, the feel of 1930's film is like watching a play. With the invention of sound, movies rely on written dialogue to move the plot and develop character (as opposed to using solely a visual medium). Famous directors and writers such as Frank Capra, Walt Disney and writer George S. Kaufman to name only a few make their appearance in this era. Since sound is a new invention, the use of music is an important element. See what other details you can observe as you watch the clips:

Hell's Angels (1930) Premiere clip (not the film, but the hubbub about the film)
Hell's Angels (1930) clip with Jean Harlow
Anna Christie (1930) With Greta Garbo
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) Johnny Weissmuller
Morocco (1930) with Marlene Dietrich

Grand Hotel (1932) with Joan Crawford & John Barrymore
King Kong (1933) starring a large gorilla, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray
King Kong (2nd clip)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) Clark Gable & Charles Laughton
Captain Blood (1935) with Errol Flynn & Basil Rathbone (documentary clip)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Narratology & Film Script Reading

Narratology: the study of narrative forms.

Stories are divided into genres. Each genre has rules and expectations that help define its formalistic elements: structure, character, plot, setting, etc.

For example, in a science fiction film, we assume that spaceflight is easily possible, or that alien life is probable. These are tropes of the genre. Absurd situations are expected in comedies, but not usually appreciated in dramas. A genre sets forth the rules of what is possible in a film (or novel).

In film there are three super genres (broad genres that encompass the whole): they are STYLES of film:
A. Realistic: (qualities: objective, 3rd person POV)
B. Classical: (qualities: objective/subjective, 3rd person, often limited 3rd person)
C. Formalistic: (qualities: subjective, 1st person or unreliable narrator)
When narratives fail to act according to convention or what we have come to expect from tradition or from the genre, we, as viewers have to figure out what is meant from the deviation of the structure and style of the genre. Good writers are able to push the boundaries of what a story can allow within its chosen genre. When watching a movie, or reading a script or novel, you should be aware of the genre rules and assumptions you are likely to be presented with. In the romance genre, for example, we must assume that people fall in love almost immediately (and that this love is real, as opposed to just a physical attraction). That's part of the genre. When we criticize a movie, we should first check our understanding of what the writer and director were attempting to present to us.

Some classical and formalistic narrative techniques we recognize:
1. The flashback
2. The dream sequence
3. The distorted view (as if the subject or character is drunk, insane, troubled, drugged, etc.) Commonly uses an oblique angle or birds eye view to disorient its viewers.
4. Voice overs (this indicates we have a subjective narrator)
This may also include such narrative techniques as:
  • Crosscutting
  • Montage
  • Multiple perspective

Classical style narrative plots generally follow the typical 3-act structure. They rise through a series of events (rising action) to a definitive climax, and usually resolve in some definitive way.

These plots are generally linear: telling the story in sequence of time and ordered events.

Important symbols or metaphors are usually explained; solutions are offered. These films, more than formalistic or realistic films, are directed to a general [genre specific] audience.

Most films fall into this category, but at the far end of the spectrum are the avant garde films that use formalistic narration. Formalistic films rely heavily on metaphor, implied meaning, subjective POV, and surprising special visual effects. Here are a few sample clips of this type of film:

ASSIGNMENT: Read one (or more for extra credit) of the following scripts for Monday, March 31. As you read, examine the script for its narrative style. Choose your preference:
Be prepared to discuss how the film uses narratology as a device. Examine the genre, the plot structure, the character portrayal, the setting, POV, and intended audience. What elements of the film script are formalistic, which are classical or realistic, etc. How does the film script adhere to the rules of the genre (what are those rules?) and find examples of the narrative style.

HOMEWORK: Read the handout on "Sound in Film". Read your chosen script from those listed above (due Monday, March 31). Complete whatever you can of your film and upload it to Youtube for our class viewing Thursday.

The Invention of Sound in Film

Please take notes this morning on the following information:

Joseph P. Maxfield (AT&T’s Bell Laboratories) invented the first phonograph linked to film (licensed by Victor as the Orthophonic Victrola) which became the basis for the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system.

The Vitaphone allowed actors to lipsync their performance while the sound was recorded after; (This helped to popularize animation!)

The first sound film was Don Juan in 1926. The Jazz Singer (cantor);  The Jazz Singer (1927), directed by Alan Crosland, starring famous vaudeville actor, Al Jolson is popularly given this award. Really both films were songs or music in Don Juan's case, that were played along and synched with the film. The Jazz Singer gave birth to the Hollywood musical genre. You may watch the entire film here: Jazz Singer.

Warner Bros. and Fox Film began wiring their theatres for sound as early as 1926. By 1928, Western Electric developed a sound-on-film system, which later developed a new competitive major studio: Radio-Keith-Orpheum or RKO.

The conversion to sound created both positive and negative effects for film:

A. Led to a revival of national film elsewhere in the world
B. Cinema owners did not have to hire musicians for an in-house orchestra
C. Silent films were easier to distribute across the world (no need to translate) which later creates the need for dubbing (1932 -- ex. Paramount studios); before this, multi-lingual films make stars like Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier, Bela Lugosi, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, and Peter Lore more important--since they can speak different languages (and therefore sync their voices to film).
D. Film became a single media event
E. Films came to the theatres as final products, whole and complete
F. The immersive qualities of film and the viewer become inseparable
G. Dialogue became a necessity to tell the plot of a film
A. Produced panic and confusion in Hollywood
B. Many musicians lost their jobs
C. Early sound films from America were boycotted by certain countries; films were not as widely distributed, more costly to translate.
D. Silent film culture was destroyed
E. Films did not require additional music, some ambiance was lost -- sound film was seen as the killer of “film as the seventh art form”
F. Film was no longer a “theatrical” or “artistic” event
G. Dialogue became a necessity to tell the plot of a film

Friday, March 21, 2014

Last Day of the Marking Period: All Late Work Due!

Please turn in any late homework/assignments or extra credit you have not turned in yet.

I am extending the deadline for your silent films until next class. We started working on these projects around Feb. 13.  Most of our marking period was taken up with this project, and so it is important that your grades reflect the work you've done on you film. For those of you who are finished, please upload your film to Youtube and send me the link in the comment section of this post. I would like to screen films next Thursday, if possible.

This morning, please complete the following task:
--Reflect on making a movie. I would like you to think about the movie-making process and explain what you have learned about film, creative writing, or about yourself and others from it. This reflection will count as part of your project grade for this marking period. It is due by the end of class today.
When you have completed your reflection, please continue working on your film. If you are done, and you want to boost your test score, you may begin completing the test correction worksheet for the Origins of Film.

TEST CORRECTIONS: Please read the article by Tim Dirks and answer questions on the handout. Please be aware there are 5 pages to this article. Turn in by Tuesday (March 25, by 1st period--corrections will not be collected after the beginning of class, PLEASE NOTE) to increase your exam score.

HOMEWORK: None. Unless you haven't completed your film project(s), or are working on test corrections.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Film Exam: Origins to 1930

Please take the first 5 minutes of class today to study for your exam.

When you complete the test, please return to the lab and work on your film projects.

HOMEWORK: Film projects (first deadline) is Friday.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review for Film Exam (Origins to 1930)

Your unit test will cover the following material. All material mentioned was either referenced and discussed below in the blog (check and review blog entries), the handouts from Turning Points in Film,  or from Tim Dirks website (Film History). Please refer to your notes and study. This test covers a lot, please study. Please. No. Really. Study.
  • Styles of film: realism, classicism, formalism
  • Film Treatment (how to write one) & definition of a film pitch
  • Early film invention: Magic Lantern, Daguerreotype, Celluloid, Kinetoscope, Mutoscope, Praxinoscope, Thaumatrope, etc.
  • Edweard Muybridge, photography, & the Zoopraxinoscope
  • The Lumiere Brothers & their films (The Sprinkler Sprinkled, Arrival of a Train, etc.)
  • Pathe Frere Manufacturing Company (Charles Pathe)
  • Pathe Films: Aladin and the Wonderful Lamp; Onesime the Clock Maker; Slippery Jim; The Policeman's Little Run
  • Thomas Edison and the Edison Manufacturing Company: various films (Sandow the Strongman, Serpentine Dances, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz (1910), Uncle Josh films, Life of an American Fireman, etc.
  • The Black Maria
  • Augustin Le Prince
  • W.K.L. Dickson
  • Hepworth Manufacturing Company (Cecil B. Hepworth)
  • Hepworth's films:Rescued by Rover ; How It Feels to be Run Over; Explosion of a Motor Car; That Fatal Sneeze; Alice in Wonderland
  • George Melies & A Trip to the Moon
  • Persistence of Vision
  • Etinnene-Jules Marey
  • George Eastman
  • Edwin S. Porter & his films: The Great Train Robbery ; Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
  • Actualities & Blue Movies
  • D.W. Griffith and his contribution to film (also his IntoleranceWay Down East, and Birth of a Nation)
  • Billy Bitzer
  • Lillian Gish
  • Early film comedy and comedians (particularly The Keystone Kops, Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Harold Lloyd, etc.)
  • Slapstick comedy & comedic technique
  • Charlie Chaplin (various films; we watched the Rink in class, but others were mentioned)
  • Buster Keaton (The Paleface, One Week, Sherlock Jr., The Haunted House, The General, various films)
  • Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle & his scandal (Hays Code chapter)
  • Hollywood (the origin and development of)
  • Eisenstein & Montage & Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step sequence)
  • Types of Shots (close up, medium shot, full shot, deep focus shot, long shot, extreme close up and long shots, panning, dolly/tracking shot, etc.)
  • Types of Angles (high, low, bird's eye, oblique, etc.) 
  • Advice about Camera shots and editing
  • 180 degree rule & various editing techniques
  • Early independent film studios/the Hollywood Studio System
  • Early major film studios (1920-1930)
  • Blockbooking
  • Sid Grauman
  • The Hays Code
  • German Expressionism
  • F. W. Murnau & Nosferatu
  • Robert Weine & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • Birt Acres
  • R.W. Paul
  • Alice Guy-Blache
  • Mack Sennett
  • Oscar Micheaux
  • Minorities in film 
  • Other important film stars: Douglas Fairbanks sr., Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell, Clara Bow, W.C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Conrad Viedt, Lois Weber, etc.
  • Auteur, Story, Plot, Order, Narration, Narrative Form
  • Narratology
  • Diegesis
  • Scene, Sequence, Frequency, Ellipsis
  • Motif
  • Space, Viewing Time, Duration
HOMEWORK: Please study for your exam, please study for your exam, please study for your exam.

Minorities in Film; Alice Guy Blache & Oscar Micheux

While most of the pioneers of early film were male Caucasians, the lack of minority voices in film was filled by two very important filmmakers: Alice Guy Blache and Oscar Micheux. While we will focus on these two primarily, they are far from the only minority voices around. Gay & Lesbian, Asian, Latino, and other influential filmmakers begin working in this time period.

Today, watch a few of their film clips and take notes on important details. By the end of the lesson you should begin to ask yourself the question: why is minority cinema important? What is the future of minority cinema? How does knowing a little history help minority artists?

Oscar Michaeux was the first black film director.  Within Our Gates (1919) (music underscore added recently) and his film in its entirety for those interested Within Our Gates (full film). Evelyn Preer was one of the early black actresses. She was also a popular singer. Here's one of her songs: It Takes a Good Woman to Keep a Good Man at Home. You can hear the rhythms of the jazz age (late 1920's). Think of the book Ragtime. Sadly, in American film, it is not until 1991 that the first African-American female director appears (Julie Dash). However, since then, more black female directors have joined the ranks.

The first female director is:
Alice Guy Blache
The Cabbage Fairy (1896)
The Life of Christ (1906) (our first religious epic depicted in film, predating Cecil B. DeMille)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1913)
You can see Taylor & Mariah's film documentary on Alice in the post below.

Various films by the early filmmaker Alice Guy.

Lois Weber, an American female, was also a silent film actress and then director. She invented the first use of the split screen technique in her film Suspense (1913).
Other films include the Blot (1921) and Hypocrites (the first full frontal nudity depicted in film outside of "art film" like Edweard Muybridge's work.) She, too, is important.

As for gay and lesbian films of the early silent film era, there are a few. Apart from two men dancing in the film by Edison, the first depiction of one of the sissy stereotype characters is Algie the Miner (1912). The film was directed by Alice Guy Blache. The first butch male-to-male kissing scene is the fall of Babylon sequence in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). It also features a pretty kick-ass heroine: mountain girl.
A little gender bending: Vitagraph's A Florida Enchantment (1914)

German film was one of the first to tackle gay subjects head-on. Here's the film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others, 1919) by Richard Oswald. It stars Conrad Viedt (see below). The lesbian film Madchen in Uniform was made in 1931 (and is a talky, so we won't but mention it here). If you're interested in this film, you may also like the 1933 film Anna und Elisabeth. (This is only a clip, sound is not original, of course.)

Latino silent film information can be found here. There is little on line to watch (sorry about that). And Asian film star Sessue Hayakawa starred in such films as The Typhoon (1914) and The Dragon Painter (1919). He signed on with Paramount Pictures (Famous Players Lasky) where he worked with Cecil B. DeMille in such movies as The Cheat (1915). The first Japanese feature film was made in 1912, the Life Story of Tasuke Shiobara. The director Dadasaheb Phalke is considered the father of Indian film, although Asian film begins in the late 1890's. It is interesting to note that the first optical toy (a primitive zoetrope) was invented by Ting Huan in 180 AD in China. By the end of the silent film era, most countries have begun to make films. Of particular note are the directors we will look at next class: Sergei Eisenstein & Robert Wiene (Russian and German Expression films).

But for now...

Early Film Stars from Hollywood:
From your notes you should also know the following blockbuster film stars of the early screen. Please watch their clips. Various famous Hollywood actors:

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the Thief of Baghdad (1924), The Mark of Zorro (1920); the full version of The Thief of Baghdad can be found here. It's really a good film, all told. Douglas Fairbanks was known for doing his own stunts.
Rudolph Valentino's The Son of the Shiek (1926) & the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), Blood and Sand (1924)
Mary Pickford (1917) The Poor Little Rich Girl
America's Lovebirds or America's Sweethearts:Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell
Clara Bow in It (1927)
Conrad Viedt
The Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera (complete silent film, 1924), The Unmasking Scene from PhantomThe Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Sergei Eisenstein & the Montage


Get More: SOUTH

Montage song from South Park, Season 6.

As film continued to gain popularity, the film culture around the world inspired various directors and auteurs to create new and exciting films. The most influential film maker of early Russian film was Sergei Eisenstein.

Eisenstein is remembered in film for his contribution of the montage. The montage changed the way filmmakers approached film. It allows a filmmaker to tell a story through a sequence of shots that manipulate time. It is still used today and carries with it a psychological impact. In a script it is indicated by a series of descriptive lines, each spaced apart to indicate a series of shots, rather than description that would indicate one shot or scene. Click here for an example.

Here's a few clips from some of his films:
  • Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step Sequence) (1925)
  • Oktober
  • Alexander Nevsky (1928) (battle on the ice sequence) - Music by Sergei Prokofiev. We can see how the invention of sound in the next few years will revolutionize film. The exciting tone of the music, nicely reflects the glory, fear, and trepidation of the characters in this scene.
HOMEWORK: Please study for your exam. Please study for your exam. Please study for your exam! Also, please read the handout on Eisenstein you received today.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quick Note, Film Project, Homework

Please use the first 20 minutes of class today to upload and wrangle with your film projects. Somewhere in that time, if you are not the editor of your project, and you DID NOT read chapter 7: German Expressionist Cinema, please do so now. Then, it's off to the next room where we will discuss German Expressionism, comic techniques, and Buster Keaton.

HOMEWORK: Please complete the shooting of your film projects. Read Chapter 8: The Hays Code. To turn in, please write a paragraph response explaining how the Hays Code changed and/or affected the film industry.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Buster Keaton & Techniques of Comedy

It is important to realize that actors back in the early days of film really did their own stunts. Comedy and slapstick particularly were rather dangerous. Here A Montage of Buster Keaton

Joseph Frank Keaton was given his professional name by Harry Houdini. "Buster" Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966), was an American comic actor and filmmaker. He got his start as part of a vaudeville act and later co-starred with plump actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in "The Butcher Boy". Here's a clip of one of their films. He is best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was farce or physical comedy with a stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face."

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Keaton as one of the greatest male actors of all time. His film The General is listed as one of the greatest 100 films. (You can watch The General in its entirety below).

For those of you most interested in Keaton's life and work, here's an excellent website.

Take a look at some of his work:
One Week (1920)
The Paleface (1921)
The Haunted House (1921)
Sherlock Jr (1924)
The General (1927) Full Length Feature Film
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) Full Length Feature Film

Much of comedy (reasons why we laugh) have to do with these things:
  • Incongruity or Non sequitur. Humans are rational (supposedly) and laugh at anything that breaks a pattern or does not logically follow. Anything we are not expecting as a logical sequence creates incongruity, and so we laugh.
  • Farce or physical humor (often pratfalls, slapstick, hurting people, etc.) What doesn't kill us makes us laugh. This is only funny if the victim is not really hurt (consider cartoons!) If the character/victim is killed and we laugh, we fall into black or dark humor (and bad taste!)
  • Superiority vs. inferiority (we laugh at those weaker or in a worse situation than us). Usually an underdog or weaker protagonist gets to overcome a stronger opponent. This usually makes us feel better, and in a comedy plot, makes us feel stronger over our own oppression as viewers.
  • Mistaken identity. Ever since farce and satirical plays from the Greeks and Roman theater, mistaken identity has been a constant element in farce.
  • Absurdity (if it doesn't make sense, we laugh). Similar to incongruity, absurdity is, well, absurd.
  • Surprise. Humans will usually laugh is you can surprise them (and they are okay). The adrenaline rush is often accompanied by laughter.
Task: As you watch the screened movies of Buster Keaton, record the different types of comedy examples you see. Turn in your observation sheet.

German Expressionism


“Why should an artist duplicate the real world when it already exists for everyone to see?”
• Begins in Europe around 1906 in painting and theatre
• Style is unrealistic, stylized
• Attention often given to angles
• Distorted perspectives
• Narrow, tall streets and buildings (set pieces)
• Lighting is “dramatic”; Use of shadows
• Actors are grotesque, exaggerated make-up
• Dark, nightmarish tones & moods
• Attempt to show the interior lives of characters through exteriors
• Expressionism influences Futurism (and Modernism)
• Expressionism influences Film Noir in the 1930’s
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Robert Weine (director) 1919

On, please view clips from the following:
These movies, along with Dr. Caligari, are influential in creating the "horror" genre in film. Why, do you think, is expressionism a good stylistic choice for horror films?

Nosferatu (1922) Full film
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (full film)
Der Golem (full film)
The Cat and the Canary (full film - silent)
The Phantom of the Opera (full film)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (full film)
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (full film)

Contemporary films like these also pay homage to the style: Careful by Guy Maddin (1992), the Shadow of the Vampire (2000) and The Call of Cthulhu (2006), The Artist (2011)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Slapstick Comedy; Silent Film Project

This morning, please take 10-15 minutes to prepare and send one of your 10-minute play scripts to Geva. The address is as follows:

You should have a TITLE PAGE with your name, address, phone #, school name, grade, and email address in the lower left or right hand corner.

On your title page, please include your cast requirements (characters, and a short 1-sentence description of the character, if possible).

After submitting (deadline is tomorrow if you don't have your script with you), please work on your silent film projects. Additionally, while you are editing/preparing, take some time to review the following about silent film comedy:

Slapstick & Silent Film Comedy

The name "slapstick" comes from the bataccio — a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in commedia dell'arte. Actors using the slapstick may hit each another repeatedly with great audible effect while causing very little actual physical damage. The term "slapstick" became synonymous with the style of silent film comedy most frequently found in the comedic silent films of Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Hal Roach, and other comedic directors.

Later, the animated films from Warner Brothers Studio and Walt Disney will utilize many of the common gags found in comedic silent films. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry, and Donald Duck are just a few examples.

Slapstick is characterized by broad humor, absurd situations, comedic or farcical action such as chase scenes, and, of course, physical violence. Watch various clips below and note the actor/director where appropriate. Take notes on the film styles and view the films for ideas for your own stories, plays, and films.
Mack Sennett: comedian Billy Bevan (scene from Wandering Willies - 1926) and another clip with Vernon Dent & Billy Bevan
Mack Sennett: Black Oxfords (1924) with Vernon Dent & Sid Smith
Mack Sennett: comedian Harry Langdon (scene from Fiddlesticks - 1927)
Mack Sennett: comedian Harry Langdon (scene from Smile Please - 1924) & another scene (the skunk) from the same film.
Mabel Normand: The Extra Girl (clip, 1923)
Mabel's New Hero  Mabel Normand & Fatty Arbuckle
Fatty Arbuckle: Coney Island (1917)
Fatty Arbuckle & Buster Keaton: The Cook (1918) and the spaghetti scene from The Cook.
Buster Keaton: stunts from The General
Harold Lloyd: from The Freshman (1925)
Harold Lloyd: from Safety Last (the clock scene) (1923)
Charley Chase: Accidental Accidents (Hal Roach directing)
Ben Turpin: Seein' Things (1928), part one; Seein' Things (part two) Stan Laurel: Pie Eyed (1925) and finally: Charlie Chaplin Tribute (various clips).
HOMEWORK: Enter Geva's playwriting contest (see above). Complete the shooting of your film by next week. Watch clips/videos from this and past classes. Please read the article on German Expressionism.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Film Editing Advice

When we discuss the choice of a particularly shot, filmmakers have several options. They can shoot a scene from an extreme long shot, a long shot, a full shot, a medium shot, a close-up, an extreme close up, using a birds-eye angle, a high or low angle, an eye-level-match angle (the default), or decide to use a truck, track, crane, pan, or trolley device to help frame and move the focus of the camera on the subject of the film. But with all these options, we also need to include the following terms to our vocabulary:

classical cutting: editing for dramatic intensity and emotional emphasis rather than for purely physical reasons.

Shifting from long to close or close to long shots shifts the viewers POV within a scene. This can be done to emphasize, include, exclude, consolidate, connect, contrast, or parallel the action of the plot, to introduce an important motif or detail for story-telling purposes (just like describing an important object in fiction), etc.

Master Shot (also known as a sequence shot): a scene of continuous film, usually at long-range, that is used as the through-line of a film or scene.

Reaction Shot: a cut from dialogue to the reaction of the person listening to the dialogue.

Two-shot: a shot that includes just enough space for two-characters to show that they are in the same space.

Three-shot: as a two-shot, but with enough room for three. How cozy!

First cut: a sequence of shots in editing that represents the director's preference for how the scene should be "shot."

Final cut: a studio or producer's preferred cutting of the film. (As opposed to the directors: first cut)

Cover shot: a shot used to reestablish a sequence, (time or space), or establishing shot used to reorient the viewer.

Eye-line Match: A character looks a certain direction, then we cut to what they are supposed to be looking at.

Matching action: similar to the eye-line match, but this involves any movement that is suggested as being continuous, even though it's not shot that way. Example: a tight shot of a person opening a door, the next shot is of that person arriving in another room. It is assumed that the door leads to the room seen, but this is rarely the case in filming.

Mise en Scene: more on this one later, it is literally "what is included in a shot"

180 degree rule: used to stabilize the space of the playing area so the viewer isn't confused or disoriented. Essentially keeping the camera on the same side of the 180 degree line of a scene.

Reverse angle shot: most commonly used in dialogue scenes, the camera moves between two speakers, first showing one, then the other.

Parallel action: just as in literature, the juxtaposition of shots that show complimentary shots. These shots are often from a different location.

Cross-cutting: moving between two or more locations or scenes in a film (often in rapid succession, but not always) to tell parallel stories.

Thematic montage: stress the association of ideas, rather than the continuity of plot, time, or space.

Motifs: objects, places, people, visual pictures, that are repeated to create significance or meaning.

Some advice:
  • the longer the shot, the slower the film pacing. 
  • the shorter the shot, the faster the film pacing. 
  • Longer shots usually include more visual information.
  • Shorter shots usually include less visual information.
  • Cut your scenes at the "content curve": the moment when the viewer has had just enough time to take in the visual information in a scene.
  • Cutting your scene BEFORE the content curve, creates anxiety, frustration, and/or disorients the viewer.
  • Cutting the scene AFTER the content curve, frustrates and bores an audience.
After our Chaplin viewing, please return to the lab and continue working on your film projects.

HOMEWORK: Shoot your film.

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...