“The fantasy of creating something that has an emotional impact on others is what motivates many people to go into picture-making in the first place. There is, also, the artistic satisfaction”. (Rea 2014) Short films offer media producers the chance to fully understand the learning process of making a film and to hone their craft, it allows them to express themselves and display their talents on a controllable scale. In the course of making your film, you’ll have many opportunities to be creative in the face of limitation. (Gurskis 2006:115)
Often the limitation would concern the audience and their emotional investment into the film. With not a lot of time to get the audience connected to a character stereotypes, dramatic or specific details are often used in order for the audience to guess at the character and their background and personality. This doesn’t mean you have to completely over exaggerate your storyline as often “the best story ideas for shorts are relatively simple.” (Cowgill 2010) Sticking to a handful of characters at the most can help with this.
In the early years of cinema all films were shorts which “can be from ten seconds to 20 minutes long and of any genre” (Dawkins and Wynd 2010), nevertheless with the increase of popularity for feature films in 1910’s, short films continued to be popular as “short subjects” – films often shown before features, headlined by performers like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Fortunately short films are once again rising in popularity with the Internet, film festivals and more occasions and outlets used to screen shorts now than ever before. (Gurskis 2006:4) Arguably some of the most seen short films have been by Disney and Pixar as they are shown before their feature films, such as ‘For the Birds’ (2000), ‘The Blue Umbrella’ (2014) and soon the more anticipated ‘Frozen Fever.’ (2015) “Pixar’s short films convinced Disney that if the company could produce memorable characters within five minutes, then the confidence was there in creating a feature film with those abilities in story and character development.” (John Lasseter)
Popular actors are also known to feature in short films, the smaller contract times and more creative scripts appealing, also for amateur actors as it can have a large effect on their show reel.
With the advancement of technology it has allowed everyone the opportunity to produce a film, all that’s needed is a modern phone to shoot it and an Internet connection to distribute it, which is proven with there being two film festivals centred around being filmed on an iPhone. (iPhone Film festival and Original iPhone Film Festival) In fact one of the biggest astonishments in this years Sundance Film Festival came in the form of Sean Baker’s transgender prostitution film ‘Tangerine’ which was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, apparently in order to keep the film budget down. (The Verg)
“Yes you can make a beautiful-looking film on a shoestring budget but you have to know 100 years worth of filmmaking.” (Baker 2015)
Regrettably money is often a limitation when it comes to short films, for students we have it somewhat easier by having access to equipment free, yet independent filmmakers aren’t entitled to such things.
Here are 10 examples of funding available depending on circumstances;
Modern times have brought in the free distribution of films, with sites such as Short of the week, CreateSpace, Vimeo, Youtube, BBC Fresh and others it allows media producers to not only save money on distribution but access an audience they perhaps would of not been able to through traditional methods as less people are more inclined to pay for films. Yet unlike traditional methods this wouldn’t be nearly as profitable.
“The ideal situation was and still is to sign a distribution deal with a reputable film distributor who will then take care of all the possible distribution channels: theatrical distribution, television, DVDs, video on demand, etc. In the ideal situation, the distributor pays the filmmaker a decent advance and they then split the revenues after the distributor has recouped costs (this is known as Gross Adjusted Deal). What many filmmakers don’t realise is that the advantage of an advance payment from the distributor is not just about money — the real advantage of this sort of deal is that it really forces the distributor to do his best with the film, because they paid you an upfront fee for it and are therefore highly motivated to generate some serious revenues.” (LAVideoFilmaker 2012)
Therefore you can see why short films are a popular medium for students, independent filmmakers and film companies wishing for the accolades- though this comes with less creativity and more mass appeal, the history of short films continues through the ages and with the increase in technology, distribution and more funding options available it will be fascinating to see where this history will lead to.
“Nothing, like something, happens everywhere.”
I found the preproduction one of the hardest challenges we faced when making this short film, the first hurdle being the inability to stick with a film idea we all liked and agreed upon. From a short film about being stuck in a video game to one about an unreliable narrator- an usual concept that none of our peers had gone for, we as a group definitely upped our game by going for an arguably simpler idea.
“ There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.” Frank Capra.
This lead to the search for the correct actors, the male lead needing a convincing unreliable narrative whilst also having the right balance between shy and unsafe appeal on camera. Matthew was the perfect fit and everyone agreed. Aizah Khan had the correct look to stand by Matthew and make it look like they could have been a couple, we needed a pair that was believable. It was important for us as a group to make sure no one had any doubts about our actors. Though we made reasonable progress with our actors I believe that without setting ourselves deadlines for each section of preproduction – script, storyboard, location, shot list etc, we fell slightly behind come filming. This has made me realise just how important the preproduction is to staying on track. Also with the constant feedback we received from our tutors on our script, I consider the process to be most useful and enlightening at times where we found ourselves lost in our ideas.
The test shoot was one of the things I hadn’t previously done before however I have positively learnt the need for them. It allowed our director and DOP to play out their artistic visions, seeing what shots worked and utilising the small space we had. During the test shot it was decided that we would film officially in the evening, which would bring out our main character Jake’s personality as you see him using the dark in order to hide from his Ex, also it made the storyline of breaking into a house more authentic as it is not often done in the daylight. Working in the evening allowed me to first hand see the affect of lighting and how it could be exploited to intensify the mood and give an overall high quality look to the film. Yet we ran over a lot longer than expected which has made me realise the benefit of keeping organised and communicating with the first AD and producer in order to find out how much time you can allow for each scene. Team work is heavily required when on set as everyone has their own individual role to play and if someone is slacking you will know or find a disadvantage somewhere along the lines be it bad sound quality, running over or a shot not in focus.
Post-production was relatively easy in comparison to post as although our deadlines previously weren’t always met we made sure to assign at least a week in order to edit on time. This had made me notice that when creating a film you can’t just focus about the shooting days, you really do need to consider what you will do when it comes to editing and what changes will be needed, be it incorporating Foley sound or changing the colour temperature. It made me take note of the need for the right amount of people doing the job, as having three editors allowed us to keep on track for time but also not have too many people sat around a screen.
Generally this module has made me realise that short film isn’t nearly as easy as one would think. Just because its not a feature doesn’t mean you wont have problems with timings, you really need to consider each element and deadline you set in order to shoot otherwise things will fall apart. I’ve learnt more about short films and how you would distribute them and it has made me deliberate the possibility of me creating my own one-day. I’m not naïve in thinking I’ve learnt everything there is to know about cameras, lighting and sound when on set however I know for a fact it has opened my eyes about what you need to consider and research and the need to find out what’s already out there, it can both help and dismiss your thoughts about a particular artistic vision. Our film for example has a heavy influence from the film ‘Submarine’ as our director was inspired by the shots, narrative and lighting. In future I will make sure to keep organised, communicate with my group- who I would be honoured to work again with, research into current films and critically acclaimed past ones, and take out equipment on my own and experiment as although I’ve become more confident with the camera and numerous tripods I would like a chance to do it without a set time.
“So this is my story, it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth..”
For 260MC my group and I – Caitlin Young, Laura Mobbs, Charley Fletcher, Kamran Ali, Jordan Nevin, Stacey Wilson and Sach Dhillon, were given the task of building a research archive around the topic of “activism in the city.” As we would already be traveling there in February we decided that, with its reputation of lenience Amsterdam was a radical city that would be ideal for the topic of activism.
“From ancient times to the present, the city has been the repository of man’s finest accomplishments and his most challenging experiences.”(Rybczynski 1995)
When I think of a city the things I instantly think of are;
– Public Transport
“The city is humanity’s laboratory, where people flock to dream, create, build and rebuild.” (Glaeser 2012) This suggests that the city is a place to be imaginative and that anyone can contribute to it, the city is made up of its people as “the location for culture” (Steinberg and Shields 2008). It was once thought that a city had to include a diocesan cathedral, however “Nowadays, competitions are held from time to time, usually to mark important Royal anniversaries… Neither city status nor Lord Mayoralty has ever been a right to be claimed by places fulfilling a list of criteria, as this might devalue the honour. The Government, however, published guidelines on the format and contents of entries for the Diamond Jubilee competition. These guidelines describe information which the Government has found useful in reaching a decision, but they do not set out formal criteria.” (Department for culture, media and sport)
The city is a great stage to hold a form of activism as it holds a large audience, be it they’re targeting politics, the economy, global warming, world hunger or others the city allows for thousands of people to witness or take part in the act and spread the word, especially if it has disrupted normal life in some way and the media reports it.
“Activism is quite simply taking action to effect social change; this can occur in a myriad of ways and in a variety of forms. Often it is concerned with ‘how to change the world’ through social, political, economic or environmental change. This can be led by individuals but is often done collectively through social movements.” (Permanent Culture Now.2015)
‘Action on behalf of a cause, action that goes beyond what is conventional or routine.’ (Martin 2007:19)
Activism is about making people sit up and take note of the changes people want and believe in by doing something against their normal behaviour, it doesn’t even have to be on a global or national scale, its just about changing something for what you believe to be for the better. This is usually referred to a ‘social movement ‘, which is a large group of people who have similar beliefs who create a more powerful impact by working together. ‘A social movement typically includes many groups and individuals acting towards a common goal to change society in a particular way.’ (Martin 2007: 22)
There are various types of activism including but are not limited to;
– Grassroots activism
– Letter writing and petitions
– Direct lobbying
– Consumer boycotts
– Selective purchasing ordinances
– Ethical investing
– Economic sanctions
– Civil disobedience
I myself have previously attended a public rally, the BIG IF event in London’s Hyde Park in 2013 which was “a coalition of over 200 UK organisations campaigning for action by G8 leaders to eliminate hunger.” (Action Aid 2013) Here is a photograph of the visual petition, a “colourful installation of thousands of plastic flowers, the petals of which represented the millions of children who die each year as a result of malnutrition.” (The Guardian) It was a peaceful day full of lots of energy that involved both talks and pre-recorded messages from celebrities such as Danny Boyle, Bill Gates and David Beckham.
However celebrities as activists aren’t always seen as a guilt free objective, it is true that some use it as a way to increase their popularity. Yet with such a large media platform and audience, their fame is an influential tool that can actually shape policy, it would appear as long as you have the right celebrity for the job it has appeared to work.
“It is this notion of charisma, in conjunction with a number of converging factors, such as the recent rise of philanthrocapitalism, a climate of political correctness, a strong civil society among many western states where volunteering is firmly grounded, as well as the West’s collective guilt over its accumulated wealth compared to Third World suffering, which make celebrities amenable to becoming advocates of activist causes on human poverty.” (Tsaliki 2011:9)
Well known activists include Rosa Parks a civil rights activist who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger, Martin Luther King Jr. a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement and Mahatma Ghandi who led India through non-violent protests to their independence. To this day many could tell you who they were and what they did just from looking at their photograph, they made such an impact on the world and changed it for the better because of what they believed in.
More modern day activists include Sir Ian Mckellan, for gay rights who with 27 Nobel Laureates wrote an open letter to Russia’s president asking him to change their recent controversial laws and who is often seen at Pride events. Angelina Jolie who is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and has been associated with 29 charities and Emma Watson, who is also a Goodwill Ambassador, stood before the UN for the HeForShe campaign for gender equality and had the world talking about her speech for the next month.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon
“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” (Lennon)
The documentary is about John Lennon’s life focusing on his transformation from a member of The Beatles into a powerful anti-war activist during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The documentary tells the story from both points of view and how the U.S. government considered him as a potential political threat and focuses on them trying to silence and deport him.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono used numerous methods of activism including physical protests, songs, bed peace and bagism. Although he is no longer alive his message of peace is still clear and to this day we still sing, “War is over.” This documentary shows how powerful celebrities can be in political matters and how protests take over cities, the city allows for people to see the full affect and message, at one point during the film “the world is watching” was chanted as young protesters were being beaten and the world really was watching.
A more recent example of musical protesters comes in the form of feminists Pussy Riot who are based in Moscow, Russia. The group like Lennon use nonviolent action against their government, specifically the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, as they consider him a dictator and fight for their beliefs “feminism, separatist resistance, fight against authoritarianism and personality cult.” (TIME 2014).
Pussy Riot stages flash protests in various unauthorised locations never repeating themselves, which allowed them to escape the law for longer. However the performance that finally got them arrested, and which their film revolves around, involved them singing outside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, they were sentenced to jail yet their conviction was criticised by many a famous figure, including Madonna who wore a balaclava and dedicate a song to them and had her audience chant to free them, and they soon were freed. Once again showing the political influence celebrities have. The cities and their locations were the main part of the protests for Pussy Riot and without that their message probably wouldn’t have spread as fast or wide around the world.
“When we were jailed, Pussy Riot immediately became very popular and widely known, and it turned from just a group to essentially an international movement. Anybody can be Pussy Riot, you just need to put on a mask and stage an active protest of something in your particular country, wherever that may be, that you consider unjust. And we’re not here as the leaders of Pussy Riot or determining what Pussy Riot is and what it does or what it says. We are just two individuals that spent two years in jail for taking part in a Pussy Riot protest action.” (Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova 2014
The biographical film Milk was based on the life of Harvey Milk a gay rights activist and the first openly gay person to be elected into public office in California. The film shows the various battles he tackled against political campaigns to limit the rights of gay people, in the Castro neighbourhood and throughout the city. Although thought of as somewhat conservative the film shows his relationships with his lovers and his murderer with the filming ending with the double homicide. Unlike the other films I previously watched this focuses on his personal struggle against gay rights through campaigning and not musically. This film shows how a city bands together for a cause, the city becomes a community in order to fight proposition 6, when something is happening right outside your door it is hard not to get involved, you merely have to decide which side you fight for.
“I ask this… If there should be an assassination, I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out – – If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door… And that’s all. I ask for the movement to continue. Because it’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power… it’s about the “us’s” out there. Not only gays, but the Blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s. Without hope, the us’s give up – I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you… You gotta give em’ hope… you gotta give em’ hope.”(Film: Milk 2008)
The Yes Men
The Yes Men are “a group who use any means necessary to agree their way into the fortified compounds of commerce, and then smuggle out the stories of their undercover escapades to provide a public glimpse at the behind-the-scenes world of big business…They do this (a) in order to demonstrate some of the mechanisms that keep bad people and ideas in power. Their main goal is to focus attention on the dangers of economic policies that place the rights of capital before the needs of people and the environment. Right now they’re focused on passing carbon emissions laws in the USA.” (Yes Men.Org)
On 4th December 2004 they caused a storm when they impersonated a spokesperson from Dow Chemical Corporation on BBC News, Dow Chemicals are apparently responsible for the death of over 3,800 people so the Yes Men said what they believed Dow should of done and admitted it was their responsibility and would help rebuild the damage done to both the people and area.
They also set a prank on The New York Times where on November 12th 2008 where around 80,000 copies of a fake edition of the July 4th 2009 edition was handed out on the streets which held articles that held their ideas of a better future, the front page containing “All the News We Hope to Print” everything from “Iraq War Ends”, “National Health Insurance Act Passes” and “Crumbling Infrastructure Brings Opportunities.” They also have released several films showing how two of the Yes Men act out their stunts and what happens behind the scenes. For them they need the city to put across their views as without the conferences, interviews and street work they wouldn’t get their protests known or happen.
“People who want to change the world for the better have always made use of the latest technology, from the printing press to the tweet.” (Hill 2013)
The Internet has created a social change thus changing the way activists go about communicating with each other and their audience. Although it has made it “easier for people to see the truth that the powerful would rather hide, to learn from activists on the other side of the world, to co-ordinate campaigns without hierarchy and to expose governments and corporations to public ridicule. It has also helped those same governments and corporations to spy on activists, to disrupt campaigns, to spread their own messages through well-funded advertising and to create an illusion of popular support.” (Hill 2013).
Though due to the lack of face-to-face interaction movements can fall apart however, “face-to-face meetings and street demonstrations can counterbalance such dispersion by bringing activists together in the same physical space at the same time. This strengthens feelings of belonging as it makes the collective a tangible reality, something that’s more difficult to achieve online.” (Joyce 2010) This is why the cities are still needed for activism, there needs to be that community that holds the movement together, in order to keep reminding people what they’re fighting for.
Amsterdam is the Capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it is known for its canals, bikes, museums, red light district and coffee shops. It also holds Greenpeace’s headquarters, which makes it the perfect place for activism, as they are so lenient and radical with their laws compared to the rest of the world. Researching current protests of theirs all seemed to point towards Russia.
On September 14 2014 “an exotic protest against the sanctions strife between the EU and Russia, hundreds of Dutch pelted each other with around 200,000 forbidden tomatoes in the heart of Amsterdam.” (RT Question More 2014)
In April 2013 whilst Putin visited Amsterdam the city greeted him with rainbow flags and banners to protest against the new bill about gay propaganda. “Protesters booed and whistled at Mr Putin’s arrival at the Hermitage Museum, while human rights group Amnesty International had put up fake police tape proclaiming the area a “human rights-free zone.” (BBC News 2013)
However this year the main protests in Amsterdam focused around “Je Suis Charlie” and University, protesting for “three demands: the Executive Board must make the university more democratic, restore trust and conduct an independent investigation into the financial situation.” Apparently “the problem currently facing many universities is that money plays a too important role in many decisions made by the university authorities.” (NLTimes 2015) This protest has continued for a month and Minister Jet Bussemake believes they make valid points and that universities should start listening to the concerns.
– Actionaid. (2013) . Big IF London line-up announce. [ONLINE] Available from:http://www.actionaid.org.uk/latest-news/big-if-london-line-up-announced. [Accessed 11 February 2015]
An observatory documentary following the memories of an elderly woman as she relives her childhood growing up in the Philippines during World War 2 and how it compares to her life in London now. This film speaks of the negative affects of war and the heart warming and breaking love story that rescued her in such a dark time. Lola proves that no matter what life throws at you, as long as you’re ready for the adventure nothing can stop you from achieving a life of happiness and love.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/113029099″>Lola</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user22114098″>Jessica Amy Wright</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Due to my original subject – Jess being treated differently as the gay stereotype follows her around, dropping out Jessica Wright and I discussed her proposal about her grandmother’s experience growing up in the Philippines during World War 2. I believed we had a strong character my only concerns being visuals as we would be incapable of flying over to the Philippines. Due to my lack of knowledge surrounding our subject I researched online and was shocked by what I saw and read. Researching the backstory allowed me to build an emotional connection with the subject and I became more interested as to what questions we could ask in the interview. We also researched into the documentary ‘Beekeeper’ it too focused on someone’s memories and used the objects around them to explain their story and capture the audiences attention. The research I have undertaken has taught me to always know the backstory of your subject not only for a professional contact but in order to understand them as a person and how your documentary could go down a different route than originally planned. Also look at other works that have done the same subject in a different style or in the style you wish to do but a different subject, you can decide what elements you like and dislike and if its really what your documentary should look like.
Jess and I chose to do our transgression documentary in an observatory style as we wanted to just focus on the story and trying to keep the setting as true to the character as possible, not getting too intense with lighting or technical elements. As we were filming an older woman who was reliving memories we wanted to keep the pace slow and calming against the harsh memories, you can see this as the camera pans over the old photographs. The observatory style although meant our character led the process meant we had to have the technical elements agreed upon before filming. We wanted to draw out the emotion of Lola’s story and we thought of doing this with shots of her in her garden as she spoke about fleeing into the mountains. Although it was observatory we did try to be creative, we contemplated with the idea of her speaking in one of her native languages, different locations and how we could switch up the camera angles to intrigue the audience and help move the story along. I can honestly say my respect for the documentary modes has been put in place as I now understand the styles and can see more meaning when watching documentaries. You can put a story across without needing to over sell it or worrying over the sound, the visuals alone can stand by themselves and its okay to have silence, although the thought terrifies me slighting. You constantly need to think back to the character and how you want the documentary to turn out, creativity and imagination is definitely needed in order to see the film in your head whilst you’re shooting and keeping every thing on track.
Shooting took place on a single day and due to clashing schedules and Jess’ relationship with the subject she filmed alone. We realised the minute Jess was with her grandmother that our shooting script would have to change, her grandmother had injured her leg and the weather was ghastly. This unforeseeable circumstance meant we were talking over Facebook over different ideas we had previously discussed and what could be done instead. Luckily the interview went well except for a slight noise in the background that was later on picked out in editing. However the good news was because of Jess and her relationship with our character she was able to conduct a very heart warming and breaking interview that we perhaps may not of captured if I was there. I’ve learnt you need to organise your team and figure out a schedule convenient for everyone and prepare for plan b if necessary when uncontrollable circumstances hit, especially something like the weather in autumn. I personally feel like I should have been there to provide more help when things went wrong and only contacting over Facebook messenger was a bad idea. Next time phone numbers of cast and crew should be on a list in case of emergency’s or questions which would allow for better relations with crew.
When it came to editing it would be safe to say we had some difficulties. Exporting alone took over two hours. Due to the weather the shots Jess took outside weren’t usable, it seemed our shooting script went out the window and we had to decide what we would do to achieve our original desired idea. From this I’ve learnt to actually produce and update the edit plan in order to organise ourselves in the editing process so we don’t start with nothing. Originally we had planned to do a lot of shots yet to keep them short to go with the pace, however when we realised the shots we had in the end used three shots, the wall, Lola in the chair and the panning of the photographs. With the dialogue we went a tad participatory due to it started with Jess saying “when were you born?” but if anything that makes it appear more personal and light hearted to show the light in the situation. Anchored by our logos and the title appearing against the brightly coloured wall it appeared to have created a charming and quaint atmosphere almost as if you were home yourself. I believe the sound matched the image as you focused on what she was saying and started to bond with her, especially when you saw her in older photographs you began to feel like you were sat in this woman’s house just having an every day conversation. Overall this module has made me sit up and start questioning my own reasoning for doing media and has changed my attitude towards documentaries. I will definitely remember to be more organised, perhaps produce a contact sheet of cast and crew and start to look at this from a more creative point of view.