Monthly Archives: October 2011

Film Critique #5: Miracle Fish

Miracle Fish is the story of a boy who does not get as much for his birthday as he or his friends would like. When opening his presents at school, he finds a miracle fish fortune teller in his lunch box. When his friends make fun of his for this “bad” present, the boy runs away to the nurse’s office and hopes that everyone will go away. When he wakes up, his dream comes true and he is free to roam the school until the story turns very dark.

The cinematography in this short film is really well done. The lighting is carefully thought out and the saturation makes the mood seem very dreary and sad from the beginning of the film. The best use of lighting is during the scene where the boy is scootering down the hallway, it makes the scene seem creepy, lonely, and expansive all at the same time. There were very few lines spoken in the 17 minute film, but the filmmakers were able to convey a lot of emotion through the cinematography and facial expressions of the characters.

While I did enjoy the lighting of some shots, there are some shots in which I would have liked to see some more dynamic lighting. There were a couple of scenes, especially indoors, where the lighting felt very flat and this made me less interested in the characters. Overall, however, the filmmakers did a fantastic job of connecting the characters (mostly just the young boy) with the audience in a short period of time. At the conclusion of the film, I was surprised with how much sorrow I felt for the main character. This was directly due to the filmmakers building up a compassion for him over the course of the film.

Project #3: Documentary

Our project started with Maggie having the idea to do it on quitting smoking due to her conversations with the woman that cleans her house, Donna. Maggie did most of the pre-production work on setting up the interviews while Mike and I focused on renting the equipment and setting it up.

Maggie did the actual interviewing while I ran the camera and Mike monitored the audio. The first interview we did was with Jordan Perry and the goal of that interview was to better understand what the actual new policies were on smoking on campus and to get the administrations point of view on the topic. While we did achieve this, we also got a pretty personal view of how the university is helping staff members quit smoking if they want to do so. In terms of lighting the interview, there was a large glass window behind the subject so we used that to our advantage as a backlight. We also used two kinoflos (with bulbs to match the outdoor light), one on either side of her face. The one on the left was the key light and the one on the right was bounced off the wall to act as a fill light.

For the second interview with Donna, we wanted to get a first hand perspective of quitting smoking. This interview ended up being a lot more emotional and engaging because she was speaking on a subject that she was going through. We used a similar lighting set up on this shot, but because the room was darker, it ended up seeming a lot more intimate than the first one.

In the editing process, it was nice to have a lot of coverage and we were able to bring together a cohesive story that also looked nice. At first I was unsure of how the interviews were going to fit together, but in the end they were able to almost seamlessly make sense together. Overall, working in a group made the process easier and allowed us to go more in depth to the subjects. It also simplified the editing process because we had three sets of eyes looking at the project instead of one.

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Film Critique #4: Dear Zachary

“Dear Zachary” is a 2008 documentary the chronicles the life and death of Andrew Bagby – who was murdered by his ex-girlfriend in 2001. The film, made by Bagby’s childhood friend Kurt, starts out as a dedication to Bagby’s life but the apparent direction of the film is continually changed based upon the events that happened. When Bagby’s ex-girlfriend is found to be pregnant after he is killed, the film turns into a memorium to the life of Andrew so that his son who never met him will know all about his father. Kurt travels across the country and to England to interview all of the people who’s lives Andrew touched during his life to give his son a complete picture of his life, his friends and his family.

This film is able to display a large amount of information about a person’s life in an hour and a half through quick and purposeful editing. Besides the interviews (which there were at least twenty of) the rest of the film mostly consisted of home videos from Andrew’s life and footage shot by Kurt during his trek from California to Newfoundland. The way this B-roll was edited together with the interviews made for a powerful and emotional viewing experience. With the help of Kurt’s narration voiceover, the viewer is able to connect with Andrew and his family on an emotional level and understand what an influential person he was in a lot of people’s lives and how tragic his murder was to a lot of people. When the movie shifts to document the relationship between Andrew’s parents and his son, Zachary, the emotional base is only heightened.

The most powerful parts of the film are when the interviews, sound effects and B-roll are used in a way that hits home with anyone watching. For example, when Andrew’s father (David) is talking about Andrew’s death, the B-roll is pictures of Andrew as a baby. As David is talking about his murderer shooting Andrew in the back of the head, there is a picture of the back of baby Andrew’s head being shown on the screen.

Overall, this film has as many twists and turns as a narrative crime thriller but has an emotional level that few narrative films could compare to. The filmmaker is able to successfully manipulate the emotions of the viewers but seems to do so in an honest way. I would recommend this film to people that like either documentaries or even crime films, but caution them that they are going to be emotionally touched by this film.

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Stop Motion Project: Roll.

[vimeo 30084370]

The characters in my project are all inanimate objects so the sound design was very important to establishing emotion in my characters. This was achieved through all three elements of sound design: music, sound effects, and vocals.

The music, which I found on 615 music, offers the basic mood for the piece. The simple piano riff that plays through the film offers a light but somewhat somber mood that makes the viewer relate more with the main character (which is a ball). It also helps develop the plot of the video because it builds as the tension of the scenes build towards the climax.

The vocals were used to give a little bit of life to the characters because none of them were actually things that can talk in real life. Although there are no actual lines of dialog, the tones and inflections of the characters voices help relate to the characters and how they relate to the story. At the very beginning, when the main character yawns, it gives the viewer an intimate look at the feelings of the character.

The most important and telling aspect of the video is the sound effects. These are what really bring the actions on screen to life. For example, the subtle rustling of the clothes in the opening and closing sequences, make it feel like the ball is really moving through the scene instead of being manipulated by stop motion. Furthermore, small sounds such as the ping pong ball and the ball crying develop the character and story more than the visuals on screen can.

As for the recording of the vocals and sound effects, all of the sounds were recorded as foley or vocals except the ball crying and the ping pong paddle falling over which were taken from Apple’s sound effect library. Recording the foley allowed for me to tailor the sounds exactly how and when I wanted them to sound giving control to the overall feel of the piece.

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Film Critique #3: Catfish

Catfish is a documentary about a photographer who develops a relationship with a family over the internet. When Angela, a woman from Michigan, sees one of Nev’s (who lives in New York City) photo in a newspaper, she decides to paint the photo and sends it to Nev. Over the next couple of months, Nev develops a relationship with Angela and her daughters, Abby and Megan. As they continue to talk, Nev questions the authenticity of the family and decides to make a trip to Michigan to meet the family in person. When he arrives, the family turns out to be very different than he had anticipated.

The use of sound in this film is subtle but it is effective in portraying the mood on screen. Because it is a documentary, the majority of the audio is taken from interviews, conversations and phone calls that take place throughout the movie and nearly all of the sound effects are taken from on set. The main source of nondiegetic sound appears in the form of a subtle, yet effective, soundtrack. The soundtrack to this film consists of ambient music that is simple but it sets the mood. Throughout the film, the music directly reflects the mood of the main subject Nev. At the beginning of the film, when Nev is first building the relationship with the family and he is excited about the new friendships, the soundtrack is upbeat and light. When Nev starts to suspect that there is something strange about his relations with the family, the music slowly switches to a creepier tone and builds the anticipation of the secrets that the family is keeping from Nev.
Because the relationships that Nev builds with the family takes place over the Internet, there are many sequences at the beginning of the film that consist solely of Facebook screen shots. During these scenes, the music continues the mood that Nev portrays on screen to encourage and direct the mood of the film and therefore the audience.
In one of the pivotal scenes in the film, Nev is listening to a song that Megan (who he has formed a romantic, long distance relationship with) is supposedly recording for Nev and sending to him. After a quick Google search, Nev realizes that she did not actually record the songs. During this scene, the music is being played from YouTube on the computer and provides the soundtrack for the scene. This is interspersed with dialog between Nev and the camera man (and friend) Rel. This then shifts to creepy music that persuades the audience to become skeptical of the family at the same time that Nev is starting to question the family.
Overall, the use of sound in the film effectively shapes the viewer’s perception of the action in the movie and supports the images to convey a cohesive, persuading story.
Clips from the film: http://popwatch.ew.com/2010/09/03/catfish-documentary-trailer/

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