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.


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.


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:


Experimental Film: Running Water

[vimeo 29378532]

My experimental film has to do with running water and how it compares to water in the natural world. To achieve this effect, I took shots of running water in a shower and an actual person running in a wet environment. By inter-cutting these two different points of view, I was able to convey a feeling of continual movement which is reminiscent of running water unless it is turned off. My color, royal blue, shows up in only a couple of instances – the shoes of the runner and the towel in the bathroom – but it connects the two different scenes in the video. Blue is usually considered the color of water and the items that are blue in the film connect to the theme of running water. The running in blue shoes and blue jeans is physically running and is inter-cut with shots of running water to connect these concepts. In the final shot of the film, the tilt down on the blue towel is meant to convey the feel of falling water which is happening throughout the film in various different places. I was able to connect the feelings and aesthetics of the inside world to the outside world through my editing. There are some shots that are similar (the shot of the drain and of the rain on the puddles) which convey the feeling that the inside is similar to the outside while there are shots that are purposely different (the shots of the shower head and the runner splashing in the puddle) which contrasts the controlled nature of running water and the uncontrollable nature of outside. The overall lighting and feeling of the inside and outside shots highlights the differences between the controlled and natural world.


Film Critique #2: The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau is the story of a young politician (Matt Damon) who’s relationship with a woman he meets on the campaign trail is altered by a secret organization. As he continues to pursue her, he starts to learn more and more about the “Adjustment Bureau” that has control over the destiny of everyone by adjusting events so the outcome is in line with “the plan” of the head of the organization (referred to as “the commisoner”). After learning the secrets of the organization and with the help of an agent named Harry, he starts to fight the plan that has been predetermined for him. In the process, he learns more about himself and how his entire life has been altered and eventually teaches the bureau a lesson in fate.

In the American Cinematographer article on the film, the Director of Photography John Toll discusses the feel he and director George Nolfi wanted for the film and for the city of New York in particular. Toll says, “The goal was an idealized version of New York that wasn’t so cosmetically beautiful that it looked totally romanticized.” The result of this is a depiction of New York that feels real but also very clean and crisp at the same time. The settings chosen for the film are utilized in a way that makes it seem like the Adjustment Bureau is doing its job of keeping the world in an orderly fashion.

The shots of the people jumping through the doors were shot in a way that made it feel natural while still appearing to be supernatural. Toll shot these in such a way that it was very believable that the action was actually happening. This added to the atmosphere of the film and made it believable to the audience. The most interesting part of the article in American Cinematographer was the picture that the feel of the film was based on. The influence San Paulo, Brazil had on the feel of the film, especially the lighting and heavy use of shadows, is evident in the scene when we are introduced to the Adjustment Bureau and throughout the film.

San Paulo, Brazil by Rene Burri

Overall, the cinematography in the film accomplished its goal of simultaneously having elements of reality and fantasy and it was a beautifully shot film. Where the film fell short was in the writing and story. The elements of fantasy could have been executed in a more subtly and interesting way that would have added to their mystique.


Film Critique: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is the story of a journalist, Rauol Duke (played by Johnny Depp), in the early 1970s that is sent to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. He is joined by his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (played by Benicio del Toro), on his journey to Las Vegas. In the trunk of their car is a briefcase full of various types of drugs including LSD, marijuana and ether. Once they arrive in Las Vegas, they spend a little bit of time covering the race, but most of the time is spent partying and enjoying a life style more stereotypical of Las Vegas. The film is an inside view of the 1960s and how the drug culture affected the way people operated.

Duke spends most of the film under the influence of some type of drug. He narrates the film with his thoughts. These thoughts range from what he is thinking about another person to how the drug he is currently on is affecting him. In addition to the narration that comments on the drug use, a lot of the camera work in the film emulates the way in which a drug induced state my look and feel. Throughout the film, there are very few camera angles that are straight on, most are crooked which creates a surreal vision of reality. There are also various different lens that are used to skew the picture on the screen which changes the perception of the viewer. For example, there is a shot of a can of mace where a long lens is used. At the beginning of the shot, the can is in focus and Duke is out of focus in the background. As he picks up the can, the focus racks so that there is a much deeper depth of field. These types of shots tell the viewer what to see in the shot – much like drugs affect the way users see the world.

In terms of shot type, there are a lot of close up shots of Duke which show his emotion and his facial expressions which are the most telling and interesting part of the film. The most powerful sequence in the film comes three quarters of the way through the movie when Duke is reflecting on the 1960s and the drug culture during it. As Duke is typing a story on his typewriter, he begins to reflect on the last ten years and the window seems to fill up with bright white light. The film then cuts to a montage of the hippie culture of the 1960s as Duke has a monologue about how taking drugs and having “free spirits” won’t solve any problems. The shot directly following this montage is of Duke facing to the left and on the left side of the frame – leaving minimal amounts of look room. The combination of him talking about the “high wave crashing” and the physical look of shot makes Duke seem that he has come up against a barrier in his life. The lifestyle of taking drugs and not caring just will not cut it any more.

Overall this film has a lot of nice cinematography and lighting but the because of the nature of the drug culture in the film, it is sometimes difficult to follow.


Broadcast Fly-out: Pendulum

Live Stand up in front of Pendulum sign on College Ave.





Shots of office (0:04)




Shots of campus store in Moseley (0:14)




Shot of newspapers (0:19)


Shot of computers and people working (0:25)



Still image of the design of the building (0:32)


Shot from across street of Pendulum showing traffic (0:39)


Shot of Alex Ward with name and “First-year student” (0:45)




Live Standup (0:52)


The Pendulum will have a new but temporary home soon when the current office here on Williamson Ave. is torn down.


It is going to be replaced by a much LARGER building. The building will hold more than just the student run newspaper.  The building is going to be the new home of the campus store, Elon University offices and the Pendulum.


—–SOT (O’Neill)—–

“It’ll be good for the people that are here. It will be a better place. With double the space, it can only mean good things.”


The 24-thousand square foot, 4 million dollar development will also mean an expansion in the size of the campus store. The store will be in a more locally focused location.

—–SOT (Ward)—–

“People don’t go to the bookstore that often. More people that don’t go to Elon will go now because they don’t want to go all the way to Moseley.”


This project is another step in the expansion of Elon. When ground breaks in December, Williamson will start its transformation. In Downtown Elon, this is Alex Hadden.





Broadcast In-Class Assignment: Construction





“It will probably only be a couple days, not significant. There was nobody hurt, you’ve got to keep telling yourself that.”






Common Reading Author Reissues Views On Chinese Future

Rob Gifford discusses the Chinese economic situation with Elon

The political climate in China is changing and “China Road” author Rob Gifford has witnessed this shift first hand. On Tuesday evening, Gifford delivered an updated outlook from his 2007 book, which stressed a more nervous stance on the future of China.

“China Road” was the 2010 common reading for the Elon University community. The Elon website states, “The common reading should always challenge our students to move beyond their assumptions about an issue or a particular part of the world and to ask questions about how they might understand and engage with people and situations outside of their own experience.”

Gifford leveraged his firsthand experiences in China to further inform the students, faculty and community members in attendance about the problems – “fault lines” – that exist in modern Chinese society that may not be on the mind of an average American. During his journey on Route 312 across China, Gifford witnessed both the urban and rural lifestyles of China that co-exist under its Communist government.

“It all looks monolithic and very powerful and very dynamic as it moves into its new position as the new world superpower, but underneath there are a lot of problems and a lot of anger,” he said.

The urban culture that exists in China is what makes the country appear to be hopeful and promising for the future – but the underlying cultures in the countryside suffer when the government decides to focus on urban, middle class cultures. While there are 200-300 million new members of the Chinese middle class, there are also 700-800 million peasants in rural China that are receiving less attention because of the new focus on the middle class.

Gifford said that over the last 20 years, as the government has loosened its restrictions on the people of China, the fallout out from this has been the state retreating from rural areas, meaning a reduction in health care and economic growth in rural areas. The economic and social gap between the urban and rural parts of China is what worries Gifford.

He said, “When the crunch comes, as it always comes in an industrialized nation, I’m not convinced [China] can make the jump over from the position its in now to any new political system.”