This documents the weekly breakdown for both the TV Drama classes as well as the Project Development classes. A few of our TV Drama classes were cancelled therefore I haven’t included those particular sessions.
Weekly schedule for TV Drama:
• Introduction module
• Skills & Experience audit
• Where do ideas come from? Ideas generation exercises
• Storytelling & Filmmaking
• Creating stories: Director & Screenwriter
• Ideas generation
• Production & Development
• Making stories happen: Producer
• Development processes – research, proposals, funding
• Discussing your ideas – Groups finalised
Session cancelled due to illness – EXTRA SESSION ADDED in week 5
12pm (normal session):
• Dramatic interpretation: Acting & Directing (SB125)
• Creating stories: Actors
• Acting & improvisations
• Developing your ideas – roles finalised
3pm (after lecture):
(sign up for a slot in the 12pm class session)
• Oral presentations
• Assessment discussions
No class: Reading Week
• Screen Grammar: Meaning & method
• Creating stories: DoP, Sound & Editing
• Development tutorials
• Screen Aesthetics: Design
• Creating stories: Production Design & Art Direction
• Development tutorials
Year 3 research methods workshops – you must attend 2 x sessions (no workshops or seminars)
• Casting techniques & processes
• Production processes – Call sheets, budgeting, scheduling
• Breaking the script down – script continuity
In the first TV Drama session we discussed our goals for the term, which were: to complete research for the project; project development. To ultimately hand in research/process book and pilot material. NOTE: process book is worth more than pilot.
Mary covered the:
5 Things to Do Each Week:
- Take notes in workshops, tutorials and demonstrations
- Take notes in lectures
- Consume media (watch films, listen to music, see live music, read papers, surf the internet, go to exhibitions, etc)
- Read critically: use reading from other modules if it’s relevant, readings from script writing last term etc.
- Experiments, Draw, Sketch, Play with and break technology
We were also given a skills and experience audit in order to help us form groups for our project, with members with relevant skills put accordingly into groups.
We were given the advice of consuming a wide range of media to help with inspiration for our projects, which I feel will come naturally to me as I already consume a wide range of media over the course of the week.
Mary asked us to complete an eavesdropping exercise for homework over the weekend: go to a bar and listen to someone next to you’s conversation and try and write it down accurately!
This week was about storytelling and filmmaking.
TV Drama session 2 notes from class:
Alternative script writing by Dancyger and Rush chapters 2-4 book to read for script writing process
Steen Maras Theory and … for writing for screen – READ IT AS SCRIPT WRITER!
Film theme ideas:
Black mirror style?
Talking head interviews – similar to the Allan Bennett style
Restorative three act structure:
First act: 30 pages
Second act: 60 pages
Third act: 30 pages
Three act structure: 1=25% 2=50% 3=25%
Protagonist needs to have a goal; pursuit of the goal is introduced in the first act.
Tricks to get an audience to like your characters; audience identifies with the characters.
End of the second act: major conflict; the turning points. Happens at the end of the second act to set up the third act.
Video watched in seminar: IRA GLASS Watch again at home and make notes for process book.
- Sequence of actions. Anecdote.
- A moment of reflection; what’s the point of the story?
A good story includes both these things; interwoven.
Kurt Vonnegut story structure – OPEN CULTURE media website.
(On the shapes of stories)
3 popular story structures
- Different roles:
Heads of department: Director, Creative Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Writer,
- Reccy: Location visit
- Script supervisor: Every time there’s a change to the script the script supervisor is responsible for giving out new scripts to people on set etc. Script supervisor keeps all (old) original pages of the script.
- Grip and electric: lighting and rigging technicians, Grips responsibility it to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras.
- Storyboard artist: produces a storyboard from the script
- Continuity person: Someone responsible for keep continuity throughout the film. Paying attention to details so each scene flows with continuity.
- Directors role: dramatic interpretation of the text and visual interpretation; choreography, responsible for the performance of the actors, mise-en-scene, editing style, crew roles, time and resource management, budget. As a director it’s your film. Responsible for more than just telling the actors what to do. Compare and contract scenes. Research into the piece itself, what makes up the ingredients of the story structure. Understand the story inside out.
No matter what your role is: Make sure you understand the characters, their backstory etc.
4 questions everyone should ask about your character:
Reveal what the character wants?
What the character needs?
What is the character’s conscious motivations?
What is the character’s subconscious motivations?
In Dave’s workshop this week for project development we discusses narrative development. Below is a link to the handout we were given.
This week was very informative for the Producers in each group. Although I am not the Producer in my group we haven’t clarified job roles 100% yet, as mine and Nelly’s group is smaller than all the others we are going to have to share the roles between just the two of us. Therefore we thought it was important for us to both have a clear understanding of each role even if we weren’t necessarily going to be doing the role within our project.
Below is a link to the presentation we were shown in class about Producer roles:
- Breaking down the script
- Shooting budget
- Securing locations
- Call sheets
- Production organisation
- Post production – advise
- Distribution & screening
We were also given a reading specific for the Producer of the project, to think about the breakdown of the Script.
We also discussed Budgeting and Scheduling Workflow
- Open the script in Final Draft Tagger
- Tag all the elements in your script
- Export script for scheduling
- Open Movie Magic Scheduling
- Import the .sex file that you exported
- Fill in all remaining fields in your breakdown for each scene
- Make sure your day breaks are set for 3 pages.
- When you are fully confident you know how long your shoot will take you can begin your budget.
- Open up Movie Magic Budgeting
- Select the British template from the long list of templates
- Begin filling in all relevant line items (see instructional video for more details)
- Remember to produce two versions of your budget: one professional, fully costed and one with your actual figures.)
The most helpful piece of information we were given this week was the reading about preproduction tips, as this is relevant for everyone in the project, regardless of their role!
Here is a link for this reading: Shooting_PPL_Prepro
This week we were discussing working with actors. Here is a presentation Acting – The Directors Role: Week5-Acting
Mary showed us a website called Mentorless: http://www.mentorless.com/
This website is a filmmaking blog for indie storytellers. “No mentors needed, just a curious mind.”
We were also given a variety of snippets from a few scripts one of which being a scene from American Beauty, one of my favourite films! I found reading the script and watching the film at the same time was a really great way to think about how to write effective dialogue for my own film: SampleScenes (1)
Week 5: Working with actors
Daily Script website has tons of scripts on it, I’ve been looking at a variety of different scripts on this website to help me with inspiration for my writing techniques.
This week’s workshop with Mary was very interactive. We went downstairs to the photography studio (green room) and too part in some improvisation exercises. One of the exercises was to read a script and act out the scene using improvisation, I found this quite difficult as I am not comfortable with performing in front of other people, however, I realised that everyone was in the same situation and the exercise was actually very character building. It got me thinking about the different ways in which people interpret texts. Some of the groups read the script word-for-word and didn’t change anything, whereas other groups completely changed the script and made it their own. It was interesting to see how different groups performed the exact same scene in such creative and unique ways.
This week we also discussed finalised job roles for the project. As I am script writer, Mary though it made sense for me to be joint Script Writer and Director, and for Nelly to be Producer and Editor. Obviously there sis many more job roles involved in producing a short film, but me and Nelly decided we would equally share the remaining roles between us.
Week 6: – READING WEEK
This week we didn’t have any workshops so I just worked on editing my blog, and carried out more research to help with inspiration for my script idea.
During reading week me and Nelly decided to practice shooting some dialogue, to get the feel of filming a natural conversation. I found this a very inspirational process, as the scriptwriter it helped me see some of the natural features in spontaneous conversation, which has helped me to write convincing dialogue.
Below are some shots taken from the footage we took, during mid conversation:
This week we learnt about cinematography editing and sound, this presentation is about aesthetic interpretation: 7-VisualGrammar
The below video documents Rack Focus and Camera Movement in the television series CSI:
When discussing cinematography and the different styles of shooting, Mary showed us a fantastic scene from Goodfellas, The Long Shot, which has a 3 minute continuous shot.
The scene shows the camera following two characters as they walk through the back entrance of a restaurant, it’s a really amazing scene and must of been incredibly difficult to perfect! The continuous shot successfully involves the audience in the scene, by creating the illusion that the audience are following the characters through the restaurant as if they were one of the people working in the restaurant.
This week in the workshop with Dave, we learnt about the different equipment we have access to. We got to try out a variety of different equipment, we made videos with the equipment to record the different filming techniques we thought would be useful for our film.
DESCRIBE PROCESS IN EACH VIDEO:
In all the below videos we used a great piece of equipment called a slider:
The slider was by far my favourite piece of equipment from this weeks workshop. Not only was it really easy to set up and use but it’s portable, and will be a very practical piece of equipment for me and Nelly to use when filming at Beachy Head. We have to think about practicality, as we are a very small group, and carrying very heavy equipment will prove to be difficult for us.
The biggest giveaway of an low-budget film often are the little shakes and ‘guerrilla’ style movements, and unless this is the look you are going for, investing in a slider will eliminate this and give your film a professional, neat and expensive look. Seeing as we want to achieve some cinematic shots of the location for our film, using the slider seems like a really good idea.
In this test shot, we used out of focus objects in the foreground to create an interesting depth of field. I think it really works well. In terms of our film, I think it would be great to have the view of the sea in crystal clear focus and the characters standing in the foreground out of focus, visa versa, as creating a strong depth of field would be great from such a high angle.
In the next three test shots we were experimenting with using a variety of different objects in the foreground, and the position at which it worked most effectively. I personally like the shots where the foreground object was very close to the camera, and the background object comes into focus when the camera slides away from the foreground object. I like the sense of something being revealed, as it creates the impression that the viewer is observing something take place.
For this test shot we decided to have two people in the frame, having a conversation. We wanted to have one persons face visible with the other persons face out of shot. This was a great activity for me and Nelly, as our whole film is based on a short conversation between two people.
In these three test shots below we chose to use the slider from a different angle; instead of sliding it horizontally from left to right, we chose to to slide it forward and backward, thus creating the impression of zooming in and out. It would start of close up in perfect focus, and as it slides backwards lose its focus. I liked this technique as it achieves a strong depth of field.
In this test shot we wanted to just have the camera focusing on one person, sliding into focus with an object in the foreground blocking visibility at first. I think this effect works really well because it creates the impression the viewer is watching a conversation that they shouldn’t be part of.
In the next two test shots we wanted to capture a conversation from a different angle, to see which angles would be most suitable in our short film. I didn’t like this angle as much, as it’s less cinematic and seems more observational. I quite like the effect of having two people talking but with only one visible at first.
In this final test shot we decided to experiment with an unusual angle perspective, staring from a close-up shot panning backwards to go over the shoulder and achieve an over the shoulder shot. Although I think the focus needs to be worked on in this particular shot, I liked the strange angle and I think it created a good sense of depth. Using the slider proved to achieve more cinematic shots than could ever be achieve with a tripod.
This week we were asked to bring in 2 pages of our script to Dave’s workshop, and a character profile for the main character in our script. As script writer, I decided to do the character profile for my group.
Character profile for ELI WELLS – main character of short film
Age: 23 Years old
Appearance: Tall, brown hair, brown eyes
Height: 5ft 10
Occupation: Just finished a law degree, but doesn’t want to be a lawyer. His father paid for his law degree for him, but he regrets doing it and feels he’s wasted time doing something that doesn’t make him happy.
Hometown: North London, Highgate
Class: Upper middle class family
Parents: Dennis and Christine Wells. Dennis is a Tax Lawyer, defending big corporations and Christine owns a posh cafe near their house in Highgate
Religious beliefs: Both Eli’s parents are Christian, but Eli is atheist
Relationship with parents: He doesn’t get on with his father, his father is a very controlling and manipulative man, he forced Eli to go to law school even though he knew he wasn’t passionate about it. He believes his only son should follow in his footsteps. He gets on very well with his mother but she is weak in comparison to his father and never sticks up for Eli, which he hates.
Siblings: Eli had a twin brother Eric, but he drowned at the age of 4. Eli believes his father has always thought Eli was responsible for Eric’s death because it had been his idea to go swimming in the sea when they were on holiday, which is how Eric had drowned. Eli has always felt a sense of being incomplete since Eric’s death.
When he was younger he had always dreamed of being a captain of a ship, but his parents hadn’t wanted him to pursue his, because of his brothers death at had been too painful for them. His mother developed a fear of the sea after his brothers death, and refused to let Eli go anywhere near the sea.
When Eli came back from university he fell out with his father because he refused to follow his fathers ambitions for him, as being a lawyer. He has since moved out of his house in London to be near the sea. He’s currently working on cruise ships, but he isn’t happy as he has more ambition and wants to be a captain of his own ship.
Eli’s love for the sea links in with the films location of Beachy Head.
EXT. BEACHY HEAD – DAWN
The sound of sea lapping against the cliffs, seagulls calling. A man stands by the edge of the cliff, he tightens his scarf and zips his tatty black, Bench jacket up. He scratches his unkempt beard and the wind makes his eyes water. This is Eli. His phone starts to ring. He removes it from his pocket and looks at it. The call display shows ‘Home’. Without thinking twice he throws the phone over the cliff edge. His eyes are running from the wind. He looks down at his feet. He stops and thinks. Contemplating. He instinctively turns around to see someone walking towards him. A smaller figure approaches, he watches her suspiciously as she walks towards him. He turns back to the cliff edge. The woman is dressed in a dark purple coat, buttoned tightly. This is Imelda. She moves close to Eli and stands next to him, too close for two strangers to stand next to one another. Eli looks to his right, surprised at this old woman’s arrival, surprised that she’s daring enough to stand next to a complete stranger on the edge of a cliff.
We always wanted a little boy.
Eli looks back at the sea. She continues.
I’d have been happy just to have the one but Gerald, he wanted a load of them.
Eli clears his throat. But doesn’t say anything.
But neither of us got what we wanted in the end. It’s funny how things work out. I’ve always been a firm believer of ‘everything happens for a reason’.
Eli stands and listens. Imelda tucks her hands into her pockets. They look at each other for a moment, very briefly and then Eli looks back onto the crashing waves below.
I like it up here, I feel at one with the sea. Have you been here before?
He nods his head.
Me and my fella used to come up here all the time, with little Benji. Annoying little bastard (she smiles) I hated that dog but he insisted that we needed a hobby, something to get us out of the house. He cried his eyes out when that dog died, I was relieved.
Eli stills says nothing and looks blankly out to sea. The wind blows hard between them. Imelda turns from him and looks to the sea.
Do you want to go first or shall I?
Eli looks at her with understanding. She’s finally got his attention.
We had a dog when I was growing up. Well it was my dad’s, (he says ‘dad’s’ bitterly) a greyhound called Hercules. What a stupid name for a dog.
Imelda smiles, proud to have finally got a reaction out of him.
He never used to let me walk it.
Lets be honest, dog walking is overrated.
It’s not that. It was the fact he didn’t trust me to look after his precious Hercules.
Sounds like Hercules could look after himself with a name like that.
Fancy calling your dog Hercules and your son Elijah.
Imelda looks at him with an intense look on her face. A seagull squawks overhead, breaking her concentration, they both look up into the early morning sky.
His dog was named after the ‘son of God’, and I’m just named after a prophet.
Would you of rather been called Hercules?
Eli looks at her thoughtfully, as if he’s never really considered it before.
No, I suppose not.
There’s a moments silence as they both gaze out onto the sea waves peacefully.
We received some really positive feedback from both Dave and other member of our class, which was great! One of classmates said he particularly liked the part of conversation between Eli and Imelda where they discuss their pets, which I’m really happy with as I wasn’t sure if it seemed like a realistic conversation at first. My intentions of including this particular part of the conversation was to emphasise the rocky relationship Eli has with his parents, without explicitly saying it.
In this session of TV drama we discussed casting, working with actors and working with children. And specifically discussed the director’s role in more detail.
While we are definitely not going to be working with children in our film, the information regarding working with children wasn’t relevant for us, but it was still useful to have this information for future reference. Discussing the laws regarding working with children really made me realise the different rules and regulations when making a film, that I hadn’t really thought about in much depth before.
After the session I wanted a bit more information regarding my directorial role. I came across this video with interviews from some of my favourite famous directors Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Scorsese. I found this really helpful and informative. However Terry Gilliam says that he doesn’t think young filmmakers shouldn’t do Media Studies, which I strongly disagree with, as taking Media Practice at university has inspired me more in order to focus my attention of pursuing my ambitions regarding film-making. Before I started university I wasn’t aware that scriptwriting would be a form I would be interested in. Since my first scriptwriting session in second year it’s now the process I would say that I enjoy the most. Tarantino’s advice was the most reassuring as he states that you don’t have to know much about the equipment you are using, such as different lens types etc, to produce a good film. What is more important is that you have to be dedicated to cinema and passionate about it. I found this inspirational as I haven’t got the broadest knowledge regarding equipment and what different lens’s achieve, but I feel that I have an eye for detail and a creative understanding regarding the way I want something to look, which I feel will help me achieve all I want to achieve as a screenwriter and director of The Edge.
This week I was discussing some difficulties we had during our 4th recce to Beachy Head, when trying to obtain some footage for our pilot. I had decided I wanted some POV shots in our pilot, to encompass the point-of-view of the main character Eli, but everything had been very difficult due to the extremely windy conditions. I had wanted to use handheld camera shots for the POV shots, in particular I had wanted handheld shots of Eli’s feet walking towards the edge of the cliff, as I felt this would be a great way create tension without using any dialogue. Mary recommended using a piece of equipment called a Manfrotto Fig Rig, I had never used this piece of equipment before but I decided to do a bit of research into it and use it for our next shoot.
I’m very pleased with the way this equipment stabilises the camera, I think it’ll really make a difference to our POV shots, which haven’t been very successful so far.
One of the most inspirational media I have consumed over the past term has been on the website Mentorless-
Which is: ‘A filmmaking blog for indie storytellers. No mentors needed, just a curious mind.’
One of the posts that I found particularly informative regarding the filming of our trailer was, ‘How to Create Narrative Emphasis Without Using a Cut’. It lists how to do so, as followed:
- Use lighting: emphasise who matters the most by putting her/him closer to the light source.
- Use the lens
- Use movement – we wanted to have a continuous shot of our character moving towards the edge of the cliff, to add suspense.
- Use the centre of the frame – we framed Eli in the centre of the frame in this shot:Which we felt created a nice sense of symmetry.
- Use the actors’ body position to the lens: playing with how an actor will position his body toward the camera will send a subtle signal to the audience as to whether they should pay attention to him or not.
- Use subtle camera movements
How Writing Props Can Help Add Layers to Your Story and Characters
How props help add depth to your characters and story –
- Use props to show someone’s true feelings: figure out someone inner’s feeling, then show it through a prop
- Use props to add nuance to your characters: The more unusual prop a character has, the deeper the impression they leave on an audience
- Use props as metaphors: Specific props can bring you back to previous scene, causing you to recall the detailed moments and reawakening sentiment in the audiences past
- Use props to help your actors performing the part
- Use props to transition from one scene to another or one shot to another.
In our short film we will be using a minimal amount of props, due to the fact that we’re shooting on location, and there’s only so many realistic props one would have at the edge of a cliff. We decided to use props to show our characters feelings, we are going to have our protagonist throw his mobile phone off the edge of the cliff. This will emphasise the seriousness of the situation to the audience, as most people don’t willingly break their phones. In addition, we are going to have a shot of ‘home’ calling his phone before he throws it off the cliff, to express that he has a bad relationship with his family. It’s hard to express everything we want through dialogue in a short film, so it’s essential to utilise props in order to show our characters feelings.
Over the past term I have been to see two music concerts. The first was Marina and the Diamonds at the 02 Institute in Birmingham and the second was Disclosure at Ally Pally in London. Consuming a variety of different media has been really inspirational, and helped my creative flow. Especially with scriptwriting. When I struggled with dialogue in my script I found that doing something completely unrelated like watching a film, or listening to music, or going to see live music, really helped. Taking a break from writing was an important part of the process for me, as it gave me time to go over things in my head.