In this essay I will cover each media artefact I have created in response to their individual briefs. I will be reflecting upon the key choices I made throughout producing each piece of work. I will also be reflecting the experiences gained from undertaking each brief, the skills I have gained and the things that have both helped and hindered my completion of each task.
Production Management Task:
This brief instructed me to produce a location report with supporting documents. Before completing this task I was unaware as to exactly what went into creating a location report and I initially believed that it only required a SWOT analysis of a given location in relation to a script or a scene. Although location reports do need to include a SWOT analysis, this is only part of the overall report and consideration must be given to a range of factors relating to the practicalities of the production. We were required to pick a scene from a script and so I began by thinking about what scripts/scenes would fit well within the city of York. I decided on using sections from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets as there are parts of York which directly inspired some of the locations in the world of Harry Potter. According to Renee (2018):
“You’ll have to know what you’ll need in order to shoot there and whether or not that location has those things, like enough power outlets, wall colour, lighting, square footage (size). Also, you’ll have to find out if the logistics of using that particular location work for your project/schedule. How long can you shoot there and at what times of day? Are you able to shut off power to certain electronic devices and appliances that may make recording sound a problem (refrigerators, generators, etc.)?” (Renee, 2018)
Selecting the locations where I would want to film these scenes was, given the historic and characterful architecture in York, a very enjoyable part of the task. More challenging was finding the correct people to contact regarding access to each location. However once I had found the right contacts for the locations I felt a sense of relief as I then knew who to contact to get the answers I needed.
A location report also needs to include a risk assessment, which is something I was vaguely familiar with from my first year. I felt a degree of confidence when writing the risk assessments as, to a certain extent, they are almost entirely using common sense regarding safety. I had to give greater thought to some aspects of the risk assessment, particularly those areas that are more focused on equipment – I found that the main causes for concern for filming in York are the crowds of tourists and the uneven terrain in many locations.
Throughout the writing and formatting of the location report it seemed to be that the entire report was an overview of a SWOT analysis and, as such, it felt that I would be repeating myself in a number of sections. However as the report progressed I began to understand that a location report relates to a wider range of factors and is therefore more comprehensive than a standard SWOT analysis.
Overall, I am quite happy with the full location reports I have produced as I feel that they answer a multitude of questions that would be asked while searching for locations at which to film. I am confident that I could apply these skills in industry. I now have a deeper understanding of what goes into making a detailed location report as well as what is required to create a location report that could be useful in practice; the reports are more than just superficial evaluations of a location – you need to be aware of and understand the minutiae of the locations. This task has certainly been a learning experience and I believe that what I have learned through completing this task will help me succeed in future projects.
Our brief for this task was to apply diegetic and non-diegetic sound to a clip which had all the sound removed; we had to convey tone, mood and meaning through the use of sound. I underestimated how many foley clips I would need to use to create an atmosphere.
I chose to use the clip from Go (1999) directed by Doug Liman. After watching the clip for the first time I wanted to establish the atmosphere of a small grocery shop when there’s almost nobody around. I believe that there is very specific feeling when you are in a supermarket late at night which I cannot quite put into words, I knew that I wanted to recreate this atmosphere in the clip, but I had no idea where to begin. I started by watching the video several times and writing the spotting sheet, from there I organised a library of websites I could use to find the sounds I wanted to add.
I found that it was easiest to start with the bigger picture; creating the initial atmosphere and any non-diegetic sound I wanted to have. This meant finding a royalty-free song that worked well when the two characters are dancing but also juxtaposed the mellow ambience of the grocery store. After sourcing that section, I moved onto the overall ambience of the clip – I found several clips that when layered together into one track worked quiet well in creating the mood I wanted. After arranging those sound clips, I moved on to the individual sounds (the car engine, the small boxes falling and the beeping of the register). These were harder to fit into the soundscape as I could not find the perfect sound. As a result, this part took a lot longer than initially expected and was quite repetitive.
There were times during this task where I was concerned I did not have enough sounds or that I did not quite get the sound right. I compared my work to other students who were using different video clips and I began to question myself, becoming unsure of what direction to go in regarding my own work. I considered sound design in more detail and I found that sound/music is, according to Sonnenschein (2001), an emotional signifier. I decided that I could continue with the minimalist approach as long as I could evoke an emotional response within the audience.
Before starting this task, I was oblivious to the complexities of being a sound editor. I severely underestimated how much work I had to put into layering different sound clips to construct what I wanted and how I would establish the desired effect. Upon completing this task, I believe I have a much better understanding of the professional practice of sound editing, even though layering sound onto a two-minute clip is nothing in comparison to building sound for a feature length film.
If given the chance to do this task again, with more time, I would like to focus more on creating a anempathetic effect, where the music does not follow the emotional content (Gulliksson, 2015). As sound and music only support the narrative, I would like to experiment with more creative approaches to sound. I think this would be a challenging yet an enjoyable experience.
Script Breakdown Task:
Our brief for this task was to break down a scene from a chosen script with a breakdown sheet and a storyboard. This job is usually down to the producer or the 1st AD. I found this task the most challenging to complete as there are many different elements required to correctly break down a script and I struggled at the start to understand each element. I found that marking the tramlines onto the script was more difficult than I first anticipated. However, after researching the subject and a number of attempts, what was required became clearer. I learned that in a larger production company the 1st AD would conduct a comprehensive breakdown of the script and then the other departments, such as production design, would then go on to do their own analysis. (StudioBinder, 2016).
I chose to use a scene from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as I am familiar with the story and I felt fairly confident that I could bring something new to it. I chose an establishing scene from the first episode where the two main characters meet for the first time as I thought it would be interesting to see if I could reflect the chaos occurring in the scene by my use and arrangement of the camera shots.
I struggled to create my own shots for my chosen script because I wanted to be original and not copy the existing shots. Art is not my forte and I was worried that my storyboard would not look polished or, if it was going to be used in the production of a TV show, that no one would be able to understand the ideas I was trying to communicate. I realised that the storyboard did not have to be an incredible work of art as its sole purpose is to get your ideas across clearly. Thereafter, I was far less concerned about my limited artistic ability and more focused on how well my storyboard communicates each shot that I wanted for the scene.
Whilst breaking down the script I followed a pre-existing breakdown key which had the colours and the corresponding descriptions. It was interesting to see how extensive the breakdown key was. It became clear that a small-scale production would not use as many colours as a period piece or a Hollywood film with lots of stunts, for example Downton Abbey or The Avengers. However small the production, you would still need to break down the script so it could be used during production.
Upon reflection I see how having access to a complete broken-down script would be useful in a professional environment. This task has made me consider more carefully what kind of job I would like to have if I were to pursue a career in film/TV production now that I know in more detail what is required of a 1st AD. I had to make many revisions to my work during this task as I was aiming to include as much detail as possible. If I had the opportunity to redo this task, I would most likely choose a different script – possibly one with more action or even a period drama as I feel they have more detail in the scenes. However, I am pleased with my work and I think I have learned what I need to do to reach industry standard.
Group Live Task:
The brief for this task was to work as a team to produce a live shoot of an opera for the client. We had to work within the time constraints of a live show as well as working to a deadline. This was a multicam project with a real client and was a much larger scale project than I am used to. My role in the team was to be the vision mixer. During the performance I was sitting in the gallery with the director and sound technician using the equipment to cut between the cameras. At the beginning of the project I was unfamiliar with the equipment I would be using but with some research and practice I soon got the hang of it. According to Swainson and Lyver:
“It falls to the Vision Mixer to make sense of all the pictures by choosing the right one to go out to be recorded or transmitted, and to give the director the correct transitions between pictures, and combinations of images. The Vision Mixer has one main piece of equipment, but that is one of the most complex in the studio.” (Swainson and Lyver, 1999, Ch. 6, https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/basics-of-video/9781136056338/xhtml/16_Chapter06.xhtml)
On the run up to the live shoot I attended the rehearsals with the producer and a couple of other members from the crew. During these rehearsals we were taking notes throughout and marking down where we thought the cameras should be positioned. The entire team also had to attend safety briefings so that we would be allowed to shoot – attendance was essential as we had to know what to do if something went wrong. As we were in a professional environment we had to dress and act appropriately; wearing black, knowing where you had to be in position and when, and taking particular care not to disturb the audience so they would get the experience they had paid for. There was heavy emphasis put on preparation for the live shoot to run as smoothly as possible.
Even though our group was well prepared, we did not fully anticipate the extent of the technical difficulties that occurred on the night. For reasons unbeknownst to us, cameras were cutting out and the sound only worked intermittently. This concerned some group members more than others, but thankfully our director kept a level head while the technicians tried to solve the problems. I found the live shoot to be a very stressful experience because I wanted to deliver a perfect product to the client and the pressure of not being able to control problems raised the level of my anxiety. Although we experienced some technical difficulties I believe we ultimately did create a high-quality product to give to the client. We overcame the issues that occurred during the live shoot by working well together as a team.
Set Shooting Task:
The brief for this task was to produce a scene from a script and to film it on set in the Black Box studio. I took up the role of D.O.P. and I worked with the rest of the camera department to light the set and get the right camera shots. I saw this task as an opportunity to apply skills gained from first year and previous workshops in the semester. I wanted to work outside my comfort zone and to apply what I had learned from attending the Camerimage International Film Festival.
During the stages of pre-production, I took it upon myself to create a scale model of the set on Google SketchUp where I could plan out where I thought lights and cameras should go. I then presented the model to the rest of the group to get feedback and discuss what they thought worked and did not work. Having the SketchUp model worked in the groups favour as it was an accurate representation of what we wanted the set to look like. I worked closely with the production designer to talk about where the props would be placed, and I took into consideration how they might affect the lights. The production designer made sure that we had venetian blinds on set as I wanted to recreate an iconic look from film noir pieces such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).
As we had a small crew I spent much of my time on set adjusting the position of the lights and then checking how it looked on the camera. During rehearsal times I was primarily experimenting with different lighting effects and trying to find out what would work best with the sombre tone of the script which was being extended by the director. After going through the script with the director we decided that the set should be more dimly lit, however we still needed to be able to see the cast and some key props. I was unsure how to achieve this, so I researched different techniques and the most helpful thing I found was an article from nofilmschool.com. The article talks about the chiaroscuro effect (which I was vaguely familiar with) and fragmentary lighting techniques. It helped in achieving the film noir theme I wanted to base the lighting around.
I appreciate that the purpose of group projects is to learn how to work with a variety of people. However, within my group, there were creative differences and I feel that some of the crew members were not as passionate about the project and lacked professionalism. Many people in the crew saw this project as an opportunity to try their hand in a role that they would not normally take. As that was the case, we all agreed to do extensive research into our individual roles so we knew exactly what would be expected of us. I felt I was well prepared for the scheduled meetings and I spent my time one set doing what I needed to do efficiently and effectively. At the beginning of the project there was a consensus that everyone understood the requirements of their particular roles and knew what was expected of them on set. In spite of this, towards the end of the project the workload was not as equally divided as it was in the beginning. These were all problems which the group had to overcome to produce a quality piece of work, something that we could all take credit for, which is what I wanted to produce.
If the opportunity arose to undertake this project again I believe that spending more time in pre-production and having meetings to clarify the required workload from each member would increase the chances of working more effectively as a team.
I have outlined the processes involved in a number of media artefacts and reflected on my role, whether individually or part of a team. From completing each of these media artefacts I have learned a lot about the industry standard for a number of practices in pre and post production and I have gained a deeper understanding of what is required from a production management perspective. I have enhanced my skills in time management, improved my teamworking skills and discovered a level of tolerance to allow me to work in a group with people whose strengths lie in different areas.
I believe I am becoming more familiar with what I can do well and which skills require more practice. If some of the tasks were to be repeated my approach to some, but not all, would be revised in the light of experience.
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Gulliksson, H. (2015) Pervasive Design [Internet]. 4th ed. Sweden. Videoiterna. Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=9198028057 [Accessed 02/01/2018].
Psycho. (1960) [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Universal City, CA, Shamley Productions
Renne, V. (2018) Watch: Things to Keep in Mind When Scouting Locations for Your Film [Internet] Available from: https://nofilmschool.com/2018/01/watch-things-keep-mind-when-scouting-locations-your-film [Accessed 10/01/2018]
Renee, V. (28/10/2016) 4 Ways to Light a Scene So It Feels Dark (but Actually Isn’t) [Internet]. Available from: https://nofilmschool.com/2016/10/4-ways-light-scene-so-it-feels-dark-actually-isnt [Accessed 30/12/2017]
Sonnenschein, D. (2001) Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice, and Sound Effects in Cinema. Studio City, CA. Michael Wiese Productions
StudioBinder. (2016) How to Break Down a Script [Internet] Available from: https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/free-script-breakdown-sheet/ [Accessed 22/12/2017]
Swainson, G., Lyver, D. (1999) Basics of Video Production [Internet] 2nd ed. Focal Press. Available from: https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/basics-of-video/9781136056338/ [Accessed 03/01/2018]