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The Season of Redemption.


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#1 Andrew Louis Marnik

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Posted 13 December 2006 - 02:36 PM

My first real professional film I made during college.

Digital. Shot with a Canon XL-2. 16x9 and 24p.

Its got a bit of a Lifestyle Channel feel to it, and due to the tight time circumstances, I was pleased with what I got, from the actors and crew overall. Hope you like. Please tear the crap out of it if you wish. Thanks!!

Andy.


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#2 Robert Ducon

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 02:56 AM

It's clean, stable, easy to see the actors (not too dark - often a problem in indie shorts), and nothing is too small in the frame to have trouble viewing, so it's well proportioned. Since this is cinematography.com, should we be talking to Gary Powell, the DP instead?

Kidding ;)

If you'd like critique, here's my personal view:

If anything, I'd like to see an establishing wide shot now and then, and in terms of editing, the conversation between the father and son needed some cuts to make up for a lack of pacing.. it could have used some pauses. Also, I wouldn't have put him in front of the window.. the white was overpowering - it was fine that it was overexposed (even though it wouldn't have been possible to change that aspect!)

Camera movement - there wasn't any ;) A nice pan or two would have been nice.. let the characters move about - blocking. I know, time constraints.. I've been there. But if you could do it again, right?

It's a good solid piece to start off from. I'm new to this forum - lots of inspiration and knowledge here; check it out!
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#3 Robert G Andrews

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 05:19 AM

Here's my personal view..

Congratulations on your short film....which story-wise, I followed and listened to. (I was in the mood for watching it too). I liked the emotions and feeling in this story, So I think you got the important things right..

Production-wise, most aspects might improve; -

ACTING - was fairly good!

COMPOSITIONS - need to be wholly appropriate, why did you do a shot from the ceiling looking down at father and son.. ..what did it suggest? I would have thought that close-ups would of been the way to go given the scenario of a reunion....maybe you should of done a profile shot of the father initially arriving and his son's facial reaction to that, and vice versa. I agree on the wide shots.

SCENES - No anticipation of Father's arrival? window watching? Might you of created tension and build up?

LIGHTING - I'm not a light guy, but it looked a bit dark..might of used a canny hand..

SOUND - ..nor a sound man, which might of used a canny ear..

very good though :)
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#4 Andrew Louis Marnik

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 01:37 PM

I won't be making excuses in this post, but I will further explain a little more of the production side of things.

As far the composition comment Robert G Andrews stated about the shot from the ceiling, I was trying to achieve that voyeur, 'fly-on-the-wall' feeling. I didn't want to go too close for much of that scene, seeing the intimacy of the reunited father and son would be a frustrating and distancing one. They wouldn't lay all their emotions out on the table right from the get-go, so I tried to ease into it slowly.

For Robert Ducon: I did have three dolly shots; though miniscule and easing, I wanted a very slow movement. I'm not much of a fan of pans but trucking in or out do always appeal to me. Had I had the time to grab more of the shots I wanted - I most certainly would have added in more motion. But I made sure I still had some. For establishing shots, depending on how I see the scene in my head, I always love reverting back to the establishing shot halfway through the scene (if it is artistically feasible) while at other times, I'll have it at the start and end only. I think the 'fly-on-the-wall' shot acted as a second establishing shot, and allowed the audience to know we wouldn't be getting too deep into our actor's heads, yet.

ACTING ~ The son was an actor from a previous film I had also acted beside him in. He was around, had the ability I was looking for, and wasn't needy at all. He was a savior in my time of need. The father was the only man I could find that had the proper age and the look I was trying to achieve. He may not have been the best actor, but his tension and nervousness also helped, I think, in how a father who hadn't spoken to his son in 6 years would approach him. The mother was a savior, too. We shot at her house for both locations. She had never acted before, but we took our time together and made sure she was comfortable and she slipped right into it. I praise her alot for her ability.

As far as Gary Powell, my DP for that picture, I'll have to send him a link for this site. I hear he's been doing even better stuff since I graduated from college. He was a year under me, but the chemisty we created was perfect. He's very versatile; when you want a certain shot, he quietly and dutifully goes and does it then speaks up when he wants an approval. Great friend and colleague to work with.

LIGHTING ~ I do believe we only had a small kit: 1 650, 1 350 and 2 150's. We worked with what we had. Maybe one c-stand and a few flags, but due to time constraints, we never really drifted toward them. I mainly wanted to make sure we could see what I wanted to see, and the rest, if it had some light on it, great, if not, we'd miss it but it wasn't crucial.


Thanks for the comments. I was really anxious to see what some of you thought about. Thank you very much for sharing it all with me.

p.s. I apologize for the annoying clicking of the remote control near the start of the film. Most controls don't make noise, but it looked odd when he would push and there was nothing to correspond with it. haha
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 08:56 PM

Since you asked me to look at the film...

My overall response is that it is a competent piece of filmmaking, which is good or bad depending on your level of expertise. In other words, there is room for improvement but there is nothing particularly wrong either. The acting and writing are fine, you can follow the scenes, the editing flows, etc. I can only fault technically the audio quality, which is very boomy and hollow -- you need a better mic, boom person, recordist, and mixer.

My basic problem with it is that it is not cinematic. It could have been a two-act play on a bare stage. Not that I expect you to make an action movie or anything, just that not enough of the story elements were told visually. That's a fault of the script really.

For exercise, I'd try writing a character study & drama that did not rely on any dialogue, just so you would learn what dialogue is good for and how to use it selectively.

You probably know the other technical faults, like when you crossed the line during the porch scene, unless that was intentional to shoot over the wrong shoulder of the father back on the son.

I also agree that the high angle was a bit forced. A better "fly on the wall" type shot would have been to focus on some detail in the foreground, like a picture on a mantlepiece, while some dialogue happens in the b.g. out of focus. There is also a question of angle of attack on the scene, i.e. if you are going to play it from the son's perspective, then it's hard to cut to a God's Eye perspective. Either the scene is subjective or objective in its overall design, within reason. But I felt that the cutting off of the father's figure implied a subjective approach to the scene where you only see what the son wants to focus on, intercuting POV shots with the son's face in a tight close-up -- so also playing an objective high-angle feels a bit like you changed your mind on how to approach the scene.

It also helps to give characters more business to do during a scene to minimize the face-off talking at each other set-ups (which is a constant problem that I fight against all the time, so it's always going to be an issue during your career.)

With a minimal lighting package, you perhaps should have found angles that used natural light more effectively, like to shoot more semi-silhouette into windows, etc. Just bouncing off of the ceiling (or maybe it was a Chinese Lantern) gets repetitive. Also, the hard light pattern (sunset through a window?) that the mom and son kept leaning in and out of in their close-ups was a bit distracting.

You have to avoid lighting that is neither here nor there; it's best to keep it simple with a clear sense of where it might be coming from, with other lights playing a more subordinate roll to the primary one.

It's a solid bit of work so don't let my criticisms discourage you -- I wouldn't have taken the time unless I thought you could learn something.
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#6 Morgan Peline

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 09:17 PM

Hi David,

My teacher at NFTS; Brian Tufano BSC always says that much of our work is not cinematic enough and that we don't think enough about camera placement. After much thought
I have decided that what he really means is that we should use camera placement and more importantly camera movement to add drama to the story.

I know that this is a hard question but just out of interest what is your personal definition of 'cinematic'?

Thanks!
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 11:34 PM

It has to come from the script, and unfortunately, some scripts are hard to film cinematically, where the visuals are supporting the narrative and performance.

You could also say that the ultimate cinematic experience cannot be recreated as effectively in other art forms (novel, theater, painting, radio play, etc.) Of course this is a somewhat gray area since cinema combines many of the other art forms.

But I would say that "2001" is a good example of something cinematic. A Buster Keaton comedy too. You can't imagine the particular joy of a Buster Keaton movie coming through in a novel; even if performed live it wouldn't have the same impact without the use of editing and the picture frame.

Composition and movement are important visual elements, but I wouldn't necessarily say that this means the camera should always be moving.

You could take this short film and break it down into dramatic elements and its essential tension and conflicts, and then see if much of it could be portrayed through images and then only use the dialogue to do what the images could not do as effectively.

In the documentary "Billy Wilder Speaks" that I was just watching, he does mention that he likes it when dialogue can quickly establish something that would take longer to show, by which he basically is saying that it's about efficiency in storytelling. So I'm not saying dialogue is bad, just that if used properly, it will be a lot more memorable and powerful than if used indiscriminately.

I remember this article about silent film which mentioned how some early users of sound (like Hitchcock) managed to find ways to make scenes more cinematic by using sound in ways to make the images more efficient.

An example would be a scene where a husband leaves his wife. He walks out the door and the wife goes to the window to watch him drive away. In a silent movie, you'd show the wife's face in the window and then cut to her POV seeing the husband drive away. But with sound, you could stay on her face and put the sound of his car driving away. Unfortunately, most people are not that clever in their use of sound; they mainly use it to have people talk. And talk. And talk some more.
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