For Pity’s Sake… Think Of The Baby!

And, talking about editing, here are the two clips I showed. The first is from Act IV of Battleship Potemkin (dir. Sergei Eisenstein, Russia, 1925). The Odessa Steps clip is one of the most famous in film history because on a technical level it broke new ground in editing and montage.

The second is an homage to Battleship Potemkin and comes from The Untouchables (dir. Brian De Palma, USA, 1987).

The parallels are obvious (the steps, the baby in the pram, sailors). This is an example of a technique called intertextuality. A prior text is used to shape and inform a new text… or put another way… when you see something in a film (or any other text) and it reminds you of something else, you should consider whether it is evidence of intertextuality. As a final wee example, consider this interesting reading of Terminator: Salvation and its use of intertextuality. Enjoy! 🙂


Just a wee pointer to this rather lovely filmpoem called Sullum by Roseanne Watt. It is beautifully filmed (consider why and how), and makes effective use of rack focus to create the narrative… and as an exercise, think about the following: What is the narrative? Does it actually have one? Does it matter? (And if not, why does this film exist?…)

Final thought: You could make something like this… couldn’t you? 😉

Of Cabbages And Kings…

No post last night because I blethered about Terry Gilliam for too long yesterday! Don’t let me do that again…

So, catching up slightly, we quickly filmed a shot-reverse-shot sequence (remembering, of course, to include an establishing shot and not to break the 180° Rule). Next step will be to edit these into a sequence, which we will do in class tomorrow. This is going to be worthwhile for a particular reason that will become very obvious when you begin editing… suffice to say, there is are 2 problems that you will need to overcome – and will struggle to do so – that will change your approach to filming in future. 🙂 (Bonus points and an unnecessary sugary treat for the first person to post a comment outlining what these two problems might be!)

Just a couple of links for you today as well…

celtxLogoBigBlackThe writing software I was talking about is called Celtx. It is free for the basic version, and will allow you to write and format scripts for a variety of media. The paid versions allow you to develop your script into a full blown production package… very handy if, for example, you had some sort of product you had to make. (In reality, you should find the free version more than adequate for what you need… and you can replicate the features of the paid one using other software you probably already have).

Incidentally… and too late for this year… but Celtx offer a discount for anyone who wishes to submit a script for annual Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowships. If you have an interest in pursuing a career in screenwriting, this may be worth checking out. More info in this video. 🙂


Some Technical Terms

Hope you enjoyed the clips today (I’ll give links at the end of this post). There were three main terms I was interested in. They were:

  • Continuity editing;
  • Parallel editing; and,
  • Single shot / Steadicam.

Continuity editing:

refers to the established convention of telling a single story/narrative episode in a strictly linear (one thing follows another sequentially) fashion. In short, the story should flow in as unobtrusive way as possible. In practice, almost every story you will have written in English will have been like this!

In terms of film/TV, there’re a couple of things you need to remember when analysing or creating a product.

  1. 180˚ Rule, and
  2. Eyeline match.

Both of these terms are fully explained (and exemplified) on the film110 wiki. There’s also a handy slide deck on Slideshare that explains the key concept well enough for our needs. Here it is:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.28.41And for those with more time to spare, there is a really good documentary about film editing available on YouTube. It’s 100 minutes long, but fascinating and will teach you lots about the power of editing in telling the story. Click the picture of Spielberg if you want to watch it… and yes, it is worth watching!

Parallel editing

This is an edit that uses cross-cutting to link two separate narratives. There is a clear and concise explanation of this on the worthwhile Elements of Cinema blog. LINK.

Single shot/Steadicam

The introduction of lighter cameras and then, in 1976, the Steadicam, allowed filmmakers to find new ways of realising their visions. I used a well regarded example from Goodfellas. The joy of the ‘steadicam’ shot in Goodfellas is that it is used quite deliberately to bring us (the audience) in to the gangster’s world. It opens outside the club with the car being ‘parked’ ($20!) before Henry (Ray Liotta) and Karen (Lorraine Bracco) cross the street. They walk through (across) the queue, and descend into the club’s basement area. The wall decorations as they descend depict a bright jungle scene (lots of toucans!), but does this suggest Copacabana (the name of the club) or is it an allusion to the innocence of the Garden of Eden? (She is ‘innocent’ at this time… and being Jewish, is less likely to have encountered the ‘goodfella’ mafioso culture of his world).

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.52.16
Click to embiggen!

The doors open to a red corridor (red carpet, walls, ceiling and doors) and waiters in red jackets. Henry leads Karen through the kitchen (note that they go in what is essentially a pointless circle…) mainly to establish that Henry knows everyone and everyone knows Henry. They enter into the crowded club where the owner immediately says hello before ordering a table to be prepared for them right at the front. They sit, and Henry says hello to the men sitting behind them before being presented with a bottle of extremely expensive champagne by some men at a table to our left. Karen is, understandably, extremely impressed and leans over to ask “What do you do?”

It’s a tour de force of cinema as it marries the technology (steadicam) with the literal descent into the club, and a metaphorical descent into hell (you’ll need to see the whole film to work out why!).

Anyway… that’s more than enough to keep you busy and/or entertained for now! The clips we watched in class were from:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.56.30 , Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.57.27 & Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 19.58.27

Click the poster to be taken to the imdb page for each. 🙂

Something New?

I’ve been asked by a couple of you what my favourite film is… and while the easy answer is (probably) Jaws, the truth is I have seen so many films that picking a single film is a) impossible, and b) a bit of a shame given how many truly wonderful films there are. So, instead of that, I thought I’d start a series highlighting some of the films that I really enjoyed. They are quite diverse, but I hope they’ll point you at some films you may not otherwise encounter. If you have seen any of them, I’d love to hear what you thought!

For no particular reason, the first 5 films are French. I suppose there is a tenuous link to the birth of film, but that only occurred to me later… So, without further ado, the first film on my list is… Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. — (Click the title to follow the links!) Yes, I know that is 2 films, but it’s my list so I get to break the rules 🙂

33086_frontThese are cold, wet, Sunday afternoon films. Get a duvet, lie on the couch, make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks to hand, and make sure you are not going to be disturbed for a few hours. Jean de Florette entranced me. It appears to be a slight story about a man trying to live on the land while his neighbour tries to make life difficult for him, but it is so much more. Characters you can fall in love with, and will love spending time in their company.

Manon des Sources is part 2 of Jean’s story. I don’t want to give anything away (you’ll understand if you watch them), but his daughter has grown up.

Beart MdS
Manon (played by Emmanuelle Béart)

2) Les Visiteurs

Les_VisiteursA French comedy starring Jean Reno (of Léon fame). A 12th Century knight and his servant are transported to the modern world…much confusion and humour ensues. My favourite scene is where they mistake a car for the devil.

Don’t worry about whether the humour will survive subtitles… it does. Instead, just relax and know that you are establishing your European credentials and also enjoying one of the most successful French films of recent years. 🙂

3) La Femme Nikita

65186This is the film that spawned a host of remakes (Hollywood remade it, and there are at least two TV series based on it). It tells the story of a female street punk who gets caught up in a drug robbery on a pharmacy. The pharmacist is killed, and she is sentenced to death for the killing. She is taken to be executed, and is killed… except she hasn’t been. The state have staged her killing so they can train her as an assassin. She is, effectively, a non-person, so has no control. If she tries to escape, she can be killed and no one will know because she is already ‘dead’.

Immensely clever, stylish and just down right awesome. An action picture with an interesting story and plenty of heart. Love it!

city-of-the-lost-children4) La Cité des Enfants Perdus (The City of Lost Children)

What would happen if you took a lot of clones, a city in the middle of the ocean, a healthy dose of style, some humour, and the scariest opening sequence ever filmed with a cute child, Santa and an incontinent reindeer? You’d end up with a stylish science-fiction/fantasy with wit, heart, and more than a little ingenuity. If ever you wanted to see how different cinema can be if you ignore Hollywood, this is it. Gloriously bonkers!

(NB: Bonus points if you notice how the trailer is designed to appeal to the American market!)

5) La Haine (Hate)

haine_1Brutal. Bleak. Frightening. And, sadly, as relevant today as it was when it first appeared (1995!). I’d read up about it before you decide whether you want to see it. Not a film you’d watch to be entertained, but you won’t easily forget it. Be warned, it is a challenging film on many levels… not least of which is that it’s filmed in black and white.

And that’s my first 5 (Yes, I know there are 6). There are so many other French films I could have chosen, and the chances are, on a different day, I would have, and most of them have the word Blue in the title… but, maybe I’ll do a list based on colours. Feel free to ask me about any of them… and I hope you take the time to watch at least one of them. Comments welcome, as ever!


Media Word Cloud 01I will have the all new singing and dancing Production Logbooks for you on Tuesday, and would like to give over a couple of periods to allow you to start planning and carrying out your initial research… so please make sure you are prepared with any source materials/laptops/iPads/etc that you think you will need. (PS: I highly recommend using Evernote to keep your notes and thoughts organized… I’m happy to do a lunchtime session on how to use it if you’d like.)

Remember to follow up on the key terms I used today in class… don’t forget there is a handy GLOSSARY you can use to read up about them (yes, that is homework!). In no particular order (OK, alphabetical) , the main ones I talked about in class were:

Cultural codes (eg: what various characters were wearing)

Source music(Diegetic sound) or underscoring (non-diegetic sound)

Enigma/enigmatic code (Look it up!)

Montage (the combination of shots)

Parallel editing (multiple stories being told at once… think Holes)

Preferred reading (a specific interpretation intended by the maker)

If you can begin to learn and use these terms, you are well on your way to nailing the exam. 🙂

PS: In response to a request for interesting films, I’ll be posting some of my favourites and reasons why I like them later. 

PPS:The next post is only for the class to access and will need a password to open. If you have forgotten it, leave a comment and I’ll remind you. 🙂