On the Rocks
This post is a reflection on the short film I helped create titled, “On the Rocks”. Which you can watch here.
Following on my previous post about creating interest within strict limitations, which talks about how narrowing your focus can help you hone in on certain aspects of a medium, we went on to create this short tableau film. We were restricted to 58 seconds, no audio, and a single shot. Within this framework, we attempted to create a narrative.
Before reading the following section, you should watch the film above. Ask yourself, does it create a strong narrative?
We tried to tell the story of a young couple at a point when they are in love with one another, and at another point when they were forced to part. By focusing on these two points, we had hoped that it would suggest the story in between. Why are they having to separate? Why have they gone from such a cheery mood to being “on the rocks”?
A large part of making this successful was suggesting a passage of time. We hoped to do this in our pan and with a costume change for the couple. Passer-by’s made this difficult, as our location was a popular walking spot in Edinburgh, in Holyrood park. Capturing this all-in camera made this effect much more difficult. We had planned originally to shoot on a 17mm lens, but were forced to shoot instead on a 12mm when we found the desired lens was not provided in the kit.
Those small issues aside, when you watch it, did you feel a strong sense of narrative? I would think you did not. Then what went wrong? I would suggest that a failure to be more emotive in the action. The script did not detail what the actors should do, so there was a significant feeling of “winging it” on the day. I think we failed to envision what the action should look like. Without strong direction, the actors went through the motions, never really exploring what had the potential to be quite a strong piece. I believe simply by having the actors more physical in their bodies, using hand motions and facial expressions. Our module leader had suggested it needed to be done a bit over the top, and I believe we failed to take that to heart on the day. We did one take which was OTT, but it was so overdone, everyone was laughing, and we never truly explored how we could be more emotive in the scene.
In hindsight, I believe the rush of doing our first shoot got to us. We all acted a bit locked in our roles. I was focused on keeping everyone safe, and keeping things move smoothly. Sam was focused on camera movement. Bonnie was acting, so she would not have been able to see that something was off. James was working with me and taking notes on the takes. And, in her first time directing, Orla was just trying to keep everything in motion. We all failed to see that the film we were creating would not work on the screen due to a lack of drama. We were cold, and worried about how much light was left in the sky.
These are the reasons pre-production is so important. Having a strong mood board and story board, understanding the script, and what will make it visually interesting, these are the things which make production run smoothly. Without doing them properly, only going through those motions to tick a box, the chance is high that the end result is going to be lifeless and lacking in narrative.
I enjoyed doing this shoot and made long standing bonds. While I am pleased with the result, especially as a first student film, the room to grow is evident. In the future, I hope to work in groups where people take full ownership of their roles and take their jobs seriously. I could honestly say I feel only one of our group members did that, and that was Samuel Duner. Even my production design and location scouting left something to be desired. Applications for permission should have submitted sooner, more locations presented.
I think many of the failings of this film comes back to one crucial thing. We fear as students to criticise one another. We are more worried about being accepted than we are about creating good art, and therefore we’re afraid to be highly critical of the script, or of our producer, or of the direction. There is a fine line between brutality and constructive criticism. And while no one likes to be told something they are doing or have done is not good, even fewer people enjoy mediocre results.
If you want to create powerful art, you must make no compromises.