Archive for the ‘Summer Research’ Category

A Five-screen Idea

I just came across a video with a really inventive cinematography and editing technique which I thought I’d share as I would absolutely love to be able to incorporate it into my own production. The video is another music video, made to accompany The Overtones’ cover of the 1984 Billy Joel a capella song, ‘The Longest Time’.

I didn’t think I would write full analysis of this video, as it has no narrative, and I’m only interested in one aspect of it. Clearly the aspect if this video I am most interested in is the 5-way split screen. I think this is a wonderful technique for so many reasons.

  • Firstly, it captures the viewer’s attention, as it is a technique rarely used in cinema, especially not a 5-way split.
  • Secondly it holds the viewer’s attention. It is relatively easy to keep up with one single narrative, allowing viewers to easy dip in and out of a narrative and not be confused. However, when more than one narrative is created and paralleled with another, the viewer has no choice but to attempt to keep up with at least one of the narratives if they are to continue engaging with the piece of media.
  • Thirdly, it is an effective way of presenting events which are happening at the same time, especially if the events in the narratives affect one another.
  • Also, it allows for easy build up of dramatic devices such as irony and tension

If I were to use this technique, obviously I would not be able to replicate it as well as in the example above. For example, the effect where the 5 screens slowly merge to become one is obviously way too advanced for me to perform, especially in the given production time. Also, in this example, most of the video is constructed of this technique, whereas I would obviously not be able to do this.

Gatherings, findings and such

I would love to be able to incorporate this technique, however, given the limited production time and expertise I would only be able to use it briefly in key moments, for example, as a transition between events in order to build tension and such.

Bad Girl, Good Idea

After a long, arduous search, I have found a music video with a narrative which contains themes which I would love to include in my own production. This video is ‘Bad Girl’ by Madonna.

The single cover for 'Bad Girl', giving an insight into the topic matter and themes of the video

Released in 1993, the video stars Madonna as Louse Oriole and Christopher Walken as her guardian angel. The video also features Matt Dillon, however his career had not yet flourished when this video was released. Although a professional, tough woman, underneath, Louise is trying to forget about the man she loves and the only way she knows how to do this is by sleeping with a string of men and smoking and drinking her days away. Louise’s guardian angel follows her on her escapades until the fateful night when one of her suitors strangles her with tights. The video is presented slightly out of chronological order. It starts with the scene of the crime and Louise’s body being investigated by police, before presenting the story in it’s chronological order.

Madonna stars as Louise Oriole

Christopher Walken also stars, as a rather sinister-looking guardian angel

What I mostly love about this video is how it has combined dark themes with romance, and gives an interesting twist on the classic ‘boy-meets-girl’ storyline which has been used time and again in music videos. Also, although presenting the story of a woman who smokes, drinks and sleeps around, the video is also quite classy, choosing to use mostly sophisticated sets and locations, to the etxent where the video could almost be set in the 1940s or 50s. I love this aspect as well. It highlights the fact that Louise is not just sleeping around for fun, and shows that money and status cannot always protect you from the pain of love. It is these aspects which I hope to adopt from ‘Bad Girl’, as well as some others which are explained at the end of the post. But for now, here’s a brief analysis of ‘Bad Girl’.

This is quite a difficult video to analyse in the simple categories of Mise-en-scene, Cinematography, Editing and Sound, so instead I’m breaking it down into the categories of Enigma Codes, Characterisation, Locations, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Iconography and Symbolism, Genre and the intended Target Audience.

Enigma Codes

Very little is explained about the video, and it must be watched with extreme care and attention if the narrative is to be fully understood and followed. For example, it is not actually explained in the video that a lost lover is the reason for Louise’s behaviour. This was my assumption which was later confirmed by an official Madonna website.  Although it could be argued that this is down to audience interpretation, and that Louise is simply searching for life fulfilment. However, the ‘lost lover’ theory does seem to have more bulk for it. Following is the most pressing enigma codes regarding the video, and their subsequent action codes:

  • Why does Louise behave how she does? Although not the first code to be raised in the video, it is certainly a prominent one from around a quarter of the way in onwards. There is certainly no definite answer in the video itself as to this, however, clues can be deduced. For example, Louise’s behaviour includes isolating herself in her office and drinking and crying alone in her large house. This clearly implies loneliness. Louise also seems horrified at the fact that the men she sleeps with only use her as an object and that she has a lack of identity. Louise’s constant smoking and drinking throughout the video also implies other psychological issues. Loneliness, a search for fulfilment or forgetting a lover certainly seem the most plausible explanations.
  • What is the identity of Christopher Walken’s character? This is another disputed idea within the video. The audience quickly learns that this character is supernatural and is obviously connected to Louise in an unusual way. Given the character’s behaviour to follow Louise and watch over her without Louise being aware leads to the idea of a guardian angel. The seeming ‘kiss of death’ which he delivers upon her causes some dispute. Whilst some audiences believe that this is the guardian angel accepting defeat and guiding Louise safely into death, it leads other audiences to believe that Walken is actually playing the role of an ‘angel of death’, looming over Louise’s life and waiting for the right moment to pounce.
  • What is Louise’s back-story? This is a smaller code which could be argued to be part of the behaviour one. Indeed, if the audience was aware of Louise’s back-story, they would be aware of a reason for her behaviour. We would also be able to understand her more as a character rather than a lonely, depressed, degenerating woman. Unfortunately few clues are given to her back-story, other than her occupation, her home and her pet.
  • Why does Louise upkeep this lifestyle? As a presumably rich, intelligent woman it would be very easy for Louise to try and turn her life around, even slightly. However, Louise still chooses to live in her lonely slump. As the video continues it becomes clear that Louise is becoming more and more desperate for fulfilment (or whatever the audience believes her to be looking for)  and that this desperation is possibly fuelling her lifestyle.

Characterisation

There are two main characters in this production and several minor but still important ones.

Louise Oriole

The name Louise Oriole is a combination of Madonna’s middle name and the name of a street she lived on as a child. She is presumably around the same age as Madonna at the time (35), lives in New York and works in the fashion industry.

If the narrative were presented in chronological order, Louise would be established as a head-strong, tough, independent, career-minded woman. However, this first time the audience is introduced to her, she is dead. This makes her character vulnerable and weak in the viewer’s eyes. This image is then juxtapositioned with the strong, independent one, confusing the viewer and giving them an insight into her broad personality. The battle between the strong Louise and the weak Louise almost forms a binary opposition throughout the video; although strong and aloof when luring her suitors into bed, she wakes up depressed and vulnerable. As her desperation increases so too does the prominence of the weak Louise until by the time of her death, she is established as a lonely woman, who simply puts up a brave front.

Louise is introduced after she has died

 

The independent front that Louise puts up

As the protagonist, many representations surround Louise, however most of these tend to be implied through her surroundings, costumes and actions

  • Firstly, her surroundings. Many scenes in the video take place in Louise’s house, which offers a consistent representation. Louise’s house is large, grand and ornate. This complements the image of Louise as a powerful, independent woman and this along with her job tells the audience that she is wealthy.
  • Secondly, when she is introduced as the strong-career minded woman, she strolls through her office, ignoring those of a lower standing. This is a cliché of an important, busy woman. This image is further complemented by her costume. She is dressed in a black business suit, emphasising her status as well as sunglasses which show her as blocking out those around her, however this is possibly due to her isolative behaviour rather than emphasising superiority.
  • Louise seems to favour various bars when it comes to finding her suitors. These bars look rather sophisticated and are reflective of her higher class lifestyle
  • Other costumes are reflective of her personality. For example, just before she meets the second man, she is dressed entirely in black. This is reflective of her darker, promiscuous side.

Louise is dressed entirely in black before meeting the second man

  • Many of Louise’s actions are reflective of her personality. For example, she chooses to isolate herself in her office or in her large house, emphasising her loneliness. The morning after sleeping with the second man, Louise reaches over to hug him, showing that Louise is still searching for a loving relationship. Her constant smoking and drinking expresses a lack of self-worth. At one point, it appears as though Louise is crying. This is obviously a sign of sadness or possibly in Louise’s case, depression.

Louise’s Guardian Angel (LGA)

Despite being the second most prominent character in the video, very little is known about LGA. For example, he may not even be a guardian angel. His role in the video is also unclear. Protagonist or antagonist? Helper or anti-villain? Hero or villain? If he is indeed a guardian angel, why does he not try to protect or help Louise? Or, by giving her the kiss of death, is he doing the kind thing and releasing her from her own pain? What is known for definite about this mysterious character can be found below:

  • LGA is established as a Villain. Creeping through the shadows, watching vulnerable Louise’s every move. It would appear as though he is waiting for the right moment to wreak havoc upon her life. However, the interesting thing about this character is that he is constantly being re-established. For example, it soon becomes apparent that this character is supernatural, and does not take any opportunity to attack Louise. This therefore contradicts the image of him as a villain. Nevertheless, his image remains dark and mysterious. When Louise leaves with the murderer, LGA quickly rushes to what would seem to be her aid. However, when he gives her the kiss of death his role is completely confused.

Hero or villain?

  • His costume is reflective of his personality. He wears the same costume throughout the video; a black trench coat and a maroon scarf. The colour black is associated with death and darkness, the former of which the audience discovers he has the power to inflict. The maroon colour may be linked to the colour red, which can symbolise love or danger, both of which is a representative.
  • His actions remain very consistent. He keeps up a serious front, however he usually also looks concerned, expressing his best interests are with Louise.
LGA appears incapable of emotion, adding to his supernatural image

Locations

The locations used in the video are very consistent, and all in keep with the sophisticated theme. The following is a list of locations, and their effects:

  • Louise owns her own house on a New York street (LGA later reads the New York Post, so presumably this city is New York). Owning a house in downtown New York. The interior of her house also bodes an extravagant lifestyle. Her house is very grand, consisting of high archways a large carved ceramic bathroom and many elegant decorations such as vases of roses, chandeliers and a chaise long. This location emphasises Louise’s status. However, the large house makes her seem smaller and insignificant and highlights her loneliness.

Louise's large house contrasts with her small, insignificant image

  • Judging by the rails of clothes in her workplace, Louise works in a high position in the fashion industry. It is also clearly a rich business judging by the oak furnishings and the suited colleagues. This is to coincide with the image of the uncaring, high-powered businesswoman that the audience sees her as at this point in the narrative.
  • The third location is a classy bar. This is where the audience first learns of Louise’s actions. Clearly she goes to these bars to find men of a similar stature to sleep with.

Louise uses bars to find and seduce her suitors

  • The fourth new location (not counting the front of the first man’s apartment building) is in a diner. This is different to her usual haunts. Perhaps Louise is now staying anywhere which is not her house, as perhaps it reminds her of her own loneliness.
  • The fifth new location is the apartment of the second man. Judging by the interior, this man is clearly not of the same stature of the first. This shows that Louise’s standards are slipping and that she is resorting to further lengths to try and forget her love.
  • The final new location is another bar, where Louise is talking to an older man. This, and the previous scene in which she seems to look very rueful perhaps implies that she is trying to get her life back on the straight and narrow, however, the sight of the mysterious stranger (and eventual murderer) causes her to abandon these thoughts and return to her old lifestyle, leading to her demise.

Editing

At 6 minutes long, the ‘Bad Girl’ video obviously contains a lot of shots, and for these to make sense and be cohesive, there is a strict use of continuity techniques. However, they are used quite extensively, meaning that their effect is not always clear. However, despite this, the following is a list of continuity techniques and their most obvious uses in the video:

  • Eyeline Match is used at very specific points in the video for a very obvious reason. Eyeline Match can always be found when a new suitor of Louise is introduced. This technique allows the audience to see each man from Louise’s point of view, similar to an over-the-shoulder shot. It also allows for a close up on both Louise and the man’s reactions to one another
Eyeline Match is used when a new man is introduced
  • Match on Action is only used a few times, and it appears that it is most obviously used when trying to emphasise important points in the narrative. For example, at the beginning when a member of the police lifts the sheet from Louise’s body, and we then see Louse’s body up close. This introduces Louise as a vulnerable character who is destined to die throughout the video. Later, just before her murder, the technique is used to show Louise removing her tights. This is important as this is obviously the weapon which kills Louise. Because the audience does not see the actual murder of Louise, the tights must be focussed upon so the audience knows that this is the murder weapon.
  • Shot / Reverse Shot is used at many points in the video for many different reasons. For example, it is used along with Eyeline Match to introduce the first man. Obviously at this point the audience is unaware of Louise’s lifestyle, so as many techniques as possible must be used to introduce it in the most simplest way without the use of dialogue. However, it is later used in the diner, when Louise and LGA are sitting opposite one another. It allows for focus upon both characters whilst making it clear that the audience where they are and what they are doing. However, it is later again used when Louise’s cat makes her jump when she comes home. The shot length is also very short for a brief period here. This, and the technique mean that this part of the narrative is supposed to be quite shocking.

Shot Reverse Shot is used for many reasons. Here it is used so the audience can clearly see Louise's expression

  • The 180 Degree rule is rarely broken throughout the entire video, allowing for most of the consistency in the video. However, it is broken on occasion. For example, when Louise is walking through her office, the rule is broken illegally many times. This makes Louise’s office seem confusing to travel around, large and intimidating, as Louise may see it. The rule is later broken legally through use of the Shot / Reverse Shot technique in the diner.

As far as transitions are concerned, they are not used that excessively in the video. However, when they are used they are mostly a simple fade or fade to black. This is probably to in-keep with the grown-up theme of the song and video and keep the subject matter serious.  There is an interesting example of a fade transition, in which two scenes are blended together. In this transition, a road and a bar counter are made to seem like the same thing. The reason for this is most likely to show the link between the two main aspects of Louise’s life. The shot of the street outside her office represents her professional front, whilst the shot of the bar is representative of her promiscuous side.

The transition which merges the bar and the road, as well as the two sides of Louise's personality

This video also contains a brief montage during the musical bridge. The montage begins with interspersing clips of Louise sitting in a chair drinking wine and her taking eye drops (which also double as giving the impression that she is crying) the clips then begin to change to that of New York, a LAS of Louise crying and smoking and LGA dancing in what appears to be Louise’s living room. It appears that the main reason for this is to highlight Louise’s loneliness and depression in the most simplistic way possible. Her feelings are described through just music and random clips as opposed to through dialogue, lyrics or a narrative.

A shot from the montage, interspresing the clips of Louise smoking with New York City

Sound

The only sound in the video is the song ‘Bad Girl’, other than a brief interlude which contains some sound effects. The following is a list of structural notes of the song itself:

  • The baseline to the song acts as the intro as well. It is largely made up of percussion instruments.
  • The structure of the song begins to build with a slow glissando. This is one of the moments where the song interacts with the on-screen action. Whilst the glissando plays, and triggers the musical action, on-screen the body of Louise is revealed, triggering the on-screen action and narrative.
  • A set of strings support the vocals and add an eerie and ominous tone to the song
  • The vocals themselves are quite high-pitched and shaky, especially given Madonna’s preference to sing in a deeper tone during this time. This is reflective of Louise’s scared and intimidated attitude
  • The music becomes minimal just before each chorus – this emphasises the chorus itself
  • The choruses are structurally the same as the verses , except with a small hook after certain lyrics
  • The strings slowly increase in intensity as the song goes on – this helps build suspense and tension, and makes the audience aware that something bad will happen in the narrative.
  • During the montage, a non-lyrical bridge takes place in which all musical components are presented. A piano is also introduced during this time. This adds to the musical structure further emphasising the tension of the video. The piano also adds a saddening acoustic effect to the song.
  • Madonna performs her own backing vocals. These are light and angelic – reflective 0of the theme of death at this point in the narrative.
  • Many sound effects are played during the interlude. These include an aerosol spraying and a cat hissing. These are short sharp, creepy sounds to represent the horror of the kiss of death taking place at the same time. Other ominous sounds which take place are footsteps and the vent rattling. Sounds of the city can also be heard, such as a car and train passing and a dog barking. The chime of a clock introduces the song once more.
  • The piano becomes more prominent towards the end of the song, as it fades out.

Lyrically, the song deals with a woman who finds herself in a similar situation to Louise, except the woman in the song is still with her lover, and the pressure he puts upon her causes her to behave in this way. However, despite this there is crossover between these lyrics  and Louise’s situation. The following is a list of lyrics which match the on-screen action:

  • ‘Can’t bring myself to let you go’ – One of the three lyrics sung by Louise. This lyric would match Louise desire to not let go of her lost lover.
  • ‘What can I do’ – At this time, the first man appears on screen, offering a short-term solution to Louise’s problems
  • ‘Smoked too many cigarettes today’ – as the the barman is lighting Louise’s cigarette.
  • ‘Kissing some kind of stranger’s lips’ – At this time, Louise is kissing the first man just before sleeping with him
  • ‘You’ll always be my baby’ and ‘I don’t want to feel blue’ – The second and third lyrics to be sung by Louise. These also apply to the lost lover situation.

Iconography and Symbolism

Iconography and Symbolism are most commonly presented through the various props throughout the video. The following is a list of examples:

  • Cigarettes are used often. Cigarettes are a peculiar prop, as it only takes a change of context for them to present an entirely new status. In ‘Bad Girl’, they present a high status. For example, Louise keeps her cigarettes in decorated boxes and smokes them at sophisticated bars and sometimes in a seductive fashion. This means that the cigarettes are used to highlight Louise’s status and promiscuity

 

Cigarettes are a common prop in the video
  • Another common prop is drinks glasses and alcohol. These also add to the classy themes of the video. However, they are mostly used by the men in the video in order to offer Louise a drink. This implies that she is not really in control of her promiscuity, and she is more often than not taken advantage of through drunkenness.
  • In the second man’s home, Louise focuses upon a small cross shaped pendant. Although  this could be used to highlight Louise’s sinful behaviour, it is more likely that this symbolism is associated with Madonna herself. During the early 90s, Madonna’s image shifted to that of a more sexual one, and she often liked to link religious imagery to this.

Madonna often incorporated religious imagery in her videos at this time

  • The note that the second man leaves Louise is very important. It simply reads ‘Thank you whoever you are’. This highlights all of Louise’s fears; that the sleeping around isn’t helping her pain, she is being taken advantage of and that her behaviour is causing her to slowly lose her identity.
  • The cat is used as a stereotype. It emphasises the loneliness of Louise.
  • Louise washes her lingerie in the sink, and mail has built up on her doormat. This obviously implies that she has not been home for a long time, and has spent a string of nights at various men’s homes. This also implies that she is becoming more and more desperate to forget about her love.
  • The eyedrops have a double meaning. They imply that Louise is not in perfect health, and highlights her age. Also, they double as tears, expressing depression at her lifestyle.

The eyedrops double as teardrops

  • The newspaper being read by the guardian angel acts as foreshadowing with it’s ominous headline ‘Bloody Rampage’
  • Louise is strangled by her own tights. The tights are a symbol of her professional status and promiscuity and it is ironic that this is the thing which kills her
  • The air vent can be seen in the establishing shot and right before the murder takes place. This shows the audience that this is the scene of the crime, so they are aware that Louise is about to die before it happens (if that hasn’t already been made obvious by the evil characterising of the murderer and the guardian angel’s kiss of death)

The air vent marks the scene of the crime

  • Louise’s body is covered in a white sheet. White is often used to represent innocence.

Genre

‘Bad Girl’ comes from Madonna’s fifth studio album, Erotica. Erotica is defined primarily as a pop album, however, it does also contain elements of dance, house, lounge and swing. ‘Bad Girl’ itself most probably suits the genres of pop or possibly lounge. Pop is the most difficult genre to analyse as it is so broad and therefore vague.

'Bad Girl' is the third single from Madonna's Erotica album

‘Bad Girl’ works extremely well as a pop song. Firstly, it is recorded by one of the most prominent and influential pop singers of all time, Madonna. Secondly, it is suitable for the masses, meaning it can technically work as ‘popular music’. Most mainstream music can be described as ‘Pop’, as it is the staple of the music charts. It’s chart performance is another reason as to why ‘Bad Girl’ can be described as Pop.

However, Pop music tends to be aimed at youth, as the youth of any generation tends to dominate music chart performances of pop songs. Given it’s lyrical content and musical structure, ‘Bad Girl’ is not particularly aimed at youth. This is why the label of ‘Adult Contemporary’ would perhaps suit ‘Bad Girl’ better.

Intended Target Audience

Due to Madonna’s widespread popularity at the time, ‘Bad Girl’ would have been a hugely mainstream song and video, open to a great deal of the general public and the world as whole. Given that she was not a minir music artist with a cult following, a definite target audience is difficult to define. However, there are some obvious signs and clues in the video as to it’s audience:

  • Obviously the themes of casual sex, alcoholism and smoking mean that this video is clearly for adults. Perhaps as with most artist who originally record for young people, this was Madonna’s attempt to connect with her now adult fans.
  • Madonna’s sexual phase was an extremely controversial time for her, and many considered it to be the end of her career. However, there were those who favoured this time of her career. Although not her most sexual exploit, this small cult following would favour the video.
  • As with any artist, hardcore fans would enjoy the video.

Gatherings, findings and such

I think that ‘Bad Girl’ is going to be the biggest inspiration for my own production. There are several ideas and themes I would love to replicate. For example, the idea of dark romance, and it’s possible psycholoigal effects. I would love to be able to put a dark twist on the cheesy cliche of boy-meets-girl. I also love that this is presented in a sophisticated way, through the use of 1930/40s decor, bars, alcohol and cigarettes. I’m sure  would be able to come across dated locations and replicate the alcohol and cigarettes. There’s so much finer detail in this video that I would love to replicate also, however as I’m not sure which are plausible and which I mayor may not decide to use, I may reveal this as the production unfolds. Watch this space…

Let’s get Musical…

I was fascinated by the impact that the underscore had alone on the last piece I analysed, so this time I’ve decided to analyse a music video with a narrative, where the emphasis is obviously on the music used. This will also come in handy because a ‘short narrative set to music’ is an acceptable loophole in our specification.

The music video I have chosen is ‘Love How It Hurts’ by Scouting for Girls. A recently released piece, I chose it as it is also very simplistic. Should I decide to replicate any elements in it, it would probably be very easy, given that most of the video takes place in a school and in a field, both of which are very easy to come across! However, my main reason for anlaysing this piece is to discover the impact of sound and music on the narrative, and how it compliments not only other aspects such as cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene but how it helps the production emphasise it’s message as well as emotions, feelings and thoughts of characters.

Scouting for Girls

The single cover for 'Love How It Hurts'

Due to touring, the band was not present to make a video, so their production company, Sony Music UK, made this one without consulting the band. This explains their absence in the video. Instead, the video chooses to focus on a love triangle between a ‘geeky boy’, a ‘pretty girl’ and a ‘cool bad boy’, which starts in school and continues until they are adults. The video ends with the pretty girl having to decide between the two, a decision which the audience does not get to see.

Sound

I thought I’d analyse Sound first, as this is the element to which all other will be compared:

  • Scouting For Girls formed in 2005, when British popular music began to focus on indie and rock genres. This song incorporates some of these features, such as an emphasis on acoustic drums and piano. There is a lack of synthesised sounds, and the few that are used imitate piano sounds. The song’s rhythm is generally lead by the vocals, which are its most prominent feature, and there is no to little evidence of a Wall of Sound technique
  • The musical narrative is directly proportionate to the visual one. By musical narrative, I mean the way in which the song develops and ideas of sound and music and built and expressed. Here are the stages in which both narratives are introduced, developed and complemented: This analysis is broken down into the Visual Narrative and Musical Narrative
  1. Little is happening in the establishing shot. The geeky boy is simply watching the girl in what appears to be slow motion and there is little action going on in the scene. The intro is very simplistic, focusing mainly on the vocals and lyrics. This is so the ideas and themes of the narratives can be easily introduced
  2. This is where the audience’s attention is mostly shifted, as they must understand the creation of the love triangle. This is where the basis of the visual narrative begins, so the basis of the musical begins too, with percussion instruments being introduced and the rhythm too.
  3. Each chorus acts as a climax in the narrative. The first chorus introduces a cheery hook to the song, just while the geeky boy is happy and hopeful, emphasised by the increase of sunlight in his room.
  4. Once again, the music returns to its verse state, when the audience’s attention should be upon the on-screen action. The on-screen action focuses upon the events which break the geeky boys heart as a child, the cool boy destroying his cassette tape and the girl choosing the latter over the former.
  5. The next climax/chorus is more intense, with the piano hook becoming more prominent. Again, the focus is supposed to be upon the on-screen action. The second climax takes the form of a montage. This quickens the pace of the narrative and moves it into its second stage, the second time period. This means that both narrative increase in intensity, with each type of narrative complementing each other.
  6. The chorus changes to a bridge, which contains little musical composition other than the piano, this shows that the audience’s attention should be on the on-screen action.  This bridge again returns to using a slow-motion effect, so that the romantic actions by the geeky boy are highlighted.
  7. The third and final climax is similar to the second, except it ends with the repetition of the title ‘Love How it Hurts’. This is where both narratives climax at the same time, and audience’s attention should be on both sound and action. The action involves the proposal, in which the cool boy makes the decision, seemingly ending the narrative
  8. The outro for both narratives slows right down. In the case of the music, it is similar to the intro, where only vocals and piano are the focus. They are slightly melancholic, reflective of the on-screen action. There is very little on-screen action, so that the audience’s attention is upon the girl making her decision.

Sound is used to other effects as well:

  • Some lyrics coincide with the action on screen, for example, ‘I’d have run to the ends of the earth’, when the geeky boy is running. Also ‘wrecked’ and ‘break’, whilst the cool boy is breaking the cassette tape. A basic feature of the music video is that it focuses upon the action described in the song. With these simple incorporations, the video both presents a narrative and works as a standard music video
  • There is little use of sound effects, however, they can be found during the bridge, namely a siren. This is reflective of the haste and panic in the narrative at this time.

Cinematography

The cinematography of this piece remains largely the same throughout, and is used only to few effects, the main one perhaps being characterisation:

  • The cinematography is used for introducing characters and their respective roles in Propp’s character theory. For example, the geeky boy, the main character and the protagonist is first seen in a close-up. This is so the audience is fully aware of his features and character. He fills the role of the hero. In this shot, the boy is staring at the girl, so the close-up makes the boy’s love instantly obvious to the audience. As for the girl, she is first presented in an over-the-shoulder shot. It is over the boy’s shoulder, meaning that we are and will see her from his perspective. She is also presented in the background. This shows that she is distant and unobtainable. This means she clearly fills the role of the heroine. The cool boy is presented in a mid-shot. The geeky boy and girl are sitting down in this shot, whilst the cool boy is standing, showing his authority. He is also presented between the other two characters, showing that he will disrupt any love that blossom between them. He fills the roles of the villain and the disruption of the equilibrium.

The close-up that introduces the geeky boy

The over-the-shoulder shot that introduces the girl

The mid-shot that introduces the cool boy

  • From this point on, each characters roles, actions and personalities are emphasised by cinematography. For example, the geeky boy is presented in wide shots more than any other shot type. This is reflective of his feelings of smallness and loneliness. As for the girl, she is quite the opposite, and is more often than not presented in close shots. This is because her feelings towards each boy at any one time is essential to the plotline, therefore the audience must always be aware of her feelings, which can be most easily deciphered by her expressions and actions, hence the close focus on her. As for the cool boy, the cinematography changes so that he is almost always presented in a negative light. For example, the aforementioned shot where he is presented as getting between the two of them. Other examples include a close –up on his destroying of the cassette and his throwing away of the engagement ring. This is because the audience is expected to be on the geeky boy’s side of the binary opposition, and a focus on the actions of the cool boy will fuel this support.

The geeky boy is often presented in wide shots...

... whilst the girl is often presented in closer shots

The cinematography focuses on the cool boy's negative actions

  • When the characters are re-introduced as adults, cinematography is used to present a shift in power between the characters. For example, the introductory shot of the grown up geeky boy is a high-angled shot, as are many other shots of him from this point on. Whereas the introductory shot of the grown up cool boy is a low angled shot. This shows that the geeky boy now has authority, most likely due to the close friendship he has with the girl, as shown in the montage.

The HAS that introduces the adult geeky boy

The LAS that introduces the adult cool boy

However, cinematography is used to other effects also:

  • When the geeky boy gives the girl the tape, the shot pans right. This excludes the geeky boy from the shot and includes the cool boy, making the latter and the girl the focus of the shot, emphasising the current situation
  • After the geeky boy has bought the ring, he is presented in many long shots and very long shot running toward the girl. This emphasises the literal lengths we would go to for her

Mise-En-Scene

This is possibly the simplest aspect of this piece. It is one of the reasons as to why the continuity is so easy to follow.

  • Location. The location remains roughly the same throughout the piece. Judging by the houses, streets, school and cliffs, the entire piece is set in an average seaside town. This probably to make the video more realistic and relatable. The only dramatic changes in location are during the montage and the clifftop. A lot of other aspects such as shot length and speed change during the montage. This is probably so the audience’s attention is retained, and changing the location is another way to capture audience attention. The reason for the clifftop is probably because it is a romantic setting, and romance is the most important theme at this point in the narrative. The location of the boy’s bedroom gives the audience a clue as to the first time period. Judging by the making of a cassette tape, a  Frisbee, an E.T. lunchbox, a lava lamp and classic headphones, presumably the first time period is set in the 1970s.

    This shot shows the typical elements of the seaside town

    The geeky boy's bedroom, giving the audience a clue as to the 1970s time period

  • Costumes.An interesting aspect of this piece is that even though all the characters grow up, their costumes do not change. Although the primary reason for this is probably comedy, it has other effects too. For example, it is reflective of the fact that the relationship situation between the three characters also has not changed. Furthermore, the costumes are reflective of each character’s main personality trait. For example, the geeky boy’s costume is used to emphasise his ‘geekiness’, whilst the cool boy’s denim ensemble would have been considered ‘cool’ in the 1970s. The girl’s outfit can largely be decoded by colour. For example, her blonde hair and yellow cardigan make yellow the most dominant colour. Yellow represents happiness, implying that she is the thing which can make both boys happy. She is also wearing white, emphasising her innocence. There is not any extensive use of make up in the piece.
This shot shows the geeky boy and girl characters’ costumes, which have not changed over time
  • Lighting. The lighting of the video is largely consistent during the first half of the video. It is standard and is only used to effect on a couple of occasions. For example, when the girl is reading to the class, her shadow can be seen behind her, making it seem as though a beam of light is hitting her. This puts her in an angelic light, just like how the boy sees her. Later, when the boy is making the cassette in his room, a strong white light is used. This is reflective of his hope at this point in the narrative. During the second half of the narrative, lighting plays a more obvious role. This part of the narrative takes place mostly on the clifftop, where the horizon is obviously in view. This makes this scene very bright, again highlighting the hope, happiness and innocence of the moment.

The bright light effect reflecting the geeky boy's hope

The 'spot-light' effect behind the girl character

  • Props. Perhaps the props with the most impact on the narrative are the cassette tape and the engagement ring. The destroying of the cassette tape marks the moment when the geeky boy’s heart is broken whilst the engagement ring represents the attempt to repair the disruption and possible new equilibrium (as the audience does not see the girls decision, it cannot be said if new equilibrium is established or not). Other props include the note book the girl is reading to the class from, which highlights her intelligence.

One of the most important props, the cassette tape

Another important prop, the engagement ring

Editing

One of the most obvious uses of editing is the use of special effects:

  • For example, for the first half of the narrative, most of the backgrounds are blurred. This is becasue the backgrounds (houses, trees, streets, and so on) are all familiar to the audience and are only there to show that the narrative takes place in an average town. The blurring stops them from becoming a distraction from the central plotline

This shot conveys the blurred background effect

  • The entire piece seems to favour use of a slow-motion effect on the majority of its shots. It is more obvious at certain times than others as to why this is used. For example, it highlights key points in the narrative, such as when the geeky boy creates the cassette or buys the ring, and when the cool boy destroys the cassette and throws away the ring. Furthermore, its heavy use in the first 45 seconds allows for greater audience attention on characters and actions, making characterisation easier. Other reasons for its use on the piece as a whole include continuity issues and the effect it has on the pace of the montage.

As mentioned many times now, a montage is used in this piece. It is used as the crossover between the character’s childhoods and adulthoods. There are many reasons for its use and it creates and contains many effects:

  • Pace of the narrative. By this point, all characters and the main disruption are established. The attempt to repair disruption and new equilibrium can only be completed in the children’s adulthood. This montage shows the audience all necessary information for the second half of the narrative. Namely, all relationships remain intact, and in fact romance may be beginning to bloom between the girl and the geeky boy. Although the two spend time together and have grown closer, the girl still chooses to be with the cool boy, which still causes pain to the geeky boy. Without this montage, the narrative would quickly become repetitive and dull, hence only the two most important parts of the narrative are presented to the audience in full, the beginning and the end
  • Shot Length. The length of each shot is significantly shorter than that of those not included in the montage. This reflective of the idea of growing up, moving on and time moving quickly, all essential to the montage and its aim of quickening the narrative
  • Juxtapositioning. It is instantly obvious to the audience that the characters have grown up, especially where the geeky boy and the girl are concerned, as their younger and older counterparts are shown in sequential shots.

There is not an abundance of continuity technbiques in this video. This probably due it’s simplistic nature, so the continuity is already easy to follow. However, there are examples of their use:

  • Shot/Reverse Shot. This technique is probably used the most. For example, at the very beginning when we are introduced to the geeky boy and the girl. The boy is looking off-screen at the girl. This is how the audience is introduced to the equilibrium. The cool boy is also introduced by the geeky boy and the girl looking off-screen at him, after which he is introduced. Another example is when the cool boy is destroying the cassette. We see the geeky boy’s reaction in the next shot. This technique is repeated so many times that by the end of the video, whenever characters look off-screen, the audience can assume that it is one of the other main characters. This helps build the tension when the older cool boy comes into the narrative, as he is introduced by the geeky boy and girl looking off-screen at him.

We see the geeky boy looking off-screen...

... then what he is looking at

The over-the-shoulder shot that introduces the girl

Guess who?

  • 180 Degree Rule. The 180 Degree Rule is largely abided by. Whenever it is broken, it is done so legally, through the use of Shot/Reverse Shot or Match on Action. Even if the Rule is broken illegally, it is hardly noticeable due to the consistent and simplistic mise-en-scene, allowing the audience to not become easily confused. When it is broken legally, it does not appear to be any obvious effect. However, it could be said that perhaps it highlights the distance between the geeky boy and the girl. For example, after the tape has been destroyed and he looks off-screen at the cool boy and the girl walking away. Also, later when the geeky boy is approaching the girl atop the cliff.
  • Eyeline Match. There are very few examples of eyeline match. It first appears during the montage, when the audience see’s both girl counterparts making faces directly at the screen, who we assume is the geeky boy. This is presumably to highlight the closeness between these two characters over this period of time. Eyeline Match is next used just before, during and after the proposal. Seeing each character from the other’s perspective emphasises the romance between them. We also see the older cool boy from the older geeky boy knelt position, which makes him seem higher and therefore in authority.

The first instance of the eyeline match technique

The eyeline match technique is used a lot during the proposal sequence

Eyeline match is used to show authority

  • Match On Action. This is quite a difficult technique to spot in this video, as some examples are more obvious than others, and some could not be the technique at all; they just look like it. However, there are some examples, such as when the geeky boy is making the cassette. We see him looking pleased with what he is making, and then we see it closer. This is possibly to emphasise his romantic nature and to make him seem more ‘cute’ to the audience. There is also a possible use of it during the proposal. We see the geeky boy get down on one knee, and then there is a focus on the ring and the girl’s reaction. Again, this highlights the romance of this scene, the attempt to repair the disruption.

We see the boy making something...

... then we see what he's making

Gatherings, findings and such

This video is definitely one of the main reasons as to why I have decided to create a music video, or a ‘narrative set to music’. The music allows the narrative to flow much more easily, and requires less shots to explain what is happening in the sequence. This is also aided by the fact that no dialogue is required. Dialogue is one of the other main reasons for my decision. Script writing is not my forte in the media production process. Furthermore, audio levels tend to not be good on the video cameras we use to film our productions. Whilst I would love to have a romance theme and narrative similar to this one, I can’t help but feel that I would end up stealing a lot of ideas from it, which is why I will research further for other themes to include in my own production.

Let the Research begin!

Welcome! This year, our Media Studies coursework specification is to create a short film, hence the blog in order to record all research, progress, production and evaluation. First things first, the research.

Whilst obviously I have many ideas as to what to do for my coursework, I’m limited by a lack of  advanced resources, technology, locations, money, professional actors, and pretty much everything else that professional filmmakers have. This is why throughout the planning stage, I’m going to keep my ideas for a narrative as simple as possible, and focus on the aspects of filmmaking which I can make really effective, such as editing techniques. In order to coincide with this, I think i’m probably best off gathering ideas from short films which themselves are quite simplistic.

The first film i’ve decided to analyse is by Spike Jonze. Aged 41 and born Adam Spiegel, Spike Jonze is an American director, having directed films such as Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002) and Where the Wild Things Are (2009). However, he is also famous for his production of all forms of filmmaking, from Hollywood films to music videos to commercials for clothing shops.

 

Spike Jonze

 

Jonze has created many short films, which have largely been internet distributed. The short film of his that I have chosen is How They Get There. At only 2.26, the film attempts to give one possible explanationas to how single shoes end up in gutters. There doesn’t appear to be any other subliminal purpose to this film than to entertain the audience with black humour. I chose this film because, aside from the stunt of flipping a car, its idea is very simple, involving only two main actors, one location and no dialogue. However, despite these lackings, it is still a very entertaining piece of film.

 

Cinematography

  • Jonze has chosen the majority of his establishing shots to be extreme close ups. These establishing shots focus on the main points of the narrative, namely the shoe and the protagonist/hero.
  • The extreme close ups soon become regular close ups, which in turn become long shots. A long Shot is used on each character, most likely to act as an establishing shot for each, so that the audience is familiar with how they look and behave.
  • From this point on, the same two shots are used, a panning long shot and a panning medium shot. The panning is necessary in order to keep up with the walking characters. The Long shots are used to show the characters actions and mimics in their entirety as well as emphasising both the physical and social distance between the characters. Whilst the medium shots are used to show the characters expressions and reactions to one another in greater detail

    Long Shot

  • Medium Shot

  • The cinematography changes when the car is introduced, at least as far as the female character is concerned. Her panning changes to a zoom, to show her desperation to warn the man of the impending danger. However, the cinematography on the man remains the same, reflecting his thoughts that the game has not changed and is continuing
  • During the actual crash, the cinematography changes as the editing becomes quicker to reflect the confusion of the moment, therefore it does not  focus on many close details. Perhaps the primary reason for this is to make the stunt more simple to perform yet it is still looks effective on film. However, as the car finishes crashing, the shot types become more standard, probably so the stunt looks like it has a professional finish.

 

  • An example of one of the distorted shots used during the crash

  • An important aspect, is that both the first and last shots are of the same type, extreme close ups of a shoe. Given that the narrative starts with the man putting on one of the discarded shoes, this technique perhaps implies that narrative is ongoing, with many men being lured in front of cars.

Mise-En-Scene

  • As far as props are concerned, nothing out of the ordinary has been used. The main props used are shoes, a milk carton and a car. The shoes are essential to the story, hence their inclusion and emphasis. The milk carton is likely used to make the protagonist seem quite child-like, preparing the audience for his later antics. The milk carton also humanises the character, making the situation more realistic. The car introduces the disruption to the narrative and offers the ultimate reason as to why shoes end up alone in gutters.

    Shoe

  • Milk carton

  • Car

  • The location remains the same, or seemingly the same; one long street. This is likely so the audience is not distracted from the central plot by the location, hence it is a familiar setting
  • The same very much applies to the costumes. They tend to be quite plain and therefore not distracting. However, they are also quite reflective of the characters. The man’s costume is quite nerdy, geeky and goofy, whilst the woman’s costume is also quite nerdy, with a slight quirky twist. Clearly, she is quite a quirky person to have started the little mimic game that the characters play.

Editing

  • Editing is perhaps the key technique to this piece. Whilst the cinematography creates a certain amount of juxtaposition between the characters, it is truly the editing which emphasises it. This is achieved through a series of jump cuts and slightly decreasing the shot length each time. The decrease of shot length also has the added bonus of creating tension, a dramatic device which floats this seemingly repetitive narrative.
  • Due to the repetitiveness of shot type and content, few continuity techniques such as eyeline match or match on action are used very little if at all. However, others are essential to the narrative. For example, the 180 Degree is broken, but it is broken in a ‘legal’ fashion, with the audience always being fully aware of what and where each shot is framing. Shot/Reverse shot is perhaps the most essential continuity technique. It has a blatant use, and allows for the legal breaking of the 180 Degree Rule. This is the technique which builds the rapport between the characters, which is essential to the narrative. It is the quick pace of the shot/reverse shot which also gives the film its comedic value. The disruption of this repetitive technique also makes the car crash more of a surprise and therefore more shocking.

Sound

  • The underscore, Sentimental Journey, is the main aural feature of this film. A cheery, simplistic, mostly a cappella song, it is at first used to coincide with the simple, cheery, goofy plot and actions that are taking place. I imagine that as it continues and becomes even more upbeat during the car crash, its cheeriness is supposed to be ironic, to compliment the black humour of the film.
  • Sound effects are used during the car crash, namely a horn and the sound of the car hitting the protagonist’s body. These sounds dominant the underscore and are used to emphasise the crash, and make it sound terrible to compliment any visual lacking in the stunt.

Gatherings, findings and such

I think the most important lesson I’m taking from How They Get There is that a bold, grand idea for a narrative does not have to be the most important thing when it comes to creating a short film. Editing and Sound create effects which can compliment the dullest of ideas and make it seem greater. However, this does not mean that the narrative has to be completely dull. Jonze made two people walking down a street more interesting by making them mimic one another. I’d love to take something as simple as that and make it become something more.

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