Pilot editing – day 3

I’ve been working with Simon now for 3 days on the pilot – a bit tiring so this entry will be a bit short, but wanted to just make sure I’ve noted things to remember.

Mike Bradsell gave us a template of five boxes so that we could try the multi-screen edit, and this has proved very useful, Simon being really quick.   We can already start to see how the different screens have different grammars – you can cut out of sync (staggered) across the screens, and also multiply.  We haven’t gone too far down this line yet as are still getting used to stuff. Had a first go at the Narcissus and Amenias love scene, which was an easy starter.  Generally the problem is as I expected when sync is kept over two screens, but they have been filmed in different worlds.  It’s very difficult to keep both screens parallel to each other.  The problem is with Tiresias in this scene, and I did plan this OK by planning to have male and female Tiresias, but because the technical idea of this is not necessarily working, we’ve been trying with female Tiresias but with no proper cutaways – duh!

The other scene we’re cutting is where Hera cries and Echo writes in the sand, and the same thing is happening.  We’re finding it very easy to multi-screen the storm, and it looks better than when we shot it even if the rain effects aren’t too good because we can throw it around the screens, and also not worry too much about continuity.  However, the timing is very odd as in Hera’s v good performance she doesn’t cry until the end and we’d need to stretch her out over the montage of the rain.  We haven’t got nearly enough material and this is an imaginative problem, because shots of Zeus looking or cutting between angles still doesn’t give us enough time.  We need something generic so that Hera can appear and dissapear without feeling that we need a strong motivation.  Something like appearing over clouds.  However if we do that once, we have to establish a convention earlier… 

The pilot is a very difficult thing to do as a) we’re not quite telling the story so we’re not cutting entirely for that, and also it’s evolving and we need to experiment but still get a result!   Nevertheless, at the moment it’s a very pleasurable process and both of us are learning heaps.

Retrospective reflection on a few things

1.  Agreed with Simon Davies to have 3 weeks in August/September to try and tidy up cut/make stab at multi-screen version.

2.  Had viewing for Maureen.  Her notes separate, but issues of Narcissus sympatheticness, some casting aspects – young man not attractive enough, and tightening up story. 

3.  Keep thinking back to where Humphry and I were on location looking at Leonie’s storyboard, and discussing where to put the camera, particularly on Echo chasing Narcissus scene through forest.  Slightly rainy, had been raining all morning, preventing filming, but also Humphry had been off meeting Skillset, so a bit hurried when he came back.  Relied very heavily on Humphry’s insights so must ask him for feedback when looking at the footage.  However, wasn’t at all clear about whether characters should leave frame or stay in same frame.  Have a feeling that footage is all too loose, and that we haven’t got the tight shots to get us through the edit, but this is in advance and we can always have a look.

4.  Tentative plan for edit – edit the chase scene with Echo and Narcissus, the rejection of Amenius, his death and narration by Tiresias„ and several endings.  Also have a go at the installation slo mo… but get the sound OK first.

5.  Aparna reminded me of Mike’s offer of the Planetarium for a showing.  Although this couldn’t be the 5 screen showing as designed, it could be interim multiscreen – like storyboard, projected on walls, and might be useful. Also need collaboration between institutions.  Is question big enough to make this worthwhile?

Moral equivocation

I was watching Criminal Justice this week on BBC1 and was riveted by it.  It made me think about what makes me interested in fiction, especially as I’ve also been reading holiday thrillers by Richard Harris Ghost and Patricia Cornwell Book of the Dead.  I realised that I really like puzzling out whether characters are goodies or baddies, and I’m sure this is dealt with by Murray Smith in Engaging Characters as a way we engage with the story and the characters, as this is part of our real life engagement and judgement of people.  It was great in Criminal Justice to see the very violent sweeps of character as they let each other down, or some revelation showed they weren’t as guilty or innocent as we thought.  I realised that there was none of this in Echo and the moral world is very simple and clear cut.  Perhaps this is part of the polemical style of the piece, but they are really very uncomplicated.  Zeus and Hera are flawed, but still lovable, Echo and Narcissus are victims, but Narcissus is not very sympathetic – problem in the writing/directing here.  Thus, the rhetoric doesn’t move the story on as much as I’d like.  However, perhaps also a reflection of my own lack of insight – I see myself as innocent and don’t explore the guilty and difficult parts of my own character and actions.  Also trust other people similarly.  Next time, I’ll write more difficult moral choices and show some weaknesses. 

5th July 08

Haven’t been blogging for a while, and at the moment, this blog is turning into more of a private diary, as there’s not too much production work in process.

After a very depressing semester where teaching commitments meant that I couldn’t get anything done on Echo, things are starting to move again.  Basically, it’s been a big realisation to understand how much more money and time we need to make the thing do-able.  Mostly I’ve been blaming myself and panicking a bit, because I’ve wondered why I can’t design films within my means, like my colleagues and working professionals, and been taking responsibility for a) being naive about my ambitions, and b) thinking I’m a terrible film maker who has no practical ability, but this is not helpful thinking, and also not necessarily true.  Perhaps a more helpful performativity is to realise that a research project is always beyond one’s control, and that also my previous stuff like “Augustine” was also like this, and eventually, the ambition is partly what others buy into and this enables the project to be done and be original.   Anyway, Nimal still wants to work on it, and faith from collaborators is heartening.  Mike Bradsell is interested too, as is Ian Watson.  I’m having to realise that this is going to be years and years of work, rather than being able to complete it in a decent period.  In fact, I went into production very quickly, as I don’t like the unnecessarily long development phase in the UK film industry and think it stultifies the filmmaking, but now I’m finding that this long phase has now just become a post-production phase, whilst we find money, so we’ve got to suffer it anyway!  The advantage this way around though is that at least the footage has energy, but the difficulty is that the cast/crew might disappear or even grow grey hair if we need them back for reshoots.

Applying for an AHRC grant for £20,000.  Realise that post production will probably be in excess of that, even if not paying very commercial rates.  Whole of editing (including sound) maybe about 15,000.  This is much more than shooting costs, and doesn’t including much extra shooting, or much towards the gallery installation.  Don’t know at the moment, how much this bit will cost – it’s still an unknown and I have to find the right person to talk to.  Approaching Picture This, and also going to approach Shimon Attie to ask how he does it?

However, this week was a very helpful week.  Approached Mwnci productions and Richard Moss was incredibly helpful.  Took test footage of stuff to see whether keying would work on a) Tiresias, b) Hera and Zeus.  Was reassured that it definitely would, but again questions of money.  For the first time saw the hi-def on a big screen in his editing suite and was impressed.  He showed me some interesting transitions between male and female Tiresias, and I think some of it is OK.  What’s difficult is finding an unstable male/female mix.  Poor lighting on chromakey might be solved by working with more animated person (Jon Lee?) which would be cheaper than Mwnci but slower.  More important was a new realisation, that we still have camera movement in front of the blue screen with Zeus and Hera (and Tiresias actually) and that we didn’t shoot with that in mind, so that background can’t be matched.  Having no marker in the background (cross on bluescreen) means the sky can’t be moved.  However, we could film a still and go in on that – expense again!

Richard actually said that the project was about as complex as it could get – as complex as Shimon Attie’s, but nevertheless, he put me onto various people to help, and I think it does seem worth it. 

Finally he helped me to think through what to do next.  The plan now is for Nimal to concentrate on the single screen version, and myself and Simon Davies to work on a 5 screen pilot during the three weeks we’re working together in late August.  This must be something that can be shown around.  In addition, he stressed getting the piece edited, and concentrating on that.  I totally agree, and can imagine getting this done, especially if we do find a suitable editor.  I’m going to split it into three sections – first cut (all the material, the story etc.) where we can then get expert editing input, then fine cut where we absolutely nail the story, and design the extra shooting, and then post shooting cut.  This will allow for separate funding for each section.  In addition, there’s tracklaying, composition etc., and multiscreen design.

Talking to Maureen, I’ve realised that elements of the story need attention – in particular, the rejection of Echo by Narcissus, which preempts the endings, the chase sequence – just needs reediting, and the way the installation/interaction is written.  If we have all the money in the world and can move between “rooms” then this is a much better walk through, with Echo and Narcissus fading in one room, and the story starting in another, and ending in 3 more.  However, technically and expense-wise this is very complex, and if we have to use our original 5 screens, then we need to think again.

In particular the Bill Viola idea of Echo and Narcissus at opposite ends of the room fading in slow motion, possibly doesn’t work for a walk in audience.  Perhaps we could move this around and have it as continuous screen savers, and start with the song or something.   Beginnings always seem to need re-writing, just as in lots of essays/dissertations.

Tiresias and the pebbles also possibly needs rethinking, but this can be done when we’ve got more certainty on what we’re doing.

Anyway, enough for now

Widescreen and its potential

Just been given an article by David Thomson, “Widescreen Aesthetics and Mise en Scene Criticism” (Velvet Light Trap No.21, date?), which could be very helpful for ECHO.

Basically covers arguments between Bazin and the mise-en-scene critics, and includes discussion of Charles Barr’s famous article on Widescreen.  Talks about the “metaphysical and epistemological” arguments of Bazin having been a bit ignored and replaced by stylistic ones from the mise-en-scene critics.  Bazin’s awareness of the gaps in perceiving reality, replaced by an organising and unifying aesthetic in the auteur critics.  However, mise-en-scene critics really didn’t take into account a) the narration of films and how films organise information to create point of view and the absorption of important narrative material, and b) the “genuis of the system” whereby Hollywood film syntax (historically changing and in flux) actually organises this, rather than it being totally determined by auteurs.  However, there is then a tacitly interesting possibility of an argument about the psychology/neurology of widescreen and montage, and how the brain processes information from the eye.  Finally, Thomson talks very interestingly about technology enabling and restricting choice (adding and subtracting, rather than multiplying). how could we use his insight that  ”the dialectic of technological choice and constraint will still take place within the norms of practice shared by filmmakers and audiences” to look at ECHO and the practice of 5 screens. 

Pluses and minuses:

1.  multi screens preserves temporality in an even stronger way than widescreen.   Conversations between characters on different screens have to have both the conversations and the reaction preserved.  Technically, this is quite difficult, as they may have been filmed in different locations, so unlike the aesthetic of the long take, this is a constructed aesthetic, and hasn’t got the ontological reality.  Also, we’re used to the “montage” of film cutting out the extraneous or boring reactions and preserving the interesting bits. Unlike widescreen, we don’t have the choice of the panorama or the close ups to focus upon, but have to choose between screens at certain times (this isn’t absolute as screens may be adjacent – but they may also be opposite).  The choice of opposite, adjacent or ceiling screens has to be in concert with the narration in order to inform audience expectation.  However, it’s quite possible that neurologically/optically, editing is just as much a metaphor for vision, sharing its mechanisms, as the long take, as we frequently cut out the “garbage” of processing between views, and therefore multi screen installations uses this aspect of vision, and spectators have the Bazinian choice of watching between screens.

The choice of screen viewing is also determined by “norms of practice” and narration in classical film making. In ECHO, sound (especially dialogue or narration) will lead the spectator to their choice of screen, and may well be important when solving narrational or attentional problems in the editing. This could be very useful in Echo, where the narrator, Tiresias, is on the back screen.  I’ve kept him/her deliberately simple, so that all the narrative information is delivered through his/her narration, and very little change happens on the visual track (although the background changes occasionally).  Once planted, Tiresias is only an optional visual track, as long as the audience listen, they won’t get shocked.  Also reduncancy – Thomson refers to this in the Widescreen article, particularly about River of No Return, where we are cued to see objects as important through narrative planting, and also withholding of information.  In ECHO, this is true of Tiresias (see above). There’s very little withholding/suspense (although there is some with the Gods’ adultery, and we must make sure that the audience are geared to see Hera leave the top screen and enter the front screen to chase and catch Zeus, before he sees her). However, there’s plenty of planting, for example, ECHO’s songs, and the use of the installation, flashback structure of the beginning, with Echo and Narcissus’s death, letting the audience know what will happen, so they are looking at “How”.  There’s also a pure aesthetic effect of multi-screen, both in the musical bits, where all screens come into operation not as narrative, but as spectacle.

The aesthetic aspect of the multi-screen is also important.  The gaps between screens should (if small enough) act as the kind of barriers that windows/verticals had for Ophuls, Sirk, and the classic metteurs-en-scene, separating characters emotionally (a key scene for this is where Echo follows Narcissus and is rejected by him), or unified by multiple repetition of the same screen on other screens.

There’s also the theatrical use of space which relates to the spectator.  The ceiling screen, in particular produce the effect of power – their oppression of the humans being spatial and also relating to the audience.  This is a new deployment of a very traditional device (the medieval mystery play, and the Sistine Chapel Ceiling), but it combines them and implicates the viewer.  The Gods eventually come to earth, which also creates in mise-en-scene, the narrative meaning of their ”human” fragilities.

 Please add to this, as I’d welcome comments, and I’ll try and expand.



Back on board after a break

Dear All,

After a very busy semester, I’ve finally had a bit of time to get back to Echo. What I’ve done is:

1. Apply for some more money from the University, to get things moving again

2. Had a very helpful session with Mike Bradsell, a very experienced features editor who’s been tutoring at Newport, who has given me a way forward with the AVID, to try and edit a 5 screen version on 1 screen

3. Started to look around for an editor to work on this.

When I find out what’s happening on the money front, I’ll also look for help in producing the final version, and getting the funds.


Christmas post-production

Nimal is now recovering well, but needs to rest.

I’ve been trying to add chromakey to the edit, and I’ve now worked out the AVID, and it looks promising although it’s very flawed at the moment, and needs really doing on the original hi-def stock and by someone who knows what they are doing.  The film’s been shown in its very early stage, to my second year students, who mostly really liked it – one was gripped, and many of the others could see it as an installation.  They liked the performances, the settings and the cinematography. My mum and dad liked it too, so let’s hope it’s good.

I’m sorry the edit is going so slowly, and in the New Year, I’ll try to speed things up, whether that requires financial imput or input of another kind. I was hoping to get a crew screening and social done by Christmas, but that’s had to be put off due to Nimal’s illness.   Let’s look to early in the New Year.

Humphry, Leonie, Brendan, Lynne and myself are all presenting a panel at a conference on film studies (the Meccsa conference) in Cardiff on 9th January, so that means that we’ll try to spread good news about the project and see whether we can drum up interest… 

Happy Christmas and New Year All

Love Coral

Tiresias’s eyes

An interesting snippet.  Tiresias is supposed to have his eyes digitally removed, and background superimposed.  I think it will look better if he doesn’t.  It’s possible that no one will be bothered if he can in fact see.

Tiresias has emerged as one of the difficulties.  I’ve now seen an installation where a face has been filmed much more in the way I foresaw, than in the way we actually did it.  It’s much more rounded and close up, and it superimposes well on the background.  However, we can use what we’ve got.  Also the dissolves/morphs between male and female Tiresias don’t really work, so we have got our work cut out to make this OK.  Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the problems you think are going to be the insuperable ones turn out not to be, and others take over in a quite different way.

More editing

2nd Nov 2007.

 Last week, the film went through a transformation.  Nimal started doing it as a single time line and everything seemed to work.  There’s still a problem about the endings – partly that they don’t work as a single screen, and partly that the happy ending seems a bit quick.  It’s not clear that Echo has broken the spell by herself.  I don’t know what to do about this as it is part of the writing.

I’d like to find some quotations about Narcissism which are really appropriate for the ending, but they are either too scholarly and impenetrable, or too obvious and say what we’ve seen already.

It’s the interactive and multi-screen part, especially the construction of the TV footage which has yet to be started.  Nimal has got the CD from Jack but doesn’t know how to integrate it.  He says it doesn’t fit, but I think we need to see how it might.

 Otherwise, I’ve really got to get going on writing something about the process and product, and making this fully research friendly.


Coral Houtman © 2012-2024