Digital filmmaking class weblog 2011--Day 4: the doll auditions
"It begins with alertness to visual possibilities. Artists and photographers generally agree that their visual memory improves when practicing their crafts. This ability to remember the past is an aid to envisioning in the present. After alertness comes exploration. The first line in the panel of a storyboard should be made with a sense of freedom. There is no such thing as a mistake in visualization, only alternative ideas. And exploration ultimately leads to discovery." ---Steve Katz
Today, it rained, limiting our ability to go to a nearby lake for the shoot of "The Egg" this morning, so I showed off some sample storyboards from Steve Katz's Film Directing Shot by Shot on the Elmo.
We then turned to the pitches. Each group sat across from the rest of the class and tried to convey its narratives quickly. Each group tended to have over-ambitious storylines that involve death and insanity (an accurate portrait of modern-day America). Los Jefes's pitch turned our school into an insane asylum with the use of Photoshop. It also ended with a scene where an imaginary friend kills a young man inside of an abandoned caboose. Our delusional heroine(?) emerges from the window of the train car with her hands covered with blood and walks off with her arm over the imaginary friend's shoulders. Bad Horse Productions shared their Black Swan-esque demented doll idea. I recommended that they ultimately hold some doll auditions and film them for the director's cut DVD. Afterglow Pictures insists upon fashioning a film involving a cocaine dealer, a stabbing, a gunfight, and, incongruously, a young femme fatale who manipulates the smitten hero into trying to obtaining alcohol for her, no doubt all before breakfast.
Then, we wrote and storyboarded. I was struck by the sense of languor amongst some of the students. One director thought it would be best to not include dialogue.
"Not include dialogue?" I asked.
"How will your characters communicate?"
"By using gestures."
"I think that you should use dialogue."
In the scene, a real estate broker sells a house to a brother and a sister, so he says "Please pay the mortgage every second Thursday." Then he walks away, looking aghast and happy, no doubt due to having successfully avoided the spooky doll up the attic.
I asked, "Do the brother and sister say anything back to the broker?" The students in the group looked at me. "How about `Thanks!'"
Now the two characters stand in their new house, mute. What would they say? It occurred to me that writing semi-realistic efficient dialogue may be one of the toughest things to ask for in this class. Their resulting scenes so often end up being too brief, dry, and formulaic. How do people actually talk?
They eventually worked out this beginning interchange:
Sister: "Will you go get the boxes out of the truck?"
Brother: (sarcastic) "Will you go get the boxes out of the truck?"
She slaps him.
He gets the boxes.
By the afternoon, Afterglow Productions returned from their boating expedition. (the weather did clear up in the afternoon). They showed me a serene scene involving God (wearing tweed) gently guiding the disciple into the boat, whereupon she slowly drifts away toward the woods. It looked much more gentle than the stabbing of a cocaine addict.
Tomorrow, we will watch the opening credits of Vertigo (because some of the students were filming something similar today) and the pool/hotel extended montage in The Graduate in the hopes of trying to solve the basic question: how do I get my character from the car to the bedroom of an insane asylum quickly?