Brief #1 – Short Narrative
When deciding what to do for this brief, I came up with several ideas. My first was to do a stop motion-style, abstract piece that would involve finger puppet characters playing a life-sized piano together, and the other would be an over-dramatic portrayal of a mundane daily activity of some sort.
I settled on the latter, and developed the idea into a sort of parody of the film noir genre of cinema that would involve making a cup of tea in a fast cutting montage style.
I decided on this because it was a simple and straightforward idea that was effective for this brief. I made the decision for the piece to be in back and white and with Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, to add an almost humorous drama to the boring activity taking place.
Epic Tea Time was where I took my biggest influence from for my idea. Which follows along the same lines. Epic Tea Time – With Alan Rickman
My first inspiration was the YouTube series “How To Basic” videos, which depict daily chores in a really over the top, chaotic way. HowToBasic – How To Correctly Add Milk to Your Tea
And my second was the film technique of fast cutting which involves cutting together really short clips into a fast-paced, dynamic montage
Brief#2 – After Effects
Utilizing the skills we learned in class throughout this module, I began by creating a simple logo design on Photoshop and importing it into after effects.
I then applied two separate interchangeable lights to create a hazy, waving animated effect by adjusting and key-framing the parameters. I finished the piece with a simple sound effect to add a bit of depth and atmosphere.
When thinking about what material I could create for this project I spent a while weighing up the pros and cons of each option, including the financial drawbacks and technical ability required for each. It was imperative that I picked a project that was viable in consideration to my time and resource constraints, otherwise the quality of the work would be compromised and lead to a poor outcome, so I was careful to analyse the viability of each of my ideas.
My first idea was to create an animation of some sort set to a background score composed by myself and aimed towards young adults aged fifteen to eighteen. The premise of my idea was to create a dark humorous cartoon sketch featuring a quirky art style and an ambient electronic music score with voice actors.
Positive points about this idea was that it would be different and challenging compared to media projects I’ve done in the past, and it would be interesting to venture into new territory. To pull this idea off I would need to commission animators and voice actors or enlist the help of students to collaborate. Commissioning professionals would potentially be costly, so I had a look and networked with a few animation and art students.
I had a hard time finding someone with the quirky, unusual stylistic qualities I was after, which was one of the reasons I didn’t go with this idea for my final assessment piece. Other aspects that factored towards this decision was that it would be a very time consuming project that would involve a lot of excess work on the part of the artists (creating concept art and finial designs would be a lot of work in itself, let alone creating a 3 minute animated production). Also utilizing voice actors would involve a lot of liaising, studio time and post production with making the audio play, adding sound effects and lip syncing. With all this in mind, this idea was simply not suitable given the technical requirements in comparison to my time constraints.
My second idea was to film and edit a promotional video for a club event. Set to a 80s synth-pop / gothic electronic sound track, this idea would feature cinematic footage of a local monthly goth/alternative club night held in Swansea. I thought this would be a good choice because of the bold, striking looks associated with people in alternative sub-cultures, as attendees usually dress up in very interesting and eye-catching costumes that I know would add great aesthetic appeal to my promo. The event also regularly features fire dancers and burlesque/circus artists which could provide some very dynamic and interesting footage that would make viewers intrigued by this event.
This idea came with some risks though, as it would mean having a limited time of only a few hours to create my footage, with no opportunity for re-shoots if needed due to the monthly nature of this event. Also filming in a nightclub would mean having to shoot in very poor light conditions with no way of controlling this factor, as it is a public event. If I didn’t capture enough interesting/well lit footage then I wouldn’t be able to go back to try again so would only have one chance to get everything right, so for this reason I didn’t proceed with it.
My third and final idea was to create a simple music video for a previously existing track from my personal music project. For this idea I wanted to create an atmospherically dark piece with gritty and unnerving visuals revolving around a female character in various self destructive and dangerous situations, with an emphasis on the concept of suffering to create art. I chose to proceed with this idea, as it was the most viable in terms of technical requirements and it was the one that excited me the most.
Inspiration & Research:
Primarily independent cinema and short films, but I also looked into the concept of media as a whole through magazines etc. It was important to me to do plenty of research so I could find ideas and themes to reference later on.
One example of a big influence was a scene from British independent movie Franklyn Emilia from Franklyn in which a female character attempts suicide by taking an overdose on camera as part of an art project. The idea of suffering or even dying in the name of creating art was very interesting and unsettling to me so I decided I would like to somehow reference this in my piece, which later became the main theme in my videos’ narrative.
Another big influence was the movie Requiem For A Dream which depicts four desperate drug addicts experiencing delusions as they struggle to achieve their dreams and ambitions. For example the character Sara is a lonely housewife who dreams of being on TV and maintaining her youth, and in the process of striving for perfection she becomes addicted to prescription drugs to the point of developing psychosis and ends up institutionalised where she lays in bed all day having hallucinations of herself as a television star. I found this to be a really strong metaphor for societies fixation on vanity and glamour, and the consequences of fixating on the unrealistic world that the media feeds to us. Requiem for a Dream
The title of my song -“Hypodermic Model”- is a reference to the “hypodermic needle model” theory which is used in regards to media. The concept of this term is that the media “injects” ideas into our heads, and we as an audience passively accept these ideas as truth and are immediately influenced by them. It means that as a society we do not seek subtext and take on ideas at face value without critically analysing them.
With this in mind I wanted to create a piece that was a visceral and vividly realistic account of the unsettling nature of living in a consumerist society that is controlled by the media and an economy that is fuelled by making people insecure and unhappy to sell materialistic goods. To use media to illustrate how media can be damaging.
I did more research by looking at newspapers and women’s magazines. I came across a lot of bizarre and contradictory content; things like weight loss plans that involve pill diets right next to advertisements for fast food or advice on creating “effortless, natural beauty” looks that recommend spending hundreds of pounds on fancy designer make up. The beauty industry utilises media in a powerful way to instil feelings of inadequacy into the public in order to make people feel like in order to be beautiful they need to buy whatever product it is that they are selling.
Other factors I came across during this research period were the media’s fixation on celebrities suffering. Examples like Brittany Spears’ nervous breakdown in 2007 that resulted in humorous news headlines like “Brittany Shears” after she shaved her head, or the legacy of Amy Winehouse that meant despite her being a very talented musician the world was more fascinated by her alcoholism and drug abuse. The tabloids loved to utilise Winehouse’s deteriorating condition for humour, and issues like her going into rehabilitation were written about in a lighthearted, funny way instead of being considered serious.
The way society obsesses and entertains itself over the flaws of desperately unwell celebrities like Spears and Winehouse only highlights the sick nature of the media as a whole. As mentioned in the Hypodermic Needle theory, the audience of these “scandals” enjoy witnessing celebrities break down but fail to identify the realism behind these human beings going through difficult times. This is the key point I aimed to use as the message for my piece.
After exploring all the relevant themes and doing plenty of research, I felt I had enough inspiration to start thinking about specifics in terms of exactly what I wanted to film and what the final product would look like. I made sure to carefully plan my ideas out beforehand to ensure I’d be happy with the footage captured and wouldn’t need to re-shoot or settle for anything of unsatisfactory quality.
I needed to start with the narrative itself. As mentioned in my initial idea brainstorm, the majority of the piece was planned to depict a female character going through things like self harm, alcoholism and drug use for the sake of creating something she considers artistic. These would be simulated by the actress I enlisted the help of (who was the same person who contributed the female vocals for my track), and I needed to make sure they looked realistic. We shot these scenes using “interview technique” which entails making use of framing and space to give the impression that someone else is in the room. This was to make the focal point of each shot to be on her surroundings and overall environment rather than solely the acts themselves.
The “story” as such will initially show the camera (representing the audiences point of view) entering a viewing room where there is a video projector set up, followed by a montage of footage of the character engaging in various forms of self abuse before burning her house down in a suicide attempt (these will be played in reverse order, beginning with the end). The piece will end with a zoom-out from the projector and revealing the woman is in fact alive and documented all of these antics as part of an art project.
For the structure, I came up with the idea of having a linear storyline but where scenes are played in an impressionistic, almost muddled up order, with some footage played backwards. This hazy and vague style would allow me to create a cinematic experience for viewers, despite it being paced like a music video. The track I used for my soundtrack runs at 80 BPM, and so I needed the pace of the video to match. I added motion blurring to some of my footage to create an illusion of slowness and almost dragging, to match the slow pace of the song and I also pulled focus in and out of certain shots to create a hazy uncomfortable atmosphere were the viewer cannot tell exactly what is happening.
In terms of camera and editing techniques I planned to use a lot of speed variation; slowing down and speeding up certain footage to create a hazy or manic effect where needed to give a sense of unnatural motion. I also filmed a lot of shots from a low angle in order to cast high shadows and give an overbearing feeling of oppression for the female character.
I planned each scene and shot around the lyrics to my song, so piece by piece I had an idea in mind for every section. Whilst most of the scenes themselves are not literal or a direct illustration of the lyrics (which I did intentionally to avoid it coming across as contrived), a few I really wanted to include. I used the lyrics as a kind of storyboard to set the pace and flow of the video and framed each shot around each line to keep them in time with each other and to ensure the overall point I set out to make is understood.
I wanted a dark colour palette with very little use of bright colours besides the bright red that appears a few times throughout the video, which I exaggerated during colour correcting so it stood out more. I did this intentionally because the colour red is considered in media to represent anger, danger or passion, so I thought it would be an interesting bit of symbolism to have some of the backgrounds to be red as well as all of the blood, fire and the actresses hair. The contrast of the darkness against all the red makes a very interesting juxtaposition.
I set out at the beginning to achieve a music video that would act as a social commentary on the damaging nature of media and the effect obsessing over it has on the public. I also wanted to explore the subjective nature of artistic expression and the meaning we place upon it.
It was important that the video had a bold aesthetic appeal and stylised look which I think I achieved to an extent, but if I could do this project again I would have filmed in better lighting conditions so that I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time colour correcting. Through having to boost a lot of colour, I compromised the quality of my footage so this is something I will be careful with in future projects.
I also found as I filmed in HD, the the file size by the end was very large, so due to time restrains I made a second converted and compressed version of the file. This allowed me to upload and share to websites and people a lot easier and faster, although this version was lower in quality and pixilated in some areas, If I were to work with HD again I would give myself plenty of time to be able to upload such a large file. This made me realize just how many technical aspects you have to take into consideration when filming a music video and next time I would manage my time wisely.
I am happy with how the pace of the video turned out. Utilizing effects like focus pulls, motion blur and reversing footage really created a distinctive atmosphere of haziness and discomfort and helped fit the footage to the slow pace of the song. I would have preferred to have had more shooting time to explore different angles and shots, but I am overall happy with how the pacing and structure turned out.
The research I gathered really helped to solidify my ideas and fine tune the points I wanted to make. Having a broad range of influences made it easier to come up with a cohesive message and helped me to understand what makes a successful media project that has an emotional effect on the viewer. Looking at magazines and such gave me an interesting insight into the effect media has on the public and the way it encourages them to think and behave. For example, the depersonalization of celebrities and the way we are encouraged to be entertained by their shortcomings whilst separating this from the real human being who is experiencing pain.
Putting all of my research into my final idea proved a to be a very effective method of giving my project an emotional appeal as a piece of social commentary. Making use of symbolism and subtext allowed me to embed a message into my piece to appeal to the part of my target audience who enjoy independent/artistic cinema, and also remain simple enough for casual experimental music fans to take what they want and apply their own message.
Something I learned from my research was that the protagonist to any piece of media needs to be believable and realistic in order to be empathised with so my concious decision to make my main character a stereotypical “punk” created a sense of realism that I believe my target audience would appreciate and relate to. I also utilized relatability successfully in my use of brand placement – such as the bottle of Jack Daniels’ whisky the main character is seen drinking, which is a household name and is easily identifiable.
Before releasing my music video online to the public as per my marketing plan, I did a “test screening” on some close friends. The feedback was generally positive, with most of the critique being in regards to the graphic re-enactments and dark subject matter. As these were focal points in my piece and crucial to the narrative I was adamant that I did not want to remove them, and the fact that it made some people uncomfortable means the mood and atmosphere I wanted to create was also successful. When I released the final product to the public the feedback was the same.
Overall I am very happy with my project as a whole. I believe I achieved everything I set out to do for the most part and I was well prepared with a well thought-out plan by the time the production stage came about. My use of camera and editing technique was effective in creating a look and mood that was well suited to my narrative, although I would experiment even more were I to do this again. My use of lighting and sets could have been better but I still feel my use of colouring and symbolism made up for this. I achieved a nice balance of the use of subtle visual effects, that didn’t draw any attention away from my narrative. Throughout the process I did try out several transitions and numerous effects within different areas of my project, but I felt was too distracting, so I kept with the subtlest of effects.