These Beyond Empathy blog posts document my internship with the not-for-profit organisation Beyond Empathy (BE). BE works in the community: making art and fighting social disadvantage. You can see the first post of this blog series here.
Thursday – Blue Rose
In my last post I presented the discussion between Beyond Empathy and the Merrigong Theater Company technical department. The topic of the discussion: the requirements for the film installation for the Blue Rose Project. These large scale sensory installations will be hosted by the IPAC and will run for two days in October.
This week footage to be used for the Blue Rose project will begin to be edited specifically for the event. The footage will need post-effects applied to create a ‘visual experience’ for the show, some of it may be slowed down, or have effects such as grainy textures and colour filters. The aim is to emulate experiences of people who do not use verbal language as their main way to communicate. Looking through the footage for dynamic, expressive shots. Before being featured the footage will be edited with Philip Crawford and Gemma Parsons (BE mentors) and importantly will need approval from the carers of people featured. This addresses main concerns in my previous blog post. Final exported video that will be used for the event is due seven weeks before the event itself.
A BE short film of Reece Ramstadius a person with an intellectual disability. This short is 10 minutes in length, it is an example of how to manage time wisely to develop ideas and relationships with characters. The film shows interviews inter-cut with overlay footage.
For the second day of my internship I operated camera to film a scene for “Protection”, a collaborative film made up of several stories of children under 12 and their families who have experience recurring hardship. The video for this feature film will be animated to look like hand made lead and coloured pencil sketches, and water colour paintings. The creation of “Protection” will be shown over the four years it is being made, as short films, educational material, gallery type installation works, until the final cumulative feature length film.
Protection is a good chance for an exploration into what younger people, under the age of 12 might be going through. Issues that effect them in school, at home, in their social lives. Some of the kids in the Protection film grew up in the same areas where the stars of Rites of Passage were from and it has been nearly four years since the release we need their perspective. For ‘Rites of Passage’ Beyond Empathy aligned themselves with a marketing strategists and Pozible representatives to find a market for the film and to raise funds for the film’s post-production budget. Towards the end of this partnership the connection of this project to education surfaced. The Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM, responsible for distributing educational media material) acquired ‘Rites of Passage’ on their database, the message of ‘Rites of Passage’ was apparent and could be effective in a structured film cinema setting, it was also a film that could be stopped and started in a classroom setting. Protection could be structured from the start of production as educational material, though still retaining the raw energy demonstrated in Rites of Passage.
The method used by BE, an organised yet somewhat guerrilla style, using cost effective equipment. decisions made by Phil such as, opting not to use a tripod for the majority of the filming on scenes I operated camera, were backed up by the scene needing to be time effective due to the generally short attention span of the kids we are filming. Not using a tripod can also be seen as a stylistic choice as the ‘shaky cam’ gives a close truthful look. This can provide a gritty sense of dynamic reality. This ‘truthful cinema’ look often risks making the film seem like a documentary, suggesting the actors are unprepared or unrehearsed for the filming. This is why experience is the key to using this method.
I was picked up by Louisa Raft (mother of Ruby, both feature in Protection) and we drove to Surfrider Caravan Park in Barrack Point to film the first scene, ‘Birthday Story’. Once on set the crew have to unpack the camera and sound equipment quickly as filming had to be made to work alongside the attention span of the young people in them. It is easy to underestimate how long even a short scene can take to film. There is a trade off – being time-effective can mean not sticking to the script – getting the actors to remember lines and even where they stand in front of the camera can be tough. However, this can be adjusted. If the actor captures essentially what the character means to say at that point in the story sometimes that’s all you will need, just getting on film a certain look can be an even more emotive push for the story. TIP: If an actor does a few star-jumps before a take, that exhaustion can translate to any number of feelings on camera.
The next scene I filmed today was for the story-line,’Spelling Bee'(captured below), the camera is mounted on a tripod. This is because a long lens, or ‘zoom lens’, is being used. To use a zoom lens without a tripod would make the shot very difficult to hold still. You’re gonna have a bad time.
This scene in the ‘Spelling Bee’ story-line is set at a busy time of day, primary school lunchtime/recess, but there were no extra kids there. By the time we got there and the shoot was set up, school was out. In order to maintain the illusion of a busy lunchtime, the zoom lens is chosen and the camera composed with the principle characters tight in the frame whilst bringing the background closer to the front, making the shot appear more full. This brings the three other girls sitting on the steps in the back of the of the frame (other girls not pictured, but the steps are) closer, in the shot the main characters talk about them. On a more organised film set this could have been shot more professionally, you would use extras to fill up the frame, the lens would also be wide-angled, it might establish more about the school.