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Thoughts on composition & framing in my short film (4 replies and 8 comments)

vigneshneel
3 months ago
vigneshneel 3 months ago

Hi Roger and forum posters!

I just completed my directorial debut short film as a proof of concept for a feature screenplay I'm trying to get made and wanted your thoughts on how it was shot and considerations heading into future projects.

For inspiration, my DP and I looked to classical compositions from 1930s and 40s Hollywood films, frequently employing a moving master with cutaways and utilizing depth to keep character staging fresh and interesting. Standard shot/reverse shots were reserved for confrontational moments where characters are at odds with each other. And of course black & white photography was employed to give the film a nostalgic "silvery" feel as a throwback to the films it was inspired by (the screwball comedies of Hawks, Sturges, and Lubitsch).

Overall I'm pleased with the end product but recognize there is room for improvement (budgetary constraints aside). When working with comedies of this nature (e.g. Lebowski), what do you find important to highlight/prioritize? Are there any special considerations you have when shooting in black & white? Appreciate any thoughts, even if you only have a minute or two to watch!

Link: https://vimeo.com/350248672»»

pw: pt2019

jthomsg
3 months ago
jthomsg 3 months ago

Not Roger, obviously. I saw the whole thing, my first impression is that the story is bereft of drama, it’s 15 minutes long, and when you finally get to the point, we discover the lead character wants to con an ex-friend and rival. It took you very LONG to get to the point, and when we finally get there, the payoff was confusing and somewhat lackluster.

since you mention, Sturges. Take for instance the opening sequence of “The lady Eve”. Henry Fonda plays an awkward scientist who is the heir of a wealthy family. The drama stems from the Barbara Stanwyck character, who must find a way to seduce him, and ultimately marry him for his money. And we see the process of that happening, as she competes with other women to grab his attention. These plot elements are concise and the audience can follow through. 

So, remember to have structure in mind, especially in a short film, where seconds matter! 

Mike
3 months ago

Well said, Sir! Ditto that.

vigneshneel
3 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to watch the film! Obviously disappointed that you didn't enjoy it but extremely appreciative of your feedback. I can definitely see how the exposition can feel prolonged (~6:30 mins long). This was done intentionally as my hope was that the audience would be interested in the relationship between these two characters while at the same time receive key backstory tidbits (sort of like the beginning verbal tennis match scene between Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in His Girl Friday). I guess it just didn't work on that level and came across as meandering. Thanks again for taking a look, I'll try better on the next one!

The Byre
3 months ago

Too many words. Only one visual gag. No special reason for being in B&W.

Try pushing the story without words. Imagine you are watching the movie with the center speaker switched off - i.e. no dialogue, just Foleys, grams and the score. Can you still more or less follow the story?

If the answer is no, then the chances are, that you have written a radio play.

Sorry to be yet another negative voice. The basic concept may have legs, but a 'screwball comedy' has to be loaded with visual situation gags that are both a part of the logic of the story and help to describe and define the characters.

And 'screwball comedies' are in colour!

vigneshneel
3 months ago

Thanks for taking a look! Of course there have been a few screwballs since the 30s and 40s (What's up Doc?, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Birdcage, etc.) but the sub-genre as a whole has pretty much died out since then.

Agree that the film could've been more visual with its gags. I don't think screwballs are purely visual (Hawks's comedies are actually quite verbal), but more could have definitely been done to keep the story interesting. Will do better on the next one.

Thanks again for watching, hope to impress you with the next one!

Mike
3 months ago
Mike 3 months ago

I have watched this short 3 times and thought that it was rather good imo. The acting was very good, the script was sort of funny and had its moments. There were some “glitches” concerning continuity which produced a ‘hyatus’ between shots, this can be cured when rehearsing, makes sure you have more than enough shots of a scene, by that I mean overrun the shots by repeating the scene over and over and changing camera positions each time so the editor has enough footage to cut to the next shot. It must be a smooth interlaced cut. When you do this you must keep the energy going between each scene otherwise the audience will lose concentration and switch off. The second problem I have is the recording of the dialogue, it sounds like 20 dB has been knocked off to solve the problem of passing traffic, now you could have solved this by recording a  ‘Room tone’ track to lay down behind the dialogue, also you may have been using radio mics together with a boom mic again to reduce the traffic noise, the levelling was unbalanced. This is common with many Indian film shorts, perhaps there is some influence here.

This short was well rehearsed, well written imo but one of the actors was not convinced about his characters role and probably over played it in some scenes but the bearded actor was exceptionally good in most scenes, obviously he was a Jack Nicholson fan! The Champagne cork popping scene was not necessary in this short and some female viewers may have found it offensive, it could have been done less obviously and let the audience decide for themselves. It did not enhance the story. Camera work, I thought was very good but there were too many ‘push in’s’ and some were not really needed. 

This was a well thought out and certainly well rehearsed short film. Props too were very good and the camera was always there to highlight their use. There were a a couple of camera angles which needed fine tuning but overall a really good short film with a superb ‘punchy’ ending. Btw, lovely music track too.

This is only my opinion but I did enjoy watching it.

 

 

vigneshneel
3 months ago

Oh wow, really appreciate you taking a few looks and providing your feedback! I think you're right on a few things. We didn't have any formal rehearsals beforehand and time was pretty tight on set so there were naturally some issues with fluidity between shots. We did the best we could patching it up together in the edit, more time for future projects will certainly help fix this.

I'll look deeper into the sound mixing, this is probably fixable as we did capture a room tone to remedy such issues in post. Your intuition is right, we filmed very close to a highway so sound disruptions were constant and a nightmare to deal with on set. Doing extensive research into the location you're filming in is very important I've learned!

Thank you for watching, hope to create more for you to enjoy!

jthomsg
3 months ago
jthomsg 3 months ago

I agree. At this point, it’s useless to be too critical of your work. It’s only your first short film, and you really learn by doing. 

I remember when I wanted to make films, I was overly critical of them, so much that I decided to not do anything, because I didn’t have the talent to make anything worthwhile. So, if you like your work, don’t let anyone change your mind. 

vigneshneel
3 months ago

Definitely, I don't think the tone of any of the comments here have been discouraging. I just wanted to expose my film to fresh eyes and see what others think. So far, it's been a pretty useful exercise, I've learned a lot about what a potential audience will think!

DoP Wong
3 months ago
DoP Wong 3 months ago

Hi Vignesh! I've watched your short film and I believe it's one of the better ones I've seen from first-time directors. With that being said, it is not without its flaws.

From a cinematography standpoint, it looked well-polished and well-framed. However, I felt that there was a lack of motivation for the camera movements. I do understand how hard it is to shoot dialogue scenes in interesting ways, but the constant unmotivated camera movements kinda took me out of the story. Moreover, I felt that B&W wasn't necessary for this film although I understand it was inspired by 40s screwball comedies.

From an acting standpoint, the performances were pretty good. However, there are certain moments here and there which felt amateur and forced.

Moving on to the story, which is where I encountered some problems. Even though it's supposed to be a comedy, this short just didn't have enough tension or conflict to sustain its runtime. There wasn't anything urgent for the characters to do or the audience to watch. It just felt slightly devoid of structure. I feel that the beginning could've been cut to the main character talking about conning his ex-partner and we could've explored more of that, setting up the conflict that would follow later.

Which brings me to dialogue, which is not that bad given the entire short is based on it. However, due to the lack of conflict and subtext, it can feel stale after a while, and scenes with characters start to feel like "Hey, listen to me, I have something to say!" I just wished it could've been slightly snappier and more interesting, maybe have characters argue with each other.

In conclusion, this short was pretty entertaining albeit flawed as every first time short film is. If you plan to turn this into a feature, I suggest you take into consideration, the things I've mentioned above. However, I have to say that I am no expert and if you have opposing thoughts, that's fine. You don't have to agree with everything I say, take what's useful, leave what isn't. Overall, this short is a good first attempt and I wish to see more from you in the future. Good luck! 🙂

vigneshneel
3 months ago

Thank you for watching and providing your feedback! It seems to be a recurring criticism that the beginning is prolonged and doesn't have the necessary tension to sustain itself. This is a writing issue and I will work on making sure to cut the bloat out of my next project. I think actually fixing this will trickle down and solve the dialogue, acting, and perhaps even framing issues you listed (after all, everything starts to click when you feel engaged).

Appreciate your time, hope to blow you away with the next one!

Mike
3 months ago

It is very kind and generous of you to individually thank each member who responded to your request and contributed feedback. It acknowledges how serious you are as a film maker, you were the Writer, Producer and Director apparently so that confirms you intend getting involved in all aspects of the process, wearing three hats all at once can get complicated but you have demonstrated it can be accomplished, your short film is evidence of that, so well done to you. Your film was a success imo but every film has technical issues but the secret is not to let the audience aware of any. Love to see your next one.

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