Here’s the film I’ve been making over the last two weeks. I stayed up ’till 7 am last night to subtitle it in English and encode it back to mp4 – I tell you, navigating the jungle of video encoding programs is not for the faint of heart. The film is 8 minutes, and I’m moderately happy with it.
Click here to download it as an .mpg file in a .rar archive (edit: The sound was out of sync on the .mp4 – this is 20 megs bigger, but the sound fits). I tried to make it stream from the page as well, but the audio was out of sync, so until I find a better solution (possibly YouTube), you’ll have to download it if you want to see it.
Read my comments after the jump, but not before you’ve seen the film, lest I ruin it for you.
I think some self-criticism would be appropriate here. The part I focus on the most is the script, because my group was generous enough to let me write it. Now that the film is done, it’s clear that I made a few mistakes. First of all, the beginning is a little dull. It was meant to be about a minute until Peter found the corpse, but it was supposed to be a minute of character portrayal, where we would get a glimpse of Peter’s environment and his personality. Unfortunately that requires a couple of things, like good set design, well-planned photography, and really good acting. What we had was somebody’s apartment generously lent to us and equipped with a few select props (men’s magazines, a withered house plant, a knife block), three media students with a year of AV studies but no practical experience to their name, and amateur actors.
Secondly, the film has way too much dialogue. It’s practically a kammerspiel, taking place almost entirely within a single room and being driven completely by its dialogue for about 5 whole minutes. The beginning at least theoretically succeeds in showing rather than telling and the ending I feel succeeds in what we set out to do, but the large middle part is nothing but dialogue. And… I’m ashamed to admit that the dialogue isn’t very good. I mean it does the trick, it conveys the information we need it to convey, but it sounds like it’s taken straight from a soap opera. Especially “it’s Brian’s baby” would be completely at home in Days of our Lives.
Annoyingly, I’m not sure how much of that is my fault and how much can be blamed on the actors. In general I don’t want to blame the actors at all, they’re amateurs, they did this in their weekend for free, and we’re deeply grateful for their help – but they are amateurs. I think part of the problem is I didn’t consider that I was writing dialogue for amateurs to act, I just assumed I’d have some good actors, and I wrote dialogue that was pretty hard to remember and speak naturally. I’ve uploaded the script , so any of you who speaks Danish can see how much of it was changed on the set – nary a single line remains intact. The dialogue that ended up in the film is much more casual than what I wrote, but it’s also less structured, less precise, and contains more repetition.
Technically, we did all right. We should’ve filmed more close-ups and we should’ve experimented more with the camera, but I think the film itself looks surprisingly good considering we didn’t set up any lights at all apart from what was on the set. There’s some genuinely good stuff in there, like the camera angle and movement in the shot where Solveig comes up the stairs, or the disconcerting camera work in the scene where Peter picks the knife up from the floor at the end. We also managed to experiment ever so slightly with the difference between a wide-angle lens (that we used in most of the film) and a regular 35-55mm lens that we used in the shot/reverse between Solveig and Brian in the hallway and in the outdoor scenes. I just wish there were more of those experiments.
The real experiments took place in the editing room, and although I think we largely succeeded in cutting the film like we’d intended and creating the subjective effects that we wanted, it’s pretty obviously an amateur film – it’s disappointingly conventionally filmed and cut and has a few really bad cuts, like the cut between Peter finding the corpse and the shot where he gets up from the floor and goes to open the door (I tried to salvage it with a dissolve, but it still looks terrible) or the cut between the two shots of Brian and Peter entering the living room (where Peter is suddenly looking in a different direction).
Still, it was a lot of fun to work on, and I think we succeeded on one count: The ending is exactly as powerful as we intended. Groupwise, we wanted to experiment with interesting camera work and subjective effects, which I think turned out well, and personally it was an experiment of writing the music into the actual script – if you do read the script, you’ll note the soundtrack actually appears in there and is even explicitly timed to the action. I’m really happy it turned out well, because I’m under the impression it’s a pretty unorthodox way to treat your music.
In closing, I have to say that although I feel the script is my baby (slightly handicapped and unintelligent baby though it may be), the film itself is definitely a group effort. It’s been great fun working with Carina and Anne, and I’m quite shocked with how much we all agreed throughout the production.