Montage of Beautiful Things. Process and Development

A hanging from Mick Le Mare on Vimeo.

Time. Time is such an open brief. I wanted to do something different to the work I had previously been doing which was a little more experimental. I knew that I wanted to shoot a short naturalistic film with a voiceover from a novel or a poem so I began to research.

The process of research was fun because I began to think about books or poems I had read and famous monologues I knew of. I also spoke to my family about text that said something to them about the passing of time and before long one began to stand out that I had read years ago and they were all fond of. Here is a link to George Orwell’s ‘A Hanging’ – it is only short and a beautiful read.

A Hanging

The thing that stood out to me when thinking about time was that this was a perfect illustration of it’s passing. Is there any other occasion when one is as acutely aware of time and it’s passage than the moments before a certain death. My absolute favourite section from the story is when the prisoner is described passing a puddle:

When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive.

The subtlety with which the point is put across that one remains totally human until they are no longer is so moving and this lends itself fantastically to powerful voiceover.

Now of course whilst this story is short it is vitally important that short videos such as the one I intended do not go on too long so I had to choose my section. I decided that around three minutes was the optimum length to retain interest in the monologue. My intention from the start was to shoot the piece as one long take. I had recently been watching some Orson Wells work especially Citizen Kane and I am a huge fan of his long slow one take shots. I am so bored of seeing fast cuts, sharp jerky edits and over complicated transitions that it was important to me to be different in this way.

Here is Orson Wells’ opening to a Touch of Evil where you can see the amazingly powerful use of a single shot.

Luckily my brother is training to be an actor so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind being my actor which he did not. I recorded his voice over prior to shooting the piece because I wanted him to be able to listen to it as he acted, because he will be saying this to himself internally it is important that he can hear exactly what he is supposed to be thinking. Once that was recorded and exported I set my scene. There are mentions of cigerettes in Orwell’s piece so I wanted there him to be smoking as he contemplated and this would also give further visual interest during the film. I always intended for the final cut to be in black and white so it was vitally important that I had my lighting right as I didn’t want to lose detail on his face. I am very pleased with the eventual lighting situation as his eyes, the main focus of the final minute or so of the shot, are highlighted beautifully.

If I was to shoot again I would almost certainly change the light that I used, it looked a little modern, but other than that I am happy with the set. It was simple and effective for this.

I shot A Hanging on a JVC700 which at the time I was fairly inexperienced in using but having spent a day getting to grips with it I was fairly comfortable to use most of its basic features to create the piece. Each of my takes, of which there were three, worked in different ways. I had three quite different performances from my brother but because of my eagerness to have my edit as one shot it was I had to choose one. The reason I chose the one I did was because I really like the ending with a tear forming in the left eye. The focus begins very soft as the close up of the face occurs but gradually sharpens towards the end and this works rather nicely I feel.

The reason I have written about this piece with regards to my development is because I really feel that from researching it to publishing it I learnt an awful lot. My grasp of using a professional camera was greatly improved, my experimentation with pace and timing proved successful, my skills of direction working with my actor in relation to the camera were honed(this is a skill I am very keen to work on due to my interest in Directing and has since proved helpful working on my short film Over The Hill) and I enjoyed experimenting with close ups and looser shots within one scene.

A couple of pointers for me to improve on would be using a tripod slightly more effectively, there is the occasional jerk which is due to my usage of the tripod and there is also a couple of zooms and focus pulls I am not totally happy with. This however is totally part of the learning curve and I wrote myself notes of what to work on and therefore improve next time I attempt something similar.

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