Documentary Filmaking and Ethics


Articles on French Cinema

Pulver, A. (2011) A Short History of French Cinema. [Online] The Guardian. March 22nd. Availabe from: [Last Accessed: 10/01/2017]

Renee, V. (2014) Infographic: Your Guide to the History of French Cinema. [Online] No Film School. Available from: [Last Accessed: 10/01/2017]

Failing with the Kinect and replacement Project

After having spent several weeks attempting to work with the Kinect, no progress has been made, with no back up plan in sight. The intended purpose of it, was to act as a trigger for a user to refresh the random comics page. While this idea was intriguing, the fact that I was having so much difficulty with getting it to work, did put doubts in my mind as to completing the project.

With this in mind, I have had to redesign the initial random page, to include its own button to act as a trigger. The new button needed to match the theme of the project. As a final resort, it was redesigned to resemble a word balloon, with the words ‘begin again’. While the Kinect would have been an incredibly interesting edition to the project, its implementation was just not possible with my current skill set, and determination. I feel that, even with more time, I would probably not have been able to implement it successfully. While it was an interesting notion, It did not feel like a good use for the Kinect, and came off as slightly arbitrary. I think if I had have got it working, it would have just been to show off that I could get it to work, rather than adding to the projects own style and core.

In place of the second project, I experimented with randomisation using Flash instead of HTML, only instead of using comic book images, I used quotes from papers and books that I had used through-out the course so far. While each of the articles talks about how we use media, and interacting with them, they all come at it from a different angle, with a different core subject. Stringing them together, in a random fashion, they still appear to make some sense, much in the same way as the images for the random comic do. Much in the same way as film editing, and the gutter between panels, our brains fill in the spaces and attempt to make sense of what is provided for us.

How My Practice Has Developed

Over the course of these projects, I have learned how my ideas develop, far more then improving the development process. The short turn around for each project meant that I had to make decisions rather quickly, and decide whether or not the idea is feasible or manageable in the time allotted. In situations where the original plan showed signs that it could not be achieved by the half way point, I then had to learn how to quickly adapt the idea to fit both the assigned subject and skill set I have at my disposal. Over the weeks, I did find that I can be overly ambitious when it comes to what can be done, and I have been left in situations where the work could not be completed, due to a steeper learning curve than I had expected. Towards the end of the projects, this did subtly correct itself, until it came to the final projects. I feel that when it does come to developing ideas, I should give myself far longer to learn new skills if they are required. In the case of using the Kinect, this may be a lost course.

New things I have Learnt

Through these weekly projects, I found myself researching topics and situations I had not seriously considered. While not a field I think I will enter, I found the subjects of 3D printing and the interactive elements used for performance to be heavily engaging. The prospect of a physical object, created and designed completely by digital means brings to mind classic science fiction movies and television series. Works of fiction that were created with the intent of such devices, such as Star Trek’s replicators, someday existing. However, their creation was predicted to happen much later than now, some time in the 22nd or 23rd century. The advances being made recently, with experiments going beyond printing with just plastic, advances in printing with human tissue for medical purposes, and edible materials for custom food, have created a reality far closer to science fiction, much earlier than speculated.

Advances with integrating interactive elements, such as lighting and sound, into a live performance, are yielding some very promising and engaging results. The Royal Shakespeare Companies recent production of The Tempest has bucked their usual trend, and integrated interactive animations, CG motion capture, and live action actors to bring to life the creatures depicted in Shakespeare’s notorious play. These integrations give the theatre a move cinematic approach, something that can draw in those less likely to see standard Shakespeare on the stage, creating a wider audience.

Inspiration and Influences

When it comes to random image generation, I think a lot about both comics and films.  The idea of placing images in sequence, regardless of their meaning, conjures to mind an explanation given by Alfred Hitchcock on the purpose of editing, when discussing the making of Psycho (1960). He uses an example of a man staring straight forward with a blank expression, followed by a shot of the same man smiling. By inserting an imagine in between, you create an association between the two images of the man, giving him a reason for his smile. However, the image used creates a meaning in your mind behind the smile. The examples he uses are one of a woman playing with a child, giving the man’s smile a kindly appearance, while the second is of a topless woman sunbathing, with the man’s smile giving off a more lecherous appearance.

The sequence of images may, in reality, have no connection to each other, but by placing them in sequence, our minds create meaning. Scott McCloud draws attention to this as well while talking about comic panels. “In film, closure takes place continuously – twenty four times per second, in fact – as our minds, aided by the persistence of vision, transform a series of still pictures into a story of continuous motion. A medium requiring even more closure is television, which, in realist is just a single point of light, racing across the screen so fast that it’s described my face hundreds of times before you can even swallow that corn chip! Between such automatic electronic closure and the simpler closure of everyday life – there lies a medium of communication and expression which uses closure like no other, a medium where the audience is a willing and conscious collaborator and closure is the agent of change, time and motion.” [McCloud.1993:65] “Nothing is see between the two panels, but experience tells you something must be there! Comic panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged staccato rhythm of unconnected moments. But closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality.” [McCloud.1993:67].

  • Psycho (1960) Film. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. [Blu-ray] US: Universal Pictures.
  • The Making of Psycho. (1997) Documentary. Directed by Laurent Bouzereau. [Blu-ray] US: Universal Pictures.
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper Collins: New York.
  • Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2004) Film Art: An Introduction. McGraw Hill: New York.

Passengers (2016)

passengers-367242067-largeIt’s becoming rare these days to find block buster science fiction films that focus more on the characters and setting, than just an all-out battle of world ending proportions. Preferring to focus on deadly alien invasions set to wipe out the planet, ala Independence Day: Resurgence, Edge of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim,  intergalactic war, such as Rouge One: A Star Wars Story and Star Trek Beyond,  or our own technology turning against us in ways we couldn’t possibly have planned for (I’m just saying, a contingency plan would be nice), also known as Terminator Genesys. We seem to have an innate fascination with our future being a dark and an almost dystopian wasteland, brought about by our own stupidity. Films that focus on humanity thriving are surprisingly hard to come by in the 21st century, especially ones with big name actors, set to make millions at the box office. In a world where Superhero movies rule the box office, and film makers are focusing their films to work on an international level, particularly the Chinese market, character driven sci-fi is a welcome breath of fresh air.

The focal point of Passengers is the characters themselves, and a single moral choice. The Star ship Avalon, carrying over 5,000 passengers in cryosleep, suffers a malfunction during its 120 year journey to the newly colonised planet of Homestead II. While the ship remains on course, a single passenger is awoken 90 years early with no hope of re-entering cryostasis. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) has to come to terms with the lonely existence he finds himself with, and choses to make the most of his situation, but when he falls in love with Aurora (Jenifer Laurence), a woman still in cryosleep, he is faced with an irreversible moral choice. Does he remain alone, and let her sleep, or wake her up, and doom her to the same fate as his? The moral question at the centre, is one that the viewer will no doubt have an opinion on, and will affect how you see the film as a whole.

The chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is well founded, with both actors playing off each other well, but their actual relationship in the film raises a question. Do they actually love each other or are they only together because they are the only two people. They both frequently state that they would probably have never met under regular circumstances, with both their career and social standing being diametric opposites.

The manner to which both characters initially deal with the situation you find yourself in, is quite powerful, dealing with the realisation that the life they knew, and the one they had planned was over, the desperation to fix the problem at hand, and how they come to terms with it, are all handled well, showing a somewhat different response from both characters. How differently the situation effects both characters.

The android bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen), provides a wonderful, almost deadpan at times, counterpoint to both Jim and Aurora, as someone who is serving his purpose while doomed to the same fate as them, he is unable to leave the ship, and has no destination to arrive at. When discussing death with Jim, he points out that androids are doomed to die as well, they cannot run forever, just as humans do.

Visually, the film is stunning, the design of the ship, while reminiscent of some earlier designs (the somewhat cylindrical shape does bring to mind evolutions of 2001), is easily recognisable, giving the film an iconic image for viewers to latch on to. The general layout of the ships decks and halls, brought to mind films such as WALL.E. and specifically Moon, a film that Passengers seems to take a large amount of inspiration from story wise, particularly when dealing with the topic of isolation and loneliness in space.

How the film sits with you in the end, does very much depend on your views regarding the moral question. Your answer to the question, will colour how you see the character of Jim, even if only marginally. The weight of his choice is the films driving force, even beyond the films destructive climax. Aurora’s character is even somewhat named for the situation Jim finds himself in, Aurora, the princess of Sleeping Beauty. A welcome break from the popular science fiction films of late, but the films enjoyment as a whole is heavily subjective, providing possibly hours of discussion with other viewers just on the films question. However, the films third act feels almost tact on, as though the studio worried that a film focusing solely on a moral choice, was not enough to bring in the general public. Needing a climactic life or death situation to bring the film to a close. I feel that, while the film was far less successful at the box office, the director and writer should have taken a cue from films such as Moon and Gattaca. Providing us with a conclusion based on the characters as a whole, rather than just a Hollywood, disaster driven finale.

Further Recommendation: Moon (2009)