Producing an Experimental Film in 6 hours

Context: 
Cinematic Techniques – You have been given the opportunity to investigate form, technique and expression of Experimental Cinema/Avant Garde. Critically reflect in a 1000 word blog post and address the following themes in your discussion:
  1. What was the most difficult part about the assignment for you and why? (200 words)
  2. What part of the creative process in Experimental Cinema do you think you have a new appreciation and understanding for? (200 words)
  3. How do you think you can use this new insight you have gain in your own style of filmmaking? (200 words)
  4. Explain some of the creative/artistic choices you made in your project (200 words)
  5. How do you think your group could’ve improved on this project? (200 words)

__________

Q: What was the most difficult part about the assignment for you and why?

The most difficult part about the assignment for me, is to unwoven or to deconstruct my mind that has been set to produce and narrate within the spectrum of conventional storytelling methods that throughout the years I’ve been trained and taught to do. I’m not a big fan of 3 Act structure, but I can respect and understand why it is there, because it has logical/methodical structure that has proven from time to time that is still what the general consensus believe to be the, the best way to tell a story through film or movie.

The reason I brought that up is because, my initial thought was going beyond 3 Act structure and tapping into Trulby’s 22 steps or 5 or 6 or 7 Act structure or even a Greek Tragedy story structure.

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Jodorowsky experiments by combining grotesgue and Christianity imageries in this film – The Holy Mountain (1979)

I was wrong.

What I failed to understand during the briefing few days ago is that, it is basically an exercise of tapping into the rawest concept or form of storytelling, such as:

  • What emotion do you want the audience to feel, when they see your film?
  • Do you want them to feel anything?
  • Do you want them to feel everything?
  • How about  making them feel nothing?
  • Do you even want to make that film for an audience?
  • Why not make that film for yourself?
  • Do you even need structure to tell a story?
  • Can you tell a story without any structure?
  • Can you tell a storyless story?

These are some of the questions that I have to answer before, during and after the production. And to find the answers (or something that is close to it), was the most difficult part of this assignment.

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Late 70s was quite an interesting time for experimental films – Eraserhead (1977)

Q: What part of the creative process in Experimental Cinema do you think you have a new appreciation and understanding for?

It takes an incredible amount of time, effort and skill when you’re trying to make an experimental film with your crew, and you trying your gosh darnest to make them understand what you’re trying to convey in it. Back in 2011, I made an experimental film back in Malaysia called “The Deal”.

The basic premise of this film is basically the personas within a person made a deal to divide the days of their lives in order to stop getting into each other’s way. When I look back at it, I realise that I have spent more time trying to get my team and the actors in it, to understand the whole point of the story.

And they still do not understand what is the whole point of the story.

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It takes more than just obvious signs and symbols to propel your story forward. This imagery isn’t so obvious to everyone when it is in the pre-pre-production phase – The Deal (2011)

I am actually quite lucky to be able to work with an actress (who is also my friend) back in Malaysia that has an amazing ability to understand what I want, in terms of performance. She managed to pull it off, despite having trouble understanding the story.

To explain something succinctly is a skill that I believe all filmmakers need to own in their filmmaking arsenal, especially during the pre-pre-production session. But, it is not an easy skill to acquire. It becomes even more crucial or integral part of your filmmaking ethos when you’re developing or producing an experimental film.

This is because it requires an unorthodox yet familiar context to hook your crew members and your actors into this “world” you want to “cinematically” realise, meaning you need to explain to them in a way anybody can collectively understand what you’re trying to convey.

Sounds easy, but it is quite hard to pull off. And that is part of creative process that I recently and deeply appreciate, especially in producing an experimental film.

Q: How do you think you can use this new insight you have gain in your own style of filmmaking?

Old Works
A collection of my old works. During those time, I have the tendency to clutter the screen with movements in all directions, with the exception of the one in the middle – Collection of Fedya’s Works (2009 – 2013)

Comparing my old works and my new ones, I’ve realised that I have completely abandoned experimenting with storytelling and visuals, and completely devoted myself into structured story-development and meaningful shots.

I’m uncertain when the shift of style happened, but I do know that I missed experimenting. I missed bush-bashing through the Bush of Conventional Methods of Filmmaking with my Kafkaesque Vehicle.

I used to be ashamed of my old works and always deemed them to be “bad”, just because not many understand what I was trying to convey. And also because of that, I felt like I was doing something wrong and completely missing the point that I was still trying to find my own “voice” in those experimental works.

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I am not completely shunning down what I’ve done in recent times. I love what I have accomplished and done. My “touch” is still there, but it’s time for me to get back on the Road of Experimentation and try new things – Ramona (2015)

In this trimester, I plan to get back to experiment with styles as I did years ago, but with more thoughts and planning ahead. In this trimester, I will not only inspire my fellow emerging practitioners to produce my film, but to also be able to make them understand the point of it all. In this trimester, I will not care (much) about breaking the established rules, but care more on establishing my own rules, my own style of filmmaking ad infinitum.

I need to be the Creative Creature that I once was.

Q: Explain some of the creative/artistic choices you made in your project.

In this assignment or project, we have given a task to produce and edit our experimental film within six hours.

During the group discussion, the initial idea is to do a simple test of overloading our senses while being “attacked” with a barrage of questions. In conjuction to that, we agreed to focus on our eyes and then slowly “collaged” ourselves into a being or form and juxtapose it with random “human” videos to see what will came out of it.

During the production however (and this is might sound counter-productive and counter-intuitive), I took a step and let everyone else drive it forward. Two reasons why I did so:

  1. I want to see what everyone is capable of and,
  2. I want to see what happens if I do so.

It is safe to say, that I only do the heavy lifting in the group, plus minorly planning/gaffing/cam-opping during the production day.

When we were in the production, we as a group (minus Levi and Daniel who were working on another project on that day) were experimenting with overloading visual/audio stimuli using a video (with sound) while asking each other, personal and hard questions. During the visual stimuli test, it seems like nothing came out of it, and the main reason is that, we were concentrating on looking directly at the camera, and not at the screen. We “aced” the test, unfortunately.

The second test we did, have more interesting results. This time, we punched in closer to each other’s eyes and play the audio of the video straight into our ear (with headphones to avoid polluting our own on-set audio recording). The results are we became a bit more erratic and “unbalance” when being questioned.

At post production, we hit a stump. We got all of the footage, and we didn’t know what to do with it. Luckily for us, Hayden Rossiter are very familiar with experimental editing and decided to form something out of it, instinctively. Once we got that gear going, I slow-dripped (albeit minorly) a somewhat of a thread of a story to Rossiter as he edits it.

This is what we came up with in the end:

Bottomline, I give my input where I feel it is needed and step away when I feel it is needed. All in the name of experimenting. Not just with the production itself, but with my own working methods.

Q: How do you think your group could’ve improved on this project?

Suffice to say that it isn’t perfect. But I love the end result. We were given only 6 hours to produce this (plus another two hours) to complete. Not patting ourselves on the back or anything, but overall, I think my group members have done really well together to come up with this.

If I do have to nitpick, it would have to be the shots itself. Some of it are not fully centered and we moved too much in those shots. Due to that, some of the extreme close-ups of the eyes felt a bit disjointed in comparison to the rest.

Another thing that I would to nitpick is the focus issues. Some of the shots are not properly focused and the attention is drawn to the nose instead of the eyes. I am actually disappointed at myself for not noticing it sooner.

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Unlike this movie, don’t go with Victor. Stay with me, Team! – (Casablanca, 1942)

Again, these are just minor nitpicks. Plus, we only have 6 hours, and it is unrealistic for me to expect a polish AAA quality production out of that.

Overall, my feeling for this project and my group members are nothing but positive. I am completely motivated and happy to be working with them throughout this trimester. I have never produce/direct/EXPERIMENT with a film this bizarre or strange with a group of people that shares the same experimental desires as I do.

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