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‘Cutaway Inserts of Nature’

From the research I did into the style of Terrence Malick, I found that he frequently includes shots of nature and people interacting with nature in a romantic way. To get a sense of how he does it, I watched a few videos that feature this style of work.

This video seems to be a compilation of the cutaway inserts of nature shown in his films. All of these shots portray mans relationship with nature, and surprisingly a lot of these shots are moving in a way that seems only creatable by a handheld camera. I initially though that they were all just still images of the wind blowing through plants, but this is really seemingly a minor feature. When I come to film my ‘cutaway inserts of nature’ I will try and include some moving shots, even if they are filmed using the Steadicam just to make them a little more stable. I will practice this style of work to see whether or not I can recreate it in a way that looks effective so that I don’t waste time on my day of filming.

I also came across this video which was created in the style of Malick:

This video has a lot in common with the first in the style of shots used, as some are moving and some shots filmed in the ‘magic hour’ giving it a really romantic and beautiful look.

From my research, I also found that Malick features close ups of hands occasionally throughout his films. This would work well with the cutaway inserts of nature as I could show hands running through leaves etc, combining the two Malick styles.

There is also something to be said about the music that accompanies both of these videos. They both seem to be quite classic scores with a distinct style, that without any knowledge in music I struggle do describe. The music seems to build up into something almost monumental towards the end of the video, creating a sense of the power of nature and the beauty in it. I will definitely include a score like this as it seems to be typical to Malick films and I really like its effect when accompanied with the theme of nature. I think a piece of music like this at the start of my film will create a sense of happiness and joy that I really want to portray in the first part of my film, especially the opening sequence which will show close ups of leaves blowing in the wind and other shots of nature.

This is my attempt at a Malick style piece of filming:

Surprisingly, this piece lasts quite a long time which may conveniently help the fact that my script read aloud is a minute short of the set time. I really like the effect of this and will definitely include something like this in my short film. With the music choice, I believe this captures the work of Terrence Malick quite well.

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Steadicam – ‘Wide Angled Hand Held’

To produce my film in the cinematic style of Terrence Malick, I have decided to try out the ‘wide angled hand held’ which was discussed in my research. This was a technique used by Malick that avoided the typical shot reverse shot found in many conversation scenes. I though this may be interesting to feature in my short film, to create a sense of unity between the actors in my film to enforce the friendly nature of the main character. Here is the kind of thing I wish to recreate from The Thin Red Line:

I chose not to film the ‘wide angled hand held’ with a handheld camera, as it would just look untidy and incredibly wobbly. In the Malick films I have watched, it is clear that a steadicam or arc dolly has been used to film these kinds of shot. So, I used the resources available to me and borrowed a steadicam from the media office. Here is what I filmed:

Test 1:

For my first attempt, I feel that it looked quite successful. I managed to pan around an actor like I desired to in my film, without the camera wobbling too much and becoming off balance. With a bit of practice and a lot of patience on the day, I feel that I can pull off the ‘wide angled hand held’ quite well.

Test 2:

This one didn’t go quite as well. I think this is probably due tot the fact that I tried to guide the steadicam by gentle holding the pole to prevent the camera swinging. From this, the shake of my hands affected the stability of the camera so effectively it was just a hand held shot. In order to prevent this, I just need to get handy with maneuvering the steady cam in the way it’s supposed to be handled.

Test 3:

Again, this is a similar issue to the second test and although I thought steadying it with my hand would help the effect of the film, but ultimately it just made the camera wobble.

Test 4:

I feel like this shot was very effective and the camera only wobbles a little, but moves quite smoothly. Although it doesn’t move around a specific subject, I can use this in my film to create the kind of shot that would be found in Malick films.

Through doing this, I have realised how difficult it is to work a steadicam. With this in mind I’ll need to dedicate a large amount time to filming the steadicam shot, in order to create it to a high standard and to ensure it looks effective.

 

 

 

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Shooting in ‘The Magic Hour’

In order to successful pull off filming in the magic hour, I need to fully research into how to make my shooting most effective and therefore making my film as cinematically beautiful as I can. I intend to film the first half of my film in the magic hour as my film will start off very merry and friendly, and therefore I can manipulate lighting to suit the mood of the film.

The ‘magic hour’ is particularly special since the lighting is soft, t is travelling through more of the earths atmosphere due to the low sun. Since the light is softer, the actors can be positioned facing the sun without it being too bright that they are squinting. The soft light is very flattering, thus helping the start of my film to look beautifully made.

The colour temperature of the light is much warmer. More of the blue wavelengths of light are scattered which leaves the red/yellow wavelengths to reflect off the actors, making the overall effect much warmer even without post production effects.

Since the light is lower, it is more dimensional and creates longer shapes from shadows which are also softer; helping to make the shot look more interesting and dynamic.

In general, the further one is from the equator, the longer the magic hour is. However, this can all depend on the state of the weather and what season we’re in. My biggest concern about shooting in the magic hour is that in the winter it gets dark quickly and its always usually very dull, meaning that the effects of the magic hour won’t be the same as I’ll be shooting in the October half term holidays. Luckily, the golden hour happens twice a day, so if I plan out the shooting schedule carefully we can film the magic hour shots at sunrise, and then have an entire day of filming before the sun sets again where the magic hour will come back once more. Clouds may also shorten the golden hour greatly as they sit closer to the horizon, so I may only get a few shots of this. However, I think I could make this work by utilising the light to shoot cutaways of nature in the style of Terrence Malick rather than setting my entire film in this time frame.

To shoot in the magic hour, I will place the camera in the way of the sun and have the action facing towards it. Or I could have the sun backlighting the action which creates a warm glow to the scene, but I will need to be cautious of glare from the sunlight.

There is a technique called rim lighting which happens when the sun is just faintly shining over the horizon. The actors would be positioned with a dark background behind them with the suns light only just above it, which creates a glow around the actors which basically separates them from the surroundings and draws attention towards them. An addition from rim lighting is called flare which happens when the light directly hits the lens and fractures the light, creating a series of interesting colours.

 

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Director Inspiration

For my A2 coursework, I would like to create a short film in the style of Terrence Malick. This is due to the fact that I film that his films look really visually pleasing which is something I’d like to replicate.

terrence-malick


The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line is a war film set in the Pacific Theatre of WW2.

The film follows a US Army Private who is AWOL is found and imprisoned on a troop carrier by his company First Sergeant. The men on the navy ship have been brought to Guadalcanal to help seize an island from the Japanese. On deck the lieutenant discusses the invasion and its importance, and reveals that this battle may be his last chance to lead a successful operation. The ship lands on Guadalcanal and marched to the middle of the island and find evidence of the Japanese presence and tactics. The men arrive at near Hill 210 which is an important Japanese position, and find that the Japanese have placed a bunker on this island which gives them full view of their surroundings, meaning that any attempt to climb the hill will lead to machine gun fire. A battle begins between the two

The film follows a US Army Private who is AWOL is found and imprisoned on troop carrier by his company First Sergeant. The men on the navy ship have been brought go Guadalcanal t0 help seize an island from the Japanese. On deck the lieutenant discusses the invasion and its importance, and reveals that this battle may be his last chance to lead a successful operation. The ship lands on Guadalcanal and marched to the middle of the island to find evidence of the Japanese presence and tactics. The men arrive near Hill 210 which is an important Japanese position, and find that the Japanese have placed a bunker on this island which gives them a full view of their surroundings, meaning that any attempt to climb the hill would lead to machine gun fire. The men from the ship attempt to take the hill but are countered by gunfire. The Captain is told by the Colonel to take the bunker by frontal assault but refuses to let his men be ‘cannon fodder’. During this dispute, the Japanese forces have decreased. Eventually, the Japanese forces are found to be dying out. The men are given a week’s leave and when they return they are send on patrol up a river. They are bombed by the Japanese, who now demand their surrender. The AWOL Army Private is shot but the rest of the company are able to escape without harm.

This film features many of the Terrence Malick style shots that I have researched. The very start of the film begins with scenic shots of nature, such as a long shot of a crocodile floating in a river and a shot or the light shining through the trees. For this shot, there is a reverse birds eye view shot, creating a sense of how tall the tree is and the light is dispersed through the tree making a very interesting looking shot. I would like to consider using a shot like this in my film. When the army private is on the beach with the natives, these scenes have been filmed in the magic hour, creating a pleasant glow and makes the scene feel a lot more calm that if it were filmed in any other time of day. This film also features wide angle hand-held two shots, rather than the typical shot reverse shot utilised during conversations.

Through watching a film directed by Terrence Malick, I have been able to watch his trade mark styles put into practice and understand how effecting these are.