NAME: Jose L. Callejas
DP: Elizabeth Elieson
FILM 2: THE CHASE OR SUSPENSE STORY
This document is designed to train your mind, eye, and heart to shoot purposefully. You should prepare it well before shooting. After reading the assignment on the last page, briefly—but thoughtfully and specifically—answer the following questions.
- What is the story—the beginning, middle, and end—of this film in three or four sentences? In other words, what happens as the story starts, through the rising action, and as it ends?
Beginning- A young couple parks their car while having a discussion about him being too possessive. Someone in another car has been following them and looks at them all the time. Three men are inside the car parked behind the couple, they have guns and as the couple keeps arguing they get ready to attack them.
Middle- As the couple comes out of the car, the criminals are already waiting for them outside, they want to make both of them get in the passenger seat. The man tries to negotiate but they refuse and force him to go inside. They drive away with him, leaving the woman behind.
They put a bag in the man’s head and keep driving while talking about what are they going to do with him once they arrive at their destination.
End- They take off the bag from the man’s head and he finds himself in the middle of nowhere, the 3 armed men are around him and a car is parked in front of them, from the car comes out his wife, she walks towards him and takes off her wedding ring; “I’m not your wife anymore”
- Describe the backstory. (Not all of this information will necessarily appear in your film, but you need to know it.)
Who is each character? Give a brief description and backstory for each person.
Husband: He is a very possessive man. For him, his wife is his property and when he can’t control her he becomes very abusive.
Wife: Although she is not very submissive, she has been patient with her husband, part of her, was hoping for him to change. All the psychological abuse she suffered from her husband made her very resentful and angry, earlier that week his emotional abuse turned physical.
What does each character want from life, and in this story?
The husband wants to control every aspect of his wife’s life. He wants her to be submissive to his will and do everything exactly the way he wants. In this story, the character wants to justify his abusive actions by talking about his role as a husband.
The wife wanted to make her marriage work, she thought her husband was going to change but after he physically abused her, she decided it was necessary to put an end to her marriage but at the same time, she felt it was her responsibility to teach her husband a lesson.
Why do they want it?
She wants to be independent and has a lot of anger that built through the years, she knows that unless he understands what being deprived of his liberty means, he will never really change his ways.
He wants to control his wife because he is insecure of himself and needs to feel powerful in someway, even though he does not admit it, he believes women are inferior. He feels paranoid about his wife cheating on him because he has been unfaithful before.
Why is this happening to these characters?
The wife decided it was time to abandon her husband but she wanted him to learn a lesson, she wanted to leave a mark that was beyond physical.
- What is the theme or meaning of this story? What will you show to help the audience understand this?
The theme is the different ways we can lose our freedom, this is both literally being held captive against our will but also emotionally. Besides the fact that the husband is actually being held captive, the framing will always put the wife as being asphyxiated by her husband, she will always be “captive” in the frame until the last shot where she finally breaks free and takes control of the scene.
- List the most important details you must show the audience in order for them to emotionally engage in this story. (You do not need to tell the audience everything about the backstory and circumstances, however, they will need to know enough to engage with what’s happening.) How do you intend to communicate each piece of narrative (not emotional) information?
At first, while they are parking their car they will be arguing about him not wanting her to get a job since he will “take care of her”, she takes out her phone and sends a text message. He gets paranoid and starts questioning her.
We can see that she has a bruise on her face, it’s subtle but visible enough for the audience to notice.
As they talk the men in the other car are hunting them and getting ready to attack them, we see everything from a POV perspective, in the other car we see the guns and the bag that they are going to use, but we can also see a phone that starts vibrating around the same time she sends a text message.
- What is the progression of emotions that you want the audience to experience while watching this story? Why? How, specifically, do you intend to do this? How will you use performance, camera, lighting, space, sound and music to create this emotional progression?
At first, the couple should look like they have a functional marriage, at first the husband seems like an attentive man, rather than a possessive one. Eventually we feel a little more uncomfortable as we notice that the husband is rather aggressive but still not completely violent. The lighting is orange coming from the street lights with some hits of blue as cars pass by, when the husband starts becoming more aggressive, we see a hint of red coming from another car’s brake lights.
As the tension rises the radio starts getting some static and then it’s just complete silence but we hear the criminals breathing faster as they start feeling the adrenaline of what they are about to do. For the shots from the criminal’s perspective the camera is handheld, since they are looking at them from their car that is parked behind them, the perspective makes the framing become a frame within a frame and it seems like a very deep space.
When the criminals take the husband the wife is left alone, we see the car leave and drive towards the vanishing point. There is a lot of space and for the first time, the wife is the prominent figure in the frame.
- What is the first image of the film? What is the final image of the film? Why are you choosing these specific images?
The first image of the film is the couple driving together, the last image is the husband kneeling in the middle of nowhere and looking at his wife drive away.
These images show the progression of the characters, at first he was the one driving by the end she is the one who has control of her life.
- Why is this story personal to you? (Do not answer, “Because I’ve always wanted to make a chase scene!”) Write about one or more personal experience(s) from your life that this scene reminds you of.
This became a very personal film, first of all, because I based it on a real-life experience. After my mission, I was kidnapped in a similar way that the character in the story; I was parking my car and me and my girlfriend were approached by three armed men who took me with them and drove away.
The characters, however, are inspired by some other marriages that I’m familiar with.I have some close relatives that had experienced emotional and psychological abuse and I’ve seen how damaging it can be in someone’s life.
- List the 11 subcomponents of space in Block’s The Visual Story. Note which of these subcomponents you will employ.
up / down position
- Articulate the rules for your use space in this film. (For example, will one character exist primarily in flat space while the other exists in deep space?) For each rule, articulate why will you use space in this way. Be specific.
Perspective: The husband will always look down to his wife, the shots from his perspective will always be from above. The opposite happens with the wife.
Size: When the couple is being assaulted, they are all in the same plane so they look the same size. The wife comes closer and seems to be larger as she starts dominating the frame. The car drives away and seems smaller compared to the wife who stands in the right side of the frame.
Movement: When the car drives away, the camera moves until the wife is the one in the middle of the frame.
Color separation: At first the wife is being lit by cool lights and the husband is lit by red and warmer lights (always coming from cars or street lamps)
Focus: From the criminal’s and the wife’s perspective mostly everything is in focus while from the husband’s perspective everything is more shallow.
Tonal separation: The criminals are barely lit, when it changes to their perspective it seems a lot darker than being in the car with the couple.
- Using these rules, how will you use contrast and affinity within shots and from shot to shot to build intensity in your film? Keep in mind the progression of emotions you wrote about above and how contrast and affinity of space will help you achieve a building intensity.
At first, we only see the couple’s perspective, there aren’t many cars passing by so the lighting is the same color for both husband and wife. When the husband starts being more aggressive we start seeing flashes of red light coming from the cars passing by.
There is affinity when we are introduced to the story but when the conversation starts getting intense, the camera angles get tighter and the tonal and color separation becomes more intense.
In order to follow the progression of emotions, I have to use a lot of affinity at first and slowly introduce more and more contrast. Color, Tonal, and focus are going to be my main tools to achieve contrast and affinity by flattening and deepening the space as well as using the color and tone to create intensity.
- What focal lengths will you use and when? Why?
85mm: When? The couple in the car Why?Tight and very intimate, very shallow depth of field
50mm: When? The assault Why? It gives more space than the 85mm but is still tight enough for it to feel compressed.
24mm: When? The criminals looking at the other car. Why? It gives a lot more size perspective and feels further away.
- In a bulleted list, articulate two or three potential obstacles to creating a successful film. How can you be prepared to overcome these? Be specific!
- Blocking two things happening at the same time in a different place: For the car scene there are things going on in two cars at the same time, from one of them we can see the other one so the blocking has to be very well done and every shot needs to be very precise for this scene to work.
In order to overcome this, I’ll practice without the actors. I’ll get a camera and try to replicate what I want using stills.
- The weather: although the car can be considered an interior (?) a lot of things are going to happen outside, including the ending.
In order to prepare for any kind of weather I’ll do research and chose the best day to shoot because it can be hard to predict weather anyways I’ll also have a backup plan and be ready to shoot inside a parking garage.
- Working with 5 actors in two locations
Finding people who is available at the same time can be challenging and moving locations is time-consuming. To overcome this challenges I’m going to have back ups for every actor, at the same time I’m going to find locations that are close to each other. I will make a specific schedule so actors don’t have to be there more than it’s necessary.
TMA 285 DIRECTOR’S REFLECTION
Reflect on how your film turned out. Have the courage to evaluate your work not just with a self-congratulatory eye, but also with a critical eye. Step back; pretend the film wasn’t made by you. Be exacting. Be demanding. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Be completely honest about your performance!
– Turn in a hard copy of this statement the next class session after your film screens
– Post this to your blog with your film the day after your film screens
Write an overall response to your film in 2-3 paragraphs: Were you successful at achieving what you set out to achieve? What are you proud of? What would you do differently if you could remake this piece? What did you learn?
I don’t think I was successful at achieving what I wanted but I’m happy with the result because it represents all the hard work that the cast, crew and myself put into it. I think one of my favorite things was the fact that the actors were super invested in the project, even though I was ready to finish in time, they wanted to keep going and kind of convinced me to do it (it wasn’t too hard to convince me though).
I was super insecure about the footage i got because I felt it was hard to put everything together, I tried to do a couple pick ups to get more wides outside the car, but I couldn’t.
Because I was feeling insecure about putting everything together I decided to rely on sound and music to guide the film, even though my original idea was to keep it very quiet. I still need to be better at shooting with the edit in mind and concentrate on playing the final product on my mind while I’m shooting it.
What, specifically, did you want to communicate? Were you successful? Why? Why not?
I wanted to show a change of power between the husband and the wife. The wife was taking over her life and teaching her husband what is like to be deprived of your freedom by having someone else acting upon you.
Controlling relationships and psychological abuse can be damaging.
How, specifically, did you try to communicate this?
I tried to show a conversation that showed the husband being very possessive, paranoid and insecure. At the same time, I wanted to show how sometimes the stereotype of the ideal role of husband and wife can be used the wrong way and can be harmful to women. More than just the dialogue I wanted to have close ups to make it feel intimate and at the same time show them faceless because it could be anyone.
Trough some framing I wanted to show the husband being in control, and example of that is when she is texting and he is the dominant figure on the frame.
What did you learn about storytelling:
I learned that it is very important to know exactly what do you want to communicate and how do you want to do it. It’s also very important to consider all the details that that communicate the message you are trying to tell, you have to make sure that the audience will read it as you want.
What did you learn about working with actors and getting performance:
I learned a lot in regards working with actors, days before the shooting day I send them a reference script and very specific information about the characters. I added as much detail as possible about their background and what happened before the incident showed on the film.
I feel like giving enough information to the actors helped them feel more comfortable about what they were doing and also help them develop their character using their own experiences. I feel actors should add to the character and that gives more realism to their performance.
I also learned to be more specific and improve my communication with actors. I saw all my faults and that helps me know what I need to work on last time.
Actors have a lot of useful input and it’s always good to consider what they have to say because their ideas can make the final product better, they are also collaborators.
What did you learn about blocking the camera and actors?
For the kidnap scene, I wanted to recreate exactly what happened in real life and I tried to block it that way. I discovered that real life don’t always translate very well to film so I had to make some adjustments to make it look a little better.
What did you learn about visual elements such as lighting, composition, framing, etc.?
I think sometimes all the elements come together as planned, but some other times it is necessary to adapt and that is ok if we are adamant in our idea that there’s only one way to do things we might miss some really good opportunities to make things better.
What did you learn about design and art direction?
Get a production designer, one cannot wear all the hats. If you find someone to help with the art and production design you will ensure all those elements will work together and improve the quality of the film in favor of the story.
What did you learn about the Production Process such as pre-production, collaborating with the crew, securing equipment, etc.?
I learn a lot about locations, sometimes we have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy when it comes to locations and the sooner you lock it, the better. It’s also good to have multiple possible locations that can be used in case you lose your main location.
Next time I will get an AD!
I wanted to use a BYU location but learned that the process was longer than expected. I tried doing the paperwork and walk all the documents in person, that helps a lot because it makes the process faster and shows urgency, at the same time it lets you interact with the people in charge of the process (always be super nice to them) and facilitate it next time you do it.
In the end, I think, as a student, sometimes is better to ask forgiveness than permission… just be smart
What was it like to watch your film with an audience? Did they understand it? Miss the point? Why did they respond the way they did?
It’s always good to watch the film with an audience, this time I was predicting some of the confusion because I showed it to some other people before and they reacted the same way. Some people got it but it wasn’t necessarily because it was super clear.
I think my idea was ok, but the execution wasn’t very good. Some of the details I decided to exclude because of time and unexpected changes were important to the story. I wasted a lot of time building something that wasn’t that hard to build and missed a lot of good opportunities to make the film more poignant.
I’m happy that I ended up making this film because I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot from them.
Any other observations or notes:
I really enjoyed working with my DP. Most of the time I was concentrated on the performance and didn’t look at the screen at all. She got the framing I wanted and was really cool to work with.