Practically Perfect In Every Way?

Skip to first unread message


Sep 19, 2009, 7:30:22 PM9/19/09
Hi peeps.

This is cross posted from my blog. See the original on my website here:

Love to hear your thoughts and comments...

Nathan Rae

Blog Post:

Practically Perfect In Every Way? Or: How to make a Perfect Experimental

No Experimental Film from me this week. Instead, why don't we take a
close look at someone else's.

When Mary Poppins measured herself we saw that she was "Practically
perfect in every way!" I don't think this was ever adequately explained.
Was she only perfect as a nanny? Or as a cook also? Or did she have a
body perfect for old Van Dyke to get jiggy with? A measure is no good
unless you specify the units being used.

With this in mind I'll explain the units of measurement I use to judge
experimental films. I wont use one of my own because none come close to
perfect. Instead I'll use the experimental juggling video "Das Model"
which I referred to in a recent tweet as being "almost perfect in every
way!" Please take a moment to watch it as the rest of the post will make
much more sense if you do...
Performed by Elena Shapoval. Directed by Taras Pozdnyakov.

Obviously if you are just throwing around a few ideas or testing something
out you won't go through all these steps in as much depth as I outline
below. But even giving them a little thought could improve your film or
video a lot. These Measuring Units appear in roughly the order you work
on them when making a film.

Measuring Unit 1: The Concept
All experimental films start with a concept that is either original,
combines two or more other concepts, or is exploring an existing concept
in a new way.

In "Das Model" the concept is both the relatively unknown prop of the long
poles and the way they are being manipulated; mostly balancing upright
with some contact staff moves. So far so simple, but this is where most
juggling videos fall down before they are even made. The juggler starts
with a list of tricks, then tries to find a concept to tie them together.
That's ok for a practice or squash court video but not for a juggling

Measuring Unit 2: Building of Themes and Ideas
This is where the concept is fleshed out into something more than the
original idea. The concept shown but is then developed in some way
throughout the film, building as it goes, ending in a satisfying
conclusion which ties together what has come before.

I think this is the strongest element in "Das Model." The routine starts
with a few moves which look quite simple but we "get" what is going on.
Elena then weaves the poles around each other and walks between them, etc.
Then she goes back to the starting pattern but this time is spinning the
poles as she does. Then she is moving them apart, together again. More
spinning and stepping through. Now using her legs to spin the poles. Now
her feet. Splits. One pole continuous spinning. End.

You can see how each element builds on what has already been shown with
the ending subtly different enough to serve as a full stop (period), but
not too different as to be disjointed. (This is where "The Rings" by the
same director falls down! Here the juggler goes from performing inside a
large ring with hoops side on to the audience but ends with a big numbers
flash at the front of the stage with hoops juggled as normal rings.)

Almost perfect? As a stage act it could be a bit longer but for a video I
think about 30 seconds could have been shaved off for pacing reasons.

Measuring Unit 3: Design
This is the part where each element that appears on screen is considered.
Costumes, sets, props, people, locations should be evaluated to see if
they fit with the over all style and theme. They are either found, made,
remade, left in shot or removed. Music or sound is also chosen at this
point, not during the edit.

"Das Model" is beautifully designed and it's simplicity is it's strength.
Set, location and distracting lighting have been removed so we are left
with the performer, props and floor only. The costume has colour and is
sexy enough without being distracting. Props look polished and clean.
Elena is made up well with hair pulled out the way of her face. The music
is great also.

Almost perfect? I think that the beam of light should make a circle on
the floor, not the shadow of the carpet. It should have been removed or
trimmed so the edge lay perfectly flat.

Measuring Unit 4: Performance
Massively important for experimental juggling films. Who are you
performing to? The camera? Yourself? An audience? Ironically this is
the area which most jugglers work on the least.

Elena is obviously very used to performing on stage but for the video she
is only performing for the camera. She makes eye contact, is alluring and
confident. More importantly she makes each movement count. Each hand is
moved and placed on each pole without wasting any time or energy flapping
around or trying too hard. The ending is perfect! Just as you think she
is going to connect with the viewer one last time for some kind of bow or
applause, she just turns away.

Almost perfect? Yep.

Measuring Unit 5: Shooting, Editing and Post Production.
There's a reason why I lumped together all these three areas; they are the
least important. What I mean is that although you can spoil a film with
bad camera work, poor editing and inappropriate titles, etc. you can't
make a good film without the creative preparation, pre-production and
rehearsal. Until you have worked through 1 to 4 there's not much point
picking up a camera.

In "Das Model" Taras has directed the camera very well using a range of
camera positions, angles, close ups etc. He has also lit Elena
beautifully. The editing is well paced with no distracting transitions,
just cross fades. The titles fit, are not too long and only give the
information we need, not loads of waffle we don't care about.

Almost perfect? The one shot I would cut comes at 3:25 where the light
source is shown and you can also see some of the rigging and what looks
like another person up there. This is the only shot like this and spoils
the very clean black background somewhat. I would have like a couple of
shots where the camera tracked around Elena but no mater.

Yes, however you measure it, "Das Model" is almost perfect in every way.

I know my next film wont be perfect, but thinking about some of the areas
I've mentioned may get it a bit closer. What about your next film?

----== posted via ==----

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages