Thursday, May 3, 2007

chop chop - and a smorgasboard of fresh ideas

Well, I probably couldn't have picked a better flick to apply the principles of yesterday's lecture to. Chopper makes some of the best and most deliberate use of lighting I've seen in a film since Gattaca (at least as far as modern films go), and has brought a lot to the table for our group to work with as far as organising our set for Potato Cakes is concerned.

The first half-hour or so of the film is shot within a prison set, so as you can imagine, there are plenty of tungsten lights and filters used to create a shady, gungey atmos that gives the viewer a sense of unease. The key lighting used is minimal, because the white walls refract most of it back into the space and onto the characters. During the more climactic moments, i.e. stabbings and brawls, the lighting has a tendency to become harsher, signifying an elevation in mood and adrenaline, similar to what the main characters are experiencing. Shadows, however, seem to follow Chopper wherever he goes - and with good reason. His jeckyll-and-hyde criminal persona plays out not only through the plot but via the careful use of mise-en-scene. Below, pictured with his girlfriend 'Tanya', you can see the way lighting has been manipulated to always keep some part of his face out of view:

This either suggests that he is constantly hiding something, or there is some dark part of his personality that cannot be revealed. Perhaps both. Throughout the film, there are several scenes filmed in the dark that seem to add to the overall insidious feel of the piece. However, some of the artier non-plot events or sequences that operate inside Chopper's mind employ some very contrasting lighting techniques - bright, cabaret-style lighting, blinding bulbs, in-your-face sort of stuff to jar ones own consciousness. I wish I could get some of my own stills happening so ya'll could see what I'm talking about. Bana's performance is flawless, and it's well worth a look for those who are keen on indulging in a hearty slice of Aussie gangster culture. Pretty gory in parts, but worth watching for its technical innovation.

Back to Potato Cakes - we've decided we want to make this more of a 'dark' comedic take on dysfunctional Australian family culture, so a lot of our cinematography will be relying upon similar lighting set-ups. To begin with, we're also filming at night, which means the fine line between dull mood lighting and being too dark is something we'll have to be constantly mindful of. We don't want to cross over into the abyss of shooting poor quality footage when in reality the flick of a switch and some careful angles could have added ten thousand times more meaning to a scene... Need to discuss this one with the guys, but I'm going to suggest that we have at least one red head spare in case we run into the problem of 'dead space'. Tbe last thing we want is poorly lit shots that offer nothing in the way of subliminal fodder... I guess that's where my role as Production Designer becomes important, because I can afford to take note of this stuff while the others do the more 'hands on' kinds of roles. Hmm.

Going to go and work on some character stuff now. Fingers crossed Jen gets back to me with some actor profiles to trawl through.

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