Voice and Vision: A Creative Approach to Narrative Film and DV Production / Edition 1

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Overview

Voice & Vision is a comprehensive manual for the independent filmmakers and film students who want a solid grounding in the tools, techniques, and processes of narrative film in order to achieve their artistic vision. This book includes essential and detailed information on relevant film and digital video tools, a thorough overview of the filmmaking stages, and the aesthetic considerations for telling a visual story.

The ultimate goal of this book is to help you develop your creative voice while acquiring the solid practical skills and confidence to use it. Unlike many books that privilege raw technical information or the line-producing aspects of production, Voice & Vision places creativity, visual expression, and cinematic ideas front and center. After all, every practical decision a filmmaker makes, like choosing a location, an actor, a film stock, a focal length, a lighting set-up, an edit point, or a sound effect is also an expressive one and should serve the filmmaker's vision. Every decision, from the largest conceptual choices to the smallest practical solutions, has a profound impact on what appears on the screen and how it moves an audience.

"In Practice” sidebars throughout Voice & Vision connect conceptual, aesthetic and technical issues to their application in the real world. Some provide a brief analysis of a scene or technique from easily rentable films which illustrate how a specific technology or process is used to support a conceptual, narrative, or aesthetic choice. Others recount common production challenges encountered on real student and professional shoots which will inspire you to be innovative and resourceful when you are solving your own filmmaking challenges.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"For those filmmakers who want to learn more about the technicalities of film and DV production, this is the book you've been waiting for. Written in a way that is educational yet easy-to-understand, you will find this book helpful whether you're a new filmmaker or one with some experience under your belt. Regardless of your budget size, or your preference for film/DV, there is an incredible amount of information to learn here. The book's layout and detailed illustrations make it easy to follow and enjoyable to read, while the depth of information--as well as the topics themselves--ensure that this book will be usable for quite awhile after its purchase. The price is excellent, espcially considering the amount of information the book contains, as well as its reusability. A must-have for the filmmaker who wants to take his education to the next level!" - Microfilmmaker Magazine

"I've adopted the textbook for my film production class and I have to tell you I have not come across a better one. ... I'm continually thrilled when I discover yet another piece that is ideal for teaching not just the mechanics of film making, but the impact on cinematic storytelling. Too many textbooks leave out the 'why' when explaining production. It's easy to get sidetracked into explaining technical details, but unless you can explain its relevance to the story, why teach it?" -Hamp Overton, Assistant Professor - University of New Orleans

"With Voice and Vision, Mick Hurbis-Cherrierhas written a ground-breaking book that approaches the subject as a technical, narrative, creative endeavor that marries a filmmaker's voice to his/her mise en scene. It is a book that is compelling and exciting as it distills essential information about film and digital image-making tools with the aesthetic wisdom of many of the world's greatest storytellers. It is quite simply the best book of its kind on the market today." - Film Festival Today

"A concise, graphic, and comprehensive manual for the serious beginning filmmaker--full of practical, technical information and solid artistic guidance, and some inspiration too."
-Michael Rabiger, Author of "Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics and Directing the Documentary"

"Hurbis-Cherrier takes years of teaching film and video production and puts it all down on paper in 'Voice and Vision,' combining technical and aesthetic applications with a realistic approach to filmmaking. It is a comprehensive guide for aspiring filmmakers working in both film and digital video." -Jacqueline B. Frost, Associate Professor, Department of Radio-TV-Film, California State University, Fullerton

"Mick Hurbis-Cherrier has written a very unusual book for film and video makers. The book,Voice and Vision,differs from other production books by seeing production as a technical,narrative,creative undertaking that is unique because each filmmaker has a distinct voice.This book transends 'how to' and invites the creative 'why-not' of its readers. I've never read a better beginning to the film and videomaking journey." -Ken Dancyger, Professor at New York University's Kanbar Institute of Film & Television and Author of "Broadcast Writing," "Alternative Scriptwriting," "The Technique of Film and Video Editing" and "Writing the Short Film."

"It feels like sitting in a classroom with a great teacher, who supplements key information with wonderfully entertaining and illustrative stories...students will feel more like they are reading a good story rather than trying to wade through a textbook." -Andrew Lund, Filmmaker and Graduate Film Professor, Columbia University

"The discussion of the technical and logistic matters is very good: it is comprehensive, thorough, and very well explained." -Michael Kowalski, Film Professor, Chapman University, and Sound Designer on "Lost In La Mancha"

"Mick Hurbis-Cherrier teaches film and video production at Hunter College in New York, and has worked as a producer, director, cinematographer and editor. He knows what he's talking about, and has presented it in a beautifully illustrated and photographed book that should be a required textbook in every film school.” --Jon Fauer, ASC, Film and Digital Times

"This text is not in the form of a technical manual to be shelved as a reference book but is instead a production bible and reader for those actively involved in filmmaking. This book is immensely readable for, and useable by, the target audience of non-professional filmmakers, although even a professional may find it a useful contemporary addition to their library." - Sorrel Penn-Edwards, Metro Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780240807737
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 3/9/2007
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 831,996
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Mick Hurbis-Cherrier has been teaching all levels of film and video production at Hunter College in New York City for more than a decade. He works professionally in both film and video and has performed a wide range of duties on films, including producing, writing, directing, cinematography, and editing. His films and videos have been shown around the country and have garnered prizes in many festivals.
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Read an Excerpt

Voice & Vision

A CREATIVE APPROACH to Narrative Film and DV Production
By MICK HURBIS-CHERRIER

Focal Press

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-088505-6


Chapter One

From Idea to Cinematic Story

Our first job is to look, Our second job is to think of a film that can be made. Abbas Kiarostami (Marrakech, 2005)

There's no doubt about it. Filmmaking is exciting stuff. Working on a set, surrounded by the energy of a great production crew, collaborating with actors, setting up lights, lining up shots, calling out "Roll camera! Action!" Seeing a film project come to life can be an exhilarating experience. In fact, most aspiring filmmakers simply can't wait to get their hands on a camera and start shooting. Once they get an idea, they're ready to go! But wait. What are you shooting? What is your idea? Are your characters interesting? Does the idea have a shape? Just what do you want to say and how will you say it? What does all this activity on the screen add up to? What about the practical side of making this film? Are the subject and visual approach appropriate for your resources? Can you get it done?

Whether your project is a two-minute chase scene with no dialogue or a complex psychological drama, the first step in any narrative film production is coming up with an idea that is stimulating, engaging, and ripe with visual possibilities. The idea is the DNA of the entire filmmaking process—it informs every word written into the script, every shot you take, and every choice you make along the way. The better your basic idea is, the better your film will be. But an idea is only the first lightning bolt of inspiration. All ideas have to be developed—fashioned into stories that can be told through the medium of film. This means turning an idea into a story that can be captured and conveyed by that camera you're dying to get your hands on.

* FINDING AN IDEA

Where do we find ideas? Where does inspiration come from? As Lynch reminds us, ideas can come to us anywhere and at anytime: an act of kindness we witness on the street, an individual we watch on the bus, a piece of music that moves us, an experience a friend relates to us or a memory we can't let go. John Daschbach's Waking Dreams (one of the short films available for viewing on the Voice & Vision companion website) came from a particularly vivid dream, and Ramin Bahrani's 2007 feature film Chop Shop was inspired by an evocative location that struck him as a perfect setting for a dramatic story (see page 127). I once attended a reading by the fiction writer Raymond Carver, and someone in the audience asked him if he had any secrets to becoming a writer. He said simply, "You have to be a sponge, you have to constantly absorb the world you live in." If you keep your eyes and ears open, you will discover that material is all around you. Everyday life provides fertile ground for story ideas, visual ideas, and character ideas. Stay alert and connect to the world around you, then you'll be able to connect with your audience.

In an interview with Houshang Golmakani, the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Figure 1-1), speaking about inspiration, shared the following thoughts:

Gabriel Garcia Márquez once said, "I don't choose a subject; it's the subject that chooses me." The same goes for me. The subject depends on whatever happens to be keeping me awake at night.... I have dozens of stories stored away in my memory. There's a story happening in front of me every day, but I don't have the time to make a film out of it. In the course of time, certain stories start taking on importance; one of them will end up becoming the subject of a film.

Precisely what strikes us as a good idea, one that could develop into a great movie, is a highly individualistic thing. In fact, where you get your ideas, what strikes you as a good idea for a movie, is the thing that makes your films your films and not someone else's, which is why it is best that ideas come from your own observations and responses to the world around you. The only way that a movie will contain your individual voice is if your core idea comes from you, from your imagination, interests, and perspective. Only Martin Scorsese can make Scorsese films. You may love them, but to try and duplicate them, because they are successful or because you think Mafia violence is the ne plus ultra of drama, is to avoid the most important work a filmmaker can do, and that is to find out what your unique cinematic voice and contribution might be. Finding your own voice is not easy work, but it's essential, and that process begins with your very first film.

Here is an example from the screenwriter and director Peter Hedges, who is discussing where he got the idea for his 2003 feature film Pieces of April:

In the late 1980s ... I heard about a group of young people who were celebrating their first Thanksgiving in New York City. They went to cook the meal, but the oven didn't work, so they knocked on doors until they found someone with an oven they could use. I remember thinking that this could be a way to have all sorts of people cross paths who normally wouldn't. (From Pieces of April: The Shooting Script, by Peter Hedges)

Hedges jotted the idea down, made a few notes, and then forgot about it. This idea is like many lightning bolts of inspiration—it's interesting and compelling, but not yet fully formed. Hedges would not find the story in the idea until ten years later.

* FROM AN IDEA TO A STORY

One's initial idea—that first spark of inspiration—more often than not is vague. Sometimes it's no more than an observation or a feeling. In the case of Peter Hedges, the idea was a simple situation that was ripe for interesting interactions, but it wasn't a story yet. The most basic elements of film are images and sound, those things that we can capture with a camera and a microphone. Think about it: when you are in a theater watching a movie, everything you understand about a character, including the story, the mood, and the themes of the film, is delivered exclusively through sound and images. We cannot point our camera and microphone at ideas, desires, intentions, or feelings, but we can record characters who react, make decisions, and take action as they strive to achieve something, and through those actions we can understand who these characters are, how they are feeling, what they are after, and what it all means. This is the fundamental principle behind dramatization, transforming what is vague and internal into a series of viewable and audible actions and events (also see page 37).

* FICTIONAL NARRATIVE BASICS I: ESSENTIAL STORY ELEMENTS

The next step in the process is to turn your initial inspiration into a dramatic story. In making this transition, it is important to understand the essential characteristics of a dramatic story. Most fictional narrative films have four basic and common elements:

1. A central character

2. A dramatic situation (the premise)

3. Actions and stakes

4. Resolution and what it all means

The Central Character

Drama is based on things that happen to characters, things characters do and ways characters change. Whatever the story is, it all starts with character. It doesn't matter if your film is about a single business executive (Waking Dreams), a recent Chinese immigrant (When I Was Young), a sweet, mild manner guy (Vive le 14 Juillet), a bored office clerk (The Black Hole), or even a plain brown plastic bag from the supermarket (Plastic Bag); the central character is usually the primary point of engagement for an audience—the element that encourages narrative involvement. If you really want your film to connect with an audience, you must create a central character who is compelling—a person people want to watch. One common way to do this is to create a central character a viewer can like or admire, someone who displays very human longings, needs, capabilities, vulnerabilities, and some noble qualities as well, like being fair, courageous, kind, or standing up for what is right; a figure with whom audiences can identify, empathize, or at least sympathize. This is called a sympathetic character. The main character in Ramin Bahrani's film Chop Shop, for example, is Alejandro, a 12-year-old boy, with no parents in sight, who is working hard to build an honest future for himself and his 16-year-old sister. He works adult manual labor jobs, he's resourceful beyond his years, he saves money, and he has noble, selfless goals. We easily like this smart, industrious, street-tough but open-hearted kid. We sympathize when he's not able to completely comprehend the nuances of the very adult situation he is in, and we feel for him when he stumbles. We want him to succeed, so we cheer him on (see page 127). And take a look at Bahrani's short film Plastic Bag and see how the first-person voice over imbues an inanimate object with painfully human traits, so much so that we feel immense sympathy for the desperate plight of a piece of trash, a brown plastic bag (read page 8).

However, the critical factor in building a main character is audience engagement, not necessarily likability. You can certainly engage an audience with a character who is unkind, unpleasant, mean, despicable, or even repulsive, if that character offers a glimpse at something fascinating, intriguing, and engaging (even if unsavory) to watch. This type of character is sometimes called an antipathetic character—but you can just call them unlikable—and boy, oh boy, can they be fun to watch. Mark Zuckerberg from Fincher's The Social Network is not likable in any traditional sense (Figure 1-3). In fact, he's kind of an immature, selfish, arrogant jerk with a superior attitude and a nasty ambition fueled by envy and spite. So why do we want to watch a story about this guy? Well, there is certainly something interesting about getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at someone's speedy rise from an unpopular tech geek to CEO billionaire, especially if that achievement pushes the borders of ethics, scruples, and friendship. It's also fascinating to see a person with utterly no social skills become rich by creating a social network. Intellectually, Zuckerberg understands the zeroes and ones of a social network, but emotionally he cannot function in a social situation—a delicious central irony. But isn't there also something about this character that, despite his unsavory pettiness, we can understand on a human level? He's brilliant but he's awkward, terribly insecure and yearning to become someone people admire. He just doesn't know how to get there without being duplicitous and stomping on friends. We may not go so far as to feel sympathy for America's youngest billionaire, but we can, on some level, connect to him and be engaged in his story. Also, keep in mind that these two character approaches, sympathetic and antipathetic, are only the extreme ends of a sliding scale. Many characters, like most human beings, are created somewhere between these two poles, with a few qualities we can admire and some qualities that are troubling.

You may have noticed in these examples that I mention both who the central character is and what happens to them. How an audience feels about a character is integrally linked to that character's dramatic situation and what that character does. This is, after all, the way we come to conclusions about anyone we meet in our lives. We know who people are by seeing what they do. So we cannot really talk about character without talking about what the character does.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Voice & Vision by MICK HURBIS-CHERRIER Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Introduction; PART I: DEVELOPING YOUR FILM ON PAPER; From Idea to Cinematic Story; The Screenplay; The Visual Language and Aesthetics of Cinema; Organizing Time and Space; From Screenplay to Visual Plan; PART II: PREPARING FOR PRODUCTION; Preparing for Production; The Cast and Crew;
PART III: TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES: PRODUCTION; The Film System; The Digital Video System; The Lens; Camera Support; Basics of Exposure; Basic Lighting for Film and DV; Advanced Lighting and Exposure; Sound for Production; Production Sound Tools; Sound Recording Technique; On Set!; PART IV: TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES: POST-PRODUCTION; Post-Production Overview and Workflow; Principles and Process of Digital Editing; The Art and Technique of Editing; The Sound Design in Film; Cutting Sound and Working with Multiple Tracks; Finishing, Mastering and Distribution; Appendix; Bibliography; Glossary
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