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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Exercise 4.2

Updated: Sep 24, 2021


Nobody Knows I'm Here - Netflix

The first film I looked at is a Netflix original called Nobody Knows I'm Here. I started drawing from the first 8 minutes of the opening scene. The reason for choosing this film was for the cinematography used to narrate the story. The cuts, the framing and the use of light that adds to the story. It's a quiet film with a touching story, slow in pace with a variety of camera angles that I thought were interesting to study.

My boxes were not accurate to the film ratio, and as result cropped or distorted the proportions in my drawings. However it did not hinder the study of learning the compositions and framing used to help tell the story.

The notes in my book mentions it being two minutes, I looked back and it was 8 minutes into the film where I had stopped.

I started roughly with pencil, and then decided to go back and define the lines more with a fine liner. Because the film felt dark and mysterious, I wanted to include the grey tones to emphasise the lighting that made an impact on the story.

When reflecting on this particular film, and the sequence that I had drawn up, I could get a sense of the story being told.

Xtreme - Netflix Original

I've learnt that the attention span of the audience is now less than a gold fish, insane right!? Films are evidence of how the attention span has shrunk through time, with maximising on the number of cuts in just a few seconds. An example I had learnt was through the James Bond movies. Scenes that were once slow are now cut into several shots.

James Bond - Dr. No 1962 - fight scene

James Bond - Spectre 2015 - fight scene

Two examples pulled from the first James Bond and the most recent James Bond. The tempo has changed hugely since the 60's, which is of course inevitable as technology improves and budgets become unimaginable. But the difference in the number of cuts from then and now is massive. You see the scene from almost all angles, with dynamics in the frames and composition. Shots are tight and close as we feel to be at eye level with them, as close to the action as possible. It would be difficult to pause for each cut in the most recent Bond film due to the speed in which they jump.

For this reason, I thought the second film which I would go on to study needed to be an action film. I wanted to explore the number of cuts used in the opening scene compared to the study from Nobody Knows I'm Here.

* read left page then right page, not as a double spread.

In just 4 minutes into the film, I drew 54 frames. In 8 minutes of Nobody Knows I'm Here I drew 42 frames. IF I double the time to match my first study, and imagined that another 54 frames were going to be drawn, It would be 108 frames (I know, we're here for illustrations not maths!). The difference is more than double! What did this do in terms of story telling? How did the extra frames impact the story. In fact, I let the film continue until 6 minutes, and counted at least another 50 frames, if not more. Is the number of frames really about the story or just about the action, remembering that humans attention span is less than a goldfish.

I mean, being thrown in to a story almost instantly, left me less engaged and more confused. The shots were close, and more rapid as it jumped through. You see one person, then quickly see a new person, and another, then back, and the camera continues like this throughout, jumping from person to person. Occasionally we see long shots of the environment, giving some substance to the possible narrative being presented.

The short burst scenes felt deliberate to begin with, although unclear at its current time due to the lack of narrative so early on. Scenes were more obvious in the sense that they were purposely designed to tell an audience what they should recognise. Shots, for example, like the close up of the hand with a metal plate over the little finger resting on the bag, is it a replacement for a finger that no longer exists, or a decorative piece of jewellery that might suggest status of a character? A detail that would at least help identify the character or bring significance to the story.

For me, the use of frames in the opening of this film were mostly about identifying the key characters that might have importance at a later time. It was quick to get in to action, as once the head was revealed in the bag, shooting broke out. It set the tone of the film, and established the tempo early on.


I wanted to return to this exercise partly for fun, but also for the practise. I was encouraged by my tutor to try another feature, but this time perhaps looking at an animation. As I am a huge fan of cartoon, and in fact look to study Graphic Fiction in the third part of year one, this seemed to be perfect opportunity to study the key frames that are used to maximise the story. I was excited to start, and without hesitation picked a cartoon episode from a series I love, "Gravity Falls". I started with the first episode, and watched roughly two minutes into the opening scene, sketching each frame as it changed.

I kept the frames as small thumbnails, fitting 30 frames across a double page spread. The content was looking incredibly satisfying, and it was really interesting to see how the action flowed through each frame. Even with a few key frames, you could see the animation come to life as you scanned the pages.

Once I flipped the page for the next set, I decided to try something a little different with the layout. Rather than rows of boxes at the same scale, I attempted to add a little energy by switching the sizing, giving it a more comic book format.

Working in this format was a lot of fun. It felt like a really great way at taking a closer look at the compositions used to achieve the best impact in narrative. This short action sequence had many perspectives to study, all providing great insight into optimising on narrative. Knowing when to pull the camera in for a close shot to emphasise expression, compared to the establishing shots that set the scene, the opening scene was plentiful in its offerings of variety.

In all I found this exercise to be extremely valuable. I'm inspired by the research task and will find this to be a valuable addition to my practise. With the final course around the corner, this taste of exploring narrative through frames of an existing feature, I am more than excited to move forward with Graphic Fiction, with a curiosity of what might be on offer through this and how might I progress this research over there.



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