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

Starting a Story

Exercise 1

I love watching films and often find myself admiring the compositions used to portray the story. I'm very much an "all in" type of viewer, meaning I am fully engrossed into the film and will be an easy target to push any emotions; I cry a lot at film, animation and even adverts if it hits the buttons. The opening scene, however, has been one that moves by so quickly that I rarely pay attention, unless it really asks for your attention. I found myself being more interested in the subject matter when the film begins with a close up. The abstraction of these shots and their obscurities I find interesting, and perhaps would lead to story that I am attracted to. The opening scene being a city view can sometimes make me roll my eyes, well mostly just for this practise. It made me realise how predictable film really can be, the close ups, although it takes on the similar roll as a long shot of a city, at least can feel unique given what the close up subject matter is. A city is a city wherever it is in the world, it's not unique anymore.

Taking on this exercise I decided to skip the films if I felt as though I had already recorded something similar, i.e cityscapes. Landscapes aren't an issue if it is focused on something particular. For example, focus on a bank like in Baby Driver, or a desert like Western scene as in Django, these feel as though it is immediately in the story, unlike a wide air shot of an entire city which could mean anything for the story and, well the entire story is set here (yawn).

From the scenes I drew, I would question why is this the way it starts. Is it about the character, or the story. Is it symbolic for the story we are yet to discover, and would returning to the opening scene after watching the film change your perspective on the choices they made. This can be said for the very first film in this exercises; True North, directed by Eiji Han Shimizu.

Film: True North

Director: Eiji Han Shimizu

This film was incredible. Such a beautiful way to tell the stories of North Korean defects who have escaped and share their stories. Without a way of showing reality in documentaries much like you can expect to find from the West or other parts of the world, recreating them in a gripping tale for animation is an intelligent alternative, perhaps more so than recreating them in live action. In fact, with animation, you have the ability to enhance a story to be even more gripping, even more distressing and upsetting, and even more raw. I found the art style beautiful and unique, the roughness of the design added to the story and realities we can only imagine. I found myself completely engaged with the visuals of the story, the empathy weighed deeper for the characters, perhaps more so than live action.

I thought deep on the opening scene for this film as it felt quite symbolic, a close up on an emergency exit illuminated light, and the context of which this could signify. Given the nature of the story, and the reality of it being based on escaping a country, starting with a sign that shows you the way out I found extremely fitting. A small detail with a big impact when considering freedoms and the lack of in some cases. We take them for granted, perhaps hardly recognising them at all in our day to day as they appear so "normal", however in this moment it feels like it's a beacon of freedom that is so easy to access. It suggests option, indicating that you can exit at anytime or if there is a life threatening reason to do so. The importance they stand for, and how accessible they are, is a stark reminder of the contrasting realities in the world.

The way the scene gradually pans out to reveal the backstage of a production, with the sounds of people working away across the room keeping lights, sound and other factors in smooth operation, suggests it is the present time, in fact giving a sense that is live. A man is waiting for his queue to take the stage, a stage we soon discover is for a Ted Talk. The film is a story, told by the man who escaped North Korea to an engaged live audience. We're not sure who the man is exactly, however it is later revealed when his experience brings him to the present day.

Film: Paul

Director: Greg Mottola

This is a Sci-Fi comedy that ticks all the boxes for an alien film. It begins with a throw back to a moment that had happened and witnessed, introducing the first alien experience that comes to be the main character, which is quickly setting the tone of the story. Closing in on the interiors of a home, full of objects that are typical of the 1940's, in which it is set in. There's something about scenes that divert your eyes to something, whilst having the sounds play out beside this that is strange and unclear. It could be wind through an open window, it could be a car pulling up outside and maybe conversation in the distance. It could just be the radio, or someone actively doing something off camera but in the same room. It brings curiosity to the viewer, you're observing the scene whilst listening to what is happening. There's a reason you see one and hear the other. Most of the time, after setting the scene in the first frame, the camera meets the sound and you quickly understand what is happening. This is true with Paul.

Film: Hot Fuzz

Another film featuring the dynamic duo, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. An interesting opening scene which, given the attention span of people and the lack of ability to stay focused, Hot Fuzz uses a holding long shot at a reception desk in a police station. In this scene we watch someone enter the building and make a very strong, real time walk toward the camera. Would this work in a comic in the same way it works in film? I'm not sure, I feel it would need a few frames with different angles for it to be effective. For example, someone enters, then the next frame would be a side view that might show the length of the walk to the reception, it could then be a close up on the character walking to determine what kind of walk it is, is it calm or rushed? Maybe in those scenes we will also get a glimpse of how this character is dressed, are they in uniform or casual wear? In all, I think such a real time scene would be broken up for a comic. Or, it would be one large frame, either way it is interesting to think how a scene like this would pan out in a comic, neither option being right or wrong.

The other opening scene drawings:


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