Through the flashback live action experiment I made, I tried to use the same technique used in the film to generate a change of mood, a way to blend both memory and present together but keeping them separate in terms of emotion. The experiment was really useful as I am mixing both narrative and fictional styles in my documentary film and its closely related to metamorphosis, transitions and human manipulation too.
Finally, the experiment I made it’s just a quick test to try to emulate my case study film style but obviously with my own imagery, ideas and basing all the visuals on a segment of the interview recording I’m working on for my group documentary film. After analysing the different ideas used in I met the Walrus, the trial worked out as a possible solution on how metamorphism operates as a timing and transition agent between ideas and the relationship form- content.
Flashbacks and memories are usually represented brighter and sometimes quite blurred and distorted compared to scenes in the present, but what the director does in here, is to cut straight from the building window to the stream by introducing a new image which symbolizes and produces the same feeling as the one before, being the memory the need and want to escape from the daily life, from reality into a peaceful and pure place. Another strategy not to make noticeable changes from cut to cut is to play with sound. Once the lake scene is introduced to the audience, they get the taste of what it looked like and sounded like but rapidly while it goes forward to the present again and after interchanging a few times the shots, the only sound that invades the screen is the one from the present, what really makes us believe as an audience, that even though the character is in there, he’s ignoring his surrounding and only focused on his flashback.
CASE 1: I met the Walrus, Josh Raskin (2007)
Keywords: Metamorphosis, metaphors, transitions, transformation, interview, animated documentary.
Forty five years ago, a 14 year old intrepid Beatle fan made his way into John Lennon’s hotel room while in Canada and carried out what is nowadays, a very significant and peculiar interview of the musician and his main points of view on politics, the world and future. Nearly four decades later, the same grown up boy Jerry Levitan, decided to make an animated documentary of the valuable recording to immortalize Lennon’s words and interpret his philosophy. In this way, he contacted director and animator Josh Raskin who gave birth to the multi award winner animated short I met the Walrus in 2007.In some way, this pair managed to convey a strong visual message to the audience but how did they succeeded in terms of selecting the right tools in order to deliver the message?, What is so unique about I met the Walrus and why is it considered one of the most successful animated documentaries in recent years?.
The first thing I was wondering when trying to find these answers was, if the fact of having such an old and low quality recording as the main source for the film was going to interfere with the visual process and final outcome. Even the less experienced filmmakers know that having a good quality soundtrack from the beginning is always the perfect tool to generate visual representation in the most quick and effective way. However, for Levitan, the recording was not a concern as it mattered more to him its value as a historic archive and the impact the words have on today’s global situation rather than its condition. In the other hand, apart from being able to improve the quality of the sound through modern software, the many options that animation facilitates are numerous in terms of creating a visual style that would in some form or another blend and adapt to a specific soundtrack. To achieve that, the pair of filmmakers wedded the traditional pen sketches by James Braithwaite with Alex Kurina’s digital illustration to produce a graphic narrative which gently romances Lennon’s words in a torrential flood of nonstop animation, a variety of explosions of sequences that originate from nothing or from minuscule unrelated matters and are decorated with special satirist drawings to enhance the symbolism and metaphors of the speech.
What Raskin, Levitan and their collaborators understood very well, was that even if the recording had its deficiencies, they had to take the worst and make the best of it by simply manipulating animation. A clear example of this practice is the visual representation that occurs after a minute and thirty seconds of the film when the inevitable sound of a phone ringing spoils in some way the interview and the filmmakers take advantage of the event by finding an image to symbolize the phone as well as other environmental sounds. It was because of this, the use of comedic metaphors, the continuous flow of ideas creating a narrative and the ability to interpret the interview without missing important bits or overcrowding the canvas with lots of information that this film has been awarded so many prices and nominations and has conquered a place in the top of animated short films of the decade.
The short film I met the Walrus is exceptionally related to my research due to its way of building a whole narrative from just an original source through metamorphism, a constant sense of transformation and a simple use of techniques and visual codes such as colour and realistic/fictitious imagery. The fact that it is an animated documentary film also contributes enormously to my group documentary project and to learn how to portray clearly and successfully a recorded interview into a moving image.
Finally, the experiment I made it’s just a quick test to try to emulate my case study film style but obviously with my own imagery, ideas and basing all the visuals on a segment of the interview recording I’m working on for my group documentary film. After analyzing the different ideas used in I met the Walrus, the trial worked out as a possible solution on how metamorphism operates as a timing and transition agent between ideas and the relationship form- content.
CASE 2: FILM: The tree of Life, Terrence Malick (2011)
Video link (scene of the film): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm6JyYGwtpY
Keywords: Reality, memories, fiction, transitions, cuts.
Recreating past events and fictional circumstances from one cut to another in films has always been difficult to achieve, or at least in a very good manner. Thousands of film directors have tried in diverse ways to make their stories understandable and to portray in a distinctive style the time and place where a scene develops. The tree of Life, by director Terrence Malick is not the exception with the big difference that this experimental drama film engages the audience from the beginning to take part in a colossal voyage managing to convey the life of a man (reality) with his own memories (past) and more profound matters, jumping from modern days to the mid 50’s and even back to the very beginning of life on earth and creation of the universe. But how does the director move that freely in the timeline from one point to another without confusing the audience? Even if the film was mostly renowned because of its experimental scenes always expressed by the powers of nature through the representation of cosmic and astronomical environments in contrast with the story of the man., I will concentrate in analyzing a particular non experimental scene where the man remembers events that happened in his childhood while being at work.
The scene starts with Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) walking impatiently around a firm of architects while he speaks to someone on the phone. The character is clearly stressed and anxious about his current situation and the oppressing atmosphere where he is at that moment. This tension is represented through a loud and busy work environment sound effect, Jack’s negative attitude and a series of office related activities that disturb him. At that point the congested sound fades out and the camera pans to the ceiling of the building where there’s a window, brightness, calmness, bringing the perfect opportunity to introduce a scene with flowing water and a flashback memory of him and his brothers playing in a lake. Flashbacks and memories are usually represented brighter and sometimes quite blurred and distorted compared to scenes in the present, but what the director does in here, is to cut straight from the building window to the stream by introducing a new image which symbolizes and produces the same feeling as the one before, being the memory the need and want to escape from the daily life, from reality into a peaceful and pure place. Another strategy not to make noticeable changes from cut to cut is to play with sound. Once the lake scene is introduced to the audience, they get the taste of what it looked like and sounded like but rapidly while it goes forward to the present again and after interchanging a few times the shots, the only sound that invades the screen is the one from the present, what really makes us believe as an audience, that even though the character is in there, he’s ignoring his surrounding and only focused on his flashback. There are actually many ways filmmakers try to approach memories and recall of events but sometimes some tactics seem to prove more effective than others, even when the main purpose is to confuse the audience.
In conclusion, it is worth to mention, that memories are considered fiction as they will never be recalled 100% accurately and are part of our imagination but based in a real source. For that reason, The tree of Life, truly demonstrates a proper management of the flashback effect and is a perfect example to follow when animating stories, documentaries and interviews that require to jump from realism to fiction changing the notion of time and making use of cuts to save money and time. Through the flashback live action experiment I made, I tried to use the same technique used in the film to generate a change of mood, a way to blend both memory and present together but keeping them separate in terms of emotion. The experiment was really useful as I am mixing both narrative and fictional styles in my documentary film and its closely related to metamorphosis, transitions and human manipulation too.
Written by Juan Bampa
REFERENCES & BIBLIOGRAPHY
– Book “In the blink of an eye” A perspective on film editing” by Walter Murch, 1995, 2001. Silman – James Press.
– Video “Galactic Raptor”, author unknown. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga48XKYjFLM
– Video “Hitchcock on cutting”. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG0V7EVFZt4
MANI 601 Research Outline 2
Transport Safety and Emergency Procedures
Safety, vehicles, property, life, technology, risk, danger, perception, training, educating, safety cards, probability, statistics.
During the research part of my film, I have learned that is really important to get as much knowledge as possible about the topic, to search and identify in what areas is very crucial to get actual scientific reasons and numbers and in what others is relevant to get opinions and to accept our human participation. I also think it is important to analyse from the beginning “safety” in a general way from its meaning, what it represents to human beings and how we humans can feel safer and actually be safer.
Main Research Categories
I have been mainly researching on the body & perception and mapping space frameworks as the main topic deals a lot with issues affecting senses, physical and psychological reaction to the illusion of feeling safe. In terms of mapping, it is worth to consider all the fields where safety procedures are promoted and all the branches of transportation safety.
Media sources such as online journals, books about transportation safety, online newspapers, documentaries, films with the same kind of humour and critical style that I want to pursue. Comedy books and prank airline videos. Journal Articles about safety and emergency procedures. Articles about accident statistics.
Interviews: Even if the idea of making interviews for the film never crossed my mind, I acknowledge the importance of doing them as part of the research process but not as an essential part to make it happen. In case of taking into account interviews, I would consider to carry a few interviews to flight attendants and /or pilots. I could consider in the same way interviewing normal people and their experience as passengers.
-“Miracle of the Hudson plane crash”. Documentary film shown on the National Geographic Channel.
On Thursday 15 January 2009, 155 people on board US Airways flight 1549 met potential disaster in the sky over New York City. I think this documentary and the investigation of what happen with this plane which had to land in the Hudson Lake after striking birds is a good example on how a combination of good luck and a good management of the safety procedures finally ended in a successful emergency landing. I think all these investigation programs and documentaries by the National Geographic are really relevant and important to watch as they refer to the accident itself, the investigation and they interview from many points of view.
– Luxair Safety video
This is an animated Airline safety video. Airlines have been using animation for quite a long time by now but what I really like about this video is the way is statically designed. Nowadays, with the importance and greatness that CGI brings to the field, many airlines are approaching complex digital animation to incorporate in their publicity and airline videos. The Luxair video keeps having that rough typical and very authentic design of old safety cards, preserving simple character and background design and using very bright colours and straight forward animation.
AVIATION SAFETY CARDS & EMERGENCY PROCEDURES
Safety measures have always been part of our lives since we were children with the big difference that at that time we were just told to avoid danger and be careful in certain situations but we never thought things could get wrong at any point, our lack of knowledge made us trust everything in our perfect world so we never expected to have measures to follow during or after accidents. As adults we are sufficiently conscious about all the dangers that we are exposed to and that accidents are part of our daily routines and burdens.
Nowadays, emergency and safety boards and signs are everywhere and exist due to policies those companies must follow to protect the rights of their customers and the company’s integrity when having an accident at any place or in any vehicle of their property.
STATISTICS AND FACTS
It is true that transport systems and vehicles are getting safer everyday and that the probability for a person of being involved in an aviation accident could be 1 in a few million but it is a fact as well that in case of having an airplane accident the chance to survive might not be that remote. Surprisingly, according to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Boards), you’re much more likely to walk away from an airline accident than you are to perish. In fact, the same investigation showed that a staggering 95.7 percent of people involved in plane crashes survive.
There are more than 50 technical known issues that can happen to an airplane while is flying and there are many environmental factors apart from the collision itself that could affect and harm us such as low air temperatures of -50 C at 10000m of altitude, ocean temperatures below -2C in case of landing on water and post –collision dangers such as fire and explosions.
After spending some time researching about the statistics already mentioned, I found out that there’s another institution called (ACRO) Aircraft Crashes Record Office and that these people base all their investigations and numbers considering only the accidents in which the aircraft has suffered such damage that it is removed from service. In that way, I discovered that the NTSB bases their studies in all type of accidents, considering a “crash” an emergency landing due to a landing gear fault.
In conclusion, having an aviation accident is a deadly and catastrophic event and safety cards and emergency procedures are only reliable and accurate depending on the situation, the type of accident, the conditions why not, luck.
At this stage I could see the project going in either of these directions. A documentary which would concentrate in more than criticising emergency and transport safety cards and policies but in elaborating an honest message and make fun on how these signs, boards and videos are designed by these companies in such an informal, too elaborated and sometimes funny way . For that reason it represents a mixture of my own subjective ideas to complement the objectivity that these rules represent on paper to finally elaborate a general understanding of the topic but affecting me in such a deep way to be considered a performative documentary. In the contrary, this will be a perfect example of the unreal and imaginative ingredients of the poetic mode accompanied with a straight forward narration to make the audience accept or destroy the filmmaker’s message. For this idea, a safety video with camera pans following a safety card would be an interesting way of being develop.
The second direction could be making a documentary about the development of safety cards and show in what aspects they have changed during the different periods in the XX century as an example pre and post war safety cards. Would be worthy as well to show how they were modified according to maybe social and political propaganda and circumstances in a particular period of time. It is important to consider whatever the decision would be that the idea will revolve around the content and visuals from the book and that the intention will be to add satiric and comic language and sense to the topic.
SOME OF THE SCENES/SITUATIONS THAT COULD BE INCLUDED
– When referring to the exact words “Please leave behind any personal belongings when evacuating”, a person should appear naked while being in the toilet or people naked jumping from the plane.
– Making fun of the electronic devices policy
– mentioning that there were very honest safety cards in the 60’s.
-Mentioning that people were allowed to smoke during flights before.
-Mentioning that people were allowed weirdly to hang out around the plane when the seat belt sign was switch off.
-Mentioning that airlines have always been concerned about comfort and how to advertise about less important things than safety, even though there are some funny adverts that try to convince passengers about the aircraft’s safety for having four engines instead of two.
-Mentioning that all the characters and people on safety cards look like upper class people, typical American style families and some reflect the way of living of modern western society.
-Mentioning that most of the people on safety cards are white. What impact has or had this at the time.
I think the way safety cards/boards are designed give us the chance to mock about them.
It looks more like a hospital than a plane why on earth the flight attendant wants to
And the boy looks already terminally ill. Abandon the aircraft and take the oxygen mask
Some examples of the style I think is adequate and appealing for the documentary. The images are taken from the book “Design for Impact”.
The documentary could be done as an airline safety video or recreating a passenger following with his sight an airline safety card with all the instructions. The bit of the passenger seated and holding the card could be filmed in live action until he reads the card as a “comic book”. It will involve live action mainly taken from old fashioned archives, cut-out animation and probably considering TV Paint as well. The design will be very similar to the images in the book with not much detail on it but always recreating the design that characterised airplane safety cards that are basically very strong, light colours and a simple character design. I am contemplating the use of an old fashioned narration to accompany the visuals.