May 23

SIPS #8 (In Retrospect)

Well, I missed posting on this day because of my fantastic inability to keep track of time. I was composing my background music for my film. I admit it didn’t go perfectly, but I think I made some progress. I created one of my repeating themes that I would later use in the actual soundtrack. And, aside from the frustration of some struggles in composing more than a few lines, I rather enjoyed it.

Speaking of enjoying things, SIPS has been for the most part pretty great. It was super cool to make something that I could share and be proud of. I think it would have been 100% enjoyable if I had managed my time better, but I admit that my procrastination led to some stress and frustration. Basically, it was great up until 1 o’clock in the morning the Sunday before it was due, when I was still recording my music. It isn’t quite so great to spend 9 hours in one day trying to accomplish one segment of your project. Don’t do it kids. Spread it out, you will love it.

I guess that also covers the advice I would give. Chose a project you will enjoy. Aim high, if you miss you will still create something great. Don’t procrastinate, because having no time will not make you happy in the end. And relax. Whatever happens, it’s okay. Your project won’t be perfect. I know mine wasn’t. But that’s okay, because you still made something. You still accomplished and learned something. And that makes it great.

So ya! Go SIPS! Yay!

May 9

Final SIPs Blog Post

That right- you heard me. This is the end of my story, the end of the wonderful, painful, kind of really cool adventure that was SIPs 2018. Just in case you haven’t been paying any attention, I chose to make a short film for my project. I researched, wrote, filmed, edited, composed, and recorded background music for my finished project, putting it all together into a mostly comical, slightly scary (maybe if you are 5) film. And I must say, it turned out pretty okay, all things considered.

Now you may be wondering why on earth someone would be crazy enough to chose to do that much work for a mandatory English project. And to that I say, “why not?” Well, actually I did it because it combined a bunch of things I really enjoy into one project. I love writing, acting, and music so much that I couldn’t chose between them. So instead I did them all.

Okay, so this SIPs project is supposed to have  a purpose, right? It’s supposed to serve, teach, inspire or something, right? How does a short film do that? Well, I like to think that my little movie can inspire young aspiring directors, actors, and composers alike. If some 15 year old girl can do it (for and English project no less) than why can’t I? Maybe it isn’t amazing, but at least it is something you don’t see every day. Oh, and it proves that even someone as busy as I am can still have cool hobbies. So that’s inspirational too, right?

You may have figured out one of the major flaws in my brilliant project by now. There is no way that I had access to some sound stage, set, or studio. You are right. I didn’t. But I had something much more close to my heart. My very own home. Yup, that is where 100% of my non-school work went down. (That is if you don’t count those five seconds I spent across the street videoing my house) And even though it was not very professional and now everyone knows what my house looks like, it worked just fine for me.

Although I tend to be pretty independent and have been asked upon occasion if there is somehow more than one of me, I didn’t do the whole thing alone. I had some friends who were my actors, some wonderful family members who helped me edit, and an especially fantastic person (ahem, Skye) who spent many hours helping me write and record my music. I honestly could not have done any of it without them, even though it would have been pretty cool to make a one-person movie where I played all the parts.

 

You never would guess it, but truthfully my project was far from sunshine and daisies (and no, I’m not referring to the fact that I made a horror film). I think that the biggest frustration that I had was getting to the weekend before the due date and finding out that upon watching the movie, you still had no idea what was the plot was. Truthfully, it still isn’t clear. At all. But that’s okay. I tried to re-shoot a few scenes with some line changes, and add a couple of extra shots to help clarify, but really there was no way for me to get all of my actors together and not time to try to fix it some other way. I was completely and utterly stuck. Really, I guess I learned a good lesson in taking the best that you have and living with it. Even though I couldn’t fix it like I wanted to and didn’t accomplish everything that I had hoped, it still turned out alright in the end. In the future though, I think it would help to actually write out every line of dialogue before shooting, and maybe consider whether it would make any sense before getting stuck. I think the way to avoid it would have just been to procrastinate less and plan more. Funny how simple the solutions are most of the time…

 

Okay, so on a happier note: I did some cool stuff still! Honestly, I think that my biggest success was just finishing the project at all. It was a lot to do, especially for someone with so little time. One of the things that I was most proud of was the artistry of a few of my shots. Those that I took the time and effort to really think about turned out beautifully and were very aesthetic. It gave me much joy. Such happiness. Very wow. Oh, and for the most part the music was pretty legit. Oh, and did I mention that I finished! That was a miracle if there ever was one!

 

No. I didn’t forget this was for school, despite what it seems. Yes, I did learn some cool things too. I think that the one thing that I learned the most was the importance of planning ahead. This really applies to everything in life, and every part of my project. I needed to plan my dialog, my plot, my visuals, and my music much more thoroughly in order to make it turn out how I hoped, but I didn’t. So really I learned the most from my biggest failure. And I’m okay with that. In the future, I’m just going to take the time to plan ahead and it will help me a ton.

 

And finally, (you are almost rid of me), the showcase. It was actually pretty fantastic. I mean really, I was afraid. I wasn’t totally happy with my final product and I was about to show it to a room full of people. But the incredible support and acceptance really made me feel okay with what I had accomplished. I thought it was a great experience, and only wish that I had been able to see more of my classmate’s projects before I had to leave.

 

And that’s all for today folks. Enjoy that free time that you have now that you don’t feel obligated to read this blog!

April 13

SIPS #7

Today I started composing! And it was awesome! I learned that it is really hard to just compose sitting at a computer with nothing to play on or work out. When I found a piano to try out melodies and mess around on the composing process flew. Or at least it felt like it did. I actually wrote very little, but I did get some. I also learned a lot about writing scores that go with what is happening in the film. The timing is really important, so it is hard to write a background track before you have the actual footage all timed and put together. But I am determined to make this work, and it will be awesome!

I still need to finish composing and then I need to edit my film. I haven’t even started the editing process, but I need to cut my shots, put them together, and then record my music and put it in there too. It’s a lot, but I believe in myself.

March 23

SIPS #6

Today I learned that having your story solidified is super important. I also learned some important lessons in pacing and character development as I tried to outline the story that the entire film would follow. I finished (to an extent) working out the details of my plot and even figured out a way to make my main(ish) character grow a bit to become a better person. In all, I think it was productive and I learned important lessons for writing in general.

If I want to finish my project by May 8 I will need to finish my actual story board probably this weekend. This includes dialog and shots. I will probably film during spring break so I have time to edit and possibly still do background music. I will just need to check with my actors to make sure they are available by then.

My project can inspire people by showing them what a 9th grader can accomplish with a little creativity, a few friends, and a video camera. I also hope to create a positive message in the film itself, one that will inspire a little bit in its own right. It is still in development and may take a little bit of extra time and effort to make it work out.

March 9

SIPS #5

Today I tried to make my storyboard, and found some difficulties. It was really hard for me to envision the camera angles I wanted and the flow of shots. I also realized how big of a challenge it would be to write dialog that was specific to different characters. Man, it will be a struggle. I felt like today wasn’t super productive simply because there was a lot of “this really isn’t working” and “my brain can’t handle this” going through my mind.  Although I did manage to come up with some more ideas and details for my film in general.

I am going to try to nail down the story line and finish at least sketching my shots before the next SIPS day. Then I will try to do some character research and work so I can get some good dialog out of it.

I read Anne’s blog today. 🙂

February 23

SIPS #4

I am really, really enjoying this. First of all, I’m excited for this. I think it’s going to be super fun to film, maybe not so fun to edit, but even the writing process is fun. I am learning a lot about camera angles, suspense, and theoretical film stuff, but the stuff that excites me most will be learning to direct, work with a bunch of hooligans, and get a feel for the film process.

So far my main problems have been figuring out how much horror is still school appropriate, so it will be interesting to convey the feel of a horror/suspense film without actually showing very much. Also, the story writing process is harder than I anticipated.

Next time I just need my story board templates. Maybe I will ask the girls I need to act for me if they would be willing to so I can get an idea of what I’m working with before next time. My plan is to continue to work on my actual story board and to have that ready to start filming pretty soon-ish.

I did do a bit more research, finished designing my characters, and started my story board.

February 2

Sips #3

Today ended up being a great research day. I looked into creating suspense through music and how to write horror.  I got lots of great ideas and information. I finished up most of my basic research today (I’m sure there is always more to do as I go) and created a note flight account so that I could eventually start writing my background track. I also started formulating ideas for characters, and I’m playing with having a monster antagonist (that you probably won’t ever see, since I don’t exactly have a budget) rather than a psycho killer or whatever.

Here are some more things I learned:

Suspenseful Music:

  • Instruments- strings, synthesizer, waterphone, theramin, ondes martenot, apprehension engine.
  • Tempo- faster tempo= faster heart rate.
  • Dynamics- crescendo at the climax
  • Tension/Revulsion- balance
  • Discord
  • Scary music+innocent scenes=high tension
  • Uncanniness
  • Build

 

Writing horror:

  • Write 2 stories- one that would have happened if the horror hadn’t arrived, and the other that happened when it did.
  • Write true characters, not people to get killed.
  • Focus on your characters.
  • Real motivation is necessary.
  • Get your antagonist right.
  • Link your characters to the monster.
  • Don’t tell your audience everything.
  • Think about what scares you.

Next time I will probably officially start story-boarding, solidify my characters, and hopefully get a good idea of what my film is going to be looking like.

In all, I think I got a put for a level 5 of effort/productivity today. I didn’t mess around or get distracted and so I accomplished a lot. Besides, I’m getting close to being able to actually make my project.

January 19

SIPS #2

What did I learn today? I did do quite a bit of research and here is some of what I came up with:

Tips for writing short films:

  1. The shorter the better
  2. Keep the practicalities of writing in mind.
  3. Make it visual
  4. Find single moments.
  5. Tell a story
  6. Engage the reader.
  7. Beware of cliches.

 

Creating suspense:

  1. It’s the mind of the audience.
  2. Frame for emotion.
  3. Camera is not a camera.
  4. Dialogue means nothing. (Not a problem! This is a silent film!)
  5. Point of view editing.
    1. Start with a close-up of the actor
    2. – Cut to a shot of what they’re seeing
    3. – Cut back to the actor to see his reaction
    4. – Repeat as desired
  6. Montage gives you control.
  7. Keep the story simple.
  8. The characters must break cliche.
  9. Use humor to add tension.
  10. Two things happening at once.
  11. Suspense is information.
  12. Surprize and twist.

 

Camera shots to help build suspense/ unease:

  • Over the head shot.
  • Over the shoulder shot.
  • Close up.
  • EXTREME CLOSE UP!!!!
  • Low angle.
  • Canted angle.
  • Dolly shot.
  • Hand held shot.
  • POV.
  • Jump cut.
  • Cutaway.

 

My plan for next time is to continue to research creating suspense through camera angles, music, movement, and story writing. If I get a solid foundation before the time is out I will start writing out a story board for my story, including characters, shots, and story line.

I admit that I didn’t exactly accomplish what I was planning on doing today, but I feel that it was actually quite productive. I got a lot of insight and I worked the entire time effectively. Over all, I could probably improve on either making better objectives or sticking to them while I work.

January 19

SIPS Pitch II

Welcome to SIPS Pitch the second! Guess what? There was, as you can probably tell by the presence of this pitch, a slight change in plans. I have changed my mind. I will no longer be just learning about “music theory”, I will be learning about many of my passions while I produce a short silent film. I love theatre, writing, film, and music, so finally I have found the perfect project to explore all of them. I’m going to explore how the arts all work together to create something bigger, and I am pumped!

Here are a couple of questions I’m going to follow:

  1. How can music and cinematography influence the feel of a film?
  2. What writing/directing processes make an effective and quality film?
  3. How does one create suspense through composition, editing, writing, and filming.

I have already touched on what my potential project may be, and I plan on using it not only as an expression of what I have learned, but a way to learn it. I plan to write, direct, compose music for, edit, and produce a short suspense film.

One expert I can consult is the local Drama Teacher, Ms. Schow. She teaches units on silent films to her Drama 2 class and has lots of theater experience. I may also consult Mr. Beck, the orchestra teacher, and my brother who is majoring in the Media Arts.

January 12

SIPS #1

Well, in one respect today was almost entirely unproductive. In another respect it was super awesome!

I started out trying to start research on my rather vague idea for a project and I guess I made a little progress. I learned that there are, in fact, studies about how music and personality are related. I know! Isn’t that amazing! Someone studied that before! I can’t read at least half of them without paying for them, but I’m sure that they are very deep and thoughtful. The one that I did actually get to read talked about how your music preference is related to your empathy. That is about all that I got out of it so far…

But the thing that I actually learned today was that I should do a different project! I just wasn’t passionate enough for just reading some articles about brains, so now I am going to try something else.

My plan is to combine my passions and write, direct, film, edit, and play and compose music for a short movie. We will see how it goes. 🙂

Oh, and next time I hope to research filming techniques and camera angles as well as movie composition. I might also find the software I need to compose the background music.