Index to Kino Flo Lighting Handbook. Introduction Lighting techniques for Kino Flos are pretty much like scene for film or video that looks like what we see in. Changes mood. • Seasonal effective disorder. • Film noir vs. Wizard of. Oz. • Fluorescent lights in Joe vs. Volcano. • Mix of art and science. • Use technique and. Kino Flo is an industry standard light manufacturer who host this free film lighting techniques PDF on their website. Naturally, it is to be used in conjunction with.
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cinematographic style can shed new light on a film, and to give .. Figure Schüfftan employs Rembrandt's depth techniques in Figure There is a lack of definition in Schüfftan's lighting for Una parigina a Roma. technical knowledge of film stocks, lighting instruments, color, and di usion combine the techniques of additive and subtractive lighting in order to control and . that the audience can focus on your film's content and not be distracted by Cinematography Has Specihic Techniques. The Black Swan Three Point Lighting.
They will be paying the bill, and you are working for them. Some people can work wonders with three lights, others need an arsenal. If the director wants sun streaming in through the windows, these units are the sun.
If he later wants a soft shaft of moonlight to fall on the leading lady, the 10K would have to be strongly diffused or the talent would be charred. Through common sense and a little experience, you will learn what each lighting instrument does best.
If your lights are the paints, then your light meter is the brush. This technique separates the artist from the painter. Through experimentation after learning the concepts your skills will grow. This book has been a great learning experience for me. Some of the solutions to the problems I encountered while on the set may help you in your specific situation. Surround yourself with talented people in the art of lighting like I did. Some of it is bound to rub off on you. I even interviewed one of the greatest living masters of lighting and cinematography: Director of Photography Vittorio Storaro A.
He has always inspired me and his work is untouched by others. Pull from the knowledge you do have and tackle the problem from that angle. But you need to see and prove that first before you just blindly accept that. I make mistakes, have typos, but to the best of my knowledge, the concept has worked for me. Try it yourself and see if I am smoking kitty litter.
This is the situation, this is how I attempted to light it, and this is what happened. Sometimes I was fortunate enough to come up with something better. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Steven Bradford, Media Arts Chair at Collins College in Tempe, Arizona for reviewing my manuscript for this book, pointing out areas that needed improvement, and offering suggestions on how to make it better.
This took a lot of his valuable time and I appreciate his effort. Thank you! In Chapter 1, we will deal with the aspects of color and quality; in Chapter 3, we will discuss the quality of light provided by various lamp and reflector types; and in Chapter 4, we will discuss aspects of intensity. Color We know that the light of the sun or of an electric lamp can be broken down into the colors of the rainbow. The common method for dispersing white light is by using a prism.
As a young science student you may have learned the memory crutch Roy G. Biv to help you remember the 1 Placing Shadows: Lighting Techniques for Video Production colors and the order they fall in when white light passes through a prism and is projected on a white surface. Primary Colors Light has two components: luminance information and chrominance information. The luminance information deals with the amount of light intensity in lumens and is measured in foot-candles.
Chrominance color information is subdivided into two factors: hue or tint, and saturation. Hue defines color with respect to its placement within the spectral range, as shown in Figure 1.
It is the basic color of the light. Saturation is the property of light that determines the difference from white at a given hue. In other words, heavily saturated red might be described as fire-engine red. A poorly saturated red is closer to white in value and may be called pale pink. Unfortunately, most monitors just label the saturation control as color. To understand saturation, think of color as a specific hue that gradually increases in intensity along a straight line from white at the left end to the pure color on the right.
The pure color—for example, red—is said to be saturated, while its unsaturated hue is called pink. Adjusting the color control of a monitor or television affects the degree of color saturation in the scene. Figure 1. We know from observation that there are a great many other colors in the world around us.
In the great scheme of things, these seven colors are of no particular importance except to illustrate the concept of refraction and that white light has distinct component parts—parts that can be measured. There are three primary colors, however, that are extremely important in understanding the physics of light and the transmission of color pictures by the television system.
These colors, the capital letters of the name Roy G. Biv, are red, green, and blue. They are the primary colors of light. Various combinations of these three colors make it possible to reproduce all the other colors in the visible spectrum. Since this is true, we need only evaluate everything we see in terms of how much red, green, and blue light it reflects to reproduce its actual color.
That is why the television camera has three pickup chips, each one reacting to the percentage of a particular primary color reflected by the subject.
The display screen, a cathode ray tube CRT , contains red, green, and blue phosphors that glow with an intensity relative to the signal generated by the corresponding pickup chips in the camera. While the knowledge that white light could be broken down into seven colors in a particular order may have gotten us through our science test, we need to understand the color aspects of light in greater detail to understand how it affects the television camera see Figure 1.
Red has the longest wavelength of visible light. The farther you proceed toward the violet, or opposite, end of the spectrum, the shorter the wavelengths become.
These terms are subjective evaluations that relate to the perceived or psychological effect of these colors on the viewer. Color Temperature The color temperature of a light source is determined by the wavelengths of light it emits. That is, how much red light, how much green light, how much blue light, etc. We know that as an object is heated it will first glow with a reddish color. If we continue to apply heat, it will give off a yellow light and change to blue and then violet as additional heat is applied.
Because different substances emit different wavelengths of light when heated to identical temperatures due to their differing chemical compositions, a specific substance must be used to establish standards. When it is heated to a specific temperature, it gives off a specific combination of wavelengths that are consistent and predictable. The important part of this definition is that the light emitted during the heating process progresses at a gradually increasing rate from the longer red wavelengths to the shorter wavelengths in the blue-violet end of the spectrum.
This phenomenon occurs only when a tungsten filament is heated by passing a current through it. Incandescent lamps produce this gradual, predictable increase when current is applied to their filament. For reasons both scientific and economic, tungsten is the metal of choice for manufacturers of lamp filaments. The closer you operate a filament to its boiling point, the shorter its life.
The answer is the application of dichroic filters. These are special optical coatings applied to the front of daylight lamps that reduce the colors complementary to blue and produce a pseudo-daylight spectrum. Most daylight sources, like the halogen metal iodine HMI lamps, are the result of specially designed discharge lamps that generate the higher color temperature without the need for special dichroic coatings that reduce output and lamp efficiency.
Fluorescent lamps, on the other hand, do not produce light as the result of passing current through a filament. Instead, an arc of current passes through a combination of gases, excites them and causes a phosphor coating inside the lamp to glow. Such light sources do not produce a continuous spectrum and are very difficult to correct and balance with standard light sources. Sometimes you may see a correlated color temperature listed for some fluorescent lamps. Do not be misled by such ratings, however.
They are not really scientific and do not provide satisfactory results when you add filters based on those temperatures to such a source. No light sources, other than incandescent lamps, are true blackbody sources, measurable in degrees Kelvin.
Fluorescent lights, mercury vapor lamps, sodium vapor lamps, and various other multivapor discharge sources all produce a very erratic spectrum and cannot be rated in degrees Kelvin as blackbody sources can. The actual wavelengths produced depend on the composition of gases and the coatings on the interior of the lamps.
The spectrum they produce does not provide a true white light containing known wavelengths from the red end of the spectrum to the violet end. Color Rendering Index A more scientific approach to the classification of the apparent color temperature of fluorescent and other discharge lamps is recommended by the International Commission of Illumination.
That method is the color rendering index CRI , in which eight standard pastel colors are viewed under the light source being rated and under a blackbody source of known color temperature. The color rendering index ranges from below zero to A number on that scale is assigned to the rated source light based on how accurately it renders the pastel colors compared to 5 Placing Shadows: Lighting Techniques for Video Production the same swatches viewed under the blackbody source.
The closer they come to matching the look of samples under the blackbody source, the higher the index number assigned to the source being tested. Cool white fluorescent lamps are given a CRI of Warm white fluorescent lamps have a CRI of Daylight Daylite fluorescent lamps have a CRI of A special fluorescent lamp called the Vita-lite has a CRI of 91 and comes as close as possible to a natural or daylight source.
Light radiates from the source in waves. The length of these waves, when measured from peak to peak, varies with the color involved. As mentioned earlier, the longer wavelengths are near the red end of the spectrum. These are perceived as being warm in color. The shorter wavelengths, near the violet end of the spectrum, are perceived as being cool in color. While the human eye is capable of adapting to a wide range of color temperatures and interpreting color correctly, the pickup chips of the television camera cannot.
These color temperatures are usually found when shooting in sunlight or under specially balanced or color-corrected studio lights. Camera Operation Before plunging into a technical explanation of camera operation or, later on, proper setup techniques for a color monitor, let me say a word about why such topics are covered in a text about lighting.
To make valid judgments about your lighting efforts, you must be able to view the results through the system. A number of texts dealing with TV lighting state that your monitor should be properly adjusted before you can make a valid assessment of the scene. They do not, however, tell you how to adjust it properly. Understanding proper adjustment methods is important for both the independent video producer who must know some basic aspects of lighting and for lighting designers who work with monitors daily.
In Figure 1. Each CCD chip then produces a voltage signal that is relative to the amount of that particular color present in the image at any given location. For example, if we were shooting a primary red art card, the red chip would produce the entire signal, and the green and blue chips would produce no signal at all. According to the National Television Systems Committee NTSC standards for American television, the camera should be set up to produce a 1-volt signal, from peak to peak, when it is properly adjusted.
In the case of shooting the red art card mentioned earlier, that entire signal would 6 Chapter 1: The Physics of Light Figure 1.
However, we rarely shoot a subject that contains a single primary color, so all pictures will be composed of varying voltages from each of the three CCD chips. Since white contains all the colors of the visible spectrum, we can reason that if we reproduce white accurately, we will automatically reproduce individual colors accurately. When white is reproduced on television there is a definite ratio among the three primary colors.
Auto White Balance To achieve the ratio for proper reproduction of white, and subsequently colors, the modern camera is designed with auto white balance circuits. These circuits are able to make adjustments in the output voltages of the three CCD chips so that their combined outputs form a 1-volt signal from 7 Placing Shadows: Lighting Techniques for Video Production peak to peak. The red signal will be 0.
When this occurs on an indoor location and the operator pushes the auto white button, you can see the image on the monitor change from off-white to white as the three voltages are adjusted to the established ratio. From a strictly technical standpoint, this voltage ratio does not directly determine the color information for the encoded signal.
It represents the quantity of each of the three primary colors, but there is a far more complicated method of establishing the actual chrominance information of the NTSC signal. Since our purpose is not technical in nature, that information will not be covered here, but many excellent books on the subject are listed in the Appendix. The important concept for the lighting director to remember about color temperature is the ratio of the primary colors and how the camera is designed to establish them.
If white balance is achieved at the start of a shoot with proper voltage applied to the lamps and a voltage drop occurs later on, the camera will then produce pictures that are warmer in color. This is due to a decrease in the blue-violet spectrum that occurs, because the filaments are not as hot as they were during the white balance procedure. It is not due to an increase or abundance of red in the spectrum. Note that the actual temperature at which the filament burns, based on the voltage applied, has an inverse effect on the color temperature.
The cooler filament produces fewer wavelengths from the upper end of the spectrum, resulting in a warmer or more reddish tone to the scene being shot. The actual amount of light in the red spectrum does not increase, but the reduction of wavelengths in the blue end of the spectrum causes an apparent increase in red. It is possible to calculate the color temperature by measuring the voltage at the lamps and using certain formulas.
From a practical standpoint, there is no time to do that, and there is no need to under studio lighting, since the camera is capable of auto white balance anyway. A color temperature meter may also be used to make quantitative measurements of the red, blue, and green light present from any source. In fact, use of such a meter is required when trying to determine the proper filter material to use to make color correction of discharge sources having unknown spectrums.
Black Balance Before continuing our discussion about white balance, a brief explanation about the black balance function of the camera is suitable.
The black balance is usually done before you white-balance, but some manufacturers recommend that you do it after you white-balance. Naturally, you should follow the recommended procedures for your particular camera.
On professional cameras, the white balance setting and black balance setting are usually on the same toggle switch at least on Sony models. B: White balance with black balance. The reason for this seeming contradiction has to do with the design differences in the black balance circuits.
More recent auto black circuits are able to modify the starting point of white balance voltages without changing their overall waveform, something earlier circuits could not do. It is generally best to cap the camera when making a black balance adjustment, although many cameras automatically do this for you. The diagrams in Figures 1. The output of the red channel is 0. The green channel output is 0. In this case, the blacks will be a true TV black without any shift toward a color.
To make it possible to achieve correction over a greater range of color temperature differences, cameras have filter wheels built into the optical path just behind the rear lens element see Figure 1.
Most cameras have only four filter positions on a single wheel. There is usually a studio or tungsten filter, two daylight filters, and a fourth position that is not a filter but a cap to prevent any light from reaching the pickup chips. This position may be used for black balance procedure and should always be used when changing from one lens to another, removing a lens for shipment or when shipping the camera. ND filters are designed to equally reduce the amount of light in the red, blue, and green spectrum.
They do not affect the color temperature. It is a nice touch, but it generally does not provide adequate control over your depth of field. For greater control, you should have a set of ND filters that can be placed in front of your lens to cut back the incoming light.
The normal complement of such a filter pack is 0. The filters may be used in any combination to give even greater latitude of control. They permit you to work with larger f-stops so not everything is in focus from 3 feet in front of the camera to the horizon.
They also make a variety of other effects filters that will be discussed later. One wheel is for color correction filters only and one wheel for a complete set of ND filters and pos- Figure 1. Note the orange cast. Note the blue cast. B: An example of a camera white balanced for tungsten lighting under fluorescent lighting. Note the green cast. Naturally, this makes it easier and faster to tailor the f-stop to your requirements. Not having filters built into your camera does not restrict you from using external filters to gain control of your f-stop setting.
The end result will be no different whether the filters are internal or external. The external filter pack can be rented for a few dollars a day. The camera will not be able to bring the signals within the required ratios. It will be necessary to change the filter wheel to one of the daylight settings to remove the excess blue light before it reaches the prism block. In that way, shot 39 made at a. The change in color temperature is caused by the different wavelengths of each color and the filtration effect of dust particles in the atmosphere.
The dust, moisture droplets, and pollution in the atmosphere act as a great filter and diffuser. These particles break up and absorb the shorter wavelengths near the blue end of the spectrum. The blue wavelengths that are diffused among these particles account for the blue color in the sky. The longer red wavelengths are affected less by the atmosphere and pass through it with greater freedom. It is this factor that accounts for the warm or yellow-orange look of the sun near sunrise and sunset.
You may have noticed that sunsets always appear more vibrant more red or orange in color photographs than they do to the naked eye. At these times, when the sun is low in the sky, its rays strike the earth obliquely. The additional atmosphere filters out the shorter-wavelength, cooler colors, while permitting the warmer, longer wavelengths to pass through more readily. The greater the dust and moisture content of the atmosphere, the more spectacular the effect. Clear, cloudless days tend not to yield beautiful sunsets.
After noon, density of the atmosphere increases with the passage of time due to the increasing distance between the sun and the subject. To compensate for this ever-changing condition, repeated white-balancing is necessary if you wish to mask the time change. Though great emphasis is placed on achieving perfect white balance so that whites are always white and the color in all the shots of a particular sequence will cut together during postproduction, I must insert a caution about such a sterile approach.
An old saying states that you have to know the rules before you are permitted to break them. It certainly applies here. An example might involve taping an afternoon sporting event on a real-time basis using several cameras switched live. Watching the monitor, you would notice a change in the color balance of 13 Placing Shadows: Lighting Techniques for Video Production the shots as the afternoon progresses.
You should be able to sense a warming in the color of the light and see shadows lengthening. That is normal and you expect these changes. The trick is to be able to recreate such an event out of sequence and maintain a convincing look indicating the passage of time once your shots are cut together.
You need a feel for the scene and must decide early on whether you are going for complete realism or want an unnatural or artistic look. It would be very difficult to achieve and maintain a desired look if you did not understand how the video system reacts to light and how light interacts with scenic elements.
Even interior shots may need to show time of day, and if they are of any length may require the use of some lighting techniques to show passage of time during the scene.
This used to require a very well-trained video engineer who had excellent color discrimination, but now almost any NLE system allows you to fine tune colors in editing.
A much simpler and more accurate method is to fool the camera during setup. When you are shooting outdoors, the daylight correction filter will compensate for the higher color temperature of the light and remove the excess blue before the electronic balancing process begins. The circuits assume that a white card is the subject and produce the required voltage for each of the primary colors. While the waveform monitor is designed to give you information about the luminance or brightness value of your scene, the vectorscope presents a graph of the color or chrominance content of the signal.
Remember, the camera always assumes you are shooting a white card when you white-balance. It will then produce the proper voltage ratios if the right color correction filter is in position. If you shoot a cyan-tinted card during the white balance procedure, the camera will compensate for the cyan by reducing the blue and green voltages since cyan is composed of blue and green to achieve the standard ratio that we have been talking about in order to produce a white field on the television screen.
As a result of reducing the blue and green voltages, when the camera is focused on the scene, the picture will be warmer than usual.
Since the circuits have been tricked into thinking there is more blue and green light in the spectrum than actually exists, the camera produces a red-orange field when it is aimed at a true white card after such a bogus white balance procedure.
The circuits have not increased the red voltage output in this unortho- 14 Chapter 1: The Physics of Light Figure 1. Such a procedure will produce a consistent warm look for all of the shots taken throughout the day. Warning: Do not try this technique for the first time on an important shoot. Run some tests before you start your shooting schedule. Use various tinted chips to see what effect they produce. Keep accurate records of your tests and use the chip that your tests indicate will produce the desired result.
This method will assure greater consistency throughout the shoot and will make painting much faster. Your test will show that the cyan chip you use for this white balance procedure should have very little saturation or the resulting flesh tones will be too red. The same effect can be achieved under tungsten lighting conditions by white-balancing on a blue card. This fools the camera in the same way the cyan chip did in an outdoor setting.
This method will produce a technical solution to the problem of producing warmer-looking scenes, but do not forget the aesthetic considerations involving the shadows in your scenes.
Do not shoot wide shots at noon with the shadows falling directly beside their sources. The situation is bound to be noticed by your viewers. Close-ups and medium shots can be done throughout the day without drawing attention to shadows. Save your long shots for the beginning or end of the day when the shadows will fall naturally at oblique angles to the subjects, as they do around sunset.
Working with Sources of Mixed Color Temperature Novices normally have great difficulty when they encounter mixed color temperatures on a set. These problems are at their worst when you are shooting indoors on location. A common situation is one in which you have to interview someone in an office lit by fluorescent lights. If you are lucky, you will come back to your edit room with footage of a person surrounded by a blue haze, with a strangely colored forehead, and an extremely hot background see Figure 1.
We will examine some solutions to this situation in a minute. It is very difficult to deal with if you try to light the subject well enough to overcome the intensity of the light coming through the window. A variety of highly specialized materials is available to handle these types of situations see Figure 1.
There are some problems to this method however. Suppose your window is several floors above the ground, how would you attach ND gel? A simple solution would be to gel the inside of the window. The gel will have to be cut much more accurately as not to be seen by the camera, but it may solve your problem see Figure 1. Other than warming the gaffer tape, use light stands and attach the tape to them instead of the buildings exterior.
Failure to convert all of the light sources in any scene to a common temperature will cause expensive and sometimes impossible color-correction problems in the post-production phase. You may end up either chewing up your time in the editing room or paying someone else to do it. Do it right the first time—when you are lighting. One hour of color correction on the NLE system will just about download that gel material. New Products to Solve Lighting Problems One of the most encouraging developments in lighting during the recent years is the application of space-age technology to produce products that will solve these and other problems faced by 18 Chapter 1: The Physics of Light the lighting designer.
Experiments have been progressing with special coatings on the interiors of multidischarge lamps and fluorescent tubes to produce a spectrum that can be color corrected to standard photographic temperatures. Special reflectors have been developed that absorb ultraviolet and infrared radiation.
Lamp and reflector designs are being perfected to fit in smaller, more efficient instruments, and lamp spectrums are becoming more compatible with CCD chips. There are now more durable and accurate filtration and reflector materials available as the result of new plastics and dyes.
Fluorescents presented a substantial problem. Though they were developed back in by Becquerel, they did not appear on the consumer scene until the s. Even then they did not receive wide acceptance. One of the first wide uses was in supermarkets because of their need to light large areas evenly.
Store owners complained to lamp manufacturers that fluorescents made the meat look blue, and that oranges and other produce looked bad. As a result, the tubes were redesigned to correct these problems.
Had the first complaints come from a cinematographer rather than a butcher, we probably would not be cursed with the strange spectrums these lighting sticks produce today. These instruments are now commonplace on news sets and many other video shoots. Since the primary rule of good lighting is that all the sources must be the same color temperature, you have to decide which temperature you want to make standard.
You can do any of these things by using the correct color-correction media, and you must do something to bring all your light sources to the same color temperature. While you can satisfy the criteria of matching the color temperature of sources this way, you will still be left with an impossible contrast problem.
In all probability, if you expose for the window, the talent will end up in silhouette because your lighting kit will not be powerful enough to overcome the strong backlight. It will become a screaming white blob behind the talent. The excessive white level will not be handled by the white clipping circuits of your camera, and you will experience breakup on playback. The easiest thing to do would be to close the drapes or pull the shade on the window, but you may want to see out the window to help establish location.
You can accomplish this goal by placing a sheet of ND material on the inside of the window. This polyester-based material comes in rolls feet long by 48 inches wide.
It is optically clear, does not affect color temperature, and can be reused many times if properly cared for.
Static cling will usually be strong enough to hold the sheet in place on a small window. Larger sheets can be taped in position. Once you have reduced the incoming light sufficiently, you can set up your front lighting in the normal manner using booster blues in front of each studio lamp.
As with the ND filters you screw on the front of your lens, ND sheets come in 0. If there are other windows in the room, off camera, their light can serve as general fill or can be bounced into dark areas of the scene with a reflector without any color correction.
The natural light will cut down on the amount of color-corrected incandescent light you need to add to the scene. Some 85 is combined with 0. Obviously, it is better to be able to use the additional window light without having to color correct it.
Gel was the original material to which dyes were added for the purpose of coloring light sources in the theater. A solution of liquid gel, with dye added, was poured into large pans and permitted to solidify into thin sheets. It is still used as an economical alternative to modern plastic filtration material in low-wattage theatrical instruments, but it will not withstand the higher temperatures of quartz-halogen lamps.
Gel is frequently used as a verb to describe the act of placing color-correction or ND material in the color frame of an instrument or on the surface of a window. The fluorescent lights could be left alone if you use daylight as your standard. Their color temperature will blend in rather well with daylight. Or you can convert them to daylight by using a Minus-green filter. You can place a color-correction sheet above the plastic lens or grid of the fluorescent fixture, or, if the tubes are exposed, you can download sleeves of filter material that slip right over the lamps.
If you find yourself shooting repeatedly in the same office location, you may wish to leave your sleeves or sheets in the fixtures to save time on your next setup. You can download fluorescent lamps rated at tungsten or daylight temperatures for installation in areas frequently lit by fluorescents.
These lamps are more expensive than regular fluorescent tubes but they may be worth it if you shoot often in a given office area that is lit by fluorescents. If you are working on a tight budget, it may be possible to transfer the cost for these lamps to building maintenance. Such lamps are the best choice for lighting in a makeup room because they provide excellent color rendition of subtle makeup shading.
Their color temperature will match the light sources on the set and they will not add heat to the makeup area. Do not use a string of household lamps around your makeup mirrors.
Their color temperature makes critical evaluation impossible and their heat becomes uncomfortable as the actors work close to the mirror. How Filters Work The issue of using color-correction filters to correct for the strange spectrums of discharge lamps and fluorescents seems to be shrouded in an aura of mystery.
After numerous conversations with leading experts in the design and manufacture of filter materials, I find confusion of terms how to explain how filters work. It is not uncommon to talk of booster blues and imply, if not state outright, that they add blue light to the tungsten spectrum to balance it with daylight temperatures that contain more blue.
That sounds fine. It even looks fine. If we view a light source that has been gelled with booster blue, there is a definitely bluer tint to the light that passes through it. Does it add good taste to the water that passes through it? It removes the chemicals that cause bad taste. That is all filters can do—remove things, whether they are objectionable chemicals in a water supply or objectionable frequencies of light.
Why then do the experts talk of adding green or boosting blues? Actually, the people who make such statements are not the physicists and chemists who formulate these filters and who know such statements to be false. The problems are caused by copywriters and salespeople who try to simplify the technical aspects of their products. Art does work in and for the world, whereas therapy is self-directed and seeks relief from doubt or unhappiness.
Self-affirmation in the guise of art leads down the slippery slope of self-display. Living as we do in a celebrity culture, we have a great need to be special and different. Hindu belief is interesting here, for Self in their philosophy is that which you share with all creation. A Hindu shares his or her identity with a tree, a mountain, a bird, a crippled child. The Western idea of Self is by contrast very isolating.
Most people trying to create films actually subscribe to both ends of the spectrum. They want to be individual and recognized, but also to create something universal and useful to others.
Problems arise from control issues, competitiveness, or a refusal to make or keep commitments. Anyone can modify their asocial habits if it matters enough, and some of the group work in film schools exists to sort through and conquer these problems, and to help students locate their best partners. George Tillman, Jr. After leaving college, they began their professional output with Soul Food and have worked successfully together ever since.
People find whom they need and make the relationship that works. Surely, to direct, you just need to learn the tools of cinema, and the rest follows! A year or two later, they are anxiously casting around for a decent project.
From your first efforts, I believe you must tell stories expressing ideas and values about the lives around you, or your films will be hollow and give audiences nothing to which they can respond.
No matter how competently you handle the tools and the medium, your storytelling will be colorless and meaningless. How, then, can you prepare to make compelling screen fiction? Actually, your options already exist and simply need uncovering.
So what are these marks, and how do you recognize them? Everyone has had the experience of suddenly discovering a pattern to some part of their life, and thus feeling the rush of relief and excitement that comes from seeing what has been driving them. Once upon a time, when most people lived in small settlements, everyone saw how you acted over time, and could connect this with your temperament and history.
This is still true in farming communities. Lacking those reflections from others, we see our own tendencies only with effort and difficulty. As part of a study program, I was required to watch all my documentary films and write a self-assessment. My films were about very different topics, so I was astonished to discover there was a common theme linking them all.
Rather easily, I have to say. And where did the theme come from? The answers came sailing in like homing pigeons. For several years, my father, a foreigner, was away serving on merchant ships, and my mother found nothing in common with her rural neighbors. At a local school, I had to contend with kids jeering at the way I spoke. I was derided, my possessions envied, and sometimes I was ambushed.
This is something I would have to handle alone because adults were too busy. At home, I was one person; outside it, 1 I am indebted to my Buddhist colleague Dean Doreen Bartoni for enlightening conversations around this subject, as well as to her example of egoless leadership at Columbia College Chicago.
I found I could evade tight spots by making people laugh. Later in life, reading about English rural misery and exploitation, I began to understand the innate hostility my type represented. Losing my fear, relationships with fellow conscripts in the Royal Air Force—where the whole thing might easily have been repeated—were quite different and very gratifying. The common thread in my films came from my character, and my character came from having lived on both sides of a social barrier and empathizing with those in similar predicaments: the black person in a white neighborhood, the Jew among Gentiles, the child among adults.
Any story with these trace elements quickens my pulse. This vision was of life as a succession of imprisonments, each of which, given determination and friends, one can overcome. The stories you tell always arise from a core of belief, which is your philosophy. Should one seek professional help in doing so? There is a different answer for each person here, but psychotherapy is hard work, and those who pursue it usually do so only to get relief from unhappiness.
Making art is a little different, for it arises from burning curiosity and the need to create order and suggest meaning. You should do whatever prepares you best for this.
Below are techniques for clarifying your sense of direction and the imprint your life has made on you. If this is interesting, you can explore it in greater depth in my book Developing Story Ideas, 2nd ed.
Focal Press, Films appear to look resolutely outward and not inward at their makers, so many who work in film do not seek what really drives them. But if drama is to have a spark of individuality, it must come from a strenuous inner dialogue. And whatever starts with yourself and your time becomes ultimately a dialogue with your audience.
Reminders of them unfailingly arouse you to strongly partisan feelings. This is your savings bank of deepest experience, and finding how to explore and use it in your work—even if your experiences seem few and personal—can keep you creatively occupied for life. I am talking not about autobiography, but about a core of deeply felt experiences whose themes apply to endless situations outside yourself.
Ideation—the business of defining dramatically charged ideas—begins when you set aside some quiet, self-reflective time away from the hubbub of normal life. Make everything sharply particular. Never settle for fuzzy generalizations. Consider them a starting point from which to refine and sharpen what you are reaching for.
Work quietly and persistently. Stay open to surprises and changes of direction. Good ideas are not ordered into existence, they are beckoned, and the better ones hide behind a facade of stereotypes. Your job is to find them and lure them out. At first, it seems that nothing dramatic has happened in your life to draw upon. Perhaps the tensions you have witnessed or experienced never matured into any action. Any event or situation that is sharply etched in your consciousness awaits shaping into something that expresses emotion and a theme or vision of life.
Depending on your tastes and temperament, this may be tragic, comic, satiric, realistic, surreal, or melodramatic. Any real-life situation containing characters, events, situations, and conflicts has the elements of drama, and thus the potential to become a full-blown story. Change one or two of the main elements in this borrowed framework, develop your own characters, and the meaning and impact of the entire work will begin to evolve in their own special direction.
Isabelle Huppert plays a repressed and sexually perverted piano teacher who falls for a charming student. The script is based on a novel by Elfriede Jelinek, formerly a pianist and teacher herself. Anyone who studies real lives knows that nothing is more mysterious than the actual.
For films of a few minutes, try taking something small that you learned the hard way, apply it to a character quite unlike yourself, and make a modest comment on the human condition. By so doing, you can avoid the self-indulgence afflicting most student films. After all, your work is going to be your portfolio, your precious reel that tells future employers what you can do. Most importantly, it allows you to concentrate on developing dramatic and thematic truths instead of getting tangled in questions of taste and biographical accuracy.
Using the displacement principle forced the director into a more empathic relationship with all of them and raised the level of his thematic discourse.
Here are some exercises that you should find helpful. This is not difficult, for the human memory jettisons the mundane and retains only what it finds significant. You can do it this way: 1. Go somewhere private and make rapid, short notes of each major experience just as it comes to mind.
Keep going until you have at least 10 or 12 experiences by which you were deeply moved to joy, to rage, to panic, to fear, to disgust, to anguish, to love, etc. Organize them into groups, giving a name to each group and the relationships it deals with. Some moving experiences will be positive with feelings of joy, relief, discovery, laughter , but most will be painful.
Make no distinction, for there is no such thing as a negative or positive truth. To discriminate like this is to censor, which is just another way to prolong the endless and wasteful search for acceptability. Truth is truth—period!
What kind of expressive work should come from someone marked by such experiences? You should be able to place yourself in a different light and find trends, even a certain vision of the world, clustering around these experiences.
Your object is to find a storytelling role that you can play with all your heart. If you find nothing is taking shape, explain your notes and groupings to a friend.
Particular characters or situations in films, plays, or books trigger a special response in us, so they offer useful clues to our underlying makeup. This project takes another route to finding how you resonate. List six or eight characters from literature or fiction with whom you have a special affinity.
Arrange them by their importance to you. An affinity can be hero worship, but becomes more interesting when you respond to darker or more complex qualities.
Do the same thing for public figures like actors, politicians, sports figures, etc. Make a third list of people you know or have known, but leave out immediate family if they complicate the exercise.
Take the top two or three in each list and write a brief description of what, in human or even mythical qualities, each person represents, and what dilemma seems to typify them. If, for instance, O. Simpson were on your list, he might represent an Othello whose jealous passion destroys what he most loves.
Now write a self-profile based on what the resonances suggest. Unless you have a period of intense dream activity, you will have to keep a record over many months before common denominators and motifs become clear. To do this, keep a notebook next to your bed, and awake gently so you hold on to the dream long enough to write it down. If you get really interested in this work, you will spontaneously awake in the night after a good dream to write it down. Often dreams project tantalizing images that are symbolically charged with meaning.
You, too, have hidden patterns and propitious images waiting in the wings to be recognized and developed. At the beginning, you get clues, clues lead to discoveries, discoveries lead to movement in your work, and movement leads to new clues.
It never stops opening new doors to meaning, and keeps revealing connections to an ever larger whole. It will happen if you find that special element that fascinates you.
It might be expressed through mountaineering, the rescue of animals, something involving water and boats, or love between school friends.
You explore it by producing something external to your own thoughts: the piece of expressive work. What begins as a circumscribed personal quest soon leads outward.
You might take two opposing parts of your own character during a trying period of your life and make them into two sparring characters, perhaps making imaginative use of two wellknown political or historical characters to do so. This search for the truths underlying your formation and patterns starts feeding itself once you make a commitment to expressing something about it.
A piece of work—whether a painting, a short story, or a film script—is both the evidence of movement and the engine of progress during the search for meanings. Your work becomes the trail of your own evolution and a reflection of your times. Profiling favorite historical personalities, social assumptions, political events, or the temperaments of the people most influential in your life will help shape and sharpen your consciousness.
By doing such things well, you can entertain and excite your audience. Whether they know it or not, they, too, are pursuing a quest and starving to join a journey of exploration like yours. Accomplished writers switch rapidly between different types of thinking, and change hats as a matter of course. Can his girlfriend help him make the transition?
The premise is revisited periodically to see how the core idea has evolved. Ideation and story development call on taste and instincts. At this stage, the writer may freely follow inspiration, intuition, and emotional memory rather than objectivity and logic.