Cinematic Convolutions: Myself


Its finally time for my most important analysis: my own.

My blog has been primarily about reviewing and analyzing the works of others, especially the more predominant Hollywood names.

Yet the one person I never critiqued was myself. And I guess that’s because while I review film, I don’t film. Packed with an AP schedule, I don’t really pursue film in my free time at all or really want it to be my career, I just find it really fascinating.

But today I actually got my chance to film, as my friends needed a cameraman for their reenactment of some scenes from The Great Gatsby.

For the first time in a long time, I actually got to film. And now that I’ve got the footage let’s see how I did. I picked two scenes that I felt that I liked from the footage we got. Keep in mind, this was shot on an IPhone that was mounted onto a tripod, not much fancy equipment here. I’m also no Alfred Hitchcock.

So let’s get some context: this scene is where Nick Carraway receives an invitation from one of Gatsby’s assistants to come to one of his elaborate parties. In this shot, my goal was to achieve this “over the shoulder” almost shadowing presence, and follow it into Nick opening the door. The technique for this is done by closely hovering over the actor’s shoulder, in this instance the right shoulder and keeping their body on the left side, while keeping open space on the right side, creating that “follow” effect. I only achieve this effect marginally, successful pulling it off for the first few frames, but I let my actor cut into the middle of the frame at the second second, removing the effectiveness of the shot. My second purpose was the frame this note being picked up, and despite the poor quality, I did manage to get a good, direct shot, but I started a little too close and had to back up a little around the 9 second mark. One thing I wished I had done was show more of the assistant, providing more presence for him in the shot.

This scene is the introduction of Gatsby to Nick, and it was the most technically difficult scene of the entire film shoot. That staircase is incredible narrow, and our initial plan of having me in the middle of it and tracking them up to a dramatic hat throw from Gatsby failed miserably, as it required them to move past the camera and out of frame for a brief second as they had to squeeze by me. The solution was a top down, aerial shot that would track them. An important note they gave me was that I needed to keep Gatsby’s face hidden from the shot until the reveal, which proved difficult with an Iphone on a tripod. I had to extend the tripod out and then hold it over the staircase, to keep Gatsby’s face concealed and pray that I was keeping them in the frame. I made two mistakes, at the 6 second mark I let Gatsby’s hat leave the frame, and again at the 11 second mark. Other than that, I was really happy with how this scene played out. Using the top down aerial shot, I had the opportunity to use the “Quadrant System”, explained here by Every Frame A Painting. (Please watch the video before continuing.) I wanted to keep the two actors dead set on in the middle of the quadrant, focused on their interaction, but the last shot I wanted Gatsby to dominate the top right frame, and have Nick enter the bottom right, showing the new shift of power and identity after the reveal. Keeping Gatsby to the right quadrant and leaving a space to the left pushes the eye towards him, while Nick entering the frame at the reveal helps fill the “white space” gap, fully filling the right quadrant’s up and bottom.

It was a really fun day of filming, but I’m pretty sure I annoyed my friends who had to deal with my efforts to create more artistic and thematic angles and shots while they just wanted to go home. I’ll definitely make sure that I post up the whole movie up here soon.


And just a reminder: We are High School kids.

2 thoughts on “Cinematic Convolutions: Myself

  1. thelibrariansfv March 9, 2015 / 8:20 am

    Although I had already expected a good deal coming into this article, I was thoroughly surprised by how much more I was presented with that I didn’t expect. As a person that dabbles more in film-viewing rather than film-making, you actually have considerably good potential in becoming a better film-maker. If it is something you enjoy and wish to continue learning about and pursuing, I happily encourage you to do so, as you seemingly have a special eye for visual cinematics.

    – Bryan


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