IN MY early years as a fine arts student, I adhered to our professor's instruction to start from the Greeks. It meant that we needed to master the shapes and contours of the sculpture replicas of Aphrodite or Venus de Milo and Discobolus, the discus thrower, which adorns the hallway of UST’s Fine Arts Department. In short, we were required to familiarize ourselves with every muscles of the human anatomy before we even attempt to do an abstract painting or any of the styles in modern art. In doing so, I also learned that the average proportion of a human body is six times the size of its head.
Since cinematography is considered as the seventh art where all six creative disciplines come together and form a vibrant and dynamic form of entertainment that educates, early directors, editors, cameramen and even talents for acting came up with a storytelling format or structure that is applied to film.
For example, during the slapstick comedy period of the 1920s and 1930s, directors often used horseplay or violence in their films in a funny way. Funny man Charlie Chaplin was one of the best at doing this. In his film "The Tramp" Chaplin used a great amount of horseplay throughout this film to create humor. The comedian who is actually a film director uses pain to make people laugh. In this film, Chaplin would hit somebody then try to help them by rubbing wherever he hit them at with a cloth or something.
According to one reviewer, Chaplin builds humor by slapping or hitting one of the other characters as he almost always fall or stumble to make the moviegoers laugh. I have seen Chaplin movies myself and to me, the best of the comedian’s cinematic technique is the close up showing of his facial expressions.
Movies are supposed to touch the viewers emotionally and it is for this reason that films are being tagged as either suspense thriller for those that has horror and serial killers, action movies for those that has car chasing and pistol whipping scenes and love story for films with melodramatic and romantic scenes. Like literary pieces, there are adventure, fairy tale and science fiction films that are usually for general patronage and the best example for this category are the ones produced by Walt Disney, Pixar and Lukas films. I also like films that are based on true stories, biblical accounts and legends like “The Killing Fields”, “Ben-hur” and “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”.
In my engagement with film as an erstwhile indie film director and mass communication instructor, I have always followed and discussed with my students the concept of screen direction which is the basic elements to follow in presenting moving pictures using television or cinema.
As a standard practice in TV and film production, it is important that viewers see and follow the connectivity of each shot presented on screen where actors or objects appear to be moving on the screen from the point of view of the camera or audience. A rule of thumb in film editing is that movement from one edited shot to another must maintain the consistency of screen direction in order to avoid audience confusion. This simply means that an actor should appear talking to somebody else at the opposite side of the screen with the succession of shots showing the two in varied angles. There is also a basic trick to avoid a confusion and this is through the use of a neutral or what we refer to as a “buffer shot”.
If an actor for example is shown walking from the screen’s left to screen’s right and then is shown in the next shot moving towards the opposite direction, the audience will assume that the actor has changed direction and walks back to where he started. In such case, the editor must insert a neutral shot in between and the best one for this shows the actor moving towards the camera or to the audience or its opposite, which is moving away from the audience. I am quite sure that most of my former students still remember the different type of shots like LS for long shot, MCU for medium close up, ECU for extreme close up and so on as these are also applied for television including OTS or over-the-shoulder shot which is commonly used for interviews.
As a form of discipline, the director, cameraman, and continuity girl or script supervisor is responsible to maintain consistency of screen direction so that during editing so that it will be easier for the editor to assemble the myriad of raw footages which is consistent with the flow of the story.
New wave, avant-garde, experimental, art films and self-styled independent film and video productions that violates screen direction rules has caused disorientation and ambiguity on the part of the viewers. These styles of movie making were actually done before but were not shown publicly in cinemas and television. With the expanding reach of the country’s cinematheque in Davao, Iloilo, Baguio and Metro Manila, we hope that more Filipinos will get to appreciate filmmaking not only as a form of entertainment but as a medium of self-expression which is adaptable to modern times. Can you imagine that using only your mobile phone, which is capable of recording video and sound, one can already produce a good film
Instant following the screen direction? The September 6 early afternoon film forum at the Baguio Cinematheque, Casa Vallejo to be attended by Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Liza Diño will definitely bring more ideas to would be film directors, editors, actors and the likes.
This is open to all who wishes to do their own films and enthusiasts who want to be involved in a regional cinema.