Function Follows Form: exploring image-based filmmaking

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  03 March 2012
Function Follows Form: exploring image-based filmmaking

For my final project for Master of Arts "Creative Practice for Narrative Environments" at Central Saint Martins (London) I am currently developing and testing a new filmmaking methodology.

In this video (Vimeo) you can hear my explanation and see imagery of my process so far.

If you're interested you can read some more info about it below.

I think this is quite relevant for the CG-community, as I think quite many of us have dreamed once about making a film purely based on beautiful/interesting concept art. So my goal was to create stills out of independent images, in which I already succeeded! The actors came up with a cool story that's worth telling, which I'm previz-ing now.

My main inspiration is 5D Conference: "5D is a group of designers, scientists, artists, and educators who talk about learning about seeing better stories". A discussion on "The Authorship of the Narrative" inspired me to do my final project about this. 5D Founder and production designer Alex McDowell is personally mentoring me as part of my course, so obviously his advice is very helpful.

My methodology is a combination of some existing techniques. A few of them:

During the improvisation-workshop I could purely focus on performance/story, and didn't have to worry about technical issues like lighting/composition etc, which is also the strength of filmmaking using performance capture. I don't have the mocap-equipment, and in fact I would eventually only use ±4 minutes out of 8 hours of workshop. So it's way more efficient to just roughly keyframe animate the bits that I'm really using.
On Minority Report, production designer Alex McDowell started working on the same day as the scriptwriter. The narrative was partly a result of the design of the environment.
"In the process the progression of design created a setting for a way of telling the story that didn’t exist in any script, so when Steven saw it and [screenwriter] Scott Frank saw it they wrote to it. I think that happened a few times in Minority Report because we did have this simultaneous development of story through visual and through writing at the same time.” (Source)
Leigh develops his films from intensive improvisation sessions: “I'll set up an improvisation,... I'll analyse and discuss it,... we'll do another, and I'll ... refine and refine... until the actions and dialogue are totally integrated. Then we shoot it."
Andersson develops his films very image-based. He puts his camera down and refines the sets and the performance, sometimes for months! See these clips:
For people who don't know his work: you better check out this scene from "You, The Living" which is in my eyes one of the best filmscenes ever!

Initially I was planning to start off by making a collection of 2D-concept-art, and create a narrative out of that. But my tutors pushed me to do it more hands-on, to create more 'randomness' and to keep it low-tech so they could all understand it better. In fact it was quite fun to work by photographing miniatures, and also quite efficient as it was all about playing with light, and my Floodlight® delivered 100% accurate sunlight simulation!

I'll post the previz (including music etc) in about a week - to ask for your feedback so I can still slightly change bits before shooting the greenscreen material.

I'm interesting in your thoughts/feedback! And also I'd like to get some feedback on how original I am with this methodology? Do you have references of similar image-based projects?

multidisciplinary creator of films and spaces
• design • image • film • music •

Last edited by Dutchman : 03 March 2012 at 11:07 PM.
  03 March 2012
Sorry for the kick-up - I'm just still quite curious what you CGTers think of this. I expected this project to be quite relevant to many of you guys' interests.
multidisciplinary creator of films and spaces
• design • image • film • music •
  04 April 2012
Hi Gijs,
I have a slight idea of what you are talking about. But I think it is rather confusing and missing information. You are trying to create a story out of predetermined objects based on things in the real world? I thought about this before and think making a feature this way would be way cool. Lars van Trier did some kind of films like this I think--Dancer in the dark, dogville, etc.

How it applies to CG is another question because you are using a medium that is not yet been realized as a form. Maybe if you ask another artist to create you a world or set that you have no knowledge of and a rig from someone else with an unknown object modeled by someone else, you could create an interesting "scene" or skit based on that. I think it could be a good competition on CG society honestly, you would just have to ask artists who want recognition of their work to submit to this for exposure of their skills.
  04 April 2012
Hi Noah,

Thanks for your reply!

Did you see the vimeo-video that I linked to in the original post? I suppose so? I'll try to make myself a bit more clear: as an 'artist' I have a passion for creating 'beautiful images'. So I'm trying to apply that passion to my filmmaking too, by developing this methodology. So I created 18 different, independent pieces of 'interesting concept art', which I want to be part of a film. I gave those to 7 actors, who picked an image, started developing characters, and choose other images to form a sequence. Then the played out the whole film in which they are traveling through my pieces of concept art. From that I developed the cinematography/storyboards.

Does that make it more clear to you?

You're right that my methodology is quite similar to a bit of Lars von Trier's work. The main link might be that I force myself to strictly work according to my methodology - similar to how the Dogma-films are made. (They also very strictly use the rules that they created theirselves).

My idea about how it relates to CG, is mainly that I expect that all concept-artistst among us, would quite enjoy to make a film containing their 'free personal art', instead of them following the script of the film/game they're working on for a client. And my methodology is a way to facilitate this: the production designer/cinematographer/concept artist would become the main authors of a film, instead of the scriptwriter/director.

I like the bit that you write about how this applies to CG: you're right that it would be quite interesting to organize a challenge this way! Putting 'random' stuff together, and challenging people to forging it into something interesting! Very playful and fresh! Lets hope the admins read this bit
multidisciplinary creator of films and spaces
• design • image • film • music •
  06 June 2012
Few stills of the film so far:

I'm still refining it the film. I'll post it when in about 2 weeks, when it's finished.

And for those of you who are Londonbased: you can come have a look at it at the public viewing days of my graduation show (where I display the project and the film) at Central Saint Martins (new campus at Kings Cross) from the 15th till 21st of June!
multidisciplinary creator of films and spaces
• design • image • film • music •
  06 June 2012
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