BU Film School

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

FT 551 Lecture: Wednesday, January 21

Homework notes
For future assignments:
-- assign a duration
-- once you get a handle on idea, define limiting factors, organizational principle (space, time, etc.)

The concept of frame
Concept of frame -- compositional boundary. Sets physical limit between what is painting, what isn't. Without frame, just looking at reality. Light switch on wall outside of frame, reality. Light switch in frame, art. Kant -- art exists as separate thing from reality. Proscenium arch, sculpture pedestal. Anecdote about B. Arnold's sculptures put in front yard, guy asking if "junk" needed to be gotten rid of.

Can't compose without boundaries. Without frame, no organization, no relationship between one thing and another.

Art is not reality -- it's a human enterprise, done intentionally. "What is this painting trying to tell me?" Can't ask that of a tree.

Must know where frame begins and stops.

Music -- one note or chord dictates range of possibilities for the next.

Feature film frame
Frame of a story is not about physical length, but about completion. Arc -- beginning, middle, end. Whatever happens defines what will happen. Frame defines what's in picture (which gives meaning), what isn't in picture (which distracts from meaning). If doesn't advance story, not free to impose it. Establishes in/out, duration.

Why tell stories? It gives people a sense of order (however temporary) to a scary, chaotic universe.

Narrative a time-based medium. Frame not just spatial boundary, also temporal.

"Prince and princess get married, have kids" is not a story. Story doesn't start until conflict introduced (i.e. dragon kidnaps princess). Equilibrium disturbed. Hydraulic model -- water seeks its own level, wants to return to state of equilibrium. Story not over until conflict resolved, and must have some difficulty (dragon can't just drop dead of a heart attack). Story confirms societal standards -- prince can have the princess because I don't want to go through all that.

Frames within frames -- acts, scenes, shots.

This system doesn't map well to the short film, because it demands a certain length.

Short film frames
Recap of frame's purposes:
-- organization (defines what's included, what's necessary)
-- limit (defines what's excluded)
-- motivation/engagement

Arnold's principles/unifying devices for short film:
Place/space. Can be a physical room/space (taxicabs in Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth, a stagecoach in Stagecoach), a dream space (The Comb), proximity/distance/movement. Space as metaphor. Characters looking out of windows in Ibsen's plays -- psychological confinement.

Time. Rain takes place over a day. Repetition -- Passage a l'Acte. "Waiting for Godot". Simultaneity.

Sound. Music video. "Absolute" film -- explores relationship between image and sound.

Character/person/self/other. Camera on myself, what I see, etc.

Concept/treatment -- idea of rain.

Link up your idea with one of these organizing ideas.

Film notes
Balance, Christoph and Wolfgang Lauerstein. Puppet animation. Space the defining factor. Conflict over music box. Teetering. One character takes a step, the whole world shifts.

Ferment, Tim McMillan. Time-slice camera. Array of digital stillcams captures everything in an entire moment. Starts with death, ends with birth.

Smell of Burning Ants, Jay Rosenblatt. Idea of self. Found footage, gloomy/violent music, narration combine in a film about the sources of male anger.

Minim, Chris Forster. Relationship between sound and image. Concert in church, family driving to airport, young black man looking at exhibit. Observation, measurement.

Mothlight, Stan Brakhage. Found foliage, moth wings, etc. Idea -- what will happen if I do this?

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