February 20, 2011

General musings for the week 20th February 2011

Couple of things to talk about this week.

First "The Social Network". I received my DVD copy of this through the post at the beginning of the week and I was thrilled to see it because - in all honesty - I had forgotten I had ordered it. The pleasant surprise was improved somewhat by the fact that it has two full length commentaries and a documentary that it almost as long as the film itself.

The documentary threw up two interesting pieces of information that I wanted to share with you

The first one is that Fincher has chosen to shoot the whole of this movie on the Red One Camera. For those who don't know, the Red One is - essentially - a more expensive version of the hand held camcorders you use to film the kids at the seaside. Sure, it has higher definition, costs more and has interchangeable lenses but it works on the same principle, and uses similar components to your Sony camcorder. But when looking at a film such as The Social Network, it is easy to see that the images on screen bear very little relationship to those that appear on "You've Been Framed" or "America's Funniest Home Videos". Why is that? The reason is simple. Movies pay people a lot of money to make sure that what goes into the lens looks as good as it can for the movie being produced. The Directors Of Photography on the film are some of the highest paid men in the industry and they have the knowledge and experience to make footage like this look great. I have on my computer a picture I took in October last year. It was taken on my old Sony-Ericcson 3mp camera-phone and it was taken on the set of 'WarHorse'. Despite the fact that it was literally snapped with very little preparation (but some idea of good composition) it is actually a stunning photograph. The reason is that the subject had been lit by a double award-winning DOP who had flooded the set with mist and thrown up some huge backlights to give it an ethereal glow. Fincher can be heard on the documentary telling the camera operator to shift the camera 'half an inch to the right' to ensure a perfect composition.

The second thing of note from The Social Network is the fact that Fincher has followed Stanley Kubrick in taking lots and lots of takes. The opening scene between Rooney mara and Jesse Eisenberg in the bar had 99 takes. That's right, 99 takes for one scene. Fincher's logic is simple: "It takes an actor about 30 takes to get out from under himself with the acting and get into actually giving a performance." I can see how this works - although it does sound like my idea of torture. For the first 10 or 15 takes you, as an actor, are concerned with remembering the lines, hitting the marks and dealing with the 'business' of the scene (sipping a drink, reading a newspaper, typing on a computer). Once this has been repeated often enough it becomes second nature and the actor can then focus and concentrate on bringing something to the performance which is not 'mechanical' or 'mannered'. Continuing even further into this there comes a point when something happens that isn't expected by anyone one set, and that's when great performances happen. The other benefit to this is that an actor who is the focal point of a scene does not than have to worry about getting it right every take. The pressure is reduced which helps tremendously.

The Social Network on DVD/BluRay - Highly recommended.

Secondly I would like to say a big 'thank you' to everyone who came to see "An Inspector Calls" with Hartley Arts Group. We had a virtual sell-out show and everyone who saw it has had nothing but good feedback for us on it. I've thoroughly enjoyed it myself, despite having initial reservations about whether to do the piece or not. The months of rehearsals, the discussions, arguments, hours of line learning and repetition, have all paid off. Thank you.

Another shout-out this week to the 3M3 (3 Mates Movie Madcast).I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago when they launched and they've produced some good content in the intervening weeks. Personally I didn't particularly like their James Bond Special which went out last week but it doesn't detract from the fact that they are three knowledgable guys talking about a subject they obviously love.

This week's video of the week isn't actually a video. It's an application. "Persona" is a new way of watching content on the iPhone. It is a "Soap Opera' type program which produces a new show every day for download. The official site describes this as "A month in the loves, lives and dreams of four Londoners life as they navigate the twists and turns of city life." The Persona app is the only place you can watch this and it isn't available anywhere else. For a one-off cost of £1.50 and free, daily updates, it's a steal.