Sometimes as a filmmaker you just have to experiment with an idea and hope it will work.
One thing we wanted to test out with our latest film The Asylum Groove was using shot patterns and symmetry within the sequence to see if it would help drive the story forward.
Today we are going to talk about giving your film visual rhythm.
We’re breaking down our latest short The Asylum Groove. So if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it right here:
First and Final Frames
A lot of our previous films have been open ended, have involved cliff hangers, or have just finished abruptly. With the asylum groove we wanted to improve on that - we wanted to make something which had a clear start and a clear end.
A piece of symmetry which a lot of films incorporate is the connection between the first and final frame in the movie. These can be mirror images, clones, or a perfect opposite, and they help give the film clear bookends with distinct contrast from the start and end of a character’s journey.
We connected the first and final frame of The Asylum Groove with the use of curtains.
The film begins with Sam cleaning the assembly hall for the bedsville disco, so by having him literally open the film by drawing the curtains, we hoped it would give the impression that he is inviting the audience into the world, kind of like the curtains opening at the start film or a play.
The final shot in the film is when he is about to be electrocuted. The curtains close and we are left with his mother’s hand pressed against the window before it slowly fades to black.
At the end of the film, we see a different side to Sam: his rage. At this point we wanted the audience to distance themselves from the character and flip their perception of him from a protagonist to an antagonist. This is why we placed the camera on the other side of the glass.
We hoped using symmetrical first and final frames would give the audience a clear indication that the film has started and ended. No cliffhanger, post-credits sequence, or teaser to the sequel.
The Rule of Three
Another principle we wanted to incorporate to help drive the story, retain the pace, and create visual rhythm was the use of the rule of three.
The rule of three is a writing principle which suggests a sequence of exactly three is the smallest amount of information needed to create a pattern. This is a way to keep the information short and snappy but to also help emphasise the point being given.
The rule of three is used all over:
The slogan “Stop, Drop, and Roll” or “Blood, sweat, and tears”
The Three Little Pigs
The Three Musketeers
A feature film usually uses a three-act structure
And photography composition often uses the rule of thirds
We wanted to experiment with the rule of three by incorporating it into the film.
Each shot during the opening montage, after the curtain shot, is grouped into sets of three.
First of all you have the TASKS. We wanted the audience to know he was cleaning straight away. Instead of a single shot of him cleaning we used THREE to solidify the information while keeping the shot count to a minimum.
Anymore than 3 shots would be boring. Any less might not emphasise his TASK enough.
Next you have the BLUE shots. Blue balloon, blue paint brush, brush dipped in water.
These THREE shots show that the work he is doing is not JUST moving furniture around. He’s painting and hanging up balloons which gives the audience clues to the party and the disco.
Again, anymore than 3 shots would be a waste of time, any less might feel random.
We bridged the furniture shots with the painting shots by including blue paint on his fingers in the final furniture shot. This was to help bridge the gap between the sequences and help it flow.
The last set of THREE are the shots of the record player. Again, we included a bridging shot by using the jar of blue water in the first shot of the record player sequence to help with pace and continuity.
So with the record player sequence you have: pulling out the record from the sleeve, placing the record down, and the needle slowly falling into place.
The last shot in the montage, the slow fall of the needle, was chosen for a few particular reasons.
We wanted the fast pace of the montage to slow right down in order to match the pace of the character as he walks to the mop and bucket.
The needle falling onto the record player, and the long cross dissolve between the two shots, gave a smooth transition between the speeds and would hopefully give a clue to the audience that the rule of THREE has come to an end.
Using techniques like First and Final Frames & The Rule of Three aren’t something which will instantly give your movie The Film Look.
Things like casting, camera, costume, lighting, set, and story line are the most important parts of making a great film. But once you have those, its worth experimenting with alternative and subconscious tricks for your film and see what comes of it.
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