Taking Stock As a Writer – With Some Help From My Nemesis

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Screenwriter Caroline Farrell on the challenge of embracing her nemesis – procrastination

Writing, for all of us scribblers, is a necessary pain in the arse. Thinking about writing, as opposed to doing it, is the big, weeping boil that sits on top of that pain in the arse, throbbing away until action is taken and the lancing begins. Thinking about why we write, and what we choose to write about, is…well, think of the most pain-filled analogy you can imagine and place it firmly on the top of that weeping boil…

Of late, my nemesis, that little bastard aka procrastination, has come to visit again, and has not been kind, cruelly and mischievously pushing me, unawares at first, through the gawd-awful door of reflective thinking. Once there, I am finding it nigh impossible to break away from analysing almost every thought and action, and not just my own.

Bewares, people, I is watching yiz!

Seriously though, it’s uncomfortable, painful even, and at times, probably akin to the navel-gazing that I generally abhor so much, but it is all helping me to finally ‘get it’. To understand stuff, personally, historically and socially; and to fully realise that through this reflective, and mostly silent, journey, I can finally accept where my personal, creative and social vision is rooted.

Taking stock of my own experience, from where I have come to where I am now, I am also forced to examine the why.  In realizing the why, I can make meaning of it all; the way I look at the world, my every action and reaction, and my sometimes frustratingly innate sense of responsibility that is relational, though built around a strictly selective connectedness that can be at once liberating, but also, an invisibly lethal thread of confinement and inertia.

In her book, The Heroine’s Journey, written from the view of a feminist in response to Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Maureen Murdock wrote on the difficulties of our life path as women.

“It has no well-defined guideposts nor recognizable tour guides. There is no map, no navigational chart, no chronological age when the journey begins. It follows no straight lines”.

Yes, of course, this sentiment applies to men also, and is an appropriate description of the pathways towards transformation and self-realization for all of us. In response to Murdock’s book, Campbell said,

“Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”

Yikes!

Whatever you believe, the truth is that very few of us come out into the world as adults, unscathed and perfectly intact, but by God, we learn from the experiential!

I cannot imagine a way of expressing my visions without understanding a life journey that so far has run the gamut of experiences and emotions that have offered me unimaginable joy. But there have also been the far from positive aspects. And in looking back, there is fear, there is disappointment, there is anger and there is regret, though I firmly believe that out of every dark place comes a glimmer of light.  The best we can hope for is that we, as scribblers, can look back on these sequences of our personal journeys and know intuitively that these learning processes have helped us to rise to the challenge of becoming critically reflective writers; authentic voices, and at the very least, empathic ones.

Sincerity and intention are not enough.  So thanks for that, I say begrudgingly, to my Nemesis.

Featured Quote from:  Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

In Ribbons, written by Caroline and directed by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot, is currently in post-production.The film is produced by Caitriona Costello, Marie-Valerie Jeantelot and Caroline Farrell and has just been selected for the Kildare County Arts Film Bursary Award 2013.

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DSLR Filmmaking Tips

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The most exciting development on the filmmaking scene in a while is the advancement of DSLR filmmaking. Filmbase’s 2-Day DSLR Camera and Lighting Filmmaking course provides detailed training in shooting and getting the best results out of versatile DSLR cameras.

 

Here, cinematographer and Filmbase tutor Basil Al-Rawi (Opus K) gives Film Ireland some DSLR filmmaking tips:

 

Stabilising

DSLRs, by their very constitution, are made for taking stills. Thus when it comes to filming with them, they are an ergonomic catastrophe and any attempt to shoot handheld without support will result in shaky unusable footage.  Hence an entire industry of third party add-ons has spawned to assist with shoulder mounting and hand-holding the camera. There are innumerable options out there, many of which can be substandard and awkward to use. Stick with brands such as Zacuto and Red Rock who have a pedigree in making mounts for DSLR and you’ll be happy with the results. Filmbase rent a Red Rock shoulder rig which fits the bill nicely. Another issue with DSLRs is what’s known as the ‘rolling shutter’. Due to the way the sensor reads the image, vertical lines bend when you pan quickly making buildings seem to wobble. Err on the side of slow and steady pans to alleviate this problem.

Lenses and Focusing

One of the primary attractions of filmmaking with DSLRs is the shallow depth of field they offer, often referred to as the ‘film look’. This is in part due to the very large sensor size offered by the Canon 5DmkII and 7D over traditional video cameras (full size 35mm sensor on the Canon 5DmkII versus a ½ inch chip on something like the Sony Ex-1). This huge sensor allows for great results in low light and an extremely shallow depth of field. The lack of on-camera focus peaking options can make focusing a challenge, especially when you or your subject and you are trying to work off a 3-inch LCD screen in sunlight (note: autofocusing is not an option when shooting video with DSLR). Zacuto make a viewfinder that can be attached to the LCD screen to magnify the image or you can use a good quality HD monitor, some of which have peaking options to assist with focus. A follow focus unit attached to your DSLR rig will also help you pull focus smoothly, keep track of focusing points and reduce camera shake if trying to adjust focus off the barrel of the lens. For best image results stick with prime lenses if possible and try not to shoot wide open as most lenses do not perform that well at their widest aperture. There are some great used Nikon manual focus prime lenses on the market and you could acquire a very decent set of these for the same price as a single Canon autofocus L lens.

Shutter Speed & Exposure

The golden rule for shutter when shooting with DSLRs is to always double the frame rate to get your appropriate shutter speed. So when shooting at 24 or 25fps on a DSLR, set your shutter speed to 1/50th second. If you are shooting 50fps on the 7D, set your shutter to 1/100th. This setting maintains the correct amount of motion blur in your video to achieve the ‘film look’ and is derived from the 180 degree shutter angle rule from the world of film cameras.

When selecting ISOs, choose multiples of 160, i.e. 320, 640 and 1250. The higher you go with the ISO, the more sensitive to light the camera becomes but the trade-off is noise and artefacts in the image. Going above 1250 is not recommended as the resulting images are unusable due to the amount of noise.

DSLRs do not have any inbuilt neutral density filters (ND filters) so to avoid having to stop down to f/22 when shooting on a bright day, invest in a vari-ND filter which you can screw onto your lens. This allows you to smoothly control the amount of light without affecting your desired f-stop.  A few step-up and step-down rings won’t go astray either so you can use the same filter with multiple lenses with different thread sizes. Alternatively, you can use 4×4 ND filters if you have a matte box.

Profiles

The factory picture profiles on the 5DmkII and 7D introduce a lot of compression and processing to your image which results in less than desirable dynamic range. To preserve more detail in your highlights and shadows and acquire an image that you have more freedom to grade in post, use a third party picture profile such as Marvels Cine Style and Technicolour Cine Style. These profiles give you a very flat image which doesn’t look great on camera but it will allow you much more freedom to grade with.

Workflow

The Canon 5DmkII and 7D shoot video in a highly compressed codec called H.264. This codec is a viewing codec, not an editing one, and as such one of the first things you should do before editing is to convert your H.264 footage into Apple Pro Res 422. This advice is primarily aimed at those who will be cutting on Final Cut Pro. This process essentially involves decompressing your footage from H.264 into the much higher quality  and less compressed codec Pro Res 422. Mpeg Streamclip is a file converter that will do the trick and what’s more, it’s free.

Batteries, Cards & Sound

DSLRs eat batteries for breakfast in live view mode. Come armed with at least three fully charged spare batteries and have a charger on the go to avoid running out of steam. Choose memory cards which are fast enough for video, you can’t go wrong with the Sandisk 60MB/s range.

The on-board mics on DSLRs are only of use for reference sound. To get decent sound quality, use an external recorder such as the Zoom H4N. Synching sound in post is less of a hassle these days with the Pluraleyes plugin.

 

Click here for details of all Filmbase’s training courses

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