"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Friday, July 11, 2014

NZATE CONFERENCE Workshop 5 - Sian Evans: You Auteur Know Better...

Sian explained that she wants to give students a different experience of text from the same old film study they have been doing every year.

Possible ways of looking at film include:

  • Genre theory
  • Auteur theory
  • Narrative theory
  • Archetypal theory
Have a look in Sian's Looking Glass book for suggestions on the last two of these:

Genre theory 
Looking at the archetypes of the code structures that place the text within that genre. Looking at the set of codes, conventions and structures. You can introduce this nicely with the following youtube clip, "Trailer for every academy award winning movie, ever."

- research the genre
- compile a list of conventions using Chandler guidelines
- Get students to discuss the director's approach to each of these conventions: are they adhered to, subverted or ignored? What is the effect?

Sian shared a great idea for a lesson you can't be bothered planning: put an essay question on the board, tell them you will be writing the essay with them in the period, and that if they finish theirs, they can have yours. I love it!

Auteur theory

Is what makes a film recognisable as the work of a specific director, even across genres. To be an auteur the director has to be one who exercises control over all aspects of production.

A great way to introduce auteur theory is to use the following clip, which parodies the distinctive style of a variety of directors all on the same subject:

Sian uses Baz Luhrmann to teach auteur theory. She tells us that in some Hollywood circles, Luhrmann is known as the "anti-Kubrick". She uses one lesson to look at trailers for some of Kubrick's films (2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining) to introduce Kubrick's style.

We watched the both trailers and identified:
  • symmetrical sets
  • classical, dramatic music
  • broad, sweeping establishing shots
  • a lot of long shots, distancing the audience from the subject
  • long single take slowly zooming in "creepy Kubrick zoom"
  • a lot of tracking shots
  • a lot of white - blank canvasses
  • naturalistic
Then you watch some extracts from the studied director and compare them -

e.g. Luhrmann's style (trailers for Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby):
  • frenetic pace - upbeat music, fast editing, cutting in time with the music
  • roller coaster of emotion
  • uses popular music of the day to tap into popular culture and emotion
  • cluttered mise en scene - colour, light
  • rapid zooms, rapid cuts
  • overt symbols - 'in your face'
  • context - uses modern zeitgeist type moments to connect us to a moment in history
  • fireworks
  • big party scene as exposition
  • Leonardo di Caprio
  • lots of closeups
Follow Sian on twitter @sianyarns  or email her at iamthesian@gmail.com

Awesome workshop, thanks Sian!

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