A Reoccurring Dream

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS, POEM

The following is a short poem which I got up in the middle of the night to write. It seemed important


I had a dream tonight. A dream where I was a million miles away.

In this dream I was a child again and laughter was abundant.

When I awoke from the dream I couldn’t help but see that my current age is also a dream.

Time is not fixed but rapidly passing and soon I will look back with nostalgia.

I can no longer let time slip away.

Instead, I will nurture the eyes of consciousness and make the most of each day.

Now is the time for creation. There will be no second chance.

I should step out of this trance and become aware of the dance.

A short poem by Ben Worrall.

Babies With Beliefs

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS

Who are you?

It’s easy to get caught up in the illusion of yourself. In an identity which has been shaped over many years, but is this really who you are? Or is this a construction of your upbringing, culture, society, etc.

If you don’t give the premise of your own being constant attention, you will slip into the illusion again and again…and again. The world wants to tell you who you are, will you let it?

Take a closer look and you will see that we are just babies with beliefs.

The Origins of Cinema

Ben WorrallFILMMAKING

When the camera was first introduced it was seen as a tool by theater performers to reach more people. They would place the camera where the audience would usually sit and use it to film a performance. The camera was used to capture the reality of the production and there were no cinematic techniques used (such as varied shot types).

It’s amazing to think about how this use of the camera transformed into the type of film we watch today. If you put yourself into the shoes of the actors and producers of that time, the idea that you could move the camera into different positions to create a more immersive experience for the audience would have been a complete paradigm shift. I can imagine that when this idea was first introduced it was most likely dismissed by people because it was so different to what they had been doing in the past. It may seem obvious to us but the transition probably wasn’t self-apparent at that time. In retrospect, we can see how this creative shift in perspective created an entirely new medium and changed the way that visual stories were told over the next century.

It makes me wonder what we may be overlooking today. Both in the context of telling stories and also the way we live our lives in general. The present may seem solid, it may seem like the best we can do, but this is just because our view of ‘the way things are done’ have been set in stone over a long period of time. In many cases the way things work today are all we have ever known. Our reality is constructed by what we already know.

Never lose sight of the fact that you could be that one brave and creative individual to push forward an alternate perspective. Doing so could change everything.

Writer vs Editor Mindset

Ben WorrallFILMMAKING

Over the last few months I have been doing quite a bit of research into Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick

I have been working my way through his filmography. One of the things that stands out to me about Kubrick’s career is the fact that he never wrote an original screenplay and instead only adapted existing material. In an interview with Kubrick he stated how he had a great deal of respect for writers of original material because it was something he felt he could never do.

I found this interesting post on Quora asking the question”Why did Kubrick never write an original screenplay?”

The answer given described how filmmakers tend to fall into one of two categories:

  1. The writer mindset
  2. The editor mindset

The writer draws his/her strength from creating something from scratch. This type of person will likely have little problem getting their ideas down on paper but may struggle to condense them down into presentable and cohesive story. This person is probably more right brained.

The editor on the other hand will have a hard time creating from scratch because they are overly analytical and expect perfection the first time around. However, when given a starting point to work from they will be able to transform it or improve the original material using their critical thinking skills.

Quentin Tarantino is described as having the writer’s mindset while Stanley Kubrick as having the editor’s mindset. This makes total sense and explains each filmmakers approach to their work. Tarantino creating original work from scratch and Kubrick adapting pre-existing material.

I personally found this distinction to be really interesting and helpful. I would 100% consider myself as having the editor mindset but never really thought about it in this way until now.

Once you know what category you fall into as a filmmaker you can focus on your strength. This doesn’t mean that editor types can’t write anything original but I do think it’s helpful to be aware that this might not be their strength. Having a knowledge of this distinction also means that you can collaborate more successfully and learn from other filmmakers who may fall into the opposite category.

Which one are you? A writer type? An editor type? Or a little bit of both?

Don’t Box Yourself In

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS

You are not the same person you were yesterday. Who you are is not fixed because who you are does not exist. It is merely a concept. A story you tell yourself. This is why you should never count yourself out or let the world categorise you. Every moment of your life provides you with the opportunity to morph into something unrecognizable.

Much of the pleasure of life comes from growth. Don’t be afraid of the shifting landscapes.

 

 

What can we learn from THE SHINING?

Ben WorrallFILMMAKING

 

The first time I watched The Shining I didn’t think much of it. The second viewing opened my eyes to how deep this film really went. By the time I finished the third viewing it was cemented as one of my favorite films of all time. I recently watched The Shining again – the difference this time was that I made a conscious effort to study the film in an attempt to figure out what makes it work. Basically, my aim was to identify techniques that I could potentially use in my own future projects both as a writer and a director. Here are some of what I picked up on:

The Narrative is a Maze

If you have seen The Shining you will know that both physical and metaphorical mazes play a large role in the story. I want to take this one step further and identify another maze – the narrative itself.

The films begins with a clear and simple setup – a family of three head out to the Overlook hotel which the father (Jack) has been tasked with looking after during the winter months. The first thirty minutes of the film could be compared to the entrance of the maze, we are heading in a clear direction and while there are unanswered questions, such as Danny’s supernatural powers, we generally feel that we know where the story is headed.

However, as the film progresses, things become  more complicated. Several new ambiguous plot elements are introduced and more questions are raised with them. As soon as we think we have an idea of what is going on, the theory is disproved by another contradictory theory. We are now lost in the maze.

By the end of the film the main story has somewhat resolved itself with Jack’s death and Danny/Wendy escaping the hotel but we are still left with questions regarding everything we saw when we were lost in the centre of the Maze. This adds depth and makes the film rewatchable.

What did I take away from this type of narrative structure? In the past I have always favored complex narratives but I feel that I have approached them in a flawed way by trying to make them complex from the beginning and then trying to resolve this complexity by the end of the film. What I really like about The Shining is that it starts simple, becomes more complex during the middle stages and then ends in simple fashion also. Kubrick doesn’t try to answer every question in the third act, allowing the viewer to come up with his/her own interpretation. However, Kubrick does wrap up the main plot nicely which leaves an audience satisfied but not so satisfied that they forget about the film.

 

Character Mindsets as Visuals

A common problem for screenwriters and filmmakers is expressing the inner-state and motivations of their characters. Some choose to express this through dialogue. Other through voice-over. And many through character behavior.

What I think is remarkable about The Shining is how Kubrick uses visuals and symbolism to express the inner most state of the characters. He also manages to reveal character through dialogue and behavior in a very effective way but the use of visuals are what really stand out to me. Let’s look at some examples of how Jack’s character is revealed in this way:

Props (Mirrors)

There are several instances throughout the film where Jack is addressing his family through mirrors. There is a subtle significance to this.

First off, it gives us the impression that Jack is self-absorbed and often disregards his family in favor of himself. Jack ignores Wendy, who has just made him breakfast, and instead focuses on himself in the mirror (image below).

Secondly, the fact that Jack is often viewing his family while looking in the mirror, gives us an idea of the way he thinks of them. They are secondary images in his own reflection, not their own individuals. This small insight helps us understand how Jack shows a lack of empathy later in the film.

Setting (Hotel)

The setting of The Shining, the Overlook hotel, plays a huge role in the story, so much so that it becomes a character within itself. What I find interesting is how the hotel and its location are used to represent Jack’s mindset.

First off, the hotel is completely isolated in the middle of nowhere. I get the impression that this is exactly how Jack feels as well. He is isolated in his own head. As the film progresses we are shown multiple exterior shots of the hotel with the building becoming less and less visible through the growing snowstorm (see images below). This could also represent the way that Jack stops seeing clearly and eventually loses his mind completely.

The interior of the hotel also works in the same way with a vast and confusing layout. It’s easy to get lost in here, just like Jack gets lost in the Maze later on and just like he gets lost in his own mind.

Colours and Lighting

Colour and lighting are used throughout The Shining to express Jack’s inner state. In the below image we can see that Jack is an icey blue colour which reveals his cold nature. What I like about this scene is that an orange fire burns in the background which contrasts with the rest of the frame –  to me this says Jack is icey cold on the surface but there is a blazing rage hidden underneath. A rage that will be revealed later…

In this second image Jack has been silhouetted against the bright background. This image takes place at the point of the film where Jack is finally ready to murder his own family and the full extent of his madness has been exposed to Wendy. Jack is literally a shadow of his former self . The darkness hidden within him is now present on the surface for all to see.

 

 

Foreshadowing

The Shining is an example of a film with effective foreshadowing. Foreshadowing consists of introducing or hinting at something early on in the plot which will come back to play a big role later in the film. Let’s take a look at some examples of foreshadowing in The Shining.

The best example of effective foreshadowing takes place in the scene where Jack and Wendy are being shown around the grounds of the hotel. Within this one scene, two vital plot elements are introduced: Jack and Wendy are introduced to the maze which turns out to be the location of the final showdown and they are also shown the Snowcat which is later considered by Wendy to be a potential method of escape.

There is also a range of more subtle foreshadowing. For example, Wendy playfully chasing Danny through the maze, this mirrors what Jack will later do in an aggressive way. Also, we see Danny’s toy doll face down on the hotel floor with Jack standing next to it, you can see some similarities between this and when Wendy finds Halloran’s body near the end of the film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To sum up

These are just some of the storytelling techniques I took away from The Shining. I think Stanley Kubrick is able to use both strong visuals and an ambiguous narrative to tell an effective on-screen story. I’m going to try to implement both of these into my own projects.

Year Three (2016-2017): Truth

Ben WorrallPERSONAL

This year I have realised that there is nowhere to be, nowhere to go and nothing to see. As I am writing this I am at a point in my life where my future is uncertain but the more time I spend learning about life the more I realise that the future is irrelevant.

In 2017 human beings are caught up in the future. Each of us has a destination that we feel is a priority to reach but that destination does not exist. We try to hold onto something of importance and claim that to be our purpose but the shallowness does not get close to the depth of the truth. The truth is that there is no truth and never will be.

With all that said, it’s easy to forget that I wake up each morning and see colour. The miracle is that while we may not be able to identify a reason for our own existence, we still exist and this is all we will ever need.

Ben Worrall