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

Unshakeable by Tony Robbins – Book Summary

Ben WorrallREVIEWS

Unshakeable Tony Robbins

One of the main priorities in my life recently has been improving my financial situation and ultimately taking the first few steps towards achieving financial freedom. This week I have been listening to the audio version of Tony Robbin’s new book “Unshakeable”. A book full of practical advice on how you can achieve financial freedom.
The book lays the ground for building and maintaining an effective investment portfolio in both bull and bear markets.
In this post, I want to outline the five most important concepts that Tony discusses in the book. The aim here is to give you a condensed version of Unshakeable so you can internalise the knowledge in a short amount of time and start applying what you have learnt immediately.

1) Invest in Index Funds

The point that is hammered home on multiple occasions throughout the book that most people should investing in index funds. I had never even heard of index funds before I read this book – not that I had much financial knowledge.
The basic idea with index funds is that your money is spread to match a market index (like the S&P 500). You are investing in a wide range of stocks and are essentially waging your money on the success of the market rather than individual stocks.
One of the main advantages of investing heavily in these funds is that you are more far more protected from fluctuations because you are investing in such a diverse range of stocks.
Another huge advantage of investing in index funds is that there is minimal trading with your money (it’s more of a buy and hold approach) meaning that the fees and taxes that you would be forced to pay in other types of funds are dramatically reduced.
There is much discussion in the book about the hidden fees and taxes in many people’s investment portfolios which are shredding a large percentage of their potential earnings. The long and short of it is that these hidden expenses are bad news and make it much harder to reach the goal of financial freedom. The main reason for this is that these hidden costs reduce the power of compounding. Which brings me onto the next point…

2) The Power of Compounding

Investing money early in life and adding to it on a consistent basis can pay back dramatically over time – this is due to the power of compounding.
Here’s the example of compounding provided in Unshakeable:
If you invest 300 dollars per month from the age of 19 to 25 and then leave this amount to compound. You would have over 1.5 million dollars by the time you were 65.
The key here is to begin investing early and on a regular basis. If you can do this, you will easily achieve financial freedom by retirement age.
However, the only way a compounding strategy can be successful is if you stay in the market regardless of the economic conditions which are bound to fluctuate over a such a long period of time.

3) Stay in the Market

You need to stay invested in the market.
Having your wealth in cash not only means that you are not utilising the power of compounding but you will also be losing wealth due to inflation.
This is easier said than done as it takes discipline to stay in the market in time of economic downturn
The important thing to remember is that the bad times never last for ever and pulling money out of the markets as they are crashing is the worst thing you can do. The reason for this is that you will make a loss and when the markets inevitably rebounds you will have no chance of getting back in. The best strategy is to hold and ride it out.

4) Diversification

Diversification is a key strategy for making yourself financially unshakeable. If you diversify correctly you will give yourself the security to ride out any dip in the market.
Diversification basically boils down to spreading out of your wealth into a variety of different types of assets rather than bundling them all in one place where they are vulnerable. As we talked about in point one, investing heavily in an index fund is a good starting point. Some other ways to diversify your wealth includes investing in a variety of different markets, countries and currencies.

5) Invest in time of Gloom

‘Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful’
One of the main points made in Unshakeable is that you should be willing not only to keep your money in the market when the value is plummeting but you should buy more stocks when it hits rock bottom.
Investing in stocks in a time of gloom and fear is a huge money-making opportunity. At this time, stocks are going to be at an ultra-low bargain price. When the price inevitable rises again you can make a fortune off these well-timed purchases.
The key here is to have some of your portfolio invested somewhere where it can’t be touched by an economic crash, such as low risk government bonds. When the market plummets, you can use the money you have stashed in bonds to buy these bargain priced stocks.

Bens thoughts
I agree with Tony that investing early is important but I do believe that you need to take your own situation into account. If you are in a similar financial situation to myself and have very little money to your name, investing may not be the best first step for you.
Instead of investing right away, you should focus all your attention on increasing your income. This could be done by improving your position in your current job, or by creating alternate streams of income or possibly both.
I do think that the internet is a great place to start when looking to increase your income in creative ways. Consider what value you can personally bring to the market and come up with a way to deliver this value to the right people. Your income will increase from there.
Once you are at a comfortable income level, investing becomes far more practical and lucrative and you can use the five tips above to become financially unshakeable.

You can buy Unshakeable by Tony Robbins here.

Ben Worrall

How to Travel on the Cheap

Ben WorrallTRAVEL

travel on the cheap

Despite popular belief, it doesn’t have to be expensive to travel for an extended period of time. Last year, I spent roughly 1500 GBP travelling around South East Asia for 2 months (flight from the UK not included).

This isn’t exactly a high price to pay for a once in a lifestyle experience and believe it or not, I didn’t spend the entire time poverty-stricken either: I travelled to five different countries, ate out three times a day and could afford to so some amazing activities –  such as swimming with whale sharks.

So, how did I do this for such an affordable price? In this blog post I going to be sharing with you three tips on how you can travel on the cheap.

Before we get into it, let me just point out that the travel destination will play a large role in your expenses. South East Asia is a notoriously cheap place to travel and this gave me a huge advantage going into trip. I was also ‘backpacking’ and not just going on a standard vacation. I had a budget mindset and was purposely keeping an eye on how much I was spending.

Anyway, below are the 3 tips, if you stick to these I can guarantee that you will be able to travel on the cheap:

1) Stay in Hostels

This one is HUGE.

I think one of the most common misconceptions people have if they have never been backpacking before is the way in which they view hostels.

This applies to me too. Before I left on my travels, I was under the impression that hostels were going to be ultra-basic and not very enjoyable to stay in. While I was more than prepared to do this, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it either.

I quickly realised that I had been totally wrong about them. Not only was every single hostel I stayed in liveable, but many of them were closer to hotels than what I mentally projected staying in a hostel would be like.

I stayed in hostels with roof top pools, double beds, pool tables, games consoles, bars, free breakfast, incredibly friendly staff and more.

You have to keep in mind that in these areas that run off tourism, there are a huge number of hostels available and all of them are competing with each other to bring in as many travellers as possible. Therefore they will often try to make their hostel as nice as possible to build a positive reputation and attract more people in.

Sure, you have to share the room with others but the standard room only contains 4-8 beds and I personally found that most of the time these rooms didn’t fill up. There were even occasions where I was the only person occupying the room.

It’s also worth noting that staying in hostels is by far the easiest way to meet people, which is nice if you are travelling alone.

I’m sure that there are bad hostels out there but remember that there is plenty of choice and you can pick out the best ones in the same way you would with a hotel.

Staying in hostels are an amazing way to save money. In the two months I was out there, I never paid more than $8 per night which is a huge discount compared to the amount you would be shelling out on hotels.

I now love staying in hostels and I think that you will too.

2) Pick your activities carefully

If there is one thing that can drain your money in a blink of an eye while travelling; it’s organised activities. By organised activities, I mean paid for activities that have been specifically designed for tourists.

Now this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do any type of activity that involves pulling out your wallet but just be aware that constantly doing this is going to play a big role in increasing the overall cost of your trip. What I would suggest is picking the activities you want to do carefully.

While some of these activities can get a little expensive, the overall cost of the activity will still be a hell of a lot less than it would be in a western country.

The point I’m trying to make is that you that you should do the paid for activities that you are keen on but don’t get carried away with them if you want to travel on the cheap. You can find plenty of enjoyment travelling without constantly having activities planned. For me, just the act of travelling and exploring new places was all the experience I needed. Anything else of top of that was just a bonus.

 

3) Haggle Wisely

It was almost midnight when I collected my baggage at Manila Airport in the Philippines. I was ready to begin my adventure and had a quiet optimism that this trip was going to be a success.

Five minutes later and I was being ripped off by the taxi driver outside the airport. Paying WAY more than I should have for the short journey to my hotel. I remember being really annoyed at myself and thinking that if I can’t even make it through the first five minutes without losing a chunk of money, how the hell am I going to make it through the entire trip.

Well, long story short, the first few times I found myself in haggling situation after this were kind of awkward but soon enough I was used to it and determined to get the best possible value on everything. In fact, I started to really to enjoy it. There was a (probably unhealthy) satisfaction in being able to haggle someone down to an awesome price.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I saved quite a bit of money by having this hagglers mindset. The main things you can haggle on and get good prices are products, transportation and accommodation. However, your ability to do this is going to really depend on the situation.

While you should always be haggling on products, the best time to haggle on transport and accommodation are when you think there is more supply than demand. For example, if you are in a place with loads of hostels/guesthouses crammed into one area, you can quite easily play them off it each other and get the lowest price possible. The same applies for local transport.

 

That’s it for now. I’m sure there are loads more ways you can save money when travelling that I will think of later, so I will most likely make a follow up post at some point in the future but this just sticking to these effective tips will dramatically reduce your costs and allow you to travel for longer on the cheap!

 

Ben Worrall