Final Film Project: “We, Myself and I”
For this film experiment, I chose to build a story around how people define themselves in relation to others, whether it be through the relationship status one has or just the way other people view someone based on their appearances. From here, I created a screenplay with the sole intention of suggesting to viewers that one should define themselves through one’s own self-identity and should be able to shape his or her existence into whatever he or she wants it to be. This became “We, Myself and I,” the story of a girl who learns to make decisions for herself and grab life by the balls.
The title itself derives from main character Olivia’s own journey from defining herself through her previous relationship to through the loneliness she feels after ending the previous relationship. The film focuses on her transformation from lonesome girl to confident and self-assured woman, capable of deciding what type of happiness she wants to have. This film will pull from the traditional chick flick and French New Wave genres, focusing on the love story aspect of young love –its all-consuming, rapid nature. It will also mix in elements of coming-of-age and women-liberation stories. For example, I wanted the main character to understand who she is as a person through her experiences with the French guy. She will always be actively involved in making all of her decisions. I also tried to show the buddings of new innocent relationships, as seen through most films that deal with these topics.
I pulled from various method experiments done in class, including the long tracking shots prevalent in my method two experiment and the retrospective feelings associated with my method three experiment. I also chose to use reflections in my final film to exemplify the difference between actually viewing something and using another surface (or person) to help piece together the image the audience will see. In addition, I used longer pan shots that were prevalent in my method two experiment to show Olivia losing her own identity within the crowds of people, but also to maintain her established importance in the film; while she may have gotten lost in the crowd, the pan shots help reestablish Olivia’s importance in the frame itself. In addition, I pulled from the method four experiment when approaching how to do group dialogue shots. I knew that working with so many actors in one scene would be hard enough, not to mention getting all of them to rehearse and deliver lines that I chose for them. Because of this, I allowed them to improvise dialogue for the group shots. Because of the chances I took with them, I ended up getting funnier dialogue from them than I could have written myself. This occurred when Olivia and Andrea finally reach AJ’s apartment and also during the dinner scene.
In terms of homages to French New Wave films, the film list itself includes classics like La Pointe Courte, Cléo de 5 à 7, Shoot the Piano Player, Les Cousins, Le Beau Serge, Nuit et Brouillard, The 400 Blows, Les Mistons, Les Bonnes Femmes, Vivre Sa Vie and Bande à Part. While these films gretly influenced how I shot my own, I paid homage to some of the more substantial contributors than others. For example, I did this by incorporating in shots using mirrors similar to the now-famous scenes in Cléo de 5 à 7 by Agnès Varda. Varda’s use of mirrors to extend the audience’s view of the whole setting resonated with me a lot because she was able to incorporate how the characters view themselves in relation to how other people view them. In addition, Matt Sewell (who helped me with cinematography) and I decided to use more Godard-like camera techniques, such as the iconic ending scene from Breathless, where Godard, using the handheld camera technique, sways the camera slowly to mimic Michel’s slow descent to death (around the 2:44 mark). This type of tracking shot definitely broke the traditional rules regarding tracking shots; while the frame is supposed to be stable throughout the tracking shot sequence, both my and Godard’s films did not steady the camera in order to make the shot more subjective. In addition to these tracking shots, I chose to use subjective, long pans, establishing, group, medium and two-shots.
One last shot in which I definitely broke the rules stated in my textbook included when Olivia walks out of the apartment. In post-production, I chose to connect the ending of this sequence with the walking scene right after by using the sound of the door closing. While this choice was due to the cameraman being visible through the mirrors on the back of the door, I still maintain that it allowed me to also pay homage to Godard’s Breathless, especially when Godard strung along different jump cuts by having smooth dialogue. This type of editing is not common in traditional films because it does not allow the audience to view what they hear is going on.
In terms of Breathless, I chose to pay homage to the bathroom scene where Patricia and Michel are framed within the mirror post-coitus; the pairing I chose to use in my film was between Olivia and her travel bag. Olivia looks back at the bag through the mirror to contemplate her current situation at the beginning of the film, similar to how Patricia interacts with Michel through the mirror. In addition, I chose to pay homage to Éric Rohmer’s The Bakery Girl of Monceau by incorporating a scene similar to the young man’s stroll framed by the cars on either side of him (around the 5:30 mark). I even included a jump cut to make the homage more blatant. Bakery Girl influenced my film because of its length. Rohmer was able to tell a story in 20 minutes, incorporating all scenes necessary for the plot. Lastly, in terms of the evening walking scene toward the end of my film, I chose to pull from Les Bonnes Femmes and Shoot the Piano Player. Specifically, I enjoyed how these films included tracking shots when following the characters walking down the sidewalk. I chose to mimic that style when filming Olivia and Frenchie walking down the street to the climactic kiss scene. While these scenes made use of a steadied camera, I chose the more handheld approach to help build anticipation for what was to occur within the film timeline. While this would be considered breaking the rules, I chose to do so to heighten the experiences of the audience.
Lastly, I paid homage to Chabrol’s Les Cousins by incorporating the personalities of both cousins into my main character, Frenchie. When developing the French character, I took the best parts of both of the cousins from Les Cousin: the innocence and studiousness of Charles and the suaveness and coolness of Paul. I even tried to incorporate the longing Charles feels when seeing Paul and Florence through the iron bars into Olivia’s character when she sees Andrea and Frenchie dancing together.
In terms of swipes from outside of French New Wave, I stuck to what I love best: music. This included songs by popular musicians including Rihanna’s “Stay,” Bruno Mars’ “When I was Your Man” and Taylor Swift’s “Begin Again.” Both Rihanna and Mars use piano accompaniment to convey a sense of all-consuming love, while Swift tends to focus on the positives of a newly budding romance. I also I chose to mirror many of the Bollywood coming-of-age films when writing my screenplay. Because of this, some of my film is relatively similar to films by Farhan Akhtar (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dil Chahta Hai). Lastly, according to Freud, people dream in black and white and they incorporate their own colors into their dreams when thinking about them afterward. This fact prompted me to make all flashbacks occur in color while the “real time” action be in black and white. I thought this would help audiences distinguish between what is actually going on and what is in the past.
Overall, the experience was amazing. I had the time of my life filming this project. Thanks for everyone involved; y’all make me look good 🙂