My documentary is about gender dysphoria and being transgendered through my eyes as an outsider. I’ve seen my friends suffer and disrespected for who they are, but also seen my friends happy and smiling when they’re showed the love that they deserve. Gender isn’t just what we see on the outside, it’s on the inside too. Our society needs to learn that not everything is on the surface, that we are what is buried beneath the skin. And that gender equality within our society is certainly very important.
This is the poster for my documentary Wrong Skin.
When brainstorming ideas for my documentary, the prefix ‘trans-’ of the words ‘transgressions’ immediately caught my interest. I researched the prefix and found this definition:
trans-1. a prefix meaning “across,” “through,” occurring orig. in loanwords from Latin, used in particular to form verbs denoting movement or conveyance from place to place or complete change [freedictionary.com, Webster's Dictionary 2010]
I felt motivated to continue on with my idea through all of the complications as I had a lot of encouragement from people to stick with my idea. From my friends, to those within the trans* community and people online, I was told that it was a very interesting idea and something that they would love to see. I felt that it would be worthwhile sticking with the idea and seeing where it would take me and I’m glad I did.
When developing my idea, I practiced a studio set-up with my one minute screen test in order to see if my idea was do-able. My screen test didn’t go very well, however. I found that my subject looked too flat and blended within the background. I kept practicing and working out the perfect positioning for lighting in order to achieve the best results. I think that I have managed to do this well. Some of my shots do need a lot of post-production work on them but my final shoot went a lot better than my practice one.
My ideas changed a lot for my shoot. I was originally influenced to do all photographs for my film by Chris Marker’s La Jetée but felt more influenced after rewatching Sans Soleil, so I decided to stick with all footage.
When I was unable to find a macro lens, my shoot idea had to change greatly to the studio set up. With this changed, I felt that clothes wouldn’t work as well, so I had my models in their underwear in order to make it more effective.
I have learned from this that in future, I should definitely look at booking the photography studio a lot earlier so I wouldn’t be shooting in a small bedroom and shooting a lot earlier with stricter and much better planning.
Overall, I am very happy with my piece. Although I experienced a lot of ups and downs during the planning process, I think I have successfully created a piece that I am proud of.
Originally, I wanted to keep my piece in colour. When filming, the lighting was quite warm even after white balancing but I felt that this was better than it being too cool as it would be easier to make it cooler within post-production. I had to do a lot of editing within After Effects with the lighting, however, I knew that I had to do this when I was shooting as I found it difficult controlling the lighting.
When I got to colour correcting the footage and making it cooler, I realised that the piece just didn’t look right in colour. I felt that the colour really pulled away the focus from what I was trying to achieve. I wanted the focus to be the shapes and the shadows of my models but I found myself too focused on the colour whilst watching it. I tried to edit it with the colours saturated so that there was still a hint of colour but I still didn’t like the effect that it gave. Therefore, I tried it in black and white and it was perfectly what I wanted my piece to look like. The lack of colour made it more basic and didn’t distract the eye from what I wanted the viewers to look at. I initially wanted to avoid black and white but once I edited it in this way, I really liked it. It creates a strong contrast with their pale skin and the black background.
I also initially was going to record a poem to be used as the voiceover of the piece. However, I instead decided to write prose myself and I really liked how it worked out. It helped to make my documentary a lot more understandable as the poem I was going to use was very abstract and described gender like a sweater that we are given and assigned with. I really liked the poem but realised that it just didn’t fit what I was looking for. The prose has worked a lot better and I like the final outcome a lot.
I also toyed with the idea of having the shots all the same length so that they would flow easily into each other. However after trying this idea out, I realised it felt very monotonous and boring. By mixing the shot lengths up, it made it more interesting on the eye. I didn’t make the shots too drastically different, with having some very long and some very short but created a range that wouldn’t be uncomfortable to watch.
This is the rough edit for my documentary, Wrong Skin. I have yet to add the audio in as I am still editing that but felt that I should upload my visuals anyway. I still need to edit the lighting of this piece within After Effects but currently having issues with the software, so I plan to have my documentary completely finished and edited on Monday.
For task three, we were given the cinematic style of silent cinema. We researched the conventions of silent cinema in order to understand what we needed to include in our own film. These were the conventions we found:
- 4:3 aspect ratio
- shot at variable frame rates between 12 and 26 fps
- intertitles with speech or describing what is happening
- piano music
- black and white (some may be hand coloured or have a coloured tint)
- often had overdramatic acting
We struggled to arrange time in order for us all to work together due to commitments and such. We at first decided to do The Truman Show but after actors and plans fell through, we decided to go for 500 Days of Summer instead. This is the scene that we decided to do:
Rather than focus on silent cinema as a vague umbrella idea, we focused upon soviet montage. We felt that we could easily show this within this film and watched Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera in order to understand the conventions of soviet montage as well as silent cinema conventions.
A few of us worked on the camera together, with Heather directing and acting. We shot the film at 25fps, although we wanted to lower the frame rate, as we felt that it would be best to do this in post production as it gave us more freedom to move between the 12fps and 26fps scale in which silent movies were. We filmed both parts, as to what was the expectations and what was reality and edited it accordingly together. Heather also edited it and I really liked how it turned out, I felt that it very strongly shows the conventions of silent cinema.
Here is our final piece:
Within my documentary, I wish to use fluid camera movements in order to show my subjects’ bodies clearly. Toland uses very smooth camera movements, which I wish to recreate in my own work. Lighting was also a powerful and useful tool used by Toland in order to show moods. The shadows casted by his lighting were what really emphasised this as well as highlighting the figures of the characters. Lighting is going to be playing a huge role within my work, with shadows in order to emphasise shapes, as well as using it to create a darker mood. Although Toland uses a lot of deep focus, I aim to be using shallow focus primarily in order to show details within the bodies that I am filming.
Throughout the film, Toland uses a technique known as deep focus, which allows the viewer to see what is happening in both the foreground and the background of the scene. This is a technique that Toland was largely responsible for making popular within cinema, therefore I found that fact to been even more interesting whilst I was watching. The black and white colouring reflects the era in which the film was created. Gregg Toland uses lighting very effectively within Citizen Kane by using it to emphasise the atmosphere and the mood within the scene, eg the lightning becoming darker with more shadows in the scene when something bad is happening, compared to brighter lighting and less shadows when not. The camera movements were very fluid, such as the scene where the camera moved through the window where it was showing the boy playing in the snow outside and where it flowed through the window and through the house, the characters following the camera. The movements were very smooth and I feel that this added to effect of the film overall.
WORKING TITLE: SKIN
The human body is a complicated thing. There’s our organs, our skin, our features. All the way down to our cells and our DNA. Our body shows our gender, who we are as a sex. But does it?Not everyone’s gender matches their biological sex. Not everyone’s insides matches their outsides. And not everyone is happy with their assigned gender at birth.
Images of human bodies are shown within a studio, their shapes and their structure highlighted by lights and shadows. From their toes to their eyes, we see people in their entirety. They’re not people with gender dysphoria themselves, yet this is to show that what we see isn’t necessarily the truth. Underneath their skin may hide someone else, as we humans only show the world what we want the world to see. We can’t see beneath the skin. But what is underneath the skin is what really determines our gender. Not our bodies. Not our hair. Not our style. Not our genitalia. But what is beneath the skin. And this documentary is about how some people are living in the skin that doesn’t fit who they are inside.
This is the screen test for just the visuals of my documentary. I set up the studio with the lights and practiced how I wanted it to be. I’m glad I done a screen test as it has made me realise that the lights didn’t work out very well and I need to position them better for my actual shoot.