Symbolism – Death’s Head Hawk Moth and Assignment Three Thoughts

“Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.” – Manly Hall 

In a Skype conversation my tutor brought to my attention about the symbolism of the Death Hawks Head Moth. As a keen wildlife enthusiast, I had heard of this beautiful creature, however, I did not know of its great role it plays in symbolism. Featured in everything from the Pre Raphelite painting, The Hireling Shepherd by William Holman Hunt to the sickening and twisted movie, the Silence of the Lambs (which I have no wish to watch) Dracula, Un Chien Andalou it’s fluttered its way throughout history as a hidden symbol. The symbol it represents however always has dark connotations. It serves as a symbol of the death of the church in the Hireling Shepherd painting. A dead moth is found in Un Chien Andalou an equally dark movie.

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My tutor suggested including footage of a Deaths Head Hawk Moth in Assignment Three as he felt it would be stronger to have something suggested earlier on about the poison. I wasn’t sure where to find such footage. I have used occasional stock sounds such as the dawn chorus in Assignment Four but felt it would be cheating myself to use stock footage of a moth, plus I wasn’t sure it would be allowed. I considered several ideas of how to incorporate the moth into my assignment. Some of my ideas were.

  • A moth flying by as the man cuts the roses. Or flying generally. Peter said you could even just include it with no reference.
  • The moth featuring as a phone wallpaper. This would involve a new narration or plot though.
  • A moth tattoo on the mans neck which she sees as he walks off in slow motion.
  • The moth on the gift card with a butterfly symbolising resurrection on the other side.

I printed off an image of the moth planning the gift card but as I did so I noticed the sun slanting onto the wall. I held the moth up to the light and it had such a dramatic shadow. The wings of death.

Acherontia lachesis MHNT Female Nîlgîri (Tamil Nadu) Dorsal

Found on Google images

The problem was holding the moth so my hand didn’t show. I held it up with scissors. I dropped it from a height.

Some of the versions that didn’t work. As you can see the moth is washed out under the torch light and you can see my hand in the other picture.

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Eventually I used the ornamental flowers. As I set it up I happened to move the torch and the shadow extended upwards with the moth. This was the shot I needed.

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I removed the shot of the rose being cut and replaced with the moth. It’s very ominous as the thunder strikes. I sent it to my tutor who am I waiting to hear back from.

Here is the finished version –

Assignment Three – ChloeClik from ChloeClik on Vimeo.

Positives.

  • The moth does look quite lifelike
  • The reeds add extra interest.
  • The thunder clap is ominous.

Negatives

  • I wish the shot could be longer but with the time limit I would have to remove something else.
  • Perhaps it appears slightly random the sudden inclusion.

However on conferring with my tutor he said that whilst the idea was good he didn’t think it blended with the film which he felt was more documentary. As such he suggested that I leave it out though leave my analysis and reasons for doing so as above. With this in mind the final version does not include the moth.

Assignment Three – Tutor Feedback

assignment 3_

annotatedtutor report assignment 3

I was pleased to receive the above tutor feedback of Assignment Three. You can read the whole thing in full but I will highlight below some comments to reflect on.

“Is the nature of the drink clear enough. I didn’t get the poison idea the first time wrong”

This is an interesting question. I ran it by several people both on the course and off and they all got the poison idea. He did say it could be just him but will the assessors see it the same way. If I was to change something I would perhaps add in her frowning at the drink to convey something was wrong. Though I don’t want to make it too obvious as it is meant to be implied. Something to think about. It’s 50 50 as to whether I edit it.

“Whenever possible try shooting some test footage in new locations/lighting conditions to assess exposure as well as any other issues”

This is a very good idea and one in which I’ve been experimenting with. The same can be applied to sound, checking the area before beginning.

“Perhaps you need to think about a separate recorder for dialogue or at least a supplementary gun microphone”

As this unit has now ended and I am moving onto Landscape photography I haven’t invested in external audio however had I been continuing this was something I would most definitely have done. As such I have been using the video recorder on iMovie for narration in Assignment four and filming sounds separately on my Canon DSLR.

“I think that this video has much to commend it”

A very nice comment to read.

“You should practice tracking (walking!) with the camera to get it smooth. There are times when slight movement up and down of the camera can add to the mood but often what is wanted is a smooth track.”

I did experiment by being in my wheelchair for this assignment however we have a crazy paving driveway and even laying down cardboard for the wheelchair didn’t ensure a smooth pan. I did find that working with my iPhone at one occasion in Assignment One was smoother, perhaps because it’s so light and easier to navigate. Image stabilisation on iMovie isn’t the best it gives it an almost distorted feeling of looking through water though I used IS on my camera.

“There seems to be a good quantity and quality of research going on. Remember to look beyond the confines of the unit to get some appreciation of the wider implications of cultural theory and then their implications for the particular medium we are dealing with. Look at ideas about The Gaze, Feminist and Poet-colonialist criticism, the implications of the questioning of the nature of The real and so on and so on.”

I’m very pleased about this especially as I have sought out variety of subjects to study, researching everything I come across from photography to psychology and the meaning of dreams and movies. On the first two courses, The Art of Photography and People and Place I don’t feel I researched enough but I suppose the point of making mistakes is to learn from them. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”

Perhaps you should think about keeping a scrapbook type journal as well as the blog ion which you can put tear-sheets, cuttings, etc as well as more personal and random thought on life the universe and everything!

I wish I had done this at the beginning of the course but it is not too late to start now so I have been gathering today work for Assignment Four which I will upload here. And I have already chosen a sketchbook and started it for the Landscape course.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  • Think very carefully about the different ways that the idea of narrative can be approached and plan and shoot accordingly.
  • Think whether you want to inform your audience in a documentary sense or place the narrative in front of them for them to interpret.

I have posted a blog article on the many types of narrative and have chosen to do an expository documentary for Assignment four. It is also a mix between poetic. I decided to go for a telling documentary, whilst the end may be considered as an asking, on the whole it is indeed a telling.

 

Assignment Three

For this assignment you will create a short sequence that tells a basic story and conveys implied meaning. The sequence must be no longer than 90 seconds.  You will write a script, design the shots, record and edit the film.
You should focus on meaning. Clearly describe the action or sequence of events and imply a second layer of meaning. Consider the techniques you have already explored for creating meaning with composition. Think about mood, atmosphere and where the audience’s attention is focused. Consider the space on and off screen and the assumptions your audience will make.
Consider carefully what information you must show on screen. Think about what you need to show. Think about the best framing and composition to clearly achieve this.
  • Consider what information you wish to imply. Think about how you can create meaning by re-ordering your shots. Think about other elements you may want to include such as additional shots or sound.
  • Storyboard a short sequence. Include as much detail as possible about each shot. Consider the composition, framing, camera movement and sound.
    Remember you cannot show the implied meaning directly – no flashbacks of the couple in bed, no shot of someone pouring from a flask marked ‘poison’, no shots of your suicidal person imagining themselves hanging from a rope.

 

 

 

Assignment Three – ChloeClik from ChloeClik on Vimeo.

I began this assignment in a different way, I decided not to approach it with fully formed ideas. I wanted to complete all the exercises and then use that in the assignment. Of course ideas often flitter around and inspire you but in the end I started the assignment with a clean slate. My actress was Anne. Throughout this course, we’ve done a lot of work together and I think we now work really well together on the projects. I know I need to be more clear and precise with my instructions and she knows she can be spontaneous though still stick to the brief and let me know if she doesn’t understand something.

The Brief – I opted for the poisoned drink. My tutor said, “Don’t let the dramatic nature of the brief take over from the filmic nature of laying out a narrative.” For the narrative, I was looking at Mum’s birthday cards on the mantlepiece when it hit me. The character, Cara is having a birthday party, all her friends are coming round but of course, it’s not going to be the birthday party planned. From there everything started slotting into place and soon I had the rough draft.

Storyboards – Review from top left down and so on (scanner isn’t working very well)

ASSIGNMENT THREEASSIGNMENT THREE p

Script written as story

Assignment Three

Script written as Script with Celtx

https://www.celtx.com/auth/public/resource/vka5qdi1

Important details –

Doorbell. When it first goes Cara dashes to the door but it’s just the neighbour complaining about whether it will be a raucous party. Then later a mystery parcel appears on the doorstep (the poisoned drink) The third time it’s her friend but Cara doesn’t answer. This signifies something has happened. We have a very piercing doorbell which adds to the drama.

The rose dropping a petal. This was very imporant as the rose is cut clearly by the enemy. Then when the petal is dropped, it is symbolic that she has been poisoned.

Symbolic meanings. I looked up symbols of danger in multiple cultures. Clocks ticking signified time running out. A crow represents death. Black clothing but I wanted Cara to look colourful. I also looked at the flowers that were dying and thought a single petal dropping could be quite powerful too.

Equipment.
Initially I choose my Canon camcorder which has always served me well but the battery was playing up so I turned to my Canon 70D. It worked like a dream. It was so compact and light, tracking was easier and the microphone worked well too. However it did pick up things such as my footsteps at one point (which I was able to edit out) and when people breathed near it there was a touch of interference.

Sound
When I began this course I used to play music over the entire piece and I’ve really learnt that while it’s good to have music (though not always) having a contrast where there isn’t music can make that scene more serious and show the viewer it’s something important. I wanted to have a party beat to show how triumphant she felt at getting one over on the neighbour and also to create an illusion of fun soon to be shattered. Ashley, my course mate used a song from incompetech.com which has music free to download as long as you credit them. I found a great song Feeling Good which suited the brief perfectly. Then when the song abruptly ends on the bag it shows it’s importance and signifies that the end is near.

The Shoot

I brought Ken in, to act as the annoyed neighbor and shot the scene in a chronological order. I’d given them the script which we worked from. Everyone seemed clear with their orders. In future I should give them their script before the shoot so they can learn their lines. However I didn’t want it wooden so I allowed any word changes that would suit them.

The camera had options to adjust exposure which worked really well and it felt very fluid filming with it. I loved the interaction between each other and they had a good time too. I did several takes of each scene for editing purposes but chose the first one most often.

Actor Comment –

Anne. It was very good, Chloe got on with it, she had a role to do and went through with it. Instructions were very clear and so much more improved than last time.

Ken. I knew what I had to do. However she only needed me to walk out of the frame and I walked off down the road without knowing.

 

ANALYSIS – Assignment Three

Equipment – Canon 70D – inbuilt mic –

Location. Home. Bright light in the kitchen caused some exposure issues. Also created light airy feeling.

Aim. Create a 90 second scene implying the character Cara being posioned.

Information. Imply don’t tell.

Character. Cara. Birthday girl. Excited. Rude to neighbor.
Neighbor – annoyed, het up.
Friend – excited, enthusiastic.

Colours. Clothing was bright and colourful to denote party atmosphere and contrast.

Frame One – Introduces Cara. Colourful dress, excited as the doorbell rings. She dashes round corner

Frame Two– which motivates next shot. Tracks her to the door. Second doorbell shows impatient.

Frame Three – A dramatic zoom. Not initially planned but inspired in the moment to show the tension between the two characters.

Frame Four – Cara’s irritation.

Frame Five – Shows expression of neighbor to smoothen transition into next frame.

Frame Six to Eight – discourse between neighbors.

Frame Nine – A low angle to show the triumph of how she got one over on the neighbour. Music comes in to highlight this but her expression changes as she sees the crow. A sign of death. Trying to meet the assignment deadline I used a crow call from FreeSound and also a clock ticking as I couldn’t get the sound without the background noise on my camera.

Frame Ten – a thunder clap as the rose is cut!

Frame Eleven – another spur of the moment. It just seemed too static filming Cara opening the cupboards. So I put the camera inside the cupboard. This made the transition from the rose to black quite potent.

Frame Twelve – The doorbell rings

Frame Thirteen – Cara stands at the doorway a bag at her feet. Initally this was a pan down but it took up too much time of the 90 seconds so I trimmed it. The upbeat music ends thus signalling it’s importance. A new music takes it’s place (Shetland from iMovie) the percussion sounds like a rattlesnakes tail.

Frame Fourteen A glance up the road shows confusion

Frame Fifteen – while an empty driveway lets mystery hang in the air. A subjective shot, handheld.

Frame Sixteen – Eighteen – As Cara lifts the bag up there is a cut and she pulls the drink from the bag. Like in French New Wave when they cut out unessential parts. She sees the drink and the flowers.

Frame Seventeen. She has a drink then realises she’s not put candles on the cake and rushes off. The clock signals time running out.

Frame Eighteen – I put the camera on the monopod and Anne held it steady for me in the position I wanted as I was the only actress left. The exposure is bright and airy but the distorted version of Happy Birthday signals something else.

Frame Nineteen. I filmed this like the Moshuskin experiment, showing the expression of the girl then the flowers. Then the drink and finally the flowers again. This time a petal falls, it’s final, fatal and hopefully implies she has been poisoned.

Major changes

Incredulously it was only after reviewing the final product that I realised it was the neighbor who had poisoned Cara. I hadn’t planned this at all but with the argument being a large part, one would assume this was the case.

Originally Cara was going to be blowing up balloons and putting out her birthday cards. Though I shot this it added nothing new to the video, also it went over the allocated time and in the end I removed it instead starting from Cara arriving at the door thus throwing the viewer straight into the action.

Successful – I like the shot inside the cupboard, the way I implied the scenario and the use of music.

Unsuccessful – Need to think about filming the audio separately, it just worked out quite well in the original shoot and I was reluctant to change it.

Thoughts

I feel it was a successful video. Of the people I’ve run it by they realised she had been poisoned and by the neighbor (ironic I hadn’t planned that) I was glad of the 90 second limit it wasn’t too long or short and though it was difficult deciding what to remove I think it works better due to this. The overall video is 1-44 minutes long purely because of the seconds of the opening and ending credits. The actual footage is exactly ninety seconds. I also stuck to the storyboards quite well.