Category: Visual Artist

How To Enhance Your Directing Process

 

Every film director is different. Especially when it concerns style, experience, execution, preferences and so on. After directing my own short film, these are a few things that helped my process.

1 Block your scenes through the viewfinder

The simple way to define blocking is, the movements of characters in relation to the movement of the camera (the audience’s point of view).  Of course, there are more than a few ways to block a scene. Depending on the director, a few lines of action and dialogue in a script could translate on screen as a comedy, drama, romantic comedy or a suspense scene. By this fact, blocking also involves the performance and not just the movement. Now for the tip: always block your scenes through the viewfinder when possible. (Obviously if you’re shooting on a DSLR you’d have to turn the camera off to view your shot through the viewfinder). Doing this forces you to think more consciously about the 3 dimensional space you’re dealing with as well as gauging the distance between the camera and the performer. Whereas blocking using the flat, two dimensional monitor doesn’t give you an accurate idea of spacing.

 

2 Use prime lenses

Why? For starters they’re sharper, more affordable, more portable (all relative by the way). But using lenses with a fixed focal length allows you to think more actively about how you shoot a scene. Because there’s no quick and easy way to get a closeup on an actor or to fit more in the frame, you’re forced to physically move the camera, which in turn affects the process of the actor, for better or worse. But overall it does let you think more creatively about getting a shot as opposed to just zooming in or out.

 

3 Know every process

Terry Gilliam once told Quentin Tarantino that <paraphrased; as a director, it’s not your job to know how to operate a camera, or move lights around to get a certain effect, or how to record sound or any of that. As a director,  your job is to have a vision. And then it’s your job to be able to articulate that vision to the talented people around you who can use their skill to help you achieve that vision.” For me, this is a more than perfect description of what a film director is. BUT, put plainly, you do give yourself a huge advantage when you have a working -not perfect- knowledge of what each process in filmmaking entails. You don’t need to be a DP for 3 years to know what a DP does but it’s good to be an instant expert on all processes so that 1) you know when your crew is lying to you that something can’t be done (lol) and 2) in the case of many independent filmmakers getting started, you’ll need to teach your crew how to do their jobs effectively, so the more you know the better.

 

4 Get to know who you’re working with

This could easily be overlooked but I think it’s highly important that you actually take time to find out what kind of personality types you’ll be spending your time with on a particular project. If they’re unlikeable, or worse yet, not knowledgeable enough then what could be a simple, fun project could end up dragging on and becoming a gloom. On the other hand, persons who are just as passionate and on a similar wavelength can be more fun and make you a better filmmaker overall.

 

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‘I Am Here’: An Interview with Keisha Scarville

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Salt. 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Keisha Scarville is a photo and multimedia artist who alters and reforms the perception of regular items through themes of transformation, migration and displacement. Raised by Guyanese parents, the Brooklyn based artist uses her unconventional art work as a means to express her nationality and homeland, which has allowed her to be exhibited in a wide number of locations, for example, The Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Studio Museum of Harlem. In this brief interview, Scarville discusses her intuitive direction in both art and photography as well the artistic process surrounding them.

There is a lot of depth in you artwork. Do you find yourself using a form of critical theory to express your work? Does it affect your creative process and thinking?

There is no particular critical theory that completely informs my work. My work is influenced by various writers and philosophies. I love the writing of Gaston Bachelard. His book, ‘The Poetics of Space’, has changed the way I approached photographing spaces and landscapes.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the Passport series, you have touched on the issues of immigration through the eyes of two generations and through the art of mixed media. How has using this type of medium helped justify your artistic vision?

The series, “Passports” is an ongoing project where I repeatedly reinterpret my father’s earliest passport photo. I am interested in the aesthetics of a passport photo as a signifier but also the guidelines that inform how one positions and presents oneself within the frame. Through an interrogative process, I re-imagine the image of my father as a subject of a nation to forge a dialogue with the image. I use collage, paint, and other materials to transfigure and dislodge the unmoving stoicism of the printed image and create an alternate spatial narrative. In each piece, I respond to the shape shifting effects of immigration and my own personal history. I treat the photograph as a platform on which all these embedded and intertwined histories can be explored and layered.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2014 and 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the I am Here Series, I see that passport photo being represented again along with images of a second person. Can you tell us what this series is all about?

I am interested in the notion of home – how it is conceived, transformed, and lost. As a first generation Guyanese American, I often find myself occupying this hyphenated space where I don’t fully identify with being American nor am I considered Guyanese. I wonder what it means to create a space of belonging. What does it mean to designate a place/space as home? The “I am here” series is a personal journey towards claiming and understanding the conception of a home. In the project I explore how rituals, objects, spaces and the body can be visually excavated as primary sites of belonging. This series preceded the “Passports” project and was the impetus for developing that body of work.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Dad’s passport, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

It seems that you are no stranger to photography either. How did you come about learning and developing your skills in photography?

I first learned photography while in high school. It was a transformative experience — holding a camera for the first time and looking at the world around me, deciding what to capture, and then holding those moments in my hands forever. I have been completely obsessed and fascinated by photography from that time. I went on to study photography in undergrad, as well as, focusing on photography and art therapy through graduate level classes.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Bones, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Do you see photography as a way to establish a new perspective in the art of storytelling and capturing moments?

I don’t think of it as new, but an alternative way of conveying narrative. I think people have always used photography to visually communicate stories. Now, more people have access to image-making devices. With the abundance and overwhelming speed at which we can produce images, my concern becomes how we read these images. Like all forms of communication, we need to be able to develop a method to take careful consideration of what images do, how they operate, and how to deconstruct/interpret the narrative.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s ClothesSeries, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In an article for Vice Magazine, you spoke about the search of identity through imagery in a collection of photographs called Mama’s Clothes. How did you feel about this art piece and what would you like viewers to take from it?

In the series, “Mama’s Clothes,” I explore the experience of absence and the camera’s role in visualizing what cannot be seen, but felt. I explore the paradox of abundance within absence and the phenomenology of space. In the photographs, I present my body cloaked in my deceased mother’s clothes. I am interested in how the clothing can be transformed into residual, surrogate skin. In the series, I am looking at ways I can facilitate and construct a visual place where I can conjure her presence while using my body as a medium.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Also in this same series, the usage of clothing had a strong symbolic meaning. Most of your work weighs heavily on the contextualized meaning placed on everyday objects, which is not as subtle in most cases. Do you think this unique feature differentiates you as an artist?

A great deal of my work focuses on the biological, historical, and symbolic references of objects. I did a two-person exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) entitled, ‘Surrogate Skin: The Biology of Objects’. This project and exhibition allowed me to showcase the elements that inform my art practice.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

What final thoughts would you like to leave for young artists and photographers alike?

Break the rules, read as much as possible, and remain curious. 

 

 

 

Scarville is currently hosting an exhibition at the Contact Photo Gallery, Toronto, ‘An unassailable and monumental dignity from September 21st– November 18th.

For more information on Keisha Scarville, kindly visit her website www.keishascarville.com