Monthly Archives: October 2013

The DreamWorks effect–initial thoughts on dossier

Last week we were given a dossier to read on historical film and television and the problem of presenting history in an authentic way. The dossier focused on Band of Brothers, in particular detailing the camera work used, CGI and the documentary style of the filming. It also touched on the issues facing the use of CGI which is something that is closely related to my own project, so I will return to this later in the term.

To me one of the key points being discussed was the idea of authenticity, whether it is possible for dramatization to be deemed to ethically portray true events (stories supplied by veteran testimonies) while still providing a story that’s engaging and seemingly real, given the technology that is involved.

But what is authenticity when dealing with stories?

The references of the piece discussed the ‘spell of imitation’ and continually referred to the idea that art in various forms should be treated with suspicion when claiming to represent reality (SUTTON,D., 2010). But all art is an extension of ourselves, so maybe a form of truth, and film and television are no different. With the use of CGI and colour manipulation for added authenticity, the dossier mentioned that we become more removed from the actual truth.

Surely true reality can only be experienced if you’re actually there? So not through books, film or even stories handed down to the next generation. These kind of stories and the memories of the Veterans for that fact can get altered, forgotten, blended with other memories, so change over time.

As artists all we can hope to achieve is that we touch on something–some element of reality–an emotion that is authentic and portray it as honestly as we can. CGI is a tool to be used wisely so to not distract. Combine that with the shaky documentary camera work shown in Band of Brothers that allows the viewers to almost feel that they are there, or with subconscious symbolism in the use of colour for example, we can aim to develop a satisfying end product.

Now more that ever we need to look at the amalgamation of the role of designer, director, writers etc. as visual story telling seems to be a holistic process that blends the actors, pre-production, post-production, writing, soundtracks etc. seamlessly. For me dramatisations that neglect one of these cogs in the machine even fall short of  imitated ‘authenticity’.

Reference:-SUTTON,D., The DreamWorks effect:: the case for studying the ideology of production design (2010) [Online] Available at

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My new Pinterest page

Yesterday I created a Pinterest page on which I can pin or collect visual bookmarks of websites, pictures, articles etc. of all things that relate to my MA project or anything that inspires me. It’s a kind of sketchbook/ pin board/ visual reference scrapbook that is already taking shape with dystopian/post apocalyptic images, books, films, stage designs and art. Any that get used academically will then be added to my main reference list and some of the most inspiring pictures will be featured in my Pinterest gallery on the right hand side of the journal page.

dystopian goodreads

Image from Pinterest but originally sourced from  showing the increase in dystopian books since the 60’s, pinned at

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Collaborative Beginnings

In the first 2 weeks we were all thrown in at the deep end when we were introduced to the first collaborative project. The idea was to initially introduce us to other students on a variety of art and design MA programmes so we could get to know each other, secondly to introduce us to Nottingham. Most students were unfamiliar with the city and I, as the only one in my group that had lived here for several years became the tour guide for our first day. Not surprisingly there were things that even I discovered while treading familiar streets that included side streets that I’d not noticed before, canal side cafes, art, statues and new shops.

There are always new things to discover, no matter how well you think you know a place. I think this is something that I can take on board and use in my approach to future work. I will aim to keep my camera with me, just in case there is anything that I can use for my designs or just for good old fashioned inspiration.

reflections 1 zer8          face Zer8

reflections 3         zer8 set up 4

zer8 set up 3     zer8 set up 5       reflections 2 Zer8

So using photos, film, illustrations and journeys with our Blackpool snow globe plus discussions about tourism and cultural differences, we devised a 5 minute film showing Mr Blackpool, the souvenir becoming the tourist and collecting his own memories and objects representing his and our Nottingham.

Team Zer8 at

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Starting research

While I’m finalising the project/learning agreement for my Masters degree I’m starting to look at the role of the production designer and how it relates to the rest of the art department, location scouts, director etc. and looking at the pre-production phase of film making. Later on I will compare this to the post-production phase, in particular– what in terms of design is likely to be altered set/lighting wise?

Of course many design decisions will depend on the novel/screenplay that I choose to develop, but at this stage of research, it is important to establish information on existing films and practise in order to inform my own practical research and design decisions for the future. I have found plenty of books to get me started including Production Design: Architects of the screen by Jane Barnwell, The Filmmakers Guide To Production Design by Vincent LoBrutto  plus various books that look at art direction.

Also, I’ve just found a handful of on-line articles/blog posts that document aspects of the changing role of the production designer in today’s film industry which should be useful. Any that I find relevant will be posted on a page specifically for links, references and the bibliography over the next week or two.

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Abandonment and project starting points

As a child and living in Wales I was surrounded by ruins, all of which held ancient stories and secrets. I would often spend much of my summer wandering around castles, finding part hidden walls and houses that had been abandoned. This continued as I got older and moved to the city. The city revealed altogether different settings; old disused canals and factories, derelict hospitals and graffiti. Over time I developed a strange fascination with derelict buildings and knew I wanted to use it in some way.

smaller factory      dystopian landscapes3

dystopian landscapes1      dystopian landscapes2

Photographs that capture elements of dereliction and abandonment in Nottingham.

Alongside my aesthetic interests I also developed a keen interest in reading and watching post-apocalyptic/dystopian books and films. Through that I became fascinated by society’s obsession with ‘end of world’ scenarios and oppressive situations.

Whether it reveals something about the human condition or our ability to survive against the odds, it’s hard to say, but from a design point of view–it allows for some interesting research.

My plan is to look at post-apocalyptic films that often use abandonment, dereliction, war-torn landscapes alongside dystopian films that  generally show futuristic, oppressive, claustrophobic or controlling environments. Sometimes the two combine into one film.  Both are classed as science fiction. Both types of film have requirements and constraints story wise and  I want to look at these in conjunction with the practical approaches, such as location verses the built/devised set.

This journal will document my journey and will include photos, research into existing films, sketchbook work and experiment, the development of new skills, side projects and the realisation of a final design brief in which I aim to use a novel to create designs for film.

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