Final Project: A Study on Film Storytelling

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz, 1939, was a revolutionary film for its use of Technicolor. It transformed what we understood about cinema and set a foundation for decades of sequels, spin-offs, and reinterpretations. In the scene depicted above, Dorothy and the gang set off for Emerald City after encountering the enchanted field of poppies, their last trial before reaching the city and meeting the Wizard of Oz.  The series of trials they faced on their journey parallels the hero’s journey, a narrative template prevalent in classic mythology. The scene as Dorothy and friends make their way down the yellow brick road represents their victory over the trials while their goal waits for them just at the end of the road. By removing the characters from the scene, I am affectively destroying that victory. What was once a scene of accomplishment becomes nothing more than a road to a city.

Rocky

Rocky, 1976, is a story of a boxer who “goes the distance” to prove himself to himself and the world. It is a classic story of an underdog character who overcomes obstacles to rise to the top. As someone who defied all of the odds against him and came out on top, Rocky became a hero and an inspiration for people all across the country. This scene is one of the most iconic scenes throughout the film and was reproduced by countless others. Rocky has finally completed his training and is ready to face Apollo Creed in the boxing ring. It’s a huge moment for the film, and for the character. By removing Rocky from the scene, his success suddenly doesn’t matter, whatever training he accomplished is now pointless. It becomes a generic moment in Philadelphia.

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry, 1971, is a crime thriller about San Fransisco cop Harry Callahan, known as “Dirty Harry,” who works to take down the psychopathic killer called Scorpio. The film is inspired by the real life cases of the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified serial killer who terrorized Northern California from the 1960s to 70s. The film was released during a time when issues with the justice system were abundant. The American people were frustrated with a police body that continually overstepped boundaries, obstructed justice, and abused their authority. While some view the film as a way to celebrate “dirty cops” and a flawed system, others view it as a commentary on the country’s general frustration with executive and judicial laws. Throughout the film, Dirty Harry is constantly working to bring the killer to justice, but somehow everything keeps working out in the killer’s favor. The scene above comes right before Dirty Harry faces off with the Scorpio one last time. He finally takes down the murderer, but he throws his badge into the water – symbolic of America’s (and his own) frustration with a justice system that failed the public and essentially allowed a killer to walk free. By removing Dirty Harry from the scene, it is changed into a plain landscape. As in the example with Rocky, the build up from the entire film no longer matters and it simply becomes a landscape.

Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope)

Star Wars, 1977, later retitled Episode IV: A New Hope, is the first installment in one of the highest grossing franchises of all time. The story follows Luke Skywalker and Han Solo as they travel across the galaxy to rescue Princess Leia, the leader of the Rebellion, and help in the fight against the Empire. This scene occurs after Luke has seen Princess Leia’s message on R2-D2, learns about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his mysterious connection to Luke’s deceased father, Anakin. This is the very start of Luke’s journey, right before he will set off to find the missing R2-D2 and end up on a much bigger journey. The scene is rather dramatic, but it serves to represent the birth of Luke’s destiny. It takes place while Luke himself doesn’t know who he truly is and prefaces his gradual realization of that. Without Luke in the scene, it is a pretty sunset, but it no longer marks the start of an epic journey to a character’s destiny.

The Godfather

The Godfather, 1972, is a crime drama following the exploits of the Corleone family, a mafia organization in New York. A drug dealer named Sollozzo approaches the head of the Corleone family, Don Vito, to request financing and protection from the Corleone’s. They refuse and it spurs a conflict between them and a rival family, the Tattaglia’s. When the Don is injured in an attempted assassination, power positions shift and the previously structured Corleone family struggles to reinstate the hierarchy that is put into limbo. The film is a gritty look at the mafia families of New York, a large and brutal part of American history. It also explores family duty and loyalty, and what people will do to protect it. This scene features the youngest Corleone son, Michael, as he takes his place in the chair that was once his father’s place of power. Michael was never meant to be part of the “business.” As a decorated war hero, he didn’t want to get sucked into the ruthless world the rest of his family was part of. However, this changes completely and Michael establishes himself as head of the Corleone family. The chair itself is an iconic part of the film. Whoever sits in the chair holds the power, so when Michael finally takes his place there, it represents his acceptance of the role he plays in the Corleone affairs. However, there is no power to an object. The power comes from the person sitting in it. Without Michael in the scene, it’s just a chair. Nothing more.

Final Reflection

In each example, the removal of characters from the scene drastically changes the context. It takes away from the storyline, so the scene loses its importance. It becomes a landscape or an object, lacking meaning and purpose.

We are drawn in by stories of characters who overcome challenges, rise to the top, go on epic adventures, and defeat the bad guys. We care about people (even if they suck sometimes).

It is the people in the scenes that make the scene worthwhile. Not the road to the city, or an aesthetic landscape, or a power chair. The characters and their story make the scene worthwhile. It’s why we watch movies in the first place.

Human presence is an essential part of storytelling. Even in films that revolve around animals, they are given humanlike characteristics in order to engage the viewer. People make things interesting. The characters give a movie, or a scene, purpose and intention and life. Without them, it’s really just not worth it.

Mid-Semester Reflection

Getting past the halfway mark each semester always puts things into perspective for me. It’s a good time to look back on the work I’ve done so far and consider my upcoming projects. For Digital Storytelling, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with radio adaptations, discovering song covers, and experimenting in GarageBand.

So, what have I done so far?

A few of the projects I’ve done are already posted to this blog, like the fan fiction of The Hound of the Baskervilles, my audio piece for the DS 106 Assignment Bank, and my twitter bot, Bob Bot (which at the time of writing this sentence has tweeted out 908 remixed burger specials, was retweeted 11 times, and has two followers [although one of those was a pity follow from my dad, so I don’t know if that counts]). These are the major projects I have done for this class. For my minor projects, like the Daily Create assignments, I have only posted one to my blog (a Tina Belcher perseveration poem).

While the major projects have been good learning tools for me, I have enjoyed doing the Daily Creates so much more. I’ve been considering why I have only consistently posted my major projects to my public blog instead of my Daily Creates. For one part, it’s due to having to provide public links to these projects, which is not required for the Daily Create assignments. But for another part, I think it’s because I have not been using my domain/subdomains to their fullest potential.

At the beginning of the semester, I was thinking a lot about how I wanted to present myself via my online presence, which happens to be my domain. I am not that active on social media and most of my boards on Pinterest are private, so I have never really worried about how I come across online. But now that I am putting more work into my domain and making more and more blogs and subdomains that attach to my front page, I have to be more aware of how I am projecting myself and who my audience is. No, I don’t want the entire internet world to see every single project I’ve made for school, but at the same time, I would rather put forward the things I have enjoyed working on the most rather than just the things I have to post publicly for my grade.

After getting past the first few weeks of the semester, I began thinking less of my digital identity and more of getting things done by their deadlines so I can pass my classes and graduate in the spring. In retrospect, I wish I would have continued thinking about my digital identity while doing my assignments because these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. By just worrying about getting a project done and posting it by the due date, I have been cultivating my digital identity – just not in the way I planned on doing it.

What does this mean now?

Going forward this semester, I am about to tackle The Big Project for two of my classes. Both of these projects involve my domain, and both of these projects will take a lot of focus and hard work if I want them to be successful. My goal for the last half of the semester is to be more intentional about what I link to, post, or blog about on my domain so that I can represent myself in a more accurate way than I have been. I really want my website to reflect “Sarah” as I truly am, not “Sarah Really Wants an A” or “This Got Done Because It Had To, Not Because I Care About It.” To do that, I am going to have to be mindful about my digital identity and how it is going to represent myself not only this semester, but in the future, as well.

The Hound of Scranton: A Fan Fiction Assignment

Taking place in the paper monopoly Dunder Mifflin and the haunting fields of the Schrute Beet Farm, where murder and mystery abound, Detective Holmes and Dr. Watson must work quickly to solve the case of The Hound of Scranton.

Starring…

Michael Scott as Sherlock Holmes

 

Dwight Schrute as Dr. Watson

Jim Halpert as Henry Baskervilles

Ryan Howard as Jack Stapleton

And Pam Beesly as Beryl Stapleton

 

With appearances by…

Erin Hannon as the scheming Eliza Barrymore

Creed as her brother, the mysterious vagabond lurking in the halls of Dunder Mifflin

The CPR dummy/Dwight again as the late Sir Charles Baskerville

Stanley Hudson as What We’re All Thinking

Dwight as literally everyone else

And Dwight’s four-legged doppelgänger as the terrifying? hound!

Join Holmes and Watson as they fight crime…

fall off the grid…

learn about the curse of the Baskerville family…

And even face off with the Scranton hound themselves.

What will happen to the iconic duo? Found out this fall in The Hound of Scranton!

Exploring The Relationship Between Film and Audio

Now that we are a month deep into the semester, DS 106 has us investigating possible television/film and radio remakes of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of Baskervilles. After reading the novel (accessed through Project Gutenberg), I considered the elements inherent to both film and radio – or visual versus audio renditions.

Of course, there are the obvious factors that come into play. With visual representations, there is scenery, lighting, wardrobe, and body language. In radio/audio representations, there is music, sound effects, intonation, pitch. But as I read, I began to wonder what truly separates the two different platforms – and how they aren’t so different after all.

I find that in television or film, a lot hangs on the proper angle and facial expression. What isn’t conveyed through dialogue can be picked up by how a character’s body reacts to a situation. Skilled actors can use their expression to show a myriad of emotions in just a single moment.

Comparatively, in audio representation, linguistic prosody carries much of the meaning in dialogue or narration. Intonation, stress, rhythm, and pause greatly affect the words that are spoken and what meaning emerges from them. A speaker can change the meaning of a statement just by the way that they say it. Additionally, prosody is useful in distinguishing multiple speakers from one another by creating unique speaking patterns for each separate voice. This is crucial for things like radio dramas, especially if there is only one voice actor for a single piece.

Prosody in audio behaves very similarly to body language and facial expressions in film, and vice versa. While film and audio are quite unique and have their own significance, they really aren’t so different from one another.

Twitter Bot: The Burger Version

Our latest project in DS106 had us crafting our own twitter bots from a spreadsheet designed by UMW Professor Zach Whalen. If you couldn’t tell from my post about a Tina-esque perseveration poem, I’m a fan of Bob’s Burgers. For my twitter bot, I decided to stick to the same theme. Internet, meet Bob Bot.

I chose to input all of the burger specials from the show into the spreadsheet. The resulting tweets are remixed versions of the specials. They usually make no sense at all, but can be funny at times.

The bot tweets every hour, filling your day with nonsensical burger combos you didn’t know you needed. To see it yourself, follow the Bob Bot.

“The Daily Create”

To kick of the first few weeks of Digital Storytelling, one of our assignments was to complete three projects off The (New) Daily Create. They were fun projects that got my mind working creatively. Of the three, only one was created through digital means. In another class, Digital Approaches to Fine Art, I’m struggling my way through Photoshop and I figured, “Hey, why not use it for The Daily Create?” I’m definitely a beginner when it comes to digital platforms, but the Perseveration Poem assignment from The Daily Create was a fun way to flex my fledgling skills in Photoshop.

The assignment itself prompted me to take a word I find myself saying all the time and transform it into a perseveration poem. Bob’s Burgers fans will get it, others won’t, but in any case, here’s my finished product: