Narrative 1

Introduction

The Visual Narrative Project that started around late October was one I had been excited about since the very first day of coming to Freestyle. I personally knew that I was in need of developing my story telling abilities as well as my technical skills in film and other software techniques and I had clear ideas for what I wanted to do. I just wanted to jump right in and execute all of them before anybody could tell me what to do.

But of course, that is extremely far from the actual time I had to take to listen to others’ feedback and develop these new skills in collaboration and creativity before I could even begin the major projects I wanted to do. Thank God I did, because if I hadn’t gone through this grueling process, I know my stories would be far worse than what they are now.

 

Act 1

For this assignment, we were tasked with creating a visual narrative film where the only requirement was that there could be no dialogue.

First we had to create a synopsis for our film which had to summarize the film’s overall story arc. Here’s what I wrote: “The setting is a plain old office. This office has rows and rows of cubicles and one break room. Our protagonist is one of the workers. He works and works and works at his computer. He stops and takes a break and sees people socializing in another row. He looks upset. He looks to one side of his row to see that everyone is too busy working. He looks to the other side to see a woman staring right at him. She quickly averts her eyes once he looks at her. He keeps working but this keeps happening for a couple hours where he will look at the girl but she averts her eyes every time. Eventually he gets fed up and leaves to the break room. She follows him into the break room and does weird stuff like eating the same snacks, coughing when he coughs, etc. She continues to stare but looks away every time he notices. He gets anxious and tense so he escapes to the bathroom and stays there until calms down. He feels ready to go back out, and when he does he finds she’s not there, and decides to go to an early lunch. After he gets his lunch he starts heading back to the office, staying alert and paranoid. Once he thinks he’s safe, he sees she’s right in front of him and he drops his lunch and bolts the other way. She chases him and he tries to shake her off. She’s carrying a purse and when she reaches into it as they are running he gets scared that it’s a weapon. He eventually loses her and gets back to his desk and he’s really tired and scared. He turns to see she is right there again. He gets really angry this time and he stands up and slams his hands down on his desk. All the workers around them turn and look to see what’s going on. The woman is startled by this sudden outburst and starts crying. She runs away. Our protagonist gets antagonizing looks from all the workers, who shake their heads and sit back down. He feels bad that he misinterpreted what her motivations were, then she comes back and reveals that in her purse was the lunch he dropped. They smile at each other and shake hands. End.”

While looking back at this synopsis, the funniest thing is that there were a few changes to this story that made it 1000 times better. It just goes to show that it wouldn’t have been better if it weren’t for my classmates and my teacher for giving me good feedback and criticism.

We also had to create storyboards which were drawings of every single shot in our film so that people could visually see our film and notice errors that needed to be fixed. Her is what some of them  looked like:

(((((The best cards were drawn by Katherine Sun)))))

Even before the project began, I had an idea for a narrative film that I was extremely passionate about and I was willing to pursue it even if I had to work alone. I had initially assumed I would work alone for my project, but then Mr. Taylor told us that it was a very bad idea to work alone because not only would we appear conceited (which I totally was), but our film was also very likely to suffer from it. I realized that I had to recruit someone in my class for my film, and I had a week to do it. On the last day, someone from my class finally decided to partner up with me, and together we worked on the synopsis and storyboarding for my idea. Through completing the pre-production process, I learned just how crucial it is to obtain other’s viewpoints and opinions to positively change an existing idea. My partner, Katherine, along with my teacher and other classmates, provided criticism to what I had thought was a perfect idea, and it was something the film desperately needed.

Act 2

We had finished the pre-production and had moved on to the production of our film. The very first shoot we had was disastrous. We didn’t end up using any of the footage we gathered and we made a lot of mistakes. We also didn’t even use shots from our second shoot. Or even our third shoot!! The production process was grueling in that we ran into problems every single week that we had to counter constantly. Sometimes our extras couldn’t show up, sometimes it rained, sometimes we were missing important props for the film, and so on. But as we kept shooting and getting people’s feedback, we felt ourselves slowly improving and becoming much more in tune with the production process. Luckily, we had committed actors who were able to make it to the end, and once we finished we were very relieved. We were also extremely excited for the biggest bulk of our time…

 

Act 3

The post-production process. Hours upon hours were spent cutting the footage together, adding sound effects and music, and color correcting for our film, all the while Adobe Premiere Pro often lagged, crashed, and lost files. Even when we thought we had finished our film, when we showed it to our class we found that some major changes needed to be made. But thankfully, we had the time to make those changes and dramatically improve our film.

 

Here is the trailer for me and Katherine Sun’s film, Take a Hint:

And here is the full film. It is six minutes and thirty seconds of one of the best collaborative projects I’ve ever participated in.

There are so many people to thank for helping me make this film. Aiden Stein, our main actor, always met every single deadline we had and was super flexible with the dates on filming. Not to mention the fact that this is the first time he’s ever acted in anything, which is surprising considering how GOOD HE IS AT IT. He’s one of my best friends and I can’t thank him enough for participating in the film. Shannon Mills, the main actress, played an outstanding role in this film. So many people who saw different parts of our film all agreed that she was CREEPY AS HECK. She was the perfect fit for this role and I’m so grateful to her for taking it up. I’d also like to thank my mom and dad for driving me and participating in the film and all the extras who took time out of their day to help us out.

Most importantly, I’d like to thank my partner, Katherine Sun. She is one of the best people I’ve ever worked with on a collaborative project. She had the best ideas that contributed to the film and was quick to check for errors constantly. She was also able to drive me and our actors around if we couldn’t get rides. I know that this is a film that will show that both of us had an equal say in every single aspect. This film would not have been possible if she hadn’t signed on.

Story

As a part of our narrative unit at Freestyle designed to teach students about character development, story structure, and plot, we were tasked with writing a 4-5 page short story. The story could be about anything we wanted, so I thought about experiences in my life that could possibly be turned into an exciting narrative. During my sophomore year at Mountain View High School, I had a very uncomfortable “presence” in my daily life that doubled the amount of stress in any given situation. So even before the assignment was given to us in our English class towards the start of my junior year, I knew I would make a story about this uncomfortable aspect of my life, which was where I got the idea for making a story about a male office worker being creepily stalked by a female coworker (…). While I tried to draw on my real life experiences as much as possible, ultimately they weren’t as exciting as I had originally thought, so with the help of my peers, Mr. Greco, and my mom (who is an excellent writer), I tried very hard to make my story much more captivating. I was eventually able to create the framework for my silent narrative film and an audio version of the story. While the story translated well to film, it had to be tweaked for the audio version. I was able to put this audio file together through exciting narration, sound effects, ambience, and music all put together in Adobe Audition, an audio editing application. This portion of the narrative project taught me a lot about how much I need to improve on my presentation skills and performances, but it also showed me the immense value of adding many different sounds besides narration like adding city traffic noises or having phone ring in an office. These things help bring the audience into a “suspension of disbelief,” or in other words, it helps them become very immersed in the story. Here is the story’s audio file:

“Take A Hint”

Take A Hint-Short Story by Eric Rustum

 Here is the Adobe Audition Project File for this assignment:

As part of being in English Honors, I had to make an additional short story that was an imitation of a specific book that we chose. I chose the book Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara that was a series of short stories about the black experience in America. I did not have a title for this story.

A Short Imitation Story by Eric Rustum

Illustrations

The banners you see that go with the titles of these varying sections are illustrations that I made in Adobe Illustrator. We were tasked with creating four separate banners that we could effectively connect to our short story and/or our elective project. The ones I made for this page are directly related to my film and my short story and they are illustrations of the characters in my film. I took screenshots of specific angles of our characters in the film and in Adobe Illustrator traced the images.  With these illustrations (specifically these first two), I mainly wanted to capture the surface qualities of the characters that are introduced in the film. The first is of the main character who is a normal guy working an office internship. In the drawing, he is noticing that his coworker, whom he has never seen, is staring at him. He is a little curious of what’s going on which is why the background is white to suggest that he is subject to any change. The second is of the “antagonist” who is the coworker that is in the cubicle across from him. This is an illustration of her staring at him through the blinds and the background is black to suggest her dark and suspiciously creepy nature. For the Personal Illustration assignment, we were given the freedom to use Adobe Illustrator to create whatever we wanted. There were no limits or restrictions to the illustration other than it had to be made on Adobe Illustrator. For this assignment, I decided to use Adobe Illustrator to create my project for Japanese class, in which we were supposed to diagram a car and label all the parts of the car in Japanese as well as other vocabulary words related to driving and the road.
While a lot of people in my class were drawing diagrams of regular cars on paper, the thought came to my head that I should make a diagram of the Patty Wagon from Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie. I honestly don’t know how I came to this decision but I have to say, I had a lot of fun with it. I got to add really cool colors and highlights to the car and I got to make a really cool font/title for the diagram. I made this by tracing over the original image of the car from the movie, and ultimately I was trying to make it so that my version looked cleaner and cooler than the original. Personally, I think I achieved just that.

The Narrative Film Process

In the beginning of the school year, we started off the Film course by learning how to use the tools we were given. How to focus, how to use a tripod, how to edit, how to make different types of artistic shots, etc. We then utilized those skills in creating an experimental film were we toyed with our cameras and different conceptual interpretations of certain statements we were given. Starting in October, we began to shift to the most important staple of the film industry: Narrative Development.
We began to learn how to make the framework for the most important parts of a story such as setting the scene, building suspense, and creating excitement. These were fulfilled through three mini projects we made before we got to start developing our Narrative Film. The first of which was learning “Griffith’s Pattern.” D.W. Griffith was a filmmaker who established some of the first techniques in narrative film such as showing the setting, introducing the characters, and introducing the story. We attempted to make a short video to encompass these techniques.

Next we learned about one of the most famous filmmakers in the industry, Alfred Hitchcock. Through different video clips of his movies and interviews, we learned how Hitchcock was a master at manipulating the suspense of a scene. As a result, we attempted to make a video capturing some of his techniques.

Lastly, we were tasked with making a chase scene. Chase scene are scenes in movies that have particular rules and techniques to them that are difficult to master. We were given this assignment for the sole purpose of learning to be heavily criticized for our work and how to accept that criticism.

 

 

 

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