Classic cinema workshop- The Red Shoes

Watching the Red Shoes again, I was reminded of the incredible artistry of Powell and Pressburger and also of all the cast. But the film seems so epic, so grand, it was hard to imagine how we could transfer any of its elements into our own pieces.  But this is exactly what we were encouraged to do. We first looked at the amazing use of secondary characters. The film opens with a shot of an empty back staircase in the Covent Garden opera house. A crowd of rowdy, bickering students bang on the doors and are eventually let in and stampede up to the cheap seats.  Music pupils argue with ballet dancers, setting one of the themes of the piece, pride, competition and passion for the arts. Everyone in this film is set up as being highly talented, intelligent and passionate and this is exciting to watch. I have just handed in the first pass of my script and after a feedback session last week, I am ready to redraft. My film focuses so intently on the two protagonists, that other characters are barely seen for more than a moment or two and this film made me realise what a treat I was missing. Having rich subplots, and well fleshed out lesser characters can set off the protagonists, and make their own struggles more acute. It can also, more simply, give us more variation and make the audience enjoy seeing them more. We also looked at the design and cinematography of this film. It is exquisite, from the sets to the costumes to the composition of each shot; these are masters at work. Sometimes in a script, it feels awkward being too detailed in scene descriptions or camera moves, but we were encouraged to have a go rewriting a scene with these elements at the fore front. In fact we were asked to story board the scene, always a challenge for a non drawer like my self. However being forced to revisit a scene from a purely visual perspective made me think much more acutely about what the scene was really about. I story boarded a scene in which one of my protagonists, Grace, is in a park, feeling alone and deflated. I drew her hunched on a bench in dark colours listening to music by SZA, which reflects her internal struggles. Young mums and couples in love walk past her in light airy clothes and the sky shines gloriously above her. Steve encouraged me to think about camera moves, to follow the movement around her, and also to think about transitioning from a shallow depth of focus, so our attention is solely on Grace, to a deeper focus, allowing me to illustrate how the external world is grating on this woman’s psyche. We also considered our film’s colour palette and attempted to be quite bold and impressionistic with our choices. Overall I was reminded about the many techniques available to me as  film maker, above and beyond just the dialogue, and am excited to include references to these in my script.