In this report I will be explaining and analysing all the research and research techniques I used which led me to become interested in the genre of noir films, and to find out about the history, social, cultural and industrial methods of my chosen discipline of film noir. I will be reviewing the content I found and talking about how it will influence me in my ideas and progress for my Final Major Project.
To start of my research I chose a job role within the industry of media which was Cinematography, this led to me researching about all the kinds of things a cinematographer would implement into a project. I looked at techniques such as rule of thirds and natural framing, looking into the techniques used led me to the final scene of ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995) and how the choice of camera movement dramatically changed the outcome of the scene.
(Sunil Kadam, 2011)
While looking into the film ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995) I realised fear was a huge part of the narrative, so I looked into fear as a tool in film making. I looked into the different ways fear can be used in film. I found that fear can be interpreted two different ways in film. Horror being the most common genre related to fear and the other was using fear as a tool within itself to create a different emotion. A prime example of this is ‘About Time’ (2013) where the main character is afraid of losing someone, this could spark feeling of sadness in the audience which is what the creators of the film intended to do. ‘The Usual Suspects’ is a film that uses fear in a way to put across a characters reputation within the community he is in, ‘Keyser Söze’ the villain in the movie however no one who works for him has ever seen his face as he keeps his identity private and anyone who sees him is killed. This fear is represented through the other characters and the stories they tell about Söze. ‘The Usual Suspects’ directed by Bryan Singer is considered a neo-noir, which led me to research more about the genre of noir.
I started by looking into the history of film noir, I looked into where it began and the specific techniques that make up the genre. Some of the common techniques used in noir films are the use of black and white, this is more to do with the time period as coloured film didn’t start becoming popular until The Wizard of Oz (1939) was released in 1939. I spoke about how the genre tends to use similar narratives for example there is usually a link to crime in a film noir as well as a detective or private eye.
I then branched off and researched into neo-noir’s such as ‘The Usual Suspects’ and Sin City (2005). I looked into the character of ‘The Usual Suspects’ and how he was a perfect fit for the film noir genre. He worked so well as he was a complete mystery. Instead of having the cliché who done it murder mystery, everyone knew who done it but no one had ever seen the man behind the crimes.
I did a little bit of experimenting using my phone’s camera and my knowledge of the techniques used to create noir shots. I went out and took a few photos experimenting with shadows and lighting to try to recreate the effect of a noir film.
These shot worked well so I decided to experiment more using better equipment.
I wanted to experiment more with neo-noir so took some photos using a lighting set up. I used the basis of a three-point setup however I didn’t use the fill light as I wanted to cast some shadows onto the subject. I then took inspiration from ‘Sin City’ (2005) and photo-shopped one of the photos I took and made the subject in colour where as the background was saturated.
I used a cucocolis to shine a light pattern onto the subjects face and create an effect of blinds which is an iconic shot from noir films. I made two versions of the picture using the cucocolis, one which was saturated to fit the original film noir style and one that I left in colour to fit the neo-noir style.
After I looked at film noir and neo-noir as a broad topic, I narrowed down my research and read about two practitioners that were related to the noir scene, Michael Mann and Billy Wilder. I spoke a little bit about their history as people and as directors, for Michael Mann I focused mainly on his newest neo-noir ‘Collateral’ which I want to take inspiration from in my own work. However for Billy Wilder I looked at his work more generally as his work was primarily noir styled.
I looked at the way Michael Mann had used different techniques with colour in ‘Collateral’ as well as implementing techniques from film noir by using heavy shadows and lighting. This is the thing that make the film ‘Collateral’ really stand out to me when I watched it. I want to use this technique and try to transform it into my Final Major Project using lighting, shadows and colour to create really interesting results.
From researching into cinematography I learned about some camera techniques that could help me present a story and progress a narrative. Some examples of this is the scene from ‘The Usual Suspects’ where the camera has a slow zoom as the character on-screen is finally figuring out who the villain was. The fact that the slow zoom was there brought more attention onto the subjects face which would support the fact he is unraveling all the event of the film.
By researching into fear it gave me an idea into the different ways I can use fear as a story telling tool. I started looking into it generally to understand how it is used in a broad range of different genres such as horror and romantic comedies. I later looked at how fear is used in ‘The Usual Suspects’ which is a neo-noir. I liked how it was used to develop a character within the story and began to look into film noir more.
I was looking at common techniques used in film noir so I could translate them into my own work, The common noir film is black and white and the protagonist is usually good willed and have the career of a private eye or a detective. They use heavy amounts of low-lighting to create shadows. I want to experiment with this in my Final Major Project, however I would like to try using colour like neo-noirs.
Modern noirs or neo-noirs are set in later time periods than original noirs, they use different techniques as well. They implement colour into noir style film while still using low-key lighting. A good example of this is ‘Collateral’ (2004) by Micheal Mann, he used lighting to create the effect that all the light in the scene is coming from the building and street lamps of the LA night life. Another common story telling technique used in neo-noirs is narration, this is generally the main character talking about what he has discovered or what has happened in the past to fill in the audience about things that they may have missed or things that could be properly translated into visuals.
I then experimented with lighting, using Cucocolis (Cookies) to create specific shadows onto the subject I want, this worked well and I will definitely be using this technique in my FMP. A unique neo-noir film is Sin-City (2005) it uses a mixture of colour and black and white, I experimented on my own with this and came out with some good results.
After that I looked into two practitioners and their work, Micheal Mann and Billy Wilder. I looked at the techniques they used in their films hoping that I could take inspiration from them. Micheal Mann focused a lot on bringing the story to life using the environment of LA at night during his film ‘Collateral’, he made the city a character itself instead of a playground the people walk around in. He uses lighting in the film but tries to make it appear to be natural lighting coming from the city such as street lamps and passing cars.
Billy Wilder used low-key lighting very commonly, he put a lot of focus onto the lighting in his films and created some good effects with it. I will be taking inspiration from the low-key lighting used by Wilder and trying to implement it into my Extended Project. Another common thing Wilder did was use narration, I will also take inspiration from this and use narration as a way of telling a story and progressing it without having to create unnecessary dialogue.
Range of Research and What I’ve Learnt
I have used a range of research to find out all this information about these different subjects, I have done primary and secondary research, using the internet and my own film knowledge. I have made mind maps using my own knowledge then using the internet to research more information then made another mind map to compare the two before and after research.
I also watched the films I mention in my reports so I have a better understanding on how the films were made, the techniques they use and the characters needs and desires that continue the narrative so I can talk about them in greater depth and detail.
From researching into all these topics I found out a lot of things about film noir that I didn’t know before. I have learned how to achieve low-key lighting and even experimented a little bit with it using limited resources I had at the time. I feel when I do this for my FMP I will have an even better outcome as I will have access to a lot more tools and space. This will allow me to experiment further and really push the amount I can do with lighting.
I learned about common story telling aspects of a film noir. These include narration for neo-noir, low-key lighting and the classic characteristics of the protagonist and the narrative. This will give me insight into how to correctly portray a project inspired by film noir/neo-noir.
I also researched into fear, I learned about multiple different ways of using fear in a narrative. Fear can be used as a premise for a film or can be implemented to add drama to the narrative or characters. I can implement this into my FMP as film noir is a good genre to implement fear as the story generally involves a crime, this knowledge about fear will allow me to add more back story and effect to a narrative that fit within film noir.
The first thing I looked into was cinematography which I knew quite a lot about before I researched into it, however I researched into different camera techniques used to improve the visual storytelling. I used the internet and looked into natural framing, rule of thirds and camera movement finding examples and description along the way. I understand how camera movement can be used to progress to the story or show how the character is feeling, I could use this along with narration to create a compelling narrative that goes with compelling visuals.
When I researched into my two chosen practitioners I found out about the common techniques that they both use, this will allow me to mimic these techniques in my own way to come out with a unique project.
In conclusion, during this report I analysed the research I did which help me have a better understanding on the things I looked at. I found out a lot about film noir that I didn’t know before, this will help me create a visually compelling project following the characteristics of a film noir. I learned about the genre of neo-noirs, I had no idea that they were separate to classic film noirs before doing research into it. This research again allows me to implement aspects of both classic and neo-noirs into my work. The research I found on fear will also help me with creating a compelling story as it is a common emotion used in many genres of film.
(No Date) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chTT4OIDyzY (Accessed: 6 March 2017).
Sunil Kadam (2011) Ending – the usual suspects *spoilers* best scene ever. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYXXhn9fMYs (Accessed: 22 February 2017).