For inspiration I watched several silent films such as Laurel and Hardy’s famous silent short the lucky dog and Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Talkie’ City lights and took notes on the the typical conventions of both. Initially I thought as ‘The man inside’ is quite dialogue heavy and probably partially to do with the fact I wrote the script that a sound film would be more appropriate and that I would edit it in a similar way to city lights so that I could keep more of the script in. After reading up on audience reactions to the initial introduction of films with sound however, where people felt it ‘had lost its artistic nature’ I decided to take on the challenge of a completely silent film. After taking this eventual approach I realised that the original narrative structure wasn’t actually as far off the genre as I thought and even without sounds the story was simple enough to be understood.
It was very important to me to keep the comedy element from the script. After researching the typical characters of comedy films from the 1920’s it soon became very clear to me how the character of the engineer stood out as a very traditional stock comedic character that you would expect from a film of this century.
A lot of the effectiveness of the man inside in terms of a silent film came down to the actors abilities to express the characters emotions convincingly enough that even without the script the audience not only knows whats going on but can enjoy and engage with the narrative and the relationship between them. Fortunately all of the actors we used did this exceptionally well and it made it a real enjoyment to see the characters come to life in a way I’d never even thought of before when scripting it or well to be honest ever.
In terms of the social elements of this film the context itself would have been controversial for its time so I considered this when editing. I thought about Laura Mulveys Male gaze theory; films of the black and white era were more often than not for a very long time made for men by men. So I considered this too.
It seemed a shame to take out some modern references to Iceland and Ann summers as they added a great deal of characterisation to the original edit but I felt it was pretty necessary to not ruining the atmosphere to take out obvious links to modern day life. Some modern conventions to the Man inside were inevitable and unchangeable to the script such as the lift and the 21st century costumes our actors so I researched into modern silent films to see how I could use this to my advantage.
The Girl Is Mime – Starring Martin Freeman from Tim Bunn was very useful to gain ideas from for my edit not only because it is a modern piece but because it was funny and had also had strong thematic links to the complexities of relationships . The line between humour from the silent era and humour now is gradually becoming apart so I wanted to find a line where my edit could being loyal to its conventions but still appealing to a modern audience.
The black and white conventions – No pun intended (Well maybe)
I wanted my film to replicate one of pre 6o’s/70’s so the first effect I added to the footage was a colour correction. Using Premiere pro i used a combination of a grey tint, Black and white and hue to create an early monochrome effect. As films from that era were projected in the cinema using an often temperamental projector I created a grain and dust effect on photoshop and placed it as an overlay it to create a worn out look.
I researched more into the origins of early cinema and after watching an episode of BBC series ‘Genius of invention’ which focused on the early days of photography, moving pictures and television I was able to think realistically about the types of techniques and conventions that would be expected at the time. For example the documentary revealed how flammable cellulose nitrate film stock was used before the 20’s which was not only easily damaged but often incredibly dangerous as it was prone to combusting inside the projector and burning at very high temperatures.
From what I learnt from this documentary I consequently included a very brief burn mark with in the footage for authenticity and after learning more about the function and reliability of early projectors I also added a flicker in After effects by wiggling the opacity and position of the footage to (25,1.5) to create an unsteady projection effect.
From my research I discovered that these were important for characterisation in many films. Some films tended to use more descriptive titles with action on even where as others kept titles basic and left the visuals to do the talking alone.
For the man inside I decided to use short and sweet titles to not overload the audience and to make use of how powerful the actors expressions were.
Overall i was very happy with the visuals and whilst learning a lot about the genre and beginning of film I gained a lot of experience with after effects.
I chose a combination of 2 or 3 songs from Randy Johnson taken from an amateur silent film as he is a real pianist who plays for a theatre in colorado as it added a touch of realism and kept with the pace of the visuals well.
Due to the nature of editing pre digital reel, I discovered many of the old films I was watching had unintentional jump cuts where the reel was literally snipped. To create this effect in my own edit I used different takes of footage and used longer takes than would be expected in a modern film. By adjusting the fps several times I was able to confuse premiere pro and create a jumpy editing effect which was not very fluid. That was exactly what I wanted for once.
I have learnt a lot about the typical iconography of silent films that will also help me with other genres. Taking a dialogue heavy script and turning it into a silent film has taught me the important value of simplicity and expression in ways other than words.