1st place: Alyssa Labrie
The Process of Creating Dust
My short film Dust†is an experimental dance film that explores and showcases the art form of dance and its ability to connect people of all genders, races, sexualities, classes etc. The dust symbolizes soil and earth and how dance transcends geographic and social boundaries and connects us as a people. This is the implicit meaning that I went into the film wishing to evoke. I used dust as a universal connector: a representation of physical earth that symbolizes a constant connecting agent bonding people of all backgrounds. I wanted this piece to have a very specific aesthetic appeal that was established through and enhanced by my cuts. I aimed to match my largely jump cut heavy editing with the music I chose to underscore the piece with. The style of the film is very experimental as I was mainly concerned with evoking emotion and contemplation in my audience through visual and musical moments. I wanted the significance of the piece to be shaped by the viewer and her/his own explication of the metaphors and symbols in the film. I shot on a Nikon D7100 and edited with a combination of GarageBand and Final Cut Pro X. This was my first time using this camera and editing software and I’m very glad to say that I ended up achieving the film that I envisioned. All of my shots are either stationary tripod shots or handheld shots. I wanted to juxtapose these two types of camera motions (still and moving) to highlight the stillness and calm vs. the expressive flux of the dancers’ bodies. In order to film this I had to choreograph the camera’s movements in conjunction with the dancers’ movements. I also wanted the camera movement to match the different moods within the film. I used medium long shots to examine the dancers in the larger space as well as to showcase their farreaching motions (leaps, aerial tricks, acrobatics). I used medium shots to highlight more contained, smaller movements (turns, spins, sharp head, arm, and leg movements). I used close ups to call attention to specific facial expressions and body parts (arms, hands, feet). This way I could focus on one particular emotion or movement instead of an entire body of motion. For many of the shots where I wanted to show the dancers’ emotion and power rather than their choreography, I would use medium to close full frontal shots. The moments where I wanted to showcase motion were mainly filmed with the dancers’ bodies in a medium to long, quarter turn or profile shot.
For lighting, I wanted a very lowkey style of lighting which would highlight the contrast between my lights and darks as I knew from the start that I wanted this piece to be in black and white. I used an unconventional three point lighting style where instead of having a key, a fill, and a kicker, I had two key lights (both of equal brightness from the front) and one overhead kicker light. This lighting setup was used to cast enough light onto the dancers faces and forms as well as to cast an eerie, contrast heavy shadow on their bodies as they moved. The opposing positions of the two frontal key lights also gave the dancers a double shadow which was a really jarring and beautiful effect that enhanced the look of the dancers’ movements. I did not record any of my own sounds for this project. Instead of focusing on the sounds actually being produced by the dancers, I thought that having the dancers’ mainly silent motions match with the incongruous, machinelike sounds presented in the song. I edited the song in order to take it down from about 5 minutes to 2 and pieced together the parts I thought would match the footage I shot. The calm flute melody in the intro and outro show the calmness of the dancers and the space both before and after the “dust” is introduced, highlighting the result of this powder and its effect on the world of the film. The hardhitting electronic drops in the song showcase the dancers’ movements in a variety of fast paced, slowmotion, and reversed clips. I wanted to sync the dancers’ bodies to the sounds in the song with specific motions being paired with specific sound effects.
My main focus of this piece was the visual editing. I wanted this to be the factor that really tied the film together and grabbed the viewer. I really wanted to sculpt the piece into what I envisioned, syncing movement to sound to create a more cohesive piece. I mainly utilized straight cuts and jump cuts with a few match cuts showing hands hitting the floor, and hair being whipped. I used straight cuts in the intro and outro of the piece when the music and movements are calmer and being shown in an orderly manner one after the other. My jump cut heavy sections come when the electronic drops in the music are introduced. I wanted the movements to be as decidedly chaotic as the music was, leaving the viewer to decide for her/himself what the motions mean and why they are being presented like this. I used a great deal of slow, fast, reverse, and repeated motion in order to praise the beauty of the dancers’ movements and highlight or disrupt the direction that the viewer is anticipating. The choices of costume and setting for the piece were made while keeping the general aesthetic of the film in mind. I wanted simplicity in the background so as to declutter the screen as I played with fast paced cuts. The plain gray walls and floor that I used in the film do just this. They do not take away from the focus on the dancers but instead are a great neutral color that really allows the harsh blacks and whites of the dancers and powder to pop. The shots at the beginning of the film show the dancers removing their “everyday” clothing in order to prepare for their entry into the world of dance. I wanted these clothing items and accessories to look very well thought out and proper so that shedding them would represent the dancers’ removing themselves from the stresses, biases, and pressures of the “outside world.” Their plain clothing in the dance sequences shows their bare, open, and more natural selves.
2nd place: Emily Adelsberger
Finding new roots
This oil pastel drawing is done to represent the lessons I learned during my trip to Haiti over winter break and inspired by the teachings of Claudio Moreira in his Intro to Rhetoric and Performance Studies and Social Justice class. Claudio is constantly asking us “how we know what we think we know” and reminding us that just by experiencing an aspect of life for some time, we cannot ever truly know what it is like to be in somebody else’s shoes. This picture is representative of many things. The hands create a frame around a mere glimpse of Taino beach, a popular beach near Leogane, Haiti. Only the center is in focus and the outside is blurry because we can only get a snapshot of another culture when we go somewhere new to visit. What we think we know is only part of the story– it is the single story, which we tend to write of experiences that we have not lived through ourselves. The upper hand is white, coming down from the North, representing the tendency for many Americans to falsely assume that people in other places are waiting for their help. The bottom hand is black to represent the people of Haiti with whom I stayed and worked alongside. These hands are equal in size and working together to create the frame because, as I learned on my trip, creating sustainable change in this world– improving social justice– is about working with the people experiencing these injustices and empowering them to facilitate their own change. It is not about handing out shoes or food. It is about giving people the means to provide for themselves and send their children to school, giving their family hope for a better future.
3rd place: Emily Kierstead
Lumineers, “Stubborn Love” unofficial video
Honorable mention: Abigail Balint, Michael Hagerty, Jonathan Kupperman, Celeste Rigler
CERC Media Campaign Analysis