At The moment of creation : an exploration of how directors know and assess screen performance

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This Doctor of Creative Arts project consists of a major creative work, Gingerbread Men, a 29 minute film, an additional creative work attached as an appendix, 10 Days to Die, an 87 minute feature film, a set of filmed research interviews presented on DVD, Research Interviews, approximately 70 minutes and this exegesis At the Moment of Creation. This doctoral project is an enquiry into how directors read, know and assess the actors’ performance on a film set while the camera is rolling. The major creative work, Gingerbread Men, serves as an experimental tool to explore the manner in which a film’s visual style impacts on the nature of the actors’ performance and in particular as a method of understanding where agency lies for the creation of the characters in that film. Research prior to the production of Gingerbread Men lead to the selection of the long-take, single shot per scene filming style as a means of forcing myself, as the director, to only be able to make decisions regarding the actors’ performance on set at the moment they were being created and not in the editing suite, as is typical in modern filmmaking. 10 Days to Die then experiments with the clash between these two filming styles in a feature film context, however this is only lightly touched on in the exegesis. The exegesis explores particular aspects of film directing to better understand how the role of the director impacts upon the methods used to know and assess the actors’ performance. In looking at the role of the director on a film set, how directors perceive themselves as an audience for the actors’ performance, what directors and actors consider are indicators of an unsatisfactory performance and how recent discoveries in cognitive science and neuroscience further our understanding of people’s ability to distinguish facial emotional expressions and the manner in which directors know and assess the actors’ performance are investigated and discussed. The exegesis concludes that knowing and assessing the actors’ performance is a complex higher level function that relies heavily upon tacit knowledge, embodied knowledge, acute perception, empathetic projection and emotional experience in distinguishing authentic complex human behaviour.
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