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This little project basically enabled me to come to terms with prosopagnosia, from knowing nothing about it, to becoming fairly educated around the subject. It was also the first time I ever used a Canon 5D for the project as well as the Zoom H4N voice recorder, equipment that was completely new to me (thanks to the loanshop). The mugging scene in the park was the best thing I have shot and directed (a storyboard really helped) for a long time thanks to the depth of field and cinematic capabilities of the 5D, the overall results looked stunning raw and even better post-production. I’ve always suffered from not-so-great looking footage due to average cameras but the 5D gives me motivation and incentive to make more beautiful looking films. There were a few obstacles in the way during production, for example the attempted mugging that was shot around a cash machine caused a few problems directing. I couldn’t really direct it as much as I had hoped to get nice looking shots but was forced to do it as quickly as possible as the general public was getting in the way; for the future I could look for a better location and perhaps shoot at an earlier time. During the 3min duration of the film I performed a great deal of cuts, colour correction, sound editing and multiple exports – but I kept asking myself if so much effort was worth it for an artefact, well yes it was, the process was very enjoyable and the outcome was satisfying. Advanced sound editing/mixing is not my speciality so it was not as perfect as I hoped; it is something that I would really enjoy more training. Overall my idea was sound, but since my preference lied with the other idea a great deal more I will re-make that whenever possible.

I knew that feedback was very crucial to the improvement the film so I made sure a rough cut was available early for demonstration.

The viewers mentioned the title sequence could be improved as the definition at the start was not clear enough and was easily ignored – one viewer had no idea what the film was about as he missed the definition, which only lasted about 3 seconds and was white (even with a black drop shadow) on a light background.  It is again evident that the condition is so rare that it is not very well known even to the point that people could not pronounce the term itself, as I had people asking me how to pronounce it. So to combat all of this I dedicated the first 10 seconds of the short film to a detailed dictionary definition complete with pronunciation, origin of the word with a nice tense sound effect in the background – presented with white text amongst a clear black background. So even if a person looks away at the start and looks back they will see the definition as clearly as snow. I honestly don’t think I can make it even clearer; although the method used in ‘My Own Private Idaho’ is fairly interesting I opted to make something similar.

Furthermore my sound editing was really sloppy in the rough cut with a bunch of random ambient sounds that didn’t really flow well; I took time to find more matching sounds and mixed them with the ambient audio to make the audio and video more integrated. It is very hard to find perfectly matching audio when working with music from creative commons and free sound effects, etc, but after a few days of searching and mixing in Adobe Premiere the results were satisfactory. It gave an appropriately tense feel to the attempted mugging scene and the later mugging scene. Amongst others things I fixed up a few continuity errors and improved a few shots, including a double cut for the attempted mugging, and did a voiceover for the final scene to get rid of the wind sound. Although people mentioned me breaking the 180 rule during the shop scene it was done on purpose to disorientate the audience. Overall the feedback I received was amazing and really helped out from rough cut to final cut.

Unfortunately due to the rarity of the condition I could only look at one mainstream film and two short films. My own short was based more on real life stories and how the condition affects gets affected and taken advantage of by others. I thought my idea involving the couple with the girl and guy cheating on their boyfriend and friend was slightly better as it would appeal to the majority but was unable to do it because I could not arrange actors.

After looking at Faces in the Crowd, and being a little disappointed by it, I decided to look at a short film (17 mins) called ‘In Vivid Detail’ (Bratt, 2007), it is a love story between a man suffering from the condition and a woman who tries to come to terms with his condition. It was full of stunning shots, the music score was beautiful, and the concept was simple and so effective. It didn’t require a crazy storyline such as in ‘Faces in the Crowd’ to be understood and was way more powerful in the sense that I felt amazed, and yet more dramatic without any over the top effects. It has no flaws in terms of accuracy and subtlety yet accurately demonstrates how the man copes with his condition, how he pays careful attention to objects. It also feels like it is more realistic and life-like and not over-exaggerated Hollywood.

The problem I am faced with creating a short film for my artefact is that I am limited to only 2-5mins; establishing anything with nice, artistically slow-paced shots would be difficult to conform to the time limit. The following idea is a script based on my research and ideas, which I think is accurate and without flaws. It’s a simple story based on the idea of someone taking advantage of a person suffering from the condition, which unfortunately is common place in society.

Intro: Define prosopagnosia, face blindness. It is better if the condition is defined at the start of the film, because I will not be able to strongly define it in the film itself, the audience will find out the character will suffer from it.

Scene 1: Guy #1 who suffers from Prosopagnosia is attacked and almost mugged by Guy #2 at a cash machine but manages to overpower his attacker. This scene establishes a victim, and the two characters, also showing that the victim is not so weak himself.

Scene 2: Guy #2 bumps into Guy #1 at a park and some friendly banter occurs; Guy #2 mentions them meeting at a bar not long ago, how they had a good time and they should meet up again. This scene shows that the victim suffers from prosopagnosia and does not recognise his face.

Scene 3: Later on, Guy #1 passes Guy #2 (exchange looks) but does not recognise him due to the condition. He is then promptly attacked and robbed by Guy #2 who takes his cash and expensive necklace. Again shows that he will not recognise his attacker.

Scene 4: Last scene: Guy #2 is making his way to a pawn shop and receives a distressed phone call from Guy #1 who tells him that he has been robbed and does not know what to do. Guy#2 consoles him (speaking with an accent implying that he is a different friend entirely) and insists that everything will be alright. He then enters the pawnshop.

End: Statistics about the disorder, credits.

Sources

In Vivid Detail (2007) – IMDb. 2012. In Vivid Detail (2007) – IMDb. [ONLINE] Available at: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0997458/. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

Prosopagnosia is defined as “An inability or difficulty in recognizing familiar faces; it may be congenital or result from injury or disease of the brain.” (The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary) More specifically, damage to the underside of both occipital lobes. It is important to remember that whilst the ability to recognise faces is impaired, sufferers can still recognise objects and voices. The specific brain area associated with the disorder is the fusiform gyrus which activates specifically in response to faces – hence people recognising faces more effectively than similar inanimate objects. If that area is damaged then the ability to recognised faces falls in the less sensitive object recognition system.

With face blindness it is important to look at films that portray the subject (carefully or not) as well as look at accounts from real life stories for a more accurate representation. Compared to schizophrenia, the amount of media based on prosopagnosia is very low. There is only one feature length film: Faces in the Crowd (Magnat, 2011) and two short films: Prosopagnosia (Kiejzer, 2011) and In Vivid Detail (Bratt, 2007), probably due to the rarity of the condition.

Case Study: Faces in the Crowd

The film focuses on a woman who develops prosopagnosia after surviving an attack from a serial killer, who then closes in on her after finding about her condition. At first the whole story concept of the film seems to be over the top and somewhat blown out of proportion, maybe a tad unrealistic and silly. Jovovich however did a very convincing job for a person suffering with the disorder and her portrayal of prosopagnosia is quite realistic – the special effects with the changing faces is very well done and her reactions are powerful. We can see how her life was perfect beforehand, and after she receives brain damage her life just flips over – the difference is quite significant. There was one important flaw though; she could have recognised people’s voices, which are just as significant as faces.

Looking at forums too was important as I wanted to see how people told their story from their own perspective. I found the following account on a support site and it was rather intriguing:

“The man stood in my department. He didn’t come up to me; he didn’t interrupt me, or ask for help. I’d been a bit swamped that day, and only just now was able to look at him. He just stood there, patiently waiting for…what? What was he waiting for? I was supposed to leave in a few minutes, why was he just standing there? After a few moments, the penny dropped. It was my husband, and he’d come to pick me up from work.”

This story was the basis for my original idea because it sounded very dramatic and with some stylised shots it could become very interesting a short film, unfortunately it one fundamental flaw: why couldn’t the husband just shout her name or text/phone her? Surely the wife would recognise his clothing or his voice.

Sources

Faces in the Crowd, 2011. [DVD] Julien Magnat, United States: Voltage Pictures.

Prosopagnosia (Face Blind). 2012. Prosopagnosia (Face Blind). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.squidoo.com/faceblind. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

prosopagnosia – definition of prosopagnosia in the Medical dictionary – by the Free Online Medical Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. 2012. prosopagnosia – definition of prosopagnosia in the Medical dictionary – by the Free Online Medical Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. [ONLINE] Available at: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/prosopagnosia. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

For this artefact and with no obstructions in mind I decided to let myself be as creative as possible by brainstorming ideas; memory loss/change or bad memories could be a basis for a potential short film which will likely to be a drama.

A man is within the last few seconds of his life before his gruesome mob-related execution. He witnesses a flashback that symbolises his whole life. The idea explores the belief that, before death, you see the best moment (or all moments in a symbolic scene) of your life flash by instantaneously.

A man is just about to execute a stranger (who’s on his knees, bag over head, and tied up). The man is having second thoughts about doing it, twitches and slowly draws down his gun. The film shows flashback of him as a kid being a victim of abuse. He starts overcoming his second thoughts after the flashbacks get more disturbing. Finally, he shoots the stranger and sighs heavily with relief. The short film will explore how powerful memories can be to influence someone to do horrible things.

I came across (thanks to a friend studying psychology) a very interesting and fascinating memory condition called prosopagnosia (face blindness). It seemed very straight forward to understand so below are some more ideas based on the subject.

A woman finishes work and as she sets off home sees a mysterious man outside her workplace looking suspiciously at her. She hurries along but starts thinking she is getting stalked as the man is constantly following her. The man finally confronts her and explains that he is her husband just trying to give her a lift home. It turns out that the woman suffers from prosopagnosia – the inability to remember faces.

Film starts with a friendly conversation with two friends in a pub/cafe – guy #1 tells his friend that he caught his girlfriend cheating and beat up the guy she was sleeping with – all whilst guy #2’s left side of the face is not shown. The audience is then shown a flashback of the scene where guy #1 catches guy #2 cheating with his girlfriend and beating him up – guy #2 is semi-naked so is not recognised by guy #1. Guy #2 consoles his friend and the camera switches angles to show the right side of his face with a black eye, guy #1 then asks what happened to guy #2’s face. The credits then explain the condition of prosopagnosia – face blindness, the inability to remember faces.

Not fully content with these ideas, I decided that more research would enable me to come up with a better, less flawed and more accurate scenario.