Assembling a micro-budget digital feature: screenplays, patterns & practices
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 12:03 authored by Alexander Munt
In the mid 1990s the low-budget eature film model was 'digitised'. The affordability of the consumer grade digital video (DV) format together with the early success of the Danish Dogme films spurred a wave of digital filmmaking. In 2009, whilst the technology has kept pace with uptake of the High Definition (HD) format, the models at hand for the digital feature remain in short supply. Specifically, this thesis targets the 'micro-budget digital feature' as one emerging area of interest. In this context, it investigates a series of screenplay models, cinematic patterns and film practices. The thesis has two components. Initially, it proceeds with a series of case studies taken from Australian digital cinema, international art cinema (past and present) and early American independent cinema. Five screenplay models are presented: the 'Open Screenplay' (Abbas Kiarostami); the 'Scriptment' (Kriv Stenders); the 'Trame' (Jean-Luc Godard); the 'Cinematic Diary' (Gus Van Sant) and the 'Set-List' (Michael Winterbottom). It negotiates a matrix of concepts that surround 'alternative' screenwriting and 'scripting' for the digital feature film. A prime focus is on film form and cinematic patterns; screen aesthetics, mise-en-scene, montage, movement, music and sound design. Questions of micro-budget adaptation, voiceover narration and performance are also discussed. The second component of this thesis. The LBF Assembly, aligns with models of practice-led research in screen media arts. It is a screen media assembly that combines a hybrid screenplay with a selection of produced scenes. The LBF Assembly explores five key patterns from the case study research; voiceover narration; travelling shots; montage; spatial zones and pop-songs. It forms an experiment in small-scale, digital filmmaking practice that exploits the HD digital format. The interlinked parts of this research aim to contribute to an expanded notion of the screenplay in the digital age, of interest to screen theorists, screenwriters, filmmakers and industry bodies.