Friday 30 July 2021

Home - Academic - Seven Lessons I Learned From My Short Film: Sogol Rezvani

24 Frames: In an effort to bring aspiring filmmakers practical tips, advice, and wisdom from on set and beyond, 24 Frames has asked some noteworthy short filmmakers to share their experiences from the production of their projects and what might follow. In the coming weeks, you will read the seven most valuable lessons they each have learned from a specific short in their words.


On the first Installment of Seven Lessons, Sogol Rezvani shares her experiences making the short film Reverence. Reverence took home two main prizes in the 35th Annual Tehran Short Film Festival for best director and best cinematographer.



Seven Lessons I Learned From Reverence

By Sogol Rezvani



Today, several months have passed from finishing the production of Reverence. Reflecting on the experiences I’ve gained in the 8 month period of making the film feels like tasting the sweet moments and hardships of the process. I will be sharing slices of my experience in the following seven segments. 



1. The storyboard is with me, but it’s not the final shot. 


Drawing up a storyboard not only is a must for me, but it’s a highly enjoyable step in the process of filmmaking. I find it exciting to imagine the individual shots of the film before the shoot, and try to put them on paper with my lackluster drawing skills. What has become clear to me though, in all of my films and most of all with Reverence, is that the storyboard is a back-up plan. Meaning, you have to improvise based on what essentially is available on the set, including the mood, creativity, and the suggestions of the cast and crew. Now add the director’s hyperactivity on the set to this mix. I think the set itself is fertile ground for ideas therefore it’s essential to focus on and embrace developing new ideas and cultivating new versions of previous visions. If all else fails, I have the storyboard, even though it’s not the final shot.



2. It’s a waste not to use cinematic magic!


Cinema is a medium capable of all sorts of tricks. As a filmmaker you can build any world you want and all you need is to engage the audience in the right ways. After making my previous films which all were entirely realist, Reverence marks the first time I took a leap and went a few steps away from that realism. I adopted the ability to move between the parallel universes of reality and fiction and walked with the main character to the threshold of The World of Stories. This came with a huge risk for Reverence. More than two-thirds of the film takes place in a fantasy-inducing setting (the stage) with an otherwise realistic narrative. Then the final third depicts a surreal event in a fantasy setting. The biggest challenge of Reverence was getting through the story in a way that the audience would believe this fantasy and as I had predicted, the reaction of the audience confirmed the risky nature of this endeavor. My decision to use total darkness to depict crossing over from reality to The World of Stories and implementing auditory and visual codes to signal this passage made the audience each have their own takes from the story and especially the ending. In the first few screenings, this diversity of takes upset me, I would have preferred that the plot be perceived exactly as I had intended. Gradually, facing this variety of interpretations and finding similarities between them became interesting to me, even more interesting than my initial expectations. Now that some time has passed from making this film, watching it from a distance, conversing with the audience, and hearing their various and sometimes illuminating suggestions, I think to myself what a waste it would be not to use the magic of cinema.



3. Using sound to create magic


Reverence was my first experience in moving past the realist world. Naturally, stepping into this challenging path was a hard feat and my cautious spirit was agitated. During this time the endless possibilities of the sound-editing process, which I had counted on more than any other factor, helped me immensely. Sound became part of the narrative and aided me in creating the magic needed for my story. 



4. Socializing, conversing and living with the crew is essential


It isn’t possible for me to make a movie as in creating a new world unless accompanied by experts that understand me when I’m talking about the universe of my film. This awareness and understanding of each other’s language doesn’t come without socializing, conversing, and living with the main crew. Only then I can describe to them all the twists and turns of my mind, and when they’ve stepped into my world, hear their analysis of it. Filmmaking for me is a team effort that has started in my head. I like to hear from people whose aesthetic understanding collaborates well with mine and share my thoughts with them so that the seed of this idea grows into a new world. This co-habitation has another outcome as well: The delightful times spent on set. I don’t think I want anything more than this out of filmmaking. During the making of Reverence, I had the chance to work with a group of friends and found it even more interesting how one can find new friends and build a film crew through this exchange of emotion and ideas.



5. What does the actor go through while getting closer to the role? 


My relationship with the dramatic world started at the age of 15 through acting. Even though the appeal of filmmaking slowly drove acting away from my priorities, I’ve remained fascinated with the desire to act and embody a role. Reverence was a chance for me to reflect on and thoroughly think about this desire. Throughout the production stages, there were two parallel paths progressing simultaneously: Accompanying the actors on their journey to get to their roles, and the characters’ journey who are actors themselves, dealing with their roles. Interestingly, these two paths would influence each other and they helped me and the actors arrive at the world of the story and create its atmosphere. Hearing my actor fellow and friends’ opinions while reading the script and afterward while viewing the film was one of the most encouraging and gratifying feedback that I got during this time.




6. Light and color establish the universe of the film


Reverence demanded more visual world-building compared to my other works, so I dedicated a significant portion of the pre-production to the lighting and color palette of the film. I went about this by constructing a research process and meticulously looked through many stage and movie production designs while also taking note of paintings that tell a story. The production designer, the cinematographer, and I had many detailed meetings to arrive at a set look, the visual identity of the film. Eventually, on the first day of shooting for the first time in a personal project, I observed the sheer effect of light and color in building the atmosphere of the work. Lighting and palette establish the universe of the film. 



7. Subjective narration as a means to unravel the binding chains of logic 


The first draft of Reverence was the main character Rana’s path of transformation, going through a shift in reality and leaving the realm of reason. Considering the surreal course of events the main character went through in the final third of the film, the realistic narrative of the film was at odds with following her on this journey. The first and the most reasonable question that came to mind was “How is that possible?” To provide an answer to this I had two options in front of me: Either I enter The World of Stories with this character, construct and depict this world with its particular set of rules, or act according to the advice of the project consultant- Tell her story through a subjective third-person point of view. The world of stories and the Better Place Rana took refuge in was sacred ground to me and reaching it didn’t seem all too possible. Therefore using subjective narration as a means to unravel the binding chains of logic seemed to be the right option. Thus was created Sima, the third character of Reverence. She became the narrator of the entire story and the audience followed her observing Rana’s journey. Now any perception, logical or nonsensical, was Sima’s and her business, and the responsibility of any interpretation of events fell on her imaginative mind!


Translated by: Kiana Nikolai

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

24Frames | All About Short Films