My idea for the Personal Investigation/Self Initiated Project stemmed from a poem that caught my attention crossed with a love for foreign films and the interest I found in art film study earlier in the year.

“Love After Love” became the starting point for my idea, with strong themes of reconnection, identity and discovery. I then looked at various contextual references, focusing primarily on the relationships and visuals shown in them, but realised that they all contained children. I exploited this realisation by then shifting my focus more to how the use of the children led to the dynamics in the films/videos and how it affected the relationships shown.

My idea had formed, and through my mood boards and spider diagrams I showed more progression and clarity in my desired idea. I wanted to create a short, (fake) foreign film that focused in on the fragility of siblings’ relationships when growing up and the use of imagination and discovery becoming less of a bond to them.

To make my idea work in a simple but effective way I chose to have two characters, both sisters, but to only have one of them in the shots speaking to the camera as if it was the other character. My friend Arianne was perfect for the role as she speaks near enough fluent French.

In choosing the three locations I decided to pick places of interest for children, a den made out of a duvet; a field with interesting carved wooden seats and a playground in a forest. The three worked well together with the den becoming the planning ground for the characters and the other two locations being the place to enact their imaginations and daydream.

I feel that the idea was a good, clear development from my research and initial starting point; however there wasn’t enough substance to it in order to make a really good 3 minute short film. I feel that in order to have done this I would have needed to commit a lot more time to the execution of the filming, but this wasn’t really possible when my actress had a tight schedule as did I. If I was to plan this film again I would have done it across a longer time schedule as to make the most of the filming time I did have. I would have also made a more detailed and substantial treatment to go with and to make a full script from. As it was we worked from the treatment due to the lack of dialogue that I wrote for the film. I did feel, though, that the film was an interesting idea, and I did gain experience about how to make a film convincing as a foreign film.

The finished product does relay my idea well, and despite the improvements that I feel could have been made, I do feel that it was a good effort and came across well for what I wanted to achieve.



Filmed using a Canon EOS 550D DSLR Camera

The artificial lighting in ‘The Den’ sequences was created using a colour changing LED lamp by the brand Phillips.

Shooting Schedule:

Day 1 – ‘The Den’

Filmed in my home in a created den of a duvet and a changing light.

Filming took approx. 1 hour

Day 2 – Fielded Area

Filmed at Escot park

Filming took approx. 30 mins

Day 3 – The Forest

Filmed at Escot park

Filming took approx. 2 hours

The Use of Children in Films and Media

For my essay I will be exploring the positives and negatives of the use of children actors within the film and media industry and how researching and using my contextual references has influenced my own Personal Investigation film for this project.

Throughout cinema history children have been used in films for various roles – to perhaps make the film more children friendly and relatable or as a supporting role. Children can bring a new dynamic to a film, especially if they are talented. A child’s assets are different to adults, where they are able to show emotions in a different way. The showing of love in a scene for example will be entirely different for a child than for an adult, for the main reason of the lack of sexualisation in some cases. But children can also be used to create controversy in films by giving them adult seeming roles – for example Jodie Foster’s appearance in ‘Taxi Driver’ as a 12 year old prostitute on the run from her pimp Sport. In the role she is obviously playing the character of a sex worker, dressed in small clothes, and is also witness to graphic violence in the form of a shoot-out. Her age gave her an innate sense of innocence, and this was cleverly exploited, in my opinion, by the director Martin Scorsese who made the whole idea of her character being in the position they were even more uneasy for viewing. It worked perfectly within the film dynamics.

A still taken from the movie ‘Taxi Driver’ of Robert Di Nero talking to a young Jodie Foster.

There are however, despite the positives of children actors, also issues that have arisen from the fame that is piled onto successful child actors. Drug abuse and fragile family relationships have been just some of the problems that fall upon young stars; using Lindsey Lohan as an example shows how the strain of fame can fracture a young person’s life and in some cases, such as Bobby Driscoll, eventually leads to an untimely and premature death. A long string of cases such as these surely point towards there being evidence that the pressures of being a child actor and potentially a child star can have a catastrophic effect of the development and future lives of the children involved. There are of course procedures to make sure that during filming children are well treated both physically and mentally. Going back to my earlier example of ‘Taxi Driver’, Jodie Foster was given mental and emotional health checks due to the dark nature of the film, and when filming the shoot-out scene towards the end of the film, she was taken step through step about what would be happening… but although it can be said child actors are protected from industry pressures during the actual production of a film, there is little evidence to suggest that there is any guidance for as they grow up in the spotlight.

Lindsay Lohan’s mug shot from recent years prior to her prison sentence and rehab stint for alcohol and drug abuse.

Other issues that have arisen from the use of child actors, other than post-success issues, are the disruptions to ‘normal childhood’ life. Things such as education, earnings and working hours have been highly disputed; laws have had to be brought in to combat these issues. One example of where earnings went wrong is with actor Jackie Coogan, who as a young child earned approximately 3-4 million dollars through acting jobs, only for it to be spent on extravagant items and a decadent lifestyle by his mother and step-father. When he was older he sued his parents for his lost earnings and (although not gaining much of them) it called about the Coogan Act which calls for parents/guardians of the child actor to place around 15% of all earnings into a blocked trust fund for the child to access when they are old enough. This act goes someway to protecting young actors and actresses, but the issue of earning ownership is still prevalent.

Another child actor who fell prey to the spotlight is Shirley Temple; she was extremely famous as a young child, and starred in many feature films including her breakthrough feature ‘Bright Eyes’. Shirley Temple was the first child actor to win a juvenile Academy Award in 1935 for her filming achievements during 1934. Once Temple hit adolescence the appeal of her innocent charm was lost for the big production companies, and she became a less popular choice for feature films. By 1950, Shirley Temple had retired from starring in films, only at the age of 22; this shows that the film industry can damage young people in a way other than pressures put upon them and the external factor of unfair use of their wages from parents, etc. It shows that the industry works on an aesthetic value basis, once Shirley Temple had lost her very young looks then the production companies wanted to lose her – this shallow basis upon which people are judged in the industry could be seen to affect children in a different and more dangerous way. In LA and Hollywood, eating disorders and body dimorphic syndrome are very real problems and issues that have been linked to the shallow judgment of the media. With plastic surgery being the norm in LA, which is where most of the film industry is based, by only going on an aesthetic basis when judging a child, in particular, extra pressures are placed upon the actor or actress, giving them an unfair body image. Critics of the industry would say that in attempting to make young people fit the industry mould the industry loses the finding of uniquely talented individuals.

Although in recent times though a new type of child star has been making a breakthrough; young people have taken over Hollywood and the film scene and have been making headlines not only in media but fashion too. The new child actor is a more rounded individual, with different avenues to the reasons why they’re famous; they’re hard workers, yet they manage to keep their youth too. Such actresses as Chloe Grace Moretz came onto the scene at a young age and have stuck around being recognised for their acting skills rather than their lifestyles. They have been kept as children, and perhaps for this reason won’t go down the same path as previously mentioned stars… but on the other hand; the pressures and industry demands of Hollywood will always be prevalent and possibly impressionable on young minds.

A dual-image of actress Chloe Moretz taken for a fashion feature in a magazine.

In my contextual research I looked at Benjamin Francis Leftwhich’s ‘Atlas Hands’ music video; the Swedish film ‘Let the Right One In’ and the 1974 classic ‘Swallows and Amazons’. What all three of these references have in common is the use of children as actors in them. ‘Let the Right One In’ stands out as different as there is an adult intensity and love to their relationship whereas the other two are more about the innocence and adventure of youth. All three include imagery as well as the conceptual side to relay the importance of children in the films; I find ‘Atlas Hands’ a really poignant music video because of its use of children – the imagery sets them within a large desolate but beautiful landscape and without their physical smallness they would have been far more prominent in the scenery, making it lose its significance perhaps. The influence that this has had on my project was pretty monumental – the whole concept of childhood imagination and innocence was the message behind my film. I also feel that by looking at the references I did I was able to take a new directive on my starting point ‘Love after Love’ by Derek Walcott. I took the poem to have meanings of self-discovery and reconnection, and by looking at how being a child affect the relationship that was present in the contextual references, I was able to take the direction of finding that reconnection and self-discovery through someone else. I was worried if I took the term relationship in a romantic sense for the film then it would end up clichéd, and so to keep it fresh I used the influence of childhood innocence.

In conclusion, there is nothing to suggest that children should be kept from the Hollywood screens, but that more support and guidance for young people should be given from within the industry itself in order to preserve the talent as the main focus of the individuals. Child actors add, and always will add, new dynamics to films in a way unachievable perhaps by those with more life experience to draw on. And from a personal view point, with my Self-Initiated Project, the use of children has been a pivotal conceptual point and influence towards my final film.


 http://listverse.com/2009/04/19/top-10-child-stars-gone-bad/ (Accessed: 20th December 2011)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1250777/ (Accessed: 14th January 2012)

http://www.sag.org/content/coogan-law (Accessed: 14th January 2012)

For my self-directed project I intend to make a short semi-artistic film about the feeling of discovery both within a relationship between friends and sisters and also more literally about the will to explore. The use of childhood games and imagination will play a heavy role within my film, for the purpose of highlighting the relationship between the visual character and the off-screen character. Creating the interaction and intensity that I want for the relationship when in reality it is just the actress and the camera will probably be the most technical issue I will face.

As the film has to be in 3 separate locations I have decided to use a lake as a point of “discovery” as well as a created world that isn’t actually there [in the film] where the characters imagine what lies ahead. The other location is the reality location where they plan their journeys, both the physical one they hope to take as well as the more metaphorical one they are embarking on purely as they grow older – intent is to bring in questions about the relationship between the sisters and whether or not it will change.

Using the influences from what I have researched, I would like the make the dialogue french speaking, as I want to give a sweet but strange feeling to the film. And I want the viewer to be able to relate to the visual relationship rather than for the focus to be on what the actress is saying.

This is just a rough initial treatment, and I’m sure during the course of filming things will alter and develop.


There aren’t any real ‘scenes’ throughout this short film, as it’s going to be quite quick and choppy editing, to almost replicate the delicacy of decisions made within a childs mind. And so the 3 locations become interchangable throughout.

We start in ‘the den’ the two sisters have created underneath a duvet. The light changes through a rainbow of colours, giving the den a more fairytale feeling to it. They have a map layed down between them, and the older sister is tracing lines along the coast and rivers, telling her younger sister about where they will travel from.

In the next location we have the sisters playing on the side of a lake; it’s winter and as such the older sister is wrapped up warm, walking backwards from the camera/off-screen character. They are talking but music is flooding the speech out – the visual of happiness and exploration is more important here than dialogue.

The older sister floats a paper boat into the lake. There are also shots of just the boats floating out into the lake.

Shots from the 3rd location also show the sisters playing and interacting. As this location is ‘imaginary’ it includes descriptions from the older sister character about what they can do with the world.

The final shot is back in the den and the older sister is asking the younger sister/off-screen character to keep their imagination even when growing up. The film finishes with silence.


A 1974 film adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s children books, directed by Claud Whatham and written by David Wood.

When I looked at the music video for ‘Atlas Hands’ I made a link between the imagery and concept and the film ‘Swallows and Amazons’ which is about two tribes of children who in their imagination create a rivalry of piracy on a lake in the Lake District one summer.  

From the film I want to take that idea of imagination and innocence of childhood into my own film, and also it continues the theme of discovery in a different, more literal context.



‘Let the Right One In’ is the Swedish adaptation of the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist; made in 2008 and directed by Tomas Alfredson. It is a film about a twelve year old boy called Oskar who is terribly tormented by bullies and who finds friendship, love and a means for revenge in Eli, a vampire.

I’ve decided to use this film as a source for inspiration for my own film, as I adore the relationship that is portrayed between Eli and Oskar. Despite the dark backdrop to the plot, Eli is essentially a 13 year old girl who feels the same sense of loneliness and disconnection from the real world as Oskar does; because of this their relationship has the very essence of childhood innocence to it.

I would love to recreate this intensity of care that is found between them, yet also the feeling of impending change that is prevailant throughout the film – this change does not pull them apart but brings them closer. To use that intensity in a downplayed way is something that really helps to make the film to be fresh, not cliched.

Another element of the film that I have, in a way, manipulated into fitting with the themes and ideas of my Self-Initiated project are the words that Eli writes in the note she leaves Oskar when they spend the night together. “To flee is life, to linger is death.” In the sense of ‘Let the Right One in’ she is revealing her vulnerability to sunlight, but for my own purposes I have interpreted this to also reflect the fragility of her and Oskar’s friendship, and how without moving forward they won’t flourish together.

Despite the wonderful clarity in the cinematography 0f this film, I want to take a more conceptual approach to taking influences from it. The relationship is similar to the relationship I want to create for the characters in my short film, and the idea of fragility yet intensity is also interesting to me.


The video was directed by Helen Downing and edited by Rod Main.

I have decided to use the music video for the song ‘Atlas Hands’ by Benjamin Francis Leftwich as contextual reference. This is because of how the imagery is portrayed: it’s haunting yet beautifully shot.

There is a lot of scenery included in the film; the people are counterparts to the setting. Shots like the one above are what makes the music video eye-catching, as they are composed well within the frame and showcase the pretty setting.

The characters remind me of the children’s TV show ‘Amazons and Swallows’, and how they worked together to play a fantasy game of tribes. The children in the video are putting together a boat for them to sail into the ocean. They play with ropes that they use to tie together the poles and stretch out the netting they’ll use to catch fish; the adult male looks deep into the distance, and there are beautifully framed up close shots of the characters faces where they look both vacantly and innocently into the camera.

For my personal project I would love to incorporate the idea of innocence and play into my story; the shots of the characters looking directly into the camera worked well because it linked the viewer to them – almost as if they were staring at the person watching them in a sort of paradox, creating a closeness to the work.

Panoramic shots are another aspect of the music video I would love to use in my self-initiated project; they create such a sense of people being a part of the setting instead of being the main point in the film.

Lyrics to ‘Atlas Hands’

“Take me to the docks, there’s a ship without a name
It is sailing to the middle of the sea
The water there is deeper than anything you’ve ever seen
…Jump right in and swim until you’re free

I will remember your face
‘Cause I am still in love with that place
But when the stars are the only things we share
Will you be there?

Money came like rain to your hands while you were waiting
For that cold long promsie to appear
People in the churches started singing above their hands
They say “My God is a good God and he cares”

I will remember your face
‘Cause I am still in love with that place
When the stars are the only things we share
Will you be there?

I’ve got a plan
I’ve got an atlas in my hands
I’m gonna turn when I listen to the lessons that I’ve learned”

Starting Point

September 27, 2011

As the initial starting point for my project, I have decided to use a poem for inspiration.

‘Love after Love’ by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

It is a poem about happiness; having found oneself and being truly content. There are many different ways to interpret this happiness, why it has occured, etc, but personally I feel it’s about someone realising their self-worth and ability to make themselves feel happy.

Although this is my starting point, there are many different ideas I would like to explore and contextual references I’d like to see influence my plans. The imagery in this poem is fantastic though, for example the idea of feasting on your own life, and greeting yourself with elation.