The Amber Film workshop combined drama and documentary forms and conventions of representation to tell the story of a real group of people. Using one film example from one of the filmmakers whose work has been screened in this unit, undertake a close textual analysis of the film to demonstrate how the filmmaker’s choice of subject matter has influenced the formal qualities of their work.
Drama is defined within the dictionary as “A prose or verse composition, especially one telling a serious story, that is intended for representation by actors impersonating the characters and performing the dialogue and action.” (Drama, 2003)
Documentary, within the same dictionary, is described as: “A ...view middle of the document...
They believe that all the roles should be merged and every crew member should take on multiple roles. Equality is the key to Amber filmmaking, with the director having no more authority than the cameraman. This unique way of working produced many great pieces of work which will be remembered for years to come.
The Amber Collective started by making short films such as All You Need is Dynamite (1968) and Byker (1983) along with many others. It was in 1985 however that Amber Films finally made its first feature length film, Seacoal (1985).
It is based around, like many Amber films, a true story about a group of people. In this case it follows “seacoalers” who dig up coal from the seashore as it is washed in. They live in caravans in an almost gypsy-like community. The film portrays this in a typical Amber way. What is interesting to analyse is the way that Seacoal (1985) uses documentary codes and conventions within a drama film. Every formal technique is made to be very realistic from the cinematography to the editing. There are no complex methods used, everything is kept simple therefore drawing the audience in to “experience” what life might have been as a seacoaler.
It was directed by Murray Martin, though he was uncredited due to the equality present within the Amber Collective.
The amazing story behind the filmmaking of Seacoal (1985) was the circumstances in which the Amber Company chose to make it. Instead of using a set and all actors, they chose very much a unique way of experiencing their subject matter. They found a real seacoaling community and decided to live there for 11 months along with the real people and film amongst them. This benefits the film greatly as it means everything has a realistic and documentary-like feel, helping the genre they are portraying of “drama documentary”.
Apart from the main family, nearly everyone else in the community was a true life seacoaler. They had no scripts; they just interacted with the actors like they would which each other, leading to scenes with very naturalistic emotions and dialogue. It also makes the film feel very spontaneous, which is a complicated thing to achieve, though extremely rewarding.
Because of the Amber Collective’s way of working, one of the mains codes of any film, the mise-en-scene is affected too. The art department for the Amber Collective would not have had to dress the sets at all because it was all there for real. This means the mise-en-scene works perfectly with the genre to portray the life as a seacoaler in a dark, gritty light. There are no nice locations; their living conditions are dank and nasty. Even the props in the caravan look old and used.
The mise-en-scene within Seacoal (1985) helps the audience to gain more emotions into everything they see. If it looked false and new, the cinematic experience of portraying a seacoaler would be lost. But with this film, the formal technique employed by Amber once again helps to make the film...