59. feng shui and film design

been watching these videos by Dear Modern talking about Chi in a home. his way of thinking is so soothing and clear

I have been thinking of ways to apply energy flow design into other types of design like animations and even my website.

Once I saw Feng Shui it’s been hard to unsee it. Where does energy flow in a design? This is like composition but with a more holistic approach.

The difference between Feng Shui and composition is sometimes you want a bad flow of energy.

Now I need to consider how composition applies to time based media like film and animation, when the camera moves, a story is told.

We close in for a sense of intimacy or tilt up for a sense of wonder. Isn’t it funny how similar those are to real life head movements? If I feel intimate with someone I lean in. If I feel wonder I look up. My energy goes forward or upward.

So moving in and up could convey a sense of wonder, like the loving relationship one has with God.

Reverse it and we are looking down and pulling back which gives a sense of… well just that! Looking down on it and pulling away from it. Like what I do when I see an ant colony.

Now we move to the side and what happens? Wes Anderson does a lot of horizontal pans and tilts which give a storybook feeling. We are exploring the scene, perhaps a bit detached if the camera is on rails.

In fact, rails and cranes always give a sense of perfection. The smooth camera gives it a smooth safe feeling versus a shaky cam which makes us feel present and vulnerable.

Then there is the Youtube camera placement on a channel like Jenny Nicholson. We look into her room and she looks right back talking. Her bed and walls give the setting a stable suburban feeling as she calmly talks about stable suburban things. But the stuffed animals give us a corporate yet childish feeling. This all ties together into a video with a very grounded energy.

What else? Blocking and movement. First, what is blocking?

“Blocking is where, when, and how subjects are placed and move within the frame. There are several possible blocking combinations. The actor is static, and the camera is fixed. The actor is static, and the camera is moving. The actor is moving, and the camera is static.”

How does blocking affect the energy of a shot?

Well break it down. If we want an isolated character we put them in a box, literally isolated. If we want a hectic scene we have people and objects moving everywhere. If we want the audience to feel lost we make the camera lost, bustling through the scene. If we want them to feel cool we pull the camera into a still place observing the world.

It’s just so obvious.

The piece of the puzzle I am missing is not the HOW but the WHAT. What story do I want to tell and why?

When I tell a story of a man trapped in a bunker I boxed him in and it worked. The outside world was chaos with movement on many dimensions. The phone world was stable and surreal.

When I showed a weird sewer world I had a fluid camera that got intimate with slime and rats. I shot low and slid through the scene. The goal was to be intimate and I did that.

Now what is the goal?

If I were decorating a bedroom I’d say clean and restful. An office is productive and bright.

If I were making a Fincher film I’d say clean and tight. A Gerwig film is playful and poetic. A Burton film is whimsical and musical. A Cameron film is powerful and sentimental.

So highlight these words!

What is a Nir film? Bathetic and surprising.

Bathos is the interplay of small and big ideas! We focus on the duck eating bread and zoom in to see the bread is being crunched in the most beautiful chaotic way. We see the risen yeast collapse in its bill. This is the surprising interplay of mundane and profound that I want to be my material.

Surprising is more than just twists, I want things to feel surprisingly intimate. To tease the audience with a tango of ideas. (a cosmic gumbo if u will)

Anyway. I’m loving the human design way of thinking. Seeing energy and breaking stuff down into simple decisions.

This goal oriented way of thinking can be like, I wanna make a film about a foley artist who only uses celery. It’s a satire of those behind the scenes featurettes with a blunt punchline. the comedy really comes from the repeater CRUNCH rhythm.

I guess that’s the other thing I want my work to be, rhythmic. Like a natural thing. Something weird and alien but perfectly natural too.

I guess this kind of film gives people a sense of wonder at the weird and alien world that exists above our mundane reality and simultaneously a deeper connection with the natural. world that is beneath our feet.

Like how a Walmart exists in space and atop miles of soil and stone. The irony is, once you see the profound and natural world, the Walmart reality takes on a surreal quality. That’s when I’m happiest - when the world looks different.

© Jeremy Nir
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