Form

The first short Stefan episodes were little form experiments as such. Onno wondered whether selfies in the form of vlogging could be used as a language to create a more profound narrative.

The episodes were filmed with an action cam in HD. The action cam did not have a viewfinder so Onno had no view of the frame or of what was happening behind his back when filming. Onno treated the camera as an additional limb. The result is a very intuitive recording practice.

Since the main object of selfies, the head of oneself, is always present in this genre, it was clear from the outset that visually stimulating backgrounds were required to try and sustain the viewer’s attention. The city seemed the ideal setting for interesting backgrounds. To be on the safe side, Onno chose to have a different background for each sentence spoken to the camera. Coherency in the background was attempted by filming every episode in a different distinct neighborhood.

To add to the visual attractiveness of the shots, Onno used full Summer sunlight in different forms, both full frontal, from the side and from the back.

The little action cam’s big plus for filming in an urban setting was its inconspicuous nature: it was too small and too unprofessional looking to arouse negative emotions among the people coincidentally present near the recording. Still, the city itself remained a serious challenge. Noise was ever present, be it from cars, scooters, airplanes or pedestrians, as well as from the wind. No setting could be trusted to remain as it was when starting the recording: cars parked, scooters and bikes rushed along, and people passed by, came out of the doors of their houses, curiously opened windows or just wanted to chat.

In addition to using the selfie-form in the short Stefan episodes, Onno decided to use the same form for all recordings featuring Stefan, also the longer ones. Onno decided that the longer forms required even more stimuli for viewers to be able to stay focus, so he chose more provocative content for these episodes.

As the film would feature a second main character besides Stefan, Beatka and Onno decided that this character, the ‘carrier’, needed his own form, especially since Onno had decided early on that the difference in appearance between the two main characters, Stefan and the carrier, was to be minimal: only one little costume element separated the two. As a counterpoint to a dynamic and controlling Stefan with his selfie-form, they chose more passive and static forms for the carrier: he was filmed either from the side or from a tripod. When he was filmed from a tripod, a visual element was introduced that made it clear that at the same time he was still filmed from the side as well.

Beatka and Onno realized that the more traditional form for the carrier also required additional intensity to keep the viewer interested. They decided on three tracks. One track is to record the more reflective parts in extreme weather conditions – snow blizzard, minus temperatures – in non-urban settings. As a spill-over Stefan also was recorded from time to time in non-urban settings to stress reflexivity. The second track was to take Beatka’s director’s maxim to the maximum: never use image as an illustration of text. For the more narrative episodes images were created as a nearly-independent entity with regard to the text, a multi-layered entity at that. The third track was to filter out different colors for each of the main characters. For Stefan green was filtered out, being the color that is the most differentiated for the human eye, thus stressing his non-human nature. For the carrier a complementary color for green, magenta, was filtered out.

As form elements in between shots Onno tried out adding typical tourist shots of urban environments as if a travel blog was created. During the viewing rushes both Beatka and Onno decided that the contrast with the talking heads was too big: the touristic recordings lacked emotional intensity and distracted from the storyline. Most of them were subsequently replaced.

Finally, Onno decided that as a non-native English speaker he enjoyed subtitles as a supporting device for native english films. He disliked though that the subtitles were projected on the image, affecting both the aesthetics of the image and the readability of the subtitles. Onno therefore decided to add the subtitles to the moving images as an independent layer in its own right, just like a ticker during news broadcasts.