Archive for the brick

Montage Project 1 – ‘The Brick’

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on January 16, 2011 by Adam Broome

This week we were introduced to ‘The Montage Of Beautiful Things’ – a part of the module which revolves around creating something based around the notion of beauty and one other factor – this week, the term to blend beauty with was ‘wall’. We had to produce an artefact that would take us out of our comfort zones, and since I’d always wanted to do a stop-motion animation, this seemed like a great opportunity to do it!

Immediately my thoughts on walls were not imaginary or social barriers like most people seemed to go for, but rather a literal wall made of bricks. We had a group discussion in a small team, in which I ultimately decided stop-motion was for me. During this meeting, I also decided that rather than doing something on a wall (as a lot of people have done before), I was going to do something with a brick that formed a larger wall, and try and isolate some specific meaning to it and how it constructs walls, literally and metaphorically.

My first two thoughts abouts interesting walls were Coventry Cathedral and Coventry University itself – the university had barriers of entry, and so had a social and academic ‘wall’. The cathedral on the other hand was a symbol of christianity, which provided walls of faith and spirituality. Ultimately, in order to use such locations, I needed to bridge the gap with something physical between them – that’s where the brick came in. After the meeting, I immediately started scouting for a likely brick – something that obviously such, and didn’t look like some odd piece of architecture. I found a likely candidate around the back of our campus, but after carrying it back to my apartment, I found a better brick right next to where I live!

No location scouting was needed – I just needed a clear idea of narrative and where this story was going to go. As always with me, I start at the end. The initial idea was that this brick would walk around trying to find a wall to fit in to. In the end, it would find a space in a wall and slot in – unfortunately, this meant I would probably have to construct some sort of wall in order to get the relevant shots. I scrapped the idea, and thought abut alternative endings. I did mention early on WALL.E as a joke, but at this point I realised WALL.E was a film about a lonely robot, and I could easily apply this to a lone brick. What if the brick never found a wall to fit in to? Thus, the ending was sorted – a place without walls, far from where the brick was meant to be, probably consumed by nature. The image was of the brick at the foot of a tree, being consumed over a period of time by moss and leaves, eventually dying without having ever found a place or meaning to it’s existence.

Then we had the start – where was this brick to come from? I found a skip full of junk, and considered it an ideal place – skips are common places to put disused construction materials. Alas, on the first day of shooting, the skip was empty. Luckily there was another full one right beside it. I then had the problems of getting the brick off the skip onto the floor – something I didn’t really attempt to clarify, but the shots move so fast in the final edit, you hardly notice the brick has just magically appeared on the floor. I did several scenes around the skip – namely, the shot on the pavements, and the one of the corner, where I moved the camera as well. The university shots were also taken around that area on the second shoot – most shots were scrapped from this due to high winds disrupting continuity. The third and final shoot took place at 9:00am on a Sunday morning – much as Danny Boyle has proven, getting up early means you can get shots without people in them, which is just what I needed for the cathedral shots.

However, looking at my work as I imported it, I realised that the whole ‘barriers’ idea was not working. The viewer knows it is a lone brick, but might not even know it’s trying to look for a place to stay – let alone picking up on social barriers! Somehow, my short became a jolly about a brick who takes a stroll around Coventry. In each shots were a plethora of various architecture though – the arched corner shot especially insinuates that the brick is supposed to be part of a group, or a larger structure, but has not been used for it’s purpose, and has been disregarded on the scrap heap.

The ‘dead brick’ shot was an idea I’d also had since the beginning, though I was unsure how to do it. I was going to take that shot inside my halls of residence just outside, but decided near the ditch in the park was much more interesting (although in the film, this shot is placed before the brick enters the park area). I really like this scene, because if there was any doubt I was trying to make the brick seem lonely at this point, there sure as hell wasn’t now. I experimented with various ways of making the brick ‘look’ up and down (you may notice a twig on the shot where it looks up the university sign I’d used to prop it up in the shot previous). Originally in the ‘dead brick’ scene, the live brick was meant to jump up and down in horror and run away at speed. I decided this was a little complicated, but since the theme was fast becoming that of isolation, heading away slowly seemed much more fitting.

Unfortunately, that was the one humourous scene in it, meaning this was now a film featuring a brick walking around, not doing much, and then curling up at a tree and effectively dying. I placed all the footage onto iMovies for simplicity’s sake, and found a contradictory upbeat track to go behind it. I placed the track in randomly, yet I felt it matched the video really well – especially in the final shots (where I used white balance to make the images more vibrant to show passage of time). The final shots taken in the woodland behind the park blended into each other well, though it was hard to tell the brick apart from the dead leaves in the initial shot. The AWB on my DSLR also caused a lot of trouble in the woodland, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, meaning I had to take several photos of the same frame and choose the one with the best lighting.

Overall, I think this project turned out quite well. To say it’s my first stop-motion film, it could have turned out a lot worse. There are several photos where I should have been paying more attention to what was happening in the background. The shot of the cathedral wasn’t supposed to have the litter bin at the side – I only realised this during the editing. I considered using chalk to make various faces on the brick and on the walls and floors, but this would have changed the film. I think there is metaphorical beauty in this piece, and chalk faces would have possibly added humour, but taken away any seriousness. The diegesis of the piece allows it to relay a message about loneliness, and this will probably be a theme I will explore in later projects for this term.

My initial practice with stop motion – funnily enough the nearest inanimate object was a lamp:


Reviews of ‘The Brick’ were generally positive. Some feedback stated that the way locations were edited together did not synchronize or create a coherent narrative of a journey. I’d have to agree – although even on the premise that the locations were meant to be random to start with, and only became urban-to-rural during filming. One person did not understand the ending – perhaps the issue of isolation could have communicated better. However, this is also classed as media art, and since it has no clear explanation, it could be argued that this artefact represents whatever you yourself see in it (even if it’s just the word ‘crap’!).