Dissonance (2010)

A film about a man and a room.

Dissonance, in an entirely good way, has already become an artifact. Back in 2010 it was Anti/Type’s second film together and in many ways it was both a tester for future projects and a completely self-contained, never to be repeated work.

It was shot on an old Sony Z1 over an increasing number of static shots, in a dilapidated room above a busy bar on a Saturday night, in what retrospectively seems like an insanely short five hour time period.

A fleeting, and somewhat quixotic plan, was to give copies of the treatment to a number of filmmakers and see the different approaches and outcomes they would come up with never materialised, but remains of this idea can still be found in the final product. During pre-production, we discussed the number of ways we could make the film, or more accurately, the ways we would expect a film such as this to be made. The plot, quite simply put, depicts a writer distracted to madness. Now, dear reader, imagine how you would shoot a film with no dialogue, one actor and one location. How would you represent the escalating paranoia? The tension? The claustrophobia?

Dissonance (2010) from Anti/Type on Vimeo.

We did the same thing. What shots, angles and movements would we expect to see? Close-ups, fast cuts, steep angles, expressionistic lighting….? All in agreement? Good. Once we had come to these conclusions, and even in some cases storyboarded them, we decided quite deliberately to do the complete opposite instead. Goddammit, if we had all come to the same conclusion on how we’d depict the story, then so would you. So why make a film the audience has already made in its head?

So Dissonance became a study in audience infuriation. No close-ups, long, static takes, deliberate editing… the opening shot is a 30 second long shot from behind; a statement of intent or a belligerent example of short film stupidity? Hopefully both. We decided, instead of building tension using the usual shooting gallery of cinematic techniques, we’d build it through wrong footing the viewer; allowing shots to extend further than we find comfortable, pauses, empty spaces, spartan production design, all in the hope that the few props present – a phone, a TV, an indescribable machine, a monolithic wardrobe – would be instilled with their own character, watchful and judging, each one leading the writer to distraction.

Most importantly (and this leads to our one demand while watching the film: WATCH THE FILM WEARING HEADPHONES!), not a single sound you hear was recorded during principle photography. Every sound, from the constant wash of low frequency noise, to each individual tap of the typewriter, was recreated and recorded in post. Maybe it was foolish or a little premature to have the central effect of your second film so hinged on sound design. But the decision was both creative (the power and the complexity of the sound edit would perfectly compliment the simplicity of the shots) and practical (there was a room full of noisy drunks downstairs). A fine lesson for the budgetless short filmmaking process… the practical requirements lead the creative ones, which lead the practical ones, which lead the…….. it’s a closed loop.

Storyboard to Shot comparisons

Cast/Crew
Written and Directed by Ben Cook
Camera Lyle Jackson and Leighton Joskey
Assistant Directors Laurence Campbell and Brian Harley
Sound Edit Stephen Clarke
Foley Stephen Clarke and Ben Cook
Edited by Lyle Jackson and Ben Cook
Produced by Laurence Campbell, B. Cook, Brian Harley and Lyle Jackson
Starring Francesco D. Calvano