CT&D #62. Building a Narrative: Shooting for Video

Beryl Korot – Dachau, 1974

The Art21 piece I watched explored artist Beryl Korot’s process of putting together footage that she captured which composed of various shots of a Nazi concentration camp to create a narrative. Her process involved taking several short-form video shots, each showing a scene within the camp, where she would later line them up in a linear sequence as one single video.

What this visual style would do, in Korot’s words, is to “move the viewer through the experience of going through the camp.” To achieve this, each mini-video would show movement of the camp’s visitors (i.e. entering the gates, traversing the outdoor fields, barracks, and crematoria) as if we are witnessing a journey in the eyes of not only the tourist but also a historian stepping into that era.

More so, Korot plays with depth and perspective, including shots that featured the camp’s buildings from near and afar, on the inside and outside of the premises and even some areas with no one in them. I take from this approach that the intent was to evoke a certain mood or feeling we could get by visually knowing how big, how dull and even how harrowing an experience can truly be if living through this setting. What makes this piece very effective is the easy comprehension a viewer can make given the effort to tie these videos showcasing the first person points-of-view altogether in such a vignette. The approach is very much a kin to capturing b-roll footage, except that for films, b-roll serves to bridge the gap between scenes whereas here, the b-roll are the scenes.

If there’s anything else that I can take away here for inspiration in my future work, it is to not shy away from Vine (**obviously it has since closed in 2017) or Instagram-like services that allow for short-form video storytelling through b-roll. Because even though my first impression was that shooting for those platforms hindered my abilities to edit a ton of footage for a montage-like style, I have since gotten used to shooting for an individual scene for the purpose of juxtaposing it with another one in a manner not to different from Korot’s work. Just as long as there is a narrative established (even if loose), the important thing is to convey our sense or someone else’s sense of perception and emotion, even for the same scene but shown differently through a new shot.

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