Directors notes on sound and image in the feature film Luella Miller



My desire was always to tell a complex story in the simplest way relying rather on the sound to create both complexities and tensions through the juxtaposition of sound and image. Take the opening scene. Lydia and Christian race into the old barn. They are lovers without any considerations apart from the moments they are sharing together. They are happy. More than happy. Life is perfect. They make love in the barn.

I plan to counter-point the lovemaking fantasy with a dis-corded phrase of piano music from the films main theme. The images will tell us all is well, the music will betray the image creating tension.

Foley sounds will be added to the barn sequence to create a greater sense of reality until the couple begin to make love. At this point all extraneous sounds will drop away as we focus the intensity of the scene. The realistic soundtrack will suddenly become highly stylised until we cut to the following image of a sewing machine needle that breaks the serenity of the previous scene with both it's sound and image.

These audio-visual counterpoints will be used throughout to clarify character and story, chart the emotional journeys of the characters and reveal the inner tensions of the characters. They will also highten the moments of tension required of the genre.

The film will have an original score composed by Samuel Holloway. Samuel is a composition tutor in the music department of Auckland University. He has an extensive knowledge of classical composition, which influenced my decision to use him for Luella Miller. Before I wrote the script I listened to the early works of Erik Satie for inspiration. I fell in love with some of his solo piano works. Satie was highly experimental for his time. The works were unpredictable yet all with an undeniable sense of profound loneliness within them. The music was spacious enough not to clutter a film score often using the pauses to as great effect as it would use notes. This emptiness at once spoke to me of our central characters mental state and also of the spacious central location. Using Satie as a starting point Samuel has composed an original score that tips its hat to the great composer.

The editing style changes as Lydia's mental state becomes more uncertain. Some scenes are cross-cut meaning dialogue and sounds may run over differing images. The effect once again is counterpoint to create tension. As the editing changes so will the sound track. Lydia begins to hear what amounts to an audio-montage of whispers and insinuations that she cannot keep from flooding her jealous mind. As the film progresses these sound scapes will reappear to signal Lydia's jealousy and eventually psychological collapse.

I have the highest hopes for the film Luella Miller. A dedicated cast and crew has defied our budget and schedule constraints to deliver a film that far exceeds my expectations. It was an ambitious project, all things considered, but personal demands for excellence from all concerned have helped to create a film that we can all be proud of, a film that will not wear it's constraints as a badge but will rather stand up as a further example of the talent that this country has to offer. I thank you for your support so far and hope you enjoy our baby, Luella Miller.

Dane Giraud






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