Release Your Mind – No Dialogue or Text

What was the project?

This was essentially the first ‘real’ film I made at uni. The goal was to create a film that ran for the exact duration of one minute (excluding opening/credits) and didn’t have any dialogue or text. The class was cinematography, so the aim was to really explore and consider lighting and framing – using all that to help tell a story.

A black and white clip of Agent Surrows from Release Your Mind

What’s the theme/message?

The story is about transition. It heavily utilises colour and saturation to convey the two different worlds the main character, Agent Surrows, experiences. The film begins with Surrows depressed and in a rut. He’s been unsuccessful at his job of late and nothing seems like it’s going to change. To help set this tone, I turned the saturation all the way down – full black and white. The set was dressed to add to this sadness.

The turning point is when he sees an article about ‘The Pete Man’. After sending an email for help, he is teleported to a field where Pete Man teaches him to shoot lasers and lightning from his hands. As soon as Surrows is teleported, the film turns bright and colourful. It changes from a serious story tone to something whacky and comical. This effect flows through to his life, helping him get on top of his arrests and become better at his job.

Before and After Black and White colour correction

How did we make the film?

Being my first film, it was small and very low budget. The sets were basically a field at my university and my tiny Unilodge room. The star was a friend from Lone Productions. A huge thank you for all his help with this film!

While Release Your Mind was cheap and simple, I feel everything was utilised well. The sets, props and actors all served their purpose. The film meant a lot to me as it was a much more serious effort than KNN had been.

The film marks some of my first efforts using Adobe After Effects. (I had only learnt to use the program a few months prior.) While the FX look very simple and basic now, it was a huge step forward for me at the time. The sound design in this film is VERY minimal. This wasn’t assessable so I never really put much into it. I also hadn’t developed this skill like I have in more recent works.

Before and after lightning FX done with Adobe After Effects

Release Your Mind combines a lot of my favourite genres and ideas into one small package. The serious dark crime mood. The comical, crazy mood. The ‘superhero’. A bit of Science Fiction. These are all ideas and genres I love the explore in my films.

Still of Agent Surrows from Release Your Mind. At the end when he is happy and colour has returned to the world.

What would I do differently?

Being my first film, there are things I definitely look back on and wish I had improved. There are some lighting issues with the black and white. I also would’ve loved to get some more shots once the world became colour. Namely one of Surrows’ reaction to Pete Man.

What did this project teach me about screenwriting?

I’ll be honest upfront about this, Release Your Mind didn’t actually have a screenplay. The focus of this assessment was cinematography. Because it was such a short project, all I had was a Treatment and a Shot List.

Part of a shot list for the Release Your Mind film

While it may not have had an actual screenplay, it did teach me something about screenwriting. It was a valuable lesson in considering translating textual information into a visual form. It taught me a lot of considerations I need to make when writing. It was also valuable in learning more about all the other tools and processes that surround the screenplay’s development such as a Treatment.