Splitting the Screen in ‘Opposites Attract’ with Nicholas .S. Tracey

In late 2014, Nicholas .S. Tracey presented an experimental film ‘Opposites Attract’ starring Allan Acason and Felicity McKee, playing with the creative use of Split-Screen. Nicholas .S. Tracey explains his use and reasons for presenting ‘Opposites Attract’ as a Split-Screen film.

– Opposites Attract –

The project ‘Opposites Attract’ focuses on two characters, a man and woman who are having problems within their relationships. By simply providing a split down the centre of the screen and presenting two individual screens, portraying day and night, the traditional linear cinematic form that we, the audience, are accustomed to experiencing was broken. The project is able to show the audience how two individuals look like they are having problems with each other in the shared (virtual) communal space and strangers when sharing the physical space when the sun is rising/setting.

The reason for presenting the characters in opposite times of the day, day and night, is to of course represent the opposition and difference of the two characters; however sunrise and sunset share the same light at opposite times of the day. Although the characters would still be at opposite times of the day, the orange sky is something that both characters share, therefore breaking the difference of the two screens.
Teddy Newton’s Disney short film ‘Day and Night’ (2010) was the inspiration behind the day and night concept for the story in the same place. If you haven’t already seen it, please do so, as it is a very clever and enjoyable animation. The two characters oppose each other and show their differences, however when it becomes sunrise/sunset, they are both the same colour, therefore no longer showing their difference and because of this, Newton is showing their connected loving relationship.

A lot of thought and practice went into understanding how the split-screen would work, in terms of shared virtual spaces. The dialogue was the most crucial and much effort went into the writing, to make the characters appear to talk to each other as if they were in the same physical space. The dialogue had to be slightly vague, so the characters could look like they are actually talking to each other. It is only when they meet under the orange sky physically, do we see the specific conversation and interaction between the two.

Traditionally, the split screen has always been presented as two screens, but as years went by, the influence of split-screen has caused artists and filmmakers to take it even further, an example of this would be the mosaic screen which challenged audiences even further by producing more than two screens. The possibilities are endless, however it is easy to lose your message/story and if not done correctly could lose the audience’s attention or make them struggle to keep up. Using the visuals and audio correctly to help depict your story through multiple screens is crucial and if successful, you can certainly use as many screens as you want, even if it takes over twenty screens or more. As long as the story is engaging and your voice is heard, Split-Screen can help you achieve whatever you want. For ‘Opposites Attract’  it was decided to stay with the traditional  split-screen, but create the illusion of one screen. There have been many movies in the past that have used this fun technique of the two screens relying on the other, such as Michael Gordon’s ‘Pillow Talk’ (1959) and Stanley Donen’s ‘Indiscreet’ (1958).

Generally Split-Screen have been presented in films through the years, to help depict phone call conversations between characters. Opposites Attract paid homage to the classic Hollywood use of the phone call split-screen technique, however it needed to shift from being a conventional medium for phone call dialogues to something more advanced and creative.

In making this short film, it was quite a challenge to closely match up shots made during the day, to shots at night-time. The problems, as anticipated, were placing the camera in exactly the same location for both shoots and how to match the framing of the shots.

Crystal Ghost Productions

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