Notes Reflection (Text vs. Film)

If you’re like me and haven’t annotated your reading before, starting this habit can be very hard. I mean, weren’t you taught as a child to not write in your books. At most, you followed your line of reading with your finger but the book should look as undamaged as possible by the time you were done. (Libraries will charge you for damage you know!) Annotating can open up a text and make your mind work very differently when interpreting a reading.

The only books I thought you could draw in!

The only books I thought you could draw in!

So how much of the text and syntax and depth do you miss when you are merely “reading” it? Did you notice how many words in that sentence started with the letter c? Did you notice that a word was repeated 6 times in that one paragraph? Maybe it’s my love of stationary (I am Asian and little OCD) but my annotating practices have started with a few coloured pens. This allow me to isolate specifics in different colours. My annotating also requires me to reread the text. Usually if it’s worth annotating, I need to reread it to understand it. Unknown words now get an underline and definition in the margin. (Thank you google search.) Alliterations get circled and repetitions get underlined. I’m also still not sure why but unless the text is written out like a limerick, I will always miss rhyming on the first go. Reading out loud is beneficial to catch the enunciations and flow in the prose. These practices can be hard to get used to, but when you can explain what Shakespeare meant to someone who has never heard English spoken that way before, then I think you have nailed it.

King Henry V, Act 4, Chorus Intro, all marked up!

King Henry V, Act 4, Chorus Intro, all marked up!

In contrast film annotating is a very different process. I have never watched a movie with the screenplay in front of me. (Where do you even get a screenplay?) I may have access to the original material (book or play) that it was based on but never have I followed along in a book and rarely with a play. (Only for Shakespeare, and even then…rarely) It can be quite hard to follow when the dialogue isn’t word for word as it is in the original play.

My first film annotating experience was watching Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet at seven years old with my dad. He kept pausing the movie and reviewing the lines in his massive Shakespeare anthology to make sure I understood. But pausing a movie can change the way the movie feels and flows. A directors pacing and editing wasn’t intended to have extra breaks. But without breaks, trying to take notes while watching a film can be extremely distracting. How quickly a detail could be missed if you look away from the screen even for a minute.

YouTube and IMDb. So helpful!

YouTube and IMDb. So helpful!

Much like the rereading required with annotating text, sometimes it is necessary to re-watch (at least a few scenes of) a movie. After you have watched it once, it is easy to make notes and distinguish the characteristics that make the film unique (or not).

Looking for camera angles, analyzing acting performances, quoting the script, listening to the score and appreciating the editing becomes evident as you not merely trying to pay attention to what is happening in the story. Even then, when I’m trying to dissect each film element out of a scene, I will most likely watch it 5 or 6 times through and type notes for each aspect.

Crowl's guide outlines the elements of a film in his Keys to Filmmaking.

Crowl’s guide outlines the elements of a film in his Keys to Filmmaking.

Also after watching a movie, nerds like me tend to wander over to IMDb to review the actors, directors, screenwriters and trivia. Sometimes you forget that the actor was in that other movie you liked and now you realize how similar they were.  Or that the director also made another movie based on a previous work of said author. Or that the screenwriter seems to have a thing for dramatic thrillers. Directors will very often collaborate with the same cinematographers and composers and the styles will bleed through each of their works.

While this is still a “work in progress” for me, it is interesting to review the things that you note as you read through a passage for the first time or the fourth time. As someone who has read the Harry Potter series more times than I have fingers, it’s evident that with every re-reading I pick up something new. Annotating allows you to slow down and take note of the things that the author carefully considered when creating their text. Meanwhile, most films probably don’t deserve a second watch, but the ones who do will be immediately evident. You can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it and on re-watching you wonder how you somehow missed so much the first time around.

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