Ashley Staples: Notes Reflection

The way I take notes differs depending on what kind of media I am viewing. Text versus film changes my style of perception drastically, and therefore what and how I annotate will vary depending on my experience. For example, film is a visual medium, so a lot of the notes I take while analyzing a film will be about the visual choices a director makes. This can range from cinematography to colour palette, set design to acting style. Generally, I find that I may have to watch a film or particular scene several times in order to glean from it all the information that I can.

Film has many layers to its production, so being able to acknowledge them all while watching is usually difficult for me. It is easy to become distracted or immersed, and forget to write down what I am thinking. When I take notes on films, I try to write down the most obvious pieces of information first, such as important lines of dialogue, camera cuts, scene layout and mood. If an actor is being given a lot of attention by the camera, that is an indicator for me of something I should be watching carefully. I try to mix my factual observations with personal insight or ideas, so that I understand why I thought a certain piece of information was important later. After I take note of the more obvious ideas, I am free to analyze the film more closely. This is generally a better approach if I am able to watch the scene or film multiple times. If this is not the case, my note taking style is a bit more frenetic and contains a mixture of things — mostly whatever jumps out at me first. I admit if I can only watch something once, I am usually disorganized and not sure where to start. When this happens, the effectiveness of my notes tends to vary based on how much attention I pay to the film. Sometimes, most of my notes follow only one way of looking at the film, such as cinematography, so I don’t become overwhelmed.

Reading a play-text is a different matter altogether. Here, I am able to analyze more freely because I can physically write in the margins of the text what I am thinking. I can also use arrows to connect ideas together, and circle or underline certain words and phrases. Personally, this approach is easier, because it seems to me that is more concrete. I can read through the text as many times as I need to, and the layout is more accessible for making connections, since all the information is clearly written out in front of me along with my notes. I can take a long time to annotate a text. The idea flow comes more naturally to me with this medium, so though I write directly into the margins, I usually need to make more notes in a separate notebook. I connect what I write in the notebook to my margin work with circled numbers, so I can easily match up my thought process upon a second viewing.

I think that my note taking process for written work is more effective, because I can consistently get more information and ideas than I can with film. However, it comes at a cost, because my ideas are not usually organized clearly into categories. This is easier to do when I am watching a film, especially with multiple viewings. From there I can connect the layers together in an orderly fashion. With play-texts, all my ideas tend to be highly interconnected, and I have to do the opposite process — detangle them and place them into comprehensible sections. This is a long drawn out process, especially when I need to use my notes for further writing.

I am not certain, however, if this is a problem with my note-taking style, or my experience with film versus written text. Because I have less experience with film, my film notes may be less comprehensive than my notes on written work. So, though I may believe that the amount of notes I take with film is due to the media itself, it may actually just be a case of relative ignorance. In all, I believe I have a sturdy grasp on how to take notes with play-texts, but my ability to takes notes on film could stand to be reworked with further exposure to film analysis.

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