As a result of being a quick thinker, a visual learner, and generally forgetful person, I much prefer electronic note taking when watching films, but find colored pens to be invaluable when analyzing text. I also find it beneficial to assume that everything done in a film or text is entirely intentional and, as though I were interviewing the director/author, I often ask myself: “What does this mean, and why is this way?”
This kind of thinking does limit my ability to take notes on film somewhat, as there is simply too much information about music, lighting, angles and shots for me to question and write about while viewing. For this reason, I often choose to focus primarily on choices pertaining to music and lighting as (Owing to my background in orchestra and video advertising) they are the simplest for me to understand. In terms of what I actually write down, I find that because of my forgetful but thorough nature it’s often in my best interest to write down words or phrases that help me remember what I was thinking at the time of viewing, rather than writing down exactly what I’m thinking. For example, with regards to music, while viewing the Crispin’s Day speech of Branagh’s Henry V I might write something along the lines of:
- High diss shots +tymp = fear (Odds–)
- Henry! low chord+add inst. + cresc chords=hope(Voice++)
As opposed to writing out:
- The director chose dissonant shots from the high strings coupled with the steady tympani beat to indicate grim prospects for Henry’s soldiers.
- When King Henry appears, the music switches from shots to major chords from the low strings. Their crescendo, coupled with the addition of many more instruments is matched by the volume of Henry’s voice and gives a hopeful, inspiring tone to the rest of his speech.
The fault in this method of note taking is that it is entirely dependent on my ability to recall what I was thinking. That being said, I find that though I’m occasionally unable to recollect my initial thought process, taking these kinds of notes gives me the opportunity to pay closer attention to the structure of scenes/sequences as a whole and how the elements I focus on (Music and lighting) fit into the larger picture. I know I’ve taken good notes when I look at them at home and remember instantly what I was seeing and why I thought what I thought.
Of course, no such problem of forgetting exists with text, as I can read and re-read to my heart’s content. With regards to note-taking, I often prefer to reformat and print out my own versions of passages so as to have ample room for annotation using colored pens. I’ve tried highlighters in the past, however, since I ask myself both “What does this mean?” and also “Why is it this way?” when reading, I find colored pens to be better for allowing me to precisely articulate my thoughts on specific words or phrases.
As a result of this method of thinking, I primarily look for meaning in specific diction, word connotations, and consonance/assonance as I find that the choice of words and how they sound are often the building blocks for the larger meanings of passages. Using the same example of the Crispin’s Day speech, I would underline every word pertaining to the idea of fellowship or brotherhood in blue, circle every example of alliteration in orange, every repetition of “Crispin” or “Crispian” in green, every word pertaining to ideas of battle in red and every word pertaining to ideas of remembrance in purple. Any thoughts I have regarding any of these themes I could then write down in their respective color and immediately connect them tangibly to the text. Having a general understanding of a particular play’s themes as a whole then enables me to quickly categorize and assign meanings to the specific use of these words/literary devices.
This does mean, of course, that I sometimes miss out on literary devices such as allusion, foreshadowing, metaphor, personification, etc. However, if the themes of the overall play are consistent throughout, I hardly think that a thorough analysis of diction will cause me to miss out on significant meaning coming from another literary device when considering plays as a whole.
Overall, my strategy of note taking hasn’t evolved much with respect to text since high school, however, the film-focus of this course has allowed for significant development in my note-taking for film.