Good Winter

Date of Submission

Spring 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

John Pruitt

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Noor Fay Gharzeddine

Senior Project Artist Statement

April 2014

Good Winter

a film by Noor Gharzeddine

During second semester junior year I was taking a course largely focused on Japanese cinema, and, to be honest, I initially hated the screenings. My original love for cinema stemmed from the realness of the characters, from getting to watch them closely as if we were friends, from getting to see them laugh and cry and from gaining exposure into their lives in just a few, compact hours. The characters in these Japanese films seemed emotionally removed; we never got their back-stories, and they did not say or express much. I did not know how to insert myself in these films. Why would Ozu pull out of the close up and cut to an image of a stone garden every time our protagonist was about to cry? Why did Mizoguchi keep his camera at a distance as characters entered and exited a room, instead of following them around?

When I eventually learned to answer these questions, I realized just how easy it was to insert and involve myself as a viewer. We may not hear the characters talk about their feelings, but as a result of the film’s structure, we grow to share emotional space with them. Through how they are shown in the space, and how they respond to one other, we start to fill in the missing pieces. The missing information allowed me to see what I wanted and to feel things naturally, instead of being told by the narrative. Why the cut to the stone garden whenever someone’s about to cry? Because instead of watching someone crying, an image we can all easily conjure, every time we see the stone garden we are able to recreate that feeling of being about to cry. The sadness is learned and experienced. An emotional landscape has been created and thus the film is a tone, not just a string of scenes. The space is an observed one; we can look where we want. I have now become an active viewer.

I wanted to make a film that would appeal to the same type of active viewers. I know that there are some holes in the narrative of Good Winter and I hope that the viewer eventually realizes this is okay. The experience these two women share is studied through the moment-to-moment details, and these details tell us something about their larger stories. Our distance includes us in their growing relationship; we learn about Sana only through what Olivia sees, and vice versa. As a result of growing up in a small space, and then coming to college and having to relearn how to live with people, the idea of cohabitation and its natural consequences has always interested me, as these “forced” relationships (with family, roommates, etc…) usually evolve into the strongest ones.

Having the liberty to work with these different concepts that have been cycling in my mind since freshmen year is something I value most about the idea of senior project. The significance of the final film, to me, is largely tied to the process. In order to make this film happen I had to learn to wear many hats: I was a writer, producer, director and editor. I managed the casting and hiring, ran rehearsals, did make up and costume design, and housed, transported and fed a cast and crew for one whole week. Having to switch between these roles provided an interesting challenge- how does one go from writing a character to objectively hiring the best actress for it? How does one spend hours directing a scene just to cut it out as an editor? And, as the producer, what limits do I need to put on myself as the creator?

After writing the script, my first concern was casting Olivia, the protagonist. The actress whom I settled on, Tess Harrison, later told me she was honored to have played Olivia, and expressed how difficult it was to find substantial roles for young women like herself. Tess and the other cast members worked endlessly, not only memorizing a 60 page script, but attending hours of rehearsal and taking a week out of their lives to shoot on location in New Hampshire, where we worked 14 hours a day. To me, all these people were providing a huge favor. However, after the experience of the shoot, I was flooded with emails of thanks and appreciation of the work we had done together. This feedback, the final film, and the ability to have creative control over each step of the process has truly made this a rewarding experience.

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