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March 1996, Week 4


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Rolf W Brandis <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 23 Mar 1996 12:11:36 -0600
text/plain (120 lines)
>About my query on shooting of Nanook:
>Ken Nolley wrote:
>>Flaherty was not alone when he shot Nanook.
>>But you don't need to read background information to know that he was not
>>alone; the film (as is usually the case) bears eloquent testimony to the
>>method of its production.  Some of the most famous action sequences are
>>quite obviously shot from two camera setups; the walrus hunt comes to mind
>>immediately as an obvious example.  Look at the film again for the
>>sequences which are constructed by intercutting between two camera
>Mark Langer wrote:
>>Flaherty was assisted by Bob Stewart, the Revillion agent at Port Harrison
>>who is seen in the trading post sequence, and by a number of the natives
>>on site, including Allakariallik who plays Nanook.  He used one motion
>>picture camera -- an Akeley -- and also took still photos with a Graflex.
>>The equipment was maintained in part by the natives and in part
>>by Flaherty.
>Mike Pounds wrote:
>>Obvious Flaherty wasn't alone! But his approach to filmmaking was=
>>primative. His background was engineering, not filmmaking so his
>>expedition was not well equipped. If you read his book, imagine reading
>>the subject's book as a basic part the research, he states that Nanook
>>saved the film project when the camera jammed -- due to the extreme cold
>>-- by taking the camera apart and repairing it.
>Morgan wrote:
>>Flaherty was alone, in the sense of white, proffessional assistants,
>>but he utilised the the local community when and where he could.  He gave
>>great credence to the local population for bringing him the vast=
>>of clean water he needed for developing (he developed and edited on
>>site) and for generally helping out.
>Rolf W. Brandis wrote:
>>He brought with him 75,000 ft of film, a Haulberg electric light plant and
>>projector, plus two Akeley cameras and a printing machine.
>>                ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>>He shot all of the footage himself.
>And Yves Lever wrote to me:
>>Evidemment, Flaherty =E9tait seul, avec une seule cam=E9ra, sans aucun
>>=E9clairage artificiel...
>>[Translation: Obviously, Flaherty was alone, with only one camera, without
>any >artificial ligths...]
>So who's right? Although almost everyone gives me literature references to
>sustain his point, it seems that the knowledge on this question is not=
>clear... Ken Nolley is probably the one that point out precisely the=
>that I wanted to raise by my question. Does we have to conclude that
>Flaherty had two cameras (and consequently some operator with him, whether
>it was native or white one) from the observation that there's a lot of
>scenes which use the intercutting technique? In my point of view, I cannot
>agree with him when he says that "the film (as is usually the case) bears
>eloquent testimony to the method of its production", at least not as a
>general rule. For example, the "shot/reverse shot" cutting between to
>characters can be done either with one or two camera (tv reporters always
>use just one camera for their interviews), and it's generally the same=
>with a lot of intercutting techniques. The result on the film is often the
>same for a "naive eye" (like we all are most of the time), whether it has
>been shot with one or two cameras. But having an extratextual knowledge on
>how a scene was shot can be very revealing of the kind of strategies that
>have been adopt to reach this result, and it can change the way we view=
>result. This is specially true in the case of documentary productions. And
>that's why I was asking myself how Flaherty shot some of Nanook scenes,
>because it may really change the way I look at them. I think I'll have to
>continue my inquiry on that... Anyone have any more suggestion about this?
>DENIS SIMARD               |      [log in to unmask]
>                           |
>Litterature comparee       |      Tel:  (514) 271-4136
>Universite de Montreal     |      Fax:  (514) 343-2393
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>One final Nanook:
In Flaherty's own words...from "How I Filmed Nanook of the North"
THE WORLD'S WORK, September 1922
"Behind the crest, I mounted the camera and Nanook, stringing his harpoon,
began slowly snaking over the crest."
The above, re: the walrus scene.
Re: the battle with the walrus:
"For a long time it was nip and tuck - repeatedly the crew called me to use
the gun- but the camera crank was my only interest then and I pretended not
to understand."
"For at least twenty minutes that tug-'o-war went on. I say twenty minutes
advisedly for I ground out 1,200 feet of film"
No mention is made by Flaherty of a second camera being used or of an
operator other than himself.
Can we believe him? Will we ever really know?
Rolf W. Brandis
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