The Bell Jar (Book Trailer): Planning

This post outlines the planning processes I carried out in anticipation for filming The Bell Jar (Book Trailer).

Storyboarding

Prior to filming, I created a storyboard to outline and manage my expectations for the day . I went into the studio with the understanding that this would act as guidance, not gospel. From my experience in photography, I knew that some of the best shots would not be premeditated – I would keep an open mind and work with my eyes. The storyboard also assisted me in communicating what I wanted to produce to my actress, whose input I valued and encouraged as someone familiar with Plath’s work herself.

It doesn’t look like much, but many of these shots were successful; much of the change will be in post-production in terms of sequences for narrative construction. Overall, I found storyboarding to be a fantastic method for creating a framework to structure the day spent filming. This lent itself to managing time well in the studio, leaving a generous buffer for experimentation (and the lengthy file transfer to my hard-drive).

Forming a Narrative

Having read The Bell Jar over summer, I felt I had a good grasp on the novel but struggled to form a visual narrative from memory only. I went back through the book, picking out key quotes which would function as areas of focus. I then translated this into visuals, using the storyboard shown above. Using content from the book inspired creative responses too. Some examples of quotes I drew upon included:

‘I was supposed to be having the time of my life’ (Plath, 1963: 3)

‘The more hopeless you were, the farther away they hid you’ (Plath, 1963: 84)

‘That afternoon my mother had brought me the roses “Save them for my funeral”, I’d said’. (Plath, 1963: 107)

‘The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air’ (Plath, 1963: 113)

Styling

Prior to filming, my actress (Hannah) and I met up to style her for each shot. I’ve always been fascinated by set and costume design so this was one of my favourite parts. As The Bell Jar is set in 1950s New York, I wanted to allude to the decade through dress. This included garments such as long skirts and swing-style dresses, red lip-stick and stockings. Each shot was styled individually to indicate a passing of time. Accessories were key too; for example, we used a typewriter to demonstrate Greenwood’s occupation, a pearl necklace to indicate her place in society. By planning this in advance, we saved a lot of time and confusion on filming day.

the bell jar
Esther’s Party Look © Chanelle Manton

Overall, I couldn’t have hoped for the day to go better. There were no technical difficulties, to which I have come to expect, nor any hiccups (literal or not). I believe that the planning involved played a large role in the success of the day, in addition to a fantastic model and an inspirational text to work with.

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