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Imagine for a moment a story that does not have solid form. It is nebulous but resonant. It is an idea. Between this state and a completed cinematic work, there is normally a process of artistic inquiry. Conventionally, creating a narrative for film involves constructing written treatments, drafting scripts and compiling shot lists. However, a small number of filmmakers use drawing as a visual method to create and shape knowledge into communicative form.
Although film is understood as a visual medium, we rarely talk about visual methods used in its early stages of development. Increasingly, visual methods are used in a range of disciplines including sociology, psychology, geography and health care (Barbour, 2014; Pain 2012). However, they are normally applied to data gathering or analysis. Such methods embrace a variety of approaches including photo elicitation (Glaw, Kable, Hazelton & Inder, 2017; Meo, 2010), analysing found data (Prosser & Loxley, 2008), collaborative filmmaking (Parr, 2007) and the use of video diaries (Holliday, 2004).
In cinema we generally associate visual methods with principal photography (filming) and postproduction processing. However, in this article I will discuss an approach to the narrative development of the short film Sparrow, where visual methods were employed from the earliest stages of narrative gestation through to the moments just before the camera began recording.
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