Something for the ‘Dexter’ fans

Michael C Hall has been in the country and in today’s Sunday Star Times there is a feature on him called  Dexter dreaming darkly by Adam Dudding.

The world’s most loveable serial killer has an elbow on a bar leaner and is looking out across Auckland’s Westhaven Harbour. He’s yakking into a cellphone and hatching sinister plans – suggesting, from what I can overhear, that “maybe we could start shooting early”.


Just like everyone on TV, Michael C Hall seems a little smaller off-screen than he should. The muscled chest that fills out his sweatshirt when he’s being the emotionally stunted murderer Dexter Morgan and wrapping up a bad person in clingfilm before driving a knife through their sternum, doesn’t look as gym-buff as I’d expected. And without the benefit of the warm filters the cameramen use to make the Dexter locations in Los Angeles stand in for steamy, sleazy Miami, he looks kind of pale. The big American jaw and deep eyes and jutting brow are real though, as are the huge Fred Flintstone upper lip and big, fleshy mouth.


When he finally gets off the phone, he sits down at a cafe table with a glass of water and begins a long exercise in absent-minded origami with his paper napkin.


Hall’s press agent, Craig Bankey, had demanded pictures not be taken mid-interview, to avoid unflattering open-mouthed shots of his client, so I take a peek in Hall’s mouth as best I can. For the record, it seems he has a couple of slightly overlapping, almost un-American, bottom front teeth, but nothing too freaky.


He apologises about the call.


Contract negotiations for shooting a seventh, and probably eighth, season as the star of the darkly hilarious TV series Dexter are “a matter of days” away from completion, but a few details need clearing up, including how to juggle schedules so he can also star in a new musical based on the Tim Burton film Big Fish.

Read the rest here.

Leon Narbey – the role of the cinematographer

This is how acclaimed New Zealand cinematographer Leon Narbey (Whalerider, The Price of Milk) describes his role:

“Firstly you try to climb into the head of the director and see with their eyes. Feeling and understanding the emotional flow of each scene is important, and knowing how these scenes will impact on one another, and how this temporal order can be amplified and enhanced by spatial composition, colour, tone and form is, I feel, the core of the cinematographer’s task. Principally though it is in the choice of lens, the composition of the subject that concerns the cinematographer, and when these dynamics converge with the emotional intentions of the characters on the screen, you feel you are contributing to the strength of the film.”

The art of cinematography

We have discussed cinematography as part of our studies of a visual text but some of you struggle to write about it. Cinematography includes techniques of composition and framing, camera movement, the manipulation of light and the use of special technical tricks.

Camera movement is something that confuses but what it is to do with is panning and tilting as well as the ways that the camera can be moved through space. Most of you are familiar with a dolly (a mobile camera platform on wheels or mounted on tracks) or a crane. Cinematographers also manipulate light (both natural and artificial) to create illumination, contrast and depth. They may also play around with exposure, use slow or fast motion, glass shots and matte shots to create optical illusions.

The use of technical tricks means that the camera can be used in ways other than photographing and reproducing reality. Cinematography is an art. It can create striking images, manipulate mood and atmosphere and meaning. A director relies very much on the artistic and technical skills of the cinematographer. The cinematographer hones the audience’s focus towards where the director wants to them to look and they do that by using light, colour or composition.

In terms of the production process it is the cinematographer that brings together aspects of the creative process with the technological side. Cinematographers need to understand visual aesthetics and they often study film history, painting and photography. Some people describe cinematography as ‘painting with light’. Cinematographers also need to know the technical aspects of their craft such as the optical, mechanical and camera processes.

The job of a cinematographer, is in a nutshell, to create and maintain the right visual style for the film, whatever the genre and have the technical expertise to deal with the production requirements. They have to be able to realise the director’s vision.

Interpret, decipher, construe, enjoy

How do you determine the significance of poems, novels and plays? John Lewis looks at ways to discover meaning in different texts. Read  ‘A slumber did my spirit seal’ by William Wordsworth.

A slumber did my spirit seal;

I had no human fears:

She seemed a thing that could not feel

The touch of earthly years.


No motion has she now, no force;

She neither hears nor sees;

Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,

With rocks, and stones, and trees.


WHAT possible meanings could be discovered here, in Wordsworth’s poem?

One of the keys to understanding the poem is an alertness to grammatical structures. Note the change in tense between the past of the first stanza to the present of the second; a shift which in the emotional life of the poem is accompanied by a change of tone.


The poet seems to gather himself together and what might be described as part wistfulness and retrospective wonder at what existed between himself and the woman he has lost moves to a determined attempt to place whatever exists now.

The verse of the first stanza evokes that peculiar blissful state of being in love. Something magical, dreamlike and entranced is suggested. And here, for the reader, the fixing of the precise meaning of words is vital. “Slumber” brings with it suggestions of an easy, light sleep and a corollary of awakening and “seal” a closing-off that is not permanent.

Look at the way the slight change of tack, “She seemed a thing”, makes its way into the poem as naturally as breathing. And what of Wordsworth’s choice of that word, “thing”? It is placing the otherness of the state of love, where the beloved becomes more than just a person and is the object of intense feelings and personal significance.

It is a state in which hesitations and anxieties, “human fears”, have no bearing. The meanings to be discovered here are complex. In the rhetorical patterning of the second stanza (“No/no/Neither/nor”), the poet attempts to define his experience. The reader should ponder over words and nuances – why that Latinate, scientific-seeming word “diurnal”? Is there a kinship with “motion” and “force”?

Reading meanings is never a cut and dried affair. Different and equally plausible meanings may exist at the same time. Emily Dickinson’s poem, He fumbles at your Soul, is a case in point.

One reading might sum it up as both a meditative and dramatic exploration of the process and experience of personal Christian conversion. The poem would be seen to be showing God as at first tentatively but persistently seeking entrance – “He fumbles at your Soul/As Players at the keys”.

In this scenario, little by little, God prepares the soul for the momentous consummation and union with Him (“When Winds take Forests in their Paws/The Universe is still”). It is an experience so mystically all-absorbing that nothing else seems to exist.

The metaphors here are conflated and compressed. God takes hold of the soul the way mighty winds take hold of a forest.

But are there other possibilities? One aspect of the metaphor sees the wind, God, as a lion playing with a helpless victim – and indeed that observation might send a reader back into the poem seeking another construction of meaning.

Is the poem really about a merciless and cunning God? Does it see life as only a process of gradual destruction and final annihilation? Think of the line, “He stuns you by degrees”, the reference to “your brittle nature”, the way the words “Blow”, “Hammers”, “Brain” in relation to one another are suggestive of the slaughterhouse.

The images of blue sky in Eli Weisel’s Night are not just examples of static “descriptive” writing. They help constitute mood and meaning, marking Weisel’s personal journey from devout boy to utter disbeliever. In the concentration camp, the smoke of the crematorium rises into a sky vast, blue and empty. The complete absence of God is registered.

Read the rest here.

Section A – Graham Swift

If you want to think about Section A a bit more, read this interview with Graham Swift from The Bookshow. Swift is in conversation at the Cheltenham Literature Festival talking about mentors and literary friendships in his new book Making an Elephant, Writing From Within. In many ways it’s about how he came to be a writer, what being a writer means to the way you live and about the mentors, friends and experiences he’s had along the way. Here’s an extract:

Ramona Koval: Here Graham Swift talks about mentors, literary friendships and a particularly kind editor, Alan Ross.

Graham Swift: Alan Ross, who is no longer with us, sadly, but he was for a long time the editor of a magazine called London Magazine, going back now to the 1970s when I was still this aspiring writer. I’d never had anything published, and at that time I was only writing short stories. I thought I would just be a short story writer. How you wrote a novel, I just didn’t know. And I was sending off short stories to this place or that place, and I sent quite a lot to Alan at London Magazine, and I got a lot of rejection slips back, but somehow his rejection slips always carried a little note of hope about them because he would write…I can see his handwriting, he would say ‘Almost this time’, ‘Not quite’, ‘Nearly’. He was like someone gradually pulling me in, and I felt, oddly, that I knew him before I met him.

And then the magic moment came where he said ‘Yes, I’d like to publish this story.’ And I did meet him, he said ‘Come and have lunch.’ I had never met anyone like Alan Ross before. He was a writer himself, he was a poet, he was a journalist, he privately collected paintings, he just moved in a world that was not my world at all, I was a boy from South Croydon, he lived in South Kensington.

And I went to see him and I describe all this in the book but it was a wonderful combination of, as I think I put it, being both let in to a world and being let out. I was being let in in the sense of I knew I was no longer alone as a writer, I had a home, I was meeting someone who was a real friend, certainly to my writing. And I was being let out in the sense that for years up to this point…and I’m no exception, I think this is true for any struggling writer, it’s as though you’re in a box and you need letting out, and that box can almost start to feel like you’re under a stone and you’re going to stay there forever. And it’s only at the moment that you get published that that lid, that stone gets lifted, and Alan sort of lifted the lid at the same time as he said, ‘Come in.’

And, as you say, I associate him always with a particular drink known as a Negroni, which I’d certainly never drunk before I met Alan, and it’s a lovely little pink rosy-coloured cocktail, quite powerful, and I always associate that with Alan but I always associate it with the moment where I entered this world which I dared to think I belonged to but I had not entered it before. It was a really wonderful moment.

Ramona Koval: Do you feel like you belong to it now?

Graham Swift: As I said, sort of half-and-half still. Some people might say of me that I’m a quite established writer.

Rad the rest here.

The Exam

Everyone seemed happy with Sections B and C – some great questions I thought. Section A was harder to gauge but I am sure you gave it your best and that you wrote well.

Make sure that you have a break but don’t forget it’s Level 3 on Thursday!