All aboard for education. Professor Isabel Hofmeyr in discussionwith a commuter on a train to Soweto.Sermon on a Train encourages dialoguebetween the lecturer and the audience.(Images: Sermon on the Train)MEDIA CONTACTS• Molemo MoiloaSermon on the Train+27 84 892 0610RELATED ARTICLES• SA university puts lectures online• South African academics shine• University honour for Tutu• Education in South AfricaNosimilo NdlovuSowetan commuters are being given a taste of university education, with top South African academics giving free lectures on trains as part of the Sermon on the Train art project.The initiative takes up the old South African tradition of public preaching on trains in a different way, and aims to challenge the concept the “public lecture”.Final-year fine arts students Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in central Johannesburg started the project in early 2009 with academics from the university. The idea was that, while universities do occasionally give lectures open to the general public, these are not public enough.“Ordinary members of the public do not form part of the group of individuals that attend university public lectures,” said Mokgotho. “Hence, the sermon seeks to bring an exchange between the creative community and greater society.”Moiloa said Sermon on the Train began as a once-off art project for their degree. “Since then the project has taken on a life of its own,” she said. “Though we are still graded on the project, it has a greater public significance that has become separate to our degrees.”The sermons take place in the late afternoon, targeting workers returning home from work. They begin at Park Station in the city centre, where commuters board the train, and end in Soweto in the southwest of Johannesburg. Audiences are encouraged to ask questions and discuss issues with the lecturer, creating the opportunity for dialogue and the exchange of knowledge.The project kicked off in March, with the first lecture was given by Professor Anitra Nettleton, head of History of Art at Wits. On a train trip to Dube in Soweto, she spoke on the topic “Meditations on the African Avant Garde”.“The sermons serve as a critique of public access to information and the isolation and elitism often endemic in tertiary institution – particularly in relation to ordinary members of the public,” said Moiloa.All on boardThe first sermon was well received by the audience, to the relief of the organisers and lecturer. Soon other academics approached Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho, offering to do sermons.The second sermon was delivered by Wits architecture lecturer Professor Kirsten Doermann on a train to Orlando Station in Soweto in August. She read from a lecture by the radical avant-garde Greek architect Elia Zenghelis, dealing with democracy, urbanisation, globalisation and the role of the architect.Despite the seemingly daunting topic, the sermon set off critical discussion between the students, lecturers and commuters, confirming Moiloa and Mokgotho’s view that the initiative would encourage dialogue.In October award-winning writer and academic Professor Isabel Hofmeyr from the Wits School of Literature and Language Studies presented the third sermon, called “Revelations”, on the train to Phomolong, Soweto.Discussing African and Indian literature, Hofmeyr spoke of the birth of a new world power order, with the Indian Ocean as the central point of orientation. She handed out printed copies of the sermon to all commuters, which many read from top to bottom.Bridging social gapsMokgotho said their art had been about “re-observation and the defamiliarisation” of the everyday – questioning the way people saw the world and finding the aesthetic in the simple.More than this, according to the students, Sermon on the Train aims to raise questions about access, social divisions and the stereotypes that get entrenched by keeping people separate. The work also chips away at the hierarchy that separates students from lectures by encouraging lecturer-student collaborations.The university continues to provide resources to allow the project to grow further. “We have received major support,” Moiloa. “The university has sponsored the last two sermons because they feel it makes strides in some of the objectives of the university itself. This has resulted in a workshop and tutorial information packs we give out on the trains.”Some have argued that having a public lecture in a public space is imposing on that public. But Moiloa and Mokgotho believe it is no different to other performances such as public preaching, and are set to continue their journey.
Screen DirectionSnowpiercer (The Weinstein Company).Heroes often walk on screen from left to right — and villains from right to left. Because, in the west, we read from left to right, it seems a more natural and easy direction, and it tells us the hero is moving things toward a natural order. Villains, on the other hand, are working against the natural order, going against the flow.Many filmmakers integrate screen direction to keep the audience orientated in the story. In Snowpiercer, directed by Joon-ho Bong, Chris Evans’s hero moves left to right when he’s working toward his goal, but right to left when he’s struggling with temptation or victimhood. Much like the introduction of characters, it’s something we feel more than see, but it still has an effect on how we observe the character and his motivations.Slow MotionSlow motion draws attention to someone and their movements. It stretches out time, making it seem more magical and memorable. The slow motion intro has become a trope for love interests and romantic characters. We see them walk in slow motion, and we’re smitten right along with the lead character. This usually goes hand-in-hand with generous backlighting for a warm glow.Big EntrancesTina Fey and Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock (NBCUniversal Television Distribution).In old westerns, double doors opening — or being kicked open — was a classic way to give a character a powerful entrance. It was a way to show the oversized influence and dynamic effects the character has on their environment. This is wonderfully satirized in the pilot episode of 30 Rock, when a door gets kicked down to reveal Jack Donaghy, one of the most lovably bombastic TV characters in recent memory.The Slow Tilt UpPanning up the body of the character is a classic, time-honored way of slowly divulging information about them. We take in the ground they walk on, their choice in footwear, their outfit, and finally their face and expression. Revealing a character in this way unveils to the audience the world they come from and how important they’ll be to the story.Get a LightChristian Bale in Terminator Salvation (Warner Bros. Pictures).Another common trope that nonetheless shows up consistently is introducing the character in shadow, only for them to strike a match or light a cigarette. Since smoking is now more associated with cancer than manliness, filmmakers are finding new ways to achieve this on screen. In Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale is cloaked in shadow until he ignites a flare, revealing himself to the audience.By using these, and other subtle techniques, you can use the camera to establish your characters before your actors utter even a single line.Cover image via The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line Cinema).Looking for more cinematography tips and tricks? Check these out.Top Equipment Investments for Working FilmmakersLearn Francis Ford Coppola’s Signature Dolly MoveIs Autofocus Finally Ready to Take The Filmmaking Field?FIZ Systems (Focus, Iris, Zoom) and How to Use ThemMaking Cinema Lights and Practicals Work Together Filmmakers use various ways to introduce their heroes (and their villains) by shaping the audience’s subconscious judgment.When it comes to movies, we definitely judge a book by its cover, and first impressions last. The first time we see a character forms our ideas about them. If not done correctly, this introduction is difficult to overcome.Let’s take a look a few things filmmakers keep in mind when introducing powerful characters.