That's a rap : the making of an Australian hip hop integrated musical film

Nguyen, Alan Duc Khoi (2010) That's a rap : the making of an Australian hip hop integrated musical film. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


To date, the majority of films that utilise or feature hip hop music and culture, have either been in the realms of documentary, or in ‘show musicals’ (where the film musical’s device of characters’ bursting into song, is justified by the narrative of a pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry). Thus, most films that feature hip hop expression have in some way been tied to the subject of hip hop.

A research interest and enthusiasm was developed for utilising hip hop expression in film in a new way, which would extend the narrative possibilities of hip hop film to wider topics and themes. The creation of the thesis film Out of My Cloud, and the writing of this accompanying exegesis, investigates a research concern of the potential for the use of hip hop expression in an ‘integrated musical’ film (where characters’ break into song without conceit or explanation). Context and rationale for Out of My Cloud (an Australian hip hop ‘integrated musical’ film) is provided in this writing. It is argued that hip hop is particularly suitable for use in a modern narrative film, and particularly in an ‘integrated musical’ film, due to its: current vibrancy and popularity, rap (vocal element of hip hop) music’s focus on lyrical message and meaning, and rap’s use as an everyday, non-performative method of communication. It is also argued that Australian hip hop deserves greater representation in film and literature due to: its current popularity, and its nature as a unique and distinct form of hip hop. To date, representation of Australian hip hop in film and television has almost solely been restricted to the documentary form. Out of My Cloud borrows from elements of social realist cinema such as: contrasts with mainstream cinema, an exploration/recognition of the relationship between environment and development of character, use of non-actors, location-shooting, a political intent of the filmmaker, displaying sympathy for an underclass, representation of underrepresented character types and topics, and a loose narrative structure that does not offer solid resolution. A case is made that it may be appropriate to marry elements of social realist film with hip hop expression due to common characteristics, such as: representation of marginalised or underrepresented groups and issues in society, political objectives of the artist/s, and sympathy for an underclass. In developing and producing Out of My Cloud, a specific method of working with, and filming actor improvisation was developed. This method was informed by improvisation and associated camera techniques of filmmakers such as Charlie Chaplin, Mike Leigh, Khoa Do, Dogme 95 filmmakers, and Lars von Trier (post-Dogme 95). A review of techniques used by these filmmakers is provided in this writing, as well as the impact it has made on my approach. The method utilised in Out of My Cloud was most influenced by Khoa Do’s technique of guiding actors to improvise fairly loosely, but with a predetermined endpoint in mind. A variation of this technique was developed for use in Out of My Cloud, which involved filming with two cameras to allow edits from multiple angles. Specific processes for creating Out of My Cloud are described and explained in this writing. Particular attention is given to the approaches regarding the story elements and the music elements. Various significant aspects of the process are referred to including the filming and recording of live musical performances, the recording of ‘freestyle’ performances (lyrics composed and performed spontaneously) and the creation of a scored musical scene involving a vocal performance without regular timing or rhythm. The documentation of processes in this writing serve to make the successful elements of this film transferable and replicable to other practitioners in the field, whilst flagging missteps to allow fellow practitioners to avoid similar missteps in future projects. While Out of My Cloud is not without its shortcomings as a short film work (for example in the areas of story and camerawork) it provides a significant contribution to the field as a working example of how hip hop may be utilised in an ‘integrated musical’ film, as well as being a rare example of a narrative film that features Australian hip hop. This film and the accompanying exegesis provide insights that contribute to an understanding of techniques, theories and knowledge in the field of filmmaking practice.

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ID Code: 40757
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Yeates, Helen & Portmann, Geoffrey
Keywords: film musical, hip hop, social realism, improvisation, integrated musical film, Australian hip hop
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Mar 2011 05:19
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:43

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