Narrative Ambiance

There’s something really simple and beautiful about the way Benjamin Alire Sáenz writes. I’ve read this particular book, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a few times now. I’m always amazed by how much he says in so little words. The book is poignant, and real, and painful sometimes. I decided to read chapter seven for this assignment because I think it’s the perfect example of all those things. In this chapter, the reader can tell how much Ari, the main character, is struggling with something in him that he can’t see. In that same vein, the reader and tell how much he yearns to feel equal to Dante. I chose to do a lot of still shots of objects or scenery for this video for a few reasons: I wanted the viewer to be able to focus on my words, and I wanted it to feel a little lonely. I also tried to pick images that would enhance the words I was reading. For example, when Ari points out that Dante’s smile is sad, I filmed a shot of the cracks in my deck to show that even things that are solid have gaps. There are more literal shots too, such as when the discussion turns to God. I also wanted the video to follow the narrative of the scene, so I started out filming in my room and then moved away from it, as the narrative and conversation moves from Ari’s room to bigger things.

I chose this assignment because I love reading and I love the thought of a film making a reading more powerful. Originally I wanted to film more of a ‘summer’ themed video, with shots of the pond and trees outside my apartment and things like that, but chapter seven of this book caught my attention and thus the video was filmed mostly indoors.

To create this film, I used iMovie on my phone. When you open up a new project in the app, you get a blank film reel to work on as well as some tips for using the app.

The first step to creating your film is to add a clip. To do this, you simply click the  icon, tap ‘All’, and then tap which clip you want to add onto the reel. After that, you can tap the  icon that appears, and the clip will be added onto your reel.


After I added on my first clip, I could then record my reading. You can do this right from the iMovie app. By tapping the  icon on the main reel screen, you are given the option to start a recording over your clips. You can retake the audio as many times as you need to (unfortunately, I needed to a lot).

Once I had my recording, I added in the rest of the clips and adjusted the length as needed to fit what I was saying. I also muted each clip by tapping the  icon and lowering the dial to zero. That way, my reading could be clearly heard.

The main bulk of the reading video finished, the only step left was to add title and ending credits. I debated a long time over adding in music too, but in the end decided I wanted people to be able to focus more on the words, since it was a quiet moment in the book as well. Rather than having a still photo for my title screen, I decided I wanted those to be part of the video as well. I went and got two new clips that I felt opened and closed out the video well. To add text to a clip, you tap where it is on the reel and then the  icon.

You’re given quite a few options for text in your video; it’s a good idea to sit down and consider what effect you want your video to have, and also how much text each title screen will need.

Text chosen and credits written, I decided that my video was done. I tapped ‘Done’, and then uploaded my video onto Youtube.

Guidelines for this assignment can be found here.

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