The cigarette is so much more expressive than the character himself , in this short, that I've decided it will be the motivator that carries us through the course of the piece. In fact, I am going to go so far as to have the cigarette be the character's proxy. Since one of my self-imposed constraints is to have impassive acting--no facial expression, no vocal inflection--this will be a great micro-metaphor for our changing perception of the character's states. I want to note that here I was tempted to say that it would make a great metaphor for the character's changing states, but that's not really true. As I have it, the character's states do not change, only our perception of them as more information is revealed over the course of the short.
One pragmatic issue that occurred to me is whether or not I'll be able to fulfill the 7-minute runtime requirement. This piece will function best as pretty tightly structured, which is not to say that it ought to be fast. Only that there is a certainly methodical structure to the thing, perhaps in the way a Hitchcock film is tightly structured, not the free-form structure of other films.
On the other hand, an interesting way of communicating structure might be to use a more free-form structure during the establishing moments at the beginning of the piece and the build-up to the "fulcrum moment"--the reveal--and to have the following, closing shots be structured tightly a la a Hitchcockian structure.
There are several issues raised by this: will there be enough "meat" following the reveal to allow for a noticeable/effective structural change? Really, now that I think about it, I think the structure ought to air-tight throughout, but perhaps to appear to be loosely structured at first and then to suddenly gain clarity and drive at that moment, which in turn reveals that the previous perception of a loose structure really did have a drive.
I think the key to this is, simply, to invest every shot with meaning. To ensure that everything, from the montage of the shots, through the shots, to the mise-en-scene within the shots, that everything is communicating. Which, come to think of it, is the what I was assigned to do in the first place. So really, I've run in a circle, only during my lap about the circuits of my ideation, I've gathered along the way the things I will be communicating, arriving back at the point of communication with what I need to communicate...if that makes any sense.
Back to the initial topic, the cigarette can not only function as proxy and metaphor, but as what I like to call "The-Kid-the-Pool" in Wes Anderson's "Rushmore". His character is not necessarily significant, but editorially it carries us through the scene, giving an extra-continuity to the whole piece.
Now that I've mentioned it, I think I'll go rent that tomorrow.
Listening to: The Departed soundtrack
Just watched: The Departed--which despite your initial impression, was not a movie I was crazy about when I first saw it. In fact, I was a little disappointed. But now that I've seen it three times--a testament to its watchability--I realize that it's not "A Martin Scorsese Picture" so much as it's a movie "Directed by Martin Scorsese". In short, I was expecting Taxi Driver when I should have just been expecting The Departed. It's not like any of his other films in that it's not trying to be profound, or really innovative even. Instead it's just really goddamn entertaining. Not great, not unique even. But a total blast, without a doubt.