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  1. 1. Evaluation<br />1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?<br />Before planning our thriller opening, we did a lot of research into real thriller films to get inspiration, but mostly to look specifically at details of a thriller film, such as lighting, conventions, camera angles, and characters. The main narrative in our own opening is being followed. This is a typical thriller narrative, however from inspiration from films such as Donnie Darko and The Machinist, we challenged and developed it slightly to make a more interesting storyline, that what is following our character is not actually there, merely her conscience. A big influence of our thriller is from the intro of Brick, which although is not directly similar to our own film, it has some interesting qualities such as the phone call which adds a lot of mystery to the film, with unanswered questions that encourages the audience to want to watch the rest of the film. The location was also inspired by several films, as there is the feeling of isolation as she is walking towards the woods, which is iconic in No Country For Old Men, where the barren landscape is used to he films (and the villain’s) advantage as the victim character is helpless with no one around to help them. Vacancy also uses the idea of being lost in an unknown area with lack of civilisation to play with the victim characters’ sub conscience. The idea that woods are a scary setting is generic, as we usually connotate woods or forest areas to be scary and unknown. A woodland area is portrayed specifically terrifying in Book of Eli. The trees in that particular wood are very tall, creating a large area of shadow and darkness within the forest, and they almost create a feeling of entrapment as they can also represent bars. The overall silence of sound creates an eerie feel, which we adapted into our own thriller by having non-diegetic music playing as she is walking towards the woods. Our thriller opening combines several ideas from original films, creating our own adapted version. By looking at actual thrillers, we can see what is popular with the audience and what features make a good thriller film. Once we establish this, we can combine the most significant features into our own film. The soundtrack we used for our film was not specifically inspired by any films we looked at, however with the inspiration from films for our plot, we chose music that fits with the action on screen. We chose to use a lot of non-diegetic sound firstly because it was brought up in some of our audience feedback that several areas did not have music and sounded too quite, but also it gives the audience and impression of loneliness and isolation of the character, because there is no other diegetic background sounds heard. It also plays a huge role in creating a strong eerie and creepy atmosphere, building up tension. <br />Another thriller convention we developed that we incorporated into our thriller film was the feeling of paranoia which rather than relying on just the scary setting of the woods to add fear for the audience, the audience can see that the character is also scared. We got ideas for creating this feeling from Brick, as paranoia is portrayed very well as the character is blatantly terrified, right at the beginning when he is crouching next the dead body of a girl, and also when he received the phone call. <br />With camera angles, we mostly did long shots and medium long shots, with a few medium close ups. The camera shots also varied in angles to which it was filming the character walking, there are several from behind as she is walking away from the camera, some side shots so she walks past the camera, and a few shots from diagonally in front, so her sight direction is to the right of the camera. We used LS and MLS to really imbed the idea of isolation, and the further away the camera is the more of the surroundings we can see, which shows there is no-one else around. It also makes the character seem smaller in comparison to her surroundings, and therefore more vulnerable and weak. This is another way we challenged the thriller convention of solitude differently, using camera techniques, as well as location and sound. <br /> <br />2. How does your media product represent particular social groups?<br />The opening of our thriller consists of one character, a teenage female being portrayed as being the victim. The choice to portray the victim as a female was obvious because generally women are perceived to be more vulnerable. However, in many of the films we looked at, it is in fact the male character who is the victim, in Donnie Darko and the Machinist. We chose a female victim though because we thought it would appeal better to the target audience. It was important to portray this character as an ordinary teenage girl so that the audience could establish links between themselves and the character. We did this with her appearance; she is wearing jeans, hoodie and a fashion coat, typical of the trends of those ages. She has long hair and wears lots of jewellery. The fact that she barely talks during the opening (baring in mind that there is no one to talk to) yet the way she acts and walks, she seems like a shy, reserved character which influences her role as the victim and indirectly makes her already more vulnerable than for instance if she were taking the dog for a walk with a friend, if she were running around, jumping and looking overall more lively and relaxed. In the plan she is listening to music, although this feature is not noted in the actual opening. However this makes her more isolated from the rest of the world, she separates herself by almost putting herself on autopilot while she is walking so she can focus on her music. <br />We have represented her as the victim using several techniques to establish this. For example, she is alone, in isolated surroundings, and appearing to be a long way from home. This immediately makes her the victim as the audience can immediately identify that she would be helpless and weak should something happen to her, and we get the idea that something will with the non-diegetic sound. I think this lonliness and weakness plays on the audience’s fear, as we are all taught at a young age not to talk to strangers etc, basically the human fear of The Unknown. The audience identifies these points and can worry for the character. Despite this, we usually expect the countryside to be safer place than in comparision with a city where it is more likely that violence and crimes occur. However several films we used for inspiration also used isolation to victimise the character, such as No Country for Old Men. She seems quite on edge about mysterious noises and hints that she may not be alone, and her reaction to these clues makes her seem more vulnerable. <br />We could have, in fact, challenged the convention of the victim being female, or vulnerable, by using a male actor as in Donnie Darko or the Machinist, or portraying her to be more of a strong willed and confident female character, as in Gothika. This would have a very different effect on the film, with the character becoming percepted to be much less vulnerable and would be less susceptible to fear. If this was done right, it have an even better effect in that because we assume they are stronger and harder to scare. If what is following the character does this, we imagine it to be incredibly fearful because it has succeeded in making an overly stronger character to be weak, and therefore is a more dramatic change than from a character that is already perceived to be more fragile. We did not do this because it was easier to portray the character to be vulnerable, and walking towards danger, because of the time limit, as we would need more time to portray a stronger character, and then for him to become fearful as it would be harder to create the fear in this character. Because of the opening structure, we specifically needed the character to be victimised by her follower for the audience to be attracted to the film so there needed to be some strong action in the first part, rather than establish character details. <br />We challenged thriller conventions in terms of the representation of the villain or bad character as we never see who or what this character is in the opening of the film. As it would be revealed in the rest of the film that the characters’ pursuer is her conscience, we had to establish that it was at least un-human, even imaginary, by the characters’ cut disappearing at the end of the opening, indicating that it could have been a dream. Instead of creating an actual person as the one who is following the character, choosing it to be something else means a more interesting and compelling storyline, but it also conforms more to the genre of psychological thrillers, which we looked a lot at and got much of our inspiration. <br />3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?<br />To increase knowledge and establish interest in the film we would (as we have done) put the video on youtube to get audience feedback via comments and we are also able to see the amount of viewings the video gets. We would enhance the knowledge of the film being on youtube through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. This would be our first move if we were interested in producing our opening into an actual film, as it would give us, as the producers of the product, a good idea as to whether it would be successful as a film, if people are interested in it and any points we could change in our film to make it better. The disadvantage of creating awareness via social network sites is the slight limitation of audience types. Although I believe our film would appeal mostly to a teenage audience, in which case social networks are ideal for creating awareness, it limits the adult audience awareness, specifically adults who enjoy psychological thrillers. If this was the case, we could get round this issue by advertising on film websites of similar genre, other alternative book and film websites, with a link to our YouTube video.<br />If we were to develop our opening into a full film, than releasing it publically would be an option. Because of the psychological thriller genre being a small yet very successful genre, as with films such as Donnie Darko and Shutter Island, it would be possible to develop it into a feature film, with a company such as Working Title Films, who have made several alternative films, that have consequently become very successful. I think our thriller has several features that differentiate it from other films. Firstly, it is unlike average thriller conventions in that the character is being pursued by her conscience, and not an actual person. The storyline may be confusing, however, so we would need to establish that there is no real being following her later in the film. The character would suffer from severe mental trauma as she becomes more distressed as her guilt takes over her life and actions. I think this is an interesting point as the audience can see the effect it is having on the character and they start to wonder what happened to her to make her act this way. Our film also deviates from other typical thrillers because it features a teenage girl, rather than an adult, which may have an effect on the audience. However, as in films such as Donnie Darko and Brick, where they feature teenagers being the victim, both have very good ratings on IMDb, and Donnie Darko is considered a very important cult film, and ranks 9th on channel 4’s 50 films to see before you die. Another example of a teenage victim being portrayed in a film is Speak. This is not considered a mainstream popular film, and it was independently produced, yet it also has high ratings on IMDb. Therefore as our own film shares similarities with those I have just mentioned, I think it would be fairly successful as a feature film production. <br />Another alternative is to release it straight onto DVD, as it has several conventions that are typical of psychological thriller, but may not appeal to a cinema audience. Therefore releasing it to DVD means it could be directed to a more select audience because of the similar features it possesses to other successful psychological thrillers. <br />4. Who would be the audience for your media product?<br />One way of looking at the audience for our film is the character portrayed in it. The main character, as I have already discussed, is an ordinary teenage girl, a point that we have drawn attention to by the way she dresses and her reactions to what is around her. As a teenager, the character possesses a sense on naivety, because of her fearful attitude and ability to be scared of things that may not even bother an adult, branches snapping, the swing swaying when no-one is around and there is no wind etc. These characteristics make her a better victim because she is more susceptible to fear. Therefore the audience could be teenagers as they can relate to the character specifically better than if it were an adult. If we actually used an adult as the main character for the film, I think the she would slightly lose a sense of vulnerability and perception of the victim, as we perceive adults to be emotionally stronger. However, the storyline could interest an adult audience also, as it is slightly more complex, less mainstream as it would be classed as a psychological thriller, which is a much defined genre and so the audience range would be more limited to interest in the film, rather than entertainment which many people look for in a film. Also as I have mentioned, Speak, and more significantly, Donnie Darko, have become successful and admired films even though they star teenagers, and in the case of Donnie Darko, is also a psychological thriller that challenges conventions of that genre. This brings me to believe that the audience would be majorly adult, because of the refined genre and complex, alternative storyline.<br />We carried out a survey to see what features people like to see in a thriller film. We found that psychological thrillers came joint second in most popular sub genre which means that the film could have to potential to be fairly popular, just by genre, based on our results. We looked more deeply into what features attract people into watching a thriller film. The majority said the main actor/actress, so a famous name in the film, which would not be possible for our film, however the next largest proportions of our results were storyline, character dynamics and setting. This was good as these are all things we can work on in our own thriller, so we investigated further into what makes the storyline etc interesting or compelling to watch. In character dynamics, surprisingly, a victim came 4th in most popular characters, behind a hero, villain and comedy character (which is not necessarily a typical thriller character; however regarding the popularity of this character, it could be incorporated into a thriller). The storylines people most liked to see were murderers, being followed, and paranoia. Our thriller mostly relates to what we found to be most popular in our survey, which gives us the indication that it could be quite popular with audiences. However, we asked a majority of almost half the participants were aged 16-19, so we have to generalise the results mainly to that age group. <br />People who like our film would probably be interested in many of the films that we got inspiration from, and films of a similar genre. Donnie Darko, The Village, The Machinist, Shutter Island, Brick and Speak (although the latter is not classed as a psychological thriller, it would still interest our audience because of the psychological effect we see on the character and how she copes with life in her own way after being raped) would be enjoyed by our audience. I think they would also like The Butterfly Effect, as it is also a psychological thriller that challenges our ideas and beliefs in ways we have never imagined, and is an interesting psychological film anyway. <br />5. How did you attract/address your audience?<br />We aimed to create interest in the film right from the beginning, as well as setting the scene, establishing the character, promoting the feeling of isolation, to slowly build into the feeling of isolation. We did this mainly by use of sound and music. The non-diegetic music we chose is quite slow and mysterious, but seems to give the audience a sense of false hope, while at the same time things are seemingly not quite right. By having no other sound while the music is playing during this bit, it allows the audience to be completely immersed in the landscape, to be able to feel the loneliness and remoteness of the character. By using several LS camera angles, it creates a distance from the character and the audience, showing her personality as a loner, quite shy and reserved. This creates a strong character dynamic as she has a defined personality, as well as being tied with the sense of vulnerability as I have already discussed. All of these features allow the audience to really get a feel of the character and who she is and what may happen to her, therefore attracting their attention right from the start. <br />Once we establish the setting, and the character enters the woods, she starts to become more and more paranoid and fearful of her surroundings. We found that woods are ideal to set our thriller because they, as I have mentioned, connotate to be scary places, with lots of shadows and hiding places, are usually a large area of covered land, and the trees create an idea of being trapped. Once the character enters the woods, the audience are aware of all these features that they associate with woodland, and so they are instantly aware that this is where something bad could happen. This is where we start to introduce several clues of the character becoming more and more distressed, and that there is something else in the woods with her. This attracts the audience even more as it begins to add the element of fear, and so it makes them wonder what is going to happen, and subsequently keep watching the film. We also change the music for this part, introducing a much more tension building sound to really enhance the feeling that something is going to happen. With the climax just before the title is shown, where the character becomes very dizzy and overwhelmed, and the part after where she wakes up, it encourages the audience to keep watching the rest of the film because it includes some action and an element of mystery right at the very end, when the cut disappears and we start to think if what happened previously was a dream. <br />Form our audience feedback from the screening of our rough cut; we got some good information to help us improve it for the final edit. There were a few pointers about the choppy music, it was quite irregular where there were parts with music and some parts without, however as this was a rough cut, we had not had time to find the right music to fit for the bits that were silent. From our results, we found that most people thought our editing was good, but parts of it we were not happy about we could change in Final Cut to improve it. Another thing we were concerned about was whether people understood the storyline. This was worrying as it may not be clear from the opening why the cut disappears. This would definitely be something I would improve if I were to do it again, because I think the storyline for the whole film is good, and so I would make it more obvious what is happening in the opening few minutes. However, most people in our survey said they did understand it, so that was a relief, as it was too late to change it anyway! But mostly the audience feedback was positive and so this gives us good support in the idea that if we were to produce the whole film, it would hopefully be fairly successful.<br />6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?<br />My knowledge of camera techniques has slightly improved, I have learnt most about using Final Cut programme. After creating a rough edit on iMovie, as a group we made the decision to use Final cut for the last edit because of the broader range of features and effects that it holds. It took a while get used to, but it was definitely better than imovie. We made good use of certain features, such as being able to specifically edit transitions and effects, so that the strength of the effect is lessened or increased, the speed is changed possibly and the colouration tint is enhanced. There were also several audio transitions to choose from to smoothly fade the music in or out, increase or decrease the speed and even playing it backwards which we did for the music for the final scene. Another feature I especially liked was being able to alter the volume of the music at certain points in the soundtrack. This can in especially useful when we wanted to highlight a certain sound on the original film, so by decreasing the volume smoothly for the sound to be heard, and then increasing it gradually to build in the music again without it sounding cut up or choppy, and it sounds subtle, yet effective. Another thing I liked about Final Cut was the wider range of fonts and credit choices available, which again you could edit to suit your needs. For the opening credits, we chose to use similar ones as on iMovie because I thought they were simple yet effective. The text fades in and out on the screen, while slowly crawling across the screen. This feature wasn’t directly available on Final Cut, so I had to adapt an already existing test option. I changed it so it moved slower across the screen, and using the same technique of gradually increasing or decreasing the music at certain points, I made the text gradually appear then disappear while moving. <br />For the soundtrack, we used music from a copyright free website. We chose several tracks as possibilities, varying in the theme depending on the part of the opening it would be played in. For example, while the character is walking towards the woods at the beginning, there is slow, relaxed, simple music playing that is quite mellow yet creates a sense of eeriness. For the bit where she is entering the clearing, we found music that is slightly similar to the first track, yet is more eerie and creates a strong sense of climax. We made the decision for the final scene to change the first song in out opening so it plays backwards. After playing around with the sound features, we found that it sounded quite good backwards, and so we changed the playing speed to -100.<br />While filming out thriller, we experimented with different camera angles. We did several shots from behind the character as she is walking, and a mixture of long shots, mid shots and close ups. For the POV of the thing following her, we took the camera off the tripod to hold it manually to give the effect that it is someone or something watching her. We also experimented with effects for this part on Final Cut so it looked slightly different to the normal camera view, we used an Explosion effect, to make the shot pan out slightly from the centre, light sunrays, and we also increased the lightness. We had to add these effects so we could differentiate the camera view with the view of the follower. <br />7. Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?<br />I have definitely learnt a lot since we did our preliminary task: editing, camera angles and movement, directing the sequence; actors, props, filming and retakes, co-ordinating sequences and timings of filming. As the prelim task was the first time I had used the camera equipment, I learnt a lot from that anyway. It was a great opportunity to learn about the cameras, conducting a short film, and then editing it. Our knowledge of editing and directing has also increased greatly when we did our thriller opening, but using the cameras in the prelim task made it very easy to use them for our actual film, so that wasn’t an issue. The biggest thing I learnt was possibly timings, and the need to film a lot more sequences than we would actually use. When we planned our prelim task, we had a simple plan, however when planning our thriller opening, we did not have a good idea of the scenes in our plan compared to the time limit we had. We had a lot more scenes planned than the time limit allowed, which we soon realised vaguely during filming, but when we went back to edit, we had to cut many scenes & shots out completely as we did not have enough time for them. <br />As I have already described in the previous question, using Final Cut to edit our thriller into was challenging, but worth it. Again the prelim task was the first time I had used iMovie, but I found that very easy to use, yet it had everything we needed to edit a short, simple film. I would have happily used iMovie for our final edit for our thriller opening, but we decided to give Final Cut a try, because it we needed the extra features that it has, while iMovie was slightly too simplistic. Since we only used a few on iMovie’s features for our prelim, we had to learn a lot more as we went along editing our rough edit of out thriller. So things like transitions, adding music from outside iMovie, colour effects and other shot effects. However since we had a little knowledge of the program, we got on very well with it.<br />I found that directing and conducting the filming part was both easy and challenging. In our prelim task, we had a rough idea of what we were going to do, but we adapted it majorly during filming. We couldn’t really do this for our thriller opening, however, because we had certain time limits. This meant we had to plan properly everything we were going to do and film accordingly. We had to plan what props to bring in as we were filming out of school, and make sure we had all the equipment ready. We did, however, adapt some of our scenes to include some of the interesting features that the woods where we filmed had. This worked out quite well and added a slightly different setting to the original plan. <br />I think we worked quite well as a group in making decisions about the film and planning. Any troubles were discussed as a group so we could come to an equal decision and everyone had an input. I also learnt a lot about working with people I did not know so well at the start. However, we managed to agree on most things and successfully create a group product. As an individual I think I contributed equally to the group production. At the start of the planning stage, we all created an idea for our thriller and worked on building the idea equally. When it came to production, me and Holly took it in turns to use the camera while Daisy acted. However, it was with the editing that I was strongest at, especially on final cut. Although it took a while to get used to, I think I got the hang of it quite well and was happy to try out some of the new features to see what effect they had on the sequence. <br />The audience feedback we got when we presented our rough cuts was quite mixed, there were some comments on the music, but we had not sorted that by then anyway. There were also a few queries about the storyline; some people didn’t really understand it. Unfortunately we couldn’t really do anything to sort that out because it was too late to change the storyline or to re-film anything. <br />