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In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
The typical conventions of thriller films are…
Fast tempo of camera cuts.
Hidden plot elements (to be revealed later).
Red herrings, cliff-hangers, twists.
Building of suspense.
In creating our film, we used many of these techniques. Our camera cuts are very quick because they build suspense. Our story was also very ambitious to fit into a 2 minute opening so the cuts were quick to tell the entire story. We also used this technique to show the difference between the characters stories. We create the photographer as peaceful and intrinsic but the killer is unstable and dangerous, this adds a great deal of tension when their paths eventually collide.
In order to hide elements of the plot from our film, we followed the rules of Roland Barthes Hermeneutic code. The main part of the code we followed was the use of the narrative enigma. These manifest themselves within our film mainly by getting the audience to ask questions. Who has the murderer killed? Is it an isolated event or part of a spree? And perhaps most importantly, will the photographer be next?
The plot of the film revolves around a murder without actually showing said murder. This trait is part of what distinguishes a thriller from a horror film. We know that the killer has committed murder because he is burying a body in the woods, however the details of the murder (weapon, location, method) remain undisclosed. In a horror film things would be much different, with the main focus itself being on the act of murder and the patterns between them.
We build suspense in the film by showing the killer narrowing in on the photographer throughout the 2 sections of the chase. In the foot chase, the killer edges closer and closer before eventually attempting to dive on the photographer. Tension peaks at this moment but when the killer fails it declines again, gradually building throughout the car chase.
How does your media product represent particular social groups?
In creating our film, we decided we had no need for dialougue as a killer who has just been discovered by a photographer is unlikely to talk things through with the photographer! With this in mind, we decided to construct our characters through mise en scene.
Our photographer is constructed as a general ‘everyman’. We thought this would make him more of an appealing character to a wide audience because he can be more easily identified with. Making him an ‘everyman’ was mainly done through costume. He has generic clothing and no distinct features. Because our actor for this part was 18 and not in his mid 30’s like we would have preferred, costume construction had to make him look older too. We gave him a waxed leather jacket, light jeans and hiking boots. These are all sensible choices of clothing that are more likely for an older character as opposed to the fashion conscious choices of an 18 year old.
To construct our killer, we analysed the traditional costumes and traits of other famous screen killers. Research told us that killers generally wear one coloured outfits to blend into their surroundings. Killings normally occur at night so this means that these colours are often dark. The outfit’s normally consist of boiler suits, trench coats and masks. With this in mind, we chose a navy blue boiler suit for our killer. In the end we decided against a mask to accompany because using one would reduce the room for facial expressions to portray emotions in our mute characters. Masks are also more of a characteristic of the Horror genre and in creating our film as a thriller we wanted to distance ourselves from this.
We also used character construction in our characters choice of cars. The photographer has a new car which is stylish, safe and modern. This reflects his higher quality of life and why he hasn’t resorted to a life of crime. The killer on the other hand, has a 1989 Ford Escort which is unclean and unsafe. This could be seen as a reflection of the killer’s low quality of life.
What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?
Having seen just how easy it is to make a reasonably good looking film, I believe that if a studio were to recreate our film, it would be a very low budget one. We have proven that ambitious projects like ours can be completed on a small budget without sacrificing quality. For these reasons I think a small, independent production company would be most likely to make a film like ours.
That being said, the basic narrative thread is open for elaboration and so a big budget studio could pick it up and revamp it. The obvious way that an injection of cash could make our film look better is in the car chase. Hugely choreographed chase scenes in cities with traffic, cost millions of Pounds to create but can look very slick if done right. A big budget studio could elaborate on the car chase of our film, turning it into the type of adrenaline pumping roller coaster that gets advertised in Hollywood action films.
Depending on whether the production company is large or small would also affect how the film is distributed. A large company would use their own distribution company and create a mass blanket campaign covering as many people as possible. This would mean advertising on everything available (busses, newspapers, websites, billboards, TV, radio etc) to draw in as much attention as possible. The best example of this technique is that of Sony when promoting Quantum Of Solace. They knew their film had a large target audience and therefore targeted areas which would give them maximum exposure. They advertised during prime time TV slots, published adverts in national newspapers and produced tie ins with Coca Cola (the largest soft drink in the world). If Sony were to hire Pearl and Dean to promote their film they would probably take on a combination of the packages which are offered, targeting almost every demographic of cinema goer.
A small company on the other hand would create a pinpointed campaign which would only be aimed at the target audience of the film. This would mean advertising in specific newspapers, in specific towns, in specific time slots and on specific products. The closest example to this we have is Cipher films, the small UK production company behind Adulthood and Kidulthood. In promoting their films they find the audience (young inner city youths) and identify the best way to grab their attention. If Cipher were to hire Pearl and Dean to promote their film they would probably take on their G.A.P. Youth Package aimed at 15-24 year olds, advertising in films such as Marley and Me and Knowing.
Who would be the audience for your media product?
During the pre-production stage we completed some market research to see what kinds of films our peers at school and those interested in our project were interested in. This involved handing out questionnaires and also holding a digital poll on my blog. This was very rewarding and showed us that people found Action to be the most appealing genre. With this in mind we looked at some examples of Action movies and found that recreating one would be rather difficult. Having come to this conclusion, we decided on a compromise between the fan favourite Action, and the easy to shoot Thriller genres. This decision really worked out because the car chase in our film is earning us a lot of praise from viewers, however the build up is what makes it plausible and logical. In other words, without the thriller part of our film, the best part wouldn’t be very good!
According to Pearl and Dean, the 15-24 audience of cinema goers constitutes 46% of all cinema goers so with the film we have created, we could target almost half of all cinema goers. Our main audience is also Male which constitutes 52% of cinema goers but we also have an appeal to women, mainly because of the way our killing isn’t shown in a ‘Gorno’ style.
The typical target audience profile we determined having done all the research was…
Aspirers and Explorers.
Any social class.
After a few trial screenings the feedback we received from people fitting this description was very good and we also received some good feedback from some people outside of the target profile. These reviews are mainly from those who know us and have shown an interest in the film, the real reviews would come from people who are totally impartial and had no links to us whatsoever.
In the pre-production stage, we attracted our target audience by researching the elements they like within a film and then creating our story around that. As previously stated, we decided to include the car chase because of how popular we found the Action genre to be during the market research. In casting our film we didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. After deciding to do the car chase, we needed two drivers to take part, so we were only left with Me and Jack. This didn’t turn out to be a bad decision because of the generic features we had, making us blank canvasses for character construction.
During production we heeded the advice of our market research and made the car chase as action packed as possible. Rather than simply showing the killer attempting to catch up with the photographer, he is trying to run him off the road. The cars swerve and almost get side by side on corners as the killer madly chases the photographer. We feel this adds a greater sense of danger to the story of the photographer and therefore makes things more entertaining for the audience.
Though our distribution stage isn’t fully in process yet, we have outlined our plans and begun to advertise the film. We created Podcasts, a YouTube Channel, a Facebook Group, a PhotoBucket Page and a Slide Share Account to exhibit all our work and to advertise the film. These sites are commonly visited by the target audience for our film and we received a positive response on most of them. The Facebook group has members and our preliminary task has views on YouTube
Exhibiting our film would be difficult without these websites as they allow us to upload our footage for free and also allow us to invite people to watch them all with a click of a mouse. Since creating the group, many people have asked me about when they can watch the film, lots of them being people I hadn’t previously spoken to about the film.
What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?
In this project we have learnt a lot about technologies. I personally had never created a film before so everything we used was new to me. Perhaps the biggest revelation, was how simple it is to make High Definition movies. The film we created is shot in HD and the camera we used only costs around £500. This £500 gets a camera with HD recording, slow motion function and a great zoom, all of which were extremely useful in our car chase. Lower quality cameras would struggle to capture the fast moving cars but our footage turned out very well with little blur and a smooth frame rate. We also added a wide angle lens and directional microphone to the camera to capture shots from a distance and to improve our sound quality.
The other thing I’ve learnt about film technology is the importance of a good tripod. We used a great tripod which allowed us to achieve some very difficult shots. For example we have a shot where the camera scrolls lower as our photographer runs down a hill which looks very effective.
We also used Apple Macintosh’s to great effect when editing our film. They have an unprecedented ability to manage media files and considering we made Podcasts, video diaries and photo slideshows, this was needed. The ease of use of the programme iMovie meant we could create quick drafts of the film to look at our progress during filming. When we finally came to create the final cut, we had initially intended to use Final Cut Express, a more professional piece of software capable of more than iMovie. However when we attempted to do so it was very complicated and some of the effects we had created on iMovie were nearly impossible to create on Final Cut. After discovering this we decided to finish the film in iMovie and created titles on their too. The finished article turned out better than some of our classmates who had used Final Cut and some of these classmates had stated they found Final Cut difficult to get to grips with.
Our absolute star of shooting though, was our Gorilla Pod. It is a tripod with flexible legs that can be adapted to grip to almost anything. During filming the Gorilla Pod was hugely important and allowed us to create some really great shots which would have been unsteady without it. It is also very small so using it inside our cars and for low angle shots made it perfect.
Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?
Having recently watched our preliminary task and our final piece back to back, it was almost comical to see the poor quality of it! We have shaky shots, poor quality footage and when I think back to the process of filming, we were far less organised.
We learnt a lot of lessons from the preliminary task and our progress from that to our final product is very pleasing. In our preliminary task we spent a lot of valuable shooting time searching for a location. We were determined not to do this again in our actual shoot so we researched locations before we had even storyboarded. This turned out to be very rewarding because it meant we were very organised and new exactly where we needed to be for each shot.
In the preliminary task we used shot reverse shot to document a conversation but no other really complicated shots. Because we have no conversations in our final piece, the shot composition and variety is much more complex, featuring depth of field, slow motion and crane shots. This makes the film look more professional overall and a far more entertaining piece to watch.
The other thing we learnt between the 2 projects is the importance of the soundtrack in accompanying the images on the screen. In our preliminary task we used a famous song with no relevance to the plot. It played throughout the entire piece and was quietened during the conversations so it didn’t have relevance to the plot. In the final piece however, we created our own score which was designed to accompany the plot. It begins quiet and subdued when the killer believes he is alone but becomes fast during the chase, signifying his fear of being caught. It looks very effective with the film and just helps to make the film look more professional.