Mark Kamara's AS Media Coursework - Evaluation Question 1

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My evaluation answer for question one. Not for reproduction, as this content is only based on my film opening, meaning it would make no sense if you just copy and paste it. That being said for your …

My evaluation answer for question one. Not for reproduction, as this content is only based on my film opening, meaning it would make no sense if you just copy and paste it. That being said for your own sake...

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  • 1. ‘Ethan Steal’ Film Opening – 9 Key Moments
  • 2. Mise en Scéne
  • 3. Setting The locations used for the ‘Ethan Steal’ film opening, were both alleyways, as shown in the images below. Alleyways are a common location in which kidnappings occur, especially in films associated with the thriller genre. This is probably because alleyways constrain the victim being kidnaped, to just two directions, making them less likely to be discovered by bystanders, when in need of help. Alleyways are tremendously associated with crime in action films, and even in reality, as seen from the graffiti and dark atmosphere shown in the locations me and my group used, below. Additionally, we knew that we would be having a character being kidnapped, so we thought that we could introduce a greater dimension of realism by setting the kidnapping to take place in a dark alleyway, because if a real life kidnapping was to occur, there is a higher chance of it happening in places like these. Alongside the alleyway being an ideal location to match our film opening’s plot, I was inspired to choose it with my team, due to the fact that parts of major movies were filmed in locations in the same area. ‘Fast & Furious 6’4.1, released in 2013, had some parts filmed in this location, as well as ‘The Secret Service’4.2 planned for release in 2015. This meant that the area was incredibly appealing to large production companies, most probably for the same reasons described above. The chosen locations for our ‘Ethan Steal’ film opening apply more to action thrillers. However, the subgenre we are recreating is espionage, not thriller. This means our chosen locations subvert the typical new-age city look that would be used in most opening sequences for action espionage films, meaning that our subgenre had to be made clearer through our plot, and other technical aspects, such as music and editing.
  • 4. The use of a firearm, links the sequence with a lot of action films, as shootouts or gun fights are a common convention used in the action genre. In modern day action films, it is almost impossible to image no guns being used throughout the duration of the film. The shot being fired for the production company logo, almost highlights that guns will be used throughout the actual film, and that the film opening should consist of at least one fast-paced action sequence, in which it does. Props Mobile phones were also a key prop in allowing the film opening to flow through nicely, from the first scene to the second. The mobile phone is actually the main reason Ethan was made aware that he had to show up to the meet, in order to trick the Turkish thugs, and save Melina. Without this, Ethan would have not even been aware that Melina was taken, hence the opening would have stalled. Mobile phones are a key prop used in most successful action films, especially in modern day, as it allows the story to unfold throughout an entire urban area, such as a city, instead of a fixed location. This is because the protagonist will be able to quickly access information, and respond to it efficiently, rather than waiting to meet people face to face. Effectively, mobile phones can be used to escalate the pace of any story being told within the action genre. In the second scene of the film opening, Ethan is shown holding a duffel bag, which appears to be filled with money, as requested by Egmen, (one of the Turkish thugs in the opening). However, what the thugs are oblivious to is the fact that the duffel bag has no money in it whatsoever. Instead, Ethan throws it, therefore distracting Egmen, allowing him to save Melina. Duffel bags are notoriously famous for being used in drug cartels, or money exchanges in gritty action sequences. But, this subverts the action espionage genre, as spies or secret agents commonly use a silver lined briefcase, not a cheap looking duffel bag in films. On the other hand, it allows the audience to question who Ethan Steel really is.
  • 5. Lighting The lighting for our film opening, ‘Ethan Steal’ could not be controlled, as we didn’t have access to mains sockets, meaning we couldn’t use a lighting kit. Instead, we had to rely on daylight, for the first scene, as well as the street lamps placed along the alleyway, for both scenes. This meant that we couldn't really utilise lighting for effect, instead we had to rely on the fact that it was a stormy day, and so it would become dark quite quickly. It was fortunate that some of scene one was filmed before the street lights turned on, as the shade in the photos below have a gritty look, which may suggest isolation. Whereas, later on in scene two, underneath the train bridge, the orange street lights shone a warm feel into the scene, suggesting that a positive outcome will occur in the story of the film opening. A combination of high and low key lightning was present in the opening, but it depended on location and the time of the shot being filmed, instead of our discretion on the lighting. Colour The colours in the ‘Ethan Steal’ film opening, are very similar to the lighting, meaning we didn’t have absolute control over it. However, we were able to control certain aspects through exposure and white balance. At the start of both scenes, the exposure was set and locked to a specific value, creating an image, similar to what the eye would see. This meant that during the scene if the lighting was to change, the brightness of the shot will remain the same, making it less obvious to the audience that the lighting has changed in the same scene. Likewise the exposure, the white balance was also set and kept the same throughout the filming of the film opening. The white balance was set to a high colour temperature, between 6500 – 8000 (cloudy/shade setting). This was because at the time of filming, the sky was very cloudy, and we as a group voted in having a warm feel to the shots, especially for the second scene. Ultimately, the colour flowed with the mood of the film opening, by looking very gritty at first, referencing isolation, and then becoming warm for scene two, suggesting a positive outcome, as previously stated. Figure 4.3
  • 6. Cinematography The cinematography for the production of ‘Ethan Steal’ the film opening was divided equally amongst my group. This meant that each person had to direct 8-9 shots, including what occurs in those shots, more importantly, the shot type. This allowed us all to experience choosing our own type of shots for effect, and how it all can come together to create one final piece. I directed the first nine shots, in which I will go into detail about each shot type in the next few slides.
  • 7. Shot Types Used This is a long shot, or establishing shot, at eye line level. The purpose of this shot was to set the scene, and begin to create a feel of isolation, as no one is around. The shot slowly pans from right to left, while the focus adjusts from the closed shutter with graffiti on it, to the empty alleyway. This shot is quite different to establishing shots that are generally used in action espionage films, where there is usually a fly by over huge cities, bringing the audience in from the skies. However, ‘Ethan Steal’ challenges this as the establishing shot is very localised to an alleyway, instead of an entire city. This is a birds eye view shot, which introduces Melina to the opening sequence. In this shot Melina enters from the right side of the screen, walks across in frame, and then exits to the left. This shot is quite effective as it doesn’t yet show Melina’s face, instead it allows the audience to make assumptions about who is walking across the shot, before she is properly introduced in the next shot, which is a close up. This challenges shots used in action films, as it is quite rare or even unheard-of for a character to be presented, without being made fully clear to the audience. This is a close up of Melina’s face, following from the previous shot, which was the birds eye view. Close-ups are a common shot to reveal the emotions of a character, and will be used a lot in any film, including those in the genre of action and espionage. If the camera was slightly away from Melina, this would be a Mid-shot, as her entire head, and some of her torso would be revealed to the audience.
  • 8. Shot Types Used This shot starts off as an extra long shot of Melina, however the camera then dollies back revealing the two Turkish thugs, in the form of a mid shot. This was an effective shot used in order for the audience to begin to question if Melina is walking in this alleyway alone, and if she is even aware of the two thugs standing in her path. The fact that this shot unveils a danger is quite common in some action films, as the protagonist may be made aware of a danger at the same time as the audience. However, in this film opening the audience are made aware of the danger, before Melina is. After Melina is encountered by the thugs, this shot is shown, which is a low angled, long shot. This shot is effective for highlighting isolation in the alleyway, as the camera is so low, with a handheld motion, that it resembles litter in the alleyway, highlighting Melina’s innocence in the attack, and that no one is around to help her. This shot is a development of traditional low angle shots, which are commonly utilised to make a selected character or characters more powerful, as all the characters introduced so far are all in frame, suggesting an equality in power. After one of the thugs snatches Melina’s phone from her, this shot is used to show the thug raise it up to his head. This shot is an extreme close-up, as it focuses on a single feature, or in this case a single device, which is the phone. This is again a common shot which would be used in action and espionage films, because films in these genres usually tend to focus on technology, and gadgets, and the use of an extra close-up will allow the audience to feel as if they are themselves holding or operating that device, dragging them into the dimension of the film.
  • 9. Shot Types Used This is the first over-the-shoulder shot for a shot-reverse-shot. These shots are common in almost any film, when characters are having a conversation, or exchanging words to one another. This shot is key for allowing the audience to experience the situation from both character’s point of views, instead of being forced to stick with one side, almost forcing a protagonist and an antagonist. Whereas, the use of a shot-reverse-shot allows the audience to choose what side they are on. However, due to the introduction of Melina, the audience are more likely to have a stronger bond with her. This is the corresponding over-the- shoulder, reverse shot, which shows Egmen, one the Turkish thugs, exchanging a few words with the frightful Melina. Again these shots are very common, and would be very hard not to spot in a film. Later on in the sequence, the thugs take Melina to the rendezvous point, under a train bridge, where Ethan approaches them, for the exchange. This shot is a mid shot of Melina and the two Turkish Thugs, as well as a long shot of Ethan. This two shot is quite effective for building tension, as the thugs and Melina herself, have no clue as to what Ethan is about to do. This shot also suggests that Ethan is quite mysterious, as he has not yet been introduced, instead the audience also have to wait to identify him, as his confident approach to the thugs develops, as he emerges from the distance.
  • 10. Shot Types Used This is a Mid-Shot which properly introduces Ethan’s appearance to the audience. Mid-shots are incredibly common, as they not only show a characters emotion, they also highlight their actions, and in this shot Ethan appears to be quite timid as both of his arms are beside him, rather than being positioned as if he is ready for combat. Just after Ethan throws the duffel bag, this shot is presented. This is a low angle shot, which tilts to follow the fact paced motion of the bag. This shot is quite effective and unusual in a sense, as its main focus is on the bag, but its not zoomed in, blurring out the background, instead it consists of a deep focus, which keeps everything in focus, which increases the rhythm of the sequence, as the shots after this occur in rapid succession, one after another. This type of shot is not very common in action films, as the object would usually be focused on, distorting is surroundings. After Ethan reaches Melina, an overhead high angle shot is used to show her run away, and Ethan begin to fight with Harí, (the Turkish thug in the screenshot above). This shot is vital for showing both of those events taking place simultaneously. This shot develops traditional birds eye view shots, as is more effective at this angle, enabling the audience to still able to see the actions the characters are doing, whereas if the shot was at birds eye view, these actions would be impaired.
  • 11. Shot Types Used This is another extreme close-up of a single prop, however like most extreme close-ups, the shot doesn’t only focus on one feature, as it still shows Harí’s hand, as he pulls the trigger. This shot is quite effective, and is similar to the shot showing the phone, which was previously descried in this presentation. This would be a common shot seen in an action espionage film, as in hostage or tense situations, there would usually be a shot like this, to show the gun being pointed at someone, or likewise this instance, being fired. This is a two-shot which consists of a mid-shot of the two Turkish thugs, who are both grounded, as well as a long shot, showing Ethan and Melina running away. This shot is incredibly effective, as it allows the audience to comprehend the current situation, and understand what all of the characters introduced, are doing in that point in time. This shot may be used in action and espionage films, to show a resolution between the antagonists and the protagonists, almost making out as if the antagonists have given up, and have resulted to failure. This shot is a long shot, almost an extreme long shot, as it shows both of the Turkish thugs at a distance, unable to go after Ethan and Melina. This shot is kept on screen for quite a long period of time, slowing the pace of the sequence back down. This is quite an unusual shot to keep for a prolonged amount of time, and may be rare in action espionage films. This shot was inspired from the TV series ‘Breaking Bad’, as at times, certain characters are frequently shown in frame, similarly to the shot above, while their dialogue is clear, as if you are standing right in front of them. This shot was quite unique, but also very effective.
  • 12. Editing Editing for most of the shots were straight cuts, however there were are few shots that were edited differently, and for effect. These edits are described on the next two slides.
  • 13. Slow Motion During the second scene, when Ethan fights, Harí (one of the two Turkish thugs), there is a whole section which is in slow motion. The slow motion starts when Ethan budges Harí, proceeds though the gunshot, and then resumes to normal speed just before Ethan pushes Harí towards the ground. This is a common editing techniques used a lot in action films, especially when there are epic events which are unfolding one after another. Fades Fade dissolves were also used as a transition at times in the film opening. This would be fades-in and fades-out, to close a scene, or introduce it to the audience, quite smoothly. Fades are quite effective as the draw attention to the scene at a slow and quite calm pace. In contrast, if the scene just had a straight cut in, the film may seem slightly rushed, unless done properly and for effect. For our film opening, our title appeared as the transition between scene one and scene two, instead of appearing at the end of the entire sequence. This is because it was quite dynamic to introduce Ethan through such a fashion where the audience were already aware of his dominance, without even being physically introduced to him. Title midway sequence
  • 14. Sounds for effect In order to make our film opening more realistic, we recorded Foley sound effects and placed them into the sequence. For example, when Hari touched the ‘End’ button on the iPhone, we recorded the iPhone lock sound, and overlaid it into the sequence. We repeated this technique of Foley recording for footsteps, shoves, taps, and fighting. This, as well as dubbing all of the dialogue in, allowed me to remove the originally recorded audio, and only use the sounds that we recreated, creating a higher audio quality, as well as allowing us to control more variables, for effect. Asynchronous sound The Foley sound recording also allowed me to edit in asynchronous sound. For example, after the main title appears, and the visuals fade out to black, footsteps can be heard, which continue into the shot on the right, and then becomes synchronous sound, when Ethan is presented in shot. This created an effect of Ethan emerging into the scene, instead of him just appearing from nowhere. This effect could not have been achieved, if we did not re-record sounds through Foley. The fact that I removed all of the original audio, allowed me to have a constant scenery noise playing throughout the scene. To achieve this, I re-visited the filming locations and recorded audio of the area for a couple of minutes. This made sure that the hiss noise in the background of the sequence will not jump or cut dramatically, as it would if we kept the original audio. This also allowed us to control the film world, through non-diegetic sound. For example, for the second scene, I was able to add the sound of a train passing overhead, which was quite effective for building tension between the characters. Scenery Audio
  • 15. Music The score for our film opening was composed by Trenay Watkins, who is a part of the group I am working in, under Hollowpoint Productions. Trenay had an edited draft version of the film opening to work with, and as a result was able to effective judge on the most appropriate type of music that would fit with the sequence, for the different scenes, as well as developments in the plot. To be able to do this, Trenay used ‘Garage Band’. At the start of the first scene, as Melina is walking, Trenay added a calm and airy piano melody. This builds tension towards the audience, as although Melina seems alright, the score, together with the location coincide to create a doubtful and mysterious feel. As Melina encounters the thugs, the piano melody fades out into the background noise. This suggests that something major is about to occur, as the audience can now fully focus on the visuals on screen. This techniques of silencing out music doesn’t usually occur in action films, instead it is a common trait that would be seen in a sequence within the horror genre.
  • 16. Music Later on, a dynamic rhythmic rumble emerges as Egmen speaks to Ethan through the phone, telling him where and when to meet to exchange Melina, in return of a cash ransom. This choice of music is quite effective as it foreshadows the tension between Egmen and Ethan, and that something major will occur. After that, the title ‘Ethan Steal’ then appears, with a dramatic orchestral sound, which then crumples away with the sound of a reverse symbol. This is quite dynamic as it works well to highlight the title, suggesting Ethan’s power or importance, before he is even properly introduced to the audience. The reverse symbol works well with the title crumbling, as it creates a sharp exit for the title, but also may suggest that Ethan has too much power, resulting him to become unstable, therefore highlighting a weakness, before the main plot has even unfolded. Lastly, during Ethan’s encounter with the thugs to save Melina, a dramatic and intense action type score is playing. This strengthens the action that is happening on screen, corresponding with the fast paced rhythm of the shots. This is very effective as it conforms with the score that would be used in a similar sequence, in an actual action film. Additionally, this is a very pleasant way to end the sequence, highlighting the genre, while supporting the shots on screen.
  • 17. Narrative Theories Applied Vladimir Propp's Theory suggested that it was possible to classify characters as well as their actions into clear defined roles and fnctions.4.4 From the opening sequence of ‘Ethan Steal’ two of the characters, Ethan and Melina can be said to fit into a character role, devised by Propp. Ethan can be classified as ‘The Hero’, since he had sought to save Melina from the thugs. This then places Melina into the category of ‘The Princess’, as she can be said to be the reward for Ethan, the hero. Tzvetan Todrov suggested that most narratives start with a state of equilibrium, in which the protagonists are happy, however this then becomes disrupted, forcing the hero to having to fight to return to a state of equilbrium.4.4 This can be applied to ‘Ethan Steal’, as Melina is at a happy state at the beginning of the sequence, she then gets kidnapped, and Ethan has to fight to save her, and after she is safe, a new state of equilibrium is achieved. Although this theory is usually applied to the full film, there will be many small instances throughout the actual film, where a similar process of change in state will occur, gripping the audience as mush as possible during the full movie. Roland Barthes suggested that narrative works with five different codes, which trigger the audience to make sense of the events.4.4 Using this theory, ‘Ethan Steal’ would fit into the Action code, where the resolution is produced through action, such as a shootout, which is exactly what occurred in the ‘Ethan Steal’ film opening.
  • 18. Supporting Sequences During the research and planning stage to achieve the final outcome for the ‘Ethan Steal’ film opening, I researched and looked into the ‘Fast & Furious’ five film opening. Although ‘Ethan Steal’ falls into the genre of Action espionage, and ‘Fast & Furious’ is more of a general action film, there are still aspects that are similar, which we used for ‘Ethan Steal’ For example, during the clip, (link can be found in the reference page, as Figure 4.5), when the cars emerge from nowhere, an intense and dynamic score is played. We repeated this attribute in ‘Ethan Steal’, as for the majority of the second scene we have a dynamic score playing. Another film opening sequence that I looked at was the train fight scene from ‘Skyfall’ for (link can be found in the reference page, as Figure 4.6). This sequence was full of action, but also espionage, which was the subgenre created in ‘Ethan Steal’. Similarly, to the ‘Fast & Furious’ five scene, there were key aspects that me and my group were able to reproduce in our film opening. Figure 4.5 Figure 4.6
  • 19. Product Quality Through the process of putting ‘Ethan Steal’ the film opening together, me and my production group, Hollowpoint Productions, managed to develop or film to a high standard, that its quality, both visually and through audio are quite comparable to that of an actual film. During the process of editing, I tried to ensure that the sequence was edited as accurately as possible, so that it can look lifelike. For example, when Melina walks in frame from the right side of the screen, her footsteps sound from the right speaker. As she moves to the centre of the screen, the audio sounds from both speakers, and when she exits to the left side of the frame, the sound of her footsteps pan to the left speaker. This use of surround sound is what makes the opening that much more realistic, and will make the audience feel as if they are in the film world, which is truly the greatest accomplishment any filmmaker would adore to achieve. Furthermore, the use of CGI or visual effects used for the gun firing, and the blood splatter come together to make the film opening even more realistic.