1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge conventions and forms of real media products? There are a few mains thing I think are most important concerning this question andthat is our setting, characters, props/costumes and structure. These are the things I thinkmost relate to conforming to or challenging the conventions of real thriller films. The entirety of our thriller opening was situated in a wood, and a wood or forest is anextremely conventional location for a thriller film. A wood creates an elusive setting inwhich the character(s) seem isolated and lost, as if nobody can reach them and they can’tget away from where they are. There are many examples of thrillers in which a mainlocation is that of a forest, some being Dog Soldiers, The Blair Witch Project and Evil Dead. Awood was an ideal location for our thriller as we wanted our characters to seem verysecluded from civilisation and this wood brought about this effect. In terms of iconography,the trunks of the trees appear similar to that of prison bars when light is shining frombehind them – and this gives a very enclosed feeling and a sense of entrapment. Thereforethe character in our thriller seems like they can’t get out and that they have to deal withwhatever problems they may face on their own. This is a very similar sort of situation as tothose of The Blair Witch Project and Dog Soldiers; in The Blair Witch Project a group ofyoung people have to face what they believe to be some kind of attack by a witch in a forestand in Dog Soldiers a group of military men on a training mission have to fend offwerewolves. The setting of a forest, especially since we filmed in autumn time, also addedto creepiness of the atmosphere. In autumn leaves were orange/ brown and were falling offthe trees; this symbolises time passing as well as perhaps death which can be seen as anegative thing. As our thriller consists of the current time as well as flashbacks, this symbolis quite appropriate. Death is also a conventional theme to be portrayed in thrillers ingeneral, in our representation of it using leaves it creates a kind of foreshadowing effectbefore we even seen any violence in the film. Linking to The Blair Witch Project, we also used a POV camera shot – a part where aremain character (Rhys) is looking around frantically as he thinks there is somebody else withhim. Through his eyes we see the figure of the Lady in the Gas Mask appear in multipleplaces – we managed to achieve a very nice effect! I’m not only pleased with this because ofhow well it worked but also because a POV camera shot breaks down the distance betweenthe screen and the audience- it makes the audience feel like they are a part of the film. Inaddition to this, our thriller opening sequence contains very frantic scenes of violence andconfusion. This primary thrilling scene draws the viewer in straight away, and also engagesthem as it causes them to raise questions about what is going on in the film and why thingsare happening. Therefore they are inclined to watch the rest of the film to understand themeaning of it all. This kind of structuring is also common in thriller products, such as in thefilm Body of Lies - the opening scene is that of a police SWAT team breaking into anapartment with terrorists within, an explosion follows. This is a very effective form of thrillerproducts and thus we are glad we conformed to it. The characters in our thriller also conform to those of conventional products; onecharacter is ordinary looking and relatable while one is devious, mysterious and seeminglyintelligent. Rhys is a character that dresses in usual clothes and just looks ordinary, andtherefore the audience can relate to him. The fact that a very ordinary looking person is in
this film realises the situation – it makes it seem like it could actually happen. Theconvention of extraordinary things happening to ordinary people is rather common inthrillers, an example I thought of was 28 Day Later. In this film Cillian Murphy play a manwho wakes up to a deserted hospital and city (because most people are now zombies), thatcharacter himself looks ordinary – a usual build, a usual haircut a usual face – but he findshimself in a very unusual situation. There is also the case of our other character, the ladywearing the gas mask. She is the antagonist in our thriller, and as in a lot of thriller she is avillain that appears human. However she is actually a hallucination experienced by Rhys, andbecause she differs between being in reality and in his mind she has a sense of mystery anddanger about her. Most villains in thrillers do tend to be some kind of extraordinary human(whether in brain or brawn), or some form of monster. She also wears an army-relatedcostume that contains military boots, coat and of course a gas mask. Connotations of themilitary tend to be strength, organisation and intelligence all of which are also relatable toan antagonist. For example, in The Fifth Element the villain is a very clever human and thusis the case in most good vs. evil situations. The last thing I will discuss in relation to our thriller and the conventions of realproducts is that of props. We didn’t need to use many props in our thriller opening but oneI’m going to talk about is our weapon. In one of the flashbacks the lady is hitting Rhys with arock; this is a very blunt and primitive weapon. I tried to think of thriller films in which bluntweapons are mainly used but couldn’t – weapons tend to be that of knives or guns in mostconventional thriller films. In Shaun of the Dead the main weapon of choice is that of a bluntone, as they make clear as it is apparently the best weapon for killing zombies – however,although this film has zombies it is not necessarily a thriller film, it’s a comedy. Thereforethis is one of the aspects of our film that perhaps challenges the conventions of real mediaproducts. 2. How does your media product represent particular social groups? The first character I’m going to talk about that represents a social group in our thriller isRhys. Rhys is a young man, about 19 years old, who has schizophrenia and is involved in thedrug scene. You often seen young characters involved in this kind of thing in crime/gangsterthrillers such as Twin Town. Now Rhys doesn’t represent a normal kid that’s a part of thedrug scene so he can’t be a complete representative as he is a character who already hasmental health issues. However, in our thriller those people who are a part of the drug/ravescene are represented to end up with problems as Rhys ends up being attacked by his ownmind as a result of abusing recreational drugs by using them with his prescribed ones.Therefore there is a negative representation of violence and mental distortion associatedwith this kind of social group in our thriller as it shows the effects on a potentially normallife as well as an underlying condition. You could also say this negatively portrays peoplewith mental health problems (an actual current issue and campaign against mentally illpeople being portrayed negatively in media as they are often villains, etc). However I think
this is meant to induce sympathy in the viewer, not to make them dislike the character. Rhysalso is a representative of all seemingly ordinary people. It is important to me that Rhysrepresents this as I believe this social group is most relevant to us all. I think most ordinarylooking people are thought to be just that, ordinary. However in most cases this doesn’tseem to be true; people’s lives are complex and full of history that you cannot understandjust by looking at someone. Therefore I think Rhys also represents all of us in a way – in thatwe can be mistaken for something simple when we in fact hold many secrets, although Rhysmay be seen as an extreme case of this as he is extremely abnormal. Rhys also representsvictims in our thriller, as he is himself a victim. He is fairly tall and fairly thin which adds tohis vulnerability, we also edited the footage to make him look paler to emphasise this. Eventhough Rhys is male and the general thought may be that males are stronger than females –in our thriller this is not the case. Therefore it may be considered that Rhys is anunconventional representation of a victim. The lady wearing the gas mask is of course representative of women. In films, womenare often portrayed as sex objects or people of a deceiving nature. In a way, we slightlyconformed to the idea of deception as this character has a lot of mystery to her. However,we gave this character a lot of power and strength although she is a woman – she is noclassic damsel in distress. Therefore she’s a slightly new representative of females in thatshe is strong, mysterious and slightly inhuman. 3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why? Thinking about our thriller film, if it was to be made into a complete production (not justan opening) we wanted the film to be fairly distorted and confusing. This was because themain character had schizophrenia and had heavy delusion/hallucinations; therefore the filmwould differ between looking at reality and looking at the world through his eyes.Consequently, the film would probably be a little confusing and perhaps quite heavy andmessily structured which could perhaps make it suitable for showing at some kind of arthouse or gallery. The film would have a pretty dark theme, and half of the film would bemanifestation of the mind and some not so the complicated natures makes it seemappropriate to those interested in the art that can be produced based in the potentialdarkness and disarray of the mind. However, this would depend on which sort of directionwe eventually went with the entire feature. Another possibility would be release straight on to DVD because the film does stickto quite a few thriller conventions, assuming we would stick with these if we made a fullfeature film. The setting, characters and themes all are pretty common amongst the thrillergenre so (as aforementioned) it would depend really on which direction we went with thefilm and how structured and obvious we made it. Also, because the film is fairly conformingit may not be a new enough idea to be appropriate for a release in a cinema as a featurefilm. Furthermore, although this film may not be good enough for cinema release it is adesired film type in our day and age. Psychological thrillers are some of the most popular of
their kind, examples being Shutter Island and Inception which were extremely successful.Thus this film would still hold what the majority of a modern day audience desires, andtherefore could be suitable for commercial release onto DVD. 4. Who would be the audience for your media product? Our audience research questionnaire showed us that the people we interviewedpreferred the sub-genre of psychological thriller or horror. Luckily, we had already plannedto make a psychological thriller so we were already planned to deliver to audience demand.We mainly interviewed college students and I also interviewed my parents, so there was amajority of ages 16-18 in our results as well as a few people aged 40-50, and psychologicalthrillers and horrors were still the preferred genre. Therefore it might be safe to say that theaudience for our media product/thriller film would be people of most ages above 15/16from this research. This could be because people above this age generally have theintelligence to comprehend films of this kind with complex storylines. Our film also centresaround a 19 year old male involved in the drug scene, which is fairly relatable to collegestudents (it has to be said..). In general, it is my opinion that most people these days like a psychological thrillerbecause they like the thrill of being scared as well as having their minds messed with. Filmswith basic plot lines are not always sufficient; clever films that require thought and engagethe viewer can be most successful. Successful and recent examples of these being films suchas Shutter Island and Gothika.Here I would like to indirectly quote a comic book I have read called Johnny the HomicidalManiac by Johnen Vasquez; a psychological/horror/black comedy comic intended for 15+. Inthe introduction piece at the beginning of the comic, a side of one is explained as some formof dark side. That we all have something inside us that craves violence and wants to killthose who annoy us, and that if we dont satisfy this side of us with our imagination or themedium of books/film/etc then we will go insane. I quite like this idea as I do think thatpeople enjoy the thrill of hearing about the horrible things that happen within humanity,and that that humanity has committed. We all have a side that contains those basic feelingsto kill but that we suppress. This is why I think most people would be interested in a film ofthis sort; because people enjoy watching the insane things that go through peoples mindsand the behaviour it produces.Therefore the other programmes that this kind of audience could well be products of asimilar nature; other various horrors and such. But I also think that most people like thiskind of film and so could watch any variety of TV shows that are available, whether they bedrama, comedy, or anything else. I believe the audience would be so wide for this kind offilm that it would be difficult to note down all the other kinds of programmes they wouldwatch. 5. How did you attract/address your audience?
One of our conventions used in our thriller film was intended for the purpose ofaddressing the audience straight away at the beginning of the sequence; and this wasopening on action. After the panning shots of the wood and the brief setting of the scene,the flashbacks that are shown while the body is panned engages the audience straight away.The viewer is soon raising questions in their mind, such as Who are these characters? Whatare their stories/connections? Why is one violent towards the other? Why are thy dressedlike that? Etc. Our plot line was set so what was shown in the beginning of the film is prettymuch what happens at the end, and that the rest of the thriller would explain whathappened before it reached that point and therefore the audience is inclined to watch therest of it. Also, the character that is primarily introduced is that of Rhys our main male character.Straight away the audience sees a character they can relate to and therefore the situation ismade to seem more real straight away, which makes it more thrilling as it makes it seem asif it could actually happen in the real world. The shots of panning as well as the POV shotsare in close proximity of the characters which breaks down the distance between audienceand screen, therefore the viewer is drawn into the film as if they are actually there. Our feedback session showed us that people were interested in our kind of film, andthat they were truly attracted to it. Providing a screening and feedback session in essenceattracted people to our film as they had then gained knowledge of it – if we were to thenmake this into a real product the public would already have some intrigued knowledge of it. 6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product? In terms of camera use and editing, I’d already had a fair amount of experience withtechnologies due to video making being a slight hobby of mine. Therefore I’ve worked withdigital video and picture cameras in the past; I was also already familiar with basic editingbecause of my work with Windows Movie Maker. However, although I did not learn much inthe way of cameras because I’d used them much before, I did learn a fair bit about iMacs aswell as the more professional editing program Final Cut Express. The first thing I learnt about the iMacs was that they were difficult. After using awindows operating system for my entire life iMacs were fairly difficult to get used to;although I do spend quite a lot of time with computers so it didn’t take too much time,although not having a proper right click all the time was irritating! We’d used the defaultsoftware of iMovie to edit our preliminary task, and we found that this was trustworthy andsimple program to use (fairly similar to Windows Movie Maker, which made it easier I mightadd). When we moved on to editing our thriller opening, we had a group member thatalready had good knowledge of Final Cut Express due to them taking the AS and A2 courseat the same time. Thus we had an advantage, as this group member (Jos) was able to kickoff our editing and in the process show the rest of us how to use it. Unfortunately we were alittle behind schedule with filming due to ill-fated weather and so didn’t get around to
importing all of our footage until later than the other groups. Furthermore, as the camerawas brand new the settings left it film in HD as oppose to standard. Due to this and othervarious problems we had a lot of trouble importing our all of our footage which was timeconsuming. From this I’ve learnt that plenty of things can go wrong when you mix an iMacwith a video camera. However we did manage to solve the problem with the help of someothers, and so we could finally being our editing. Now, although Macs are very nice, aesthetically pleasing and virus-free that does notmake them simple. When we began editing our thriller all manner of things went wrong, themain one being that every time we loaded up the software for editing most of the mediafiles would be offline and so we would have to relocate them. We tried to fix this by movingthe files to the desktop so the program could find them easily, but to no avail. So all the waythrough our editing we had to put up with relocating files each time, and so I have learntthat Macs in combination with Final Cut Express is very time consuming and problematic! On the bright side, I have now had more experience with more professional editingequipment and was able to play around with hue and brightness to create the desired effectwe wanted (to help set time of day, etc). Thus we increased the contrast of the shots, toneddown the brightness and made the hue slightly blue – all of this gave the shots a dark, coldatmosphere and also made our main character look pale and more vulnerable. Furthermorewe altered the saturation of the flashbacks and also added in some distortion effects, tomake it clear they past events and not current. Also, I was in charge of creating the titlepiece for our thriller using the program LiveType. This program was also frustrating but Imanaged to get the hang of it in the end and create a suitable sequence for the title ‘S1’.We also used Garage Band effectively to create our much loved soundtrack. So in the end,despite all the problems, we managed to conquer to systematic errors and finish editing ourthriller successfully. 7. Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product? Our preliminary task was on a fairly small scale; we could choose any simple storylinewe wanted and therefore finding locations and props, etc wasn’t an issue as our preliminarytask was just a tryout. Beginning with planning, for our preliminary task we decided as agroup on a storyline and then created a rough storyboard of the camera shots to beincluded. That was about all the planning we did for our preliminary task, but of course forour thriller production we needed to go into much more detail. The main thing we carriedover from our preliminary task planning to our thriller planning was group discussion; after alesson or so we assigned different parts of the planning to different members of the group,each member double checked with the group their ideas for their section before making thedecision final. Luckily there weren’t too many disagreements regarding our thriller planning,
and so we managed to cover all areas together with our individual contributions and groupdiscussion. Unfortunately, in reference to the storyboard, when we filmed our preliminarytask one of group members was absent with the planning sheet so we had to work from ourmemory. When we shot our thriller opening, we also forgot the storyboard this time roundand once again had to work from memory. We should have learnt from our mistake in ourpreliminary task. However we did have to go for a second film shoot for our thriller as wedidn’t think we had sufficient footage to work with when we began editing. Therefore wewent out to finish filming, and this time we brought the storyboard and managed to shootall the footage we needed to create our sequence. While shooting our preliminary task, we all took turns with working with the cameraand equipment so we could all get used to it for when we took on our coursework task.When it came filming our thriller, two of our group members needed to be acting in theactual film leaving us remaining two to man the camera. As was made clear, Jordan had asmoother hand when it came to panning shots and also was simply better at using thecamera than I was. I still helped with setting up the camera to make sure it was inaccordance with the storyboard, so although I couldn’t help too much with the actual shootI still had a role. So once again, as in the planning, when we shot our film we all adoptedindividual roles in order to work as a group. When we edited our preliminary task we used iMovie; a much simpler video editingprogramme found on Macs in comparison with professional video editing software. We allsat around the computer and agreed what the titles would be, what the soundtrack wouldbe and all other aspects of editing; it was all done on a small scale using the simple defaultprogrammes found on the iMacs. When it came to our thriller, our group was one of the fewto primarily import our film on to Final Cut Express and begin editing using this complicatedsoftware to get used to it. Most of the other groups formed a rough cut on iMovie first asthey were used to it from their preliminary task and then moved it over into Final Cut. Aswe’d learned from our preliminaries, it is handy just to jump in and use software in order toget used to it and be able to use it at its full potential. As similar to our preliminary task, weall contributed to editing by discussing as we went – although some of us were better atusing the software than others. We were only happy with leaving the piece of editing we’djust done if everybody in the group was satisfied with it. I’ve learnt that working in a group is very important, and that each member has toput in an equal amount of effort as the others in order to produce a final product. Asaforementioned, we achieved this by assigning individual roles in the planning, filming aswell as editing. As is apparent from what is posted on our blogs, you can see which partswere assigned to who when we planned. Myself, I was in charge of coming up with thecostumes/props, character backgrounds as well as the casting information. All the otherparts that the rest of the group was in charge of, I commented on to show how wediscussed these parts as we went through them. In the early stages of planning, before clear
roles were assigned to each other we all monitored what each other were doing closely. Forexample, we all expressed our opinion on the storyboard as it began to be made and we allalso contributed to finding an appropriate soundtrack and other sound effects for our filmprimarily. Being able to work individually in order to work as a group proved an effectivemethod to get our work done. Becky acted in the thriller and was in charge of the storyboard and explanation as aresult of the original plan for the opening plot being hers. She also created our shootingschedule and prop list. Jos also acted in the thriller and came up with a synopsis for the restof the film (beyond the opening), he also posted on location. Jordan worked on creating theentire soundtrack and also manned the camera in most of the filming. We all contributed toexplaining our lack of script and original brainstormed ideas as well as the editing. From the screening of our rough edit, we found out that most of the audiencemembers understood what was going on in the film; which was good as we wanted a certaindegree of clarity. However, one audience member thought that there were numerouscharacters in gas masks following the POV shot where it looks like Becky (The Lady in theGas Mask) is in various places. Therefore we knew that our film also had a confusing aspect,which we also wanted as it is a psychological thriller with a heavy basis on manifestation ofhallucination. We didn’t receive too much serious constructive criticism, which was nice butalso slightly unhelpful. However, at that point we already had ideas ourselves whatimprovements we wanted to make for our final thriller edit. I would say a strength of our production is the ability to let the audience roughlyknow what is going on but at the same time confusing them; like I’ve said we wanted acertain degree of clarity so the audience knows what is going on but we also want them toraise questions so they are inclined to watch the rest of the film that unfolds thebackground of this initial violent confrontation. I think we used the camera and editing wellto create distinction between current events and flashbacks in the film. However, I thinksome parts of the filming we could have improved on; when we pan up the body of Jos(Rhys) the camera is fairly shaky as we had to hold the camera close the ground as well asmove it- doing this smoothly was very difficult without a dolly. It was also difficult to makealterations in editing once we had synced the soundtrack perfectly with the video, making itdifficult to add in the title. The most important things I learned about film making is that everybody needs tomake an effort, and that remembering the storyboard is a very good thing! Also, thatcomputer problems make editing very, very difficult and time consuming at times. If I wereto do this project again, I would make sure we were using a trustworthy computer andwould also make sure we remembered the storyboard and checked the weather forecast forwhen we planned to film.