Thriller opening sequence evaluation: Cry For help By Declan Mckenna
In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? This font used throughout is the typical font used for a thriller as it is blunt with the letters in capitals. A grey colour with a white border is enough to make it stand out. The mystery in a thriller’s opening is key and one of the most popular features is hiding the character’s faces. I have done this at the start and then as it goes on you slowly see glimpses of their faces and then close ups. This is also to build up as the story continues. This is a feature that is frequently used in real media products. Shooting a handheld shot following the character is sometimes used in a real media piece but I decided to ad d it in to my film because hopefully it would challenge this and add a little something to my film that nobody else had. It is to build up the tension of this man trying to find the woman and because of the shakiness of the camera, this helps to create this feeling.
The shot of a character looking at themselves in a mirror is very commonly used in real media products either at the start or at sometime throughout the film. This is because of the reflection. It may be different on the other side reflecting a different image or reflecting on the events in their lives. This is what I wanted to portray in my film because the woman committing suicide could be looking at herself thinking over whether or not she will attempt to kill herself. But the reason for all this is kept a mystery which is probably the biggest feature of a thriller film. The mystery makes the audience want to watch the rest of the film and hopefully the audience will want to watch the rest of my film. My film hasn’t had a specific influence from a particular thriller film. I decided I wanted to have many different features from many thrillers to hopefully create one that worked and people may then notice that certain features are from different films. I have tried to challenge and also develop the conventions of real media products which will hopefully make my film successful. The sub-genre I chose to include my film in was the ‘suspense’ genre. This is because it requires tension and my film fits directly into this. The tension arrives when the handheld shots start.
How does your media product represent particular social groups? There are only a small number of social groups in my film as there are not many characters. The woman committing suicide could however be stereotyped as a vulnerable woman and people may expect her to be committing suicide as women express their emotions more than men. I took this into account when choosing my characters and making my storyboard. The woman should come across as a middle class early-twenty year old. This could show her independence and because you see her go into her house with no-one in this contributes to wards her vulnerability and independence. The man trying to save her is the same age, the same class and stereotypically in love with her and trying to save her from killing herself. These choices I made link to my target audience because the actors look like younger, more modern people so I chose the certificate 15. this is because the audience of 15 and above could watch this and think it could relate to themselves in one way or another. My audience is represented more as stereotypes rather than challenge stereotypes because it reflects what can happen in real life. But, to add to this, this is also seen in real media products when the man trying to save her is desperately trying to save his love and the drama builds up. This helps to make my story more plausible as the audience may have seen it before in real media products.
What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why? I would like my film to be produced by a smaller production company rather than a major Hollywood studio because if it were to be produced in the real streets and settings that already exist rather than set up in studios and produced by CGI; the audience receive, and the film gives off a sense of appreciation and meaning rather than all the spectacular effects that can be produced in a studio. I think the storyline and film altogether would then mean more and I would feel better about it because I would have more choice about the film also. My film would be more of an art house movie because of the importance of the storyline. I decided to choose this over a TV movie or an internet only release because hopefully I would be able to reach to a bigger audience. The problem with an internet released movie is some people still prefer to watch movies on a big screen with a proper sound system so they have more of an experience. I also thought about making it a TV movie but then people may not recognise it as such a good film because they see many programmes and movies on television. Making it an art house film suited the style of film I wanted and also because it would be made by an independent film company the two would suit each other.
My film would be released offering possible routes for further film and sequels. There wouldn’t be any opportunities for franchises but maybe merchandising like clothing and posters. But because this would be made by an independent production company, I would need to get many fans and a wide range of audience to watch it first. However, not many thrillers especially in the suspense sub-genre go on to have sequels. This could be a disadvantage so I would try and make a big impact with my film first time. The mise-en-scene of my thriller is the same for different scenes throughout between the woman and the man. For the scenes of the man running, I deliberately chose for it to be set outside through a suburban, built up area. I then decided on a hard light effect because it seems the colours and setting turn to a slightly harsh level. So then every time there is a scene of the man there is the effect of the hard light. For the scenes of the woman, I decided to choose a soft, slightly desaturated lighting effect with a subtle glow. This is to show that she is in no rush compared to the man and shows the comparison between the two characters. The costume/clothes she was wearing were planned to be everyday clothes that perhaps she had just come home from work or gone shopping. I think these clothes would make her character seem more convincing. The man was supposed to have a dark coat or jacket as well as the character at the end so you are not sure who this is. The props in the bathroom for the woman were supposed to be natural and not like they had been placed there. After she closes the blinds the lighting in the room darkens which is the lighting I wanted. This was to also show she did not want anyone to know what she was doing.
Who would be the audience for your media product? The age and gender of my target audience would be a minimum age 15. this is because it can reach a wider range of audience. Also because there is not too much violence or graphic images in the two minutes. Statistically, in the cinema age rated 15 films are the most popular and age rated 18 films are the most popular for DVDs. This attracted me to make a film for this age range. I wanted to target females because most females this age wants someone who loves them and would try to save them if they were troubled. What attracted me to make a thriller for this age range was that it could be slightly more dramatic more than scary or creepy. And the idea that people feel more in touch or related to the storyline that it can affect their lives and their choices after they have seen the actions of the characters. They would go to see my film because of the meaning it would have and hopefully have an impact on their lives. I didn’t let my film be influenced by one film in particular because I didn’t want it to look too similar to one. I used many different features from lots of different openings to try and create a successful opening. That is why I cant find a specific film that is similar to mine.
How did you attract/address your audience? To attract my audience I made the main character a woman and I chose the actor to the age of the target audience I wanted. The target was late teens but I chose a mature looking actress to try and relate her to the audience. There isn’t any particular points in my film that would terrify the audience, but it would bring more awareness to the fact that young girls can be victims and that they may go to lengths like committing suicide if their lives are in such bad condition. I didn’t make my thriller a scary or terrifying film as I wanted it to be more meaningful and dramatic. I used a few point of view shots to also attract the audience and make them feel more involved with the film. This helps to make them feel more related to the characters as well and it gives a different shot so it is different to others.
The audience is asked to put themselves in the position of the main character, the woman and are asked to follow the man. The following feeling is helped buy the camera shot following the man running. Being in the position of the woman, I added in the point of view shots when she is collapsing. This gives the impact that because it is only the audience allowed to see these shots, they can feel more related to the character. This can also be related to suspense because the audience get the same feelings as the character is; so they are kept on edge as to weather or not she will die. Also the cutting between scenes of the man running and the woman add to the drama which are generic conventions of the thriller genre.
What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing the product? The recording equipment I used had its advantages and disadvantages. They were able to zoom quite far out but the quality was lessened. This was the main problem with the camera; the quality was very poor, there was a lot of noise, especially in low light conditions where I was shooting. As you can see in the image to the right, the colours were slightly off put and the blacks projected a cartoony effect. I tried my best to overcome this using the effects on the editing stage and I gave it a soft glow to try and distract this poor quality. Also, part of the quality issue was due to the fact that the camera I was using recorded to a mini DV tape. This is slightly out of date now that you can get High Definition recording that can record to SD cards and their quality would be much higher. But I didn’t have these opportunities so I tried my best with what I had.
During the filming process, I only had a short time window to shoot in as the weather was taking a turn for the worse and it was not the look I wanted. So I had to shoot in two halves and waited for the snow to clear. This was a problem at the start of filming but it all got done in time so it was successful. Another issue I had was the space in the bathroom for filming, the bathroom I used was quite small and the lens was not wide enough to film the whole room. This meant I had to stand as far back as possible and put the tripod in more awkward places to achieve the shots I wanted. I was not new to any of the equipment as I had used it all before but I was new to most of the techniques used in the camera. The shot techniques, lighting and composition I had to learn and because I learnt all these from the start of filming I had to reshoot the scenes because of problems like not panning with the subject and lagging behind them. But after shooting the first time I knew how to fix these problems and kept them in mind for future use of the camera.
The editing software I used was a program called iMovie on the Apple Macs. This is a screenshot on the right of how it is set up. I thought this was a very helpful program in editing my film because it was very simple to upload, reorder and add effects and transitions. I was not new to an Apple Mac so I knew how to use it as it is slightly different to Windows. I have learnt that the editing stage of a film can be the most important as it is where all the credits and fonts and transitions are created. I did not use the program Garageband to create the music for my film because I thought it would sound more professional if I chose a soundtrack that had more time spent on it. So I searched the internet for a copyright free track that tried to fit my film. This had major disadvantages that made it hard to find one that fit my film however. It was hard to find one that dropped when my film started to pick up, and one with the instruments I wanted used. So I searched Youtube for copyright free songs that artists can upload to try to get more attention. I found a song that fit the length, and sounded dark and creepy. It also dropped when my film started to get more dramatic which was helpful. But most importantly, was the start when my credits were appearing; it started slow and had a beat when my credits slowly zoomed.
Looking back to your preliminary task, what do you feel that you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product? The planning stage in my thriller was very detailed with every shot being planned and shot. I explained why I did this and also all the lighting and shot lengths. I researched into the thriller genre by watching openings and taking notes on what techniques they had used and if they were successful. I had a shooting schedule that had to be change due to the weather and I recorded when I edited and filmed. This was to stay organised and on top of everything. To make the editing go smoother I knew exactly what shots I needed before I shot them due to a detailed storyboard and plan. This did make the whole process run smoother and I was able to finish as early as possible.
Looking back at my preliminary task where I was new to all the different shot techniques I feel I have got better in the variety of shots I can produce. Also I did use some of the shots used in my preliminary task in my main task because I felt I could use them to effect. After using the equipment like the tripod, Mac and camera in the preliminary task; I felt even more confident and I felt I had complete control over the equipment to be able to use it with effect. Overall, I feel my end product fulfils the task given and that it includes creativity and careful thinking and planning. I believe everything fits together well and I am happy with the finished piece. If I were to start again and do things differently I would change things like the storyline and setting, but everything else I am happy with.
Audience responses and statistics I had a sheet with 10 questions asking the audience what they thought about my film. This was to get feedback about how they felt about it. It helped a lot because I asked open and closed questions so they could say what they thought about the lighting, transitions etc. It was a focus group of media students in particular so they could recognise other films and knew all the different language that was used. For the first question: ‘what was your first impression after viewing the opening of ‘Cry for Help’? The most common answer was dramatic and tense. This was the answer I wanted to receive as it means they thought it was like other thrillers. For my second questions, I asked ‘Do you think the soundtrack/sound was appropriate and completed the opening sequence?’ around 80% of the answers were yes which was a big help to me as I really thought hard to choose a good sound that worked well. The third question was ‘did this music make you feel on edge or uneasy?’ and 65% said yes which was also very pleasing. Number 4 was ‘did you get a sense of tension from the opening of my sequence?’ and 95% said yes which was very good as they thought it was a thriller film. 5 was ‘do you think the transitions of shots were successful and not too bold?’ and the results showed 100% of the audience liked the transitions. 6 was ‘ did this remind you of any other thriller films you have seen?’ with 50% yes and 50% no one person said ‘yes, se7en’ this was the result I wanted as I didn’t base my film on one opening in particular.
For my 7th question, I asked ‘do you think there was a wide range of camera angles and shots included in the 2 minutes that complimented the events?’ also with 100% replying yes I was very pleased with this. Number 8 was ‘do you think I could improve my film in anyway? If yes, how?’ with 75% saying no and the rest saying yes, they suggested: more characters, try and make the scene more obvious, soundtrack and more action. This was helpful because it wasn’t one thing that stood out that was horrendously wrong. And finally the last question was ‘overall, do you think I created a successful thriller opening?’ and with 95% saying yes I was happy with the results from my audience.
Cry for help Created, Edited and Directed By Declan Mckenna