For my AS Media coursework I chose to make an opening sequence to a film. We decided on the genre as being a horror/thriller , after much debate.
I worked in a group of three with Jessica Hill and Mark O’Brien. We all participated in the filming of the clip. I did the majority of the editing, though we all contributed to how we would edit it.
In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms of conventions of real media products?
As we have chosen the horror genre for our film we decided it was vital to use typical elements and conventions to portray this genre instantly to our audience. We used black and white editing and music which created suspense, both of which are expected in a horror. Our setting is very typical of a ‘teen horror’ movie. We also decided to have a typical story line where teens camp in the woods and killer comes along, with plenty of chase scenes. However, we also thought it important to have a twist at the end of the clip which raises many enigmas – the killer is in fact the victims friend – why does he want to kill her? Etc. These enigmas make the audience want to carry on watching. Our audience feedback supports this ( http://jessellicemark.blogspot.com/2009/05/audience-response.html )
We also decided to reveal connotations of WHO the murderer is in the opening sequence, which isn’t always typical in a horror, so this is a development of typical real media products. We did this by zooming in on Mark and Jess at the end of the ‘3 Days Earlier’ footage, which drew attention to the pair’s relationship. This was necessary footage so we could raise such enigmas to make the audience carry on watching the film to reveal the answers, and I think it worked well!
Does our film fulfil the requirements of an opening sequence?
Establishes time and place The opening sequence to our film begins with a panning shot of the woodland which establishes the setting of the film. It is turning dark and the sequence depicts this with natural low key lighting. The fact that it is just turning dark implies that Jess has been running away from something/someone for days.
Establishes conventions of genre to reassure the audience and fulfils expectations in terms of media language Conventions of the genre are quickly established by low key lighting and black and white editing. This creates a solemn mood and the audience is reassured that they are watching a horror! The opening shot is quite typical of the horror genre and this is reiterated by Jess’ bloodcurdling scream (diegetic) and non-diegetic sound.
Introduces main characters/protagonist The protagonist is introduced within seconds, shortly followed by the villain, through close ups and tracking shots the main characters are always in the centre of the shot. In the ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes the other characters are introduced who will appear in the rest of the film.
Establishes an equilibrium to be disrupted The opening sequence begins with disruption rather than an equilibrium. However, an equilibrium is established ‘3 Days Earlier’, where the group of teenagers are happily walking through the woods together before one of them turns on the rest in a mad killing frenzy.
Enigmas created to keep audience watching Why is Jess running? Who is she running from? Why has Mark turned on his “friends”? Have they all been killed? Will Jess be murdered or will she escape?
How does your film represent particular social groups?
Our film consists of one particular social group –modern day teenagers, even the villain is one!
It was quite simple in arranging the costumes for the characters as we used our own clothes and concentrated on teen fashion, so simple jeans/t-shirt combo would suffice. The villain, Mark, has his hood up in the close ups which creates a natural fear response as his eyes and face are in shadow – this was obviously important for his role. We could have done more with the costume for typical conventions of a killer - leather gloves, mask, etc - however this wouldn’t be appropriate as the villain is a teenager on a camping trip with his friends and this costume was necessary for the audience to understand the murderer IS Mark. The hooded figure is a typical teen stereotype, and we are cohering to these stereotypes by using the ‘yob’ as violent and, ultimately a murderer.
The ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes sets a contrast with the previous fast paced scenes. The group is filmed walking and talking and laughing, as a group of teenagers would. Our film portrays both of the stereotypes of teenagers – the ‘yob’ and the happy, carefree group of friends.
What kind of media institution might distribute your film and why?
DNA Films would be likely to invest in our film as they invest in British Independent films. They have also invested in other horrors such as ’28 Weeks Later’.
A British Distributor would be best for our film, however I think our film also has potential to be an ‘Indiewood Film’ and have crossover appeal. Artisan Entertainment distributed ‘the Blair Witch Project’ one and two, and so they would have also been suitable distributors. At this time they were a privately held independent American studio which would have been fine but since then they have been purchased by Lionsgate in 2003, so it may not have the same appeal.
Who would be the audience for your film?
Our audience would be mainly teenagers/late teens – 15 to 25, as this is the age group our film represents and features. There’s no specific ethnicity or nationality it appeals to, just a general wide audience within the age-range. Although possibly appealing to no socio-economic status in particular, I think it’d primarily range from C2 – E, predominantly E as this is student based (target audience).
Our film may also appeal to an audience who have a particular interest in British horror films or thrillers and who have spare time to see the film at the cinema. Maybe a ‘niche’ audience who enjoy watching ‘indie films’ as apposed to the high budget films often shown in the cinemas.
How did you attract and address your audience?
Unlike you’d expect, our opening sequence begins with disruption rather than an equilibrium. We decided to do this so the audience is instantly engaged. The suspense music during the titles and the panning shot of the spooky woods prepare the audience for horror genre and enigmas are instantly created as we see Jess running through the trees. Why is Jess running through the woods? Who or what is she running from? In the next shot Jess is shown tripping over a dead body on the floor, which raises more enigmas for the audience – who is on the floor? How have they died? Have they been murdered?
We have created a sense of time through the mise en scene. Jess’ costume gives the audience an idea to how long she has been running through the woods for – she has a ripped shirt on and is covered in mud and blood. We have used make up to make her look tired and her eye makeup has run because she has been crying etc. We chose to film just before it went dark so we had light but it also gave an eerie atmosphere like you’d expect in a horror. The fact it was just before dark indicates how long Jess has been trying to escape for (3 days). The narrative we used also creates a sense of time. We used caption saying ‘3 Days Earlier’, which tells the audience this has been going on for some time and answers why Jess is in the woods.
We have created ‘binary opposition’ in our film to create conflict and a contrast between the situations and even the characters three days earlier and three days later. Firstly the contrast in the script itself is evident – Jess is running from Mark the psycho killer, yet three days earlier they were best of friends and this is clearly displayed in the scene. During the ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes Mark and Jess are shown happily wandering into the woods with as a group of friends, yet we have just seen him walking through the woods looking to murder Jess. The characters are all joyful and content during the ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes, however in the previous scenes Jess is shown running terrified screaming and Mark is carrying a heavy log to try and kill her!
The lighting and time of day we filmed was essential. It is this that shows the audience the contrast of the scenes and situations immediately and makes the audience understand the twist (that Mark was her friend) and raise the important enigmas.
We can see from the film stills that there is a massive contrast between the before and after scenes. The black and white scenes are dark, low key lighting whereas the ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes have very high key lighting. The music also created ‘binary opposition’, during the black and white scenes the music is very fast paced and loud, yet with the ‘3Days Earlier’ scenes there is just natural sound with some added bird noises. This creates contrast in the mood and atmosphere of the scenes also.
As I have discussed earlier, the enigmas we raised were key in making the audience want to carry on watching. Enigmas were instantly created when the sequence began ‘why is she in the woods?’, ‘who or what is she running from?’, ‘is that person dead on the floor?’, ‘have they been murdered?’, and so on. As our opening sequence continues, we are introduced to Mark (the killer). It is evident he is the murderer from the shots we took and the editing (discuss later). There is a massive contrast between the before and after scenes that helped raise the enigmas and made the plot more obvious to the audience. It is made apparent, during the ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes, that Jess and Mark were supposed to be friends. The audience should be loaded with questions – ‘why is he trying to kill her?’, ‘what could have gone so wrong in the three days?’. From our audience feedback we can tell that these enigmas were successfully created, and the audience wanted to carry on watching the film to discover the answers. We have built up tension and suspense mainly through the music. We have used very fast paced music throughout the film which does create tension, however was mainly used to create contrast within the film. Some scenes we have slowed down (such as Mark) walking, yet we have kept the fast paced music – this was to try and show Mark’s calm attitude as he leisurely walks along, with Jess’ frantic state (the music). However, I don’t think this worked as well as we’d hoped as one of the criticisms from our audience feedback was that the music didn’t fit with some of the shots, (see audience response ). We also tried to create suspense in the shot where Mark is stood by a tree and Jess is unknowingly hid behind it. The shot then abruptly stops and the ‘3 Days Earlier’ comes up. We thought the audience would respond with ‘has he killed her?’ etc. The audience is left, theoretically, on a cliff hanger.
I edited our film by cutting and piecing together different shots, adding sound, editing diegetic and non-diegetic sound, making it black and white, changing the speed of some shots and more. (See blog post More Editing )
We chose to make the film black and white. Firstly to convey that it is in the past; we were inspired after evaluating James Bond Casino Royale where the beginning opening sequence is in black and white as it’s in the past. Secondly, because it is a horror and we wanted the audience to see conventions of the genre as soon as the film began. We were mainly inspired by ‘The Blair Witch Project’, and our film has a similar feel. The black and white creates a good effect on the woodland as it looks eerie and haunting and makes the audience feel on edge. When the title comes up you can see the black and white trees moving and this looks quite effective along with the ‘suspense’ sound added, shortly followed by the diegetic sound of Jess’ screaming (which we increased the volume of). The non-diegetic sound we have added is quite fast paced, often more so than the images which is a downfall (see audience feedback ). However, we did want the music to be fast paced as it is a chase scene after all and I think I does create elements of suspense, especially when some of the shots are particularly slow. The Editing
The fast tense music enhances the contrast between the beginning scenes and the ‘3 Days Earlier’ scenes, as the music instantly stops when the title comes up and the film continues with just natural sound and some added birds singing. This represents the peace and happiness before the murders, as I have previously discussed.
Lighting was very important to create the right atmosphere and mood throughout the film. We filmed at different times through the day, on different days to achieve the right light. The majority of the sequence was shot just before dark on a dull day, this created a haunting dull light which was perfect in the woods when we put it in black and white. We also shot on sunny days for the ‘3 Days Earlier’ parts, which created an entirely different mood, which made good contrast between the two.
We tried to do as much continuity editing as possible to make the sequence flow and make sense. However for the chase scenes, we were able to put random shots in here and there which portrayed the chaos in Jess’ mind.
We decided to slow some of the shots down for effect. We did this with the shots of Mark in particular. As it created a contrast with Jess’ frantic running and the fast music, it makes Mark seem more psycho as he is so calm despite killing a close friend.
The final shot worked particularly well when we slowed it down. The final shot shows Mark holding a heavy stick which he’d clearly used to kill his friends with. We decided to slow this right down and this created a strange eerie effect. In the background there was a helicopter, as the scene is slowed down the noise from the helicopter is warped which makes it sound strange. The noise of the helicopter gives connotations that the police are after him and there is a murderer about! Also the fact he still has the stick in his hand raises more enigmas making the audience want to carry on watching… was he not successful in killing her?
What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?
Without technology this project would obviously not be possible. But other than the video and editing software technology, we have been able to use technology to research similar products. We have been able to browse www.youtube.com to research other horrors/thrillers. We evaluated trailers and opening sequences from the similar genres we were doing such as Blair Witch Project, The Others, Casino Royale , etc to inspire us in creating our own horror film. We were able to then embed video clips onto our Blog and write up an evaluation so that we could share ideas with the group and discuss what is important in an opening sequence.
The blog has been very useful. We have been able to record our planning, add videos, post our final piece, audience feedback, film stills etc. And we were all able to access this whenever!
My evaluation itself is done on PowerPoint, which I think makes it more interesting. I am able to add pictures and links to our blog and other sites. Technology has enabled me to post this on my blog as a PowerPoint using www.slideshare.net .
We made our class watch our opening sequence and then asked them questions about it. This was good for our evaluations as our class consists of the target audience for our film and who we’d expect to watch it if it was to be created.
Technology enabled us to video record our audiences response to the film and then post it on the blog which has helped us in our evaluations and seeing if we achieved what we wished to. We are also able to keep referring back to this.
Technology has also enabled us to create graphs which show how successful our film was based on the audience feedback…
Did the music fit with the images on screen? Was it clear what was happening in the sequence? No. of people No. of people What genre was our opening sequence? No. of people It seems we were quite successful, people understood what genre it was and what was happening in the sequence!
Through doing this project I have learnt how to edit video by using the Mac computers. At first I found the editing difficult to grasp, but I soon got the hang of it and was impressed by their potential. They allow you to edit sound, cut clips, split clips, add sounds/music, add effects, add captions, edit the speed of clips and sounds, and I have done all this to our film!
The Mac’s did not limit our product at all really. However, it would have been good if we could edit colour/contrast/saturation like you can in a still picture. The only limitations imposed on our ambitions was the budget - £0, and also the fact it was difficult to find music which we wanted that fit with our film, especially with no copyright laws. We were filming outside which meant we could only rely on natural lighting – but overall this wasn’t a problem as it gave the film a sense of realism.
By using the Macs we have been able to tell the story through the editing and mise en scene without using any dialogue. We’ve been able to reassure the audience of the genre instantly by using sound/music and effects such as black and white.
We had to re-take a lot of our shots as some were too shaky – especially when using hand held camera with no tripod. Some of the shots you couldn’t hear the sounds – it was essential the audience could hear Jess’ screaming loud and clear, and also the final shot we wanted to get the helicopter noise in the background.
It took us a few shots to get a successful establishing panning shot of the surrounding trees as the camera was difficult to move without jolting, but we got there in the end. One of our other successful shots is the one where Jess is running towards the camera, this took a few takes as well.
We played around a lot with editing the effects. We tried adding cloud/mist to make it more spooky at the beginning however this looked silly with a panning shot but it was worth trying. We tried lots of different fonts for the opening Title ‘CUTWOOD’ but decided on this one as it has the trees moving in the background which tells the audience the setting before the film even begins.
We kept altering the order of the shots and repeatedly split clips here and there to try and make it flow. We decided the editing didn’t need to be very smooth as at this point it is quite chaotic in the film as Jess’ is trying to escape from Mark and the editing represents this.
Preliminary Task Vs Final Product Looking back at your preliminary task , what do you think you have learnt in the progression from it to your final product ? Our preliminary task was VERY basic, we didn’t really cut any shots just added sepia effect to make it look like an old western. We used basic camera angles on a tripod and the whole thing was taken in about three shots. We used dialogue to tell the story, however with our final product there is no dialogue whatsoever – the story is told through the media language and I think this is a lot more powerful and effective and the audience has to read between the lines to understand what is going on. The characters and story line is obviously a lot deeper than ‘a stolen magical horse’ and we took it much more seriously. Our final product explores wider issues within society – lack of respect for others, lack of respect for life. I have learnt to edit the shots precisely using keyboard editing, which has definitely increased the professionalism of our film. The lighting is much better in our final film, we have experimented with natural lighting to create atmosphere on screen and the sound is much clearer. We added a variety of non-diegetic sounds to make the film more authentic and believable as a media product.
We spent a lot of time researching, filming and editing and overall I think our product is quite good. We thought hard about a story line and how to give it an interesting twist at the end rather than being your typical murderer in the woods horror, and then contemplated on how to indicate this twist to the audience, which was done well. Another key strength of our film is it being in black and white and also colour as it gives a sense of time and mood, which tells the story too. We have included some good camera shots in there too, my favourite being where Jess is filmed running away being chased by a handheld camera as it gives the illusion she is running from someone or something which is effective.
After receiving our audience feedback, I feel that we should change some of the music so it fits better with the images on screen. Also perhaps improve on the continuity editing and make the sequence flow better. However, I think the product has the potential to be made into a real film, so expect it soon at a cinema near you!