Introduction The project that my group and I chose to do was the opening sequence of a film. The reason behind this choice was to learn to work in a group and learn the skills and patience needed to film and edit. My group consisted of four members; myself, Chelsea Bull, DimitrisNikolakis and BilaalSaghir. We each contributed a fair amount in the production of the film. My role was that of director, screenwriter, producer, casting and costume designer. I also found a suitable location for us to film in.
Question one In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? Shades of Grey was initially supposed to fit into both the film noir and crime genres. I had the idea of having it as a confrontation between a police officer and the head of a crime syndicate. But because of unreliable actors and shoddy group contribution I had to change the plot completely, so that it became a psychological thriller will elements of the crime genre. The film was shot in black and white because we believed that it would fit in with the title of the film and because of the crime sub genre in film noir. Though film noir is usually set in the 1950’s we chose to give it more of a twist by filming it in more modern times.
In reference to the forms and functions of an opening sequence I believe that Shades of Grey works well as an opening sequence. It reassures the audience that it is a psychological thriller because the unnamed main character is in reality fighting with himself in a dark room. The only thing that sets them apart is the costume but it is still evident that they are one and the same person. This technique was used to confuse the audience and to show them that they like the main character have no control over the events that are about to take place. Like all opening sequences the protagonist is established within the first few minutes, we stick to this rule, but we also challenge it by having him murdered at the end of the opening sequence. His death is the enigma that is essentially set up, the audience will be hooked into watching the rest of the film so that they know why he was killed. However it challenges Todorov’s theory of equilibrium, disruption and re-equilibrium, Shades of Grey does this by starting off with the re-equilibrium, protagonist killing/ shaking off the shackles of this alter ego and being able to walk away a ‘free’ man and then going back to the start to show the audience the initial equilibrium and how it was disrupted. The key theme in my opening sequence is the madness that has engulfed the protagonist, this is shown through the confrontation that he has with himself. Finally the place and time is established through the use of a caption depicting the date at the beginning and end of the opening sequence.
The results of these pie charts came from the questionnaires that were handed out after the final edit of my film. They show that the choices that were made, for example the change of plot and genre worked well and made the film more visually interesting for the viewers. The feed back also shows that had I not made the changes that I did no one would have enjoyed or understood the opening sequence.
Question two: How does your media product represent particular social groups? Whilst making Shades of Grey I never thought of representing any social group, but looking back I realise that I have in fact represented people who are effected by a mental illness. My protagonist was so grief stricken by the death of his friend that he descended into madness and eventually succumbed to dissociative identity disorder (split personality). Not only was he effected by DID, but he also believed that his alter ego was the one responsible for the death of his best friend. The common stereotypes used for some one who suffers from a disability are; pitiable and pathetic, sinister or evil, some one to be laughed at, non-sexual and ‘the super cripple’. In my opinion my protagonist fits in with the sinister or evil stereotype because he goes crazy and ‘hunts’ himself down so that he can avenge his friend. Though I can argue that he was sinister and evil to begin with because of his role as the head of a crime syndicate.
The costume I chose for my protagonist varied because of his spilt personality, the ‘real’ him was wearing a white shirt with a brown tweed tie, braces, black trousers and shoes. His shirt was crumpled with the sleeves pulled up and his tie was loose. I chose to give him this dishevelled look because of his ordeal and to show that though he is a powerful man he is in fact very vulnerable. In contrast to this the ‘other’ version of the protagonist is much more collected. He is wearing a black suit, white shirt and silver tie. He is representing the side of him that is capable and strong. The one thing that shows that they each have the same weight on their shoulders is the stubble on their cheeks. The costume for both characters is mainly based on a suit or a working man’s clothes. This can also relate to that of a higher class criminal. For example Eric Roberts played Sal Maroni ,in The Dark Knight, who was the biggest crime boss in Gotham City. Like my protagonist he wore a clean cut suit which set him apart from the other petty criminals. Another example of an upper class criminal would be Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. He too wears expensive suits which represent a new breed of criminal. Also like my protagonist, his mental instability is hidden from the world by his social class and the question of whether it is all in his head.
Question three: What kind of media institute would distribute your media product and why? We chose Miramax as the institution to distribute our film because they are well know for distributing foreign and independent films. Miramax became acquired by The Walt Disney company, this is good because though they still distribute independent films, they are backed by a larger company which will ensure that they latest Miramax project will be marketed properly. The have distributed films like No Country For Old Men, Kill Bill Vol 1, Reservoir Dogs and Amelie. All of these are well known films which have been watched and loved by many people. My main reason for Miramax backing my film is because it is a typical British gangster film that also has a slight twist. Like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels it has the underground workings of British gangsters. Though my film has a more interesting twist, that being the fact that my protagonist has this fascade of being a good guy mixed with the gritty reality of his mental state.
Question four Who would be the audience for your media product? The audience my film is aimed at would be sixteen to twenty-five year old men. The reason for this, is that most men within that age group enjoy watching gangster films. Films made by Guy Ritchie were my inspiration for the plot so i believe that ‘individuals’ will prefer my film more than mainstreamers. I believe that my film will be enjoyed by all ethnicities because the actor chosen to portray the protagonist is an Arab male. The socio economic status of my viewers will be a mix of Chavs and Snerts.
Chav: adjective Council House and Violent I believe that chavs will make up a majority of my audience because the violence within the film appeals to their not so classy nature. Another reason being that nearly every chav you ask will say that Snatch is their favourite gangster film. Chavs like fast talking characters that they can relate to, for example the character Turkish in snatch is your typical sleazy boxing promoter who is a bit of a wise guy. They idolise him, and frequently quote him in their day to day life. For that reason they will like my protagonist Because he too is the typical Londoner that has made in big in the world of crime. They will want to be just like him becuase they have no other aspirations in life other than criminal activities. Turkish “You show me how to control a wild fucking gypsy and I'll show you how to control an unhinged, pig-feeding gangster”
Snert: adjective Snot-nosed Egotistical Rude Teenager I believe that snerts will be drawn o my film because they like chavs are rude and can turn to violence, so they will like the brutality shown by the protagonist. But unlike chavs they are much more intelligent so they will appreciate the other aspects of the plot. For example they will understand the mental health issues of the protagonist and will be able to empathise with him. Some female snerts may enjoy watching the film because of they like their male counterparts will understand the complexity of the plot .
Question five: How did you attract/ address your audience? I attracted my audience in my different ways. The first being the use of a young actor. By having the actor a man in his late twenties who made some thing of himself shows my audience that they too can become successful. It also makes them aware of how any one can be taken over by their mental illness. The opening sequences shows no form of equilibrium as it opens up with a dead body on the floor, this however gives the sense of a false equilibrium. The man is dead so hopefully that will be the end of it. The man is not in fact dead, he later rises and confronts the other character. Because this scene is essentially the last scene in the film it shows the re-equilibrium, and then goes back it time to show how the equilibrium was later disrupted. A sense of time was created through the use of two shots depicting the date. They show that what has occurred is the result of what has happened in the past
Two enigmas are evident in the opening sequence. The first is why there is a man lying on the floor, and the second why is there two of him. The audience has no idea whether they are twins or the same person. This will make them want to watch the rest of the film, and by the end of the film they realise that the protagonist is victimised by his split personality. The ideology portrayed is that any one can be effected by a mental illness, your strength and power will not protect you. We chose to have our soundtrack similar to the white noise made by a tv, its an underlying buzzing sound that reflects the confusion that the protagonist is facing. We chose to shoot the film in black and white because it is one of the conventions of the film noir genre, how ever another reason is it ties in with the name of the film. A lot of side lighting was used on the protagonist because it shows that there are two sides of him and also it reflects his split personality. The screen fades to black between each shot, this highlights the mental state of the protagonist and reflects the blank spots in his mind that are taken over by his alter ego.
Question six: What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product? Whilst researching my product I had to use websites like IMDb and youtube. I used these two websites mostly because they allowed to find out the best selling films from my chosen genres and to be able to watch opening sequences to gain inspiration. Blogger was also very useful as I was able to upload my notes in one place. It made it easier for me to find the post I was looking for and to be able to map out my work with ease. Blogger was also useful in that it allows you to embed videos and sound clips, by doing this I never lost any of my research. When it came to the production aspect of my project I found the cameras quite disappointing, because they weren’t HD camcorders the image became grainy when it was edited into black and white. Whilst editing my film many problems occurred. iMacs can be very temperamental, and the one I was using froze a few times which resulted in all my work being lost. I believe that had it not been for that problem my film would have been much better.
Secondly the software iMovie was very basic, I originally wanted the film to be a neo-film noir, similar to sin city, it would be filmed in black and white but with a key items in colour. How ever because of the software we were using this wasn't an option. On a brighter note iMovie was actually very easy to edit it on, it did get very frustrating at times but once I got the hang of it I found it quite easy to edit it the film when my editors were absent. The technologies were very useful once he had gathered the audience feedback. The results were uploaded to blogger so that all members of the group had access to them. Once they were transferred to charts it was easy for us to see where we were going wrong. iMovie also made it easier for us to cut out some scenes and exchange them with others. iMac: bane of my existence
Question seven: looking back at your prelim task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product? The prelim task in my opinion was awful. The camera angle wasn’t adequate, the shots weren’t stable and the lighting was average. For me it something that I should put behind me and never look at again. However I have learnt a lot from it. The lighting in my final project was much better, not only did it work well for the shots but it reflected the atmosphere and the character. Whilst lighting the shot I learnt that people will go to extremes to make it perfect, I for one sat on the wet floor underneath the tripod holding the light steady so it would cast the right sinister shadow on the protagonist. I also learnt that in order for the project to look professional the editing had to be much smoother. If we couldn’t make it any smoother then we used transactions so that it would legit. Another thing I learnt is that dialogue isn’t always needed. In the prelim task the dialogue just made it cheesy, and from that I figured that a lack of it would add mystery to the plot. Another thing I learnt was that I had much more freedom to create a much better story with a more complex plot rather than the boring one that I was directed to do.
Conclusion. In retrospect my project could have been so much better. The original plot was in my opinion amazing, but I had to change it on the day of filming because one of the actors just didn’t turn up. This is one of the main weaknesses of the film. The plot was so fool proof before but then it got altered so much that it became confusing in the end. Another weakness of the project was in fact my group. They didn’t turn up to lesson, or were either late. They didn’t do much in general. Because of their laziness most of the work was left to me, this annoyed me because it was meant to be a group project. The strengths of my film were not that many. The best one being the lighting, we had to improvise because Dimitris forgot to bring any lights. In the end we used a large wooden pole with a phone strapped to the end. The bright light produced by the phone was perfect for creating side lighting and for casting an eerie glow over the room. The second strength was the actor I chose. He was vey enthusiastic and complied with my wishes. Also he looked the part, I had asked him not to shave for a few days and to not cut his hair so that it would create a gruff look, and he did just that. Another strength was the very last shot when the protagonist walks out of the shipping container and the sun shines through. This shot gives connotations of purity and shedding light on the once shrouded truth. In the end I believe that it did work out well. It could have been better but due to unforeseen circumstances we had to settle with what we managed. The main thing I learnt whilst working on this project, is to never work with friends. They hold grudges and feel that any criticisms you make are personal. Next time I work on a similar project, I will either work on my own or with equally hardworking people.