ROMANCECODES & CONVENTIONS With reference to Dear John By Libbie Sargent.
TITLES AND CREDITS In most romance film openings, titles and credits are shown in various ways. In the film Dear John,some of the credits and titles are on a screen of their own. They com up on a blank blue background withwhite writing, with the two colours perfectly contrasting, still images/close up’s etc were not needed inconjunction with the writing. The writing showing the titles and credits fade in and out, a transition whichis very stereo typical of a romance as it gives the shots or title screens a dreamy effect. After these title andcredit pages are shown , the film opening’s action begins showing John himself in the war. For a while,whilst this character is speaking, no titles or credits are shown until he finishes he’s speech with ‘you’ andthen another important credit’s page is shown telling you who made the film. ( Lasse Halstrom ). As thefilm opening progresses, Channing Tatum and Amanda Sefried’s names are both shown. Being the twomain characters within the film, the audience can now interpret who is involved because they have seenthat these two actors have both been given a screen to themselves with the credits showing importance.
CHARACTERS It is quite stereo typical in a romance film opening for the main characters in the film to beshown straight away. These characters usually consist of two protagonists, usually a male and afemale. A romance usually starts with (most commonly) a male but sometimes a female,narrating/speaking. Take Dear John, for example. This film opening is of him as a voice over,narrating the film as flashbacks are shown of him when he was younger, in the army, etc. He hassignificant importance as he is the one being spoken about in the narration so he is shown forthe first 1-2 minutes of the opening sequence. Savannah, Amanda Sefrieds is then shown to theaudience. At this point the audience can interpret who they both are and their importance in thefilm. Other characters can be shown in a romance film opening but it is rare that a lot of timewill be spent showing any shots of extra’s or other characters with less significance to the film.
SETTING In most romances, there are stereo typical places that they are set. They are normally set inan urban environment, a beach, a school etc, places where a chance encounter would happen.When a romance film opens, it is likely that much of the setting will be shown to the audiencefrom the use of establishing shots and wide shots showing characters and much of the settingand area behind them. Depending on where they are situated, this can sometimes help theaudience interpret what they think is going to happen in the film or where the action is going totake place. For example, In Dear John, we can see that when the film begins, Still images,panning cameras and long shots are shown to suggest to the audience that the places such as thetrenches and buildings in the war and the beach, could be the main setting’s used within the film.A beach is quite a romantic place to go with a boyfriend or girlfriend and a war trench couldsuggest loss etc so both of these settings help set the tone and mood of the film.
DIEGETIC AND NON DIEGETIC SOUN D Sound is very important within a romance to help set the tone mood and atmosphere. If thefilm is going to be quite sad, sometime the music will establish this by the use of an instrumentalsuch as a violin. Romances usually start with a guitar, piano or violin kind of instrument. All ofthese musical instruments can be used effectively through diegetic and non diegetic soundediting. In a stereo typical romance opening, music in the background will be quite quiet as thecharacters are usually narrating and speaking during the first few minutes of the film. If the nondiegetic sound, being the music was up too loud then the audience wouldn’t be able to hear whatthey were saying (the diegetic sound). The two have to be balanced out well for the film openingto be effective. The music played in the background and the pitch and volume of that music allhelp set the mood and also help the genre be identified. A song such as the one used in DearJohn helps set the romantic, quite sad mood at the beginning of the film.
PROPS Depending on what is being shown within the opening sequence can depend on the amount of props and theprops which will be appropriate to the sequence. In a genre such as a horror, close up’s of props like knives,needles etc will be shown to the audience to help establish the mood and atmosphere. In a romance, this isn’talways necessary but in our opening sequence which we plan to do we will be using close up’s of various props tohelp set the mood and tone of the film. These close up’s will include props such as art pieces, maps, manikins etcbecause all of these props are necessary to our films storyline. Props are an essential part of a opening scene if youare using close ups or mid shots. Sometimes, if more than one long shot is being used in an opening scene, propsaren’t always necessary unless they are easily noticeable. They help draw the audience in by putting sometimestension, a twist or a hint of humour on the scene. Depending on what is being shown, some props shown in aromance genre film opening are very significant to the rest of the film and the story line. For example, relatingback to Dear John again, when he is speaking about his collection of coins, coins (props) are shown on screen andthey do have a significance in the film as it progresses. This can help draw the audience in by making themquestion why that prop has been used.
CAMERA ANGLE/SHOT AND MOVEMENT A romance film opening can consist of many angles shots and types of movement. Mid shots, close up’s and panningshots are used quite frequently in romance film openings. A mid shot can be used effectively to set the scene and introducecharacters. An example of this could be when, in Dear John, John is sitting down on the beach and you can see from a midshot from the right side of John, Savannah in the background with her friends and boyfriend who are later introduced. Thishelps the audience understand and interpret where the characters are and who the characters being shown are. (What theirsignificance is). High angle shots are used frequently in Dear John too which help set the scene and depending on whichcharacters (if any) are being shown within the shot, help set a romantic feel to the film opening. Panning shots and trackingmovement can be used often in romance genre film openings to give a stalker element or to show attachment through twopeople following each other or walking together. In the film opening we have planned to do we have decided we are going touse a low tracking shot to show both main characters feet walking at normal pace and then picking up pace as the music alsopicks up. They both begin to run and as they get faster the camera angle gets higher showing more of the characters bodies.These shots are effective as they build tension for the audience and you don’t know what they are running at or too. Music isessentially something that has to fit the shots, movement etc perfectly. A fast pace type of music in the background of slowpace action wouldn’t look right.
EDITING AND TRANSITIONS Editing describes the relationship between shots and the process by which they are combined. Editing in aromance genre film can be used effectively in many ways. When main characters are being shown, editing such as fastcuts etc can be used in pace with the non diegetic music in the background. This is an effective way to portray theemotions and atmosphere of the film depending on what action is taking place on the screen. In Dear John, in the titlesand credits fade transitions are used which give a dreamy romantic loving mood before the film or characters have evenbeen properly introduced. Fades are also used on different parts of the scenes and shots being shown to the audiencewhich help determine what is going on in the action being shown. Shot reverse shots can be used in a romanceopening scene to show two characters looking, speaking etc at one another. Although this type of shot could be filmedat completely different times, it can be used effectively to make it look like both the characters were looking orspeaking at each other even if the opposing person they were meant to be speaking to wasn’t there at the time the shotwas filmed. These can be used in a romance to make it seem like the two characters are telling each other they lovethem for example, or proposing etc. The other person doesn’t always need to be there for a shot reverse shot to beeffective.