In what ways does your media product use, develop,or challenge forms and conventions of real mediaproducts? How effective is the combination of your mainproduct and your ancillary texts? What have you learned from your audiencefeedback? How did you use new media technologies in theconstruction and research, planning and evaluationstages?
In what ways does your mediaproduct use, develop, orchallenge forms andconventions of real mediaproducts?
My short horror film was generally based on the conventions ofother real media products, but in some instances I decided tochallenge convention to enhance the narrative, which was alsoinspired by some recent horror movies. A lot of the ideas I used for the setting, camera-style and specialeffects were inspired by some of the real media texts I had studied. Initially, I looked at the typical codes and conventions of the Horror /Psychological horror genre/sub genres. These basic aspects were essentially what I shaped my productionon, with the intention of later improving it with comparisons to realmedia examples.
Typically, the conventions of Horror films are based on the 6 aspects;1. Setting2. Technical Codes3. Iconography4. Narrative5. Characterisation6. Themes In the Horror genre, there are many basic codes andconventions within each of these aspects – depending onthe effect, these are either followed or challenged.
The biggest convention in Setting is Isolated or Small Communities– essentially anything which connotes the theme of ISOLATION. Similarly to Iconography, a contrast between light & dark is reallyimportant – so places with a “dark” history like abandonedbuildings, mental asylums and American Slave routes is popular. Some really popular and recent examples which I only briefly lookedat could be Chernobyl Diaries (2012) and The Haunting inConnecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)
Technical codes are really important to the framework of a horrorfilm, throughout the decades they’ve been so conventional that audiences nowsubconsciously acknowledge the effect, rather than distinctly noticing. Some of the most basically acknowledged conventions could be;1. Point ofView (POV) shots – Monster chasing the victim or victim hiding2. Depth of Field – Difficult to see the whole picture (fear of unknown)3. Ambient Diegetic / Non-diegetic sounds (Footsteps / Heartbeats)4. Extreme Close Up Shots – Identifying theVictims’ fear / externalising monster5. Edit Pacing – Slow = build up. Quick = Chase scene / action packed Additionally, camerawork is usually very expressive and structured – Higher andlower angled shots can depict inferiority (victim), weakness and fear – dependingon the POV of victim or villain. Another increasingly popular technique is the ‘Found-footage’ and ‘Handheld’camera style, which I myself decided to follow as a convention. The audience emphasises with the characters and feels the same emotions – Fearof the unknown, atmospherically immersive and realistic
Among some of the most celebrated horror films, which in the pastfollowed these technical codes very strictly – films such asHalloween (1978), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Ring(2002).
Horror films are often the easiest to distinguish because of their obviousiconography.Visual styles with dark colours such as black and red are thematicallylinked to monsters, blood, darkness etc. Typically a horror film will attempt to contrast the beginning light and later dark –quite similar toTodorov’s EquilibriumTheory – to do so, Lighting is oftenexpressive and unnatural (dark surroundings / torch or fireplace) Often low-key lighting is used to create shadowy figures, unfamiliar shapes andgenerally an unnatural and uncomfortable situation. Of course, the most prominent iconography is the use of props, usually combinedwith specific characters – namely weapons such as knives, chainsaws etc. –examples seen in films such as Scream (1996) and The TexasChain SawMassacre (1974).
The narrative structure of the typical horror film is largely based on the sub-genreand sometimes can be particularly formulaic; for example, in the ‘Slasher’ sub-genre - a traumatic event in the past (shown usually in flashbacks) or medicalcondition turns the villain into a monster – whose victims are usually ‘immoralteenagers’. The strongest example of this is shown in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Usually, there is also the ‘survivor[s]’ at the end, who must overcome theemotional damages and losses they have suffered to defeat the villain – this is amuch contested convention – as it has varied as to the victory of the survivor tothe victory of the villain. As a challenge and also support of the convention, it’s important to identify theending specifically. For example, The Cabin in theWoods (2011) (as a self-conscious perspective on the horror genre), depicted the world’s ending and thedeath of the protagonist survivors .
Once again, the convention is dependant on the sub-genre – so there is reallyno definitive characterisation – but there are typical codes for certain subgenres. One of the most popular characterisations, mostly shown in the Slasher genre– is the stereotypically immoral or stupid teenager[s] - The Cabin in theWoods (2011) actually portrays this really well as a self-conscious reflection onthe genre – the ‘whore’, the ‘jock’ (tough guy), the ‘academic/ philosopher’,the ‘fool’ and the ‘virgin’. Stereotypical characters who define the teenagerangst and as such the audience relate it (horrors target audience is primarilyteenagers). Some other typical characterisations which link to my own production as apsychological horror, is the sinister or creepy children who are contrasted withinnocence and therefore make for the (intentionally) surprise villain.This hasbeen seen in many examples for decades, The Grudge (2004) and Sinister(2012). Although in my own production there is a teenager, he doesn’t fit thearchetypal ‘immoral’ or ‘creepy’ stereotype, so it’s a brief example of how Ichallenged convention.
Thematically, horrors are very conventional and often follow very simplecontrasts – as Claude Levi-Strauss described as, ‘BinaryOppositions’ – forexample,GoodVs. Evil, LightVs. Dark and these ideas are present in most horrorsand sub-genres of horrors. At the same time, horrors typically present a variety of themes dependant on thecharacters; Depression Insanity Childhood Issues Bullying Nightmares Religion Self-Consciousness
With the framework of the basic Horror codes and conventions which structuredmy general narrative, I decided to build the style and use the conventions fromreal media products. As my idea was essentially to produce a similar production to the popular freeInternet Video Game ‘Slenderman’ as a short film, my intention was to use a lotof the conventions and challenge very little. However; other than the setting, soundtrack, iconography and characterappearance I didn’t actually follow many the conventions too closely. I developedmy own ‘found-footage’ camera-style from other inspirations, made an originalnarrative – along with pacing.While at the same time introduced the theme ofLightVs. Dark through the contrasting segments of filming which the originalconcept did not have. A lot of my production was based on special effects and editing, which I actuallydeveloped a lot of my ideas from other real media products.
Setting The forest location set during the video game already connoted the themes ofisolation and fear of the unknown, as these were the aspects I wanted toimplement I decided to follow these conventions and film in a forest setting. Another interesting concept was the lack of distinction between my antagonist‘Slender’ and the trees, which looked quite similar.This gave the audiencesomething to look out for, when the antagonist wasn’t so obvious to see. I thinkthis aspect reflects the cognitive satisfaction of the audience which enjoys lookingfor ‘Easter eggs’ and predicting outcomes.
Soundtrack One convention which I heavily debated including was the non-diegetic ambientsoundtrack, building up the tension and atmosphere until the final encounter. Inthe video game this occurred when the ‘notes’ were collected, instead I decided todevelop this and build the soundtrack based on the sightings of theantagonist, rather than the collection of the notes. The decision to include the soundtrack was a difficult one and I questioned it in 2ways;1. Would the soundtrack subconsciously build up the tension of the film, whilstbringing the audience into the experience?2. Or would the soundtrack ruin the realism of the ‘found-footage’ style and spoilthe immersion of the audience? On the video game it didn’t matter because it wasn’t produced to berealistic, whereas my production was made as ‘found-footage’- but I decided tofollow the convention to reference the video game, which added a lot moreatmosphere.
Iconography The video games’ iconography was really strong and I wanted to replicate this as best Icould, as the connotations and signifiers constructed a really immersive andatmospheric experience.The most important feature was the antagonist’scostume, the black suit which ‘Slender’ wears.The black colour connotes the fear anddarkness from which he appears, while the antagonist’s faceless appearance couldonly be matched by using a white mask. Another really strong aspect was the low-key lighting which was created by thetorch, in the video game this was a key physic to the ambiance of the experience.Theillumination from the torch only heightened the fear of the darkness surrounding itand while I had to make some concessions (2 lights instead of 1) so the camera couldpick up the light, I sought to replicate this.
‘Found Footage’ Camera Style One thing which the video game didn’t include was any definitive camera style, itwas played from the perspective/ point of view of the character. I realised that tobe made into a film, this sort of style wouldn’t work because there would be nocharacter development or realism – it had to be filmed as ‘found footage’. To create the realism and immersive atmosphere from the ‘found footage’ style, Ineeded to conform to the conventions of this style, for example – including aclock/timer, battery and a [REC] symbol. Of course the ‘found footage’ style has been a growing trend in recent years, withfilms such as The BlairWitch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007) andCloverfield (2008) – I took a lot of inspiration and ideas from these and this had asignificant impact on the production and camera style.
Narrative TheVideo Game did not contain any genuine narrative, let alone any conventionsof one. There was little to no context or storyline, which as a style works well forthe platform as the focus is based on the antagonist and the goal of collecting thenotes – not for any specific purpose. Differently from theVideo Game, I wanted to create a realistic and emotivenarrative which still referenced theVideo Game with some form of context. As Ifelt that the audience would feel more immersed in the atmosphere if theyemphasised with the character and had some emotional attachment. Subversively, the typical narrative consists of the ‘happy ending’ plot – where theprotagonist survives and completes some sort of ‘quest’. However, in myproduction the protagonist follows the video game ending and is killed at the end– which is actually quite a common convention for Horror films.
Themes One convention which I developed quite a lot and for the most part built myproduction on was themes, and in particular the contrasting LightVs. Dark. While theVideo Game only presented the player with one environment, theblackened forest with only a torch providing light, I decided to broaden thecontrast and emphasise the difference between the safety of light and the fearand anxiety that darkness represents. I followed the narrative convention ofTodorov’s Equilibrium theory, but decidedto sub-verse the 3rd stage ofTodorov’s theory by producing a mix between a‘Implicit ending’ and an ‘Unresolved ending’ – as it’s unclear what happened to theboy when the antagonist appeared at the very end and the camera cut out fromstatic.
‘The Nightmare’ was a huge inspiration to my own production, not just because ofthe conventions used, but the original and innovative ideas made for aninteresting narrative, while the ‘Nightmare’ themes were fantastically welldesigned. Once again, I focused on the 5 main aspects; Setting, Narrative,Characterisation,Iconography and themes. But the best concept which I wanted to focus on wasthe Setting – whilst ‘Nightmare’ presented a range of 3 environments, it diddevote a segment to a forested location which fuelled a lot of my reasons to filmin a forest, apart from the reference to the video game.
Setting With no dialogue, the film emphasised the diegetic sounds of the environmentsuch as the crackling of twigs, the crushing of leaves and the ever presentuncomforting whistling between the trees.This was a concept I really wanted toimplement myself, but I couldn’t focus on it too much due to the dialogue Ineeded to include. The best aspect of the setting however was the forest location itself, theseemingly never-ending maze of trees provides a sense of no-escape with thefoliage blocking vision and sight.At the same time, the dark woods and uneventerrain creates a state of panic and dismay; with an eerie feeling of beingwatched. Naturally, the forest location is a prime example of a Horror genre due to theisolation, but ‘The Nightmare’ really played on this well.
Characterisation In terms of characterisation, ‘Nightmare’ really couldn’t be any more conventional - theidea of a child’s nightmare is essentially the worst fears of all children put into one story. The aspect which really caught my eye and fitted to the conventions of my ownantagonist, was the faceless hooded killer who chases the boy through the forest.Although the appearance of the antagonist was more ‘Slasher’ genred thanpsychological, the idea of an inhuman, merciless and emotionless monster is more or lessthe same concept that I wanted for ‘Slender’.
Narrative To me, the strongest element of ‘Nightmare’ was the narrative story-arc – asevery single scene was integral to understanding the ending. Subtle differences like the boy’s breathing becoming heavier and lessnatural, eventually leading to asphyxiation and suffocating (which seen in the filmas being smothered by an unknown assailant) keep the audience interested andwondering what the narrative means, until it’s revealed at the end that the boywas simply semi-conscious and choking on a sweet (which we saw him grab at thebeginning). Due to the strength of ‘Nightmare’s’ narrative I realised the importance that aconvincing and realistic storyline had on the reflection and perspective of thefilm, so I decided on introducing the beginning segment of my production andestablishing the relationship between the boy and the dog, as well as subtlereferences to Slender’s appearance, which are shown through minor staticsduring the dark segment.
Iconography Another influence on my own production was ‘Nightmare’s’ expressive use oflighting and the contrasting natural and unnatural lighting in the forest, the bin-bag maze and the house. The environments presented in the film are also quite symbolic of the Horrorgenre; the woodland forest, the abandoned strange house and the claustrophobicmaze of bin bags could be associated with any place which there is no obviousroute of escape and impaired vision – claustrophobia and fear of the unknown arealso really strong concepts used to represent fear as well. Although simple, the very effective contrasting use of a ‘Greyscale’ effect until theend to show the difference between reality and the semi-conscious nightmare notonly is a tool for the narrative, but also emphasises the lighting and shadows.
Themes One key idea from ‘Nightmare’ is the themes, which everyone can relate to andtherefore makes the experience much more immersive for the audience. In eachscenario and the overall narrative is essentially taken from the most conventionalchildhood nightmare – monsters eating you, running away from strangers – theonly difference is the extremities and hyper-real nature which ‘Nightmare’ creates(the cannibalistic witches(?) is a good example of this). Another really prominent theme throughout is the idea of claustrophobia, whichis an increasingly common fear which again, a lot of people can relate to.The ideaof running away without any escape or being held back induces an idea of panicand disorientation which is a very Horror-related theme, which again allows theaudience to emphasise with the characters and really engage on an emotionallevel.This is basically what I wanted to translate into my own production, anemotional feeling to what is being seen on the screen other than just jump scares.
Whilst I took a lot of inspiration from the video game and the Shortfilm, I was also inspired by several real media texts in the filmindustry. These general comparisons and snippets of analysis were veryuseful to the construction of specific ideas in my production; forexample the characterisation and costume build of myantagonist, as well as the special effects and sound bites. Although it may have been perhaps more helpful to analyse a wholefilm in-depth, I decided instead this would be too time-consumingfor the benefits, instead I would focus on specific codes and explorethe effects these had on both the production and on the audience.
For the construction of my antagonist and the characterisation, I stumbled upon afilm called ‘Intruders’ (2011), in short, it depicts an ancient demonic entity whoprays on the imagination of children in an attempt to steal their facial features forhimself. I feel the biggest inspiration from ‘Intruders’ that I took and implemented into myown production was the appearance of the ‘Hollowman’ (antagonist) – cloaked asa floating, faceless ghoul with no voice or human relation.The uncomfortingappearance of the antagonist, combined with the unknown nature is a typicalhorror convention and does very well to strike fear into the character, as well asthe audience. I also developed an idea about using the ‘hyper-sonic’ sound effect which theantagonist induces upon his victims when he is seen, however I decided to scrapthis idea as it distorted the ambient diegetic sound too much. I wanted todisorientate the audience, but sadly the hyper-sonic effect didn’t have the impactI wanted.
Although not a horror film, I analysed a thriller-film called ‘Savages’ (2012) whichdepicted one really significant scene to my overall production and specifically, myspecial effects. The beginning scene shows a group of men being tortured and thenexecuted, while this is conventionally brutal and horrifying – I didn’t actually focuson these aspects, instead I was really interested in the transition on the ending ofthe scene, how the ‘found-footage’ camera style faded out through the use ofstatic and camera interference. The film gave me a whole new perspective on the video-game convention of thestatic effect – how it could be used as a transitional edit as well as a special effectto build up the tension and fear. Most importantly, I realised from this how I could almost seamlessly transitionfrom one scene to the next without ruining the immersion of the audience, infact, I felt that the effect actually increased the suspense and continuity of the
Throughout my research I pointed to several theorists without explainingtheir theories, as such I developed a simple explanation of these. TzvetanTodorov suggested that all narratives follow a 3-part structure. Atthe beginning of the narrative, there is a pre-existing ‘Equilibrium’ whereeverything is balanced without any disruption. After some progress through the story, there is a disturbance which upsetsthe balance.This is known as the ‘Disequilibrium’, usually at this point theantagonist will appear. The last section is the resolution of the story. Once the disturbance hasbeen defeated, or has disappeared.The balance returns to thestory, although it does not always return to the previous Equilibrium, butrather to a ‘New-Equilibrium’. In a basic way, this can be interpreted as a beginning, middle and an end.This also incorporates Aristotle’s theory that all narratives contain anaspect of drama, i.e. within all narratives there is disequilibrium.
Levi-Strauss was a social anthropologist who studied the myths andlegends of tribal cultures – Examining the impact of the stories and theunconscious reflection upon human values, beliefs and myths of a culture. These reflections are expressed in the form of ‘Binary Opposition’; insightthat the way we understand certain words depends not so much on anymeaning they themselves directly contain, but much more by ourunderstanding of the difference between the word and its ‘opposite’ or, asthey called it ‘binary opposite’. For example, our understanding of the word ‘coward’ surely depends onthe difference between that word and its opposing idea, that of a ‘hero’. There are many forms of binary opposition, for example,Youth/Agebinary, the Masculinity/femininity, the Good/Evil binary. Strauss’ work through time has been adapted by media theorists to revealunderline themes and symbolic oppositions in texts.
To Vladimir Propp, after studying over 100 media texts, hedeveloped a character theory which can be applied to most if not allmedia texts. A typical example of Propp’s theory is the film ‘Shrek’.▪ The Protagonist (Hero orVictim) – fights against theVillain or thePrincess▪ The Antagonist (Villain) – Struggles against the hero▪ The Donor – Prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object▪ The Helper – Helps the hero in the quest▪ The Princess – Person the hero marries, often sought for during thenarrative▪ Her father – Usually dies during or before the film/book▪ The Dispatcher/ Mentor – Character who teaches the Hero and sendsthe hero off
Roland Barthes described how there were 5 distinct codes which can bedepicted in any given narrative;▪ The HermeneuticCode (HER)▪ The Proairetic Code (ACT)▪ The Semantic Code (SEM)▪ The Symbolic Code (SYM)▪ TheCulturalCode (REF) The Hermeneutic Code refers to an element within the story that is notexplained to the audience and as a result becomes a mystery thatcan/can’t be solved. Usually within this code, the full truth of the narrative is avoided or notrevealed.▪ Snares - Deliberately avoiding the truth.▪ Equivocations – Partial or incomplete answers.▪ Jammings – Openly acknowledge that there is no answer to a problem. The purpose of this code is to keep the audience guessing at the truth andto keep them interested, until the end of the narrative where the truth isrevealed and a ‘closure’ is reached.
The Proairetic Code is the element of building tension, where the next scene ishinted or indicated – which keeps the audience guessing and on edge, focused onthe film. Typically the Proairetic Code and Hermeneutic Code work in a pair to develop astory’s tension and keep the audience interested in the film. The Semantic Code is often the technique of using connotations within the storyto give deeper meaning to the narrative above the denotative meaning. This code is usually used to give a limited and basic storyline a far deepermeaning, often this is used in low-budget films and cultural statements.
Moving onto my poster, I noticed that generally Horror posters are the easiest toidentify as a genre.This can easily be compared with how RomanticComediesoften have very obvious codes and conventions – as such, I wanted to produce aposter which was very conventional and would allow the audience to instantlyrelate to it as a horror genre film. Typically, there are several conventions to a poster, but also some very specific toa horror genre; Red + Black colour scheme Theme Characters Lead Image Lead actors – typically hidden / less prominent Title Tagline Release Date Billing Block
As a preliminary research task, I went back throughout the 100+ year history ofthe Horror genre.This was actually really useful as I saw a clear change inaudience values – RickAltman described this as ‘society’s pragmatic approach’and how film was a reflection on the society’s values within the horror genre. For example, in the decade of 2000 foreign films became far more popular as inparticular, psychological horrors such as ‘The Ring’ (2002) and ‘The Grudge’ (2004)– this is a trend which has actually seen a resurrection in the late 2000’s and early2010’s such as ‘Insidious’ (2010), ‘TheWoman in Black’ (2012) and the ‘ParanormalActivity’ franchise.
As I looked around and researched into Horror-Posters, I found an interesting filmcalled Sauna (2008) which I realised contained a lot of what I wanted to produce, assuch I followed a lot of the conventions and codes. First off, the darkened contrast of the poster between the tinted forest and the skywas an interesting concept and one which made me consider the significance of acontrast within the poster – as such I decided to contrast the brightness of ‘Slender’s’face and the black surroundings. Another aspect which I had actually already considered but now had an example tobase on, was the rural environment in the forest which connoted an isolated anddesolate location, with no sign of civilisation and escape. Something which is a competed convention within horror posters is the characterimage, some posters feature the antagonist which connotes the dual-storylinebetween the antagonist and the victim, and some focus on the victim. ‘Sauna’ depictsa lonesome, professional looking figure in the distance as a long-shot, which can bemore horrifying as the approach/ chase from the antagonist is often more terrifyingthan the actions of it. Lastly, the strapline is written in a sinister font which for obvious reasons relates theaudience to the horror genre, again, something which I wanted to replicate.
A film which I really enjoyed and decided to analyse as a poster was the psychologicalhorror Sinister (2012) as the themes were similar to my own production and I wantedto see how I could convey these through the poster. The aspect which acts as the focal selling point here and one which heavily connotesthe psychological themes of the film, was the main image.The unnatural depiction ofthe demonic eyes staring into the camera is in itself a clear horror-genre aspect, butalso as it’s written in blood the supernatural ideas are really prominent here. The image also links with the tagline, ‘Once you see him, you can’t be saved’ – as theeyes have already looked into the camera and as such, the audience’s eyes, it makesthe audience uncomfortable and somewhat fearful. Although my antagonist has noeyes, I wanted to try and implement the antagonist looking into the camera andachieve the same creepy effect. Lastly as a really big inspiration to my manipulation of my poster, shown in thebackground is a cracked wall which has 2 significant impacts; the desolate anddecaying setting, and also the decaying psychological feelings on the mind until thenightmare becomes ‘real’.As such, I decided to follow this idea and put cracks ontoSlender’s ‘face’ – to show his supernatural being, as well as the psychological impact.
Having done some detailed analysis, I had learnt quite a bit from just general researchand my historical analysis for the history of the genre. Conventionally, the main image is based in the centre of the page as a focal pointwhich the audience identifies immediately.As such, the image should denote animportant character or theme from the film, as well as connoting the sub-genre suchas psychological or slasher – in my own case, the unnatural appearance of myantagonist and the brightness of his face in contrast to the black background conformsto this. In addition, the poster typically identifies a prominent setting location, forexample, Cabin In theWoods (2012), or uses a specifically themed colour scheme –such as ‘30 Days of Night’s’ excessive use of red to signify blood and the ‘slasher’ sub-genre. However, an interesting aspect which I myself want to implement due to the ‘found-footage’ camera style is almost a still from the film.Although without the effects([Rec] symbol or battery), I felt that having a scene similar to the film would give the
Once again, before I began detailed analysis of Magazine Review Pages I wantedto identify the key codes and conventions, so that I could think about these in mylater research and how they were being used to create effect. Usually, these aspects are present in the typical review page; Screenshot Title / Masthead Rating /Verdict Captions Short plot synopsis Directors & Actors Pull-Quote Main Review Title / Logo of Magazine
• Below is a thorough example of the codes from a magazine review page, with afew identified on the example poster from the major company ‘Empire’ .
For my magazine review page, I didn’t want to be too experimental orunconventional, I wanted to stick firmly to the purpose of a review – to beinformative and entertaining. The most important aspect then I wanted to focus on was the layout and design,while the content had to be informative, as I researched I realised that the balancebetween style and substance had to be slightly in favour of style – so as to engagethe audience and keep them interested. As an amateur designer, I decided to research in detail 2 different companies; as amajor company, ‘Empire’ and as a niche product ‘Fangoria’. Both of these taughtme valuable lessons and as such, helped me to build on how the conventions wereused to either inform or entertain.
Starting with ‘Empire’, I developed a lot of my own production from the codes andconventions which Empire used so well to both entertain their audiences andkeep them up-to-date with the latest reviews. Some of the biggest influences my analysis of Empire had was the need for anorganised layout and clear presentation of the information, using features such asthe ‘Sidebar’ and the ‘Panel’ which I followed and included in my own production. Also, I conformed to the conventional Rating and ‘Verdict’ panel which wasincluded at the end of the review, which highlighted the main positive andnegative aspects of the film in a short synopsis. Lastly, the ‘Information Box’ containing the core details of the reviewed film suchas Release Date,Age Rating and Director was another aspect which I sought tofollow as it presented a lot of key information in a simple and attractive format. One thing which I did change was the colour scheme to suit my horror genre, thered and black I felt created the immediate identity of a horror film and thereforethe audience could react to the information with the theme already in mind.
After researching ‘Empire’, I began analysing ‘Fangoria’ which began as a horror-specialised niche magazine which eventually gained popularity in the USA – thisgrass-roots approach was what interested me and the audience-interactivity wasanother big aspect which I wanted to look into. I think the biggest influence that ‘Fangoria’ had was a vital lesson in style issometimes much better than substance. Whilst the review is detailed and full of both informative and entertaining text, Irealised that the ‘wall-of-text’ was very unappealing to look at and for the casualreader, it would be very off-putting if I wasn’t a dedicated fan – which works wellfor this niche following, but wouldn’t work for my own production. The use of images and the target-audience orientated tone and style impressedme, but again, I felt wouldn’t suit my review. Conventionally it was somewhatsolid, with some alterations and creative ideas, but I couldn’t really defy of theseconventions with my situation and therefore decided to follow in ‘Empire’s’ codes.
How effective is the combination of yourmain product and your ancillary texts?
When comparing my products to work out the effectiveness, I had afew considerations in mind; How the 3 products link together – what are the effects? How accurately are the characters and representations portrayed in theproducts in comparison? How consistent are the aspects of narrative and storyline between theseproducts? Do these 3 products work well together in terms of codes & conventions?
Before I created my products I decided on the order of construction as many ofthe features would be imperative to creating the other, for example, by makingthe Film Poster first, I could then build on the conventions I had already put inplace (i.e. – forest setting, character appearance and general narrative). Also, I could begin to implement some hints at theory and ideas – Altman’ssemantic theory with the location being rural and isolated and the antagonist’scostume. As well as the title font as well (Base 02), presented as decaying. As well as this, the tagline ’There Is No Escape’ is essentially pointing out theobvious in regards inTodorov’s Equilibrium theory – there will be a disturbanceand the character will not survive. Lastly, building on this tagline the ideas of Barthes’ connotations can be takeninto account. Escaping from the dark implies a fear of the dark or the unknown, orperhaps what is inside the dark – as we can see from the antagonist who blends inwith the background setting.
Once I had completed my poster I moved onto the main product, the Short Film.With the concept already in place with the poster, the main product was made topresent the narrative and storyline to the overall production. The poster only really presented half of the story, as it depicts the antagonist inthe location and some conventional taglines – it doesn’t give away any of thecontext or narrative and therefore the audience can be attracted to watching thefilm. The 2 products also link together quite well as the festival awards signify a verywell made production in the horror genre, which will entice people to watch thefilm – although the main emphasis of this will be on the review page. The main focus however is that the poster is a form of advertising, it shows that afilm has been produced and that is has been well received by festival critics – onceagain really this is emphasised by the magazine review.
After the production of the main product and the poster, conventionally themagazine review is made of the film – and so the same is done here. What really links the 3 together is the constant depiction of the antagonistfigure, in both appearance and in name – there is a constant here which theaudience is consistently reminded of: the focus is on ‘Slender’. Something which I think makes the review link so well with the other products isthe slightly separate image selected – on the film poster there is a still image ofthe antagonist in the location. Instead, the review depicts an image of the victimholding the camera in the ‘found-footage’ style, in the woods during the night-time segment. I feel this worked really well because they are almost alternatingperspectives and ‘teases’ the audience into wanting to watch more – assuch, watching the main production.
I think overall some of the most effective links can be seen in the colourschemes, both the poster and the magazine review use a black and white (andred) layout which is conventionally a horror-genre idea and as such, it’s clear thatthe film production is based on horror and the antagonist ‘Slender’.
The accuracy of the character portrayal is very clear in the appearance andrepresentation of the antagonist, although I feel that the Magazine Review Pageslightly underdoes this portrayal as the image depicts the victim’s perspective ofthe note on the tree, which only shows a drawing of ‘Slender’ amongst the trees. Whilst this representation as the antagonist as ‘part of the darkness’ which isshown in both the film poster and the short film itself, is also slightly present onthe note drawing, it’s not as strong as the rest but the general idea is there. However, strongly shown in all 3 products is the representation of fear, fear of theunknown. In the short film, the antagonist is always seen blending in with thelocation until the very end, the poster presents ‘Slender’ as only discernablethrough his head as his body is completely submerged in darkness. As well asthis, the magazine film review depicts the darkness and the trees, which both arecomparable to the antagonist and therefore represent him.
The most important representation shown in all 3 products is the binaryopposition between light and dark – how the torch illuminates the darkness andprovides an illusion of safety. The darkness is both represented by and represents the antagonist conflictscombines the 3 products, as the film poster and magazine review show the 2ndsegment of the short film, as the victim wakes up in the darkness with only a torchas a light. The film poster depicts the antagonist as an unnatural and uncomforting entitythrough his alien-shaped head and faceless appearance, only discerned by hishuman-like stature. In the magazine review he’s presented as just a ‘stick-man’, achild’s drawing, something which has no emotion or expression.Whilst in the filmthese representations are all portrayed together, as well as the antagonist’s abilityto move around without running – seemingly teleporting, which is in itselfunnatural.
In all 3 products there is a definitive structure of narrative, albeit that themagazine review is essentially an extension of the short film, but from ananalytical perspective. Beginning with the poster, as mentioned before, the tagline signifies a lack of a‘new equilibrium’ and a clear disturbance from the ‘escape’ – connoting that therewill be a chase that will inevitably result in the victim being caught – which is apossibility as the short film presents an ‘Implicit Ending’ where the antagonist isbehind the victim as he turns around, before the camera shuts off. In terms of the characterisation consistency, the appearance of ‘Slender’ remainsthe same and is shown clearly on the poster, while the antagonist is distorted andstaticed snippets during the short film. However, the film poster does not present any narrative of the beginningsegment which is the most important to the context of the narrative and therecould arguably be some inconsistency as the audience might assume it’s all aboutthe antagonist’s narrative and not including anyone else.
There is however, a complete consistency between the short film and themagazine review page – as the review seeks to provide a detailed analysis withoutgiving away the ending or posting a ‘spoiler’.The magazine review presents ashort plot synopsis as well as short detailed analysis of certain scenes, which isnarratively consistent with the short film itself. The only true inconsistency which could be argued is the whole image itself on thefilm poster, which is shown as without any camera static, interference ordisorientation. I decided not to include these as the design just wouldn’t haveworked; fonts would not have been prominent enough, the appearance of‘Slender’ would be unclear and only the name would be an indication to theaudience who could identify from the video game. If I was to be completely consistent, the film poster image would have beendistorted as I wanted it to be almost a scene from the film as a ‘found-footage’still, and every other scene with ‘Slender’ depicted is in some way distorted.
As I described in detail before, all 3 of my products follow many typical codes andconventions – especially the film poster and magazine review page which I did notwant to alternate too much from, as I wanted these 2 to be easily identifiable forwhat they are. But for comparison’s sake, I feel that by keeping the 2 ancillary tasks conventionaland not experimenting too much, the overall sense of professionalism andinformative nature is stronger than if I was to sub-verge from convention. Also, aspects like keeping to the typical colour scheme and using particularlysinister looking fonts provides the emphasis on the horror genre. The only concept which I feel maybe detached the products from one anotherwas that I wanted to be slightly subversive in my short film, to try and createinnovative design ideas from combining ideas – to create a hybrid film inessence, with features such as special effects and sound effect for the static anddisorientation.
What have you learned fromyour audience feedback?
Overall I feel that audience feedback wasn’t an integral part of the constructionand development of my production, and as a result, I think my final product couldhave been improved by doing so. I should have attempted to gain more feedbackon my final drafts, especially on my Magazine review page and Short Film which Ireceived little-to-none on. However, the audience feedback which I then built my target audience from withseveral questionnaires at the beginning of the production stage was majorlysignificant to how I went about the designing and planning of my productions. My audience feedback has been helpful though, but I think that it has only been incertain stages and maybe I should have devoted more time to the draftingprocess rather than aesthetic aspects like titles and fonts.
Initially, I produced a questionnaire detailing some simple questions to base mytarget audience on and what I would be producing as a genre.This includedquestions such as;▪ What is your age?▪ What film genre do you most prefer?▪ What is your main incentive for watching a film? The results from this beginning questionnaire were actually very useful, as a basicoverall view I could begin to think about how I would develop my production onthe basis that it would be for 16-18 year olds, based on the Horror genre and thatthe storyline were the most important aspects. From this I could then begin to draw a more detailed plan on my production, but Istill needed more specific information;▪ What sub-genre of Horror do you most prefer?▪ What is your main incentive for watching a horror?▪ What modern conventions of Horror films are most required to you?
From my questionnaire I could then develop an ‘Audience Profile’, which wasspecifically accurate to what my audience wanted from my production. I decidedthat while this was good evidence, I wanted some more facts and figures toaccurately support my production – so I looked at the MPAA website.
Importantly as well, having an audience of 16-18 meant that I had to considertheAge Classification and Certificate ratings, from the BBFC (British Board ofFilm Classification). As such, I realised…“I believe that my film will fit into this category very well as the film will induceminimal psychological fear while posing very little threat in terms of damagingor over-visual psychological terror.The creative flexibility of the ’15′ categorythat a ’12′ or ’12a’ do not provide will be very beneficial to the creation of myHorror Film and allow me to explore differing aspects of terror, while giving merestrictions towards the extreme themes of horror / terror.”
I think the most I learned about audience feedback, is it’s importance to theoverall process – not just the construction.After my initial feedback for thequestionnaire I didn’t use a lot of audience interaction, I went through a largescale planning process for my production but didn’t ask my peers for anyfeedback or advice. I think I could have improved my plans a lot just by consulting my peers andasking how I could have improved things in the early planning stages. As well as this, I really should have asked for some advice regarding my riskassessment. Upon reflection I realised that a lot of the conditions which I filmed in(Snow etc.) were not included, and I believe that had I consulted some peers as tosome hazards which could have been added – I could have made sure.
An aspect which I personally feel I wasted too much time on and have learnt from,was my persistence in trying to receive feedback on things like the fonts for myposter. Instead, I should have received more feedback on my layout designs andmy overall plans for the construction – rather than the minor aspects (albeitsomething which is quite important to the aesthesis).
Once again, I feel that I made the same mistake. Instead of asking for feedback onwhat I could have changed or added on the poster, chose to ask people for theiradvice on what font I should have when the overall poster had already beencompleted.
Another huge mistake which I really regret was not even asking for audiencefeedback on my Magazine review page and also my main production. In hindsightthis cost me a lot of opportunity to gain an outside perspective and a chance toimprove my production. So overall I believe that while I did not receive many benefits of audiencefeedback, what I did receive about the questionnaire results and fonts wasactually really helpful.The questionnaire especially really contributed to my plansand allowed me to think creativity about how I could try and implement some ofthe aspects which they wanted. However, I do believe that when audience feedback is utilised correctly, it can bereally effective. If I had consulted my peers about my magazine review or mainproduction, I could have made a lot of changes and perhaps improved itimmensely. It’s a hard lesson that I have now learnt.
How did you use new media technologiesin the construction and research, planningand evaluation stages?
My use of new media to my overall production was something Ithought I did quite well, having only really used basic programs inmy foundation portfolio I made a huge jump in the programs that Iused and also how confidently I used them. From this point on, I’m going to be showing an example of what Iused and how it was useful to what part of the overall productionand how I had developed since using it.
In my foundation portfolio, I only used a basic camera so moving up to a videocamera was quite a step – especially as I wanted to use it professionally as a filmdirector. The video camera was used as ‘found-footage’ style, meaning that myprotagonist actor was holding the camera handheld and had a lot of freedom andmovement to work with. An issue which I think may have hindered my production was the sensitivity of mycamera to the darkness, which I should have really considered before filming.Instead a lot of my footage came out grainy and unfocused and I had to use a lotof editing and manipulating to correct the footage, but it still didn’t look as goodas it could have done – even with 2 lights shining from the end of the camera.
Something which I had little previous experience with was the editingsoftware, SonyVegas 10.This was a massive step up from when I was usingWindows Movie Maker and included a lot more accessories andcompatibilities, albeit a lot more complicated as well. Throughout my entire short film I edited with SonyVegas, including the microedits, transitions and also the cuts – the transitions were especially difficult as Ihad to combine sound effects and special effects very specifically for the end ofeach scene where I wanted it. A lot of the special effects I wanted including the static, blur and screen tiltrequired some learning process but with a lot of time put in, I could continue todraft and improve my production overtime.
Adobe PhotoshopCS5 was something which I had been using in my foundationportfolio, but I was very inexperienced and didn’t know how to do a lot ofthings, essentially I knew how to contrast colours and remove backgrounds – nota lot. However, having watched many tutorials and experimented with my software, Imanipulated and drafted my Film Poster several times until I was happy with thefinal result. In the end, I learnt how to combine multiple images and layer each one separatelyfor effect, specifically cut and alter the image, apply transformations onbackground layers and how to produce a basic static effect.
YouTube was something I didn’t get a chance to use for my last production, butfor my short film I needed to upload in order to draft and show my cast and co-director the results. As well as this, I also usedYouTube to watch several short films and trailers whichhelped me in my research and planning process to develop my overall production.This was also very useful asYouTube ‘recommended’ me several short horror filmsI may have never found before, which in the end I actually used to analysis andgain inspiration from.
As a last piece of software, I have used Slideshare to upload my evaluation in aneasy, simple and quick method which is then accessible to anyone who wants tolook. As opposed to uploading it directly to my blog, which would have beeninconvenient and also doesn’t support the format which I wanted to upload myPowerPoint on – it would have been smaller and therefore harder to read.