Our finished film opening sequence

Friday, 31 March 2017

This blog is now closed

My work is now complete for this project. I hoped you enjoy my blog and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Evaluation Post 1: In what way does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

Our film is called 'Shadow of Your Past' and is in the crime thriller genre. Our opening both challenges and uses the typical conventions of real media products of the thriller genre.

Our Film's Plot

'Shadow of Your Past' is a film that follows a young black woman in her mid-20s whose name is Shania Morcott. She is a high profile lawyer who becomes the victim of a revenge stalking by a rapist who she had previously prosecuted. As the film progresses Shania becomes increasingly paranoid and is eventually kidnapped by the stalker. She is rescued by the police but the stalker escapes. The film ends with Shania moving away and trying to rebuild her life, but the stalkers whereabouts are unknown and he may still be out there.


I think that our film opening follows the typical format. In general film openings tend to include titles and credits, a soundtrack and either dialogue or a narrative voice over. Additionally our film opening introduces the main character and establishes the genre.
Below is a mind map of the genre conventions of thriller films. There is also a key at the top. The mind map shows the typical narrative, characters, settings, iconography, sub-genres and themes of thriller films. I have also indicated which conventions we included in our film and also real life examples. Please click and drag to navigate the mind map. Press present mode to make it easier to view (the first of the three white buttons in the top right corner). 

Below is a prezi explaining in detail the choices we made for our lead character based on our genre.
Narrative Structure

The aesthetic we wanted to give our film was very naturalistic in terms of lighting and effects. During the editing process we graded our shots to have more of a grey colour scheme to make the shots appear bleaker. This is typical of thriller films, such as 'Gone Girl' from which we took inspiration. 
We have two soundtracks in our opening. One is a classical piece of music (called 'Ever Evolving') consisting of only a piano which creates a relaxed and gentle atmosphere. The other is a more fast-paced soundtrack (called 'Codename') with drums and stringed instruments helping to build tension during the red herring sequence. The two pieces of music help to create the desired mood in each part. Firstly a more soft, calm mood which contrasts with the suspense and tension later on, emphasisng the danger and uneasiness.

The wording and order of our titles were inspired by the film 'Se7en' along with the effects we added to them. The shaking effect adds to the uneasiness in our opening and hopefully adds to representing the genre better.

Our film's credits

An example from 'Se7en'

The font we used for the credits was very simplistic as we didn't want to distract from what was happening on screen. The font for our title was different to the rest of the credits as was the effect. We were inspired by the film poster for 'Shutter Island' for our font choice as it was simple yet bold.

Overall I feel that our film opening follows the genre and form conventions of a thriller film opening. Hopefully this means that our film will be easily identifiable as a thriller to our target audience and will be similar to the existing films in this genre. 

Evaluation Post 2: How does your media product represent particular social groups?

In our film the main social groups are gender and ethnicity. Our lead character is a black woman in her late 20s and so we decided to mix the two groups and focus on the representation of black females.

Representation of Women in Films

Women are often underrepresented in the film industry with their roles being limited to the stereotypical, traditional roles. 
Additionally some female characters are objectified in films and their main purpose is to act as something to look at for both the other characters and also the audience. This essentially makes them sex symbols instead of characters of actual substance. An example is Gisele Yashar from the Fast and Furious series - an action thriller series of films. She is portrayed as a strong, independent woman however there are comments and scenes where her body is objectified by some of the male characters. Gisele knows that she can use her body and her sexuality to get what she needs. Whilst she is an empowering character, the fact that her figure and appearance are a key feature of her role shows that a woman's intelligence and courage isn't enough. 

During my research I found a report of a study where the portrayal of female characters were analysed in the top 100 grossing films of 2016. Below are a few pie charts I made using the statistics from the report which are relevant to our film opening and it's main character.

Representation of Black Women
Cookie Lyon from 'Empire'
Black women aren't as commonly represented compared to white women in films and television. There are both positive and negative representations of black women. We didn't want to represent our character in a stereotypical way. For example the character of Cookie Lyon in the TV drama 'Empire' is based on many common stereotypes associated with the black ethnicity such as crime, drugs, prison and music. Despite the fact that she is a successful, strong-minded business woman, she is represented negatively.

Another common representation of black women are in films such as "12 Years a Slave" or "The Help" where their characters are either slaves or treated as inferior to those who are white. This provides a voice for black actors/actresses and even though these roles are based on history and the truth, black actresses shouldn't only be seen in these roles.

Lupita Nyong'o acting in '12 Years a Slave'
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer acting in 'The Help'
How We Wanted to Represent Black Women
Our main inspiration in terms of our lead character was Annalise Keating from 'How to Get Away with Murder'. This is because Annalise is a strong, independent woman who stands up for herself and doesn't allow anyone to walk over her. Additionally she works in the legal profession which is the same as Shania (our character). Annalise also has flaws, showing that she has a humane, emotional side as well. Similarly the lead character in 'Scandal' is Olivia Pope and she is said to be extremely powerful professionally and strong emotionally, despite having a complicated and flawed personal life. 
There are many strong, independent, powerful black women in TV dramas however there are fewer examples in the film industry. We would hope that our film can have a character that can fill the gap. Recently the film called 'Hidden Figures' was released. It is a film about three black women who worked at NASA during the Space Race. This was an inspiring film as not only are they women working in a dominantly male work field (challenging gender stereotypes) but they are also black women. The film has a positive representation of black women and hopefully will encourage more films with black female leads.
We also wanted our main character to act as a role model to the younger side of our audience (16-19 year olds). This was done through her personality and her costume. The use of a blazer and a black and white dress represents her in a smart, formal manner which highlights her professionalism due to her high profile job. This is further emphasised through her leather briefcase which presents her as organised as well as portraying her job as briefcases are commonly used by lawyers to carry documents to courts. Her organisation and also her sophistication are also conveyed through the set design. The rooms in our chosen location (Sian's house) were dressed to give a structured, neat and minimalistic feel as well as being quite feminine (as seen by the heart made of flowers on the wall in the picture below). 
Overall, I feel that we challenged both gender and ethnicity stereotypes through our lead character Shania Morcott. Shania is a driven, determined, strong minded, independent middle-class woman. She challenges the gender stereotypes of being weak, sensitive and having a domestic lifestyle.We positively represented black women and hopefully created a character that is inspirational to teens and young adults.

Evaluation Post 3: What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?

The production company we chose to produce our film was BBC Films - the film making sector of the BBC. We chose BBC Films because they are a known for making British independent films and our film has a strong British feel due to its British cast and crew. In addition to this our film's main location is London. BBC films have produced a wide range of films from comedies to thrillers.

Below is a table showing our inspirations from the BBC and how they relate to our film.

Production Budget

As our film is an independent film and we require no major special or visual effects, a small budget would be suitable. Additionally, we would most likely film on location so making sets would not be necessary. Thriller films also focus more on narrative rather than effects and CGI. Using the psychological thriller 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' (an independent film which is produced by BBC Films and is of a similar genre) as a guideline, I think that a budget of £5,500,000 would be appropriate for our film. 

The company that we chose to distribute our film was Summit Entertainment. We chose to have Summit Entertainment as our distributor because they distribute across international territories which gives our film a global reach. Additionally they distributed 'P2' which was one of our biggest influences. Below is a prezi which contains our marketing and release plan. These were based on the marketing and releases of Summit Entertainments other films.

Evaluation Post 4: Who would be the audience for your media product?

There are a range of audiences for our media product. The primary audience would be fans of the crime thriller genre. In 2015 the thriller genre had the 8th highest box office takings out of the 16 top genres and Crime had the 14th. Below is a table showing the number of releases, box office takings and the top performing title for each genre. 
From the BFI Statistical Yearbook
Here is a prezi detailing the different audiences for our film.

Evaluation Post 5: How did you attract/address your audience?

We attracted our audience by using conventions of the crime thriller genre, gripping themes and inspirational, relatable characters.

Genre conventions we included to appeal to crime/thriller fans:
  • Enigma/Action Codes
  • Low key, naturalistic lighting
  • Fast paced, suspenseful soundtrack
  • Character roles (e.g. stalker, female victim)
Additionally, themes such as stalking, revenge, obsession and kidnapping are typical of this genre and by including them in our film opening we hope to attract fans of crime thriller films.

Below is a table showing the uses and gratifications theory and how we have applied it in our film opening.
Audience Feedback
Below are two audience feedback videos we recorded. There are three girls and three boys all aged either 16 or 17 years old and most of them are thriller fans (part of our primary audience as well as skewed audience). We asked them to watch our film opening and answer a few questions afterwards. 

Overall we received positive feedback from our two focus groups. 
  • They liked the element of suspense from the red herring sequence.
  • Nearly all of them said they would watch it. 
  • They liked the genre and felt that it was entertaining. 
  • Most of them could tell that our main character, Shania, is a lawyer. 
  • They liked the morning routine as it added a sense of normality making it easy to relate to.
  • Some feedback we received was to make the stalker shots more distinctive, either by adding a filter or possibly superimposing the camera viewfinder onto the shots to make it clear someone is watching her. 
  • Majority found that the lack of dialogue worked well and that it helped to create suspense and raised questions about who she is.
  • The text message worked well and helped them to understand the narrative better.
I am pleased with this response as it shows that we managed to successfully create suspense and intrigue our audience therefore gratifying the need for entertainment. The positive response to the red herring sequence was nice as it means that it was effective. They also liked the morning routine sequence and the normality that it added and felt that this made it easier for them to relate to the character and her lifestyle. This also helps to gratify the audience's need for escapism. We managed to portray the genre and add an element of creepiness which is what we intended to do as it provokes a reaction from the audience and causes them to think about what is happening and even discuss it with friends, enhancing the social interactions. The main improvement was to make the stalker shots clearer so that the audience knows for sure that there is someone watching her. 

I also spoke to family members in our secondary audience (ages ranging from 26-50) and collated their feedback onto a document below. 

This feedback was very interesting as the age range was higher. Majority of the people said that they would would films in this genre. The positive feedback was similar to the 16/17 year olds response in that the suspense was effective and the red herring sequence was done well. I am very pleased that the suspense worked well and that our audience responded well to it because this shows that they were entertained and engaged. The improvements we received were to do with sound levels. The shot where Shania is talking on her phone is difficult to hear. This may be because the camera and microphone were too far away and so it didn't pick up the sound. In addition to this the sound of the wind is also blocking some of the sound. It seems that the crime element of our film was not picked up by many people which suggests we haven't represented it as well as we hoped. 

Evaluation Post 6: What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?

The process of constructing our film opening has allowed me to learn about new technology as well as giving me the opportunity to gain more experience when using the technology I already know. I have definitely become more confident in using different technologies.

Below is a prezi explaining all of the technology I used and what I learnt from it.