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As Media Studies

As Media Studies

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Published by: hgaldinoshea on Feb 26, 2010
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AS Media Studies: Foundation ProductionEvaluation of Thriller Production
 The aim of this project was to produce an original two minute thriller film openingby preparing, shooting and editing it whilst also producing a new soundtrack toaccompany it for a specific target audience.We had to look at the theories behind thrillers in order to deepen and widen ourknowledge of thriller movies and the conventions that come attached to them. Thiswas to enable us to produce the best possible opening to embody the thriller genre.For our thriller opening to be successful, we felt that it had to raise questionswhich created suspense and tension. This follows Roland Barthes’ theory of actionand enigma codes. He believed that in order to create suspense and tension, therehad to be unanswered questions. For the main plot of our story, we wanted to catchthe attention of our target audience which was males and females aged 15 andabove. This was the age range we chose as we wanted to appeal to an age rangethat is more likely to attend the cinema. We didn’t choose the age range of 18 asdoing this would restrict the market and would lose a valuable amount of peoplewho may want to watch it.We tried to develop an idea which would encourage the audience to carry onwatching the film in order to resolve the unanswered questions that they may have.Research had to be carried out for us to grasp the characteristics in the openingscenes of thrillers and for us to see what we possibly could be included in ouropenings to make them more effective. One of the movies that we watched anddeconstructed was Alfred Hitchcock’s
North by Northwest (1959).
 This film consistsof many of the conventions associated with the thriller genre. The enigma which isseen throughout the film is “Who is George Kaplan?” The opening of the filmillustrates Tzvetan Todorov’s theory of equilibrium. It starts off by showing us theprotagonist behaving how he usually does and carrying on with his daily activities;this presents the audience with the equilibrium.We then see the state of equilibrium beingdisrupted by the protagonist being kidnappedand mistaken for “George Kaplan”. This fits intothe sub-genre of innocent on the run. Thetheory of thriller sub-genres was devised byCharles Derry who said that all thriller moviescan be sub-divided into six further genres:psychosomatic thriller, innocent on the run,thriller of murderous passions, thriller of acquired identity, political thriller and moral confrontation. To further my understanding of thrillers and for me to be successful in giving theaudience what they want, I assembled a questionnaire and set out to question
Fig 1
people who fit the criteria of our target audience. I questioned 30 people from inand out of school to get a wide range of results (these can be seen in Fig 1) and tofind out information such as the likes and dislikes of our target audience whichcould guide us to produce a successful film opening. In Figure 1, our findings showthat people were uncomfortable with the idea of someone watching them and thatthe majority of them preferred psychological thrillers to other types of thrillers.Once all the information was gathered, our first task as a group was to brainstormdifferent ideas which could be possible plots for our movie. Ultimately we decidedon the idea of an obsessive father grieving the loss of his daughter, who finds a girlwho looks identical to his daughter and goes out to stalk her. We felt that thiswould give us a strong foundation to build our story up on and would enable us tobe imaginative in order to make our storyline as disturbing but exciting as possible.Before we moved forward with character names and sorting out the fine details, wedecided to come up with the rest of our story. This was a very enjoyable part of theprocess as it allowed us all to talk about our ideas and experiment with what wethought would work best. It also meant that we could merge ideas betweenourselves which would help develop the storyline whilst also getting everyone’sinput. As the ideas began to come together, we started to draw out a storyboard tohelp us visualize what we hoped to achieve and to help us see if what we wanted todo was feasible. Doing this also meant that we could plan out what sort of shotswould be used for each of the scenes to convey the message we wanted to getacross. It also helped to save time so that we could be organised when it camedown to shooting the film, once all the storyboards were made I took it upon myself as the camerawoman to compile the schedules so everyone would know what wewere shooting when and the props that we would need for each of the shoots.Once the preliminary idea for our movie was thought up, we decided to pick a titlewhich would fit our movie. We wanted our title to be a date which would besignificant to the storyline so decided on 06.06.06. However when we pitched ouridea to our peers, the feedback that we got was that the title was associated withthe devil and that it made them guess the plot of our story incorrectly. This lead usto coming up with a new list of titles. We had slimmed down our list to a final choiceof four and as we could not decide upon ourselves which we thought would fit best,we again turned to the opinions of our target audience. We set out to question themon which movie they would go see if the titles that we presented them withappeared in the cinema. We eventually went with the most popular title, MirrorImage.Our locations for the film opening were our local children’s parkand one of our group members house (shown left). This waspractical for us but it also provided us with the setting that wehad in mind. When out shooting we made sure that we alwayshad our schedule, any props that we needed for the shoot andthe letter giving us permission to shoot in any locations thatwere also used by the public.
The first shot was an establishing shot to allow the audience to familiarisethemselves with the setting. This shot then cut to a long shot of the protagonists,the girl being followed and her friend Amber, playing on the swings in the park. Thisshot gives the audience a chance to understand the characters relationship witheach other and the environment around them. The main bit of the film consisted of close ups of dialogue between the girl and Amber discussing their plans whilstcutting to point of view shots from the grieving father’s perspective. We never seehis face throughout the two minutes, leading the audience to an enigma code of who this man is and why he is following them. To get the 180° shot for the dialogue,the scene had to be shot twice from both characters point of view. As thecamerawoman, I found it quite challenging to film this as I had to be swinging onthe swing but also had to make sure that the characters’ gazes stayed the samelevel throughout and that the camera remained steady.As the movie progresses on we see the protagonist left on her own; this was filmedto show her vulnerability.The second part of the opening shows the antagonist in his house watching arecording of the girl, which he has made. There is not much lighting for this sectionof the movie and it is dull and quite dark. This is so that it connotes the dark side of his personality. Much of it is filmed using long shots to show his body language andbehaviour as we thought that this would reveal more of his troubled personality.For the soundtrack most of the audio was diegetic apart from the dialogue. We usedGarage Band to create our own music using the sounds that were provided for us.We used orchestral and piano sounds to create an eerie and sinister effect. This wasto be played during the park scene to make the atmosphere more tense andcreepy. For the scene at the man’s house, the music playing was the tune from amusic box. This was to symbolise his daughter and to create a weird feeling of nostalgia whilst watching the video of the girl.When editing the shots and placing them all together in a sequence, somethingseemed to be missing from the movie and it didn’t give the feel of a thriller movie.As the dialogue took up most of the 2 minutes, it didn’t give the audience thechance to come up with any questions therefore making it incapable for it to createsuspense. We showed the film opening to our peers in order to get their feedbackand our thoughts were verified. As a result of this, we decided to re-film thebeginning of the movie, cutting out the major chunk of dialogue and replacing itwith more cut shots of the characters.When starting to re-film we had to brainstorm what was going to be done againand organise what shots would be used in order to improve it. When looking atsome of the footage, it was clear to see that the actor playing the “man” wasfemale so we decided to change the character to a grieving mother. We felt thatthis would add a more interesting dimension to the story as traditionally stalkers areportrayed by men. The remake started off with a close up shot of the back of themother watching the girls playing on the swing. It then cuts straight to a long shot

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