Western Report

Creating Suspense
Lewis Watt ID NO. 000496059 Richard Jones Double Project CINE1060 Film and TV Production Due Date: 10/05/11 Word Count: 11,189

This report is looking at Western film genre and the use of suspense. It will create a clear understanding of what suspense is and analyse what techniques are used to create it. This information will then be used to construct a film that utilises these methods and compared to see how successful it is.

Richard Jones Nigel Newbutt Jesmond Lewis


Table of Contents
Introduction! Definitions ! How is suspense created in Westerns?!
Definition of the Western! Characteristics and Western style! What is suspense?!

5 6 7
7 8 10

Analysis of a scene!
John Ford! Antony Mann! Sergio Leone! Sam Peckinpah! Clint Eastwood!

14 15 16 19 21

Techniques Gained from Analysis! Analysis Conclusion! Project Plan! Relevance to Westerns! What needs to be included! Preproduction!

23 27 27 28 28 30

Script Writing! Storyboarding! Shot List!

30 31 32

Filming! Evaluation of final film! Conclusion! Appendix! Bibliography !

32 33 38 41 41


Playwright Oscar Wilde once said, "This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last." It is this tension that is applied to many films that attract the audience back. This study is focusing on what suspense is and how it is successfully achieved. It will be looking a how suspense can be built and what techniques are used. For many years there has been a strong presence of Western genre films in cinema. This study looks at what makes the imagery of Westerns iconic and memorable. Westerns will make a good study since they have been around for the majority of cinema and there have been many different takes on the genre. Different directors have used their authorship to create different styles from the classic Westerns of John Ford to the outlaw Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. By comparing directors it will become noticeable if they use similar techniques and whether they have their own style or use others. One common characteristics Westerns share is that they often have standoffs. Standoffs are defined as a stalemate or deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict, which makes them an ideal place to use suspense. By finding what creates suspense and what techniques are used within films I will be able to create a film that replicates the Westerns genre and see if it produces a successful scene.


The Western as a genre mainly refers to the second half of the nineteenth century starting at the end of the American Civil War until the early 1900s. These films are mainly set in the “Wild West” of America which was at the time the area west of the Mississippi. The American film institute defines “Western” as a genre of films set in the American
West that embodies the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier. http://

www.afi.com/10top10/ Spaghetti Westerns: These films were Italian produced westerns that were made during the 1960s and 1970s. They were often made in the south of Spain for low budgets. Revisionist Western: These were made from the late 1950s onwards and began to question some of the themes and morals in previous Westerns. Standoff: A stalemate or deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict; the 16-day-old standoff was no closer to being resolved. Mise-en-scene: essentially means “visual theme” and refers to everything that appears before the camera and the way it is arranged. Auteur Theory: Associated with French New Wave meaning the director is an “author” to the film.


How is suspense created in Westerns?
Definition of the Western Westerns have been around since the early days of film with one of the most prominent being the silent film “The Great Train Robbery” by Edwin S. Porter which is considered a milestone in film making. There were many innovative techniques used such as cross cutting, camera movement and on location shooting. One of the reason Westerns were made in the early days of cinema was because the film needed bright light for it to be exposed. In California there was a lot of sunshine all year round which made it an ideal place to set up a film industry which later turned into Hollywood. California was a good choice since it also had access to varied scenery such as mountains, deserts, woodland and open grassland making great to film all year round. Since most Westerns were set in the wilderness it became fairly easy to make them. Soon after The Great Train Robbery many Western films started to be produced in the silent era as the genre became very popular. This lasted until late 1927-8 when sound became popular in Hollywood films which lead to the genre being left for smaller studios who produced many low budget B movies. It was when John Ford directed “Stagecoach” in 1939 that the Western regained its title as a reputable genre. “Stagecoach” was Fordʼs first return to the Western since 1929 and was his first to use sound which went on to be one of the best selling films of the year. Ford had made extensive use of Monument Valley and location filming which brought something new to the genre that had only been used in a few films before. During the 1950s directors carried on using the same themes which focused heavily on sacrifice and honour. New wide screen technologies introduced locations as a character and gave them a larger role. This represented a movement away from film filming on set much like Ford had done with Monument Valley.


In the early 1960s a new type of Western appeared in the sense of Spaghetti Westerns. These were films that were produced in the south of Spain mainly with Italian money and directors but often in corporation with the Spanish and Germans. This was a new approach to making films in the genre and changed they way they were viewed. After the spaghetti westerns movement many directors in America started to question many of the elements to traditional westerns. At first the Spaghetti Westerns received bad reviews from American critiques since they did not like the Italian invasion of their privileged culture. Christopher Frayling in his book about Italian Westerns describe Americas critical reception to the Spaghetti Western cycle as "a large extent,
The Wilderness The Individual Freedom Honour Self knowledge Integrity Self-interest Solipsism Nature Purity Experience Empiricism Pragmatism Brutalisation Savagery The West America The frontier Equality Agrarianism Tradition Civilisation The Community Restriction Institution Illusion Compromise Social responsibility Democracy Culture Corruption Knowledge Legalism Idealism Refinement Humanity The East Europe America Class Industrialism Change The future

confined to a sterile debate about the 'cultural roots' of the American/Hollywood Western."

The past

Characteristics and Western style Western stories share similar themes to that of old English folk tales where the cowboy or gunfighter is often compared to the a knight that would roam the land on his horse fighting villains in the name of honour. Westerns can also be likened to the Japanese culture of the samurai and in particular the ronin. The ronin was a samurai that had lost is master,


through death or loss of favour, that would roam the country often in shame. Many Japanese films have influenced many westerns such as The Magnificent Seven which is a remake of Seven Samurai (Kurosawa) and For a Fistful of Dollars which copies many of Yojimboʼs themes. Akira Kurosawa was a major influence on Sergio Leone with Leone often even using the
Figure 1. Yojimbo

plot from Yojimbo in his first Spaghetti Western For a Fistful of Dollars. Kurosawa took influences from Western films and most notably John Ford. In Yojimbo the cinematography mimics established shots from Western films such as the lone hero in a wide shot, walking towards the enemy from a distance while the wind blows dust around in a seemingly deserted ghost town. In Horizons West, Jim Kitses writes how in the 1960s many studies on Hollywood cinema was being launched with the autuer theory establishing itself as a serious method for understanding film. Westerns came under much scrutiny as it was one of Hollywood riches traditions, producing a unique, distinctively American body of work. Some of the most common themes in Westerns include comparing the civilisation to the frontier, honour and revenge. In the early days of Westerns there were codes to show certain actions such as the bad guy would have a black hat, and the good guy white one. Arguments have now been made that genres are differentiated branches of the same narrative system rather than the discrete traditions isolated studies suggest, and that genre may be closer to an industrial process rather than a system of fixed forms. Americas identity became one of the focus areas at both individual and national levels. Henry Nash Smithʼs seminal study, Virgin Land, looked at the American west as a symbol and the growth of America during the later half of the 1800s. “Was the West a garden threatened by a corrupt and emasculating east? Or was it a desert, a savage land needful

of civilising and uplift?” (Smith) Most of these themes are present in Western genre films, Smith was asking whether some of them were presented as myths. In the 1960s film makers also began to rethink the morals and motives of Western films. This is evident in Leoneʼs work as with Clint Eastwood they create The Man with No Name. Much alike traditional gunslingers such as characters played by actors like John Wayne and Alan Ladd, he embodies the characters typical characteristics; strength, independence and skill with a gun but has different morals. No Name can be seen as an anti-hero often being portrayed as an outsider or a bounty hunter only thinking about himself. Sam Peckinpahʼs Wild Bunch (1969) is a film following a gang of outlaws and as the film progresses the audience begins to feel sympathy for the characters. This is against the codes of classic Westerns and was very much a new way of telling traditional stories. Like film noir, many revisionist Westerns were made with the filmmakers unaware that they were part of a larger trend and many being unaware that they were part of a larger trend and did not consider themselves as “revisionists”.

What is suspense? Suspense is an emotional response of uncertainty and doubt. In a film it is used to create anxiety and build up tension until the climax of a scene. Suspense is used in the main body of a scene and when the climax is reached it is released. A train is hurtling down a track and there is a deer on the track facing death. The suspense is where there is an uncertainty if the deer is going to survive or jump out of the way. If we know the outcome all suspense is lost. Suspense is not the emotions that occur at the climax of the scene, for example if the deer dies we feel sorrow but if it escapes we feel relief and joy. These emotions are made stronger by how well the build up of


suspense is. The emotions the audience feel after the building of suspense and is unrelated to this study. “The experience of suspense does not come from something exciting being shown in a film. Rather, it results from the extrapolation of possible events from a given situation; its is the result, or concomitant, of the anticipating activity. It is not what the film shows, but what it discloses, that is the subject of the analysis of suspense.” (Suspense: conceptualizations, theoretical analyses, and empirical explorations By Hans Jürgen Wulff) A substantial part of suspense often derives more from our anticipation of a character discovering what we already know than from the disclosure of the plot information itself. (Smith) Suspense cannot be produced in an instant, but must be built up carefully. We are ensnared gradually through curiosity, suspicion, apprehension and worry. (Cameron) The New oxford American Dictionary describes suspense as a state or feeling of excitement or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. Alfred Hitchcock has described suspense by saying an audience experiences it when they expect something bad to happen and that the audience has a superior perspective on the events in the dramaʼs hierarchy, however, they have no control and cannot intervene to prevent it from happening. Hitchcock would often give the audience information before the characters knew about it, such as break fluid leaking out of a car in Family Plot. One of the best explanations of the method Hitchcock uses to create suspenseful cinema comes from man himself. The following quote by The Master of Suspense himself is taken from the interview book Hitchcock, (1983 Francois Truffaut). Hitchcock describing suspense once said “There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean. We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb

underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!" In the first case we have given the public fifteen-seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.” Hitchcock describes a great definition of suspense, why it is different from shock and how it can be more interesting for a viewer to watch. A great example of suspense being built is in High Noon (1952) which is played out in real time and the premise of the film is that the sheriff is waiting for a train to arrive at twelve oʼclock. From the very start of the film the audience is told when the action is going to happen and the whole film is a count down until this will occur. Since the release of High Noon many suspense films have used the technique of having a count down.

There’s two people having breakfast and there’s a bomb under the table. If it explodes, that’s a surprise. But if it doesn’t… – Alfred Hitchcock


Analysis of a scene
A good way to find out what is needed to create suspense is to analyse scenes. There are many different scenes that utilise suspense but some of the best scenes to look at are shoot outs because in a relatively short time the whole process of tension building can be seen. To get a good sample of different films a number of items came into consideration such as what year it was filmed in and who directed it. This would be best to bring up as many different (change) results. When reading articles and books it soon becomes clear that there are a few major film makers in the Western genre. I have chosen to analyse Ford, Leone, Mann, Peckinpah and Eastwood. One of the main reasons is that they all have produced a sizeable body of work within the genre. Each of their names are recognisable with the Western and each bring their own distinctive styles. There have also been directors that have visited the genre on occasion and have produced exceptional films such as Fred Zinnermanʼs High Noon and George Stevensʼs Shane but these directors were only visiting compared to the likes of Ford, a specialist in the genre. The five selected directors make for good case studies since they have made films in different eras and by comparing them we can see if there are any differences. Below are some charts that were filled in when watching selected scenes throughout movies. The criteria column which is a list of key elements needed for suspense has been created by research to define what techniques are used to produce suspense. This is followed by a column that will describe it and where is appears in the film. The filming techniques will then be looked at to see how the criteria was created.


John Ford Raid on the house in The Searchers (16 minutes 42 seconds into film) Comanche attack on the Edwards homestead which results in the slaughter of the family and the kidnapping of Debbie and Lucy.

This film has been chosen due to its the importance that it has in the revival of the Western genre. It is also one of Fordʼs greatest works demonstrating suspense throughout following John Wayne on his quest to find the kidnapped Lucy. Criteria Tension (emotion) Mysterious Situation Description Montage building up to the appearance of the Comanche. Are they under attack? Who by? Dog barking, quails flying, flash near a bush. Suggesting something is out there. Techniques Used

Conflict / opposition Build expectation Time (how is time portrayed) Maintain Doubt Anticipation Uncertainty Surprise (Twist or release)

The Comanches are approaching.

It is evening and the night sky is a deep red and it is not long before dusk has set. The Comanche arrives in front of Lucy at the grave. Blocking up of windows. Debbie screams when she realises that they are about to be attacked. Ethan rides into the burning camp

Real time, Count down till sunset. Face to face with enemy Creates a claustrophobic atmosphere Zoom into close up of face.

Before scene: Men sent away on fake raid. After scene: Wayne stands in shadow in a doorway (mimics start and end). Ends with funeral.

The outcome of the slaughter at the ranch produces a somber tone and it is not a scene that creates much excitement. Ford has produced an atmosphere full of tension that shows little action. The men sent on a chase to look for cattle that has been stolen but little do they know this was just a ploy to get them to move away from the ranch (Searching...). The start of the scene has little action and it uses very small details to let the audience know something is wrong such as quails taking flight or a dog barking. This slowly builds and it is when Debbie screams that all the composure is lost and there is a sense of panic. To add affect Ford tracks in for the scream so it is right in the audiences face. The Comanches appear mysterious and they cannot be see. Lucy is sitting by a grave when a shadow starts rising up and engulfing her which is the first we see of the Comanche. Key Techniques: Use of sound effects to build up suspense.

Antony Mann Winchester 73 (1950) First 20 minutes The film starts with a group looking at a Winchester 73 when the camera pans right to introduce the protagonist, who had also been watching. Lin McAdamʼs enters a shooting competition to win the gun and ends up against a similar skilled man by the name of Dutch Henry Brown. Criteria Tension (emotion) Mysterious Situation Conflict / opposition Description The battle between two men. Why is McAdams chasing Dutch. McAdams first meets Dutch in the bar. Music: piano music is playing when all sound is cut. Techniques Used


Criteria Build expectation Time (how is time portrayed) Maintain Doubt Anticipation Uncertainty

Description The men are evenly matched round after round. Real time When fight starts cuts are speed up. Both men miss. Crowds gather and money is bet. McAdams is being beaten up

Techniques Used Making the characters similar ability.

Change to the system All eyes are on the subject. Music Lights dimmed Close ups

Surprise (Twist or release)

Dutch gets away with the Winchester.

Winchester 73 uses a Hitchcock technique of a MacGuffin. The MacGuffin is gimmick, in this case a gun, that has no real importance but is vital to the character. It is a ploy to help move the story along. In this scene the audience is shown the Winchester and how it is an object of desire for many people. This film was the first of five collaborations with actor James Stewart. When watching the scene subsequent times it is viewed in a whole other light since at the end of the film we discover that MacAdams and Dutch are brothers. This adds a new level to the story and makes it a great film for re-watching. Key Techniques: McGuffin, Landscapes

Sergio Leone First stand off in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) (3mins) Clint Eastwoodʼs character, or “no name” as he is referred to, has just entered the town for the first time and it is not long before he has an encounter with Baxterʼs men.


Out of the Dollars Trilogy, the first stand off in A Fistful of Dollars is one of most importance. It introduces you to Clint Eastwood character and sets the tone for what the rest of the film is going to be like. Criteria Tension (emotion) Mysterious Situation Conflict / opposition Build expectation Description Who is going to draw their guns first. No name slowly approaches the three guns for hire. Leone has placed Eastwood in a stand off opposite to three men. “Get three coffins ready” Music is playing while walking through town. Letting the audience know that something important is about to happen. The first minute we see no name on a long walk to the bullies. Then silence while they are talking. Three versus one the odds are against him. Can he kill them all? No name throws back his poncho that revels his gun. We know his is going to use it is just a matter of when. Techniques Used Close ups of faces and hands reaching for guns. Takes a long to walk across town Framing: Baxterʼs men are looking down on No Name. Coffins are foreboding and set up for some dark humour later. Long time between cuts. Shows emotion in face. Composition. Sitting on fence like vultures. Fills the whole frame. Music: A whistle is heard slow whine slowly getting louder until it is almost deafening. It cuts out once the guns shoot through it. Cuts between closeups of faces. Music stops and we just hear the sound of the gun fire.

Time (how is time portrayed) Maintain Doubt Anticipation


The characters chat for a minute about a mule. The dark comedy is a light relief from the main suspense. No name guns down three enemies.

Surprise (Twist or release)

Eastwoodʼs character breaks the cliche of traditional western characters since he is not always morally right, shy and retreating and can be seen as a bad guy.


Before the shootout it is set up when No Name walks into town it appears to be deserted with only Baxter's men out showing their authority. The situation changes when the suspense is released and No Name walks back past the Undertaker. Leone has stated about taking inspiration and even published a letter to John Ford… Back
of Frayling’s book...

Leoneʼs films have change the way Westerns were made challenging the morals and themes. Although his films showed a more violent and corrupt West than classic American films, due to Leone research into the history (see duster coats, Frayling), it may have turned out to be an accurate one. There is plenty of close ups of faces in the scene and these reveal all the emotions in the characters eyes. The intensity of emotion can be changed by how close the camera is placed to the eyes. (Truffaut) By moving close to the characters towards the end of the scene Leone can control when he wants the audience to feel the intensity. The actors and extras had all been chosen because they had unusual looking faces which gave them character
Figure 2. Charles Bronson (Harmonica)

and were interesting to look at. (Frayling Find what
was originally said)

In Once Upon a Time in the West there is track in to an extreme close up

on Charles Bronsonʼs face. This shot lasted twenty-seconds and encapsulates Leone and what he has brought to film making. Some may criticise the length of the shots by saying that they are too long and it slowed down the pace but by drawing out the length the audience are left hanging until it almost becomes unbearable. Leoneʼs films were like a puzzle and they needed every piece to work; the American release for Fistful of Dynamite it was vastly shortened and was a box office flop. Many years later when it was rereleased at the full length critics started to


praise Leoneʼs new direction he had taken the Western genre into highlighting music and editing style. When No Name throws back his poncho there is a sound effect of a whistle followed by a long high pitch whining sound that slowly builds up the climax of the scene. The whistle comically punctuates No Nameʼs character. Ennio Morricone produced music for six of Leoneʼs films and what was noticeable about his scores were that they include objects like whips, gunshots, electric guitar and warbling voices to create sounds that were not used in orchestras that would have been used in films before. Although bizarre for a movie score Morriconeʼs music was viscerally true to Leoneʼs vision. In For a Few Dollars More there is a stand off where the character will shoot once a music box has stopped. This is a prime example of suspense since the audience, along with the characters, do not know when the music is going to stop. Every time it slows down and the tension is at a peak it will start up again pushing the anticipation even further. Key Techniques: Close ups and long drawn out shots.

Sam Peckinpah Raid on the bank fromThe Wild Bunch A group of outlaws ride into town looking to score one last robbery before they retire but unknown to them there is an ambush lying await. The high octane start of The Wild Bunch is exactly what Peckinpah is about as a film maker and includes many of his most popular themes. It was chosen since it is a perfect way to start the film. Criteria Tension (emotion) Description During the procession the audience is shown many members of the gangs Techniques Used Many close ups draw emotions from the characters


Criteria Mysterious Situation Conflict / opposition

Description Why are the are the soldiers being set up? The Wild Bunch verses the ambush.

Techniques Used Audience automatically thinks the soldiers are good.

Build expectation The introduction of the Wild Bunch Time (how is time portrayed) The band start marching past the bank

The Bunch is shown as a group of soldiers and appear honest. There is around three minutes from when the Bunch decide to leave the bank and when they do.

Maintain Doubt Anticipation Uncertainty Surprise (Twist or release)

The ambush has the higher ground and has them surrounded. The men in the ambush cannot wait to start the attack. Show the audience something the characters cannot see.

The soldiers rob the bank. A tuba player walks in front of Pike Bishop and takes his bullet.

Music changes when the men attack the bank.

In this scene there are many different accounts of suspense that occur from what knowledge each gang possesses on each other to when the Wild Bunch are going to make their break for freedom and if they are going to make it. One of the most important elements in the scene is how time is portrayed. Peckinpah keeps switching between the two gangs building up expectation and keeps feeding the audience with knowledge. By letting the audience think they know what is going to happen it keeps them engaged with the film creating a scene the becomes enjoyable to watch. At the start the audience does not know how is good or bad so when they see the soldiers they automatically think that they are upstanding. By not revealing the motives of the two gangs until midway through the scene I creates tension since the audience do not know who to trust.

Peckinpah makes extensive use of slow motion during his action sequences which is one of the first times this technique had been used as a recurring style throughout a film. If you watch any modern day films it soon becomes clear that it has established itself to become one of the most standard techniques to use when shooting action. Peckinpah said that one of his major influences while making The Wild Bunch was Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns. It was because these were some of the first Westerns to show violence in unpleasant way like it happened in reality. He did not like how in the Classic Westerns actors would just fall over. Peckinpahʼs Westerns are not suspense films but they have many scenes and elements that utilise techniques that keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Key Techniques: Knowledge, slow motion, close ups and music.

Clint Eastwood Ending of Unforgiven The rain is falling heavily as William Munny (Clint Eastwood) walks into the bar to seek revenge for the death of his partner, Ned. This ends with a stand off with Little Bill Dagget (Gene Hackman).

Eastwoodʼs film explores some of the dark aspect of violence and the myth of the Old West. The final scene shows the release of all the tension that has built up throughout the film. Criteria Tension (emotion) Mysterious Situation Description The rain is falling heavily. Techniques Used The gun is first revealed to the sound of thunder


Criteria Conflict / opposition Build expectation

Description William Munny verse Little Bill Dagget Munny talks about all the bad things that he has done. Munny slowly walks into the bar where Bill is. When the action starts it is over very quickly. Bill is still alive on the bars floor.

Techniques Used Bill has his men with him he is against impossible odds. This informs the audience that he is not afraid to do anything. Fast cuts for the action sequences. The audience is shown something the protagonist cannot see. Ned is shown in his coffin which stirs up past emotions. Uneven odds against the protagonist. Tracks in when the gun is about to be fired.

Time (how is time portrayed) Maintain Doubt


The slow walk that Munny takes to the bar. One man versus a whole bar full. While leaving a gun appears to shoot Munny but they leave him to walk on.

Uncertainty Surprise (Twist or release)

The ending of Unforgiven has been very dimly lit which matches the dark message that the film is about. It is a revisionist piece of work since Munny is not a hero but the audience can be supportive of him. The key technique in this scene comes from the rain storm out side where Eastwood has used sound effects when the gun is drawn to emphasis its impact. Eastwood maintains doubt by having one of the character come back to life behind the protagonists back. Only the audience can see this which which lead them to want to help the but they are left helpless. Key Techniques: Fast cuts, audience shown something characters cannot see (information overload).


“Where Ford and Peckinpah generate an epic historical canvas, Mann, Boetticher and Eastwood explore archetypal and existential aspects of the frontier experience. The inclusion of the Italian Leone highlights how this approach can also be illuminating for those who appropriate the genre to their own mythology, national ethos and authorial system.” Jim Kitses (Horizons West pg14)

Techniques Gained from Analysis
From analysing selected scenes there are a notable of techniques that seem to be used a number of times. Each of these techniques fall under a certain category and below are the most commonly used. • Music/sound effects • Framing/mise-en-scene • Editing/pace/timing • Lighting Below gives examples of how these elements re used in the films that have been analysed. Music: The music in a film can really effect the mood of piece. For example, if a video of a clown walking through a garden is shown without sound the viewer tends to think nothing of it and if some joyful upbeat music is played they instantly recognise the character to be friendly and happy. Using the same clip the music can change to some slow tempo violins playing a somber tune and the video instantly become very sad. The techniques that were used in the films I watched included the slow build up of music so when the climax of the scene took place it was at its loudest. When watching different scenes that build suspense it becomes identifiable the music used was often moody and would be played quietly. Being low in volume makes the audience lean closer to the


screen wanting to listen in and it is when the volume then later rises that it has more of an impact. Sound: Sound effects are often used in scenes to heighten the suspense and help build the tension for longer. An example is in The Godfather when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) looking for a gun in a bathroom to murder the head of police. During this scene there is a loud screeching that can be heard from a passing train which creates an uncomfortable and edgy situation producing uncertainty in the situation. In many films the sound effects are dubbed on later by Foley artists where they use a variety of objects to recreate sounds that you would hear in real life. When sound effects are used as a technique to build suspense they are often exaggerated to become very noticeable. One of the prime examples of sounds effects is in the open sequence for Leoneʼs Once Upon a Time in the West. The scene lasts for fourteen minutes and most of that time is spent watching three suspicious characters waiting for a train to arrive, much like Hight Noon. There is no music used until Charles Bronson (as Harmonica) steps out of the train. During this time the audience is subject to the creaking of a rusty windmill which becomes the background rhythm until a telegram starts to come through which disrupts the peacefulness with its random clacking. It is then ripped apart and silence is again resumed. It is not long till it is replaced by the slow drip of water from a leaking pipe and the intensified cracking of knuckles foreboding what is to come. Through the silence we hear the loud screeching of a train and then the noise of the engine slowly getting louder as it is getting closer. We see and hear the preparation of a gun being loaded ready for what is about to ensue. Finally the train pulls to a stop at the station we hear the engine make a slow grumble as the steam is still being pumped around. The three men walk closer and are looking closely at what is about to come out when a door almost roars open they reach for their guns but only a parcel is thrown out and the tension is released. It is soon picked up by the beat of

the engine. The train pulls away and just as the three men think their prey has not turned up the sound of a lonely harmonica is played and a lone figure is shown standing the other side of the track. After the harmonica solo the music kicks in and we get the first line of dialogue. The rest of the scene plays out like a typical Leone shoot out with the spinning of the windmill returning to normal. Framing: Framing can be closely linked with editing such as when the shots get quicker they often get closer in. Leone was renowned for his use of framing and especially for extreme close ups. One case of Leoneʼs use of extreme close ups is in Once Upon a Time in the West where the camera zooms in so much the framing ends just with
Figure 3.

Bronsonʼs eyes in the frame allowing the audience to share the intensity of the scene. With most of Leoneʼs scenes the framing of the shots start wide then gets closer as the action builds up. This technique can be seen in other films but is taken to and extreme with Leone since he uses extreme wide and close up shots. To make for good composition every inch of the frame is used to portray information to the audience. In the beginning of Once upon a Time in the West there is a shot which has three hit men squaring off towards Harmonica (Bronson). Harmonica is small in the frame which belittles him making it look the the gang have to upper hand. Throughout the scene Leone gives the gang the upper hand so when Harmonica finally beats them it makes him look more impressive. There is also a feeling of doubt where the audience feels like Harmonica is not going to be able to win. One popular technique used is when the camera tracks in such as in The Searchers when we first meet Wayneʼs character when the track emphasise the importance of the character and makes him stand tall and important. Other times a tracking shot can be used

to make a character seem scared or nervous by angling the camera down zooming in multiplies the emotions felt. Antony Mann would chose locations that helped reflect the mood of the scene. During the final shoot out in The Man form Laramie barren rocks provide a great location for the characters to fight in which reflect the mood of the situation. Throughout the Mannʼs films there is also a progressive stripping away of civilisation that corresponds to the narrative of the film with films often starting in towns then leading away to the wilderness. Editing: When comparing scenes that are building suspense there is often a noticeable pattern that emerges. When looking at the final stand off in Unforgiven the pace of the editing starts quite slow and as the scene moves on the length of each shot gets quicker. The pace of the shots work in tandem with the framing and as they get quicker the shots often start to use more close ups. By moving the camera closer to the characters the audience can see more detail in the face which makes the whole scene feel more personal. Making this connection between the characters and the audience help merge the line between reality and fiction creating strong emotions felt by its audience. Lighting: One of the best examples of the use of lighting is during the ending of Clint Eastwoodʼs Unforgiven where there is a thunder storm raging outside that helps merge multiple techniques together. The low light creates a sense of mystery as Eastwood walks into town with the sudden burst of lightning gives the audience a sudden glimpse of the character that is emphasised with the loud clap of the thunder.


Analysis Conclusion
From analysis selected scenes and movies from different directors I have been able to extract some of the key elements that are used to create suspense which has lead me to find out what techniques are used to build tension in a film. From this information I will be able to create my own film and see if I can successfully create suspense. I found the films of Sergio Leone to be the biggest influence since I found his techniques and approach to film making radically different from anything that had come before. Although he had used ideas from other films such as Yojimbo it is his storey telling, use of framing and timing that really got me interested. Often when the climax of the suspense sequence has been reached there is a release that breaks tension. There is often a comedic line that is said that lets the viewer know they can relax until the action starts to build again.

Project Plan
From my research I have found some techniques that have been used to create suspense. I am going to create a short film that makes use of these techniques and then analyse the film to see if it is created successfully. It would be hard to use all the techniques in one film and it would make it cluttered so for some scenes I have decided to produce different versions. Once I have completed the filming I will edit an A and a B version and compare how each one works and decided which one I will use in the final product.


Relevance to Westerns
I decided to look at my research and see whether the techniques used to build suspense is just limited to Westerns or if it they are used in other genres. By looking at other films it becomes apparent that similar techniques are used in all films I first noticed that the techniques used to create suspense in westerns is universal to other genres when I started to write my script. Most of the techniques that are used in the Western genre are also present in other genres. I would not class Westerns as suspense films as there are many that move at a slower pace and not all of the films that I have looked at contain suspense all the way through but may have notable scenes with elements of suspense throughout. The Western genre was chosen since a majority of the films have a high amount of action and scenes with tension.

What needs to be included
It was not possible to included all the techniques found in my report into one film since it would become to crowed and they would not make complete sense. To demonstrate the techniques I devised a way to reshoot multiple parts of the scene with different versions. This would mean that during editing I would be able to compare them to see which one works best or what effects they have. Here is a list of some of the important techniques used to build suspense that I have gathered from looking at directors and analysing their work. What build suspense Time (passing) Waiting till... Where used in a film High Noon: references to a clock. Few dollars more. Pocket watch. Where used in my film. (Fuse)


What build suspense Anticipation. Time Bomb Mysterious stranger Maintain doubt Show the audience something the characters canʼt see. Use of sound effects. Sound effects

Where used in a film

Where used in my film. (Fuse) Tom is shown to talk the rifle man before he meets up with the gang.

Shane: not knowing the protagonists reasons. Unforgiven final shoot out. Winchester 73 the gun is left on the battle field.

Not knowing the characters motives. Scene three: Tom is still alive and is shown reaching for his gun Massive wealth of gold is unknown to the rifle man and he leaves it behind.

Leone. Long noise slowly getting louder. Ford: The Searchers. Slow build up of squeaks and sounds to make the audience aware of lurking danger. Unforgiven uses an almost film noir style to dimly light Eastwood which shrouds him in mystery. Leone. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly final show down. Sergio Leone. Extreme close ups.

S2.4 whining sound during build up to the gun being shot. While Rex is waiting for Tom to show up we hear many strange sounds from the forrest. The rifle man is to be dimly lit so his face is not easy to see. S2.2 Fast cuts for shoot out. Start with slow pace and build. S2.2 three way shootout (also similar to Sergio) Shoot once with extreme then once not so extreme. S2.3 slow motion Tom hits the floor. Rifle man to say a cheesy line at the end of the film. “No one robs from me”


Editing pace Close ups

Slow motion Release

Peckinpah first used in The Wild Bunch Eastwood joking to under taker in A fistful of Dollars

To demonstrate all the techniques I will shoot some of the scenes more than once. There are different techniques that are used to show time passing that creates suspense with anticipation playing a big part. It will also be interesting to explore the difference

between when the audience knows some information that characters may not compared to when they are left in the dark.

Script Writing I started to write a script that would be easy to film considering my low budget. The first thing I did was look into filming locations and found a replica western town called Laredo, (http://www.laredo.org.uk) situated just outside of London. Unfortunately I was not able to film there since my budget would not allow for it. Due to the budget constraints it mean that I had to choose a location that I could use for free so I looked at filming in some woods since this is what I had access to that looked most like a Western. Suspense is usually at it highest during the climax of the film so my script focused on the last moments of a film since it would not be possible to film the entire project. I wanted to have a complete story as suspense needs time to build and it is hard to created emotion for characters if the audience does not feel like they know them well enough. While writing the script I found it very useful to look at sources teaching the basics of writing. On the internet there are many blogs that give examples of film techniques that are used in films and how to implement them into your own script. These tips help me build on the techniques that I had discovered from earlier research to make my screenplay more accessible for the audience. I wanted to be able to experiment with different cuts while editing so I scripted some alternatives to scene in different styles. • In scene 2.2 use slow motion fall when Tom is shot (Peckinpah). Creates extra shock value.


• In the stan off scene start with slow cuts then get faster. Make sure I have shots of all angles then I can experiment with shot length in editing. • Show the audience something a character can not see. In scene three Tom is still alive. (Winchester ʼ73, Mann) • Use of extreme close ups. (Sergio) • Walking time bomb: We know Tom is going to betray the group. Extra scene at the start introduces the story. • Count down of time. High noon. You have five seconds to remove your gun. • Music indicates when action is going to take place. In A fistful of Dollars a whistle sound indicates No Name is reaching for a gun. • Someone coming out of the dark/woods. Mysterious stranger. • Change characters motive. Have Tom as a bad guy?

Storyboarding Once I had a script drafted I started storyboarding. This is where I spent time re-watching selected westerns to try an emulate the visuals so I could create a recognisable feel to the film. Storyboarding means that I would be able to play out my film so I would know exactly what I would be doing when it came to filming. Playing out the scenes in my head help me see which visualise what was happening and is the story would be successful. For the selected scenes where I would be repeating the shot from a different viewpoint I added a different storyboard for them which could be filmed at the same time. For example I wanted to include some extreme close ups as well as some more regular shots when during one of the stand off scenes and although not all these shots may be used in the final product filming extra shots gives me more room to experiment in editing.


Shot List As with a previous films I have made it has proven to be very useful to know exactly what shots there are in the scene. Having a shot list and storyboards on set makes it easy to see what has been filmed and what needed to be done next. Below is an example of what my shot list looked like.
Shot 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Who Rex+Fred Fred Rex+Fred Rex Rex+Fred Rex+Fred Fred Rex Rex+Fred Rex Fred Shot Type Wide CU Wide Mid Wide Mid Mid Mid Wide Mid Mid Action Fred enters the camp F: Fuck! We made it partner... Fred walks across camp F: Where’s Tom Rex reaches for drink R: He’ll be along any minute now Rex offers drink Fred grabs drink and downs it before handing it back Cut on cheek Noticing cut on check F: What cock sucker gave you that? Touching cut and looking away R: Doesn’t matter he’s been dealt with. Fred pauses that moves away. F: That was some crazy shit back there... Listening to Fred F: Well were safe now. Sits down and places his hand next to fire. Dialogue Details

As the filming progressed I would cross off each shot as it was filmed which guaranteed that I had every thing that I needed. It was also helpful to have a guide to see roughly how the shot types change as the scene progresses which can effect suspense.

There were many different techniques that I wanted to utilise in my film but I had limited time to for filming due to a lack of a budget. This meant that when filming some of the extra scenes that were needed, different versions of the same shot were missed since I wanted to make sure I had everything that was needed to produce a story that was clear to follow. Lack of budget also meant that I was not able to use and lighting and everything had to be done with natural light that meant that I could not reproduce lighting techniques such as the dark moody feel of Unforgiven. Even though I had no lights I happened to pick a good


day where the lighting was fairly bight and consistent that gave a good contrast on the face with one side being lighter than the other. All the actors were working for free and for most of them it was the first time they had worked on a film before. It was a challenge to teach the new techniques for to get the best for screen but I believe they did a good job trying to get the emotion across that I wanted them to show.

Still from the Rifle Man

Evaluation of final film
Once the filming was complete it was time to edit and decided what versions of the footage produced scenes with suspense well and why. I also looked at what techniques were present in my final film and assess there effectiveness. The film opens with an introduction that shows the Rifle man forcing Tom to do his dirty work. This scene was not in the original script but I decided to add it as it help make the story clearer and easier for the audience to understand. Hitchcock said that if the plot requires much memorisation you are never going to get any suspense out of it. Most of his films followed simple, linear stories that the audience could easily follow only including essential ingredients that make things gripping for the audience.

The scene also adds an interesting element where the audience are told that one of the characters is being forced to betray the other members of the group. You feel sympathy for him but the most important part is when he walks into the camp later on. Since the audience knows that he is going to betray the other members of the group it adds suspense by giving them information the other characters donʼt know and it is only a matter of time before he switches. In the final product I do not think that is clear enough to understand this part of the plot and adding confusion to the audience can distract away from the suspense. If the story was simpler I believe the stand off would have been successful since the audience would not have been distracted thinking of the meaning behind the actions and have been drawn closer into the anxiety. Music plays a large part of a scene and can dramatically change the mood. I did not have access to a sound designer which meant I had to borrow some music that had previously been written. At first I used some music from Ennio Morricone entitled The Man with the Harmonica which is from Once Upon a Time in the West where the music was linked with a character who is often found playing the harmonica which turns into a part of the story. I cut the film to match the music it seem to work well; the slow start complemented the mysterious strangers appearance and when he leaves at the end. I liked this sequence since the arrival and departure shots book end the Rifle Manʼs time on screen neatly. The music slowly builds until the gun is fired when the guitar kicks in which emphasises the death. Although I liked the effect that the music had it was not until I was reviewing the scene that I felt like the music needed to be changed since it was such a well know piece it made the scene seem like a cliche and did not have the effect that I was looking for. I wanted to emulate a scene that appears in A Fistful of Dollars where Clint Eastwood first enters the town and meets the Baxterʼs men. In this scene there is a slow whine that builds up getting louder. It is an irritating sound a bit like a kettle that slowly gets louder raising anticipation until the scene finally reaches its climax and the gun shots are fired. I think

that this approach works rather that just using music since it is hard to predict when it is going to end and by raising the volume it just adds the tension. Leone went on to expand on this technique by incorporating the sound into props as in the musical pocket watch in For a Few Dollars More and the harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West. In For a Few Dollars More, the music plays as a diegetic sound within the films world and when it stops the shoot out will take place. The clever feature with the pocket watch is that the music slow down and it runs out of power with the occasional burst of energy keeping the audience on their feet. I experimented with the pace of the edit especially during the scene with the three way shoot out. In Unforgiven by Clint Eastwood during the final stand off the cuts become closer to together and the shot lengths become much shorter as time moves on building up to the climax. I used the quick cuts to show close ups and of guns and faces but also used a technique that Sergio Leone used where he would hold the shot usually a close up of a face for a long time allowing the audience to see the sweat and every pore on the character. It is also interesting that as cuts get closer together the shot are usually framed tighter and the two techniques often work well one another. Just after the title sequence I have used some long, wide angle shots of the camp intercut with quick close ups of a man running through the woods. The juxtaposition of the calm scenes with the frantic creates an uneasy atmosphere that hold the audiences attention. John Ford was a pioneer of the long shot where he would use his beautiful surroundings in contrast to the narrative of the story. In classic Westerns such as those made by John Ford the characteristic of the landscape is often used for its aesthetic qualities that has now become a cliché of the genre. Antony Mann would use the landscapes as hostile or inhospitable places to be. In The Man From Laramie there is a stand off at the top of a mountain which makes the Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) look isolated standing next to barren rocks.

Figure 4. The Man form Laramie

In my film there are a few wide shots towards the end of the film where I wanted to show the forest enclosing around the dead characters. To achieve this I made use of adding trees and bushes in the in the foreground to help show the sterile situation. I was happy with the way the forest looked as it had this aged dying feel that matched with the story. In the final shot of the film there is a group of daffodils that I have place nearly in the middle of the shot that believe is fitting as they act like a reef to cremate the dead. Looking at films such as George Stevensʼs Shane I wanted to produce a sense of mystery surrounding the plot and the characters. With the Rifle Mans character I created an enigma by not revealing much of his face using a hat and high collars to obscure the details. I used one shot where he tilts his head and which nearly reveals his eyes but he looks back down at the last second and they remained hidden adding to the sense of
Figure 5. Nature surrounding the dead bodies.

mystery. During the planning stages I wanted to be able to use lighting and shadows to mask his face but I did not have easy access to the equipment needed. The character

relates to Clint Eastwoodʼs “man with no name” having with very little lines to say which gives him this outsider quality which can be uneasy to be around but also attracts the audience wanting to find out more. One of my favourite scenes is where Tom is laying dead and as the Rifle Man is walking away he starts to awaken and reach for his gun. The Rifle Man is walking away from Tom with his back turned to him and only the audience knows what is happening leaving them wanting to intervene and help the Rifle Man but they are left helpless heightening the situation. This technique of giving the audience knowledge that a character does not know is often used in films for example the recent adaptation of Charles Portisʼ novel True Grit where Roster Coburn and Mattie Ross are watching over a hut and their friend LaBoeuf walking into an ambush. The Coen brothers put the audience in a position where they know more than the character but leaves them in a helpless position unable to intervene. The concluding action the Rifle Man preforms is to lower the hat of one of his victims over his face; the reason that this was included was to add a release and show the audience that the action is over and that they can relax. In the closing shot the Rifle Man slowly walks of into the distance with the dead body left in the foreground. This is paying homage to Sergio Leone since he can often be seen using long shots and where the characters become very small in the frame. This shot is replicating the appearance of the Rifle man and can be seen to bookend the introduction and departure of the character. A key element is creating suspense is letting people feel emotion towards the characters. For me this was a hard thing to recreate since to build up relationships it takes up much screen time which I was unavailable to do due to the limited time that I had to film my footage. When the dying character is slumped up against the tree with the Rifle Man about to shoot him I wanted to create suspense by having the uncertainty of wether or not the he would be able to raise his gun to kill him. I do not believe that this scene portrays

suspense as well as I anticipated because it becomes obvious from early on the Rifle Man has control over the situation and the conflict is not balanced. Looking at the start of Winchester ʼ73 you can see that by making the conflict balanced it produces more uncertainty and tension. Although the scene is enjoyable to watch because the audience want to know what is going to happen and if the Rifle Man is really going to pull the trigger. At first I thought the Rifle Manʼs appearance was at a good length but when reviewing the film it did seem that he appeared out of the wood too quickly. When the rifle man appears out of the woods it takes thirty-seconds for him to be fully in the frame. Although this felt like a long amount of screen time comparing to some of Clint Eastwoodʼs films it all happens relatively quick. It can often take at least five minutes of screen time for some characters to appear to build up high expectations. I believe that the stand off is the most successful scene in the film since incorporates the most techniques needed to create suspense and shows it is a way that is attractive for the audience to view.

If I were to set out making the film without research into what builds suspense I believe that I would have ended up with a flat emotionless piece of work. Through the study there are many techniques that I have picked up from other directors that are great ways of displaying suspense. What makes a great suspense scene is when more than one techniques are used together. Most scenes that were analysed have more than one technique working together to help build a in depth world. One thing that I wanted to incorporate was a count down similar to High Noon however I could not think of a decent story or a way to incorporate it


into what I had already produced. It is a popular technique that is used in many high concept action films that can quickly get the audiences attention. Although the approach to film making has change remarkably since the early days of film I believe that the way of telling a story has not changed much. As every new generation of film makers come along they bring with them new ideas and ways to make a film but they often rely on techniques that have been developed before them. Some of the most rememberable scenes in films work well because of the timings of the cuts, music and when the action is happening. A great director will know when and how many shots are needed before they move on to the next one. If the shots are to quick in the wrong place of the film it can become confusing and seem cluttered but by slowly making the length of the shots quicker it can subconsciously make the audience feel anxiety. It is possible to read about these techniques and learn how to apply them to films but I have found that what makes directors stand out is when they experiment in slightly different ways to produce their own effect. Sergio Leone would make his films exactly as he wanted using extremely wide shots and ones that would last a long time. The studios did not like this and cut many of his films down in length because that is what they believe the audience would want to see that meant many of Leoneʼs films were not that successful at the box office. It was not until they were later released at there original full length the critics began to see how well crafted they were. Leone would create his films where every shot was needed and had to be watched in full to see what he intended. I have learnt that experimenting with different techniques and sticking with what you believe works can often produce the most interesting and captivating results.

As Hitchcock says, “What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out…” (Truffaut).


From the selected directors that I have looked at they can each be classed as an auteur which is where they have put their own authorship to the material that they are producing. This can clearly be seen when comparing more than one film by the same director as they use the same techniques and styles throughout there films. If you were to compare films by Ford you can clearly see the similarities in things like shot size and framing even down to the shot pacing and the use of sound effects. I found that many directors use techniques that they have learnt from films that they have watch and often cite other directors as their influence often paying homage to them within their own films. You can tell when a scene is working well when everything is running smoothly and you are not thinking that you are watching a film but caught up in the story. Having learned what successfully creates suspense in a film has been a huge benefit for my personal film making since I now know what is required to help add depth and make a scene enjoyable to watch. The techniques that I gained will prove beneficial across all genres and can be used in many different films since suspense has proved a key element of storytelling. Suspense is a vital part of a film since is grips the audience creating a believable world where they also want to watch more.


Figure 1, Yojimbo, Akira Kurosawa, 1961 Figure 2, Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone, 1964 Figure 3 Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone, 1968 Figure 4, The Man Form Laramie, Antony Mann, 1955 Figure 5, Rifle Man, Lewis Watt, 2011

Mark Duguid: Hitchcockʼs Style, BFI Screen online, http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tours/ hitch/tour6.html Cameron, “Hitchcock 1 and the mechanics of suspense”, p. 5. Peter Vorderer, Hans Jürgen Wulff, Mike Friedrichsen, Suspense: conceptualizations, theoretical analyses, and empirical explorations Jim Kitses, Horizons West New Edition, BFI 2007. Christopher Frayling, Once Upon a Time in Italy, 2005. Christopher Frayling, Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone. I B Tauris. pp. xxi. 1998 (2nd Edition). Truffaut, Hitchcock, Simon & Schuster, 1985. Hitchcock: Suspense Humour and Tone, Susan Smith, BFI 2000. Charles Portis, True Grit, Simon & Schuster, 1968. “Winchester 73” Antony Mann, 1950. “The Searchers” John Ford, C.V. Whitney Pictures/Warner Brothers. 1956. “A Fistful of Dollars” Sergio Leone, United Artists 1964. Ennio Morricone, Man with the Harmonica, Once Upon a Time in the West Soundtrack, 1972


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