Main task: "Mute" Finished Opening Sequence

Preliminary Task: Finished Continuity Sequence

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Note to the moderator

Thank you for taking the time to look around both my individual blog and my Group Blog.

You will find both links to the group blog and the Main teaching blog (which has links to all the other individual and group blogs at my centre) to the right of the page. There is also a list of tags and my blog archive so you can easily navigate my posts, as well as a search bar.

On this blog you will find any independent research I undertook, my individual initial idea and of course my answers to the seven evaluation questions. You can also check out any work I did for my preliminary task, including the evaluation, and view both my finished preliminary task and main opening sequence at the top of this page. I hope you enjoy watching them both, particularly Mute as a lot of hard work was put into it by all four members of my group.

On my Group Blog you will find the work I individually contributed towards the development and production of our opening sequence by clicking on the tag labelled 'Jessica', along with any work the whole group produced together.

All posts are organised chronologically, dated from January up to April of this year. I have posted my evaluation answers in reverse order so you can read them in order from the top to the bottom of the page.

Thanks again and I hope my blogs are enjoyable and interesting to both look at and read.

- Jessica Wilson, Candidate no. 3895 

Closing Post

This blog is now closed, but feel free to browse!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Evaluation Question 1

1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

We wanted to make our film opening look like an Action/Drama movie by using similar colour grading and lighting, taking inspiration from big action films like The Dark Knight and I Am Number Four.

The mise-en-scene and style of the sequence was really important in getting across genre conventions, as the opening of our film does not have a lot of action in it, emitting the typical features of an action film like guns and fighting, challenging the conventions of other films like the James Bond franchise which often have fast-paced action scenes right at the beginning of the movie.

This clip from The Dark Knight has shadowy lighting and slightly blue tint, which is the effect we wanted for Mute.

We also looked at Action/Sci-Fi films like I, Robot as our film does have some science fiction elements to it because of the focus on technology and a dystopian world. This clip is also quite dark and is graded with a hint of blue.

Here is a selection of stills from Action films we took inspiration from. As you can see, there is a definite running theme for colour and lighting effects.

We didn’t want our film opening to be quite this blue, as it is also a Drama, and we thought the blue tints on a lot of films were a bit over the top.

The way our opening sequence begins straight away with loud, up-tempo music is also typical of the action genre as the audience is captivated and excited as soon as the titles appear.

Narrative structure
Mute has a traditional narrative structure in that is fits quite well with Todorov’s Theory of Equilibrium:

However, we decided to break the conventions and create another disruption at the end of the film, leaving it open to a sequel. Whilst Ava is celebrating with the rest of the nation, we hear the government plotting to kill off Ava and her new boyfriend, planning to cover it up by announcing to the world that these fake voiceboxes are infected and therefore everyone must have them removed again immediately.

Our film is also untraditional as it does not really fit with Propp’s Character Theory:
  • Our protagonist Ava is of course the hero.
  • Being a girl she does not have a princess to save and instead has two supporting characters, all three of them helping each other out equally.
  • One of the boys, Benjamin’s friend, ends up being the victim who is tragically killed by the government, rather than the typical damsel in distress. 
  • There is no straightforward villain either, but instead a faceless government represented in the film by the trained-to-kill team of guards who are sent out to track the trio and try and stop them from reaching their destination.

The first half of our opening sequence does not use real time editing and instead uses a montage style to first show the  people at the bus stop, then to show different parts of Ava’s journey home.
The cross cutting at the beginning of the sequence is deliberately jumpy to create pace and enigma, as the audience does not know who these people are and why they are all engrossed in their phones.

The establishing shot of the bus stop creates a binary opposite between Ava and the other teenagers around her, as they are all looking down at their phones whereas she is staring thoughtfully out across the road, signalling her non-conformity. The second half of the sequence is edited to real time and the pace is much slower, reflecting the monotony of this silent, detached world.

Once inside the house we made sure to stick to the continuity rules.

We filmed the same shots from different angles (all within 180 degrees of each other of course) and  instructed our actress to be extra careful between shots by not moving and by completing the actions in the exact same way every time. There are several cuts between shots in our sequence that involve match-on-action, a valuable continuity rule I learnt during the preliminary task.

The typical form of a film opening sequence is to either
  1. Introduce the characters and plotline in the conventional way, or 
  2. To start at a key point later in the narrative, then jump back to an earlier date to show the events leading up to this point. 

Here is an example of a film that starts at the end: The Butterfly Effect, conforming to form (2). The opening sequence is flashforward to an event near the end of the film, confusing the audience and leading them to wonder what happened to cause the protagonist to be in this situation.

As we were not making the entire film, we thought it would be much simpler to use the conventional form, way (1) of starting at the beginning, otherwise our sequence would not work as a standalone media product.

To make things more interesting, we used the enigmatic zoom on the webpage at the end of our opening to make the audience aware of what the rest of the film might be about; sure enough, these ‘scientists’ will be very relevant to the plotline.

It is also a convention of an opening sequence to introduce your protagonist, and as Ava is the only character not engrossed in her phone, she immediately stands out and it is obvious that she is the protagonist even before we begin to follow her home.

We didn’t want to waste screen time by putting all our titles on black screens, so instead we placed most of them over the footage, positioning them discreetly at the bottom of the screen so they are both easy to read yet not distracting. The titles end before the vital parts of the sequence where viewers have to concentrate on something important, for example the news article at the very end, so they don’t miss anything.

As well as wanting the typical stylistic features of high-budget action movies, as our product is meant to be part of a gritty British film, we wanted it to look a little different from these Hollywood blockbusters. We liked the low-saturation, high-contrast, washed out look of British superhero drama Misfits. Here is a clip to demonstrate:

In regards to the editing and pacing of our opening sequence, we wanted it to start off very choppy and fast-paced, cut perfectly to the upbeat high-impact soundtrack. Halfway through the sequence, there is a dramatic switch to the eerie silence inside the house as Ava removes her headphones, incorporating Levi-Strauss’s theory of Binary Opposites: the loud drum and bass music juxtaposes the creepy silence.

We deliberately used no music or ambient sound effects at this point to make the natural noises, like the video game and footsteps, sound too piercing and loud to make the viewer feel uneasy and wonder what it is about this world that is wrong. Of course it was integral to our film’s plot that there was no dialogue, putting the emphasis on Ava’s actions and the messages she is receiving.

We thought it was important to show CUs of the characters’ faces throughout the sequence to show the concentration they have when engrossed in their various activities, whether it be texting or playing video games.

Their blank expressions show the lack of emotion and connection with other people in this dystopian world, and the multiple close-ups are deliberately choppy and jump between different people for enigma and to bring the audience right in on the action.

We chose our titles to be simple and minimalistic, keeping to a colour scheme of white on either black or on top of film footage. The digital-style font relates to a key theme of our film: technology.

Evaluation Question 2

2. How does your media product represent particular social groups?

Age - Teenagers

We decided to play up to the stereotype of teenagers as always texting and constantly using technology, lulling the audience into thinking that this might just be a social commentary about young people communicating too much by phone. 

When we enter the house and see that the mother is also using solely technology to communicate, it becomes apparent that we aren’t only showing the stereotypical view that young people use technology too much, but everyone does, so we are not trying to show teenagers in a bad light, especially as the rebels who believe the world would be better if everyone could speak again are teenagers. 

The teenagers in our film opening are constantly texting...

But it soon becomes apparent that they are not the only ones.

This challenges the stereotype of the older generation not being tech-savvy and complaining about the younger generation for being constantly on their phones or computers.

Gender - Young females

The use of a young female character as the protagonist in an action film challenges conventions, as she is the hero, rather than being the damsel in distress who needs to be saved by a man.
We didn’t dress her like a typical girly female, and instead put her in dark, neutral clothing – black jeans, green jacket and black Doc Martens – to show a tougher side. This outfit paired with her feminine features and blonde curls hopefully makes her relatable to both girly teenagers as well as more tomboyish types.

We found that there weren’t many teenage female protagonists in action movies, so we wanted to break the trend and show that young women can be just as strong and brave as a man, as girl action heroes are  underrepresented in the film industry.

In my mind I had the character of Katniss from the popular young adult book series The Hunger Games, which could be one of the first Action/Sci-fi movies to have a feisty teenage girl lead when the movie adaptation is released next year.

Out of Total Film’s list of the 100 Greatest Female Characters in movies, ‘38 are a character in someone else’s story. 25 of those are primarily a love interest. Approximately 1/5 do not survive their film.’
We wanted to do something different and break these conventions, giving teenage girls a strong role model.

Evaluation Question 3

3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?

Our fictional production company is called Binary Studios and it is a British institution specialising in gritty dramas starring new talent from across Britain. Our films often have political and/or dystopian themes, making them sometimes controversial and not to everyone’s tastes. Examples of the kinds of films we might make are This Is England, A Clockwork Orange and Shank. 

Mute is a little different to the usual films we might produce, as it requires a higher budget due to the Action/Sci-Fi elements. British production companies rarely make Action movies, so Binary Studios is trying to break into this previously unexplored market.

The Wikipedia page for British Action Films

Due to the recent success of our films, we have sold Mute at a reasonably high price at a film festival to (fictional) British distributor Phoenix International. They specialise in Dramas and smaller independent films, so they were perfect for our film.

They are similar to Revolver Entertainment, a successful renowned institution who has had recent success distributing British films like Kidulthood and Sherlock Holmes.

They would also be able to provide us with the finance needed to produce an even bigger, better sequel to Mute if it was successful. Revolver are well known for their promotional stunts, so they could also create a campaign for Mute that will make the film famous and exciting even before its release.

  • We are hoping to exhibit Mute across as many cinemas as possible nationwide and hopefully worldwide. 
  • However, the lack of dialogue is unconventional and may put off some potential viewers
  • Hopefully this will just prod them out of their comfort zones and intrigue them to see the film, especially if we have a successful viral campaign (of course, with the ironic use of technology) which generates word-of-mouth hype.
  • The final disruption at the end of the film should keep the audience on tenterhooks and help persuade the distributors that we have the potential to create a sequel and possibly even a whole franchise of films starring Ava and Benjamin that teenagers and young adults across the world will grow up with.

Evaluation Question 4

4. Who would be the audience for your media product?

  • Our film is rated 15 and our target audience would be aged between 15 and 25. 
  • The film would be made for a British audience but is hopefully relatable to young people all over the world. 
  • It appeals to both genders, as it is a hybrid of genres, including Action, Drama and Sci-Fi, appealing to males, but the aspirational female hero and the romantic elements will hopefully appeal to young females too.

  • As previously mentioned, the lack of dialogue is unconventional and may put some people off, similar to how many people don’t like watching films with subtitles, but its uniqueness will hopefully attract them into seeing it just so they can make their own minds up.

    A group of target audience members
  • As the style of the film is quite dark and de-saturated, and the plotline isn’t particularly joyful, those who go to the cinema for light-hearted fun will not be the kind of person who comes to see Mute, so our target audience is those who like to see hard-hitting dramatic films that don’t necessarily end happily. 
  • The 15 rating allows us to be more violent and graphic, and although I wouldn’t go as far as to say the film is depressing, it will definitely be quite dark, as the point of the film is to convey how miserable and lifeless a world without speech would be. This makes the film a little more niche than the typical Hollywood action blockbuster.
  • Some adult viewers might be put off by the young main cast but hopefully Mute will become one of those films ‘you just have to see’ as it is quite controversial and could make people look at technology in a completely different way.
  • The overall idea of a parallel universe where we have evolved to be born without voiceboxes is very abstract, and it may just be too strange for some people, but for most people I hope it will be intriguing and if it does well in Britain, we could be looking at a mass release.

Here is an average target audience member:

This is Christy.
  • She is 18 years old and a sixth form college student.
  • She visits the cinema a couple of times a month and enjoys renting and buying dvds to watch with her friends.
  • Her film preferences range from Hollywood blockbusters to lesser known indie dramas, and Mute is the kind of thing that will intrigue her and pull her out of her comfort zone.
  • Her favourite films from the past year were The Social Network and Black Swan.
  • She doesn't mind watching foreign films with subtitles and the Mute premise of having voiceovers and little dialogue doesn't put her off.
  • Her other interests include going to parties and gigs and she likes finding new, up-and-coming bands online.
  • She would probably go and see Mute at the cinema with her friends or boyfriend as something to do one evening.

We showed our film opening to over fifty 15-17 year olds and got them to fill in a questionnaire. Here are a few we received (please press the zoom button to read some of the responses): 
Mute - Filled In Questionnaires

Everyone rated it between 6 and 10 out of 10 and the majority said they would want to see the rest of the film at the cinema.

This shows that we got our target audience right as the feedback was generally positive within our market, and both boys and girls enjoyed the sequence.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Evaluation Question 5

5. How did you attract/address your audience? 

  • We used teenage actors to appeal straight away to our core audience of 15-25 year olds, letting them know exactly who the film is centred around.
  • By using actors of white, black and Asian origins we were racially diverse and presented an accurate picture of modern Britain (though of course we soon find out that this isn’t Britain as we know it). 

  • Racial Diversity

    • The seemingly normal setting and characters allow the viewers to suspend their disbelief, as it feels normal to them, except for of course the one big difference: no-one can speak.
    • The music we chose is loud Drum & Bass, a genre popular with young people at the moment, making the film seem modern and exciting. 
    • Action is one of the most popular movie genres so already the film has a wider appeal than if it was, for example, Horror or Comedy.
    The most popular movie genres based on weekend gross in 2009

    • As an entirely speechless film would be dull, we would use voiceovers to reflect the silent characters’ thoughts and to allow the viewers to understand and really relate to Ava, otherwise the audience would find it hard to know what she was going through and wouldn’t feel close to her. 
    • The main characters would all be young and attractive to appeal to both boys and girls, and hopefully we would be able to cast a more well-known actor in one of the adult supporting roles to give it a bit more credibility and attract their fan base too.
    • As mentioned in question four, the plotline and hard-hitting themes of the film itself would appeal only to people who enjoy films that make them think and don’t necessarily cheer them up, and the film is not created to please those who enjoy happy, idyllic endings.
    • Although the cast and a lot of the sets are British, hopefully the idea of a loss of speech and culture as a tragedy will translate well worldwide.
    • The love story and fast-paced chase scenes should also help its international appeal, along with the young up-and-coming cast.
    We also tried to incorporate Blumler and Katz's Uses and Gratifications theory:
    1. Information - 'finding out about relevant events and conditions in immediate surroundings, society and the world'. The use of technology is extremely relevant in our current society and our film could make viewers rethink how they communicate with others.
    2. Personal Identity - 'finding reinforcement for personal values'. Viewers may be able to relate to the rebellious teenager characters and see their own personal values in them.
    3. Integration and Social Interaction - 'finding a basis for conversation and social interaction'. Hopefully our film would generate word-of-mouth hype and give everyone something to talk about, especially as the concept is quite controversial. It may also encourage viewers to interact more with their friends after watching it, as the dystopian setting of the film arose due to the lack of face-to-face communication so it might worry people and make them want to talk more.
    4. Entertainment - 'escaping, or being diverted, from problems'. Watching Mute would provide escapism and immersion of the viewer into this dystopian world. The problems of Ava and the other characters may make the audience forget about their problems for a few hours.

    To attract target audience members to our preview screening we created a Facebook Event and invited everyone aged 15 or older from our school.

    We deliberately put little information on the page, including only vital details like time and location, for enigma and to make our audience come to our screening to see what it was all about.