Monday, 21 March 2011

Our Final cut

I hope you enjoy the final cut after months of hard work!


Torment: Dreamscape Roughcut 2 from Benji Hudson on Vimeo.

Evaluation Q7 - Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?

Since making the prelim, we have learnt a lot and progressed up to the point of finishing the full product. There are many different ways in which we have progressed and learnt about things along the way. A few notable examples are included in these following points.


We have learnt to study many ways in which to make our film better; the best example of this includes research into a chosen genre (psychological thriller) through aspects like conventions, deconstructions, camera shots, mis-en-scene and more. Throughout this blog, there are many different deconstructions where we systematically picked apart every aspect we could find about certain points of our chosen films, such as this blog deconstructing the introduction of American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000), or this one deconstructing Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) and explaining important points about it.


Studying and researching these films provided a very helpful way of learning about media-related aspects like camera shots, editing, mis-en-scene etc, and it the research helped us progress to our final product, from the prelim stage where we didn't have as much of when we did the prelims.

An example of conducting research into our genre

We also did a lot more planning for our final product than we did for the preliminary task. We did this so we could ensure that we knew exactly what we wanted and how we'd go about doing it, rather than just mentally brainstorm it and not being totally able to organise everything properly, therefore not being totally able to shoot what we wanted. So to make sure we knew what we wanted to record, we created callsheets, storyboards and a treatment. We did this to make sure we knew what we wanted to record shot by shot, and we made it pretty detailed and included text, pictures and more. Also, we mutually agreed on dates and similar aspects on which we were all able to record together.





A storyboard from one of our rough cuts.
A draft of our treatment.































There were also lots of other factors that we improved and progressed on in the time between our prelim and our final product. Instances of this included props, location scouting, pitching, casting and more; these are all significant to take into account because they are all examples of factors that we have developed and progressed since making our preliminary task. Location scouting and casting were particularly new for us; we'd shot our prelim at school at a previously designated spot, and we just worked with whoever we were assigned with. This contrasts to how we did this with the film itself, as we went out in the local area and brainstormed as a group good points and areas and which to film in. In addition, we also chose the roles of both the actors and the filming carefully, with our producer being the best actor, and since our film only had one or two characters, we chose him as the main role, whereas our prelim had everyone acting in it, regardless of talent or expertise about the role. 

Another important way in which we progressed from the preliminary task to the final product; was that of teamwork and working in a group together. We all assigned to each other and to ourselves roles such as cinematographer, director and producer, and we also designated as a group who would do what within the film itself, and indeed out of the film. We all worked together when it came to filming, editing and recording podcasts/vodcasts, and this was a large stage of progression from the prelim, where we split off and did our own thing, somewhat more independently. This changed and progressed as we started work on our film within our chosen groups, and we all shared the taskload and interacted with others a lot more.




Evaluation Q6 - What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?

During the process of making our film, we used a wide range of different techniques and technologies. This included using technology when filming, when editing, when recording sound and more. For example, we used the cameras as a use of technology when we filmed, we used programs such as iMovie and LiveType when it came to editing the footage, and we used audio devices like Audacity to record the sound for our soundtrack. 

Evidence of using iMovie (an editing program) to edit our film.


Evidence of using video cameras (in this case a Sony DCR-DVD403) to get our footage.


Evidence of using Audacity (an audio program) to record sound.

Tools that we as a group found useful included the previously mentioned ones, especially iMovie HD - it was easy to use, simplistic yet effective, and it greatly helped us with editing our footage. The timeline and cutting tools were very useful, as well as aspects lik
e the trash feature and the trim feature, and these things helped when it came to refining each part it great detail so we could get it exactly how we wanted and needed it. Another helpful tool included LiveType, that we used to make the company idents. Like iMovie, this program was very straightforward and easy to use, and could be used by a total novice with only a few minutes spent on getting to know how to use it. This means that we could create high-quality idents for our film quickly, but while maintaining a high quality to each one. There were lots of different options to choose from concerning themes, layers, fonts and more, and we used these to our advantage and created some very attractive things using LiveType. 



Admittedly, we were very surprised by what we could achieve using these programs. When we were first presented with the task of editing our footage, we thought it would be either extremely hard and difficult software to get to grips with, or it would be difficult to record the footage in the first place. But, as it transpired, all the programs we used were remarkably easy to use, and we got acquainted quickly with all the tools and got started working with them straight away, and we were very surprised with what we could do once we knew how to use them. Technology helped us get our vision onto the screen in a number of ways. Primarily, without the use of all the aforementioned programs and tools, we wouldn't have been able to edit or record our footage, making our production obviously impossible. Another reason is the way we took inspiration from films such as Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001), Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997) and American Psycho (Marry Harron, 2000), all psychological thrillers. We watched these on DVD and meticulously analyzed and deconstructed them to a fine degree, and working out how to replicate certain parts and use them in our own production; we used video cameras and iMovie for this, and without this technology, we wouldn't have been able to get our vision up for others to see.The idea of using analogue technology rather than the current technology that we actually ended up using is an intruiging one, purely because of the things we wouldn't have been able to do without the sufficient tools and devices used nowadays, and the ones we used in our production too. For example, we wouldn't have been able to do our idents as well/as quickly, and we wouldn't have had the means of editing it properly; the thing would've have to have been done in one continuous shot, using only the pause button between takes, so yes, it would have indeed made a difference as there would have been a few problems that hindered the production.



We also found that technology was a great help when it came to audience feedback for our rough cuts. We used the audio records to record what they said about each one, then relayed the information back to everyone through a podcast. We also used video technology to record audience feedback, by documenting vodcasts about the feedback. We videoed ourselves in the group talking about the audience feedback to the camera, then edited it with iMovie HD on the Macs. Here's an example;


Technology itself didn't really place too many limitations on what we could achieve, and we found it to be a very critical aid while we worked on our product. However, there were a few issues that hindered us while we were trying to work. For example, there were problems such as the Mac we were working on shutting off at frequent points; luckily, the autosave/trash feature installed on iMovie meant that we were (mostly) always able to cover our work without a fault.

The message telling the user to restart the machine. This was the biggest problem we had.




If we could use any other technology, we would probably have used an HD camcorder rather than a SD one, obviously so we could get better quality footage, making our film look better. We would also have liked to have used GarageBand in order to create a soundtrack as well, as this has a lot more options and editing modes than Audacity did, meaning we could probably have made the soundtrack more like the way we really wanted it, rather than having to settle for whatever settings certain programs had already installed. Using these possible options, we could have made our film look more presentable to the viewer as the footage would've been more crisp and detailed, and using different programs for audio would ensure that we would have more possibilities and options in which to create our soundtrack.





    Sunday, 20 March 2011

    Evaluation Q5 - How did you attract/address your audience?

    This evaluation question links in heavily with our target audience. Once we had successfully determined who would be suitable for our audience, and who would be the most interested in watching our film, we started to think in a group about how would we would attract and address them. For example, we made sure that we included certain factors in our film that would attract the chosen target audience.

    Here is an annotated video of one of our cuts on YouTube. We are still deciding what factors to use from it in a newer cut, which things we will keep in, what we'll take out, or whether or not we'll even use a newer one at all, because from what audience feedback we received, this was the one that was revered the most, and it was also the one that we all agreed was the best, after creating newer cuts. The annotations within the video are based upon factors that have been included to ensure that the audience would be attracted to the film, through areas such as representation, entertaining mis-en-scene, aspects of verisimilitude and intertextuality to interest and address the public.

    NB - If the annotations move too quickly at some stages, simply pause the video.




    In addition, the protagonist's character and personality is intentionally untouched upon, and we used this to create a narrative enigma, thus leading the audience to wonder about him and possibly sympathize OR  retract to his character. This is an example of how we are attracting the audience, as we are trying to interest them in the protagonist's reclusive yet intriguing persona. We also intentionally left out music, as we thought that it would interfere the dripping and the child's laughs that ran throughout the whole scene. We made this choice because we thought we would attract and address the audience more if we made some parts of the production quieter and more intimate than they would be if we had music detracting from the atmosphere. 

    Evaluation Q4 - Who would be the audience for your media product?

    Here is a podcast detailing the use of research and development on points concerning the target audience:



    There are also other points concerning the target audience that our product is aimed at/suited for. In addition to the two cores, and the representation, we have also made sure that we included things that would appeal to our audience. For example, we knew that our product would mainly appeal to the male sector of the viewers, so we made sure we included violence and mystery, which is typically within male interest. As previously mentioned, we also made sure we followed the convention of the main character being bewildered and confused, much like the protagonist in Donnie Darko.



    We also studied various websites, such as IMDb and the BBFC website to determine what certificate our film would be, and how it would affect the range of our target audience. As I say in the podcast, we mutually agreed that our group would fall under the 15+ certificate, due to violence, death and blood. This obviously narrows the possible target audience, even though people under the age limit would probably not be interested in the film anyway.





    In addition, we also took into account the male gaze theory, and used it in the form of the opposite sex, i.e a strong male lead character. This is signified by his casual dress sense and disheveled appearance, and we deliberately included this to attract the female gaze, as it were, that somewhat defies convention of having an attractive female character, and therefore increasing the target audience to a more female reach as well as the male one.

    Evaluation Q3 - What kind of media institution might distribute your media and why?

    This question is dependent on our genre and style of film, and it also concerns who the target audience would be.  Our film (we thought as a collective) was a psychological thriller, but we imagined it would be relatively independent, as if we were making it properly, we would have lots of time constraints and a small budget, so it would make sense to use an "indie distributor" to make sure our film got noticed. This is also partly because a much larger corporation such as Warner Bros. would probably not be interested in a much smaller film, due to the cast, crew, etc.


    In most of the deconstructions of the same genre we did, we found out that some of the films we studied had the same type of distributor, i.e quite a small, basic and independent media institution. Some examples of this type of distributor we found included Newmarket Films (Donnie Darko), and October Films (US Distributor, now defunct, not to be confused with the unrelated British distributor of the same name) (Lost Highway).
    However, other films that we deconstructed had much larger distributors/institutions operating with them, such as Warner Brothers (eg Inception) and Lionsgate (American Psycho). Even though the latter distributor still classifies itself as an independent institute, they are still part of a massive corporation, Lionsgate International.


    We researched slightly more recent films in our group that were related to our film, such as Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) and The Machinist (Brad Anderson, 2004) using Wikipedia, IMDb and more, and they are both psychological (if slightly different in subcategories) that have certain institutions distributing them to cinemas and to the public, and they are both examples of more recent films. They are also examples of how different films get attention from various different institutions, such as Inception being distributed by an absolutely colossal business, such as Warner Bros, because of the actors, the budget, the revenue etc, and this does not relate the the way our film would be distributed as we did not have those advantages. In addition, British psychological horrors are not as prevalent as other genres, making it somewhat difficult to research them. This finding lead us to consider the point of using a smaller, more independent distribution institute may be more suitable.

    A good example of indie distribution is Warp Films/Warp X. Warp is one of the foremost and most respected creative independent companies, now composed of Warp Records, Warp Films and Warp Music Videos & Commercials. It is based in London, England and Sheffield, with a further office now in Melbourne. They are the most revered independent distributors, we would probably use an institution similar to them, or them themselves, to get our film noticed by the public. They have won many awards for their work, in many different genres (which is helpful to us), such as Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010) and This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006) to name a few.

    It would make more sense to work with a distributor such as Warp due to our film choice of genre being more suitable for a smaller company to work with, due to the fact that they are rather more focused on getting the product out for the world to see, rather than gaining a massive profit. That type of institution would probably be one like Lionsgate or Warner Brothers, and they wouldn't be as interested or as personal when it came to the question of what distributor would help us get our film out there. 

    Evaluation Q2 - How Does Your Media Product Represent Particular Social Groups?

    Our media product represents social groups in a number of ways:

    • Firstly, we made sure that we could relate to the target audience, so that they would become more interested in to what was going on, through the way the character was styled upon. For example, the protagonist of the film was a disheveled, casual, yet troubled individual. We thought that this could relate to the typical teenager/young man in a certain way, as the archetypical teenager is conventionally unorganized, disillusioned and some are conveyed as being outcasts in society. A good example of this is Donnie Darko, the titular character from the film of the same name.We tried to model or protagonist on some of the characters in this type of film, because they are mainly quite isolated and not having an ideal lifestyle, and at odds with everybody else in their environment. This is one of the ways that our film represents social groups, through the representation of age and social background. 


    This is an extract from Donnie Darko where we really come to terms with his personality and what he is going through, and this is also a good example of how we tried to replicate a character with a complicated past in order to represent a certain social group, ie both background and age.
    •  Another area of representation is that of sexuality; the second character is a strong, heterosexual male. This is somewhat of a convention, as it is this style of sexuality that appeals most to the public, and also gathers the widest audience attraction, and is proved by examples such as James Bond, to name one. This type of protagonist (the archetypical alpha male) greatly appeals to the general public, mostly female, in relation to the male gaze, but this time focusing on "female gaze", so to speak.

    • Our film doesn't really represent the social groups concerning race and regional identity; we had our reasons for this. The main point to be addressed is the fact that we wanted to convey a sense of narrative enigma as to what the character's personality consisted of. We deliberately missed out aspects like ethnicity and regional identity because we wanted the audience to think for themselves about the type of personality that the protagonist has. A great example of this Fred Madison from the film Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997) - very little is known about the character, and it is somewhat of a narrative enigma as to who he really is, and we tried to replicate this way of storytelling with our own film. This is an example of deliberately not including some areas of representation so that the audience has to work it out for themselves.
    The representation of disability/ability is touched upon in our film. Linking to my previous point of the character not knowing what is happening. The protagonist is, in a way, disabled in a mental state, as he is too disorientated and troubled to function properly, and is constantly haunted by flashbacks. This area of representation, however, will probably not captivate the audience as much, and is not the biggest social group that our film is aimed at. 

    To summarise, the main area of representation that we address in our media product is that of age. Even though there is a slight narrative enigma to add mystery and depth to his persona, the age of the main character has been chosen to relate to a wider target audience, and it has also been chosen to represent certain social groups, mainly age, gender and sexuality. 


    Evaluation Q1 - Use of Conventions

    There are many different points in which ways our media products both relate and differ to real ones, for a number of different reasons. Mainly, when we were thinking of what to do for our production, we deconstructed lots of films that we were interested in using. By doing this, we ensured that each aspect of our film made sense and used important aspects of other films, which is a very important point as we made sure we included a lot of points from other films. The notes and themes analysed were American Psycho (2000, Mary Harron) (deconstruction of intro), (notes) , Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly) and Lost Highway (1997, David Lynch).

    These included themes, elements, clich├ęs, conventions and more when we started rafting our film. As a collective, all of us agreed that to make our films as good as possible, we had to incorporate these wisely and strategically into our own production. We made sure we took into accounts the conventions and forms used in the films that we watched, such as American Psycho, Donnie Darko and Lost Highway. These are the three films we studied in the most depth and took the most inspiration from, because they are all perfect examples of psychological thrillers, and have very important aspects and elements that we wanted to use in our production.

    Notable examples of forms and conventions we used from films included the style of shooting, especially from the film Donnie Darko. In the film, the main character peers down a long staircase in the darkness, and we tried to replicate this in our own production by having a very similar shot taking place on the stairs. Another example of following the conventions and forms in our film is a shot taken from American Psycho. In the introduction sequence to the film, there is blood dripping on a white screen while the credits play. We took inspiration from this and decided that it would be a good idea to include a similar shot in Torment: Dreamscape, and we replicated this by pouring blood onto a surface in the introduction to our film. Lastly, we took an idea from Lost Highway, in which throughout the film there are a lot of hallway shots. As a group, we thought that the ominous, foreshadowing and foreboding look of the sequences looked marvellous, so we thought that it would be a good idea to do something similar for our shot. Our production includes similar hallway shots to Lost Highway, and there are a number of shots that reenact the main character of the film.






    There are a few more ways in which our production uses and develops conventions of real media. These include camera angles, archetypes, binary opposites and more. Firstly, our films implements the use of a wide range of camera angles, and we did this because we wanted to keep the audience interested and  anxious to what will come next. The angles themselves range from close ups all the way to panoramic and establishing shots, and we included some angles for specific reasons, such as dutch tilt/dutch angles to signify that something is wrong, or that something bad might happen. We also used close-ups to signify panic and other expressions and themes intrinsic to our film. These are conventions in our film that are also used in real films, such as the ones we studied and took inspiration from. Sound was also a convention used, both diagetic and non-diagetic sound, and the soundtrack we used is closely related to that in films such as American Psycho; ie not too outstanding, but more subtle with a hidden message of foreboding.

    We also heavily incorporated the aspect of mis-en-scene into our production. This is evident when the main character wakes up after the establishing shot; we took care to ensure that we used the element of verisimilitude, and we achieved this by trying to make the main character's bedroom look like a typical teenager's, maybe one living alone who has let his living conditions slip somewhat in his depression; there is litter and clothes everywhere, like empty drinks cans all over the desk. We also included verisimilitude by putting a copy of the book American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis on the desk, as well as Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik, hinting at the possibility of a similar type of story.


    American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis adding intertextuality and verisimilitude to the mis-en-scene.



    Another convention that we included is the use of binary opposites throughout. This applied to characters, places, lighting and more. Primarily, the binary opposites are implemented in the flashback scenes in our film. We edited the past events to a black-and-white tint, so signify that it was definitely in the past, and this contrasts with the present which is in full colour. Other examples include the contrast between the two characters, and indeed the main character himself. Firstly, the film mainly focuses on the main character in the present day, and there doesn't seem to be anything noticeably bad about him, even though he looks slightly perturbed and troubled. This contrasts greatly to the second view, or second side, of the main character, and this side really makes an entrance when the flashbacks start happening. It is the given implication that the character has done something foul and horrible, as there a frequent scenes of knives and blood spatter (once again reminiscent of American Psycho). The lighting also plays a large part in the binary opposite theme, as there is lots of varying light in our film. For example, the establishing shot of the house is set in the pitch black, and it quickly changes to a brighter, interior light, signifying the importance of good (light) and evil (darkness).

    Although we largely incorporate a large variety of conventions and forms used in real media productions, we also challenged and didn't take the normal route when it got to recording ours. For example, whereas most well-known psychological thrillers such as the ones mentioned above, there is at least a short introduction that focuses on a largely normal setting, with nothing too out of the ordinary. For example, the introduction to American Psycho features a few minor characters and the major one sitting in a restaurant and talking with each other about regular topics:



    We challenged this convention and decided to get straight into our storyline straight away, without much time  apart from an establishing shot. We wanted to interest our viewers straight away and getting them to think about what was going on immediately. This differs from the convention of real psychological thrillers and slashers as there is normally a small introductory scene detailing some of the main characters, and this is a way in which we have challenged a form and conventions of real media products.