Friday, 21 March 2014

Evaluation Question 1: Forms and Conventions

This is my vodcast answer to question 1 : "In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?"


After broad research into films openings in general and also specific to the slasher genre, Sarah and I found what conventions to expect from a typical slasher film. We researched a mixed variety of film openings such as, Love Actually, The Matrix, Four Lions, Friends with Benefits, Napoleon Dynamite, Withnail and I, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. This was our first research into film openings in general, not specific to the slasher movie type. All of these films use similar conventions, despite the genre difference.

For example, the opening shot was often an extreme long shot or establishing shot. This is seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off amongst others. Another example of a general convention is about 5 out of these 7 film openings included an audio bridge of a non-diegetic soundtrack from idents to titles, and which were carried on for about 30 seconds/one minute into opening scenes. We used this idea in our film opening.

We produced a soundtrack on garageband at first only on the start of the movie i.e. the film within a film. This was because we were testing out our first attempt at a soundtrack, because neither of us had used garageband before. This can be seen in our second rough cut. We then got feedback from this and many people complimented the soundtrack and suggested we added one for the rest of the movie. We did this, and this linked to our genre research too, as many of the movie openings we saw had a soundtrack over the entire opening scenes. For example from watching and researching into Trick or Treat's film opening, we saw that the non-diegetic music soundtrack played for a total time of 3 minutes 32 seconds, 42 seconds of which was played just over the titles.

Trick or Treat is an example of the genre research we did. Another convention we found and used from Trick or Treat was the way in which the main character was portrayed. In trick or treat the main character is represented as an outsider through his bedroom, hairstyle and clothing. We tried to signify and represent our scream queen character as vulnerable and na├»ve through her teenage, pink girly room and long blonde hair. However we also used a tight strappy top, and revealing pink shorts for her costume, which also signifies she is sexually active to really emphasise her as the conventional scream queen character which is very often seen in slasher films, such as Halloween, Scream, and Pyscho.

Another idea we researched and developed was the idea of having a phone call between the scream queen and the killer, and also how the communication is represented through a television screen. We found the idea of the killer phoning the scream queen character from Scream, and decided to develop this further.  We didn’t really see such a specific thing as a phone call anywhere else so we knew if we used this it would specifically reference Scream and make audiences think back to Scream. We decided to warp the voice of the killer by recording our own voices and using an app to give it a deeper, sinister effect to it. We got the idea of this from Saw as the Jigsaw Killer also does this. We also adapted from Saw the idea of having the killer on a television screen, to really give a postmodern appeal and attract an audience of teenagers to young adults. Furthermore this also reflected Scream as there is a film within a film in Scream 2 called Stab. This gives our film links to Scream and strengthens the intertextuality idea that we wanted to use.

Our titles and title card were inspired from research into the opening titles from Scream. The title cards in scream are represented with a white coloured serif font, highlighted with a red effect, on a black background. When the title card in scream is shown there is non-diegetic sound effects played over the top of noises from a phone and screams. We decided to adapt this idea as it further enhanced our intertextuality references throughout our movie opening, especially with our key movie inspiration Scream. In our film opening we tried to use very similar effects for the titles, and found phone sounds and a scream in final cut pro which we layered over the title card. However for the title card lettering itself, we developed the idea further by animating the lettering of "Liar" so that it looked like it had been written with blood on the screen, and animated blood dripped down from the word. This linked to the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre because in the background of this movie’s titles blood also was dripping down.

Richard Nowell’s book Blood Money outlines the narrative of specifically slasher movies. We followed the first section of conventions closely as this would tell the audience that it is a slasher film they were watching. This first section is Setup, which breaks down into Trigger and Threat. Threat is shown very clearly in the beginning of the movie, both in the film within a film and the second section of our film opening. Both sections include the murder of a teenager or two and this is exactly how Nowell considers the movie should open like. Nowell is heavily influenced by Todorov’s theory of narrative which we have previously studied.

Another theory that we supported was Barthes narrative enigma theory. This is the theory that a text portrays a mystery to draw the audience in, often only revealed at the end of the text. This is what we used as the audience does not know who the killer is or how he is linked to the scream queen. Also we know little about the scream queen and boyfriend, although some facts are revealed in the opening. The theory argues that the audience will stay to watch the rest of the movie to see their questions answered and mysteries revealed. We used this idea to draw in our audience.

We followed conventions about shot type as well, such as using specific shots for example looking down on a character to make them seem weak and vulnerable, as seen in The Lost Boys, and close cropped shots to make the audience empathise with a person or alternatively feel uncomfortable depending on the situation. We saw this in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Overall, I would say that we very much stuck to conventions for movie openings, especially genre conventions such as the very well defined narrative and shot type conventions specifically seen in the slasher genre. We also used many conventions from general openings, such as audio bridges and narrative enigma. Some of our main ideas were linked back specifically to certain movies, such as the phone call and film within a film. This wasn’t a convention for all movies of the slasher genre so this is an example of how we developed or even challenged forms and conventions of other movies. However, on the whole we did stick to the conventions of slasher movies because this is what most slasher movies do, basing many of their ideas on prominent slasher movies such as Halloween and Friday the 13th.

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