*Me and Brittany sat down and wrote this together*
Question 1. – In what ways does your media product, use, develop, or challenge forms and conventions for real media products?
In the Industry films generally play into their stereotypes and typical conventions, with set boundaries as to what classes it to be within that genre for example; Comedy films have a hilarious main character, Action films are typically about a strong dominant character and romance films are about love and connection. A psychological thriller doesn’t have these boundaries and can fit within a wide spectrum without having a specific stereotype, thus it made it hard to challenge the conventions as they simply don’t exist, they just all have one thing in common, mental health. As this was the only convention that really exists for psychological thrillers (apart from thrilling you) we decided our film has to include a strong element of mental health but needs a strong captivating story, that as my audience research says “puts you on the edge of your seat”.. For our opening sequence, we’ve decided to introduce the main characters of the film within our opening. We have done this without letting on what the names are or how the exactly fit into the story. This adds a sense of mystery about the characters and also gives hints to what kind of people they are using spoken word poetry, by building up the scenes. Within the opening scene we reveal a large part of the plot line very subtly to the audience as a hint as to what is going to happen like every good opening scene, such as the girl with the dragon tattoo, which is one of the films I analysed within our research stage. Our film explores the lives of three individuals living with mental health conditions and looks at their lives through their unstable minds. Like most psychological thrillers, the story involves some kind of mental health problem, such as black swan: paranoid schizophrenia, to find out the struggle Mark throughout the film, is in fact all not real. Obviously it’s very hard to pluck ideas straight out of nowhere and come up with something completely original; we needed inspiration, and inspiration we found.
The film “Room” is what I believe is the main source of inspiration for our film, it includes many of the same elements such as the kidnapping section, when you first begin to watch “Room” there is nothing that jumps out that suggests she is in a hostage situation or that anything is wrong, the film feels normal, which I suppose would be a typical convention of a psychological thriller that at the start everything seems so normal and bland, a convention we have also worked into our film. The mise-en-scene in “Room” is something we have tried to develop into our film opening, Jacks Ma wears clothing that blends into her surrounding of lifeless beige and neutral colours which suggests she has succumbed to her kidnapping and accepts this as her now reality, we have tried to introduce this into our own film opening by using the colours to perhaps not blend but reflect the characters emotions, all of the characters within the opening sequence wear black. Black is a sign of death, uncertainty, sadness and emptiness all feelings we wanted our characters to try and convey although this is complying with the convention from room it could also be seen as challenging the convention as the female character in “Room” is not open with her feeling she is very shut of and closed, but with our film we wanted to openly show the emotions of the characters which is ironic due to the film having ‘invisible’ in its name, therefore in our opening sequence we’ve used empty spaces with background features that add to the character profile, and also put more focus on the character, to contradict the invisible ideas. In the first section, we filmed in an abandoned building to show metaphorically the mind of a depressed person. The graffiti represents to cloud or thoughts and, variety of thoughts overwhelming the scene. The building is derelict and falling apart which can also be talked about to link to her state of mind and wellbeing. For the schizophrenia section, we’ve used smoke bombs to see a natural accordance of smoke in a man-made format of colour to show corruption and also represent her illness. The fact that she also dances in the smoke shows at first she feels within control, but suddenly we see the character becomes swarmed within the smoke with no escape. This shows the character struggling. Also with the use of the nature behind the scene we also used editing to show it as being nearly dead and decayed with the use of a tree that was once hit by lighting revealing a white twisted figure shows the decay of the thought and irrational mind. Most psychological thrillers play at subtle key parts in the opening sequence again like seven to show small details within the shots which we have developed to present these as our subtle meanings from what we show.
Composition is something we have carefully thought about, I mean there is whole job role in the media dedicated to it ‘ the director of photography’, clearly it was something we need to incorporate into every shot we do in the opening sequence, we needed to see how other media texts use composition, camera angels or shot types and a film that stunningly does this is “American Beauty”. Composition within “American Beauty is done discreetly that you have to really think about why was the character placed slightly of centre, or directly in the middle, the shot that stood out to me and inspired me to develop it was when the main character Lester Burnham was being told there was a chance of being made redundant, his composition instantly reflect the way he felt within that room, Lester was placed directly in the middle, in a wide shot, the background was bland and he looked very insignificant compared to the vast size of the room. From this we can tell that Lester Burnham felt directly under the spotlight, that the bland surrounds emphasized how he thought about himself, the wide shot detracts all focus away from him creating an uncertain focal point, I personally liked this convention so we have tried to develop it into our opening sequence a shot where this convention would directly apply would be a wide shot of “Depression” stood in a derelict mill with her fairly close to the camera, by doing this not only did we create some interesting leading lines with everything pointing to her the vast size of the mill should overpower “Depression” but instead she matches the size and overpowers it. Whilst a lot of psychological thrillers focus a lot on extreme close ups and quick moving shots such as seven, to create mystery but give the audience subtle clues into the film, we decided to use further away shots to better demonstrate our film to the audience by still using interesting shots, as well as using close up character portraits. This indirectly fits to the “American Beauty” convention but developing it into still having the emotion of the character felt within the surroundings but challenging it as well as the emotions are at different sides of the emotion spectrum with “American Beauty” feeling underwhelmed and “Depression” feeling overwhelmed. We have used a large variety of shot ideas such as using a crane, and a glider, to create interesting shots.
Editing has very specific conventions as to what an edit technique relates to, a cross dissolve creates a connection between two shots, a match and action gives a clip a sequential order, or a cut away drags focus onto one specific area and nearly every film follows this convention. “Girl interrupted” is no exception, it uses match on actions and cut aways but more interestingly it uses cross dissolves and graphic matches to show flash backs as things trigger her memory, not only does this create confusion for the audience it creates confusion for the main character Susanne, directly showing us how distorted her reality can be. Throughout our opening sequence we have used cross dissolves not to create confusion like “Girl, interrupted” did but to show a distorted version of reality and the connection between the two shots. By taking on this editing technique of a cross dissolve and developing it we can begin to see the character “Schizophrenia” through her distorted reality in a discreet way. With the colour palette of the opening sequence we have kept the colours dark with blue tones in most of the footage with black and white playing a large role in the colour palette in places. The blue tones suggest aloofness which is a large part of our film, with the two girls being held hostage in the basement of a middle aged man further revealing that he is in reality a 16 year old girl, who is very much alone in a world that doesn’t exist much like the two girls she kept in the basement. It shows how the girls are all very alone in their lives and the blue themes connect them well with the blue tones also given to Marks character at the end of the sequence. Whilst we do see a lot of blue tones in our colour palette, equally see our fair share of black and white particularly in the portraiture sections for the characters as well as the section for anorexia. Black and white together has high contrasts on the palette and in meaning. Whilst giving an elegant classy look, we still see black having very negative connotations, and an overall depressing vibe, whilst equally linking the two female characters in there portrait shots with mysterious connotations overall giving the audience a subtly off feel about the two characters. Whilst white is showing us innocence about these characters still making the audience feel sympathetic towards them before being properly introduced. For the Anorexia section we see the entire section in black and white, with the white showing the representation of perfection and from its purity implications; and the black showing the need for control and order seen with the disorder of anorexia nervosa, and also concealment to others. This takes conventions from the opening of black swan where we see the swan lake prologue. The costumes are kept in a simple black and white whilst the saturation of the overall colour is kept down with blue tones reflected in the stage and backdrop. The film uses the black and white differences to show the good and the bad, whereas we have used it to show the overall battle between someone struggling with mental health.
For the duration of the sequence we have used a series of long cuts followed by a few short cuts here and there. However towards the end of the sequence we built up the speed using a lot more quick cuts to show tension building up and eventually reveal the character of Mark. The fast cuts take conventions from seven in the editing, as they use a lot of quick cuts throughout the opening sequence to keep the audience guessing, whereas in ours it build the climax to reveal a character.
The sound that we decided to use for our opening was a cover of a popular song played on the piano to fit the best we could into the orchestral section of the category without using copyrighted music. This decision was made as a result of the questionnaire being most likely music to be playing in a psychological thriller. This sticks to known conventions for the audience and also keeps away lyrics in the song to allow our spoken word poetry to be spoken over the top. We see orchestral music being played during the title sequence for black swan to challenge the conventions, we brought in spoken word poetry into the title sequence which isn’t something that I have seen before used in a psychological thriller. However it allows you to understand the characters a little better, and also draw you in from our selected word choices. It gives more meaning to the clip and overall makes it better, and more interesting. As well as recording a scream along with a list of mental illnesses where the sound has been overlaid to make white noise and then instantly cut to the climactic scream to show the struggle.
Opening sequences are title heavy it’s the way they are made ( well in most films), one of our biggest concerns was trying to make our psychological thriller opening look one rather than a random short clip, and one of the easiest ways to do this is by heaving titles/credits as it is a strong convention throughout most film genres not complying to only one genre. A film we looked at for title conventions was called “Se7en” which has jittery hand scribbled titles, by having this it creates a sense of rushed time or a childlike mind, however it plays to thrillers being fast paced or perhaps a little bit creepy, we thought that this convention would be good to develop into our own piece by using a font called “Fdonkulous” which was a custom made font that had the effect of being hand written and slightly scratched into, by using a font like the one in “se7en” we felt we had a strong convention to follow and adapt as we can see where it would fit into within real media texts and what films it would be similar too.