Our Film Opening

Thursday, 30 March 2017

This blog is now closed

My work for this project is now complete. I hope you enjoy my blog and thank you.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

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

The opening to my film 'Shadow of your Past' both conforms to and challenges the conventions of real film openings and the genre of crime thriller. It does this in numerous ways, for example typical characters and their behaviour, editing techniques, titles and the overall style of the opening.

The Plot
'Shadow of your Past' is about a female lawyer, Shania, who, after a rapist she helped prosecute is released from prison, finds herself the target of his rage as he plots revenge against her. The film goes on to focus on Shania as her life starts to unravel with the rapist stalking her, leaving her gifts and eventually reaching his end goal of kidnapping her. After a failed attempt to escape by herself, Shania is later found by the police and taken to safety but the rapist manages to get away. The film ends, therefore, on a slight cliffhanger with Shania attempting to get her life back on track and with the audience left wondering where the rapist has gone and if he'll ever return to Shania's life.


How our film opening conformed to conventions

Please click to enlarge the table below for my answers.


Below is a mind map on the conventions of thriller films. Those highlighted in a different colour are the ones that we have included in our film opening. 
Please click and drag to navigate.

Conventional Characters


Narrative Structure

Below is a Prezi explaining Todorov's Narrative Theory and how it relates to our film.

Other narrative techniques and conventions we used in our opening include:

  • Levi Straus' Binary Opposites
    • Law vs Crime
    • Woman vs Man
    • Calm setting vs unsettling event of stalking
    • Smooth camera movement on Shania vs shaky, hand-held POV stalker shots
  • Propp's Character Theory
    • This theory states that there are key characters with set functions in every storyline
    • We wanted to challenge this slightly to have a female lead who whilst technically a Victim/damsel in distress, she is still the hero in some respect as she keeps herself alive when kidnapped through her own intelligence and skill, and attempts to save herself without relying on anyone else, particularly a man, to do it for her.

1. Soundtrack
Our opening has two soundtracks which work together to initially create a slightly eerie and unsettling atmosphere with simple classical piano - similar instrumentally to the very beginning of Taken and a similar vibe to the opening of Gone Girl - and then to build tension and match the drama of the red herring sequence, switching to the more 'aggressive' track that gives a more action/thriller atmosphere than the beginning. 

2. Grading
Grading was very important to us as we wanted to create a naturalistic, un-glossed look to the opening that is normally seen in British Indies and BBC drama productions. This desaturated, gloomy look also reflects the genre and is similar to the grading seen in Gone Girl and Se7en.

Graded shot from our opening

Graded shot from Gone Girl
In addition, grading choices should reflect the type of subject mater a film deals with for example the first Harry Potter film is very saturated and bright, accurately portraying the lighter content, whilst for the 6th film, that tackles death and other more mature themes, the shots have been graded to have a desaturated, less idealised look.
Shot from the sixth film
Shot from the first film

3. Titles

The wording and order of our titles was inspired by Se7en as previously discussed but it, along with Shutter Island also inspired the unsettling effect we chose for our titles.

The disconcerting shaking effect helps to connote  the genre and meets audiences' expectations of opening credits for a crime thriller film.

We chose a simple white font for all of our titles so as not to distract from the action, especially as they are superimposed.
For the actual film title we used a different font to ensure that it stood out and it was inspired by the font seen on the poster for Shutter Island.

Our film title

On the whole, I think that our film opening does conform to genre and structural conventions with the only challenges coming from characterisation, as we wanted to represent a social group often neglected in film.

Question 2: How does your media product represent particular social groups?

The main social group that we chose to represent in our film is black females as they are severely underrepresented, often negatively portrayed or are there for tokenism. We created our desired representation through camera work, casting, costuming and mise-en-scene.

Representation of Women

Statistics of females in films show that they are very underrepresented and that last year audiences were twice as likely to see male characters as they were female. The breakdown of percentage of female characters of colour showed an increase from 13% to 14% for black women from 2015 to 2016 and only 5% of females were portrayed as leaders.

Percentages of males, females and ensembles as protagonist - 2016

For the full report please click the link - It's a Mans World Report

Whilst women's roles have evolved from the traditional 'Princess' or 'Damsel in Distress' to include Hero and Villain for example, they often still conform to unflattering stereotypes that are so prevalent in film that we often don't even realise that they can be damaging to young girls' views of themselves.

Typical roles of women in films

A collage of conventional female characters

Representation of black women in film

Although these stereotypes are prevalent in TV and film, there are some characters that are more innovative and are a step in the right direction as they take some of these stereotypical traits and add other characteristics that make the portrayals more representative of black women in the real world. TV tends to be better at doing this than film and examples include:

Sasha and Michonne from The Walking Dead

and Jessica from Suits

Our representation
We wanted to create a strong black female lead who could act as a positive role model and who actually represented aspects of 'real' women, instead of traditional stereotypes that only focus on one or two characteristics.

The characteristics we wanted to highlight in Shania are:

  1. Independent
  2. Intelligent
  3. Hard working
  4. Strong
  5. Driven
  6. Determined
  7. Out-spoken
  8. Supportive
We created this representation through our characterisation and in particular our mise-en-scene. The costuming played a large part in this and coupled with the legal documents Shania signs, connotes her professionalism and drive, as she works in a notoriously hard field to excel in. Her smart black and white dress connotes the sophistication we wanted to portray and, coupled with the affluent neighbourhood she lives in and the set dressing to give a feminine yet minimalistic look, highlights her organisation and success. These aspects were very important for us to pick out as we wanted the audience to not only be able to relate to Shania, but also to see her as a role model with inspirational qualities, moving beyond the traditional gender and ethnicity stereotypes discussed above.

These traits are similar to those seen in Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson from Hidden Figures and Annalise Keaton from How to Get Away with Murder, who was our main inspiration for Shania as described in the research and planning posts.

Below is a clip of Keaton in court (the same professions as our own main character) highlighting some of these personality traits. 

We chose this representation because we wanted to create a role model for young girls that they could relate to and be inspired by. Even when faced with a horrific and traumatic event, Shania manages to pull through, stay true to herself and prove her worth as an individual, which is the positive representation and message we wanted to give to our audience. 

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

The production company that we chose for our film is BBC Films. We chose them because they produce films that have strong British feels, which ours does with its British cast and London setting, and deal with serious, mature themes similar to those explored in our own film.

Below is a table of BBC productions that inspired us and prove that BBC could produce our own film. Please click to enlarge.

Production Budget

As a small British Independent film, that requires no expensive CGI or visual effects and is filmed mainly on location, a small budget would be appropriate. 

We loosely based our budget figure off of the BBC Films  2011 production 'We Need To Talk About Kevin', which had a budget of $7,000,000. I think that as we want more global appeal and recognition as well as London being the setting, a slightly higher budget of approximately $10,000,000 would be appropriate.


We chose Summit Entertainment, a subsidiary company of Lionsgate, as the distributor to buy the rights to 'Shadow of your Past' as they have global reach and have distributed similar films in the past, such as 'P2'. 

Question 4: Who would be the audience for your media product?

Our media product has a range of possible audience. The primary audience consists of fans of the crime thriller genre and both genders.
Thriller is a big genre with multiple sub-genres and vast range of storylines and after action thriller, crime thrillers are one of the most common crossovers. 
Below is a table showing the number of releases per genre and the box office takings of the genres that did the best in 2015.

Table for the BFI Statistical Yearbook

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It's important to have a clear idea of your target audience to ensure that you can tailor your film idea to them and ensure that it is appealing.

Question 5: How did you attract/address your audience?

We attracted our audience by using genre conventions, age appropriate themes and content and the uses and gratification theory.

Below is a mind map detailing how we specifically addressed our audience.
Please click the present button in the top right hand corner to make the mind map full screen for ease of navigation.

Audience Feedback

We showed our film opening to a range of people in our TA of both genders and ages ranging from 15-50. Below are videos from two of the groups, showing their reaction.

Here is an extract from some quantitative audience feedback data that I collected.
Audience feedback

Conclusions from feedback, with my own response to it in blue.

  • On the whole, our opening was clear and people could understand what was going on
    • I was very pleased with this as it shows that an audiece are able to follow what is happening in our opening which is the starting point to ensuring that the audiences' needs are met.
  • The hand held running shots were popular with everyone that we asked
    • Again, I was really pleased with this response as those shots were verey hard to film but my group and I pushed to do them becuase we thought that, not only were they visually interesting, but they also helped to immerse the audience in the action and aid escapism.
  • The majority of people liked the lack of dialogue as it added to the mystery of what was happening but some did feel like more would have been better or a bigger deal should have been made of the dialogue that was included
    • I agree that a bigger deal should have been made of the two lines of dialogue that we did include, but I liked the lack of speaking, not only because it reduced the chance of possible bad delieveries from the actor that could take the audience out of the moment, but also becuase I believe that it adds to the mystery of the sequence and tension building.
  • The stalker shots through the window could have been made more obvious - suggestions included fading the edges out of the hots or superimposing a camera viewfinder over the shots
    • These suggestions are something that if we had the chance to redo this project I would definitely consider because whilst I think that our idea was good with these stalker shots, in my opinion, they fall a bit flat. Making it more obvious that it's a stalker by superimposing a camera viewfinder could have better built tensions and suspense, in turn meeting the audience's needs for escapism and to be entertained.
  • The varied framing and angles of the shots were visually interesting 
    • This feedback was really pleasing because during pre-production my group and I spent a lot of time planning out our shots to be varied to ensure that our sequence didn't look ploddy and boring.

Question 6: What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?

This project has allowed me to expand on my prior knowledge of the technologies used and learn about completely new ones, increasing my confidence and ability to use the equipment. The main thing that I have learnt is that the more practice you get with the technology and the more you know what you're doing, the smoother the project will run and easier it will be.

Below is a Prezi detailing what I have learnt throughout this process in terms of technology.