Our Film Opening

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Evaluation Q1: Did you enjoy the main workshop shoot day? What roles did you take? What were your best bits and why?

I enjoyed the workshop day so much and honestly had such a good time with everyone. The entire day went really smoothly as well, which was a plus, and we didn't have to shoot loads and loads of takes because everyone was performing so well. I learnt a lot from this prelim from performing and lip-syncing to cable bashing and music video editing.

Below is a time-lapse of the workshop shoot day, showing the studio set up and lighting as well as us all performing and helping the crew.

video



My Roles

Me, Jack, Laith and Ray performing as the band
Throughout the day I had many roles both in front of and behind the camera, including being Band Sydney. Although I do dance outside of school and have since I was little and am used to performing, it was still a little weird and awkward for me at the beginning to be lip-syncing, directly addressing the camera. I got over this quite quickly though, with help from our performance director Jasmine, director Dom and all of the cast that sang along with me the whole time. I also really enjoyed the shots where I was with the whole band, Jack, Laith and Ray, as we supported each other a lot and made it fun.



After the first few takes, I was really getting into being Band Sydney and although I still cringe watching myself back, I am quite pleased with my performance.


Gif of me as Band Sydney



When I wasn't performing as Band Sydney, I was cable bashing, on the clapper board and cheering on those who were performing, trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible and letting them know that they were doing great.

Me on the clapperboard 
Us all supporting each other



Best Bits


  • In terms of performance, I would say my best shot was the one in the chair as I matched the action really well



    Me getting my make-up done
  • I really enjoyed getting my hair and make-up done   
  • I loved working with my friends 
  • Learning new skills and getting to help out with the crew - such as cable bashing







Overall, I had a great time on the workshop shoot day and am really proud of us all for just going for it on the day and having  a laugh.

Group Polaroids 

Evaluation Q2: What have you learnt from participating in each of the prelim tasks 1, 2, 3 and 5?

Task 1: Audition Video


Although I wasn't really looking forward to filming the audition video, it was actually really fun to film and doing it as a group made me more comfortable and made us all perform better I think.

Our audition video


From this task, I learnt that the best way to create a believable lip-sync was to actually sing out loud, as doing this gives authentic throat movement and facial expressions associated with each word, and then just delete the sound in the edit. As well as learning about how to convincingly lip-sync, task 1 taught me that you really have to go for it and perform to the camera no matter how silly you feel because those give the best shots. This was made really obvious in the edit where some of the first shots we took were just not used because we looked to self-conscious. I also realised from this task that whoever I was cast as in the remake, I would need to work on keeping my eyes focused to the camera.

Editing the video took longer than expected because we had so many different shots with different people in the lead position to get through and I had to watch each take to the very end to make sure I didn't miss a good bit. It was still fun to edit and see ourselves having a good time just going for it.



Task 2: Learn and practice your performance

As the music video doesn't really have set choreography, in our rehearsals we mainly focused on just getting comfortable moving to music, making sure that we knew the lyrics, learning the person we were playing and ensuring that we could portray the right emotions throughout the song.

Each rehearsal started with us all doing a dance warm-up to music, lead by our performance director Jasmine. In lines we would follow each other down the studio doing a move before running back round to start again. We also each took turns at leading the group with a move that we had chosen which pushed us to get out of our comfort zone and prepared us for the end cool kids dance scene in the music video.


Me, Meera, Jasmine and Dom at rehearsals


In the later rehearsals we also spent time in front of the camera to get us used to what it would actually be like on the day. Jasmine, our performance director, would give us a line to say and prompts to say it in different ways, showcasing various emotions and how much more believable it gets when you connect the words to real feelings that you have. I learnt a lot from this exercise as it made me really think about the lyrics and what thoughts and feelings I could associate with them to improve my performance. I also think this really did work and can be seen in everyone's performance in the remake - I believe what we're all doing and singing.

The rehearsals were also where I realised how much easier it was to perform when my friends sang along with me. Meera and I took turns supporting each other when we were performing in front of the camera by signing along and cheering for each other, which honestly was a massive help to me.


Task 3: Help to plan and organise your costume


Example dresses I looked at
In preparation for the shoot, we each had to help find costumes not just for ourselves but everyone else if we owned something that could work for their costume.

My costume was quite hard to find as the dress Sydney wears is very particular. We tried on a lot of dresses before finally settling on a white mini dress that, although being quite different to the one in the original, stood out against the backdrop and fit the indie vibe.

This task highlighted how important it was to style characters so that they connoted the genre of the song and became a strong, easily identified icon of the artist's brand image.




Below is  a picture of Sydney's costume (left) and our take on it (right).

Sydney
Me in costume















Task 5: Complete the remake edit

I worked with Meera to complete the remake edit and we each shared the responsibility of editing all parts from naming the rushes all the way through to grading. Editing for a music video was a new experience for me as although I had used all of the software before I hadn't edited in this way before. Throughout this task I learnt about and consolidated my understanding of:
  • The principle of discontinuous editing
  • Post-production slow-motion
  • Re-sizing shots
  • Grading
  • Lip-Sync matching
  • Title overlays and opacity

Me editing


From all of the prelim tasks I learnt a lot of new skills and consolidated old ones that will be very helpful fr when I come to do my own music video next year. 

Evaluation Q3: Are you pleased with the footage and your finished edit? Is it how your expected it to look? What works really well and what would you change?

Below is a link to our finished music video remake.


I am really pleased with how our final edit came out and how well, on the whole, we matched the original. The quality of the footage was amazing and shows, not just how well rehearsed all of the cast was, but how much work the crew put in, which is really what made the remake so professional.


Things that I thought went well:

  • The accuracy of the lip-sync matching
  • The grading, in particular for the MS and CUs of Jack (Noah the bassist) and I (band Sydney)
  • The white flicker insert shots and fades on the Cool Kid CUs and Flower dress Sydney with the band

video
Video of me showing the difference between a shot with its grading and without


Grading examaple



Shots with white flicker



Example of flicker fade shot


Improvements

The main thing that I would change if we were to redo this task would be to change the lighting for some of the shots. In some cases, the original uses low-key lighting, making our shots too bright to be a perfect match and for some of the Cool Kids CUs, we have their faces lit from the opposite side to what the original has. 

Face lit from the wrong side
Shot where the lighting wasn't right










We also had a few quick shots missing which meant that we had to substitute in others that we thought would work - this did allow us to be a bit more creative though which I liked. In our edit as well, we've actually skipped over a short cutaway shot of some writing, which we didn't realise until we had exported.

Gif of the shot that we accidentally left out


The dance sequence at the end is also different in our edit as none of us could actually break dance so we just took shots that we liked for that and where we were having fun to fit the mood off the original.


Gif of the end dance sequence



These are all very small issues that don't affect our final edit too much and I am really proud of our work.

Evaluation Q4: How do you think your prelim experiences will impact on your approach to next term's music video coursework?

Completing the prelim task has made me conscious of so many aspects of music video production and post-production that I hadn't realised before. For one, the huge number of shots used in music videos and how quick they are was new to me as well as the importance of styling and beauty shots. The prelim has also made me more comfortable with the equipment such as the cyclorama and the sound desk and set design, for example achieving the infinity curve for the backdrop.

Below I have explained some of the key things I have learnt from the prelim that I will take forward into next term's music video.

Pre-Production

  • Genre is one of the most important parts of this stage as it dictates conventions in styling, set design, props, camera work, colour scheme and whether the video includes narrative or is more conceptual.
  • Plan what shots you want and the desired lighting and set design in advance
  • Put thought into the styling of your characters as this helps connote the genre 
  • Casting needs to be done as soon as possible and it is important that you get people that are willing to really perform and just go for it 
  • Rehearsals are key so that your actors aren't just thrown in at the deep end on the day and they know what they are doing and you can get the best possible performance out of them
  • Make detailed call lists for everyone involved in the shoot so that they all know where to be and when
  • Make a detailed shoot schedule so that on the day you just have to follow it - this reduces the chance of you not filming all the shots that you wanted
Rehearsal Schedule


Production
Studio set up for shoot day
  • Getting a huge variety of different shots and takes is key in ensuring that we can do the rapid montages conventionally seen in music videos 
    • This will also give us plenty of choices for editing and lower the risk of our music video looking to the same throughout and getting boring
  • Make the most of the high quality equipment we have and don't be afraid to try new things
  • Always handle the equipment safely and be careful of wires
  • Make sure that the actors are actually singing along to get the best possible lip-sync
  • Encourage your actors and be supportive of them as it can be very nerve-wracking and tiring being in front of the camera


Post-Production

  • Create an editing schedule as a group so we don't end up falling behind and not meeting the deadline
  • Take your time grading using ProCamp, Levels and Three-Wheel Colour Corrector to get the desired look which fits the genre and mood of the song
  • Montage editing is key in keeping the audience interested and following conventions
Our week 1 edit schedule


Overall, the prelim was an amazing experience which taught me so much through all the required stages and has made me even more excited to create my own music video next term.

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.


Form



How our film opening conformed to conventions

Please click to enlarge the table below for my answers.



Genre

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.
Style

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.