Thursday, 11 February 2010

Audience Research

To find out what kind of things the audience of 15 - 24 year olds wanted in a thriller i created a survey and asked a few people.

The questions i asked were...
1. If a thriller was advertised, what elements would attract you to watch it?
a) a believable storyline?
b) a big cast and complex storyline?
c) paranormal characters and storyline?

2. What kind of music do you prefer in a thriller?
a) modern electronically created music?
b) orchestral music?
c) don't mind?

3. Do you prefer lots of dialogue in a film opening or little dialogue?
a) little because it makes me want to find out more?
b) lots because i like to know what's going on?
c) depends what kind of thriller it is?

4. Which are your favourite kind of thrillers?
a) action?
b) police/crime?
c) sci-fi/paranormal?
d) gangster?

5. As a young audience, would black and white filming put you off a film?
a) yes, why?
b) no

- Believable storylines are more important
- Orchestral music, which surprised me with this audience, thinking they would opt for modern electronically created music, such as percussive sounds or layered sounds and voices.
- little dialogue, i agree with this, i think dialogue would spoil an intense opening. I don't think it creates a thriller feel, such as LA Confidential. Little dialogue leaves the viewer wanting to know more.
- action thriller, police/crime a close second
- black and white is acceptable, but a popular answer for a was that the audience find it boring. Something that could be changed if we decided to use black and white, by fast paced editing and themes which would appeal to this audience, such as violence or drugs.
- Paranormal themes collected just a few results, which surprised me due to the large amount paranormal thriller releases recently (The Daybreakers, Paranormal Activity) but it seems the old fashion believable storyline still reigns supreme. I found these results very interesting, some surprising, which is good because it will help us make the right decisions when we make our film opening. I am glad we haven't started planning to make a paranormal based film!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Planning - main character

This is a basic sketch of our main character, obviously the actor we get will be younger than the age of the character in the film, but we will try to make him look old by the clothes he wears. He is a stereotypical detective, we will try to find his costume in charity shops or any other clothes we can get our hands on.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Mind Map

A mind map of ideas that the group came up with based on the conventions of a thriller. We will refer back to these when planning our storyboard and during filming.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

L.A Confidential

L.A Confidential is a film based on neo-noir novel by James Ellroy in 1990. The film was released in 1997 and is about police corruption and Hollywood celebrity in 1950's Los Angeles. I chose to research this film and it's opening as the group has discussed that we would like to set the film in the past, possibly the 1970's.

The title sequence of this film is different from other thrillers i have seen. The majority of the titles consists of a montage of images a clips of 1950's Hollywood. Some of the clips are in black and white and clearly original clips taken from the 50's which have been bought for the film, and some are acted scenes of violence or pretend newspaper headlines. The narrator begins to talk over this montage, he talks of Hollywood becuase paradise, saying "come to LA", there's cheap lande, happy American families, beaches and sun. "Life is good in LA, parade on Earth, that's what you think anyway." We feel the sarcasm in his voice. He then talks on organised crime, murders, drugs and prostition. "Mickey C" is mentioned as the villain, typical of thrillers, the audeince think they know the villain from the start giving them a false sense of security. We find out the Mickey C was recently killed, the narrator says "it's only a matter of time befor someone fills Mickey C's boots." Following the montage is a low angle shot of a man typing on a typewriter in a Hollywood house. He finishes typing and pulls the paper out, we realise he is the narrator and has been writing an article for the magazine "Hush Hush", a glamourous magazine. In this opening the scene is set, characters are introduce and the audience feel they know what 50's Hollywood life is like. I personally felt comfortable after watching this, i expected murder and drugs in the rest of the film and i really had a sense of the period and setting of the film.

The montage is editted in a fast pace and there is 50's happy, cheesy music in the background. Between clips of celebrities in the montage, there is the sound of a camera snapping, as if each clip had been a photo that had just been taken. This adds to the feel of the celebrities, we feel like paparrazzi. The titles are across the screen during the montage. The font is square and yellow, with a small black shadow behind. The titles are always in the same place, in the middle towards the bottom of the screen. The yellow text shows up well against the shots behind. The LA Confidential logo is very square and slanted, in red. The font looks old fashioned because of its plain, square quality.

LA Confidential does not thrill in it's opening sequence necessarily, the viewer is expecting to be thrilled by the gangster storyline the opening hints at. I like the montage of clips used in the opening sequence and the style of the filming, but i don't think that it would attract a younger audience as i think they could be quite bored, i think there is too much talking. However i was inspired by the mix of black and white filming, which doesn't effect the flow of the film. I like the idea of using black and white for flashback scenes.

Initial Planning

We have decided to have one main character in our opening, and discussed this character as a group.


- A middle aged man, with a wife and children, hinted at through photographs in the opening sequence.

- He has worked for the Police Force for twenty years and has a very high up status, such as detective. He knows the ins and outs of catching a criminal, and how a criminal would normally act. Also, his knowledge of a detectives work makes him a perfect candidate for a criminal who can get away with anything.

- He is very clever and highly respected in the police force, making him an unlikely suspect to other officers.

- The first shot shows men coming out of the police station, discussing a recent murder or abduction. The main character should be present in this scene, to use the hallmark that the killer is right under the polices nose, often used in other thrillers.

- This scene is followed by the main character in his office, with no dialogue, which is then followed by a montage.

- The montage will include shots of photographs with scribbled out faces, inspired by The Ring, close ups of objects related to planning crimes and a basement or secret room with photographs on the wall.

- We would like to set the film in the 1970's, which goes against the thriller convention as not many thrillers are set in the past, we will portray this through props and the characters way of life.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko is a 1988 cult film, directed by Richard Kelly.
The film opens with the titles of the production and distribution company logos, with the sound of thunder and rain behind. A landscape fades in, it is the view from a hill at what feels like very early morning. Loud birds and an early morning nature sound is in the background, supposedly ambient sound but it is obviously non-diegetic. This shot is long and tracks sideways as if being held by a moving person. This shot continues until it stops on one particular point, the camera moves forward and we see a teenage boy lying in the road with a bicycle to the side as if he has fallen off. The long camera shot does not make the audience tense for what comes next, but it is much more slow and thoughtful and really establishes the setting. As the camera reaches the boy, he appears to wake up and stand, light slow paced piano music starts. The camera is behind the boy as he stretches and looks across the mountain, then turns and laughs to himself, very confusing for a first time viewer. At the end of this shot a large title in white calligraphic font appears across the top of the shot, followed by the screen fading to white. The sound of the birds is very loud in this scene, as if it is heard louder by the boy because he has just awoken and is probably fairly bewildered. This is reminiscent of the often incorrect sound levels of a dream. The sound in itself is quite creepy.
Following the white screen, fairly upbeat 80's music begins and the camera tracks the boy riding his bike down the mountain, he looks happy. The boy is captured from a few angles, each shot tracking his movement, emphasis on the boy showing he is an important character. He rides through his neighbourhood, which establishes the setting, a shot tracks past a house with his family in the garden relaxing and tidying leaves. The boy enters the kitchen and opens the fridge, bearing the handwritten sign "where is Donnie?" suggesting he has not been home but the family don't really care, possibly because they are used to it. The music stops and the next shot is the family round the dinner table with lots of dialogue.
There were very few credits in the opening title, no mention of any actors and just four or five names of the film crew. The selection of shots of the boy riding home had no dialogue, in fact there wasn't any dialogue in the whole opening, but the music playing in the background of the before mentioned section shows the passing of time and also creates quite an uneasy feeling of happiness, uneasy because of the odd happenings. I really like the film, but I don't think the opening is a brilliant example of a thriller, not for a young target audience anyway. This is a cult film for it's bizarre storyline and characters, not for it's thriller qualities. Although I like the idea of creating a more thoughtful piece which creates a thrill in different ways. I also like the idea of using little dialogue in the opening, as it does create a lot of unanswered questions, which makes the viewer likely to be intrigued by the rest of the film. I also like the use of families in a thriller storyline because it can pull at the heart strings as the relationships between people is much stronger and therefore can be tense. Also, I think an audience can relate to a character in the film because everyone has family. From the trailer it is not clear that the storyline includes paranormal themes, but I do not want to include this element in my work as I think it would be very difficult to create and to pull off.

Se7en Titles

This is the se7en lettering that we are inspired by. I like the childlike font and the scratchy effect which suggests a person clawing their way out of a deadly situation. I also like the white on black, like a blackboard. The titles are placed at odd levels of the black screen, some in the top right, some just below the middle, i quite like this as it makes the audience look in a different place each time rather than being predictable.

Initial Ideas

A brief meeting today with the group brought our ideas together for how we would like the film opening to go, just to make sure we were on the same wavelength.
We came up for some ideas:
- We agreed that we would like our film to be Certificate 15, to appeal to the age group with the highest number of cinema goers, 16-24. This means that the film should be fast paced and exciting, to keep the young audience from boredom.
- We decided that young actors that we take on should be given fairly easy roles, as they are not experienced and may not take the genre seriously. Also, inexperienced actors and their dialogue can sometimes sounds weak.
- We are interested in using flashbacks, inspired by Double Indemnity, only we want ours to be short and without narration.
- We are also interested in using some or all black and white filming, also inspired by Double Indemnity, because we really like the idea of low key lighting creating mysterious shadows and a sense of thrill. We are considering using black and white for just flashbacks, but we are tempted to for the whole film.
- We want the titles to be on both a black background and on the film itself, and we are interesting in using either ransom note style lettering or the scratchy lettering used in Se7en.
- We would like to play around when editing with the pace of shots and using fast forward.
- We want the beginning to be an establishing shot of the setting and introduction of main character, creating mystery by not showing his face and hinting at elements of his life. This will be followed by a montage of shots that together suggest at planning a conspiracy or murder, we would like the setting to be a basement.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Thrillers in general

In order to find out about the genre of thrillers as a whole, I watched The Usual Suspects, a mainstream thriller from 1995 directed by Bryan Singer. Singer describes this film as " Double Indemnity meets Rashomon" as the hints throughout the film can only be realised on second veiw, after the full storyline has been revealed.

Elements of a Thriller:

- there is often a twist in the storyline, often near the end, to keep the audience engaged

- the police are usually involved, the storyline often involves some kind of fingers up to the police force

- there is always criminal activity

- the final moments of the film are often when the rest of the film becomes clear

- the identity of the villian is often known from the beggining of the film, but it is only clear at the end what they have done

- there is always themes of death, however the deaths aren't dwelled on like in horror movies, the deaths are cold blooded and not to gory. The storyline is more important than the deaths

- The criminal activity is often on a large scale, and quite impossible to happen in real life, such as conspiracies and overthrowing of the law

- the killer or villain is always right under the polices noses, which creates excitement

- The villain is always very clever, there are always lies in the storyline, which the audience believe until the end

- the storyline often plays on stereotypes, for instance in the Usual Suspects the disabled character is treated as weak and stupid until the end when it is revealed that he is the clever villain

- there are often flashbacks, the audience has to concentrate to keep up

There are different types of thrillers such as Film Noir, neo-noir, psychological, political, spy, action, crime and conspiracy thrillers.

All of this information will help me when deciding what kind of thriller to base my opening on and what elements i will use in my storyline.