NOTE: ALL OF MY RESEARCH AND PLANNING FOR MY SHORT FILM, FILM POSTER AND MAGAZINE REVIEW ARE AVAILABLE ON A SEPARATE WEBSITE. THE ITEMS BELOW ARE ROUGH NOTES WHICH ARE VIRTUALLY THE SAME AS MY WEBSITE.
THEY CAN BE ACCESSED AT: https://mikey411.wixsite.com/michaelrandp
My teacher assigned me the task of creating a short film, no longer than 5 minutes in length, to any genre of my choice. In being assigned this task, I decided to do a piece on social realism with elements of surrealism. To prepare, I did the following research and planning.
Trailer Background Research
History of trailers
1910; early cinemas had only one screen where people could watch a series of short films and a cartoon, followed by feature length movies played on a loop.
1913; ‘Year 0’ for the movie trailer. In New York City, Nils Granlund made a short little promotional film for the broadway play, ‘Pleasure Seekers’, showing snippets of footage from the actual play. This caused many cinema owners to take on the idea of small advertisements being played on the screen rotation as it increased their profit.
1913; William Selig noticed the popularity of print serials in newspapers and decided to make a film adaptation of this idea. He approached the Chicago Tribune and they together created a hit film serial, ‘The Adventures of Kathlyn’. Each week a new serial would come out as well as a review in the Chicago Tribune. Selig ended all of his episode with some sort of perilous master causing the audience to come back the next week. This was a new marketing strategy which was coined as the ‘Cliffhanger’.
1916; Movie trailers began playing at the end of full length feature films. Very basic- they showed snippets of the film with some text overlay
1919; Herman Robbins founds the National Screen Service, a company that created a monopoly in the trailer-making industry. They did this without the permission of the studios and sold them directly to cinema chains. This did not upset filmmakers.
1940s; NSS had contracts with all major Hollywood studios. Also branched out to make film posters. They made money by signing movie theatres to deals where they would provide trailers and posters and then kick back a small royalty to studios. Whilst some major corporations (Warner Brothers and Columbia) experimented with ‘Trailer Making Departments’, The NSS dominated the trailer making industry from the 1920s through to the 1960s. These trailers used very cheesy stylistic features such as wipe transitions and fly-in titles (Casablanca, 1942).
1960s; Major movie directors such as Alfred Hitchcock redefine the movie trailer. Rather than showing snippets of the movie, Hitchcock would give audiences a ‘tour’ of the set from the movie ‘Psycho’. Stanley Kubrick adopted a style with many fast, fragmented cuts. These were both seen as brave yet successful alterations of the movie trailer. Trailers at this time also began to focus greatly on music to sell their movie.
1960s; The introduction multiplex cinemas with more than one screen meant their was less room for poster advertising. This meant the monopolistic grasp of the NSS slowly began to fall, meaning major movie corporations could reclaim control in a promotional sense.
1970s; ‘The Era of the Blockbuster’. ‘Jaws’ implements a ‘wide release’ trailer strategy, releasing the trailer and movie in major city’s cinemas, so they could branch to the smaller cities eventually. The use of a narrator became popular. Don LaFontaine, ‘the voice of god’, featured in over 5,000 trailers.
2000s; Internet, immediate global distribution and special effects, as well as major trailer making departments mean the trailer business is now very competitive. Major corporations spend copious amounts of money trying to form the perfect promotional video.
Different Types of Trailers
Clips: footage from the feature distributed ahead of release as a literal “pre-view.”
Featurettes: Behind-the-scenes footage edited into a film about a film, or a TV show about a TV show. They are a regular occurrence on the DVD and at the film or TV show’s website.
Teaser: A very early trailer released to gain audience attention. Usually have little to no film footage as very little will have been shot or edited.
Standard Trailer: Released 2-3 months in advance. It is a short film promoting an upcoming feature. It includes story details, snippets of scenes, cast run, titles and release information
TV Spot: A short trailer to be exhibited on TV. Released just before and during the film’s release. Usually last a maximum of 60 seconds.
Bloopers and Out-takes: Shots which do not make it to the actual feature but have some comedic value due to an acting mistake or error of some sort. Used to enthuse audiences, usually shown at the end of the film.
Purpose of Trailers
Movie trailers are a vital form of promotion used to gain interest in a film. The real skill in making a movie trailer is trying to showcase why an audience should see a film in a video generally around two and a half minutes.
Key codes and conventions of trailers
Emotive music is key to the movie trailer. One particular piece of music from 2003’s ‘The Life of David Gale’ has been used in many other trailers that have been hailed as fantastic. John Long, the co-founder of Buddha Jones, a trailer production house in the US believes that certain pieces of music, such as this one “work every time”. His partner, Lee Harry, claims that he “wants to evoke a feeling” and follows up by saying “this piece does it perfectly”.
If we were to look at trailers as a timeline of the entire movie, most follow some form of chronological order, telling the story from start to finish without giving away any integral parts of the movie that would make watching it pointless. A handful of shots in the trailer do not actually make it on-screen but tend to show very similar things just from a different angle.
In teaser trailers, this tends to be the opposite. In Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’, there are a series of slow but rhythmic fades between each shot, all showing parts of the movie in a completely scattered and random order.
Trailers from different genres
Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad had three main trailers, one very cinematic trailer which was almost a short movie due to its strong focus on narrative, with much longer shots than in conventional trailers.
The second trailer was its main cinema trailer, an action packed trailer showing all the best bits of the movie in a scattered, non-linear order. It followed the conventions of a standard superhero movie, showcasing its strong special effects. It also emphasised its comical sub-genre by stopping all music during funny scenes.
The third trailer was referred to as “blitz”. It used high tempo music with fast cuts to entertain the audience in as quick a time space as possible.
Along with these three trailers, the film also featured a teaser released well before the actual film, a one minute video showcasing the movie’s most iconic character ‘The Joker’, played by a major actor, Jared Leto. This has the effect of enticing the audience due to the popularity of these two figures. This was done without showing any of the plot.
The release dates for this film ranged from the 1st of August in the US, to the 10th of September in Japan, whereas the bulk of the trailers were released in June/July.
Using its estimated £175,000,000 budget, Suicide Squad generated a total revenue of 307,000,000 as of the 13th of September. This was impressive given its negative press and therefore negative two-step flow during the opening week of release. The quality of its trailers may have made up for it being a sub-par film.
In terms of social media, Suicide squad had several accounts in various countries promoting the film on a very viral platform. The great number of followers meant that the promotion of the film would be quick and easy.
The Shining (1980)
‘The Shining’ only had one trailer. This was common of the time, with not many films in the 1980s grasping how integral trailers are to the promotion of films. That said, it does not take away from the quality of the trailer itself. Like most Horror trailers seen today, the trailer follows similar conventions, with many quick cuts and jump-scares. The narrative of the trailer also follows common thriller techniques, with the plot beginning with a feeling of equilibrium, followed by a break of this equilibrium. The trailer ends with another jump scare, enticing the audience to watch the movie to find out if there is a re-establishment of the equilibrium.
The trailer was released 6 months before the film itself was released, on the 7th of November, 1980. Again, in the 1980s, it was not uncommon for trailers to be released at such an early stage in comparison to the film as it took a much longer time to reach a target audience.
The shining’s budget of $19,000,000 was surpassed quite well, with a total revenue of $44,000,000 in the US alone. This could be due to the early planning and release of the trailer.
In the long-anticipated buildup to Avatar, one full length trailer was made, as well as two featurettes and several interviews with cast members.
The trailer follows a linear timescale throughout the beginning and middle of the trailer to ensure the audience understand the narrative. Towards the end the trailer becomes much more fragmented, showcasing the entertaining parts of the movie in a completely random order.
The movie was released on the 17th of December, 2009. There is no confirmed date of when the official trailer was released which says a lot about the era. In 2009, online marketing was surely on the rise but was no where near as powerful as it is today. However, that said, Avatar did have a website dedicated to it.
The movie generated a world record revenue at the time of $760,000,000 by November 2010. This greatly surpasses its $237,000,000 budget.
There is one official Twitter page for the Avatar movie. This will not have been as popular at the time of the film as Twitter was still an up and coming social media platform, however, it can be used to great effect for any possible future sequels.
The Shining (1980) Trailer Analysis (Directed by Stanley Kubrick)
What is the institution for the trailer and the institutional codes employed by the institution?
The institution that created the trailer to this film is Warner Brothers. It is very subtle and almost modest in declaring this, showing a small fade-in of the company logo right at the end of the trailer. This company logo placement could also be presented in a ‘best-for-last’ style, letting audiences know that they are the number one institution when it comes to filmmaking.
What are the key selling points in the trailer? Give examples.
As a second year media student, I know that audiences are attracted to movies they are familiar with. That said, one major selling point in the very beginning of the trailer is the use of text on screen saying “A Stanley Kubrick Film”. This is followed by the list of cast members, starting with Jack Nicholson, a famous Hollywood actor. Kubrick, being the well renowned and critically acclaimed director that he is, and Nicholson being the award winning performer that he is, gives the audience an incentive to watch this film as they are familiar with some of their previous pieces and liked each one just as much as the one before. On top of that, it also references that the movie is based off of a famous Stephen King novel, making it that much more enticing to watch. In trailers, simple statistics and information like this will be sure to attract audience attention.
The other good selling point in the trailer is how little it gives away. The audience already know all the major stars featuring in the movie but they do not know anything about the plot. The trailer itself is a standing continuous shot of two elevator doors. By the time the text has passed, the doors both open, allowing litres upon litres of blood to pour out of them. This audacious stint of a trailer is ambitious and works well, creating a feeling of intrigue as to how this occurred
How does the trailer establish mood?
Mood can be set using the 4 key elements of any video production:
- Editing- The lack of editing plays to the films advantage. There is only one shot for the entire trailer and it creates a sense of mystery. The length of the shot almost makes us feel uncomfortable from having to stare for so long. The use of descending credits is a good editing technique as it symbolises the negative things that are to happen in the movie.
- Sound– There is no diegetic sound throughout the entire trailer, with an eerie tune playing over the top of the clip. This music sets the mood of the entire trailer, combining feelings of mystery, fear and ambiguity.
- Camera Angles- The one and only shot throughout this trailer is a still shot of the elevators in a hotel. It is at a slightly canted angle, combining with the music to give the audience a sense of unease.
- Mise-En-Scène- The room where the trailer is set is coloured with a white wallpaper. This may symbolise the purity once within the room. It could also show the conniving nature of the room, drawing in people from the outside with false good intentions. The red doors on the lifts would suggest that violence or death is imminent for anyone that enters.
How does it use generic codes of a horror?
Firstly, the use of blood is vital thriller prop. Blood, particularly gallons of it, would most definitely have connotations of death, a common horror theme. The trailer being one long continuous shot was also very generic of horrors and caused the audience to watch uncomfortably in anticipation.
What Representations are used? How? Why?
The room that the trailer is set in appears to be quite a luxurious building, indicating that the main characters that we will follow are wealthy. The careless way in which blood splashes all over the expensive white wallpaper emphasises the careless ways of the rich, not valuing what they have. This may have been portrayed by Kubrick as he was not raised in a lavish lifestyle. In fact, his work colleague from his early photography days, G. Warren Schloat, said “Stanley was a quiet fellow. He didn’t say much. He was thin, skinny, and kind of poor—like we all were”. These early life influences may have caused him to knowingly or unknowingly portray the upper class as ungrateful.
What is the expectation of the film?
The trailer for The Shining was particularly interesting as it did not really follow the conventions of a horror trailer. The enigma surrounding its meaning really helped to draw in people outside of the niche audience. At the time, the book which the movie was based on was a cult classic, so the trailer did not need to overly assert itself to attract large audiences.
What ideology does the trailer establish?
The trailer itself is so limited that it presents no visible ideologies to the audience. Its simplistic style does not portray any social groups or physically have any people in it for that matter. Because of this, it includes all types of audiences, not targeting any specific people.
Which elements are particularly successful in the trailer? Why?
Firstly, the use of slow motion works particularly well when the blood is pouring from the lift into the room. It takes what would be a quick and sudden flooding and makes it last longer. Seeing the chairs get swept away in a pool of blood followed by the camera soon being submerged itself prolongs the suffering, making it that much scarier.
The use of running text is also effective as it remains on screen until the blood eventually falls from the elevator. Therefore, it could be concluded that the text represents peace and serenity and the way the text moves represents the imminent downfall.
Which elements are least successful? Why?
One feature I felt didn’t work particularly well was the canted camera angle. While it may have been used to show disorientation, it came across as slight unprofessionalism. The fact the camera was still throughout the entire, minute-long trailer made the angle of the camera feel frustrating. That said, those feelings may have been what Kubrick wanted his audience to feel.
Does the trailer meet the expectations of the target audience of this film?
As I mentioned previously, the trailer actually says so little that it is hard for it to appeal to any particular audiences. Older generations at the time may have been inclined to see it because of what a classic the book was. Younger generations may have gone to see it as horror films are the norm for young people looking for an adrenaline rush.
How is the audience targeted in the trailer?
The audience is explicitly targeted by this trailer through no means of narrative. The entire appeal comes from the text on-screen. “Directed By Stanley Kubrick”, “Starring Jack Nicholson”, and “From the award winning novel by Stephen King”, are three very powerful pull factors that attract the audience in to watch the film as they are three very big names in their respective industries.
History of Short Films
- To begin with, all films were short. This was not noticeable to early audiences as they merely revelled in the fact that film was a possibility. By the dawn of the 20th Century, however, they began to get longer.
- The very first films were presented to the public in 1894 through Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, a peepshow-like device for individual viewing. The major outlets for entertainment at that time were music halls and fairgrounds, where programmes were made up of a variety of different acts lasting up to about 20 minutes. Most early films imitated other entertainment media already in existence: magic lantern shows, illustrations, variety acts, tableaux presentations. So short was the norm.
- In the early 1900s, improvements in technology meant films began to get longer.
- From 1910 onwards, the competition and audience demand made films much longer, this resulted in the ‘birth’ of the feature, preferred by audiences for their length and complex narratives.
- Dr Richard Farmer, an expert in British wartime cinema-going at University College London, sees the period between 1939 and 1945 as “something of a high-water mark for the short film in Britain”, though not everybody liked them. “While the government was extraordinarily keen to place its messages in British cinemas, cinema managers and patrons were much more ambivalent,” he says.
- By the 1960s, short films became very unpopular, they would still be part of the programme, but many people used this time period as an intermission to stretch their legs, get more food, or go to the bathroom.
- 1981 introduced the TV Station, MTV, giving short film makers a new way of making short films, with music played over the top of these short clips. The speed of editing increased significantly in this time period. Tim Pope, music video director said “In the Eighties, I used to get told off by MTV for cutting my videos too fast. But I think people these days can take in a lot more a lot quicker. Music videos have definitely influenced the look and the language of film-making in general.”
- The 90s saw a resurgence in short-films. This was due to the compact size of equipment, thus increasing the incentive for independent filmmakers to make shorts. Eventually, it became possible to take footage home and edit it on your own computer, meaning short films could be more easily made
- The 2000s and 2010s saw the introduction of the internet. This made short films not only more accessible to the general public but also easier to share with the general public. YouTube today allows many independent filmmakers to have the opportunity to film, edit and post their short films for the world to see.
Key Codes and Conventions of Short Films
- Linear or non-linear. Still needs a clear narrative structure. Needs a basic linear structure. Use of flashbacks and parallel stories/ subplots can make it non-linear.
- Can be enigmatic, needs to have a form of resolution.
- Restricted. Usually very few characters. Tends to follow 1 character on a journey.
- Can be single-stranded or multi-stranded. Tends to send a message to make you think about things.
- Length needs to be 5 minutes for my short film. Tends to be 25 minutes in most cases.
- Appeals to niche audiences by creating hybrid genres.
Distribution and Exhibition
Most short films aired in cinemas are distributed with the motion picture that proceeds it. For example, Pixar’s animated short, ‘La Luna’ (2012), was aired in cinemas with the same showing of ‘Brave’. It was shown minutes before the full length feature film. Because Pixar are such a large conglomerate that can afford to spend copious amounts of money on editing and animation software, making a short film like this is a low risk way of showcasing their creative side and emphasises their desire for film narratives that go beyond simple cartoon storylines. Information on distribution costs and production costs were hard to find, and so it can be assumed that it cost a percentage of Brave’s $185,000,000 budget. Needless to say, this short film as well as the full length film made a healthy profit, generating approximately $237,000,000 in revenue.
Most short films that are seen today can be accessed on YouTube. The service is a good way for independent filmmakers to show their work to the general public and gather publicity for their ability. It is a fast, easy way of reaching a large audience, and tend to have serious subject matters. Cherries, a short film that made a modern spin-off of what it was like to be a male during World War II. That film was aired on the internet and had blown up significantly after doing so, thus promoting the image of director, Tom Harper. This critically acclaimed film went on to win multiple awards at various film festivals.
3 Good Short Films
Cherries- Tom Harper
- Genre- Thriller
- The narrative is a modern day take on what it was like to be a man growing up during WWII
- The mood is originally set as peaceful, with a balanced equilibrium, with slow-paced music playing over several shots of what seems to be a normal school day. The mood is then challenged when the teacher gives away a sense of disequilibrium by telling the students they will need to undergo army training and prepare for war. The film ends on this negative imbalance, making us really think and challenge the ideology of war.
- It was shown on YouTube. There is very limited information on release details, however, the production team, ‘UK Film Council’ and ‘Film London’, are two independent filmmakers that work with the British Film Institute to keep British Film around for all audiences.
- The target audience for this film will have been younger people as the moral of the story is how younger people should be more aware of the world around them and be grateful for the fact that they don’t have to fight in war like people before them did.
- The representation of race is very clear in this film. It portrays white males from East London to be loud, rowdy people who have clear racial prejudices in their mindset. That is clear from one of the main character’s dislike for all black characters and from him calling a middle eastern student a terrorist. That would present the representation of non-white males as discriminated, still suffering from racial stereotypes from people who view themselves as better than them. There is also a strong representation of gender. The school is an all boys’ school, and, in fact, there is not one female in the entire film. This presents the old fashioned, controversial stereotype that war is for men and that women are fragile and not built for war.
- There were strong conventions of the thriller genre throughout this film. For example, the use of steady-cam operating as opposed to static shots puts the audience at the centre of the action, as if they be prepared for anything, as if they were actually there. The slow cuts and long shots at the beginning did not originally follow the convention for a thriller film, but as the narrative grew more tense, they sped up, giving the audience a real sense of thrill. When everyone in the classroom starts arguing, the music grows dire and sinister. This choice of music is not uncommon of thriller films too.
- The film promotes the ideology that youth today are so unaware of the world around them that they would not be prepared for a crisis situation, should it happen.
- I think the use of camera angles in this piece are very powerful. When depicting students, they are all shown at eye level, showing that they are all equal in stature and status. The teachers and soldiers i.e. people with high authority are all shown from low angles. This could be to symbolise the power they have- power they have gotten through experience that the younger generations are yet to experience. The high angle shot at the end of the piece which shows the teacher sitting alone in his classroom is also very powerful. It implies that although he is against what his happening, he is all but helpless compared to his counterparts; he is only doing his job
- The lighting seemed a bit unprofessional in that all the characters were very dimly lit and hard to see. That said, it is very much possible that the director had intended to set a dark and sinister tone by portraying the characters in this light.
- The film was made by the UK Film Council in association with Film London.
Two & Two
- The genre of the film is informational/ educational.
- The narrative is about higher powers controlling the way society view things.
- The mood is established from the teacher’s entry to the classroom. The students are originally very chatty and then come to an immediate halt and stand up in unison when the teacher walks in.
- This short film was aired on YouTube and at various film festivals, receiving a Bafta for the best short film of 2012.
- The target audience is towards the general public, appealing to societies where the media is possibly more controlling over how they see world issues.
- There is a strong representation of ethnicity. The nationality of the students and the teacher seems to be Northern African or Middle Eastern. The classroom is dirty and very cluttered. This not only suggests that people from poorer countries have poor educational working conditions but also that their government are very controlling over what they can see.
- The message that was trying to be set was very clear throughout the entire film. The teacher claiming that 2+2=5 was clearly wrong but yet students were punished for disagreeing with him. It shows that obedience to authoritative figures is essential in changing the ideologies of society.
- The key point of the narrative is that there are people controlling this world, giving us information on what is right and what is wrong, trying to change the true morals of humanity. The story-line and the drab classroom setting connect so effectively with the blind, rigid fundamentalism and totalitarianism that so much of our world is plagued with. It brings into sharp relief the dilemmas faced by those in similar positions, and it made me question just how would I react in a similar situation.
- The voiceover of the head teacher saying that there will be some changes in the school was a feature that was utilised really well. Showing that higher up people in society will not even address their ideologies to society themselves, but rather leave it to their subordinates to do.
- The film was made by Babak Anvari.
- The genre of the film was realism surrounding self harm and drug abuse.
- The narrative centres around a man who struggles with life. He is addicted to drugs and consistently self harms through cutting himself. His niece is his sense of good and bad and acts as his conscious
- The mood is originally set as quite disturbing with the sight of a bloody bathtub with a man inside, but as the film progresses, the mood becomes much more innocent and nice; it is evident that the man cares for his niece.
- The film was aired at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012
- The target audience could be people struggling with self harm or drug abuse. The girl is there to emphasise how much these things can not only affect you but also the people around you.
- There is a representation of social class in this movie. The main character, who is drug addict and a sufferer of self harm lives in a run-down apartment stained with blood from his actions. This has negative implications on lower class people, suggesting that maybe their financial status or position in society depresses them. His sister on the other hand, who lives in a very modern, expensive looking apartment subverts ideologies of the upper class living happy and pristine lives as she suffers from self harm.
- There were many close up shots of controversial things, from the cuts from self harming to the needles from drug injection. This was a powerful way of establishing the topic addressed in this genre. There was also very little non-diegetic sound in the entire film. This really adds the realism of the piece as all sound in the production was naturally occurring.
- The key point addressed in the narrative is to keep family close. The support that struggling people receive from their family is invaluable to helping them get through tough times.
- I think the use of mainly diegetic sound really adds to the realism of the piece. Artificial sound can often take away vital powerful effect from scenes, but the use of silence for the most part really worked to the film’s advantage.
- The film was made by Fuzzy Logic Pictures.
Reflection on your Marketing Project
- Planning- In a team of four, we set aside four tasks; 3 print task and one film. Two people took on two print tasks and me and another member of the group did a print task along with the film. I felt that one of the strengths of our group’s planning was our original strong sense of branding when we pooled ideas, deciding to stick with the same colour scheme and style of the Breaking Bad poster as our inspiration. A weakness of our planning was the visualisation of our film. We had an idea of what we could do but did not discuss it vividly enough to give it a brand image.
- Filming- My role in filming was mostly acting as our marketing project was promotion of A Level media to Year 11s, so having a year 13 media student act in the video would make sense. A strength of this is that I did not need to direct any actors as I knew what was required for what was previously planned. A weakness of this method was that we relied on our teachers to film and direct us as we were all acting in it. This was a problem as they may not have had the same vision for the film as us.
- Editing- My role in editing was to use Photoshop to create one of three posters that would be distributed. I cut the heads off two subjects and managed to put them onto the bodies of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. On top of this, I also replaced the equipment in the original poster with filming equipment, to keep the sense of branding prominent. Finally, I changed the text saying ‘Breaking Bad’, to ‘Breaking Media’, keeping the same font to make sure the brand image was intact. I felt that a strength of this poster was the quality and strong sense of branding, the latter because it was the opening piece that set the brand image to begin with. A weakness of the group with this project was the lack of Photoshop skills we had all possessed as we were unfamiliar with the software. Because of this, there were some lighting errors which could have been corrected with more experience.
- Distribution- In terms of distribution, we had to distribute our posters around school, sticking them in places where they will be regularly seen. We agreed to stick them up one after the other, so that the poster before could be fully taken in. As our target market was the entirety of year 11, we figured that sticking them up around year 11 tutor bases was the best option to begin with. After this, we thought we would stick them up in areas where year 11s regularly go: the school canteen, the maths classrooms, the English classrooms, the science classrooms and near the main reception of the school. The planning would have been one of the major strengths of our distribution as it sped up the process but was still well thought out. A weakness of the group was the lack of a quality check before printing. This was a problem with one of the posters having white lines going across some people’s faces due to a small error within Photoshop. Because of this, the problem had to firstly be corrected before it could be printed again, lengthening the distribution process.
- I am very proud of the posters. I felt that they were done professionally and were high in quality. On top of this it also retained its brand image well, keeping the same fonts, colours and style from one poster to the next. An example of this was the continuity of the word ‘Breaking’, with the first poster saying ‘Breaking Media’, the second saying ‘Breaking Myths’ and the third saying ‘Breaking Myths’.
- If I could have changed anything it would have been the film. It firstly lost all sense of branding, not relating the ideas shown in our posters to the film. It was done more like a montage rather than an advertisement and could have been compiled together better overall.
- In terms of skills, the main thing I have learnt is the use of Photoshop, including the use of tools such as the lasso tool and clone stamp tool. I have also developed my creative understanding of keeping a brand image to maintain audience appeal. My organisational skills have remained intensely high as they have become from previous media work, with meeting deadlines for each poster being very important.
Social Realism Research
Key Codes and Conventions
- Close-ups are often used to show the character’s reaction to a specific stimulus, be it a bit of speech or a new problem which they must face. A typical example of something like this would be during an intimate scene to reflect the two character’s taking in each other’s reactions in great detail. For example, in the film ‘Adulthood’, Sam has a romantic moment with Lexi, prompting long close-ups of the two of them. This remains the case until Sam gets angry and the intimate moment has passed, making the reactionary close-ups much shorter in length.
- Editing in Social Realism films is much less flashy. There will be the obvious use of cuts as is the case with every film, but you will rarely see any fades, wipes or text effects in these kinds. This is because these films are meant to reflect simplicity and realistic aspects of everyday life. In terms of cuts, Social Realism films are fast paced, with short cuts, during intense scenes and slow paced with long cuts during serious, thought-provoking scenes.
- The narrative of Social Realism films varies from film to film, but they generally follow an idea of focusing on working class individuals and the social issues they face. These people are presented in a light that would give the audience the impression that if they were more affluent, they wouldn’t be in this situation. For example, Sam from Adulthood is wanted dead by a majority of people in his area for killing a teenager with a baseball bat. This situation would never have occurred if he did not get involved with gang culture which could have been prevented if he had the money to live in a nicer area than the council flat he lives in.
- Despite their realistic nature, social realism films tend to follow Todorov’s theory of equilibrium and disequilibrium. The state where all is as it should be, the disruption of that, the recognition of the disruption, the attempt to repair the damage, and finally, the restoration of a new equilibrium. This can be shown nicely in the film, Trainspotting. In the film, Mark Renton begins the film as a heroin addict, which although not ideal, is a form of balance as it is what he is used to. The disequilibrium comes when he tries to quit the drug. After a long period of struggle, Renton ends up quitting the substance and vows to live a normal life, thus creating a new, and generally better equilibrium
- Mise-en-scene is vitally important when making social realism films as it is the most obvious way of portraying a certain social group. For example, Adulthood is a film centred around gang culture, and so it would make sense to dress the characters in tracksuits which has been synonymously linked with trouble, and give them props symbolic of violence, such as knives and baseball bats. In ‘This is England’, there is a strong focus on the idea of poverty. This is evident from Shaun’s cheap clothing at the beginning of the film, wearing flared trousers as it is the most his mother can afford.
- Camera movement in social realism films portray characters in as realistic a light as possible. There is little focus on professional panning or tracking shots but instead an almost shaky shot of the characters in focus. For example, in the opening scene of ‘This is England’, when Shaun wakes up, the shot is completely stable, but during a shot where the character is in a plane, the camera may shake a lot more.
- The music in social realism almost always matches the culture or subculture being portrayed. For example, in Adulthood, nearly every scene that doesn’t involve dialogue has hip-hop and grime music playing over the top of it. This is to accurately portray the lifestyle of London gangs. This genre also makes great use of music to reflect emotionally moving moments. During a sad or moving moment, there may be great use of string instruments or piano to fully involve the audience, whereas during a fight scene, like in Adulthood, there may be great use of percussion to emphasise violence.
As my film will be primarily drug-related, it is important to get an understanding of how the codes and conventions will change when a character’s subjectivity is altered by the influence of drugs. I felt that surrealism was the most fitting genre for this mindset.
Key Codes and Conventions
- The idea of surrealism is to use Freudian techniques to create what is like a dream sequence, challenging the traditional ways we present reality. One way this can be done is through Dutch angles, or tilted angles; used to give the audience a sense of unease. This could be particularly effective in the mindset of someone on drugs as their subjective experience will be quite off balance and an overall disorienting experience.
- When showing anxiety or panic in surrealism, jump cuts are a powerful editing technique that can show the audience the scattered thoughts of the subject. This, paired with a sound increasing in pitch is a powerful way to fully immerse the audience in the anxious mindset.
- Mise-en-scene, as is the case with most genres, is very important in surrealism. Use of objects that would otherwise not be present in reality are an effective way of showing one’s state of mind. In some cases, the people in the film can be replaced with other creatures to fully show the point of view of the person. A good example of this comes from a scene from Terry Gilliam’s 1998 black comedy film, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. In one of the scenes, the character has just taken copious amounts of drugs and begins to see all of the people in the bar as reptiles, after about a minute, he begins to ‘come-down’, and all the lizards that were previously there became human again.
- The same scene was also disorienting in its use of lights. When the main character was having a surreal experience, the light on his face became red, but when the genre switched back to the original, the light came off of his face, indicating that everything is back to normal.
- One technique which I found particularly effective in this scene was the audio. When Johnny Depp’s character is speaking, the character on drugs is perceiving it much more slurred, and so, the camera angle facing Johnny Depp is tilted and shaky, and his dialogue is slightly out of sync with his lips.
10 Key Codes and Conventions of the Social Realism Genre (and surrealism)
- The film, as all other films, should have a narrative structure of ‘Equilibrium, disequilibrium and new equilibrium.’ (Todorov)
- All music tends to be related to the social group being focused on, both diegetic and non-diegetic.
- Mise-en-scene is vitally important when making social realism films as it is the most obvious way of portraying a certain social group. Think about clothing and set carefully.
- Close ups. Any film centred around realism should show the genuine reactions of the characters, taking in all facial movements that reflect emotion.
- Few ‘flashy’ transitions. Stick to normal cuts to make the piece as real as possible.
- When showing surrealism, use jump cuts and smears to show the disorientation and possible panic of the character
- Surrealist camera techniques include dutch angles (tilted), handheld/shaky footage and unconventional framing (out of the middle third)
- Surrealist sound techniques would include slurred dialogue and sharp noises
- The narrative of a surrealist film should becoming disoriented. This is because the dream state which the character is subjectively presenting is disoriented to them too.
- Make use of out-of-the-ordinary props and characters you wouldn’t usually get in everyday life; it helps to establish the surrealist genre.
Attached is a word document showing my list of sources for my research
Questionnaire (and Results)
To gain an understanding of audience demands, I created a survey that focused on my subject matter, drugs. 35 People answered.
Short Film To Do List
Q: What type of narrative?
A: It will follow Todorov’s equilibrium theory.
Q: Where will it be shown?
A: Online. More specifically, YouTube.
Q: What is the target audience?
A: People aged 20-25.
Q: What devices will you use to target your audience directly
A: Seeing as it is a relatively young age group, promotion online makes the most sense. That is social media, YouTube and other online means of promoting a movie.
Q: What key genre elements will be employed
A: Handheld camera shots, close-ups of characters and key icons, a chronological storyline and the addressing of a key social group/ social issue.
Q: What will be the key point in the narrative
A: The focus will be on drug abuse/ addiction. The age group of 20-25 year olds tend to be the most susceptible to these problems which is why they will be my target audience.
Q: What ideology will you be promoting
A: That people suffering from drug addiction should not be shunned, but rather helped as they are in a dark place with not many positives.
Q: What studio will you assign the film to?
A: Unstoppable Entertainment. They have made a series of short films, including ‘Nits’ and ‘Sticks and Stones’, as well as two social realism films, ‘Adulthood’ and ‘Kidulthood’. Their experience in short films and social realism films make them a great fit to my film. Also, as they are an independent filmmaker, the budget to make films will be much smaller, meaning that the film will be limited in terms of promotion, meaning I would be able to target a more niche audience. This is probably beneficial as my film does not contain many hegemonic ideologies and will be less likely to appeal to large audiences.
Q: What will be the marketing points for the film?
A: On top of making a moving image product (the short film) I will also make a poster for the film, possibly influencing audiences to watch the film, and I will also make a magazine review page featuring the film. This will help to further publicise my piece.
Sam is a cocaine addict. He has been for nearly 5 years. Now 23, his bad habit has now become a massively unhealthy lifestyle. His financial status means that constantly doing drugs is also affecting him in a monetary sense. Sam’s girlfriend of 6 years has had it with Sam’s addiction. She tries telling him that she is leaving him, she doesn’t even know him anymore and that she misses the days when they first got together, before he was addicted to crack.
When Sam begins to sober up, he experiences a massive come-down and realises the mistake he has made; she was the only positive in his life and the only person who had stuck around for all these years. Devastated, he stays up in the early hours of the morning, searching online different ways he could possibly quit. The first page he finds, ‘how to quit cocaine in 5 easy steps’ (https://canadiancentreforaddictions.org/how-to-stop-using-cocaine-in-5-steps/) says that he should first admit himself to a treatment facility. He dismisses the idea. The second step says that he should enrol in counselling sessions, to which he has the same reaction. The third step catches his attention. It says he should form a support system, getting friends and family to support him through these tough times. Sam goes into a paranoid foetal position on the office chair and begins to shake profusely.
The scene cuts to the morning, Sam is passed out in his office chair, woken by sunlight catching his eye. He slowly comes to and sees the web page, picks up his phone and calls his parents. They seem less than enthusiastic to hear his voice and make an excuse to not talk to him, claiming they are busy. This upsets Sam, who crosses out the first sentence on his list and goes straight to his living room and does a line of cocaine to comfort himself. He turns on the television and watches cartoons, he begins to have a bad trip and bad hallucinations and has a massive panic attack.
Within the same day, now in the late afternoon, Sam goes to his phone and messages his girlfriend, saying “hey”. She doesn’t reply. Sam reacts by going to do more crack, before hesitating, then eventually doing it. He paces anxiously around the room before curling up on the sofa and falling asleep.
The next day, Sam looks back at his list. He calls his girlfriend but it rings out and goes to voicemail. Sam confesses his apologies to his girlfriend and explains how he is going to make things right. When he hangs up he goes to his car and drives to a drug treatment facility. He slowly walks to the door before his phone rings from his mum. Before he enters, he answers the call to hear his weeping mum explain that his girlfriend had died in a car crash.
Sam turns away from the front door and races back to his house. He runs straight to the sofa and pours all of his cocaine onto a table. He hesitates from doing it, goes onto his phone and looks through pictures of him and his girlfriend. After doing he decides against doing the drug and throws it all into the bin. The camera points at Sam’s determined face before cutting to black, showing his determination to quit cocaine for good.
(Quote on screen: “Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs” – Robin Williams)
Scene 1 (Morning)
Sam: (Has crazy reaction to snorting cocaine). Woo!
Kayleigh: Seriously? Sam, it’s 8 o’clock in the morning!
Sam: Yeah I know, just needed to wake myself up a bit.
Kayleigh: Then have a fucking shower! That’s what normal people do!
(Sam shakes his head and gets up and walks to the counter. He rolls a cigarette)
Kayleigh: I’m talking to you!
(Sam continues rolling cigarette, ignoring her nagging)
Sam: (Gets up and goes up to her face) This is my body, if I want to put drugs in it, then I bloody well can. When did you become such an uptight bitch?
Kayleigh: Well at least I’m not a worthless chav who wastes his day snorting coke and selling pills! When are you going to realise you need to grow up?
Sam: Grow up? Maybe if you listened to me for once or got a fucking job…
Kayleigh: Listen to you? You never even speak! You’re either off your head or on too much of a come down to even look at me!
(Sam drops eye contact trying to think of something to say).
Kayleigh: I can’t be with you anymore, not like this.
Sam: Then leave.
(Kayleigh looks shocked by his response)
Sam: Get out of my house!
(Kayleigh leaves. Car starting up can be heard in the background. She drives off).
(Sam takes the cigarette and lights it, he looks distressed. He grabs his head as if he is having a major head-ache. Jump cuts of him looking pained across the room, as if he is pacing himself).
Scene 2 (Night)
(Sam is lying in bed. He turns over to the other side and notices the empty bed. He grows sad. He gets out of bed onto the floor and walks barefoot. All of her things are lying in the same place).
(Cut to shot of computer turning on, illuminating Sam’s face. He looks as if he is reading the screen very carefully. Cut to shot of computer screen. Googles “How to quite cocaine” and clicks the first link. (https://canadiancentreforaddictions.org/how-to-stop-using-cocaine-in-5-steps/). He looks compelled to read it.)
(Cut to shot of screen. Close up of the first step which says he should admit himself to a treatment facility. Cut to shot of him dismissing the idea. Close up of the second step which says that he should enrol in counselling sessions. Cut to shot of him having same reaction. The third step catches his attention. It says he should form a support system, getting friends and family to support him through these tough times. Close up on ‘friends and family’. Long lasting Static shot of Sam looking quite daunted. Music intensifies).
Scene 3 (Morning)
(Abrupt change of music. Cut to exact same shot but with Sam asleep in office chair in the morning. He notices the web page he was looking at, he looks down at his phone. Cut to close-up of phone. Cut back to Sam looking at phone. Hesitant to go towards phone and pick it up but eventually does. He stands up, cut to close up of him on phone. Phone rings out. Cut to one shot of his whole body, he throws phone away aggressively. Cut to close up of distraught face.)
(Cut to living room. Sam walks in and notices pills on table. Cut to close-up of pills. Close-up of his face contemplating it. He shrugs his shoulders as if to say ‘why not?’)
(Cut to shot of sofa, Sam walks in and opens the packet and takes a pill with some water. He sits back and turns on the TV to watch cartoons. Cut to shot of television. There is a knock at the door, cut to shot of Sam turning towards door in reaction).
(Cut to shot of front door, Sam walks in frame and opens it.)
Jack: Hey, mate.
Sam: Hey. What’s up?
Jack: Just a bit stressed, need something to take the edge off.
Sam: Well, I just had some Xanax but…
Jack: That’d be great! (Jack walks into the house).
(Sam turns around and watches him enter, faces towards camera and looks annoyed).
Sam: Actually, I was just stopping. (Says ‘stopping’ quietly as he realises Jack is not listening. Closes door).
(Cut to shot of Jack looking around, sofa also in frame. Sam walks in)
Sam: (Sarcastically) Please, make yourself at home.
Jack: Nice place, you’ve got some wicked stuff! (Jack walks out of frame, exposing wolf statue)
Sam: Um. Thanks. It was a gift… Xanax was it?
Jack: It’s a bit messy, but all round a nice building!
Sam: Uh, yeah, I’ve been meaning to tidy it.
Jack: Where’s this pill then?
(Sam Hands Jack the pill)
Cheers. Mind if I kick back here for a bit?
Sam: Uh, yeah sure, just sit down there.
(Cut to close-up of of phone. Sam types ‘Hey’ to Kayleigh. Cut to close-up of Sam contemplating decision. Cut back to close-up of phone. He presses send).
(Cut back to Sam, he looks confused, he starts to look a bit woozy).
(Cut to close-up of Jack. Distorted view as if we are seeing double. Dialogue is distorted too.)
Jack: You alright mate?
(Cut to handheld close-up of Sam looking disorientated. He passes out. Cut to black).
Scene 4 (Afternoon)
(Shot of Sam passed out on sofa. He wakes up slowly. He looks around. Cut to Jack tripping on the drugs, whilst watching TV)
Jack: (Slurred voice) I hope you don’t mind, but I helped myself to a few more.
Sam: Yeah, okay, whatever.
Jack: You had quite the trip.
Sam: Makes me wonder why we do it to ourselves
Jack: What do you mean?
Sam: It’s not as if this is good for us.
Jack: If you didn’t do anything that wasn’t good for you, life would be very dull. (Cut to close-up of Sam). Everything that is pleasant in life is dangerous. Have you noticed that? (Cut back to Jack) I’d like to find the bastard that thought that one up.
(Cut to Sam who sits, mulling what Jack has just said. Cut back to jack)
Sometimes I feel as if people are more addicted to the self destruction than the drugs.
(Moment is interrupted by Jack’s phone alarm)
Shit! 3 already! I’ve gotta get home.
(Cut to Sam who sits quietly on the sofa. He picks up his phone).
(In the background) Cheers for the pills buddy! I’ll be back soon.
(Sam doesn’t reply. He continues looking at his phone. Cut to close-up of phone. Looking through camera roll. Door closes in background. Looking through several pictures of him and Kayleigh together. Cut to distraught Sam looking at his phone on verge of tears. He starts looking at the message, waiting for a reply. He puts the phone on the table).
Joe Maddalena (Age: 18)- Sam. I chose Joe because he had the skinny physique like someone who is on drugs. He is also a drama student and so his acting skills are up to scratch. With use of makeup he was made to look as if his eyes were more sunken and his face much skinnier.
Eloise Coles (Age: 17)- Kayleigh. Eloise is also a drama student, meaning she could not only take directorial criticism well, but also suggest ideas of her own. Her ability to display a range of emotions through her acting techniques made her perfect for the role of Kayleigh, who undergoes emotional distress in the film
Jack Wells (Age: 17)- Jack. Jack’s costume and makeup helped to make him look like the stereotypical drug abuser, and his acting abilities gained from drama at A-Level helped him to excel at this role. He is a naturally laid back person, making his casting for the laid back character more justified.
Distribution and Marketing
The chosen institution for my film is ‘Unstoppable Films’. I have chosen to have them as my distributors as they have experience in marketing and distribution from the Kidulthood series. I feel that the message being portrayed in my film – drug abuse – could coincide nicely with the previous ideologies which Unstoppable have portrayed in the past – gang culture. Like my AS piece, I will limit distribution to online viewers as it appeals to a niche audience, which is good seeing as my genre of social realism is quite a niche genre. The film will be a national film for various reasons. Firstly, distribution to other countries is highly unlikely as the cost to do so would be extremely high. Secondly, the setting will be in a typical British household with all British actors. Because of this, it has much higher appeal nationally than internationally. In addition, the social realism genre is one which has become synonymously linked to British culture due to the vast number of films coming out of the country. Because of this, keeping my film national makes much more sense.
Health and Safety
Over the course of my project, I changed my storyline significantly, meaning I needed to revise my storyboards, shooting scripts and actual script. They are as follows:
Kayleigh: *As flashback* When are you gonna realise that you need to grow up? I can’t be with you anymore, not like this.
Sam: *As flashback* Then leave… Get out of my house!
Kayleigh: Hey, how are you?
Jack: Yeah not bad, you?
Kayleigh: Really good, how are you doing my little cuz? (Rubs his head).
Kayleigh: *As flashback* At least I’m not a worthless chav who spends his days sniffing coke and selling pills. I’m talking to you. Sam!
Jack: Where’s your boyfriend?
Kayleigh: He’s… over there
Jack: Oh. Right.