The brief task was to produce an opening sequence to a thriller film, aimed at fifteen or eighteens, including titles and last about two to three minutes. Our group aimed to follow themes and stylistic conventions of a thriller that would be familiar to audiences, making them anticipated. This is a purpose of an opening for a thriller, also to hook audiences and create enigma . We wanted to make our thriller have a ‘movie feel’ towards it, making it look professional even though with the low budget and equipment.
I wanted to further advance my camera and editing skills from the music video project and I felt like I had more to prove in making this movie. I made my production on a non-digital camera and tripod. We had the internet for downloading music, sound effects and used programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and IMovie. I watched several thriller movies to pick out conventions of an opening sequence to give me a plan on narrative structure and genre for my product.
Crime Story’ (1993, Wong), ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995, Singer) and ‘New Police Story’ (2004, Chan) were excellent choices and we were able to adapt our own ideas and mix them together. For example, the mysterious character in Suspects is hidden away from screen or is covered by his hat and we only see extreme close ups of his eyes and hands. This is featured in our thriller and creates an enigma for the audience. Both ‘Crime Story’ and ‘Police Story’ have flashbacks and jump cuts to put the audience at the edge of their seats.
The protagonists in both movies suffer from loss and instability as they are chased by the antagonists. We used these elements of film noir and added the mysterious antagonist which created a whole new level to the thriller genre. The binary opposition of good versus evil stimulates audience expectations as they’ll be eager to see certain things happening throughout the film. All three movies follow a cause and effect structure such as twists in plots and detection. This helped our group to figure out our film as a whole, through the use of the Todorov structure and making the audience unravel the outcome of the movie.
Our target audience was ages from fifteen to twenty five. Since our thriller had teenagers playing as teenagers, we felt that we had to target a young audience so that they’d be able to get involved with them and the movie. It was unique rather than using the same age group (over eighteens). Our narrative involves a worried relationship which both male and female audiences can relate to, creating a sense of realism in the movie world.
Our potential audiences were fans of dramas and psychological thrillers such as ‘Psycho’ (1960, Hitchcock) and ‘Li n’ (1994, Besson). We researched target audience by making a questionnaire and asked people what they know about thrillers and what they’ve watched, with the top 50 thriller handout. This helped us understand what our potential audiences wanted in a thriller. Most of them say that they expected a mysterious character and plot that creates suspense, and we used this idea to a great advantage. Planning: Our group decided to go with the idea of a depressed protagonist who is chased by the mysterious antagonist.
This opened up the clearest ideas for suitable iconography (knife, hidden character), which was important for establishing themes and genre during our sequence. For preparation, we had difficulties in choosing locations and actors. Individually, I knew the main scene was going to take place on a bridge, during the night time. It was a perfect setting which could show off the protagonists’ isolation. This would set a dark mood for audiences, as they feel this is a place where they shouldn’t be. We needed a bedroom setting for when our protagonist wakes up from his nightmare, but this caused more complexity as we needed a good actor.
We found an actor, who wasn’t a group member, who would do these scenes. We found someone to play the antagonist, but he caused scheduling problems and we replaced him by another actor who lived close by. For costume, we decided our characters will look like average teenagers to which our intended audience are, and can relate to. We improvised for the antagonist as we used his hood and hat to cover his face and turned him into a hidden character. The shooting schedule caused problems due to bad weather and I wasn’t used to the DV Camera provided by the college.
I decided to use my own as I felt more comfortable and it was useful for charging at any time. Our first shooting didn’t go well as we tried to capture everything on one day. We improved, and planned effectively via the use of a production schedule. We decided it was best to shoot different scenes on different days and nights during the half term holiday. This would help us focus on one sequence each day and using our time efficiently. This helped create more ideas for narrative and locations. We incorporated a relationship crisis for our protagonist as he holds a ring and is called by his girlfriend.
The beginning scene would take place in a garage and we inserted another location when our protagonist walks around the streets, which creates a tense build up to the bridge scene for audiences. The storyboards and scripts helped us visualize our scenes and made us think about editing, and where we’d use certain effects successfully. I did this after the filming as I knew which scenes I would use. I improved the storyboard with detail and added editing shots and dialogue in the script. In our second effort, our group was organized well as we reserved to our deadline and were well structured.
This allowed us to improve on our re-shoots as we could add attention to detail. Construction: During the filming, our group stuck to most of our plan, but several modifications were applied in order to make the thriller look professional. The scenes on the bridge were improved, for example, when our protagonist roams around. Our initial ideas were to cut closer to him as he wanders, looks across the bridge and sits down on the floor. The end product shows all three actions in one shot; we placed a tripod in one position and with the use of fade effects, it created space in between time and gave a good flow of length.
There were difficulties in using the tripod as it was too rigid to be in motion. They were constructive for steady shots, but most scenes needed movement, especially for following characters. Most shots, therefore, were handheld, and we made sure the outcome was presentable to our audiences and not too shaky. Since we had difficult shots to practice at different times, it was complex in borrowing the DV camera as other groups needed it. Also, we knew from the music video experience, that we found it tricky to use and so we decided to use my camera, which lacked quality, but still carried out perfect sequences.
During post-production, our group found out that we forgot to switch off the timer/date display in the corner of the screen, which almost spoiled our thriller. However, this was resolved as we decided to produce this as a film within a film, and there was a clever effect, provided by Final Cut Pro, that allowed us to add in a recording display. This literally made our shots look as if it were recorded by an actor in the film and so audiences would accept that. Originally, our group wanted the flashback sequences to look bright so it could contrast to the dark atmosphere in the ‘real’ sequences.
However, we changed the flashbacks to be just as dark, and included a quick white fade effect in between so audiences are able to tell when a flashback occurs. We felt that if the white effect mixed in with the bright scenes, then it wouldn’t be as effective on the audience. The Mac computers were useful for our group in manipulating pictures and editing music. With Final Cut Pro, I was able to repeat certain sounds and loop them on top of each other to add detail. This helped it sound supernatural, and is traditional to the thriller genre.
The final product followed the structure of my plan; however, it is only the ending which our group had to quickly think about editing together, as we tried to figure out a way to scare our potential audience. But what is seen on screen had come from the groups work and individual ideas that created a good thriller. During the construction, I decided to take responsibility for everything, including ideas, storyboards, scripts, music, and camera among others. The group members gave additional guidance to me in order for us to follow the conventions of thriller.
I found it difficult to work with groups as my ideas were complex for them to understand but it worked effectively on screen. This is exactly what happened with the music video project. Evaluation: The film begins with an extreme close up of the protagonists’ legs, body and face. This shot is used to signify the depression of this character, and the close up tilt of the alcohol bottle, adds to this idea. A long fade out to black is used to balance the passage of time. We fade into a garage door and the editing of the music and image synch well to create an upsetting mood for audiences.
The close up of the ring connotes relationship problems and audiences understand that he is giving up on love and has replaced it with alcohol. This is a sequence which both male and female audiences, of fifteen and over, can relate to. We then fade to the outside streets where the camera follows the movements of our protagonist. The editing paces up as the camera tilts up to the sky, and with the transition effect, we are viewed to another location. The camera pans across and cuts to a long shot of our protagonist walking across a bridge.
The music sounds terrifying as it synchs with the introducing antagonist. The editing speeds up and the fast cuts and close ups reflect this idea. The knife signifies death and the audience can feel the protagonists fear as he breathes heavily. The white effects indicate flashbacks and leave audiences to figure out what is happening. Our protagonist runs for his life through point of view and tracking shots – and is then unexpectedly stabbed by the antagonist. All this builds up tension and we realize that it’s a false shock.
All our class members reviewed our thriller and were grasped by what was happening. They enjoyed the elements of music and editing merging together and how we synched it with the image, creating detail and a shock factor. They understood briefly, the narrative; a man being stalked by the antagonist but reveals to be a nightmare. Some were confused but added that it was a good thing as it created an enigma, following the conventions of a thriller. The dark atmosphere and camera angles appeared to their interests and that it was done perfectly.
However, they thought developments were needed on costume as it wasn’t a typical feature in seeing our antagonist in sport clothes. One group said that it slightly moved to the horror genre with the stalking and stabbing features, but it still worked well as a thriller. I think the main strengths of our thriller were the music synching with the image. Since our group was prearranged from previous experiences, we had enough time to add in detail to sounds and use a variety of transitions.
I particularly liked the recording effect that was displayed, as it began as a mistake because we left the timer/display on, but our audience said that it worked well as it looked like someone was stalking him. I favored the editing as everything I had pictured in my mind came on to the screen. The slow build up to the bridge was done well; I used a selective amount of effects that was appropriate to the task and audiences were pleased as it gave it a movie feel. The costume was at the back of my mind and so I was disappointed when audiences figured this out.
It almost lost the touch of a thriller but we were fortunate enough to concentrate on everything else which made it perfect. The ending of the sequence was rushed due to lack of time. Everything else was taken great care of in terms of editing, but for that ending we had to improvise with the hurried footage captured. Our project follows the conventions of a thriller and made audiences glued to their seats as they watched. I was most pleased that there were minor developments needed from the audience feedback, and so we felt that we took everything into great consideration into making a thriller opening.