Looking back at your preliminary task (the continuity editing task), what would you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to full product?
We spent a lot more time researching the genre, watching openings of existing texts to find what is expected in an opening. We backed it up with searching the internet for the conventions of a slasher and getting people’s different points of view. This was very important for us because it helped us develop our initial ideas, making it fit in with the genre.
For our preliminary we didn’t draft a story board or call sheets which meant our film wasn’t structured very well and the actors were not very well instructed in what to do. For our opening we were using actresses from outside our media group so it was vital we thoroughly planned. We were filming part of it in the dark, in winter, so we needed to be efficient and do it as quickly as possible before we lost the light and everyone got cold. To achieve this we planned detailed storyboards as well as the dialogue sheets before we went out to film. We were then able to give these to the actresses to brief them on what was going to happen. I think this professional approach and detail resulted in them taking it more seriously and the final product was better. I also created a treatment for Last One Standing which collected all our aims for the opening, reminding ourselves about areas such as target audience and character roles. This also helped later on in the project as we explored and developed each section further.
Detailed project planning enabled us to manage our time more effectively. On location it was clear what we had to do so we got all the shots we needed and it was less likely that we would require a reshoot. After filming we had guidelines for when each of our rough cuts needed to be done by in order to get feedback and improve. This worked well for us keeping everything in order. Much time was spent out of lessons on research allowing us to maximise use of the software in school for editing and recording podcasts. The only thing that we could have planned slightly better was leaving another week for recording the sound. This would have given us a chance to get to know the software ourselves and perhaps not rely on our technician, John, in the end. Compared to our prelim we had good time management. Previously, we were rushing at the end to meet the deadline which resulted in a poorer quality sequence.
For the preliminary we got into groups and discussed ideas within this group, so there was no pitch to the whole class. For the coursework opening a pitch to the class was required which allowed us to hear each others ideas and this helped us choose our groups. I chose Jess because I thought our ideas would go well together and create an effective slasher film opening.
Our choice of actresses for our opening was greatly improved upon from the preliminary. We had more time to prepare for it so we were able to find suitable people from outside the media class, meaning casting the characters was easier and we could choose people who can act. As we had included some nudity in our opening we had to pitch our idea to our choice of main character to check that she would be comfortable doing that on camera, bearing in mind the footage would be seen by other people at school.
Props, Costume, Mise-en-Scene
We had no props for our prelim and only had a costume for Jem to signify the Baywatch theme. We didn’t take this very seriously and I think this is reflected in the prelim. The lack of time we had to plan, film and edit the footage meant we had to film in school, leaving us no choice in the mise-en-scene as it had to be in a classroom.
We had much more time for the final product so we spent longer on the overall planning. We thought through the characters and what we wanted the costume to signify. For example, with Ellie we chose tight, revealing clothes, connoting promiscuity and rebelliousness. We thought through if there were any required props that would add to the opening and if there were any conventional props that should be included. We knew that having a murder was essential but we wanted to challenge the predictable case of killing with a knife so we tried to think of a more original idea. We both thought about having our protagonist strangled with the cord of her dressing gown and this is the idea we decided on. We have used bubbles in the bath to cover up our main character more because it would be very inappropriate to have her revealing all and our actress would not feel comfortable with the idea on camera.
Location Scouting and Sample Shoots
Due to the time constraints we had with the prelim no locational scouting took place and we didn’t have chance to take sample footage so we just had to risk it and film it straight away. This was not good because it meant that we had not all been on set together and there was a bit of improvisation.
When I was drafting my initial pitch to present to the class I was imagining the scenes being set in my house. I thought that the outside of my house was ideal because it is a white, stand alone house similar to the one used in Halloween which signified isolation and was a good example of intertextuality. My bathroom was also good because it is fully tiled which gave us some reflective shots which were appropriate to use in our opening. The bath was fairly open, providing plenty of room for the tripod and allowed us to film our actress in the bath from a variety of different angles.
We planned to shoot the bedroom scene in my own room, one of a typical teenage girl. This also made the day of filming easier because we were only using one house and if we needed to re-film we didn’t have to find a suitable time to do it, negotiating with the owner. For the Blair Witch style flashback we decided that we would use the woods a 10 minute walk away from my house because they are easy to access and are close to the locations where the rest of the scenes are taking place. It was especially important here that we did some sample shoots because we would be filming in the dark and we had to test the lighting. Filming in winter meant that it would get dark earlier so we had to time it at twilight so that we would have enough light to film with. We decided that we would also use the torches we had chosen as props to fit with the narrative as additional lighting, as well as lighting up the actresses’ faces in certain scenes. My planning the woods part so thoroughly meant that the required shots were filmed faster and it ran smoothly, a very important aspect since the day we had chosen to film on was incredibly cold.
Rough Cuts and Audience Feedback
For the preliminary task we didn’t have a rough cut. There was not enough time to keep improving on it and the only feedback we received was from the teacher that the match on action shot of the door wasn’t done correctly so we had to re-film to improve this bit. That particular problem was mainly due to rushed editing.
For our film opening Jess and I produced three rough cuts before we were happy with the final product. To begin with the changes we made were very drastic ranging from the initial one, with all of our shots ordered and edited slightly, to adding in our re-film footage and the soundtrack. The changes got less as we progressed and by the end it was just the little things that needed tidying up. By uploading the rough cuts onto YouTube, then embedding them on our blog it allowed us to get audience feedback. We also showed these to the class which secured feedback from our target audience, allowing us to improve our film again based on what they had said. The main piece of feedback we received was that it was slightly confusing in places, especially when the flashback scenes began, as the audience weren’t following it and didn’t know what was going on. To remedy this we tried a variety of techniques in the editing software in an attempt to make it clearer so these are the most noticeable changes in our later rough cuts.
The accompanying soundtracks for both projects are very different. In the first one it is rather comical, using the Baywatch theme tune for when we introduce the male character. There is no additional diagetic sound to enhance what already belongs in the scene as the majority of it is dialogue. The script is not very interesting and none of the people involved are very good actors because we had no time to cast proper people for the roles.
We put a lot more thought into sound for our final product, creating an original soundtrack in GarageBand to go with the narrative and help increase the tension. We introduced a long, drawn-out synthesised violin note followed by another long note of a slightly higher pitch. The use of music in this way signifies something is wrong, an early signifier of the horror genre. We have also used a pre-recorded sample from the iMovie sound selections for the footsteps as the killer approaches the house, just making what we already had louder and more prominent. There is considerably less dialogue in this one than before but because we have correctly casted the roles, especially our protagonist, the lines are believable and work on screen.
For both pieces we have used continuity editing however in the final project it moves at a lot faster pace to build tension because the action is quite exciting. In the prelim it was mainly a conversation involving dialogue so it moved slower. We used no other special effects or transitions in it apart from the slow motion tool for the part where he swishes his hair when we are first introduced to the character. All the shots have been edited with a simple cross cut. This is a huge difference compared to our film opening. Again we have cross cut it but the fade in and out transitions have been added between shots and a number of special effects were used for the flashback to make it clearer to the audience what was happening. For example we changed the footage from colour to black and white as well as the blur tool for when we enter the flashback.
No idents were created for our prelim but we created two, one for a production company and another for a distribution company. Both our idents are linked to the slasher genre although they are not necessarily required to. Our first ident links the most with the blood spatter on a white background being slightly gory, the second one slightly more disconnected but the heartbeat sound that accompanies the pulsing of the words continues into the beginning of the film adding to the tension. An effect of the regular heartbeat sound can affect the audience member’s heartbeat. This physical interference can create a psychological effect resulting in a feeling of increased tension.
Working in a group
For the prelim we were unable to choose our own groups but we still all worked well as a team. For the final project Jess and I chose to work together after hearing each others pitches to the class. The dynamics of the group were very good with us both contributing creative ideas and suggesting ways to improve it. It was fun and easy to arrange a time to film outside of school time as we were both close friends and were happy spending extra time at each others houses to plan our opening. The majority of research and planning on the genre and our film sequence we did together, both taking DVDs home to deconstruct then sharing the notes with each other and it is the same for editing and filming. I was the most confident of the two of us using the editing software so I took control with it although Jess was by my side talking me through her thoughts and adding to the final cut.