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Evaluation Question 2: How does your media product represent particular social groups?

Here is a video response covering some initial points upon reflection answering the question, displayed below.

My media product represents particular social groups through features such as age, gender, power, subculture, characterisation, social status and stereotyping.  We wanted to keep the style of our product consistent to create verisimilitude, to achieve this we had to attain the correct representation of the social group all the way through the film.

Dirty Harry

The main representation in our media was the power and dominance struggles between the antagonist and the victim. Our media product represents the social, physical and mental contrast between the characters of a murderer and his victim, through use of gender. We used the stereotypical and very old viewpoint that ‘women are inferior to men’ which was shown through multiple high angled camera shots in films such as ‘Titanic’ and ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’.  We used these shots to show the contrast between power and gender in our own opening sequence. The male antagonist is shown through low angled shots looking up to him and high angled point of view shots from the victim’s perspective. Both shots allow the audience to view the antagonist as the more powerful character as he appears physically bigger, and this creates the illusion that we have to look ‘up’ to him – as though he holds the authority in the context. These types of shots were seen in the opening sequence to the film Dirty Harry when the antagonist looks down onto his female victim. We developed this idea and used these conventions in our own work to portray this particular social group.

The female victims are portrayed through high angled shots looking down onto them. These display the females as inferior in terms of power and dominance representation, as the audience has to look ‘down’ upon them as though they are the smaller person in the context. This works in combination with the low angled shots on the antagonist to differentiate between the most powerful character in this particular social group.  These shots demonstrate the victim’s vulnerability in the situation, causing the audience to fear for her safety therefore causing further anxiety for them making them want to continue watching.

The male character the (murderer) is portrayed through mise en scene such as dark lighting across half of his face to conceal his identity as well as giving him a dark and mysterious edge, thus implying he is from a more isolated social group. Not only does this dark lighting play a huge part in the shed scenes where he is flicking through the pages of his scrap book, but also his choice of costume.

In terms of mise en scene, the characters costume and appearance helps to differentiate their social groups. The antagonist wears a striking mask to conceal his identity – this combined with the use of dark lighting helps to portray the fact he is an antagonist, from an isolated social group and perhaps capable of committing crimes.

On the other hand, the females are dressed in more fashionable, lighter clothing to suit their youthful ages and underlying innocence. Their floral wear creates connotations connected with nature and therefore purity, suggesting they are all younger and much more innocent than the opposing antagonist. These light, floaty florals are signals to tell the audience that she is from an opposing social group of which is more innocent and vulnerable. Each victim is of the same social group each being young girls. This repetition of these types of females all from the same social group being murdered by the same antagonist represents the young females social group as vulnerable, and represents the female gender as slightly threatened by powerful men – again working on the archaic ideology that women are inferior to men.

The last victim wears a slightly shorter dress which reveals more of her legs. Although her dress is still lighter and floral, it looks slightly more revealing. This represents her as an ‘object’ to men, due to the fact that her legs are more on display thus being more provocative in which males could stereotypically see as an ‘invitation’. This therefore conforms to the stereotype that she is vulnerable and our ideology that females in the social context are the victim in society.

When compared to the murderer’s costume, this opposing dress sense emphasises the fact they are from different social groups. For one, the baggy dark parker jacket and dark worker boots completely create opposite connotations. This clothing implies to the audience that this character does not want to be seen, which suggests he could be hiding from something which is what we wanted our audience to think.

We attempted to conform to the stereotypes that the older character in a social group usually has more power. The male character, the murder’s age is also shown as being older than the female, which in the same way is conveyed through a number of low angle shots, to imply that he is the more powerful one in the social context.  This age comparison represents this particular social group as being strongly determined by social status, and where a person stands in a group determines how much they are respected by the other members of that group. Although they are not within the same social group in general, the social context they are in for the time being suggests that age, gender and power plays a key importance in conforming to audiences expectations.

Our chosen locations also represent the particular social group in which we attempted to represent. The film begins with an establishing shot of a scenic field view which has connotations with country walks and innocence of nature’s beauty. We would not expect such crimes to happen here and therefore this surreal location represents the females own innocence and virtue.

The shots of the forest scenes in which this confrontation takes place, is more likely to be associated with walking home. The victims were all walking home from somewhere and took a short cut through a forest.  This automatically leads the audiences expectations towards that of something bad could happen, thus conforming to our narrative ideology. This common teenage activity is expected with the characters ages, which in turn creates verisimilitude due to the fact the audience whom are of a similar age, can relate to this.

The location of a dark work shed is contrasted to this natural location, which helps juxtapose this characterisation. The antagonist’s nature is dark and mysterious and therefore we complimented his personality with a dark and eerie work shed with tools in the background. This implied he was a lonesome individual, and perhaps incapable of typical social interaction- this implying he is from an opposing social group.

In terms of characterisation, the fact the female actors are teenagers themselves helps the target audience relate to what’s going on, as our target audience are young adults between the ages of 16 to 26.  The characters in our sequence help conform to stereotypes about particular social groups due to the fact their age is the same of those you would find in this particular social group, this therefore creates verisimilitude for the audience.

Overall, I feel as though we successfully conveyed the realism within the stereotypes associated with the particular social context that we used for our film. We successfully manipulated everyday situations by adding surreal effects and ideologies in order to engage our target audience, so that they can relate to it, and managed to exaggerate it to turn it into shocking and memorable situations.

Evaluation Question 1: In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

My media product of an opening sequence film uses forms and conventions of real media products in a number of ways to establish setting, characterisation, narrative, visual style, genre and ideology.

'Mr.&Mrs. Smith' (2005)

'Mr.&Mrs. Smith' (2005)

After researching other films in a similar genre to what I wanted to achieve (drama thrillers such as Mr& Mrs Smith, Salt and Paranormal Activity), I noticed that there was an inequality between genders. This general convention is one that I wanted to explore further, especially after gathering the data from my questionnaire I had previously handed and also my interviews out which explained that my target audience (males and females aged 16 to 26) enjoyed the genre of ‘thriller’ the most. This primarily found knowledge about my target audience persuaded me to go into more depth to conform to the typical conventions in which most drama thrillers convey, in the hope that my film will be as intriguing to my target audience as the other films in the same genre.

Mr& Mrs Smith, one of the films I researched in my planning stages, expresses some inequality between genders. I took inspiration from this to interpret into my own product. I decided to conform to the stereotype about women being vulnerable and inferior to men by the mise en scene and choice of costume. I placed the female characters (the victims) in a lighter coloured dress to try and highlight their innocence and youth, and also a shorter skirt to convey the fact the man may take advantage of her. This enhances her role as the victim. The male antagonist is dressed in a stereotypical dark track suitto enhance his overpowering role as the antagonist, which is also conveyed through low angle shots. This use of mise en scene makes the audience feel as though they need to side with the victims, leading to the conclusion that she is the vulnerable character in the piece.
TitanicDuring our research we also watched the film Titanic, which was set in 1912, a time where women were considered socially inferior to men. This is shown through a number of conventions such as the fact that the main female character, Rose, isn’t allowed to talk much and wasn’t allowed to participate in males activities such as poker. This gender inequality ideology was very interesting and helpful when we wanted to explore it in our own opening sequence, as we could attempt to conform to the typical, old fashioned stereotypes about gender more accurately. For example we used over the shoulder, high angled and low angled shots to represent our power and dominance ideologies. The hand held camera shots from the antagonists point of view are filmed from a high angle, thus looking down onto the victims. This not only implies they are his victims, but it also gives him the power in the context and allows the audience to clearly distinguish the power balances between characters.

The time and location I set my piece in also shows how my media product uses conventions of media products. My research suggested that films within the same genre are commonly filmed in dark, eerie places to convey a sense of fear. I chose the location of an eerie field to begin with to set the time of evening. Throughout the opening sequence, the time increases – thus getting slightly darker going into dusk before night time. The style of the shots we used are vintage looking, with effects like ‘crop and feather’ and ‘day into night’ in order to convey this sense of an eerie atmosphere. This allows the audience to recognise the surreal natural locations in combination with the type of shots used, which works well with our narrative as it portrays that something illegal or bad could happen later on in the sequence. This in turn leads audiences expectations of the film so that they understand the narrative further.

I then chose a dark shed for the antagonist to flick through the pages of the book, specifically because after research I found that my target audience would associate this type of atmospheric place with this sort of crime, therefore conforming to stereotypes. The location of the shed works well to highlight the fact the antagonist is planning something bad, and the authenticity of this location complete with tools and typical objects works to enforce verisimilitude. These locations juxtapose one another – the natural locations being a more surreal and artistic type of shot, compared to the mid shots of the antagonist flocking through his scrap book. The fact we used the natural shots of the fields and forests was due to the fact that these types of murders and stalking crimes do take place here, and therefore this combined with the narrative works to lead the audiences expectations about the narrative therefore their reactions will be as they expected and this doesn’t challenge their expectations as viewers. However the fact we used natural locations, and edited them to make them surreal thus enhancing their beauty, slightly develops this stereotypical media form of creating a gloomy atmosphere to reflect danger. We wanted to highlight the innocence within nature, as a connection with the female victims who were innocent.

This development in the typical media convention – which was to typically create the darker atmosphere to foreshadow later events – has been developed to slightly juxtapose this ideology. Although we are foreshadowing later events via the darker scrap book scenes, the nature shots work to juxtapose this by shedding a lighter approach – thus creating connotations with the victims own innocence. This therefore explores my attempts to differentiate my media product from the general conventions.

We chose a park area of a field to slightly challenge and subvert ideology stereotypes. A park can be a place associated with virtue and infancy of children but in this case I have decided to use that innocence to reflect the innocence of the female victim– the fact she is approached walking through a park reflects her own vulnerability and youth. This makes the audience think deeper about the fact that she is so innocent and youthful, which reflects her young age further.

As an attempt to differentiate my product from the general conventions, I decided to include no spoken dialogue in the opening sequence. Although films such as ‘SE7EN’ also did not include dialogue in its opening sequence, it also did not have any facial footage or option for dialogue. We chose not to use spoken speech due to the fact we felt this could take away from our narrative ideology. We wanted to create a strong visual presence to initially start the film off with, thus leaving the audience wanting more. We also realised how speech could reveal slightly our own characters identities which would not have conformed to our mise en scene ideologies. This use of mise en scene could gives the antagonist more power, as his silence causes the audience to become more intrigued by his presence at the same time as keeping the audiences interest.

To the left shows a screenshot from the film ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’ beside a clip from our sequence. This explains how we have taken inspiration from the film, and tried to conform to gender stereotypes, by the positioning of the male and female to show power. As you can see from the screenshot of our sequence (on the right), we have positioned the female as though she is looking up to the man, which is also displayed in the film ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’ (to the left).

 

Audience Feedback After Changes

We took into consideration our audiences views when we initially showed them our media product. We then edited our opening sequence to make sure we conformed to what they said – in order to make it better.

After completing our product again and letting our audience view it, we asked them two questions. The questions we asked them were: “What is the genre of the opening sequence?’ and “if given the choice, would you continue watching our opening sequence?”.  After we got the questionnaires back and reviewed the interviews we were glad to find 7/10 of people who watched our opening sequence correctly identified our genre. The remaining 3/10 believed that our genre was drama or horror thriller, due to the point of view shots the stalking, and the mid shots of the male and female confrontation and diegetic screams. However, we are still pleased because a drama/ horror thriller is categorised under the thriller genre, and the style of shots could be mistaken as being associated with horror movies. Also we did research the Grudge and the Ring which both have aspects associated with horrors, which meant that our research paid off and was portrayed though our work.

We were thrilled to hear comments such as: “I was gripped” and “I would definitely continue watching” as this made us aware that we had conformed to our purpose to entertain our audience and have also given them an immersive experience of film.

One member of our audience also stated how he enjoyed the choice of music which had a “good beat” thus conforming to our musical ideology and research in which we found how music controls the atmosphere. I am sure we made the correct musical choices due to its minor tones and technical instrumental melody, and this quote backs this up.

9 out of 10 people said they would have continued watching the opening sequence because they said it looked ‘promising’ and that it ‘intrigued’ them. This was exactly what we hoped as a response from our audience as it made us realise that we did in fact produce a product that was suitable for our specific target audience. The reason that the one person that said they would not like to watch on, was because it wasn’t their ‘preferred’ genre of film and they said it could look to ‘scary’ for them. We respect their judgement as we realise that not everyone enjoys the genre of thriller, especially if it does have aspects of horror or violence in it.

Another person we inteviewed stated that they liked the costume and mask of the murderer, and it reminded them of something they had seen in the film ‘Friday The 13th’. Subsequently I researched this film to see if I could see a connection, and to my surprise we had dressed our antagonist almost identical to the antagonist seen in the film Friday the 13th, although neither I nor Leanne had ever seen the film before. The fact that one of our target audience made this connection was very flattering and also conformed to our brief as it meant we were able to entertain our target audience of 16 to 26 in the genre of thriller. This also suggests our ability to initially take our audiences opinions and interests into consideration to give them something they will find thrilling, in much the same way the producers of Friday The 13th did.

Overall I am happy with the feedback from our opening sequence, as I think I have produced work to the best of my ability and mostly all of the feedback we received was positive.

Final Media Product

Below is my final opening sequence. 🙂

Final Editing

Today we finalised all the editing and made sure our opening sequence was up to scratch. We watched our opening sequence through ourselves and asked a few of our target audience what they thought.

Some stated how the sound at ‘01.17’ did not have a smooth transition, and we noticed this too. As we had originally cut and faded the two sections of the song together using the ‘blade’ and ‘cross dissolve’ tools, we tried to blend it as flawlessly as we could. However after picking up on this imperfection we decided to re edit this audio transition. We extended the duration of the overall sequence, and therefore we moved the transition in sound to ‘01.50’ which fit in perfectly to work with the previous section of the sound.

Below is our opening Sequence before edits (sound change at 01.17):

Below is our sequence after edits (sound change at 01.50):

As you can see and hear we successfully smoothed this sound to conform to professionalism.

We then added sounds effects from ‘Se7en’ which complimented the sound track and worked well to establish an audio, visual connection. We imported clips from the opening sequence soundtrack to Se7en and used the blade tool to select and cut sections and move them to appropriately areas. We used the effects that come with Final Cut Pro in order to enhance the sounds slightly, we used ‘monster’ and ‘alien’. We placed them firstly when the antagonist is placing the images of the photographs down, and each photo that hits the page has a complimentary sound to go with it. These sounsd foreshadow violence and danger, thus keeping to our minor tones and dark sound and narrative ideology.

Overall I am pleased with my final piece and very happy with the way it turned out 🙂

Editing the photograph scene

After a successful filming day, we got down to the editing. We opened and imported the files – eliminating the worst ones since we filmed it about 6 times to ensure we had a good footage.

We used the blade tool to cut sections of the clip we didn’t like and used the ‘cross dissolve’ tool to fade the newly formed sections together flawlessly.

Positioning; We played with positioning of the clips and decided it looked good right at the very beginning after the establishing shot of the field due to the fact it made most logical sense here as well as being at its visual peak aesthetically. We decided that the photographs at the beginning create a sense of mystery for the audience, due to the fact they will instantly be wondering who the girls in the pictures were. We were careful to choose photographs that looked as though they were taken unaware, thus enhancing the fact the antagonist is a stalker/murder kind of character.

We had filmed the footage in a low eerie lighting and therefore did not need to add many post production effects on this, the only thing we did was turn the brightness down slightly.

We played around with the ‘intro flashes’ effects and other flashes, and although I thought this created a good effect as it looked jarringly distorted in an immersive way, we eventually came to the decision that the flashes looked too red and therefore resembled fire too much – so we’d leave this out.

We then added some sound effects as an audio overlay, taken from the film ‘Orphan’ which worked really well with the photograph scene as the music worked to the beat, and highlighted the fact the photographs were being thrown down.

Below is an example of our editing;

Overall, great editing day, i’m pleased with the results so far and am happy to say we are almost finished!

Filming the photograph scene

We had originally intended to film the murderer sorting through pictures of female victims in the opening sequence. This would create further relevance between the antagonist and the victims, thus foreshadowing later events. This photograph scene will go towards the beginning of the opening sequence to help establish the narrative.

Warren, our actor was unavailable, so we decided to improvise by wearing black gloves to hide our hands and sorted through the photos ourselves. This meant the hands blended into the dark background and would not be seen on camera. Leanne was the actor on this occasion and therefore I filmed, demonstrating how she should flick the pictures onto the scrap book. I stated she should not get her hand in the frame, due to the fact this would decrease verisimilitude, but it also conforms to our identity concealing mise en scene.

We achieved the correct lighting by turning the lights off, and only having a small lamp as our light source. We discovered this was the most suitable light source after some filming attempts in full light and no light – which were unsuccessful. Our lightning that we achieved created an eerie sepia atmosphere which was exactly what we were looking for.

Making the props:

We searched through Facebook  for photos of our friends who would fit the specific victim category – being young and female.  We made sure the images we chose were not poised’ and looked natural – as if unexpected. It was important that they looked unexpected in the photos due to the fact the audience is under the impression that the murderer has taken these photos himself, with the victims unaware. We printed the photos out using a black and white setting due to the fact this made them look more authentic and conformed to our theme of thriller. We cut them out carefully to create the illusion time has been spend collecting the photos, and this again enhances the antagonists poor mental state.

To film this scene we simply dropped the photographs onto the previously made scrap book, and made it look as through the antagonist was throwing the photos onto his scrap book. The whole scene is a point of view shot from the antagonists perspective, panning to close ups on particular faces to put further emphasis.

Below is a example of our filming today;

As you can see above, we achieved a good lighting via turning all the lights off and only having a small lamp as our light source. This worked effectively to portray a correct atmosphere.

Overall I am very pleased with how our filming turned out and can’t wait to edit it into the rest of the sequence.