For the second part of the Media and techniques module, a short film ranging from 5-8 minutes must be produced as a team or individually. A selection of genres and Film titles are provided and the film must be based on these qualities.
I was a part of a group of three where we decided to choose the horror genre. We discussed various names that we could select. Initially, the chosen title was Rewind, but then this was changed to Soul Trader after changes were made through the production. I was decided that due to challenges of retrieving reliable people to act and the lack of skills actors available that we would only use one character. This would reduce the number of issues that could be raised when reliable on multiple people and minimum dialog acting was not too much of a concern. I knew that acting would have an impact of the film and as we could only use another member of the class through the production process it was unfair to have high expectation of their acting skills, therefore reducing the dialog would be beneficial.
I have researched various examples of horror films that can be used as inspiration and to gain a better understanding of effective techniques that could be used for the film. I have researched low budget short films, larger scale films, and programmes such as American Horror story and also games. This covered a variety of styles and ideas that can be applied to my short film.
Watching short horror films gave me a better understanding of how other films have condensed the narrative to fit a short viewing time but still telling a story. I do not want to create a detailed narrative that could be confusing or take up too much time explaining it to the viewers. Some of the narratives feature an interesting plot that has worked successfully in the short time frame.
For example, the film in figure 6 features a town where the character finds everyone to be mannequins. This then follows the simple narrative of him finding more people like this, including his family, using camera techniques to make the visuals interesting. Although the audience discovers that this was all seen through the mind of the character and that his family was not mannequins but he had murdered them instead. The audience comes to this realisation with the character, creating a sense of connection as the character goes through the same as the viewers and changes a simple narrative to something more complex and engaging without explaining it to the audience through a script, but by the visuals instead.
American Horror Story
I took inspiration from the camera techniques and editing in American Horror Story. The camera angles are creative, such as in Asylum the camera is often found slanted so that the whole rooms is on an angle. This makes the viewer feel more uncomfortable and portrays an obscure visual to the scene that enhances the eerie, ‘other world’ atmosphere.
The use of stop motion is also effective as it makes the subjects appear more distorted and unnatural. An example of this is in figure 7 during the opening credits for Freak Show. Dolls were used with stop motion which made the atmosphere much more unsettling and can be combined with music effectively.
Resident Evil 7
I made sure to research horror games because the developers have to focus on making the game as immersive as possible. The player must feel as though they have an impact in the game and that they can be affected by it too. The horror genre is notorious for achieving this and player psychology is studied to understand how to make the most effective game. This is then beneficial to understand and apply to films, for example, in the opening scene for Resident Evil 7 a section features mannequins in an attic. They are not introduced immediately, but noises from upstairs indicate that the player is not alone. This builds up suspension but makes it last longer, rather than being quick to show jump scares. The content does not want to be predictable, otherwise, it will not be as effective on the player or viewer. When the player is introduced to the mannequins nothing happens at first. However, as the player moves further into the narrative they begin to move places. The movement is not seen but this still creates tension. The movements become more noticeable and make the player feel a lack of control and vulnerability. This has been useful to analyse as this can be linked with the film, especially as the narrative will be focusing on mannequins.
Until Dawn was praised for its success in creating player immersion. It features a complex narrative that is engaging, accompanied by effective camera movement and graphics. The game builds up suspense by including creative cutaways. For example, during one scene characters are outside with suspense already rising, but then a deer jumps from the bushes ad runs past the player. This did not overuse jump scares as it was a ‘false’ scare. If the subject that was the focus of the horror was used too much it would devalue it and reduce the amount it makes the player feel threatened. Whereas creating eerie cutaways will make the viewer or player feel on edge and unsure of when a true scare scene will occur. The colour palette is also dull, using earth colour’s without any vivid bright shades. This makes the atmosphere feel eerier and ‘moody’.
I ensured that a Google Drive folder was used, which was created by one of the group members so that we could organise the work effectively and so that everyone has up to date copies. This allowed us to view each other’s work to make changes or add additional information.
Beneficial documents, such as Prop Lists were created so that we knew what props were needed and marked you would retrieve them and check off which props were obtained. This reduces issues and made sure we were all aware of what was needed. The footage folder was also added to the drive so that any footage for the film could be shared. Test shots were uploaded which we could then view and provide advance upon the test. Other footage could be shared, such as shots that I did not have for editing could then be uploaded to the drive the same day so that I did not have to wait to retrieve the files. Also during some occasions when editing I could not find certain clips, therefore other members would then upload the clip which I could then download. This has made the production faster and easier to work together as a team.
I had created a basic storyboard to accompany the script. This made it easier to understand how the scenes would appear and how the camera angles work together. I find it tedious because there are many shots to detail but I knew it would improve the planning stage. I included what camera will be used, the type of shot and if there are any movements in the description for each shot. This made it much easier to plan how each shot would work and allowed the rest of the group to get a clearer understanding. The sketches were very basic,
I feel that more detail could have been included but I did not want to spend too much time working on the storyboard. I think the storyboard could be improved by including more shots, and when the narrative is changed I must ensure that the storyboard is updated also. Some changes were made later in the production process, which made some shots irrelevant in the storyboard, this will be improved upon in future projects.
I and another group member went location scouting. We first visited UndegUn in Wrexham where a tour was provided of the available rooms they have. We found an old hotel section which a variety of rooms that would be suitable for the film. The group member then proceeded to visit another location in Wrexham, which was the old steelworks factory. This was derelict and eerie but would be difficult to gain access to the location for long period of time, making this a less suitable place to film. She emailed Undegun to book the hotel rooms, however, they did not reply after a couple of days, therefore I also emailed them which I, fortunately, received a response and was able to book a full day.
After issues arrived we had to rebook the venue, where the third member of the group rung up to make another booking. However, further issues occurred that lead to the cancellation of the shoot. We did not want to book the venue again as it was becoming an inconvenience for the company. Therefore we decided to use the Art School in Glyndwr. A group member scouted rooms that could be used and uploaded videos of the rooms in a location folder on the drive. Images were taken of all the other location that we visited and uploaded to this folder so that we could review the locations and plan the scenes.
Script & Camera Angles
After we had discussed the narrative in a group message the script was created. It was first assigned to one group member in which she proceeded to produce half the script and I then finished the second half in order to help her with this task. Changes were made regularly to the narrative, therefore I made sure the script was always up to date.
I had the task of creating ideas for camera angles. Instead of listing shots on a separate document I thought this would be much more useful if the shots were alongside the script so that it was clear which shot belonged to each part of the script. Therefore I added the camera shots as comments on the script Google Document. This then would highlight the exact sentence that the camera shot would be used for and ensured that every part of the narrative had an idea of camera shot.
I have researched into stop motion, taking influence from American Horror Story and have conducted this test shot of a doll. I used one light to create a dark and eerie lighting effect. I then took multiple pictures as I moved the troll’s head around. I edited this in Adobe Premiere and changed the order so that it turned half way and reversed itself. This produced a much more unsettling effect which was amplified by the atmospheric music. I think technique is effective but I need to add more frames to make the motion more seamless.
I enjoy the challenge of creating films but I knew it would be more difficult than the music video because audio must now be considered in much more detail and a full structured narrative is needed. This became correct as it took longer to create a plan compared to the music video. A larger script was produced with more thought needed for the narrative and awareness of how the audience would interpret the narrative. I found this tiring and very time-consuming. It was especially tiring and tedious when it came to the filming process. We tried to complete the filming in one day but this had to be changed to two days. It was challenging to ensure that all shots were covered, therefore I took the task of informing the camera operator what the next shots were and checking through the script. This had pressure as I did not want to miss shots or parts of the narrative.
The whole group found it difficult to balance work. We had large deadlines overlap with the production of the film. I think that it took the focus away from the film and made the planning process longer that it should have been. This could have been improved if we had started creating detailed plans as soon as this assignment was started instead of prolonging the planning process. I feel that I could have put more effort into the production and felt distracted with other projects. For future projects, I need to ensure that I have more organization so that no projects are neglected. I will create lists of tasks that have the most importance to complete first and have deadlines of when each task for all ongoing projects must be completed.
I became concerned with the approaching deadline, especially when numerous cancellation began to occur. We had a plan for shooting but three filming sessions were canceled in Undegun. This meant that we had to find a new location and make changes to the script to make the process simpler and reduce any further issues. The tension was felt from the deadline and amount of work needed to be completed, however, after putting extra hours into changing plans and filming in the Art School the pressure decreased. I found that I did not have to rush the editing compared to the music video, this was fortunate as the film was more complicated with the addition of audio which would have been difficult to achieve in the amount of time I had in the music video production. The week of editing has allowed me to create many rendered version of the film to add to the drive, where the group can review the edit and address their thoughts. I received feedback for improvements from the group and lecturer that I found useful and enabled me to make improvements to the film. The feedback also enabled me to learn further about editing techniques and how to use audio to my advantage with the clips to create an impacting result.
It was enjoyable to think of creative angles and researching other films. I found it interesting to analyze films and games to understand why they chose particular effects, technical techniques nd codes and conventions to achieve particular effects. It enables me to learn more about film theory and how the to manipulate the audience to make them feel the emotions that you intend through the narrative.
I think a positive is the variety of angles in the film. I had researched films to gather ideas for creative ways they have filmed the production. I was inspired by the interesting angles that American Horror Story had used and applied this to the film. One scene was filmed on an angle that distorted the view perspective and emphasized the obscure and unnatural atmosphere of the narrative. I think this has worked successfully and captures the viewer’s attention.
I also wanted to use simple cut aways in an effective style. I have always been influenced by the style of Edgar wright. He famously uses short and simple cutaways to engage audiences and provide information to the viewers without them realising. For example, in ‘World’s End,’ he has used many of these cutaways, including a bar scene where the camera cuts to closeups of them drinking at the bar. However, the camera is directed at the bottom of the glasses as they drink, creating an unusual and interesting perspective. This then brings the viewers attention to the drinks and emphasises that all are drinking alcohol except for one which is drinking water. This creates a contrast and makes it apparent that they have changed from the others. This character information has been provided only through one quick shot, instead of informing the viewers through dialog.
I have applied this to the film by capturing small, simple shots, such as the door closing and paper moving in the wind. The closeup of the door closing connotes that he is trapped with the mannequins, that the viewers are beginning to realise will have an impact in the narrative. The door makes a loud noise when shutting, creating a dramatic and eerie exit from the character out of the frame. The paper moving in the wind is accompanied by the slow piano music quieting to silence. This changes the atmosphere to an unsettling and mysterious mood from a simple shot.
The audio has been important for this production because it changes the mood of each scene. It can manipulate how the audience feel and change the situation in the scenes. I had created various draft edits that I could then receive feedback on. For my first finished edit version I received feedback that the audio could be improved, such as making loud, intense sounds match with intense parts of the scene and to make sure that I do not overuse tracks. I agreed with this feedback and made alteration for the final edit. I think this has improved the atmosphere and effect it has on the viewers. I have outsourced various royalty free sound effects and tracks from Soundbible and Incompetech, which I have then blended together for the film. For example, I have used a record player static sound for the jump cut effects when presenting the mannequins in order to create an unnatural effect. I have also used multiple sound tracks for slow eerie scenes, which was a piano track and then for intense moments I changed to a faster and louder soundtrack.
However, the background audio became a negative in the project. We filmed on a Wednesday because there were fewer students in the building. This reduced any background noise from other people, however, on Thursday when we filmed it was a lot louder and voices could be heard from the students. I had to remove some of the diegetic audio for various scenes, which with the added background audio improved the scene. Although this was an inconvenience and I had to be much more aware incase I left distracting unwanted sounds in the film.
The time of day and lighting hindered the overall horror effect upon the film. The initial idea was to block out all the light from the windows to make it appear as though it was later at night and to only add one torch light. This would make it much more suspenseful, rather than set the narrative during the day. Using limited light means that the viewers can only see small areas at a time, controlling what we want them view. This would make the audience feel much more vulnerable and uncomfortable which will enhance the horror experience. Horror due to the location change it was not possible to block out the windows. This meant that the script had to be changed to daytime hours with natural light used for most of the scenes. In reflection, we should a list of location that can be flexible with set design. If the first choice of location can not be achieved, similar to this experience then a backup location should be available. This would involve further planning and organisation for future projects.
Scheduling issues affected the production process. Cancellations occurred on various occasions which resulted in changes to initial plans and meant that the deadline came closer with no product. This made the final outcome more rushed and improvised than the initial idea but it became a valuable experience to be able to work under pressure and solve issues. As a team, we reorganised the production and resolved any concerns or issues that affected the project.
Communication could have been improved during the production process. It became difficult to plan during occasions but improved through the filming process. In reflection as a team, we should communicate on more of a regular basis, including the planning process. However, the slow communication was resolved and made the filming process easier to conduct and ensuring that the group understood the plans and schedule. A group chat was created so that as a group we could all discuss ideas and information about the project in an instant and easy way. This then made is beneficial when discussing plans and we could update one another if work had been added to the drive and I would send different versions of the edit, which would then receive feedback on the chat.
Overall the final product achieved an eerie atmosphere that viewers have given feedback expressing that it was unnerving. Although I think more horror aspects could have been introduced into the film. For example, low key lighting would have enhanced the unnerving emotions from the audience. I believe that more planning could have been created and a wider use of creative angles to emphasize certain situations and emotions in scenes would have improved the overall effect.
More editing effects could have aso been applied. I think that I should have experimented with various filters further to explore different effects that they can have upon the atmosphere. Vidual effects could have also been applied to produce interesting and eerie effects. For future projects I will research further into editing effects for Premiere and After Effects. I will also learn more about editing techniques and effective ways to transition into scenes.