Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Master of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock was often referred to as 'The Master of Suspense'. He was the pioneer for techniques that helped to create suspense and was the master of the psychological thriller genre. Hitchcock was also famous for popularizing the term 'MacGuffin' and this was applied in a vast array of his films.

Some of Hitchcock's devices that were commonly used in his films was suspense, the audience as voyeur (practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviour) and the MacGuffin. Some of his most famous films that portray these elements are Psycho, Rear Window and The Birds.

As mentioned earlier Hitchcock was famous for making the term popular and it was first prominently used in his 1935 film, The 39 Steps. Hitchcock explained the term; "It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers".

The term MacGuffin can be commonly associated with the thriller genre but it has a broad definition that can be readily applied to all films. In fiction, a MacGuffin is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is an object, place or person. However, a MacGuffin can sometimes take a more abstract form, such as money, victory, glory, survival, power, love, or even something that is entirely unexplained, as long as it strongly motivates key characters within the structure of the plot.

Examples of MacGuffin's in other films include: the meaning of 'Rosebud' in Citizen Kane, the 'Rabbit's Foot' in Mission Impossible 3 and the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Skyfall opening titles

Skyfall is the 23rd film in the James Bond series and stars Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem. Skyfall is an action/thriller which sees our beloved spy James Bond return to duty after a botched mission. Rugged, tired and not the usual Bond we are used to seeing on our screens, he must go on a mission to stop Silva (Javier Bardem) and protect the exposed identities of MI6 agents. But Silva has a personal vendetta that involves someone at the top of MI6 and will stop at nothing to kill them. The Bond films are infamous for their opening sequences and Skyfall is no different although this one may be particularly remembered for its soundtrack performed by Adele. The opening titles start with Bond being dragged into a deep, dark sea with a bleeding wound creating swirls of blood that float behind him. The blue of the water makes the blood stand out even more and it foreshadows the elements of danger that Bond will face throughout the film. He is dragged into a hole in the ground were the audience is flown through a graveyard where the gravestones are guns and bayonets. The blue transforms into a red swirl which just spells out death and suggests that our protagonist has fallen already. After escaping from the graveyard we see Bond standing in a large hall shooting shadows of himself. This shows the paranoia that may be starting to settle into his mind. Black, white and grey colours present the idea of blurred lines and a mistrust between people; the game is no longer good or bad and it has merged to challenge our hero to figure out the problem by himself. These titles are similar to the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang titles as they both present/foreshadow the same conventions of a action/thriller by using similar methods, however the James Bond titles would be much harder to try and create opposed to the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang titles.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang opening titles

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an american thriller film by debut director Shane Black. The film stars Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer. The plot involves a petty thief (Robert Downey Jr) posing as an actor who is brought to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation along with his high school dream girl (Michelle Monaghan) and a detective (Val Kilmer) who's been training him for his upcoming role in the film. The genre of this film is a mixture of action/thriller with strong comedic elements and these are shown by the opening titles. The colours white, black and a pale red foreshadow the films possible themes. The red commonly represents death, danger and lust and the contrasting black and white is like a battle between good and evil, right and wrong. The white is also often used as a symbol of innocence or purity and this is shown through the character of Harmony Faith Lane. The mise-en-scene in the titles show bullet holes, guns and ladies lips which supports the genre and the elements shown by the colours. The music that accompanies the sequence is like a jazz/blues sound adds a light hearted, sexy feel to the scene but also adds intrigue and mystery. The animation is simple looking; it does not utilise a whole pallet of colours and there is little detail on the people or figures, but it does flow smoothly and uses the whole screen to create a full and interesting opening sequence.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Epic Film Music: Halloween

This is probably the most famous Horror film theme music of all time, John Carpenters theme song to Halloween is chilling, unnerving, a little repetitive but generally awesome. Perhaps making the film more memorable than even Michael Myers himself the theme song has helped to make Halloween one of the best horror films ever. The theme song building up the tension and mystery and then suddenly cutting out to an eerie silence is truly terrifying in this film.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

What's your favourite scary movie?

Why Ghostface I think that'll have to be Scream.
Released in 1996 Scream became iconic for its use of satire in completely summing up the horror genre in an almost comedic fashion. Heavily influenced by the classic slasher films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, Screams villain consisted of a crazed killer running around murdering high school students in giant black overalls and wearing a creepy looking mask that resembled, well a Ghostface!

The film went on to spawn 3 sequels that involved a different perpetrator utilizing the ghost mask to commit an act of revenge or to just have a good time terrorizing the residents of Woodsboro. While the sequels could never match the sheer awesomeness of the first film they made Ghostface an icon for generations of younger people.

There are two aspects that I really like from the Scream. First is the iconic villain that the film has. Ghostface is instantly recognisable and is an interesting characters. The fact that you never know who the killer behind the mask really is ad that the costume can supposedly be picked up from your local supermarket adds an element of realist terror to the film. Secondly Scream pays tribute to many classic horror films, perhaps the most notable one is when the teens are watching Halloween at a party before the final confrontation occurs.

Scream will always be one of my favourite films no matter how old it becomes or how many times a Scary Movie films tries to slander it. Scream is an all time classic horror.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Epic Film Music: World War Z

World War Z is a really awesome film. It's a zombie film sure, but presented on a global and epically intense scale. But what really makes it special to me is the main plot for the film, as I find it isn't really focused on the survival of our main character, even though that is a major part of it. Instead I feel that it is more engaged in telling the origins of what caused the pandemic and subsequently understanding the 'Zekes' or zombies. I think that the music echoes this perfectly through the quick, mysterious piano which is why I find the music so haunting in the way it suggests that there is something to be discovered and understood which could be potentially quite beautiful. Similarly the piano within this piece is almost like the Mass Effect 3 song.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Epic Game Music: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3, is the third and possibly final installment of the awesome Mass Effect trilogy. Whilst the ending of this game was considered a crime by its fan-base, the thing that haunted me after this film was not the unanswered questions or the stunning cinematic sequences, it was in fact the music, and this song titled "Leaving Earth" in particular. Whenever I heard it my heartstrings were tugged and I felt the tears well up behind my eyes (seriously, this game made me cry). This song stood out among many of the others within the soundtrack for reasons that will make you shiver. Firstly the most striking thing for me in this piece is the piano that plays a few simple notes that just resonate and give so much depth to the music. It's as if i should feel happy, but sad too and this is also emphasized with the triumphant blast  of the trumpets and other brass instruments that empower the music even further. This is probably one of my most treasured pieces of video game music.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Marvel and Iron Man 3 case study

Marvel Studios (formerly Marvel Films) is a an american television and film studio that was founded in 1993. The studio is a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment which is wholly owned by the conglomerate Disney and therefore works in conjunction with Disney Studios.

Marvel Studios has been involved in three of the Marvel Cinematic Universes; X-Men, Superman, and the Marvel Universe.

The "MVL Productions LLC" unit has released eight films since 2008 under the Marvel Cinematic Universe banner: Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Marvel's The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). Captain America Winter Soldier will be released early 2014.

Iron Man 3 is the seventh instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second-highest-grossing film behind The Avengers. The film earned $408,883,156 in North America , as of September 2, 2013, and $805,700,000 in other countries of the same date. The total was a worldwide amount of $1,214,583,156.

Interesting Facts

The film featured over 2,000 visual effects shots and was worked on by 17 studios. From January  2013 through to the film's wrap in April, the collective crew had one d`y of downtime, otherwise working 7 days a week and 14 to 18 hours a day.

A total of 3 hours and 15 minutes of footage were shot before editing, where it was brought down to 130 minutes (119 without credits).

On August 15th, production was halted when Robert Downey Jr suffered an ankle injury, Shooting resumed on the 24th August.

Warp X

Warp X is a British independent feature film production company, a sister company to Warp Films. Formed in 2005 the companies purpose was to add energy and vitality to the British film industry and to allow first time directors to produce a film without the expectations of performing well at the box office. The studio began with support from Warp Films, Film Four, the UK council, EM Media and Screen Yorkshire.

A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (2008)
Donkey Punch (2008)
Bunny and the Bull (2009)
All Tomorrow's Parties (2009)
Hush (2009)
Tyrannosaur (2011)
Kill List (2011)
Berbian Sound Studio (2012)
For Those in Peril (20130

Friday, 29 November 2013

Pre-Production Roles

In pre-production, every step of actually creating the film is carefully designed and planned. The production company is created and a production office established. The film is pre-visualized by the director, and may be story boarded with the help of illustrators and concept artists. A production budget is drawn up to plan expenditures for the film. 

Storyboard: is a visualizing method that creates a blueprint of what the shot sequence should be.

The director: is primarily responsible for the storytelling, creative decisions and acting of the film.

The casting director: finds actors to fill the parts in the script. This normally requires that actors audition.

The director of photography: is the cinematographer who supervises the photography of the entire film.

The director of audiography:  is the audiographer who supervises the audiography of the entire film.

The production sound mixer: is the head of the sound department during the production stage of filmmaking. They record and mix the audio on set - dialogue, presence and sound effects in mono and ambience in stereo.

The composer: creates new music for the film. 

The production designer: creates the visual conception of the film, working with the art director.

The art director: manages the art department, which makes production sets.

The costume designer: creates the clothing for the characters in the film working closely with the actors, as well as other departments.

The make up and hair designer: works closely with the costume designer in addition to create a certain look for a character.

The storyboard artist :creates visual images to help the director and production designer communicate their ideas to the production team.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

British Horror/Thriller/Action films

From the results of the survey I have gathered that the top three film choices boiled down to horror, action, and thriller. As british students and only having the ability to film in locations in the UK taking a look at British films that fit these genres and perhaps what can be taken form them.

So, lets start with a horror: The Descent, with a budget of £3,500,000 and grossing £2,698,863 in the UK. The Descent is a dark and gory horror. The main feature I took from the film was the lighting that was used. The colour red is used heavily throughout the film and creates an incredibly horrific effect, suggesting that the cave is almost like hell. The colours green and red are also used prominently within the film adding a refreshing tone to the film and giving it a really special visual quality.

Hush, £1,000,000 budget horror/thriller has an interesting story, and is not a bad attempt at a horror with the focus on realsim. whilst the ending is a classic shouting at the TV saying "what are you doing?!". It has a nice setting, utilising locations such as the motorway and Britain's rural countryside. I like this film for the realism it has, making it distinctly British but also how it is a horror/thriller were you never actually know who your enemy is.

Last but not least, an example of a British action film is The Sweeney. With a budget of £3,000,000 this is a story of a tough British police force that have been granted the ability do what most cops can't. Its a great show of British action with an awesome shootout in the landmark of Trafalgar Square. What I like the most about The Sweeney is its grit. Due to its lead actors, it would be surprising if it was anything but gritty but that is what I like about this film. Also the actions pretty good too.

CGI in Film

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Survey Monkey Results and Analysis

So from these results, it is easy to see that the most popular genres of film are Action/adventure and Horror. When asked about what was the most important aspect of a film the top answer was the plot (story) and the cast. This is a great way of gearing our project toward a Action/Horror hybrid and utilising an interesting story and cast. However the survey was answered wholly by a male audience who stereotypical would be more attracted by action and gore.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fox Searchlight Pictures, established in 1994, is an American film distribution company within the Fox Entertainment Group, a sister company of the larger Fox studio 20th Century Fox. It specializes in US distribution of independent and British films, alongside dramedy and horror as well as non-English-language films, and is sometimes also involved in the financing of these films.

Some of their most recognizable films include: 127 hours, Black Swan, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Juno and 28 Days Later.

Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 81st Academy Awards as well as a further 7 Academy Awards. Other Fox Searchlight films receiving Best Picture nominations include The Full MontySidewaysLittle Miss SunshineJunoBlack Swan127 HoursThe Tree of LifeThe Descendants and Beasts of the Southern WildSlumdog Millionaire is also Searchlight's largest commercial success, with over $377 million (US) of box office receipts, against a production budget of only $15 million.

I chose to look at Fox searchlight for a few reasons. Firstly some of the films they have distributed have been great with my personal favourites being Black Swan, Another Earth and Night Watch. Secondly they focus on distributing independent films in the USA and the UK.  It is nice to see a huge american company have a subsidiary or sister company to promote independent films and to promote British films too.

Survey Monkey Questions

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A History of Music in Film

The Thriller genre and its audiences

Definition: Thriller uses suspense, tension and excitement as its main elements. Thrillers heavily stimulate the viewer's moods, giving them a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty,surprise, anxiety and/or terror. Films of this genre tend to be adrenaline-rushing, gritty,rousing and fast-paced.

Examples:Seven, No Country for Old Men, Silence of the Lambs, Untraceable, Mindhunters, Kiss the Girls,Along Came a Spider", Collateral and Copycat. Examples of crime thrillers involving heists or robberies includes The Asphalt Jungle, The Score, Rififi, Entrapment, and The Killing.

The Alfred Hitchcock films SuspicionShadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train and David Lynch's influential Blue Velvet are notable examples of the type, as are The Talented Mr. RipleyThe MachinistDon't Say A WordTrappedFlightplanShutter IslandSecret Window,IdentityRed EyePhone BoothPsychoThe River WildNick of TimeP2BreakdownPanic RoomMiseryCape FearThe CollectorFrailty,The Good Son and Funny Games.

From research I have discovered that there is a distinguishable difference between the audiences that go to see a thriller film. The differences in audiences usually are defined by the sub genre of the thriller film for example, psychological, horror, political, crime etc. Older audiences will be more interested in psychological/crime/political thrillers and the age range is usually between people aged 25-40. This is because mature audiences can better understand a complex story line with strong elements of drama. 

On the other hand an action/horror/thriller will be more popular with a 15-25 audience age as they are more excited by special effects and action sequences, and the tension created by a horror.     

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Another Earth: sci- fi influences

Another Earth is an independent science fiction/drama. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it won an award and has gone on to win two more awards since. It was recognised as one of the top ten independent films of 2011 by the National Board of Review Awards.

I watched the film due to the fusion of its selected genres and because i would not expect one of those genres to work in an independent film. That particular genre, which is science-fiction was integrated neatly within in the film. Whilst the film is set on Earth and there is an absence of its main convention which is space (although space is heavily referenced and is the main passion of our protagonist), it still manages to get the audience to think about the possibilities of outer space and asks the relevant question; Are we alone in the universe? 

Personally I love the way that science-fiction was incorporated into the film without using alien races, laser guns or a vast array of CGI. The science-fiction aspect was mainly told through the drama and the general narrative of the film and is made very powerful by the superb leads who play the main roles.

So why have I chosen to look at this film? Well firstly it is an independent film, so the cinematography will be achievable for when we begin to produce our own film opening. Secondly I love the way that the genres are infused and it makes me think if it would be a possible feat to achieve. Granted, Another Earth had a $200,000 budget to achieve the elements of the film that were needed, and whilst we wont be able to do that there is an emergence and growth of 'Hybrid' genre films. Thirdly I felt that this film firmly established its character within the opening two minutes. This could also be applied and will be necessary to establishing a setting or a plot as well as a character.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Analysis of Oblivion and Avengers dvd covers

In my previous post I published a collection of old and more recent film posters. When looking at those posters I noticed a recurring aspect about some of them. Most of the posters with the exception of two or three only show the main character or star of the film, with the exception of the others which show 2-4 characters. The reason for this is perhaps to clearly represent the main focus for the film and or advertise its star. So for example the Skyfall poster, (pictured right) shows James Bond or Daniel Craig staring off into the distance armed with a flashy sidearm and a touch of swag.
What this poster tells me is that the main focus for the film will be about this character and that he is the most important aspect of the film. Firstly he is central to the picture and secondly he towers above the main title of the film itself. Other examples of film posters that solely present its main protagonist include Iron Man 2 and Halloween Uncut ( which is pictured in the previous post). Looking at the movie posters in this way reminded me of a lesson at school when we looked at the differences between DVD covers and in what ways they advertise the film.

The two modern DVD covers I have chosen to analyse are Oblivion (a personal favourite), and The Avengers. I chose these two film covers due to the fact that they are distinctly different and are very recent.
Starting with the Avengers film cover we can see straight away that there is a lot more going on compared to Oblivion. Firstly instead of on person we have a whole squad of superheroes, some more dominant than others but there none the less. I understand that the reason for the cover showing all of its main heroes together is because there is no distinguishable main role. They all play an equal part within the movie and are no less or more important than others. The reason is probably a more political reason, placing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) at the front and centre due to the fact he is the highest paid actor and the most popular and successful of all the heroes. Explosions are present in the background and the characters all look as if they are prepared to fight imminently  showing the film is definitely an action.
Oblivion's cover is calmer than Avengers. The colours look more monotone but create a lighter and softer feel for the film in comparison to the dark blues and the dotted oranges of explosions on Avengers. Only once character is present in this picture, giving the impression he is the main character and the most important role within the film. The cover gives away that its a sci-fi due to the future looking weapon and suit the protagonist is wearing, but is not as obvious as a film such as Star Trek. The is due to the fact that we can see modern human structures in the background. Similarly our main hero looks prepared to fight but looks more in thought, adding a twist/mystery to the film alternative to the 'bring it on' attitude the superheroes have on their faces.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

In-Depth Analysis of American Psycho opening titles

The opening titles of American Psycho start off almost identical to those of Insomnia. A white background is present with the first set of titles appearing in black to stand out against it. The white background and the black titles recur mostly throughout the sequence however there are two important aspects that come into play to make the titles very interesting for the audience.

Again similarly to Insomnia, blood (or what is made out to be blood) is used to foreshadow gruesome murders and death. This solidifies its genre as being a crime/drama and the audience can expect sinister events to happen later on. However these opening titles trick the audience into thinking that immediately, something bad is going to occur through its use of music.

The liquid that appears to be blood actually turns out to be some kind of sauce for a very expensive, high end dish at a posh restaurant. When we first see the 'blood' it comes down in a droplet and a strings from the musical score create a sudden sound thats on edge and mysterious. The strings are also in sync with the falling of the 'blood' droplet, perhaps to draw attention to its appearance and or give it more importance. Additionally, there is a low, resonating sound that slowly builds up like a crescendo. Two more 'blood' droplets fall each with an accompaniment of a note from the strings. The fact that two fall shows an increase in pace. 

As the directors name appears we get a steady trickle of more droplets and the musical score moves into a more rhythmic piece but still maintains its mysterious and ominous characteristics. The music is dance like and is if it is something heard in a stage performance; it almost makes the audience want to dance with it. Then it beautifully transitions into a soft and happy sound with the introduction of higher pitched sound instruments which greatly changes the entire mood of the film and relieves the audience. 

Video for American Psycho opening titles (Sorry its in Spanish)

Friday, 1 November 2013

In-Depth Analysis of Insomnia Titles

The Insomnia titles utilise the colours black and white for the colour of the text and the background, and they are prominent colours throughout the sequence. The colour of the background and the text alternate between black and white, so that the titles can stand out clearly. So for example, the opening has a white background with black titles that are slowly fading into view.

The titles introduce the three main stars of the film before changing to a unclear picture of what appears to be a bleeding carpet. This is quite significant and gives a greater effect to the main title when it appears. 'Insomnia' (which is in white) fades in, being much bolder to enhance its meaning and importance. It also stands out against the seeping blood in the background, giving an element of mystery to the film and confirming its genre as a thriller.

The blood is very important, as it foreshadows the possible events of death and murder for the rest of the film. It is also the only other colour that is used in the title sequence, making it more significant and aiding in not making the titles look so bland and boring.

Additionally in the title sequence, some of the titles appear over a constantly travelling aerial view of an icy, mountainous wasteland. The area being somewhere in the arctic means that the overwhelming colour in the background is white. The titles appear over this shot in white, perhaps to signify the theme of isolation and echo the idea of being lost in such a cold and lonely place like some of the characters may be in the film.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

In-Depth Analysis of Taxi Driver Tiltes

The titles start off introducing the distribution company (Columbia Pictures) in red text, against a black background. This is a key feature that would be useful when making our own thriller/horror genre. During the 70's many horror films and even films after that era used this style with the best example being The Exorcist (1973). Other films had small variations such as a change to the colour of the text, for example Halloween (1978) which uses orange on black and The Omen (1976) which has white on black. The reason why I like this style for a title introduction is because it is engaging and intense whilst also foreshadowing something that could happen later on in the film, such as a scene of violence, death or love.

The use of the red on black at the beginning of the title sequence is very brief but effective. The titles then go into a misty scene as a taxi drives off to reveal the 'Taxi Driver' titles behind it. The second point that I took from these titles is the order in which the production crew and the cast appears. The main stars/actors of the film appear first with Robert DeNiro being first and then being followed up by Jodie Foster, Adam Brooks, Harvey Keitel etc.. The cast is then followed by the production crew starting off with the music producer, the film editors, makeup, consultants, director of photography, script writer, producers and then finally the director himself (Martin Scorsese).

What I have learnt from these titles is that the cast appears first going from the main stars and making its way down from the lesser stars or simply actors with smaller roles in the film. The crew then comes up and seems to do exactly the opposite and instead shows the smaller (but no less important) members, before progressing to the larger members such as the script writer, producers and of course the director. The directors title is generally much bolder and is more prominent. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Video for Taxi Driver opening titles

Taxi Driver opening titles

Taxi Driver is a crime/drama film from 1976. I chose this film for its opening title sequence and mainly looked at the colour of the text and the order in which each of the titles appeared. I chose this particular scene because it has a few similarities to the ideas that have been put forward for our own opening sequence. While the genre of the film may not match our own, I have found it useful and interesting.