Friday, 26 February 2010

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock
He is known as the master of the thriller genre he virtually invented. He was born on the 13th August 1899 and died on the 29th April 1980. He started his film making career in 1919 where he illustrated title cards for silent films at Paramount's Famous Players-Lasky studio in London.

In his 6-decade-career he directed many feature films. Below is Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography:
The silent years: The pleasure garden (1925), The Mountain Eagle (1927), The Lodger (1927), Downhill (1927), Easy Virtue (1927), The Ring (1927), Champagne (1928), The Farmer’s Wife (1928), The Manxman (1929)
The British Classics: Blackmail (1929), Juno and the Paycock (1930), Murder! (1930), The Skin Game (1931), Number Seventeen (1932), Rich and Strange (1932), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Waltzes From Vienna (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Jamaica Inn (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Vintage Hollywood: Rebecca (1940), Mr and Mrs Smith (1941), Suspicion (1941), Saboteur (1942)
The War Years: Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945)
Perfecting the Art: Notorious (1946), The Paradine Case (1948), Rope (1948), Under Capricorn (1949), Stage Fright (1950)
The Fourth Decade: Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1953), Dial “M” for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954)
The Master of Suspense: To Catch a Thief (1955), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (remake) (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960)

The Grand Old Man: The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969)

Coming Home: Frenzy (1972), Family Plot (1976)

Hitchcock’s Awards
BAFTA Award – Academy Fellowship (1971)
!968: Lifetime Achievement Award
1972: Ceale B Demile Award
1958: Golden Globe
1958,59: Silver Seashell

Research on the psychological thriller

This subtype of the diverse thriller genre incorporates elements of mystery and drama as well as typical traits from the thriller genre. It often also borders into the Horror genre. Generally, thrillers focus on plot over character, and thus emphasize intense, physical action over the character's psyche. Psychological thrillers tend to reverse this formula to a certain degree, emphasizing the characters just as much, if not more so, than the plot.

The suspense created by psychological thrillers often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other's mental state.
Sometimes the suspense comes from within one solitary character where characters must resolve conflicts with their own minds. Usually, this conflict is an effort to understand something that has happened to them. These conflicts are made more vivid with physical expressions of the conflict in the means of either physical manifestations, or physical torsions of the characters at play.

In a psychological thriller the narrative is when the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level rather than on a physical one. Characters are required to rely on their mental skills rather than their physical skills to overcome their enemies. This is unlike most thrillers where characters rely on physical strength.


Reality – The quality of being real. Characters often try to determine what is true and what is not within the narrative.
Perception – A person's own interpretation of the world around him through his senses. Often characters misperceive the world around them, or their perceptions are altered by outside factors within the narrative (see Unreliable narrator).
Mind – The human consciousness; the location for personality, thought, reason, memory, intelligence and emotion. The mind is often used as a location for narrative conflict, where characters battle their own minds to reach a new level of understanding or perception.
Existence/Purpose - The object for which something exists; an aim or a goal humans strive towards to understand their reason for existence. Characters often try to discover what their purpose is in their lives and the narrative's conflict often is a way for the characters to discover this purpose.
Identity - The definition of one's self. Characters often are confused about or doubt who they are and try to discover their true identity.
Death - The cessation of life. Characters either fear or have a fascination with death.

Examples of Psychological thrillers are:
Wes Craven – Scream 3, Danny Boyle – The Beach, Tarsem Singh – The Cell, Michael Walker – Chasing Sleep, M. Night Shyamalan – Unbreakable, Brad Anderson – The Machinist, Renny Harlin – Mindhunters, David Koepp – Secret Window, Peter Webber – Hannibal Rising, Jon Avnet – Righteous Kill.

Charles Derry Genres and subtypes

Charles Derry identified 6 subtypes of suspense thrillers. They are…
1) Innocent-on-the-run thriller
This type of thriller involves a victim on the run from a villain, the police, or the government.
2) The moral confrontation thriller
Good Vs Evil. This is usually when the two are in conflict and allows the audience to predict who they think will overcome the other.
3) The thriller of acquired identity
This is when the protagonist obtains the identity of another character, which leads to implications.
4) The political thriller
A political thriller is a thriller that is set against the backdrop of political power struggle.
5) The thriller of murderous passions
This often involves a love triangle and includes the murder of one member. There is usually a motive such as passion or greed.
6) The psychosomatic thriller
This is when the protagonist suffers from a psychological problem where they suffer due to mental or emotional trauma.

Example of an innocent-on-the-run thriller is Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘North by North west’.
Example of a psychosomatic thriller is ‘Hide and Seek’.
Example of a moral confrontation thriller is ‘The Dark Knight’ (Batman).
Example of political thriller is ‘Rendition’.
Example of murderous passions thriller is ‘Fatal Attraction’.
Example of Acquired identity thriller is ‘Single White Female’.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Evaluation of two minute thriller production

The task which my group had to do was to successfully plan for our thriller production by means of preparing, shooting and editing the opening two minutes of a thriller including the titles.

Before we started this task we had researched thriller genres and having thoroughly looked into all six of Charles Derry’s sub types of suspense thrillers, we decided that we wanted to do a psychological thriller. We knew that in order to grab the audience’s attention and to keep them interested throughout our production that we would need to apply Roland Barthes’ theory on action and enigma codes. He believed that to create suspense in narrative, there must be unanswered questions which will oblige the viewer to expect action with a consequence. For our thriller opening we wanted to create enigma codes to entice the audience and encourage them to want to continue to watch the rest of the film. Before we began to discuss our ideas for the film we first needed to decide on a target audience. We chose male and female age 15+ and the reason for this choice is because we found that this age range is more likely to go to the cinema to watch this type of thriller genre.

We also needed to look at the openings of other thrillers to provide us with the sort of ideas we needed to apply to our film in order to make it authentic and give it a thriller feel. One film which we watched was an Alfred Hitchcock classic called ‘North by Northwest’. This film gave us a clear insight into examples of narrative theories. We also watched two other Alfred Hitchcock films, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘The Birds’. We noticed that the films we watched had Todorov’s theory of equilibrium applied to them. The theory is simply that the fictional environment begins with a state of equilibrium where everything is as it should be in a state of equal balance. It then suffers some disruption (disequilibrium) and then new equilibrium is produced at the end of the narrative. Another film we watched was ‘Seven’ which I thought was very effective as it set the sinister, creepy atmosphere instantly and the viewers straight away knew that they were watching a thriller.

Now that we had decided the sub-type genre of our thriller and our target audience my group got together and discussed and came up with some ideas. We decided on one of our main characters, the first being fourteen-year-old Isabel Johnson who was killed in a tragic accident and is only seen in a photograph on an order of service card. We then have a character called Izzy who is the protagonist and is unfortunate enough to be the victim of a stalker. The antagonist is the stalker, who is a hooded figure whose identity is concealed. Finally our other character is Amber, Izzy’s best friend. The name of our protagonist character was made on the idea that we wanted quite a childish, innocent and naive name.

We decided on a linear narrative structure where the story has a start, middle and end. We came up with many ideas to make our thriller as effective as we could and so we organised ourselves by creating storyboards. The plot of our opening is Izzy and Amber in the park on the swings both unaware they are being watched by the hooded figure. Amber then gets a phone call from her boyfriend. Amber then tells Izzy that her boyfriend is waiting for her and that she is going to meet him. Izzy feels ditched and her vulnerability is highlighted once Amber leaves her on her own in the park. As Amber leaves she exits out of the gate where the stalker is and the two characters actually walk past each other. The stalker then walks down and sits on a bench where she can watch Izzy more centrally and films her on a camera. Izzy then gets fed up of being on her own and decides to leave. It then cuts to the Stalker’s home where the Stalker sits in an armchair very close to her television and replays the recording of Izzy on the television screen.

The first scene takes place in the children’s playground in Centenary Park which is very close to our 6th Form. This was an ideal location for us to film as it provided us with a childish atmosphere and was very close by. We wanted to have the first scene in the playground to demonstrate the innocence and vulnerability of the characters. We used dramatic irony to good effect because the viewers are aware that the girls being watched whereas the characters themselves do not. This gives the audience a sense of creepiness and causes them to be concerned for the girls. A key idea we wanted to include was the Stalker’s point of view shot when filming Izzy on the camera. Our storyboards played a major part when we needed to decide which shots would be best to use and so this part of the film in particular I feel is successful.

The second scene occurs inside the Stalker’s home. For this location we used a group member’s living room, which was not far from the park which we had filmed our first scene in. We made the once-cosy-warm-comfortable room look dark and mysterious by drawing the curtains and dimming the lights to give it a sinister look. Even within their own home the Stalker’s identity is still not revealed. We also scattered rubbish which we had been collecting around the room to make it look unkempt and careless. We wanted the living room to reflect the personality/emotions of the Stalker.

Creating enigmas throughout our opening was a key priority for us in our filming as we wanted to engross the audience from the start. The viewers learn the characters of the girls through their dialogue and their behaviour. However, the stalker remains unidentified throughout the whole of the opening causing many enigmas such as: “Who is this person?” and “Why are they filming that girl?”
The stalker is in fact a middle-aged female who is deranged with grief from the death of her 14-year-old daughter, Isabel Johnson. This mother is finding it very difficult and can’t accept that her daughter is gone. Her way of coping with all this grief is by searching and eventually finding a girl the same age as Isabel, coincidentally called Izzy who is the ‘mirror image’ of her late daughter. People deal with grief in different ways and our plot line shows how this grieving mother goes to extreme and unhealthy lengths to replace her beloved daughter.

Mise-en-scene was very important in order to make our thriller production effective. The mise-en-scene includes settings, props, costume, hair and make up, facial expression and body language, lighting and colour, positioning of objects and characters within the frame. We filmed at the children’s playground at 4pm and it was a cold and dismal day which helped set the scene and made the atmosphere more appropriate for a thriller film. The props we used were vital as they played a significant part in the production. Our props included the rubbish like coke cans, take away boxes and newspapers which we collected to set the scene for the Stalker’s living room. We also used a music box, by using a music box we had the idea of taking something quite childish and using it to make the atmosphere creepy. Another prop we used was one group member created an order of service card which was propped up against a vase on a cabinet next to the music box. The costumes which were used were our own casual clothes as three out of the four of us were acting in the film. The two people playing Amber and Izzy wore jeans and a hoody as this is typical teenage clothing. No make up was used as we we’re playing 14 year olds and make up would have made us look to old. The person playing the Stalker wore a hoody and wore it with the hood up to conceal their identity and baggy tracksuit bottoms. The stalkers clothes needs to reflect the characters emotions so by wearing dark colours it highlights misery. No make up was worn and their hair wasn’t showing because we want the audience to think that the stalker is male. When we were filming we needed to focus on the Stalker’s body language as they need to look shifty and mysterious in order for the film to be realistic. This was done well as the actress always kept her head bent low so that we couldn’t see her face and behaved in an odd way. Izzy’s body language and facial expression also needed to be focussed to make her seem vulnerable. When Amber ditches her Izzy feels dejected and we want the audience to feel sorry for Izzy so in order to get these feelings across we needed to make the facial expressions and acting as realistic as possible.

Editing is the crucial part of our film making as it turns our footage into an actual film. We used Final Cut Express to do the editing and used Garage Band to make the soundtrack. When using Final Cut we experimented with different effects and transitions and chose the ones which made our film most dramatic. With the soundtrack one group member recorded the music of their music box and this was used in the final second scene. Making a soundtrack is essential for film as it can change the whole feel of it and makes a huge difference in the quality of your film. Garage Band was an easy programme to use and we had a variety of sounds we could employ and weren’t restricted.

After we had finished editing we needed to create our titles. This was the last part of making our film and we wanted it to fit in and look professional. The title of our film is ‘MIRROR IMAGE’ and we came up with the idea of having the two R’s symmetrical when displayed on screen. The title of our film appears before any footage is shown. Our other titles such as our names appear throughout the first scene.

The social groups that are represented in our opening are teens and middle-aged people. This is appropriate as it engages with our target audience of 15+. The characters in our opening are all female however this doesn’t mean that it is of female interest only as our film is aimed at both genders. Our film isn’t stereotypical as most people would expect the Stalker to be male so we have gone against the stereotype by making the stalker a female. The teenagers in the film can be seen as stereotypical teens as their dialogue shows their interests are in shopping and boys. Our film is a multicultural film and would appeal to anyone of any race culture. Our group of four is multicultural so all the ideas aren’t from one perspective of one race.

The kind of media institute that might distribute our media product would most likely be an internet only release or possibly a TV movie. It would be appropriate for an internet only release so it can increase viewings and gain more popularity. Once the word has spread it could be turned into a low budget small British film and would be distributed on staggered release as there wouldn’t be enough hype for our film for it to be of saturated distribution. A British production company which produces thrillers would be the kind of company we would be looking for to release our film such as DNA Films.

I think that our film would capture its target audience really well as we have asked people of a variety of ages (excluding under 15’s) to view our film and their response has been very positive. It would definitely not be suitable for anyone under age 12 as it could frighten them and they may not want to go to their local park anymore. It would appeal to teens because of the teenage characters in it and they could relate to them and it could also interest adults as they may be more interested in the psychological state of the stalker and be interested to see how she behaves.

I think that our group has come a long way since doing our preliminary task as we are more familiar with the computer software and are more creative in the way which we film. We worked really well and despite having to re-shoot and start from scratch we worked really well as a team and coped with any setbacks we had. Our organisation and planning skills improved and our end product turned out very successful and I think it shows a lot of potential.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Thriller Director - Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese was born on the 17th November 1942 in Flushing, New York. He is a director, screen writer, producer, actor and film historian.
Director = 49 films
Producer = 36 films
Actor = 24 films
Writer = 13 films

He is the founder of the World Cinema Foundation and has recieved an AFI life achievement award for contributions to cinema. He has also won awards from the Oscars, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Director Guild of America. He is president of the Film Foundation.

Top 10 Martin Scorsese Films
1) Raging Bull
2) Goodfellas
3) Taxi Driver
4) The Departed
5) The Aviator
6) The Color of Money
7) Casino
8) Cape Fear
9) Bringing out the dead
10) Gangs of New York

He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video (1987)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

First 10 minutes of Mamma Mia

Media h.w Grid (First 10 Mins)

Hide and Seek

You can tell that this film is a thriller because the colours represent a Hellish, firey glow. The cover is dark but there is a verticle orange glow drawn down the centre which seems to light up the cover. There are only 2 names on the whole cover, Robert DeNiro and Dakota Fanning and they are the man and the little girl displayed on the cover. We can sense that the little girl is in some sort of danger because as she is coming down the stairs their is a fierce blaze behind her. All of the font is in white to stand out against the dark part of the cover hence there is no writting in the centre of the cover because the font wouldnt show against the orange. The title sounds quite childish but when we see the cover we automatically realise that it is not a kids game.