Removal (main project)

Preliminary Exercise

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blog Closed - 1/4/10

This blog is now closed, as our project is over. It's been a pretty long and frantic road, but I'm very proud of the work I've done and glad I got the opportunity to participate in the project. Here's hoping the next one comes soon! Good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2. How does your media product represent particular social groups?

  • Main focus is representation of victim/villain. Using mise-en-scene, action code and mainly costume, however some representation of social groups can also be found in our piece.
Young Indie
  • This is an indie production, shown by the style in which the girl is shown; her clothes demonstrate this to the audience. Our sequence represents the white indie teenage girl, most likely from Britain, although this is not specified so her character is universal.

  • Also, the production and distribution companies (Black Cat Productions and Fallen Tree Studios) sound like British independent companies, something that reflects the film itself and the social groups portrayed. Interestingly, the majority of our audience feedback tells us that those who've seen it think the film would be suited to a multiplex cinema (such as a Cineworld); this is surprising as our film was hypothetically intended to be shown at an independent cinema such as the Rio Cinema. In our survey, 21 people said multiplex, with only 9 saying independent.

Disabled Community
  • One standout aspect of our piece is our representation of the disabled community. We did this by placing the villain on crutches. Also from his point of view shots the camera moves as if crutches are being used. (1.22 - 1.43 is the sequence referred to)


  • Gender is represented with the conflict being between a male and a female. We showed this using gender signifiers such as long hair, rings for girl, and blazer, tie for a male.

  • Challenged conventional male by giving villain long hair to emphasise his unkemptness.
State of mind
  • Male dominance - he kills her. He watches her while she can’t see him. He cuts off her escape. He’s above her on the stairs. He is stronger and in control.
  • Psychosis – people who suffer from mental illness are represented. Man is clearly disturbed (murders people, lives in somebody else’s basement etc.) This social group is often represented in the horror genre, eg. 'Psycho' (Hitchcock, 1960)

4. Who would be the audience for the media product?

  • Our core target audience are couples. Couples can be scared together. Fear as a pleasure to share. Hug each other when its scary etc. Preferably who live together in a house, as they would discuss the movie when at home and it would have a powerful effect on them.

  • Young adults. Unsuitable for very young children. Dangerous for very old people with heart conditions etc. Middle aged people probably less into thrill-seeking. Also young people are more comfortable with the internet and technology and therefore would be more receptive to our heavily online-based marketing campaign

  • Both. Both sexes are represented in the film, and so everyone can relate to the sequence in some way.

  • No fixed nationality. No dialogue, so the sequence is universal. House has no specific features that link it to any particular nation. Titles are in English but they can be ignored.
Lifestyle/attitude to life

  • Thrill-seekers who like to challenge themselves with film. Willing to enjoy the pleasures of the film and get sucked into the narrative. Go along with it. Participate in the experience.
Tastes in media

  • Low-budget horror films, Thrillers, murder mysteries etc. For example 'The Blair Witch Project' & 'Paranormal Activity'
Film consumption habits

  • Like to go to the cinema as a treat, a special experience. Preferably not too often or the novelty would wear off and the film would become less powerful. Preferably attend cinema with their partner. Enjoy watching DVDs some evenings.
Knowledge of the film industry

  • Preferably not much idea of the workings of the film industry, as our product is not very impressive technically as a professional media production. However, the narrative is strong and that is what we want people to appreciate. Also preferably not very experienced in films of this genre, so maximum shock factor.
I believe that like Paranormal Activity, this film could break out of the horror niche and appeal to the general public as a challenging experience. On a (at least) transatlantic scale.

Here is a mood-board showing a general profile of our core audience:
We scheduled a screening of our finished product to an audience similar to our target. Most of the attendants were from 15 - 19 years old. Here is a video of their general reaction:

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

  • Our media product is formed heavily around the horror genre, employing many horror and thriller conventions such as use of suspense and implied violence.
  • We use many conventional horror camera techniques in our piece, such as over-the-shoulder shots, fast cuts, zooms and use of handheld camera to create effect. 

  • The narrative follows a classic horror pattern of a psychopathic serial killer hiding in the house of a vulnerable young woman. After a series of mysterious, suspense-building events, she goes down to the basement to investigate and is then murdered in the climax of the sequence.

  • Classic horror themes – psychosis, voyeurism, fear etc. Present in such seminal works as 'Psycho' (Hitchcock, 1960)

  •  In order to create the impression of a woman moving into a new home, we used iconography to signify moving in, eg. Boxes littered around, bare, unfinished-looking walls and ceiling and empty plug sockets on the walls. 

  • The sequence begins with the female character carrying a box into the house and laying it down amongst other boxes to show she has spent the day moving in. 
  • Also, during her time in the kitchen, she plugs in a new kettle and switches it on: a very likely thing to do when moving into a new house. 

  • In terms of costume, the characters wear specific clothes to show contrast between victim and predator. Their characters are binary opposites. 
  • We based our killer loosely around the character of The Joker from 'The Dark Knight' (Christopher Nolan, 2008), using the ideas of a large, tatty coat and long greasy hair. We also referenced the classic horror villain of Freddy Kruger for the idea of fingerless gloves. Here is a mood-board showing inspiration for our villain.

  • We also used face make-up to emphasise his paleness and shadowed his eyes to make him appear menacing and evil. This dirty and unhealthy image serves to repulse the audience and helps the narrative as it suggests he has been down in the dingy basement for a long time.

  • In contrast, the young female is dressed in casual, soft clothes with arms bared. Bare skin and thin clothes emphasise her vulnerability and her long hair acts as a further signifier of her femininity and defencelessness. 

  • This technique of contrast between villain and victim is present in 'Nightmare on Elm Street' (Craven, 1984), where the sharp claw of the villain is juxtaposed with the soft skin of the sleeping woman.

  • We challenge standard horror conventions by giving the killer a disability.

  • He is very visibly on crutches during the sequence and this serves to create more enigmas surrounding the scene. Why is he on crutches? Is his disability a reason for his needless violence against young women? These questions heighten the tension of the sequence and also give the scene a weird twist that challenges and wrong-foots the audience and keeps them on their toes. In ‘Misery’ (Rob Reiner, 1990) the man’s disability makes him into a helpless victim and this is the general convention for the theme of disability.

  •  We challenge this by making him superior to the able-bodied woman. (kills her) One case of a disabled villain is in Casino Royale, in which the villain is asthmatic.

  • We have used the disability of the villain as a twist in the story and as a result have a created a more intelligent, methodical killer as opposed to one that is physically dominant.
  • We further contrasted the worlds of the victim and the killer using lighting. A lot of daylight fills the house upstairs and this creates an open, safe atmosphere that is not claustrophobic.

  • This is juxtaposed with the basement, which is extremely dark except for the flickering light of a single candle. 

  • The basement is cramped as it is, but the lighting makes it appear even smaller, darker and scarier. This immediately gives the killer negative connotations and the victim positive ones. The juxtaposition is very pronounced in one shot where the camera goes through the floor of the bright upstairs down into the dark basement, with each character in their own habitat to link them to each place. As the basement is directly below the hall, this signifies heaven and hell and further emphasises the contrast between the characters and their worlds.
  • Our piece has a distinct indie, low budget style. This makes it more gritty and realistic, as it seems more like a true event being seen by a normal person as opposed to a glossy high-budget Hollywood production. This heightens the sense of terror, and is reminiscent of several other films in the same style, eg. Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2009)

5. How did you attract/address your audience?

  • We attracted our audience with pleasures - experience fear, shock etc. Collective experience of pulling together in times of fear and discomfort (cinema experience)

  • Attracted them with representations of their demographic, eg. male, female, disabled etc.

  • The film has relevance to everybody who lives in a house/has a basement. therefore film is broad in its potential audience.


  • I constructed a marketing campaign to attract my target audience based on challenging the audience, daring them to watch the film, appealing to their thrill-seeking side and immediately establishing the film as a test in their mind. Therefore the film becomes a national test of courage - “Can you watch Removal and then go down to your basement afterwards?” etc.
  • Audience reaction would fuel everything. Cinema experience would work the audience into a frenzy and it would self-perpetuate that way. Word of mouth would be the way to go. People challenging each other.

  • Also, after the success of Paranormal Activity, people would be eager for a new challenge in that genre with similar themes. Also after the success of Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, the murderer character’s similarities to the Joker may attract an audience. 

  • Our sequence satisfies the audience (tension breaks, girl is killed) yet leaves them wanting more, as enigmas are left unsolved, eg. who is the killer? why did he kill her? etc. All this draws the viewer in.
  • We build tension to draw audience in, eg. spooky music, cup falling over, door creaking open, killer watching girl from her safe zone (the kitchen). Invading her space. Then resolve the tension. Shock of foot crashing onto step and fast cuts.

  • We focussed hard on seamless continuity in order to suspend the disbelief of the audience. Our piece relies on the audience being drawn into the experience as realistic, therefore there has to be nothing to give away the fact that the film is constructed as a piece of media and interrupt the audience’s relationship with the narrative. I feel we managed that incredibly well given the ambition of our project,, and therefore it is annoying that there is one small continuity error between 1.20 - 1.45 in our sequence. See if you can spot it.

Well if you didn't spot it, you'll notice that she opens the door to go out into the garden and the door stays open. It remains fine like this until 1.38 where she returns and the door is quite clearly closed. She even has to open it to enter the house again. This is not a major problem and does not really disrupt the narrative or the audience's disbelief. The villain could have even opened it himself. However it is an annoying minor flaw for the filmmakers responsible as the rest of the piece seems to have perfect continuity.

6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?


  •  Good quality microphone
  •  Camera was easy to use, and I was already proficient with it after the preliminary exercise
  •  Tripod was adjustable and included spirit level to aid user.
  •  All hardware was quite small and came in a carrying bag for easy transportation
  •  Pag lights were a fire risk
  •  Camera had settings we didn’t know how to use so we could have cut out some of the editing we did after if we knew how to use the effects before
  •  Expensive equipment which was a big responsibility

Adobe Premier Pro CS3
  • I learnt how to edit our film using this program and learned how to use many techniques such as fades, multi-tracking, capturing, general editing techniques, titles, manipulating audio etc.

  • Got to grips with the software quickly as I also used it for preliminary exercise.
  • Able to create decent titles on it without using the less convenient Apple Mac.
  • Capturing footage took a while
  • Not as user-friendly as Mac software.
  • Less choice of effects and titles than Mac.
Livetype on Mac

  • Huge library of various effects and fonts.
  • Effects were customisable.
  • Had to export our effects and use a USB pen to transfer them to our PC edit suite. This was an arduous process and the reason we decided not to use the effects in our sequence.
  • Complex program to get to grips with. We had also never used it before, so that wasted more precious time for our group.
Adobe Flash CS3

  • I learnt how to use Adobe Flash to a very basic level, as I animated the title at the start of our sequence.

  • Very easy method of animation - quick.
  • Easy to draw basic shapes and images
  • Hard to make animations look professional
  • I had never used the program before so I found it more difficult to become comfortable with than perhaps someone who had.


Camera Skills
  • Effective handheld technique
  • Tripod skill
  • Through-the-floor shot (Black Cat Productions) 
  • Zoom (into the photo of the girl) 
  • Experimentation with auto and manual focus
Lighting Techniques
  • Pag-lights and how to use candles and natural light to good effect.
Sound Techniques
  • Reducing treble on mic to eliminate hiss
  • Placement of mic to ensure sound clarity and quality etc.
  • Websites to obtain royalty-free music tracks, manipulating them to fit our sequence, eg.
  • Sound FX from different websites to insert into our sequence where appropriate, eg. door creak, thunder, breathing etc.

  • Storyboarding, scripting, shot listing, scheduling, planning ideas etc.

  • Learnt how to blog my progress.
  • Learnt how to import custom fonts from the internet.
  • How to deal with setbacks during the project and transplant an idea to an emergency backup location and re-devise shot lists and storyboards to fit (as a tree fell on our original location a day before our practice shoot).

What would i do again differently?
  • Pick a more secure location to start with.
  • Use the Apple Mac more for titles and sound FX.
  • Improve camerawork on through-the-floor shot. More smooth.
Advice to future filmmakers attempting the same kind of thing
  • Shoot sequence all the way through from different angles, not just different bits. Helps continuity and gives you more choice.
  • Make sure all little things like doors, shiny surfaces, lighting and items on set are monitored during the shoot. Continuity is easily ruined.
  • Plan for the worst - your shoot WILL go wrong. Make a backup location and idea and definitely allow for more time than you think you need.
  • Distribute work evenly between the team, project is so much easier if work is shared between four people.
  • Always sketch your ideas. Easiest way to convey your ideas to others is through pictures. They can’t read your mind. That’s the setback of group work. Visions can be misaligned. Watch out as this can become a big problem once shooting starts. Nip it in the bud.
Advantages/disadvantages of different technology
  • PC edit suite is easier and more convenient, yet Mac is more professional.
  • Sound FX are better from pay-sites, but they cost money.
  • Pag lights do not produce a natural effect, but candles are too dim and a health and safety risk.
  • Auto focus is easier to use, yet manual has more possibilities.

7. Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learned in the progression from it to the full product?

Prelim was basic:

  • We learnt the roles (director, sound man, camera operator etc.) 
  • Learnt basic continuity (180º rule, match-on-action etc.) 
  • Basic storyboard (16 shots, maximum two characters, simple character types, basic dialogue, simple event taking place etc.) 
  • Simple camera techniques (pan, framing etc.) 
  • Simple editing skills (chopping up shots, shot reverse shot, match on action, capturing, simple title at beginning etc.) 
  • We also learned to use the equipment we used for our big project (camera, mic, PC edit suite, tripod etc.) 

Basically just a simplified version of our big project, on a smaller scale. Here is our preliminary exercise in all its glory...

In both projects I have done, the finished product was achieved through 3 stages:

  • Pre-production (planning)
  • Production (shooting)
  • Post-production (editing)Planning

At the planning stage we had to sort out exactly what the content of our film would be and how to go about achieving it. This stage involved:

  • Organising group meetings
  • Doing paperwork, eg. scripts, storyboards, shot lists, schedules, mood-boards etc.
  • Hiring out equipment (filling out forms)
  • Choosing a location
  • Choosing actors
  • Obtaining props and costumeProduction

This stage involved successfully obtaining all the footage we needed to be able to edit our film. This stage involved:
  • Assigning group roles, eg. director, cameraman, sound engineer, clapperboard operator etc.
  • Filming our sequence from many different angles
  • Moving equipment setup around
  • Achieving perfect continuity
  • Obeying the continuity rules, eg. 180º & 30º rules.
As we were working in a team environment, we had to learn to communicate with each other in order to work efficiently. This was a very important lesson that helped me greatly when it came to the big project. Learning to work as part of a team was vital. We had to take it in turns to shoot, edit and do paperwork. I learnt to be a constructive member of the team and to help motivate the rest of the team at times to achieve a successful result.


This was the stage where we put everything together and apply the finishing touches (titles, effects) to our sequence. It sometimes involves damage control, as continuity mistakes made during shooting can be reasonably patched up at the editing stage, although this is not ideal. During editing we had to:
  • Capture all the footage off the cameras
  • Learn to use a PC-based edit suite, including source and output monitors
  • Learn to use Adobe Premiere Pro software
  • Learn to use fades 
  • Learn to use titles
  • Cut the footage together so the sequence flows and obeys continuity rules, eg. match on action when the door is opened.
  • Make sure the narrative of the sequence makes sense
  • Make the sequence the right length
What I learnt

  • We learnt from that all the basics, plus possibilities of going wrong. eg. we learnt to always scout out locations before shoots and always plan for the unexpected. We also learnt many things from other groups’ mistakes too, eg. one group ended up with no footage because of a problem with the record button. Always make sure equipment is functioning. Plan for several shoots (a test shoot, main shoot and backup shoot).
  • We learnt that making a detailed shot schedule saves incredible amounts of time, as it gets rid of needless moving of the entire setup when not necessary, thus saving time.
  • We learnt the importance of attention to detail when attempting to construct seamless continuity, and I am pleased with the way we handled that this time.
  • I learned the importance of communication between group members, both of ideas and of proper conduct during planning, shooting and editing.
  • Most importantly, my prelim task introduced me to the process of realising an idea for a film, and gave me the tools to do that. 
  • Before the prelim task I would have had no idea how to make the vision of what the project would be like a reality. I had no previous experience, and the prelim task just introduced me to the whole world of filmmaking. A tutorial for the main project.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?

  • Our production company is Black Cat productions, a small indie company specialising in low-budget horror films. British company, gritty. Our film would take on a similar line to 'Paranormal Activity' (Peli, 2009), thriving on its realism and grit. Low-budget, handheld, cheap lighting. Therefore comparisons can be drawn with Blumhouse Productions (the production company responsible for 'Paranormal Activity'.

  • Distributor is Fallen Tree Studios, a major international company who are able to bring small, independent film to an international audience. Although a big company, they are able to understand the requirements of the low-budget horror genre in terms of marketing and lend their fame and notoriety to ‘Removal’, with successful results.

  • Therefore we can draw comparisons to Icon in terms of distribution, as they were responsible for distributing Paranormal Activity in the UK. We are trying to reach the same market as Paranormal Activity - people who want to experience horrific situation that is as close to reality as it can be. Thrill-seekers.

  • Film exhibited in cinemas for the experience - reactions, collective public experience (all going through it together), 

  • proper sound and lights, immersing, believable, realistic experience. They are in the world. 
  • However, home release could be good too as the film is based in a house. Very effective - people would become more scared as they are in the place where the murder happened. They would be scared to go down to the basement.
  • Blu-Ray maybe, as the experience would be more realistic and that would make it more terrifying.

  • Again, our film follows Paranormal Activity in this way - also set in a house, so the distribution plan of PA would be even more suited to our sequence.
  • We would place a lot of emphasis on a viral campaign; utilising cross-media convergence and synergy, eg. Facebook, Youtube, mailing lists, forums, fan site and individual website for the film.

  • Promote word of mouth, very challenge-based campaign, eg. ‘you will be disturbed by this film’. 'The Blair Witch Project' (Myrick/Sanchez, 1999) set the precedent for this type of campaign and encouraged the audience to see the film as a true documentary, which is what we would do using the style of the sequence and our marketing campaign. 
  • Very based on ‘Paranormal Activity’ in terms of promoting the ‘cinema experience’ eg. ‘experience it now’.

  • Cinema release in winter or late autumn, when people are at home a lot of the time and therefore more affected by the sequence. It also gets dark earlier, worse weather, more depressing time – more people visit the cinema for escape and also because they don’t want to go outdoors. Perhaps release on Friday 13th if possible or Halloween for the added bonus of superstition.