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


The Title of the Film

The title of my film, ‘DRifter’ is displayed within the first 30 seconds of my film. It is in a ‘chiller’ font, which is used because it looks scary and threatening. This font is also used on all other titles in my opening. The film’s name and in fact all of it’s titles are written in white and is postioned in the top right hand corner of the screen to prevent it from interfering with the action. The title is also put slightly on the side to give off the impression that something is not right. Behind the titles is blood swirling down the drain, backing up this idea of something bad happening. (As seen below).


It is very common for a thriller film to use fonts that look threatening or disturbing such as the ‘chiller’ font, as this is used to connotate what the audience is about to witness in the rest of the film. It gives big hints on the genre and themes of the film itself through it’s choice of font.  For example, in ‘Se7en’s title sequence a similar font is used…



Here we can see that the font used for the title is blurred and smeared. Like the font I used for my opening, it gives connotations of something disturbing or not being quite right. It leads the audience to expect that the film will have many twists in the plot. Also like my titles, ‘Se7en’s is always white. This helps the titles to stand out on dark backgrounds and also gives off connotations of vulnerability and innocence admist the film itself. The title moves around, unlike mine, from taking up the full screen to being in the right hand corner, out of the way and not distracting the viewer’s attenton. A lot of films, including thrillers and mine, do this so that the audience does not miss anything important but still sees the name of the film. Behind the title is a man picking out a book/diary. This is significan to the film and subtley put in to show aspects of the character’s personality.

But when we look at ‘Face/Off’…

However, thriller’s do vary in this subject, such as ‘Face/off’ where the titles are black and white to signify the clash of the two main characters in the movie (Cage/Travolta). It gives a connotation of right/wrong, good/evil etc (like my titles and ‘Se7en’s) and leads the audience to expect the film to be a thriller- mainly revolving around the lives of a bad character and a good character.  Behind the titles we can see a character, in the shade, suggesting he is this ‘bad’ character and this source of something not being quite right. This is similar to both previous titles, as both films (mine and ‘Se7en’s) show something in the background, while the title is being shown, that links to this sense of something bad happening. Unlike both other film openings, ‘Face/Off’ has it’s title in the centre of the screen, giving it all the audiences attention although something important is happening in the background. These titles show that it depends what themes thriller’s deal with, which will all alter the style, postion and colour of their titles.

Setting/ Location

The reason I chose my own kitchen as the setting/location of my opening is mainly because it isn’t specific- it could be anywhere. It could be anyone’s kitchen. This adds to the mystery of the film and leads the audience’s asking a lot of questions- and the only way they’ll find answers to them is by watching the rest of the film. I also chose this location because it was easily accessed, saving time and did not affect my limited budget, saving money. (As seen below).

This is not unusual in thrillers. For example, in ‘Se7en’ there are so many close ups that the action we see could be happening anywhere, leading the audience to wonder where this action is taking place, pushing them to watch on. (See below, in the title sequence we see all sorts of things happening, but not a lot of the actual location it’s filmed in is shown to the audience, as the director says in the film’s commentary: ‘it was filmed in a wardrobe, the location itself didn’t really matter’.)



Actually, this seems to be a very big and important convention in thrillers. Although sometimes they perhaps show a bit MORE of a setting/location they still don’t really let the audience know any facts until later on- when they are hooked into the film and have to watch on. For example, we see in ‘The Usual Suspects’ opening that the location is a boat, but we don’t know where it is, or who’s boat it is. This, like my opening, leaves the viewers wondering about the actual setting/location and whether it will be relevant to the film later on. (Below, ‘The Usual Suspects’ starts it’s film located on a boat.)




Costumes and Props

Every film, at some point, requires certain costumes or props. This can be used for many different reasons, such as to show the time period, job of a character, personality of a character, class/background of a character etc etc

Props serve the same purpose, but they are more vital to the story. Props can help show what a character is doing, or about to do which is vital to the audience’s understanding of the film’s plot.

In my opening, I was lucky enough not t require a costume. This was due to the fact that  I wished to keep the character’s identity a secret, so therefore a costume for my character was not required. It helped to keep a sense of mystery in my opening and because I was on a limited budget, also saved me money.

This is similar to ‘Se7en’s opening…here we see the character’s hands, but we don’t know whose hands these are. A costume was probably not required for this actor either, as the audience would not be able to see any of it anyway.

However, sometimes thriller’s are known to use costumes in their openings to tell us something about the characters or to give us the impression of what type of character’s they are. For example, in ‘The Prestige’ we can tell that Hugh Jackman’s character is wealthy and clever, as he is dressed in a smart and expensive suit and has slick, shiny hair. This costumes leads the audience to make an assumption on the character and their role within the film.

With props, they can be vital to telling the audience the themes of a thriller and can also tell them a lot about the character’s using them. For example, in my opening I used the prop of a diary to show that the character writing is obsessive and troubled, and this leads them to think this will be an underlying theme in the film. It also leads them to think that one of the characters they see that later on will be this one we see in the opening and will try to spot him/her.

This is similar to ‘The Usual Suspects’ where the props used in the opening are vital to discovering who Keyser Soze (the villain of the film) is. The watch and cigarette lighter he uses are specific props and, whether the audiencce realises this or not, will help reveal the identity of the killer later on in the film. The gun used to murder one of the characters at the start of the film also gives the audience a hint that the film will have themes of crime and violence throughout.

On the other hand, sometimes props aren’t as important to thrillers as other aspects are. For example in ‘Fight Club’s opening, limited props are used and the audiences attention is more focused on the character’s and their dialogue (especially the main character’s Voice Over) which is used, without the aids of props, to give the sudience an idea of what is going on and what themes they should expect.

Camerawork and Editing

Here you can see that my opening consisits of close ups to extreme close ups- keeping the character’s identity hidden to the audience, which then keeps a level of mystery that most thriller’s have. To make my opening look as if it is ‘jumpy’ or ‘confusing’ I took shots of the same thing from different angles, postions and distances. For example, you can see that I’ve shot the tap running from about a mid shot on the left hand side. And then we jump straight to another shot of the tap, but now from the right hand side, and close up.

This is similar to ‘Se7en’s opening, as they constantly use extreme close ups of the characters hands to help hide the killer’s identity. It keeps the audience guessing who the villain is, and making them want to watch on to find out who it is. Thriller’s often do this, as because if the killer was identified in the first two minutes, it would be very unlikely that audiences would feel the need to watch on.

However, sometimes thriller’s take a different route. They introduce characters and don’t try to hide their identity as such, but they give a sense that one of them is not telling the truth, and is secretly the killer. For example, in ‘FightClub’ we meet the main character’s within the first two minutes of the film starting, establishing them with close ups of their faces and shot reverse shots as they exchange dialogue. But we don’t know why they are in the situation they’re in, they’re relationship, or how they got there. This the leads the audience into a flashback to find all the answers to these questions without the film actually having to hide anyones identities from them.

While editing I tended to use certain edits for the film, to make it more sinister or look more professional than just a roll of footage I’d filmed. I tend to used ‘ghosting’ a lot. And I though this looked like the film was blurred or mixed, and this would have connotaions of the plot having confusing twists in the plot. It also gives evidence of the character being decietful or seem on ‘both sides’ (good and bad). I also used transitions such as ‘zoom’ and others that were perhaps shaky or dark. I tried not to go over the top, as it may prove hard to watch for the audience but I wanted it to connotate that something was out of the ordinary or wrong.

My overall editing is similar to ‘Se7en’s as they seem to use the ghosting effect in  their opening too, to connotate the same things- the person writing has a troubled, jittery mind…what they are writing is disturbing or out of the ordinary etc and this proves to be accurate when you watch the rest of the film.

My choice of transitions prove to be a bit different to soem thriller’s though. I tries to use transitions to back up my genre and themes of my film, but it is clear that most thriller’s don’t do this, probably because it may look tacky or inappropiate.  For example, in ‘The Machinist’ the transitions are clean and cut without any shaking or moving. This could be an attempt to make the film look realistic to the audience.

Title Font and Style

As I mentioned before, my titles are written in a ‘chiller’ font and in white throughout. This is to help show the audience that this film will be a thriller, as the font suggests something sinister in the plot. It also helps the titles stand out on the dark filming. As I said before, in ‘the title of the film’ this technique of white titles is constantly used in many other thrillers, such as ‘Fight Club’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’.

Story and how the Opening Sets it Up

In the opening, I set the story up for my film mainly with the diary and the words being written down within it. By revealing words such as ‘murder’ and ‘injustice’ it gives the audience ideas about what the story of my film will based on. They will imagine that the story will invlove a murder, but will wonder who is the victim/killer, and they will also wonder about the injustice, and whether the right person is blamed. This sets my story up for my film well as this is what my film is basically all about. (As you can see in this still).

Again, this is very similar to ‘Se7en’. The film’s story is ‘set up’ by the words the killer writes in his diary at the start of the film. We see him black out words with a thick marker pen, which tells us that he may have a negative attitude towards them. For exapmle, when the audience sees he is blacking out words such as ‘homos*xuality’ and ‘ and then cutting out the word God (and handling it with tweezers, like it is fragile and precious) this gives the impression that the film with have a story that is linked to God, sins and a person who is obsessed with all these things.

However, some thrillers prefer different methods of setting the story of their film up. For example, in ‘American Beauty’ it is more what the character’s say in the opening that leads the audience to think about the plot. Such as when Lester’s daughter says ‘I hate my dad….’ and an unknown filmer replies: ‘Do you want me to kill him?’ to which she says: ‘Yeah. Would you?’

This section of dialogue at the very start of the film sets the story up of Lester’s murder. The audience know he is going to be murdered (From his voice over) but are not quite sure yet in terms of who the murderer will turn out to be, as they don’t know whether this exchanged dialogue was just a joke, or actually carried out by the person filming. This also sets the story up to be quite a confusing one with lots of twists in the plot.

Genre and how the Opening Suggests it

I intended to make the genre of my opening (thriller) obvious to the audience through various things. One of these aspects was the props I used, which most of them were red (such as the red ink pen and red book). This helps connotate bloodshed and crime, which is a usual convention in thrillers. The child’s picture represents vulnerability and innocence, which could insinuate the ‘victims’ within a thriller film. The fact my character rips this picture up and writes words such ‘murder’ and ‘injustice’ shows feelings of anger and frustration, which would lead the audience to think about these themes of law/crime, which is reguarly featured in thriller films.

The lack of dialogue and hidden indentities could also suggest a thriller, as thriller’s tend to leave the audience asking for questions and confused at the beginning of their film. The background track, which is entirely instrumental, is intended to show the genre of my film also: sounding sad and slow, like something bad is happening/about to happen.

Hints at genre such as these can be seen in ‘Se7en’s opening. They reguarly use the colour of red to connotate the bloodshed which is about to occur, leading the audience to make the assumption that the film will be a thriller. The backgroung music in ‘Se7en’s opening, which is a remix of ‘Nine Inch Nails: closer’ also suggests a thriller. It makes the audience feel intimidated and as if something horrific is about to occur in the film (which is John Doe’s murders), which usually happens in thriller though crimes, sacrafices etc.

However, some thriller use different things to show their genre to the audience, such as ‘The Life of David Gale’ uses characters, such as Kate Winslet’s, to help the audience insinuate a thriller. By showing footage of the journalist running down a road with a videotape in her hand, the audience are left wondering just what is going on. This also suggests a thriller as we are left wondering what she is running to, and that it is likelyto be a life/death situation as she is running quite fast.

How Characters are introduced

None of the charcater of my film are actually introduced to the audience. I only show the main characters hands, his name and identity as a whole is kept hidden away from the viewers.  I did this to keep a mystery theme in my opening, and also to keep the audience wondering what will happen in the rest of the film and how the opening will relate to it.

Thrillers are well known to do thi in their openings. For example, ‘the Machinist’ does show the main character, played by Christian Bale, but his name and what type of character he is is left out of the audiences knowledge. This makes them eager to watch on as they need to be reassured of what will happen to this character, and who he really is. In this opening we also hear another character say to Bale: ‘Who are you?’ which backs up the question the audience wants the answer to.

However, ‘FightClub’ tends to go straight into the plot, introducing the characters (correctly or not) in the opening two minutes of the film. Although we never actually hear the narrator’s (played by Edward Norton) name, we do hear of ‘Tyler Durden’ and are given insights into his personality and what type of role he is in the film. This then leads the audience to wonder more about Norton’s character, and therefore we are plunged into his flashback.

Special FX

I did not use any special FX in my film- as it was not required. I did not have the technology at hand and had a very limited budget, so this was out of the question. I didn’t want special FX anyway because I wanted to attempt to make my opening look realistic, which is what thriller’s tend to do to scare their audience- to make them believe what is happening could happen to anyone.

It is common for thriller to do this, as special FX, such as murder victims and explosions usually come later, when the film has been introduced. For example, in ‘the Life of David Gale’ the opening is basic, with no need for any special FX. It does this to focus the audiences attention on the characters and plot and not any uneeded special FX.

Nonetheless, some thrillers are an exception. ‘The Usual Suspects’ for example does use special FX in it’s opening, with a large explosion on the boat, killing most of the main characters. This shows that it depends on what mood the thriller is trying to create in the first two minutes on whether they use special FX straight away or not. The film probably intends to shock their audience with this huge explosion, telling them that the film is dealing with a very dangerous villainn (Keyser Soze)- making them want to know (even more) who he is.


~ by hannah on April 21, 2010.

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