BSA306: The Blair Witch Project

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The first time I saw The Blair Witch Project I was alone and it was night and yes, it had me on edge. I thought it was cleverly done and you can see how, when the film was first released, people believed it was real. Comparing this, the original, to the latest reboot where everyone knows the story and the tactics the filmmakers used during filming, it’s far more successful in my eyes. I think a lot of that relates to the realism in the performances. In The Blair Witch Project, the actors were sent into the forest, given a few directions on where to go and the base of the story, but they weren’t aware that the film crew would be sneaking up on them and scaring them lifeless in the middle of the night. I think this created really authentic reactions. There are some moments where some silly kinds of things are said that make the viewer think “really? you wouldn’t really think that… you’d do this instead”, but I think those moments make the story feel more real (like the filmmakers wanted) because that’s probably what you’d do in that situation when you’re going slightly crazy. Blair Witch (2016), on the other hand, doesn’t feel as authentic because everyone knows the story, they know it’s not real, and the filmmakers know this. We, the audience, now have the “behind the scenes” knowledge of the first film so we aren’t going in blind and so there’s no use for the filmmakers to attempt what was done with the original and try to fool the audience.

The promotion of The Blair Witch Project was done very cleverly. The filmmakers maintained the pretence that the film was in fact a documentary by releasing promotional poster that read “missing’ with the faces of the actors. At the premiere of the film, the actors were not allowed to attend to, again, make the audience think it was real.  These strategies contributed hugely to the success of the film which had a budget of $35,000 and made over $248 million at the box office.

 

Blair Witch Project

 

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BSA306: Run Lola Run

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Directed by Tom Tykwer | Released 1998 | Germany

Run Lola Run received 18 awards, including the German Film Award for Best Feature Film, two for cinematography and two for editing.

This is a very fast paced film with little to no lulls. It holds your attention throughout with its interesting use of integrating live action and animation, time lapses and the idea that the smallest action can effect someone’s entire life.

I enjoyed the use the split screen in moments when key actions were happening on the left side, and Lola was running on the other. It wasn’t distracting as the audience understands the action on the right and is able to concentrate on the left, but will still be aware of major changes on the right.

The main themes in this film are the race against time and the idea that we cannot control our lives. The race against time is shown quite obviously in Run Lola Run through the story as Lola is desperately trying to deliver money to someone before 20 minutes is up. This theme is reinforced through the constant visuals of ticking clocks.
The idea that we cannot control out lives is also quite clear throughout the film. In fact, the whole idea of the story runs off this concept; something goes wrong, so Lola has to try and fix it.
There is perhaps another, even more obvious theme; life is a circle. Lola’s day does, in fact, become a loop where her day restarts so she has another chance. There is a great visual during the animation sequence which show this theme brilliantly. Lola runs through a spiral tunnel and then, a little further on, down a spiral staircase. These spirals suggest the loop, or circle, that she is about to experience during her day. I think this ultimately pertains to the idea that events in life seem to repeat themselves, yet each time there are slightly different circumstances that come into play that allow things to work out slightly differently in the end.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film. It was more engaging than I initially expected and I would most definitely recommend it.

Bent.

Bent is the title of the film I will be making a trailer for. The name refers to the saying “bent not broken”, and I chose to use this because I feel this is very relevant to the characters in this story.

I did my best to write in 5 speaking characters, as required for this project, and partially succeeded. I have five characters in the trailer, as it currently stands, but only two speaking roles. Over the next week or so I am going to write out one or two more scenes from the full story to see if I can work in more dialogue for other characters.

The last couple of weeks I have been working on the pre-production for this project where I developed a director’s manifesto. During this process I have realised that the trailer, and in fact the whole first season, of Broadchurch has become a key source of inspiration. Not only am I taking inspiration from this show for the visual style, but also some of the characters. The two characters in particular that I find very relevant to my own project are Beth and Mark Latimer (played by Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan, respectively) who are a couple who’s relationship is challenged after they discover their 11-year-old son has been murdered. What I am drawing on from these characters is how their relationship is affected by this tragedy. The event that causes strains on the relationship between my characters is less tragic, but causes emotional breakdowns regardless. Understandably, the roles of the Latimers require very emotional performances and I think Whittaker and Buchan do an excellent job of this. For this reason, I will be suggesting to the actors who play my characters to look at these roles and draw inspiration from them also.

Teaser Trailer

I am not trying to write a script or develop a concept that has less than 5 characters in order to spite those who have stipulated those rules, I am trying to write less than 5 characters because I am aware of the resources available to me. Yes, I am sure I could work around that and find 5 talented actors, but that would be a very time consuming process when time is one thing I do not have right now. I am trying to write an effective story with few characters. It’s been done, and done successfully. For example, Lars von Trier’s Anitchrist. There were only 3 characters, and one of those was a small child who was on screen for maybe 5 minutes. The rest of the film is carried by 2 actors and I think it’s done brilliantly. I am not saying that I am as skilled as Lars von Trier and am able to create something as successful as he has, certainly not at this stage in my life, but what I am saying is that I would like to try. If I am not given the chance to try, I will never know. Now is the perfect time to try, because I have people around me who can assess my work from a professional and experienced viewpoint and give me feedback on what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps it will fail completely, but at least I will have gained some experience and knowledge.

We have been told that in our third year we will be able to make what it is we’ve been dreaming of making (or something to that effect). I have been dreaming of making something visually stunning, that challenges me and gives me a chance to experiment.

I find that structured films and trailers frustrate me. I like to see creativity that breaks the rules. For this reason, I thoroughly enjoy teaser trailers. More often than not, there is limited dialogue, a great soundtrack, and stunning cinematography. This combination stirs up far more of an interest than a generic or traditional theatrical trailer ever could. It leaves more to the imagination and encourages viewers to find out more or see the final production through gently teasing the story, and I find this to be far more effective. For this reason, this is the kind of trailer that I have set my heart on making. Yes, it will be very challenging, especially as I will be working backwards (making a trailer before a full production… or even writing the full script), but that’s how I am going to learn!

In light of this, I have been finding teaser trailers made in the style I have just mentioned. Some of my favourites are below:

Broadchurch – Season 1

I love this series. I think it is beautifully shot, has strong characters, and creates a powerful connection with the audience. The themes explored in this series, and this season specifically, are very relevant and allows for just about anyone to relate to it in some personal manner. In terms of this trailer, I think it cleverly sets the mood, simply addresses the overall storyline, and generates interest. I also feel that it caters well to its target audience, which I would imagine is around 25+.

La La Land – Offical Teaser Trailer – ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’

This is the trailer that really sparked my ideas for my own project and made me realise how much I enjoy trailers like this. The first time I saw it, it stood out because it was so very different from any other trailers that were playing and I think that makes for a strong promotion. It caught my attention because there’s no dialogue – it’s all beautiful shots set to a song from the film (performed by the cast). I guess it read a little more like a music video, but clearly promotes a film. The production values are incredible, and I certainly do not think I can achieve that for this project, but I have taken a lot of inspiration from this teaser.

Logan – Offical Trailer

This example isn’t a teaser trailer, but it reminded me of the La La Land  teaser when I saw it because of the way the song is champion. I think this trailer is very compelling, and it caught my interest, which is very unusual for an X-Men film, because I’m not normally interested in them.

Antichrist – Official Trailer

I was very interested in this film last year, because I noticed there were only three characters, which is highly unusual for a feature film. It was for this reason that I watched it (also, it’s directed by Lars von Trier and he’s a genius), paying close attention to how the characters were used, especially the locations in which they were placed. Most of the film is set at remote cabin in the middle of a forest, but there are a few scenes in a hospital where one would expect to see a lot of people, but the lead characters (who are never named) are the only two characters we see. What I find particularly clever about this film is that, even though there are only three characters (the third is a child), it isn’t boring, in fact, it is quite gripping.

The Handmaiden

I’ve not yet scene this film, but I do want to. I think this trailer, which, like Logan, is an offical trailer, is cut really interestingly, especially at the start. What I like about this is the way it cuts every second or so alternating shots from the same scene with shots from others. This style of cutting, combined with the soundtrack, creates tension resulting in a very compelling trailer. I think the fact that there is no dialogue adds to the build up of tension, because we’re always waiting for someone to say something, but they don’t. This is purposeful, because it seems like the characters are in a situation where they can’t speak up even though they want to. We do have little hints of vocalisation with a few gasps here and there, but nothing more. I also enjoyed the use of reaction shots, and there were a lot of them, as they create a sense of mystery, urging us to find out why these characters are behaving like this so often. The other thing I noticed with this trailer was the use of titles. I often feel that titles look really tacky in a trailer, but these didn’t. The large, bold font fitted with the genre and made simple, easy to read statements without being cheesy. They were statements rather than the classic “in a world…” titles that Hollywood films often have.

Looking at these trailers, I feel there is hope for success in what I would like to make this year. I love the way some of these trailers build tension and mystery with their absence of dialogue, and, with that, suggest some themes in the story, such as not being able to speak up, or the way suspecting your neighbours makes you shut yourself off to them. This is the kind of feeling I want to create with my trailer. I hope it works.

BSA306: A new Project

The challenge ahead: research a topic, technique or style etc. that interests me and produce a body of work based on my findings.

Obviously my biggest interests are film and photography so my research will be focused around elements of these mediums. I am considering the idea of a multi medium project that uses both film and photography. I would to try taking the same techniques, ideas or styles and presenting them as works of photography and film to then compare the final products, even though I feel it could be very ambitious with the work load I am about to take on. I would compare them in the way the idea is portrayed, how it is received and whether or not the pieces are translated in the same way. Alongside this I would be interested to know which piece myself, and others, found to be more successful.

I definitely think the question I will be exploring will be based around the idea of the piece rather than the techniques used in it. That being said, I would love to explore the use of low lighting to create mood and emotion in this work.

This article discusses lighting techniques in film and the effects they have on the subject.

In this blog post from a cinematography student, backlighting, and when to use it, is explored. I found this interesting because I was thinking of predominantly featuring silhouettes in my project and those are created by backlighting the subject. This blog post discussed various forms of backlighting the different moods each creates. Perhaps I could try and utilise as many of these techniques as possible to create different moods through the lighting.

I love the lighting used in these images by Babak Fatholahi.
What I like about the first image is the sense of mystery that is created by the lighting. I would love to try something like this in my project because I think it feels very sombre, like there is something lost and this is emphasised through the fact that we can only see the model’s face and everything else seems to fall into the shadows.

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© Babak Fatholahi

This second image has a very different mood to the first. It’s still very dark and “moody”, but I think the emotions felt from it are almost opposite. I feel like the use of lighting and the model’s pose suggest hope and determination. I always like to try and find a story within an image and to me the story in this is one of a woman who has been trapped in a dark place, struggling with life, but now she is beginning to come out of that place and move on into a happier and brighter future. Even though that sounded incredibly cheesy, I would love to try and create that kind of feeling, or story, in my own photographs for this project.

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© Babak Fatholahi

 

I found this essay interesting as it looks at the use of lighting in several scenes in Casablanca (1942) saying, “Casablanca is considered by many to be the finest example of the film noir style of the 1940s”. This essay focuses a lot on the use of lighting to represent emotions or the state of mind of the characters.


 

The next step for me in this project will be to decide what exactly my focus will be. I do know that I will be focusing on emotion in film and photography, but I’m not sure just yet whether or not that will also relate to lighting. Though I am interested in how lighting can effect the mood of a scene or reflect the emotional state of a character, I’m not sure my interest is strong enough to keep me enthusiastic and invested throughout the project.