The filming is all prepared for this Saturday, the actors & location are both available to film so there are a few things we need to make sure are in place before the shoot for it to be successful.
- Make up/Costume for Arthur (Cane, Hat, Poppy, Suit & Jacket)
- White lab coat/laptop for the doctor
- Biological/NHS posters
Evaluation 1 – In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
A number of things inspired the developments of ‘The Promise’, to start off the project we looked at a number of film openings which can be seen in my first few blog posts. As two of them were in the social realism genre (Snatch & Trainspotting) it was interesting to look how the openings were set up. My finding revealed that British Social Realism often have quite fast openings particularly in the gangster/crime side of the genre. This is something we wanted to emulate in our film opening and I feel we have, our film introduces a lot of characters very quickly similar to ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Snatch’. It also jumps right into the narrative like both films, ‘Snatch’ was a particular influence as it kicked off with a robbery and this inspired us too to start of the film with a robbery as I felt it was exciting and hooked the viewer in.
I also looked into the British Social Realism before I started to get a idea of iconic directors from the genre. As director of the project it was important I worked out how other directors in the genre went about there business. I soon found out that a lot of director/writer types base there stories partly in there real life experiences such as Shane Meadows. This inspired me to put my personal experiences into the writing of ‘The Promise’ and although I’ve never been forced to rob a garage (Haha) I have been a victim of peer pressure and it is something I can relate to. By putting my personal experience into the writing of the film I feel it has made it much more believable.
Here are the 9 most key frames from our film opening and how they show our influenced from real media.
(Art of the tile sequence style haha > http://www.artofthetitle.com/)
1) The Title
The title ‘The Promise’ was given to us by our teacher, we interpreted ‘The Promise’ as the promise a gang makes to its new associates. The gang feel seemed to fit the harsh 3 syllable of ‘The Promise’, similar to titles in the genre such as ‘Ill Manors’ or ‘Kidulthood’. Also the title centers around the main premise of the film similar to other films in the social realism/gangster genre such as ‘Snatch’, as in ‘Snatch’ it is centered around a diamond robbery and in our film it is centered around the promises of gang life.
2) The setting/location of the film
We chose the urban, gritty and run down council estate as a location for our film to comply with the conventions of the social realism genre. It is similar to the locations of such films as ‘This is England’ and ‘Kidulthood’ which are also in the genre. We chose to conform to this convention of the genre as a quick short cut so the audience can understand and know the background/lifestyles/class of our characters quickly in the same way that ‘Kidulthood’ and ‘This is England’ do.
We also used a relatively posh and nice garage as a juxtaposition from the rough and ready council estate. It challenged the general settings of social realism films by not being so gritty. The decision to do this was to create the effect that this was alien territory for our main character, which heightened how out of his depth he was. It also created a Robin Hood type atmosphere around the scene, he was robbing from a faceless rich garage company making his actions almost justified under the ‘robbing from the rich and giving to the poor’ banner and this helped us create empathy between the audience and our main character, all by just by being brave and defying some cliches and conventions of the social realism genre.
3) Costumes & Props
Costumes and props were huge in our opening, the clothing of our actors was very important when informing our actors what to where we took a lot of inspiration from ‘Kidulthood’ and ‘Bullet Boy’. ‘Bullet Boy’ was large influence on the props and dress of our main character Ricky Johnson as it had a similar character in it called Curtis.
Curtis played a huge influence in the development of RJ as he was also a young innocent boy who accidentally shoots someone in ‘Bullet Boy’. We used a lot of what Curtis wore in our film for example the dark but innocent clothing. We also had Blake the actor wear a coat similar to Curtis’s (see picture on right). The plastic bag hes carrying in the picture also inspired RJ carrying the pistol in a plastic bag. I’m not sure why but the plastic bag gives a amateurish and real feel to it, it just works and fits the image of a young boy pushed to do something he doesn’t know how to or really wants to. The gun was also a huge prop in the opening as it needed to look real, I took my BB gun and gave it a black coat of spray paint to make it look realistic (don’t worry we were shooting on private property out of sight of the public so no armed police would show up haha!) If the gun had looked fake it would of killed the atmosphere of the scene, the gun also needed to be full size so it looked massive in Blake/RJ’s hands. This was again inspired by Curtis from bullet boy as you can see in the picture above. The over sized nature of the gun made it hard for Blake/RJ to handle in his small hands making it realistic and clearly showing how unnatural the whole thing was to him this is similar to how Curtis wields the gun in ‘Bullet Boy’ which accomplished the same effect.
In ‘Kidulthood’ the gang memebers all wear urban/street clothing, I wanted to conform to this as like the location it acts as short hand for the audience so they can automatically identify them as gang members. A few simple things were required to give them that urban/street look, I dressed them all in hoodies or hooded coats, I had Nathan wear a cap, and I picked people who had short haircuts as those were the things I noticed when research the gang members of ‘Kidulthood’.
To confirm I had the right look I looked at the mainstream view of the urban/street wear, which lead me to Dizzee Rascal who not only inspired us musically, but showed us the ‘badman’ look in popular media. Again I saw the same pattern; hoodie, cap and short haircut.
I then finally turned to real life, as social realism is meant to be based on real life, with the London Riots fresh in my mind from last summer I looked up some pictures and found the same thing with the gang members in London who terrorized the streets. I found the Guardians portrayal of the rioters/gang members again matched mine the infamous hoodie just seems to signify gang/criminal activity.
It was important that I got this look right as viewers use cliches and stereotypes to quickly form opinions on characters, using all these types of real media allowed me to find out how people depict gang members and how they expect them to be presented to them.
4) Camerawork & Editing
The camerawork and editing was hugely inspired by Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a Dream’, the transition I did from the older version of RJ to the younger was inspired by ‘Requiem’s’ drug sequences – see here. A simple cut would not of worked in that situation would not show how the two actors were connected and would not display that it was in fact a younger version of himself quite as well. By using my inspiration from ‘Requiem’ I was able to make a successful transition. I believe this transition, despite taking inspiration from a film in the genre, defies it as social realism does not tend to do many crazy transitions. However as director I wanted the camerawork and editing to be as unique as possible as that is what can make a film really stand out.
Also the camerawork with the glidecam was important to our film opening, we wanted the viewer to be able to follow the main character around the scene so they can really connect with their story, like it does in this shot in ‘Good Fellas’.
Although we couldn’t go quite as long a Scorsese we did manage to get a couple of longer takes with it. These longer takes, I found, are often used in films to not break the tension or realness of a scene. Without the glidecam we would not of been able to do this as moving around handheld is far too shaky and ends up looking terrible, unless you’re shooting ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (haha).
5) Title – Font, Style, Size
For the titles I wanted a unique and urban look which reflected the entire feel of the film opening. Before starting work on the titles I by chance caught a glimpse of a BBC News article on how someone had attacked Peterborough Town Hall with graffiti. This inspired me to develop the titles in a graffiti style, graffiti to me represents everything to do with crime, youth vandalism and antisocial behavior; everything that our film opening portrayed, so it seemed fitting. After reading the article I wanted the titles to be large and imposing to reflect the nature of antisocial crime. To get the unique font I looked around online and found a font website at http://www.dafont.com it was important I did this as I didn’t want the generic LiveType or Photoshop fonts so I got the original look.
6) How the opening sets up the story
For the opening I wanted to include narration to speed up or explain parts of the story like it does in films such as ‘Fight Club’. ‘Fight Club’s’ use of narration helps explain the main characters inner thoughts and feelings to the viewer and helps the viewer keep up with a very fast paced and twisting plot.
Here is a little example from ‘Fight Club’ of how the narration works.
Our final product took a lot of influence from this with the style of how the narration is spoken. The Narration in ‘Fight Club’ is quite ‘riddle like’ and poetic and we wanted to achieve that too as you can see from this blog.
I also wanted to visually show how the film would be laid out, as at the end of the day a film is a visual experience! I did this with the transition I had already spoken about which shows the change in focus from the older version of RJ to the younger. I love visually showing plot lines like this as it harps back to the early days of film and the master of silent film – Charlie Chaplin, who enlightened me to how the visuals are so much more important than any dialogue in a film.
7) How the opening suggests the genre of our film
I’ve already talked about much of this in ‘3)’ as the props and costumes were pivotal in achieving the Social Realism look/feel. By looking at other films in the genre such as ‘Kidulthood’ & ‘Bullet Boy’ I feel we were able to achieve this.
But the theme and style of the film opening also purposefully presents its genre, the violence and dark themes included in just the opening reflect that of other films in the genre that we had taken inspiration from. ‘This is England’ is one of the main examples of the use of violence and dark themes that we were drawn too as you can see from this harrowing scene:
Check out 6:25 on wards –
The scene hugely inspired our scene where RJ accidentally kills the cashier, we did not want to glorify his actions but make them seem harrowing like ‘This is England’. A key feature of Social Realism is that actions like killing or stealing are not glorified like the Hollywood depiction but told in a more realistic and dark way, I wanted to conform to the generic feature. To do this I developed and adapted the ‘This is England’ scene for our scene so rather than using sad music and the screams of Shaun I used a slow motion effect accompanied by a unnatural ringing sound and RJ’s scared facial expression. All of this combined achieve the same effect as ‘This is England’ but in a slightly different way and gave us that dark mood we were after.
8) How the characters are introduced
The way the main character RJ was introduced took inspiration from ‘The Ninth Gate’. By kicking off the film with something as powerful and thought provoking as a suicide it would ensured the viewer would be drawn into watching the rest of the film.
In the first 2 minutes of ‘The Ninth Gate’ the character of the scene commits suicide, to me it was a interesting plot device for the reasons previously mentioned.
Although I did not want the main character to complete his attempt at suicide, I wanted to have the intent and close to pulling the trigger, but it would achieve pretty much the same effect.
9) Special Effects
For the special effect in our film opening, which was the gunshot, I had to look at other real media products in order to get a good looking effect! I looked at the final ‘Scarface’ scene as that includes a lot of muzzle flashs/gunshots haha!
From watching this I found out that to make a realistic gunshot you have to combine smoke and muzzle flash elements in the editing program to make it look somewhat realistic. But the most important is the sound of the gunshot, that is what really sells it, I downloaded a number of gunshot sound effects but they all sounded too ‘cartoony’. I then turned to Youtube for some help!
I found a perfect tutorial from one of my favorite Youtube channels Freddiew, the bit from 2 minutes on wards is what I found most useful.
He showed me that combining and layering all sorts of sound elements you can build gun shot sounds, in his example he doesn’t even use a gun shot sound effect! In mine I used a gun shot sound, a punch sound, and a sliding sound to create a realistic but effective sound effect!
All in all our film opening took inspiration from all over to create a original piece. It shows that by conforming in certain ways and ‘borrowing’ aspects of other films you can easily show your audience what they should know rather than being clunky and telling them. By developing and adapting scenes or effects from other films you can make something original but still know that it is going to be effective for the audience as it has worked for another title. But in challenging certain things such as how the film opening was shot and edited I believe we have created a certain amount of our own originality that hopefully sets the film opening apart.
Our media product mainly represents 3 main social groups:
For our representation of the teenagers we conformed to how they are portrayed in most of the films in the social realism genre.
‘Harry Brown’ was one of the films we looked at, we quickly noticed that teenagers (especially teenage boys) are portrayed in a negative light. Plan B’s character in ‘Harry Brown’ is portrayed as disgusting, anti social and the main villain in the film and the question is why? Well because facts and figures make it realistic for them to do this, as the Home Office suggests
As they are responsible for 23 per cent of crime it was only realistic to show them in that light in my opening. My film would not of been as believable if I’d had a old aged pensioner giving him the gun to rob the garage simply because that’s not how the audience views OAPs. However having the gang being teenagers it made it more relatable to most audiences as that is how they expect to see that role played. Its also how popular media presents that social group, The Independent’s research shows that ‘Only 16 per cent of stories about teens and entertainment were positive’ this quite shocking statistic was again another reason for conforming to the stereotype. In the opening of a film it is important to settle the viewer in by giving them some of what they expect, so we gave them the typical stereotype of male teenagers. I feel representing this social group in any other way so quick into the film would possibly throw the viewer off and not allow them to connect with the film, so it was a creative decision as well as a interest in keeping the film realistic that lead to the cliche image of the gang members.
Next our representation of young black males, before diving into the writing process of the film opening I looked at a number of news articles and films to get an idea of how they are interrupted there.
A common racist remark or misconception is that young black males are involved in more crime than any other social groups, I did not want us to fall into that trap and appear racist making the character black. This BBC News article presents there was ‘no evidence young black people committed more crime than other groups’ however it does tell this which I found interesting and pivotal when casting the film opening:
My film opening began with a robbery and the overall plot is about a young criminal trying to move away from crime. So these two facts were very key for the representation of young black males in my film. I decided to display him as yes being a criminal but still trying to move away from it as I felt that was a realistic portrayal of the social group.
Another reason for the casting was the lack of ethic diversity where I live and I noticed films try and include as many social groups as possible where it is relevant. So I had to take the rare opportunity where I could to cast some other races rather than have a all white cast. This was important to me as I believe that in films as many social groups as possible should be displayed some how as it adds another layer to the film and makes it more interesting as many things can be shown in the reaction of social groups with one another.
A film we took the majority of inspiration from in the representation of RJ was ‘Bullet Boy’ as I have mentioned before in the previous question. Curtis in ‘Bullet Boy’ was exactly the way we wanted to portray RJ as he was basically in the same boat as Curtis after accidentally shooting someone. So took Curtis’s cuteness, innocence and ignorance and passed it to RJ in his situation. This was important as we wanted RJ to be a victim of the robbery as well to the audience and the gang members to be the real villain of the situation. By casting Blake as RJ we got all of these qualities and managed to pull of this representation that was slightly unique and specific when compared to the usual mention in films of young black males.
As he was only a small role in the film opening there isn’t too much to talk about as far as the ‘middle aged’ cashier.
The only reason for having him middle aged was to represent the divide between two social groups; teenagers and adults. Both are often portrayed as not seeing eye to eye from ‘Dennis the Menace’ to ‘This is England’ there is always a reoccurring theme of youth vs experience. This is something I wanted to touch on in our film opening as it is a interesting concept, I also liked reversing the usual situation as in my film opening the youth (RJ) has complete power in the scene where as usually the adults have the overall power. So that is the only reason I included that social group in our film opening.
There are a number of different things that have to be taken into account about our film that may effect how and where it is distributed.
First off our film is a British film, although a lot of British films make it big into the mainstream for example ‘James Bond’ films I do not think our film is quite on that scale. By looking at other films in our genre, British gangster and Social Realism flicks have their own niche audiences, they are not usually internationally successful outside of the UK with the exception of Guy Ritchie’s films.
As we focus more on the grittiness, reality and social realism in our plot I don’t think our film could be the next ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ as it doesn’t include that witty and sharp British humor and London accents that international audiences seem to appreciate.
Result from our questionnaire about how the film should be released indicated this:
The majority agreed a tie between online and cinema at 11 votes each, with DVD just trailing behind at 6 votes. As all three choices are split pretty evenly, with no clear decision made from the questionnaire, I feel it may be important to go through each one and then try and decide which one/combination may be best for distribution of the film.
Box Office Distribution
A film that I have compared our film opening to numerous times is ‘Bullet Boy’ so it seemed reasonable to see how they were distributed in order to see how we might be. Similarly to ‘Bullet Boy’ our film would probably be made independently due to the controversial themes, such as a young boy killing someone, that would deter larger British studios like ‘Lionsgate’ from hoping on board. Independent films normally have much smaller budgets so can not afford much in the way of distributions once the film is complete, this is true of ‘Bullet Boy’. This case study of ‘Bullet Boy’ tells this story of the films distribution:
‘But Verve Pictures, who handled the release of Bullet Boy, recognised that the film had wider appeal. Its unique selling point was that the cast included Ashley Walters – whose own life in many ways mirrored that of the film’s main character. With the help of lottery money from the UK Film Council’s Printing and Advertising fund, Verve were able to give Bullet Boy a much wider distribution. Verve’s strategy paid off. Within the first six months of its release, Bullet Boy had grossed £450,000, a substantial sum for a low-budget UK film, at the UK box office. Most of this money had been made at carefully selected urban multiplex cinemas rather than the arthouse cinemas Bullet Boy had originally been destined for.’
Maybe our film with its unique selling point of showing the full details of a young criminals life would be enough to be reconised by independent film distribution companies like Verve Pictures. And employee the same market strategies that ‘Bullet Boy’ used to using urban cinemas over arthouse to generate revenue as our film shares many qualities with it.
Alternatively our independent film may of picked up a slightly bigger budget from the UK Film Council in pre-production from their Film Fund program, this would allow us to create a more polished and cinematic version of the plot. If this was the case we could approach bigger distribution companies such as Revolver who have marketed similar films to ours like ‘Ill Manors’ and ‘Kidulthood’ – who were both hugely successful in British Cinemas, both achieving nearly £500,000 at the box office. If we could get Revolver on side we could potentially be marketed to a much bigger audience than Verve Pictures could achieve.
Post Box Office
Once the film is finished showing at cinemas it then moves to the next phase of distribution which is normally DVD/Blu-ray. Obviously the same applies to this, if we could get the distribution from Revolver they would be able to provide us with a much bigger advertising campaign for it than Verve Pictures.
‘Ill Manors’ got a lot of TV & Online advertising compared to ‘Bullet Boys’, however if we had to go with Verve Pictures it may be a good idea too look at online streaming sites such as ‘Netflix’ when distributing our film. Audiences are tending to move to that way of viewing with over ’23 million members’ and it is the way ‘Bullet Boy’ is distributed now after its mediocre DVD/Blu-ray sales. We may miss out on some DVD/Blu-ray sales, but will gain some revenue from the sale of rights to Netflix.