My task was to create an opening for a thriller which lasted two to three minutes. We were free to choose a sub-genre and interpret it in any way that we felt necessary. Before starting pre-production I decided to do some research into the thriller genre to decide on a sub-genre I could confidently produce. This also helped to discover the conventions of a thriller film and inspire my storyboard. Through watching films and also asking people’s opinions on thrillers, I discovered that it was best for me to produce an opening for a supernatural thriller.
To begin my research, I watched ‘LA Confidential’ to discover some conventions of a thriller. By watching this I found that the main conventions were dark lighting, but with neon lights to contrast, dark, neglected houses and detectives. As I decided to make a supernatural thriller opening, I began to watch films such as ‘Insidious’ which are of the supernatural genre. Similarly to LA Confidential, Insidious has the conventions of neglected houses and dark lighting however Insidious includes the storyline of a possessed child. LA Confidential also tends to steer the audience away from the plot, revealing a plot twist towards the end. In this case it was that the detective system was corrupt. Likewise, in Insidious, there is a plot twist at the end which sets it up for the sequel.
After watching both these films I asked two friends what they expect to find in a supernatural thriller. Both said that they’d “expect to see ghosts” or “possessed children similar to those in Woman in Black or The Ring” One friend also said that she “preferred supernatural thrillers to action as they are more appealing to both genders.” Following this primary research I decided that a supernatural thriller opening would be appealing to a gender-equal audience as it is able to include conventions from other genres such as the element of romance or close relationship like the one between the wife and husband in Insidious.
I knew that to gain the audience’s’ attention, the opening would have to be intriguing to a target audience. I found that after watching several supernatural thrillers and interviewing two friends, our target audience should be both the male and female gender aged between 15 and 25. This is because the films that I watched such as Insidious and Paranormal Activity were mainly watched by teenagers and men however I wanted to make it seem as if women would be intrigued by it too. I will do this by including a close relationship in the plot such as brother/sister or husband/wife and by bringing a strong female character into the story.
Following the research I found, I began to create a storyboard based on the conventions of a dark house, dark lighting and the storyline of a possessed child or demon. I knew that I had to create an opening which was gripping and set up many questions for the audience.
Looking at the research, I followed the motif of a possessed child to create my storyboard. From this, I created the idea that there should be a girl, alone, which creates the sense of isolation and vulnerability, in a dark lit bedroom which follows conventions found in both Insidious and Woman in Black.
I then thought about storyline and decided that to introduce the detective element would be effective as it works well in LA Confidential and could be easily adaptable in a supernatural thriller. By watching LA Confidential, I realised which conventions I would and wouldn’t want to include in the opening of my own thriller. One main convention from LA Confidential I wanted to convey in my thriller was the dark lighting throughout as it gives the film certain eeriness and conveys a sense of the unknown which is very effective for a thriller.
Similarly to LA Confidential, I used dark lighting in the final product and when our rough cut was shown to the class, many commented on how “effective” the “natural lighting” was. I aimed for this and hoped for it to be picked up by peers. I also received a comment that the detective scene was not “professional looking” which I agreed with and so as a result of this, we re-filmed this scene for the final cut. This worked out well in the end; however there could’ve been some improvements to my choice of props.
The primary research I carried out also influenced the opening of the thriller in the case of whether to show the ‘possessed child’ or not. In Insidious, the woman is shown in the opening before the credits begin however in a film such as Woman in Black, the woman is not shown explicitly but the children who are possessed by her, are. This led to some debate on whether I should include the supernatural straight away or not.
After some thought I decided not to as it was only the opening and could easily be implied like it is in Woman in Black and so decided to only use the idea of a possessed child in the opening. I did this by including an unsolved case from years ago in the detective scene – triggering questions about the case and whether or not it is connected to the case shown at the very beginning.
When creating the opening for our supernatural thriller, I was given the role of mise-en-scene. The production needed for this role had both strengths and weaknesses. A main strength, also highlighted in feedback from classmates, was that the “setting of the house” was “very apt to the conventions of a supernatural thriller”. Having the house as the main setting was effective as it puts the audience in an uncanny mind-set that it could happen to them, as a house is what they come across everyday. A professional film, which is about a possessed child, also uses the setting of a house as the main location. This same film, Insidious, effectively uses supernatural conventions such as long corridors and dark rooms.
When creating my storyboard I had the convention of a long, dark corridor, similar to ones in Insidious, in mind. However, when it came to filming, our setting was different. The corridor that we used was not as long as I had hoped but with mise-en-scene being my role, I had to work around this issue to make it look good on screen. Achieving the effect of the corridor I wanted was a struggle considering we were filming at two in the afternoon but I turned off all lights but one from downstairs to create a orange glow coming up the stairs and contrast between the two lights. Feedback from classmates was positive in the aspect that the “lighting was effective at the beginning”. I agree as, with the problems that arose, the final product was still as effective as they would’ve been if we had filmed at nine in the evening.
A main weakness of the aspect of mise-en-scene in the opening of our supernatural thriller is the setting in the second ‘half’. This is because the setting was a classroom at college. To create a ‘detective’s office’ I had to organise props such as photographs, evidence sheets etc. and organise clothes. I chose for Dean to wear a shirt to look more official and the set up of the scene to include a desk and office chair. However, the weakness of this was that it was shot in a classroom at college, as nobody in our group knew an office location that we were able to use. This affected the mise-en-scene in the way that the setting was not very adaptable and could only be changed by adding props that I had printed off and moving chairs and tables that were previously in shot.
Compared to a professional film such as Insidious, our opening used similar conventions. A main convention is the setting of an empty house. I also decided this to be a main convention in our thriller as it represents the idea of isolation and vulnerability of the character. Insidious also sets up questions for the reader such as: Why is the house empty? Who is the old woman? We also aimed to set up similar enigmas such as: Who is Jessica Symonds? What relevance does she have? Why is the filmed named after her? David M. Brewer, the cinematographer of Insidious, chose to use stereotypical low lighting, which is a convention of a thriller film. I also thought that to make each scene more eerie I would also include dark, low lighting.
Changes to the original storyboard were also made. The main change that we made was to not show the ‘possessed demon’ looking through the window at the detective. We decided to do this as it adds to the suspense of the film and in a professional opening of a thriller; the whole storyline is not given away at the beginning. Therefore, we didn’t need to reveal the ‘possessed demon.’