The rest of the many questionnaire pages are contained within the following folder to avoid cluttering my blog any further. The summarised data can be found in the post entitled “Audience Feedback Data”.
Briefly, an explanation as to why we chose to use questionnaires again.
The use of a questionnaires was a decision based on opportunity. not only did it allow us to create some form of chart to visually present our audience feedback but we had the perfect opportunity to collect that data in large quantities via our premier. By handing them out before the showing began and asking them to be filled in after we ensured that our film was as fresh in the minds of everyone that gave us feedback as possible, something that led to us getting some very specific feedback as opposed to vague comments based on half remembered details.
We had seen some limited success much earlier in the process with our online survey regarding target audience but it was from this attempt that we knew we had to catch them whilst the viewing was still fresh to have the feedback be as useful and clear as possible.
Following our premier we had a lot of feedback to sift through. To make the task easier we split it into a couple of different methods; a single example of a completed questionnaire alongside all of the responses collated into a couple of bar charts and a podcast discussing, as a group, what those responses actually mean in regards to our target audience and other such factors.
What does the data suggest then? At a glance I can identify our supposed strengths and weaknesses based on the most and least popular choices for Flicker’s strongest aspect. People found the acting engaging in several cases, praising the relatively successful use of children in an integral role. The audience also appreciated the soundtrack for the way it fit the narrative and, more importantly, the genre. Our seeming strongest point however was the cinematography; a great deal of praise was directed towards the varied nature of shot types and the appropriateness of each different camera technique chosen in each and every shot.
Comparatively little mention was granted to the writing, sound and editing put into the film. This is likely due to the casual makeup of our audience, some prior knowledge of the filmic process is what usually allows appreciation for those categories. That is not to say that our audience didn’t take note of them however, the verbal feedback we received in the room directly after the showing contained all sorts of varied praise and critiques that could not be adequately conveyed on paper; the story and writing quality were major talking points.
Overall the questionnaire data, whilst not a perfect representation of our audience feedback, confirmed many of the positives and negatives we had already identified ourselves over repeated viewings. Myself for example as the ‘sound guy’ had already picked up on each and every sound related error that the audience mentioned, along with some that they hadn’t by virtue of them being issues of personal preference on my part. This awareness is in the most part due to having listened to the audio alone a ridiculous amount of times all the way through upon receiving a final copy and having listened to what the editing team had to say after each shoot.
Despite how delighted we are with our short film, there are still a web of issues and areas of improvement that we can scrutinize. With such a massive production however, it’s very easy to nit-pick the qualities that we weren’t so content with, but we will start by discussing the broader issues which we could have taken into consideration at the start.
The length. As an obvious one, this ‘short’ film is 18 minutes long. It should be said that we don’t think that this at all decreases the quality of the film, but only disgruntled our viewers as it is more of an episodic length as opposed to a short. With a 12 page script, we had anticipated it to be around the 15 minute mark, but the 18 minutes was reached through our decision to leave breathing room for the emotion and dialogue.
Our decision was initially to have a final cut, which would be for the examiners and the blog, but have a personal director’s cut which was longer, with more breathing space which didn’t feel quite so rushed. We made the executive decision to merge these two ideas, because the fast paces scenes work very well, but the slower scenes are also valuable. This way we have one polished cut of the film, and there’s no pretension or snobbery around it. We are confident that this will not affect the film’s quality.
The story. We have our doubts as to whether we made the most of the opportunity in making a short film of this scale. The attention to detail in Flicker is something that we are incredibly proud of, but after seeing it so much it’s hard to understand why people will like this film. Our anxieties lie in the verisimilitude of the alien character. Why should people believe this? With a bigger budget we could have explored more CGI tricks to showcase this, but our decision to use only practical effects in his powers may have cost us the depth of the plot. Our practical effects weren’t incredibly careful or precise either. The lights flickering is a motif that is ingrained into the viewers’ minds from the beginning of the film, with the knowledge of the old alien man, it would be interesting to see how many people felt a cathartic effect when they paired the two together. Without this connection, the ambiguous resolution is void of any feeling. The cathartic and relieving breath at the end is confusing without the connection of the information. Maybe we shouldn’t be so pessimistic about this, but we will see at the screening whether the message was received.
Performance. Not at the fault of anyone, the performances generally could have been better, with more delicate direction. We are undeniably impressed by our child actors, whose drive to persevere with the stress of the shoots was motivating. They are, after all, children – getting any sort of performance out of them at 10 and 14 years old was impressive. The case is the same for our 80 year old lead, Peter. He was sharp at times, but communication was difficult due to his partial deafness. Some of the lines of dialogue sounded incredibly forced with the children. For instance, we found ourselves cutting a lot out of the TV scene because it was a 7 hour shoot and Libby was understandably very tired. Lines such as “Yes! Emotional! The TV made you feel that way!” grate against our ears, so we were happy to delete them. “We need to go. Now.” The line itself wasn’t bad, but Evan didn’t get the delivery quite right.
Sound and music. Despite our amazing sound equipment, having to sync up the sound in post was a massive delay to the post-production. Also, it left some clips out of sync, and we overlooked them. Furthermore, when we added echoes to some of the clips later on, the effect cut out as soon as the clip stopped. This means that we had to extend the audio clips, which was manual and dulling. Our sound mixing was, however, impressive. We made sure that our tracks were easy to listen to, and flowed nicely into each other. There wasn’t a great deal of noise in the audio, besides Scene 8, but we were by a roadside so avoiding it was difficult.
A further improvement would be our attention to detail with the soundtrack of the film. We have some gorgeous synths and guitar/piano melodies which work excellently in certain parts of the film, but mostly, the synths are random and only provide a gentle hum, to thicken the texture of the sounds.
Written by James Weedon
The culmination of our efforts came not in the completion of the film but in the premier; the night on which we showed cast, crew, family and friends numbering in the forties what we had been labouring over for months. Signed posters, DVD copies with custom case covers and copious amounts of alcoh- uhm, popcorn sweetened the deal for our audience and they left the screening, at least to my eyes, very impressed with what we had managed.
Two different posters allowed us as a group to pursue to distinct styles of film poster; one entirely sci-fi specific and another that was tailored specifically to the short film genre.
The primary poster was made with our retro theme in mind; with clever placement of the more iconic props, set pieces and the other posters. This allowed us to push hints of the aliens powers over electricity via the TV and references to various scenes from our film that are readily apparent to anyone who has seen even parts of it. By cluttering the frame with the more iconic props we give people something to focus on, a lesser version of the association between the lightsaber and Star Wars in a way.
Our secondary poster has more clear links to sci-fi than the film itself. It makes no effort to make individual props iconic via clever presentation and instead focuses on putting across a clear theme and genre whilst granting prominence to the actors themselves with head shots arranged in a style similar to Star Wars, and their names across the bottom and in the credit text at the top. In doing so we have a poster that is more reminiscent of a feature film starring relatively well known actors rather than a small short film; an interesting deviation in style that I feel strengthens the overall ancillary production.
Filming Flicker was an experience and a half. Most of the time we were cold, wet and miserable in the middle of a field somewhere for hours at a time; and if we weren’t in a field we were right on top of the moor with winds buffeting us from all sides. One time we even dropped the cake. It was horrible.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, the inside shoots were a source of unending tea and biscuits which almost redeemed the struggle of the more difficult shoots; almost. In all seriousness however the thing that really does make the whole thing worth it was seeing it for the first time in its final form. All those months of effort were entirely worthwhile in the face of the finished product and as the credits rolled, I had about four seconds to think on how proud I was before the credits finished and James ushered us out of his house as fast as humanly possible.
Our outdoor scenes were kept fairly varied by moving between the moor tops and the glen and the filming equipment changed accordingly. For example, many of the moor top shots utilized the jib and rig extensively so that we could make extensive use of the wide open vistas whereas on the glen, we shot by the road and as such were able to make more use of the track and dolly. Indoor film shoots used the jib as well but a lot more emphasis was placed on both tripods for static shots and the rig or slider for tracking shots.
The one bright spot in every filming session, the thing that kept us all going, was the cake. The mid shoot cake was our motivation, our religion, the source of our power and the one thing that kept us alive in the face of adversity. Praise be to the cake.
Below are our set images and such that were taken to document the behind the scenes process.
Having listened to some feedback from the rest of the group I went back to the drawing board and dug out the pictures taken for the posters. Since they agreed with my idea to have a large image dominating the right hand side i started with that. After settling on the image of Him as most appropriate and extending the black background to cover the whole thing, I added in some quotes from made up viewers and realigned things where necessary. Below is the result;
At the same time however, I felt that the sci-fi vibe was diminished by the reds, that they gave it too much of a horror feeling when combined with the blacks. To remedy this I changed the red text to yellow and the outline of the graph to the same grey as the title. With that, it was done.
The strength of this magazine article lays in it’s faithfulness to convention. Having looked at several Empire magazine film reviews, I knew what it needed to be successful; pop in items to break up the text, reader reviews for second opinions and so on whilst also adopting a style or motif if you like that applies in both font and colour scheme.
I wasnt the only one designing, scrapping and redesigning posters in the time it took to reach the final product. Below are several alternate poster concepts that made it off the paper and into Photoshop but were eventually either scrapped or used for background posters in the finished product or the DVD case.
A scrapped poster that made it into the background of the final one.
An alternate concept very similar to my own that got pride of place both in the framed posters handed to the actors at the premier and on the wall of Kat’s room in the final poster concept.
A completely different poster idea which brings the others together into one piece.
In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
All things considered I have to say in my totally unbiased opinion that Flicker turned out pretty well for a short film with a budget of zero pounds, zero pence. Whilst the fundamentals of film were respected, many of the conventions of sci-fi had to be broken or bent in order to be successful in the creation of our narrative. Our film captures the essence of sci-fi but is not as overt as one would assume a sci-fi should be.
We challenged the conventions of sci-fi not through a desire to be different and revolutionize the genre but due to a lack of resources such as the expensive VFX that usually permeate the genre. By limiting the use VFX we went against the conventions of the genre but I do not feel that it was to the text’s detriment; rather the lack of flashy CGI allowed us to fine tune our narrative and flesh out our characters whilst also keeping us safely within the time constraints of a short film. By not wasting time on flashy scenes of UFOs crashing to Earth in a blaze of fire we had more time to spend with our characters and thus more opportunities to make the audience like them, one of the pillars of filmmaking.
At the same time however, it wouldn’t be a sci-fi at all if we didn’t have at least some sort of technological or extraterrestrial elements involved and thus use the conventions of sci-fi rather than challenge them. Again, a lack of resources immediately ruled out the possibility of a sci-fi setting so instead we made the setting very retro as an homage to the sci-fi greats of the eighties and seventies such as Star Wars or Red Dwarf and endeavoured to embody the sci-fi element of our text in a single character; Him. His powers over electricity and naive attitude clearly mark him as being of other worldly origins. Furthering his sci-fi connections we settled on the idea of linking his powers to his emotions and desires very early on; flickering lights when he feels an intense emotion or turning on the TV to a specific scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still in order to illustrate his origins to Kat due to his lack of speech capabilities. By rooting his powers in a biological base rather than a technological one we further pushed the idea of him being an alien rather than a human with advanced technology.
The practical methods of presenting his powers, flickering lights at the switch and using pre recorded TV segments and remote controls to turn them on from out of shot, is atypical of the genre as again it neglects the usage of VFX. In fact the only use of CGI came when we superimposed Him on the moor tops in the nude at the very beginning, a decision that was made in the interests of the actors dignity and continued good health, is something that further illustrates the need for practical effects over CGI in a short film with no budget by virtue of it’s admittedly low quality. Such quality is inevitable without expensive software and trained VFX artists and is not something that I feel takes away from our productions overall quality.
Due to the nature of our film as it is laid out in the previous paragraphs, very little was done to develop the conventions of sci-fi and in fact much more was done to challenge them. At the same time however it could be said that by avoiding VFX in favour of practical effects we are still utilising and developing the conventions of the sci-fi genre, we have simply utilised the old rules if you like. Take the character of Chewbacca in Star Wars: a New Hope for example or Yoda in its sequel the Empire Strikes Back; both characters are not CGI but are a costume and a puppet respectively. Yoda in particular illustrates my point perfectly, as if one of the most quoted characters of all time can be produced entirely with practical effects then why can’t our character also be successful in having his powers projected via practical methods as well? In fact, it is worth noting that the CGI Yoda utilised in the prequel trilogy, whilst excellent, is not as well liked as he was in the original trilogy. So much so that they brought the puppet back for the character’s appearance in The Last Jedi.
With this in mind, we could be seen as having used and developed an old set of conventions that are made all the more relevant by our retro setting rather than simply challenging the newer, CGI dominated conventions of sci-fi.
In regards to generic filmic conventions, we managed to conform to many more of these than the we did with the sci-fi conventions. This is perhaps due to the fact that generic filmic conventions are much more strict than the more fluid conventions of a single genre. Because of this we closely followed the narrative theory of Todorov for example – equilibrium, disequilibrium, recognition, attempt to fix and the return to equilibrium – in order to structure our film clearly whilst also using it to aid in maintaining pace. Propp’s roles were also used when conceptualising characters which aided in choosing how many characters to have and prevented overcrowding; his morphology of folklore also saw use as a features checklist of sorts, all of which is explained in other posts.
All in all, Flicker challenges a lot of genre specific conventions due to circumstance rather than design but that is not to say that it is weaker for it. In fact, had conventional CGI been available to us then it is my belief that Flicker’s story about relations between characters would have been lost; mired in a sea of VFX and worse off for it.
Whilst the text is pretty much done, the entire left side in fact, the right hand side is woefully inadequate in comparison. The hope is that by running it by the other members of my team we will be able to come up with a better method for filling the space where the, placeholder, film poster currently resides. A collage of scenes with captions perhaps? Or some reviews of the film condensed into a sentence or two from the viewers?
1st Sphere: Introduction
Steps 1 to 7 introduces the situation and most of the main characters, setting the scene for subsequent adventure.
1. Absentation: Someone goes missing
2. Interdiction: Hero is warned
3. Violation of interdiction
4. Reconnaissance: Villain seeks something
5. Delivery: The villain gains information
6. Trickery: Villain attempts to deceive victim
7. Complicity: Unwitting helping of the enemy
2nd Sphere: The Body of the story
The main story starts here and extends to the departure of the hero on the main quest.
8. Villainy and lack: The need is identified
9. Mediation: Hero discovers the lack
10. Counteraction: Hero chooses positive action
11. Departure: Hero leave on mission
3rd Sphere: The Donor Sequence
In the third sphere, the hero goes in search of a method by which the solution may be reached, gaining the magical agent from the Donor. Note that this in itself may be a complete story.
12. Testing: Hero is challenged to prove heroic qualities
13. Reaction: Hero responds to test
14. Acquisition: Hero gains magical item
15. Guidance: Hero reaches destination
16. Struggle: Hero and villain do battle
17. Branding: Hero is branded
18. Victory: Villain is defeated
19. Resolution: Initial misfortune or lack is resolved
4th Sphere: The Hero’s return
In the final (and often optional) phase of the storyline, the hero returns home, hopefully uneventfully and to a hero’s welcome, although this may not always be the case.
20. Return: Hero sets out for home
21. Pursuit: Hero is chased
22. Rescue: pursuit ends
23. Arrival: Hero arrives unrecognized
24. Claim: False hero makes unfounded claims
25. Task: Difficult task proposed to the hero
26. Solution: Task is resolved
27. Recognition: Hero is recognised
28. Exposure: False hero is exposed
29. Transfiguration: Hero is given a new appearance
30. Punishment: Villain is punished
31. Wedding: Hero marries and ascends the throne
As taken from; http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/propp/propp.htm
How does Vladimir Propp’s ‘Morphology of Folklore’ apply to ‘Flicker’?
1 Kat goes missing
2 Kat and Toby are warned off the Moor by Miss Murphy
3 Kat and Toby go up there regardless
4 The Uncle seeks Kat
5 Murphy informs the Uncle that she’s seen Kat
8 The children decide that they need to find the other radio
9 Kat discovers this need when Toby mentions the sounds on their radio channel
10 Kat chooses to continue looking in the dark
11 Kat and Toby get together to search for the radio and thus Him
12 Kat tries to hide and protect Him from her Uncle
14 The magical item in this case is Him
15 Kat finds Him
16 Kat tries to protect Him by getting in the way of her Uncle
17 Kat is scarred by the death of Him
19 The issue is resolved with the hinted survival of Him at the end
This is the article that I intend to take my general layout from. Given our production of posters it should be relatively easy to find a picture to use across the top of the page and creating the more interesting additions such as the graph and the small list of other articles will be the work of an hour or so in Photoshop at most. This keeps things from getting too complicated and hopefully will prevent clutter in my finished product.
“The short film scene is a rapidly growing arena at the moment what with the rapid advancement and subsequent increase in availability of film technology. For a few hundred pounds an aspiring film maker can begin to create their own amateur level productions and as you begin to get toward a thousand pounds in expenditure on kit you have the necessary equipment to create something of professional quality, as evidenced by the recent expansion of film festivals like Cannes or Sundance. On display at these festivals are short films of every conceivable genre and type from fantasy to documentaries.
One such short film is FLICKER, a fairly concise sci-fi from the aspiring filmmakers that make up the inventively named JAMA (it’s their names). For a first foray into the making of a short film it’s on the part of most of the members it’s actually a fairly intriguing watch as far as amateur film goes. Its pacing is consistent throughout, it has a very fitting retro theme that is reasonably well done and there is very little in the way of glaring holes in the mise en scene. Naturally there were some mistakes if you know what to look for; the use of an American missing person call out rather than an English one for example but there isn’t anything glaringly obvious at a glance that would reduce the quality of the film overall.
FLICKER is the story of a young girl and her best friend as they discover and befriend a mute alien that looks like an old man and FLICKER stays true to this very basic premise all the way throughout and that is to its credit. With only one subplot involving the girls gruff, police chief uncle to draw the audience elsewhere and give them a break from the children and their new friend, the narrative avoids being diluted by useless subplots or excessive world building and instead focuses on building the characters in the time available to them. The end result is two parallel stories that meet up near the stories end in one very important scene and this meeting is cleverly used as a catalyst or device of sorts for shifting the tone to something much more sombre and introspective only to bring the story to a happier conclusion that plays heavily on the idea of catharsis.
All in all it’s a decent first production from a passionate team who this reviewer expects will go on to produce more works of such quality in the future.”
From this I intend to build a full fledged article with the many bells and whistles that such a thing entails; by the end the text will have been expanded and reworked to fit the style of the rest of the article which I am largely basing on Screen’s review article of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films as seen above.
We eventually settled on this design for our film poster. straying away from the idea of busts we settled upon using a scene that is similar to a frame from our film in order to draw an obvious link. At the same time however, in order to avoid using one persons concept more than the others we elected to come up with a handful of other ideas for alternate posters as a group and pin them up in the background of the main posters.
Below is the primary concept of our poster and preceding this post (Alternate Post Ideas) is the scans of our background posters.
Our film is stereotypical classicism. A realistic world with the one aspect that is added to take the real and give it a childish sense of fantasy: the alien.
The gritty northern drama aspect of the film – the lack of dialogue, the bleakness of the cinematography, the slow, wavering pacing – are all complimented by the childish charm of our protagonists, who are essentially both the same… an old alien man, unaware of the ways of our world, and Kat, a young girl who prefers to live in a fantasy Sci-Fi. Classicism in our film is used to put a realistic perspective in place; a realistic situation which audiences, both young and old can relate to. The young for the opportunity of meeting an extraterrestrial, innocent being made to teach and nurture, and the old for the sense of betterment, and forgiveness with the deliciously creative minds of young children.
The realism in our film comes from the harsh reality of Northern England in the 80’s era. The drab and serious tones that come from aspects of the film bring it down to reality, giving the realism side of our classicism piece. The character of Uncle is taking on the embodiment of this realism by being a stern, grumbly man. This constant mood of flat and depressed personifies the time period and the resonance of this character on the scenes that he is in.
Another factor is the dysfunctional family that Uncle and Kat live in. This projects the reality of the world, that everyone wasn’t a perfect happy family and that many had broken families. by incorporating this it is like recording the history of the time period instead of what the media presents a family to be like.
Our film, being more on the realistic side of the spectrum, doesn’t have must formalism in it. However, there is one particular scene that is more formalism than classicism. The scene is that of when the alien comes to his demise at the hands of the Uncle. The last shots of this event bring the formalism side to the film. The shots consist of the characters of Kat, Uncle and Him being plucked out of the real world and into this dark and isolated specter. With surrounding black backgrounds and only a singular light to show the character. These scenes are done to show the full extent of emotions from each character as the life-changing event occurs. It brings them out of the normal world and into their own. This can be seen as formalism as this can not occur in real life or even an exaggerated world. It brings the audience into their minds and shows how each character is feeling at this point in time.
A good example of this is in “LA LA Land” when Mia is singing ‘Somewhere in the Crowd”.
Realism, Formalism and Classicism. Three different styles of film making that sit at varying points on the same spectrum.
Realism is the type of film making most preferred by the Lumiere brothers to name an example. In realism, there are no trained actors or sets or even lighting; everything is acted out by untrained bystanders and the plot of the film revolves entirely around day to day events without anything that isn’t outside of the realms of possibility in the real world. each scene is hot using real buildings and locations as opposed to perfectly designed sets, the actors play themselves and the only source of lighting is that which is present in the world; the sun, street lamps, etc. In a similar vein, usage of advanced camera equipment is minimal beyond the camera itself; a tripod at most.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have formalism which is totally unconcerned with the trappings of reality. The use of artificial sets is prevalent in the style and the focus is often on extravagant and outlandish plot lines that are set in equally odd worlds rather than any sort of accurate representation of reality. Georges Melies for example sent several people to the moon (which has a face) in a bullet where they encountered aliens, fled in terror, got back in the giant bullet, turned around and went home; all without the aid of any oxygen devices. Formalism is more akin to 20th century art than any other type of film, the fact that both formalism and surrealism saw their rise in the same century is likely no coincidence.
Sitting right in the middle of the two styles as a way of bridging the gap between the two is classicism. In the modern era classicism is the dominant form of film making. Elements of realism appeal to an audience as it grounds the film and aids in relating to plot lines and characters but too much realism makes for a very boring film in the eyes of many viewers. This results in a sort of pseudo realism that, in a way, fools the audience into believing in the many characters. Take Rambo for example. We know that realistically one half naked man can’t stand in a field with an assault rifle, take on a small army and not reload once. We choose to believe it however. this goes a long way to explaining the rising popularity of superhero films.
The rest of the group all created their own variations on our poster premise.