Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Opening Sequence Coursework Outline & Deadlines

5th - 9th Jan: Opening sequence conventions discussion/ analysis and blogs.
12th - 16th Jan: Production company logo and pitch planning.
19th - 23rd Jan: Pitches and storyboards.
26th - 30th Jan: Animatics and planning/ shooting.
2nd - 6th Feb: Planning and shooting.
9th - 13th Feb: Shooting and Editing 
16th - 20th Feb: HALF TERM
23rd - 27th Feb: Shooting and Editing to ROUGH CUT (Rough Cut Deadline End of 3rd Lesson)
9th - 13th Mar: Feedback on writing in lessons.


Monday, 16 March 2009

Preliminary Exercise

Continuity task involving filming and editing a character opening a door,
crossing a room and sitting down in a chair opposite another character, with whom she/he then
exchanges a couple of lines of dialogue. This task should demonstrate match on action,
shot/reverse shot and the 180-degree rule.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Lessons beginning 9th March

You have submitted a draft powerpoint. The lessons this week will instruct you on how to add in other media elements. These will make your evaluation even more likely to get a good grade.

Lesson 1
1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? Compare and contrast your own sequence and one which you think has generically influenced you.
2. How does your media product represent particular social groups? On photoshop cut and paste a character from your opening sequence and one from a real opening sequence that you think has similar representational issues. Compare and contrast.

Lesson 2
3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why? Analyse your own logo/company alongside another company that you think would distribute similar films.
4. Who would be the audience for your media product? Look at the BBFC website. Which classification criteria do you think would be most appropriate for your film and why?
5. How did you attract/address your audience? Use four stills from your sequence and identify how the micro features attempt to engage your target audience.

Lesson 3
6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing the product? Include screen grabs illustrating the equipment and software you have used. What did you learn about using each of them?
7. Looking back to your preliminary task, what do you feel that you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product? Include a still from each project. What technical and analytical skills have you learnt from the first project to the second?

Evaluation Questions

Evaluation Questions

These questions need to be answered in draft and in powerpoint by Monday 9th March.

The following questions must be answered in your evaluation PowerPoint:

1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
2. How does your media product represent particular social groups?
3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?
4. Who would be the audience for your media product?
5. How did you attract/address your audience?
6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing the product?
7. Looking back to your preliminary task, what do you feel that you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Opening Sequence Elements

Typically, an opening sequence will contain:

  • Details of cast and crew.
  • The film's title.
  • An introduction to character or character type.
  • Indication of place.
  • Indication of historical period.
  • Information regarding mood and tone.
  • Introduction to signature theme tune.
  • Information about genre.
  • Questions that the viewer finds intriguing.
  • Patterns and types of editing that will be echoed in the remainder of the film.
  • Mise en scene and cinematography that will be echoed or elaborated upon later in the film.


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Sequence summaries

Your group will need to choose one of the following summaries as the basis for your opening sequence:

1. A supernatural thriller with a strong female lead.
2. A British social realist drama.
3. An adventure story for younger audiences.
4. A teenage romantic comedy.
5. A crime caper with an ensemble cast.


Tuesday, 25 November 2008


In order to analyse the opening sequence of Juno (Jason Reitman, 2008) I will look at the different micro elements and try and establish how they are used to set up character, narrative and genre.

The music chosen for the opening sequences is by anti folk artist Kimya Dawson. It is evocative of Bob Dylan and helps to establish the low key feel of a US independent - on which the film was successfully marketed. The lyrics tumble along in the style of a quirky, downbeat love song listing partnerships like ‘if id be a tree you would be my leaves’, this helps set up the character of Juno as both innocent and pensive, alluding to the search for romance and the coming of age story that follows.
However I feel that it is the mise en scene that plays the most important part in establishing the tone and genre, as well as the lead character in the film. Juno is depicted walking through suburban USA, shiplap houses and mail boxes set up her small world in which the local shops - the guitars shack, beauty parlour and drug store - are the dominant features and from which the park represents a temporary break for reflection. The leaves falling form the trees show time passing and establish the time of year – this will become important when Juno gets pregnant. She passes an acoustic guitar and a retro TV that reinforce the teenager’s interests.

Juno’s costume acts as a kind of timeless unisex teen uniform; blue jeans, sweat top and canvass shoes. It indicates to us that she is perhaps a bit of a tomboy but neither extraordinary or pretentious. The sunny delight carton she is drinking reasserts the bland diet of the mid American teen. The college team that jogs past at the start and end of the sequence further set us in the teen world and act as a contrast to Juno’s lonesome figure.

The animation technique of rotoscoping (tracing over live action filming) suits the US independent style by alluding to independent comic books like American Splendour. It technique allows the director to simplify and mute the colours, making it graphically pleasing as well as mundane. The unfinished drawings also build on a concept of an almost incomplete environment.
Some interesting slide and push edits also allude to comic books. Juno s character is sometimes on the screen in two different shots and this along with her constant presence and dominant framing establish the centrality of her character within the film. Some of the more adventurous camera angles, for example the overhead shot, are pleasing to the eye.

Of course the key function of a title sequence is as a vehicle for the main credits. In Juno these are brought in as neatly hand drawn three dimensional block letters, continuing the comic theme and not unlike a teenagers graphics project or doodling. An effect has been used that keeps the titles wobbling slightly in an organic way. The titles are framed thoughtfully to balance with the framing of the subject and many are brought onto screen from behind bits of the set or are integrated into the scene. An example is a title that appears painted on the fence by using perspective. Juno also walks in front of a number of the titles. These techniques are satisfying for the viewer and help integrate the title sequence into the film.


The Science of Sleep

The Science of Sleep (La Science des rêves, literally The Science of Dreams) is a 2006 French film, written and directed by Michel Gondry.

Michel Gondry, is a French Academy Award-winning screenwriter, film, commercial and music video director. He is noted for his inventive visual style and manipulation of mise en scène.

For more examples of his inventive visual style, check out his Air France commercial

and the Chemical Brothers ‘Let Forever Be’ music video.

The Science of Sleep title sequence is very simply constructed. It is an animated sequence following a graph line travelling over old scientific diagrams and connecting title boxes. These title boxes introduce the title of the film and work through the credit list. The typography used matches that of old scientific drawings. There are no cuts in the title sequence: the camera travels with the line over the diagrams. The implication of the aged look of the scientific drawings used in this opening sequence establishes immediately the ambivalence of the film’s title, the “science” of dreams, suggesting that such limited understandings of the past are but obsolete and spurious folly.

The original soundtrack by Jean-Michel Bernard adds to the mood of the opening. At times the simple line movement seems to link to the soft dreamy tone of the music. The linear directionality of the black line stands however in counterpoint to the almost drifting ethereality of the singer, again emphasising the paradoxical nature of the film’s title.

Overall this mise en scene in this title sequence establishes the tone for the film, a dreamy tone, but with the clear message to the viewer to re-evaluate notions of what is real. In the world of the film’s main protagonist surrealistic and naturalistic elements begin to overlap, and the viewer is often uncertain of which portions constitute reality and which are merely dreams.



Analysis soon.


Fight Club

Analysis of Fight Club Title Sequence:
The opening titles to Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) provides an excellent example of a sequence that symbolically references aspects of the film to come. This is what a title sequence must do. It should give the spectator clues as to what the film is about and in doing so shape their expectations. These clues are not always overt clues about characters and narrative but are often subtle suggestions regarding theme and mood.

The Fight Club title sequence is constructed of subtle references to themes of identity, deception and physical and psychological instability, all of which are explored in the film. The text itself can be seen to strongly suggest themes of identity. The cast and crew’s identity is displayed to the spectator in the form of titles, however the appearance and movement of these titles can be seen to connote strong ideas of not only identity but more specifically, hidden and fractured identity. In some of the titles there are what appears to be chunks absent from some letters, lines of text overlap each other and the top line of text moves further behind the more prominent, bottom line of text as if becoming hidden from the audience. The text is displayed for a short duration each time before seeming to disintegrate through use of transition that looks as though the text transforms to dust or vapour. The fact that the spectator is not given a lot of time to process the information before the titles disappear alludes to the concept of illusive identity. This is reinforced by the extremely quick presentation (one or two frames, when the film’s title ‘Fight Club’ is introduced on screen)
of a larger, unreadable title card where letters fill most of the frame. This combined with the appearance of white ‘flashes’ throughout the sequence can be read as a prelude to the subliminal flashes of Tyler Durden’s character later in the film ( extremely short duration, missable visual suggestions of his presence).

The other graphics in the sequence connote ideas about the physical structure of the body. Although only suggested until the end of the title sequence, the spectator is viewing matter inside of the main character’s (and narrator’s) body and brain. We seem to be presented with particles, veins, tissue and cells – suggested but not clearly identifiable. Electric currents run through connective synaptic tissue as the camera winds its way through the represented physical environment. This immediate focus on the human body is also a precursor to themes and narrative events: The main character, experiencing severe insomnia, finds comfort in frequenting a number of support groups for sufferers of serious physical diseases such as testicular cancer. Throughout the film the body and its fragility is a focus, particularly shown in the fighting scenes. At the end of the title sequence the spectator is introduced to the main character as the camera reveals an extreme close up of his terrified face. The theme of threat to the human body is further suggested as we see him with a swollen black eye and a gun pointed into his mouth.


Minority Report

Analysis of Opening Sequence (0:00 to 2:17 minutes)
Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report is based on a short story by the well-known Science Fiction writer, Phillip K Dick. Dick also wrote “When androids dream of electric sheep” which was adapted to become Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci fi classic, Bladerunner.

Minority Report is an example of a science fiction/ thriller hybred and the conventions of these genres are inter-twined in this opening sequence. The first image we see, in close up, is a pale, almost child-like face. This face is underwater, with wide, staring eyes. The close angle and eerie mise en scene we are being introduced to create enigmas and tensions at the very outset. Who is this person? Why are they immersed in water? Our proximity to this image is uncomfortable. As with all thrillers, we can assume that we will be as dis-orientated by the action to come as is the protagonist.

The camera then cuts to a mid-shot, centrally framing a machine which seems to be adjusting two balls. The machine is automatic, futuristic and coldly efficient. The iconography of the futuristic world of science fiction is clearly established. As far as whether we are being introduced to a dystopian vision of the future, a utopian vision or a mixture of the two, the audience is not yet sure. The non-diegetic sound begins to be more apparent at this point and is created using long, repeated, unresolving chords; a typical staple of the thriller genre. The protagonist’s entrapment within the complexities of the narrative is clearly mirrored by the refusal of the soundtrack to liberate the viewer from its never-ending repetition. 
In close up, the shot now cuts to one of the balls being released and quite slowly rolling down a perspex tube. The mise en scene is clinical and stark, signifying the futuristic setting and the strangeness of what we are watching. The audience follows the ball until it rests, in another close up and the word ‘victim’ is revealed. ‘Sarah Marks’ and ‘Donald Dubin’ are identified as victims, establishing a crime at the centre of the thriller narrative. The camera then cuts to a glass door and then tracks forward to follow a man through an extremely high-tech office environment. In long shot, we realise that this is the actor Tom Cruise and that it is probably a star vehicle for him. Cruise’s character’s clothes are black and he is framed within a scene of chrome, black, bright light and shadows. This is a mono-chrome environment which appears devoid of life. Cruise’s character walks as if he is in a rush and the non-diegetic sound speeds up to entrench the idea of urgency further.

Credits on the screen at this point in the sequence set the place as Washington DC and the date as 2054. Science Fiction films are often set in the ‘not too distant future’ in order to be able to combine mise en scene and themes which the audience will recognise, as well as those that they won’t. Too much distance from the world of the film can destroy viewing pleasure. From the Cruise character the sequence cuts again to the submerged person and then back to the second ball which rolls down and stops to reveal the name of the ‘perpetrator’, Howard Marks. A siren sound is heard in the scene and the audience is encouraged to link the submerged person with the emergency of the revealed identity of the criminal.
The camera then tracks Cruise’s character to what we soon understand to be a control room and the uniformed men in this room brief him on the crime, using language which can only be associated with crime prevention. Cruise is then framed in a long shot looking through a window. The camera then pans down to reveal what he describes as ‘pre-cogs’ who have somehow predicted the crime. The mise en scene clearly evokes the science fiction genre. The edit is now to what is revealed to be an operations room from which Tom Cruise’s character can attempt to track criminals. He then ‘conducts’ a screen in front of him to reveal the visions had by the pre-cogs and is accompanied by diegetic classical music. The futuristic iconography of the scene evokes science fiction and the race against time to find the criminal is synonymous with the thriller.

The sequence doesn’t offer institutional information; this comes later in the film, but does locate the viewer clearly in the narrative and genre of the film.


The Shining

The film opens with a series of shots of panoramic landscape vistas showcasing the bleak desolation of the snowy mountainous surroundings, which will provide the backdrop for the film’s subsequent narrative developments. Various birds’ eye view shots intermittently cross dissolve into one another, and depict an expansive clear blue lake, a snow-capped mountain range, and a densely populated forest of evergreen trees. The camera moves swiftly through its surroundings in each shot, sweeping past the breadth of the natural environs below it, and thus conveys to the audience a sense of the massive scale and large land span of the location depicted.

During the camera’s continual movement, it occasionally captures its views from distorted angles, which undermines the idea otherwise created by this series of shots of the benevolent purity of natural beauty and the wintry American landscape. It thus uses spatial manipulation to contradict the principal connotations of the images of nature captured in these shots, and hence foreshadows the heavy deployment of themes and imagery centred upon the supernatural that will follow.

Also indicative of this theme is the use of slow, sombre, unnerving and deliberate electronic music, which in conjunction with the seemingly oppositional images suggest a malevolence to the surroundings shown and imply an unknown danger amongst them.

Eventually the camera finds a road snaking through an aerial shot of a thickly forested area then picks out and follows a lone car in extreme high angle long shot, making its way along the road. The camera gradually moves increasingly closer maintaining its birds’ eye view position, but also gradually rotates to distort the angle and create a sense of unsettling foreboding in the manner described above. A series of shot changes track the car’s journey and depict a range of different natural backdrops indicating the traversal of time and space. As the camera finally tracks speedily in to a mid shot of the car from behind, revealing it to be a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, credits rise up through the frame from below in blue typeface, and each gives way to the next, departing the frame by rising out of it.

The moving camera overtakes the car and veers away to the left, aerially crossing country before again finding the car and tracking its journey, once again with another series of extreme high angle long shots, while the eeriness of the electronic score continues to aurally unsettle the viewer.

The camera’s point of view eventually shifts to depict an extreme long shot of a remotely located building amongst the mountains, trees and lakes. It slowly circles the building, getting gradually closer. This building is the Overlook Hotel, and will be the yellow car’s final destination, and the principal location for almost all of the film’s subsequent action.

Overall, the opening sequence has been gradually building up to this elaborate establishing shot of the hotel, and has served to highlight its isolation and remoteness and communicate an implication of danger, that the audience should by now have associated with this idyllic yet spectral location and its backdrop.


Love Actually (Rom-Com)

The purpose of an opening title sequence to a film is to establish the visual style of the film and to introduce the viewer to all or some of the following:
  • Characters
  • Location
  • Narrative/Plot
  • Genre
  • Themes

The opening sequence of Love Actually does this. The film was released in 2003, it is a romantic comedy, it was written and directed by Richard Curtis, stars, amongst others, Hugh Grant and was produced by Working Title. The RomCom, Curtis, Grant, Working Title combination began in 1994 with Four Weddings and a Funeral, came together again in 1999 for Notting Hill and then more recently in 2003 with Love Actually. These films are an example of the way in which film genres follow an economics of predictability. They enable film producers to reuse script formulas, actors, sets, and costumes to create, again and again, many different modified versions of a popular movie. This is definitely the case with these three films.

The opening sequence of Love Actually introduces the universal theme of the film, love, and not just romantic love but love in all its many forms. The love a parent feels for a child, love between siblings, the love of a family, the love for a life partner, the love you feel for an old friend not seen for years. 

The other achievement of the opening sequence is to introduce one of the central characters played by Hugh Grant. Interestingly he is not seen in the sequence, only heard. There is no diegetic sound in the clip only the voiceover and the non-diegetic soundtrack. The music is an orchestral string arrangement with a piano accompaniment. It is very evocative of love and romance and sets the tone of the film.

The voiceover also successfully introduces the location of the film; no one can doubt it will be a very British film after hearing Grant’s Received Pronunciation, now so synonymous with a very particular type of film. The interior used for the opening sequence also gives clues as to the films narrative. Using a set that represents the arrivals hall of Heathrow airport indicates that the film could also be about the transient and chaotic nature of life and relationships in the 21st century. Airports connote the way in which people spend a lot of time rushing around, concerned with their own priorities and don’t stop to appreciate the people they have in their life. These are themes that are echoed in the narrative of the film.

The composition of the establishing shot makes it clear that this is also a point of view shot. The focus for the viewer, the reunited couple, is not always visible. It is at eye level and makes the viewer feel as if they were in amongst the crowd of people. The shot type mirrors the content of the voiceover; it puts the viewer in the position of Hugh Grant’s character. Other notable camerawork includes a series of tracking mid-shots following a myriad of characters meeting loved ones in the arrivals lounge, this repetition of camerawork positions all these characters on an equal footing. It also allows the viewer to follow them to the point of reunion and, through the use of close-ups share in the emotion.

A notable editing technique used in the opening sequence is the slow motion placed on some of the shots to emphasise actions such as a heartfelt embrace, the playful tossing of a child in the air, and the kiss of two lovers. This again communicates the central theme to the viewer. It is also indicative of the films genre and demonstrates to the viewer that Love Actually is likely to be more romance than comedy.

The opening sequence of Love Actually successfully uses techniques of camerawork, editing, sound and mise en scene to establish the visual style and introduce characters, narrative themes and sub-genre conventions.

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My Best Friend's Wedding (Rom-Com)

P.J Hogan’s 1997 romantic comedy, My best friend’s wedding, clearly establishes its generic conventions in the opening sequence. The narrative trajectory of a rom com is towards romantic resolution and traditionally this is signified by a wedding. The target audience for romantic comedy is mainly female and the opening sequences of this genre of film seek to engage female aspirations and desires. Here, of course, we encounter our first political debate. Rom coms are generally deeply conservative in their gender politics and can often present a version of women’s desires that is fundamentally outmoded. So, is an opening sequence that explicitly presents women as desiring of marriage purely pandering to archaic sexual politics or is there something more interesting going on?

An opening sequence of a film, regardless of genre, seeks to do a number of things. It establishes genre, tone, narrative drive and character type, as well as offering institutional information. This 1997 rom com introduces the viewer to all of these elements. The initial screen is pink and the camera then tilts down to reveal 3 young, white women dressed for a wedding. They are joined in the frame by a fourth woman who is slightly more forward and thus seems to be the main character in the sequence. Apart from the women and the pink set, the mise en scene is bare at this point. The women’s clothes echo each other in the wedding theme. The credits that start to play have a hand-written font. Combine these two elements and we start to understand a nostalgic and intertextual tone to the sequence. This does not look like a modern film, but rather an example of a glossy 1950s/ early 1960s Hollywood product. 

The diegetic sound cements both the intertextual referencing and the genre credentials of the film. The women begin to sing “ Wishin’ and hopin’” a track first released by Dusty Springfield in 1964. The lyrics give advice to women on how to keep a man and in combination with the mise en scene, advice on how to marry that man. The film, it seems, is attempting to construct various questions here for the audience. Are we about to see an homage to previous Hollywood products, an un-ironic narrative about a wedding being the epitome of success for a woman or a modern day comment on 20th century gender politics? Actually, the film is a combination of the two latter elements.

The opening credits quickly establish it as a star vehicle for Julia Roberts. Her name is first in the credits and at that time, Roberts certainly had box-office appeal. The cinematography and editing are also used in this sequence to create an address to the audience. The women are predominantly shot in long shot, except for cuts to their reactions to the lines in the song. These women are framed as if on a stage, performing for their audience and for the dream man about whom they are singing. There are several direct addresses to camera from these characters in which they entreat the audience to understand their plight. The mise en scene then progresses to include other iconography of a wedding. The main character shows off her sparkling diamond ring and the others look at it enviously. A wedding veil then enters the sequence, as do bouquets for the three women who are now signified as bridesmaids. Achievement and success are synonymous with a woman’s wedding. The bride character continues to be adorned with the trappings of the wedding; a lacy garter and a large bouquet. As she accepts the bouquet she stands on a chair; literally and figuratively above her counterparts. She throws the bouquet behind her, but instead of one of the bridesmaids catching it, she catches it herself. This action is combined with quite a comic whistle noise. It is becoming increasingly clear in this sequence that we are not supposed to take what is happening at face value.

The characters then begin a highly choreographed dance routine. They are becoming excitable with the prospect of one of their number finally being ‘taken off the shelf’. Next there is an overhead shot of the four women, lying on the ground with their heads together in a shot designed to evoke the elaborate sequences used in 1950s/ early 1960s films ‘for women’. The sequence ends with the three bridesmaids putting on the bride’s veil, giving her the bouquet and then kneeling down in front of her in a declaration of their admiration. The camera then zooms in on the bride’s face as she is bathed in celestial light and accompanied by a gospel singer. The solemnity and religiousness of her success is explicit. Of course, this is mock solemnity, as the overly emoting characters, the diegetic sound and the structure of the sequence’s narrative have demanded that we see it as ironic.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008