Pre-production Thriller Sequence
Pre-production Thriller Sequence
My opening sequence will be based on the horror genre, but more specifically, on the thriller sub-genre. This sub-genre has many standard conventions and I will examine these conventions along with their effectiveness in influencing the audience.
Conventions are what make up genres and therefore, by using appropriate conventions in a film, the audience is able to quickly recognize the genre and therefore have a better understanding of the plot and what the film is going to be like. More specifically, with knowing the genre, the audience can also then expect to see some of the iconography that is typical for the genre. This can help establish the necessary mood for the film genre, which in the case of thrillers is exciting, suspenseful, tense and full of anxiety and nerve-wracking anticipation. Scenes in thrillers create suspense, tension, and a sense of danger by having the setting in an isolated for example, or by creating scenes where a lot is unseen and unknown to the audience (whether this be the reason behind a situation occurring in the film, or simply a character that is shadowy and that we do not know a lot about).
These icons are used to signify the elements of the thriller genre to the audience. These include such topics as the dark side of life, conspiracies, murders, twisted relationships, danger and suspense. Since they carry symbolic/connotative meaning, colour coding adds to the iconography of thrillers as well. The use of black and white for example, represents or adds to the darkness and evil that is in the play.
I will start my opening sequence by slowly panning across an isolated room. This creates tension already because the audience will feel unsafe in this location, and also because the audience want to see the characters and want to know what is going to be revealed at the end of the panning. The film will have a sepia tone to it, to give a more eerie and untrustworthy atmosphere to the scene. The sepia acts to add suspense to the scene in the same way black and white would, and therefore is basically just a substitute for black and white. Then in my film, we will reach one solitary character in the scene; light from a window hitting him in a harsh way so that his face is not clearly visible. This adds some tension. It makes the audience ask “who is this character?” and especially since we cannot see his face, “does this mean he has a dark past?” Thrillers often use this technique of keeping the personality of a character a mystery to the audience. It gets the audience wondering whether the character is the protagonist or antagonist, until finally it is revealed to them. Then, after this I am going to zoom into an extreme close-up to portray the fury in the character’s eyes. All the techniques I am using, apart from the last one, are subtle; and it is vital that they’re subtle. This is a convention of the thriller sub-genre and thriller films actually try to stay away from gangster and crime related plots; they focus more on the suspense and danger in the film.
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Thrillers also have a distinct set of character types that can be included in them, such as: psychotic individuals, drifters, fugitives, demented madmen etc. A typical narrative in thrillers invites the audience to ‘take sides’ and have a certain ‘point of view’ about the plot of the film and the characters in it. The opening sequence of my thriller will try to create a sense of uneasiness for the audience. This is what I am planning to do, and it breaks the mold of Todorov’s narrative model: equilibrium-disequilibrium (a problem arises and it is often complicated even further)–equilibrium again (problem resolved). In my case, the format will be: disequilibrium–extended disequilibrium–equilibrium. This is because the thriller will start off quite heavily suspenseful and then it will continue to be tense, but a plot twist will occur so that the disequilibrium is now being caused for a completely different reason than it was originally. Then finally at the end the whole situation/mystery is solved.
This format means that the film will actually appeal to both men and women, if considering Rowland Barthes’ theory of codes of action and codes of enigma. Codes of action have complete and closed endings to them, which is male narrative, and codes of enigma are open endings, which is female narrative. Therefore, we assume that the men wouldn’t like being kept at the edge of their seats the whole time, due to all the cliff-hangers and suspense; but since the film will end in a very finalised way, it can be watched by both genders.
Certain technical codes are used in thrillers to enhance the necessary feelings for the scenes. Continuity editing is used in order not to break up the rhythm of the scenes. Continuity editing is what creates the suspense and enigma in a scene, and if this momentum is broken then the effectiveness of the scene is destroyed. Music is also very important, since it can get louder to emphasise the climax of a scene when something important happens, or it can also add a lot to the suspense factor, by playing slow, soft incidental string music in the background while the camera is slowly panning to reveal something. The audience will feel much more tension due to the music. Sound effects can also be used to emphasise certain aspects of a scene and to make it more enigmatic (e.g. the slow footsteps of someone dangerous entering a room). Also, as in horror movies, expressive lighting is extremely important in thrillers. Lighting can single-handedly set the tone for a scene, or, in a quick and easy way, it can direct the audience to get a certain impression of a character. I am using expressive/dim lighting in my opening sequence, as well as continuity editing.
Types of films have a certain season that the institution aims to release them for, but I do not believe this is the case for thriller movies. I plan to release my film anywhere between the end of summer and the beginning of August (from August to October), since this is after major summer blockbusters are released (mostly in June/July) and also before blockbusters are released for the holiday season (November/December). Therefore, this timing reduces competition for my film. Although multi-national Hollywood film companies such as 20th Century Fox and Miramax release thriller movies, I plan to release my film using a smaller, independent distributor. This is because it will simply be a more artistic type of film and therefore will not comply with the style major film conglomerates are looking for.
However, even with independent movie distributors, there are different sizes of companies to choose from. Therefore, I am not planning to use a completely unknown distributor. Instead, I am actually planning to use a Hollywood distributor, but simply one that distributes independent movies. This leaves me with the top option of Warner Independent Pictures as my distributor. I want it this way because it will allow my movie to keep it’s essence of being artistic, but I will also still have a slightly higher budget for stunts and special effects so that it won’t look completely like a B-grade horror movie. This does require a higher budget than a completely independent label would, but I’m hoping that success of the film will be greater because of this in the long run.
My film will hopefully reach a large audience, and I am aiming for my film to have a large target demographic. The film, as stated before, is appropriate for both males and females since both types of narratives are included. My film will not be aimed at teenagers like a lot of horror-type films are, but instead it will be more sophisticated as a thriller, and therefore will appeal to a slightly older audience of about a 20-35 age range.
Also, on a final note, because it is the convention for men to always play the murderers or shady characters in thrillers and for women to be the caring ones, I have decided to turn this around this in my film. The psychotic individual will actually be played by a woman and the good character by a man. This hopefully will give some incentive for people to go watch the film! This is what will set my film apart from all other thrillers and is what will make it stand out in people’s minds.