MUTE Group 2 Main Task Opening Sequence

Group 3C Preliminary Task

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A Note To The Moderator

Hello and welcome to my individual Media AS-level blog. Thank you for taking time to look around!

You can navigate around my blog by clicking on the links on the right hand side of the page. There you will also find links to my Group Blog and the Main teaching blog (which contains links to the other blogs from our School).  You can filter posts by labels or date, and there is a blog archive if you want to look through chronologically. My evaluation answers are posted here in reverse order from 1-7 for your convenience.

On this blog you will find the independent research I undertook, my individual initial idea and my final evaluation questions. It also features work produced for my preliminary task, including the evaluation, and the videos for both my finished preliminary task and main opening sequence are located at the top of this page. I really hope you enjoy watching them as they are the product of a lot of hard work and creativity and hopefully you will be engrossed by the story of Mute.  

On my Group Blog you can view the work I individually contributed towards throughout the development, production and post-production of our opening sequence, by clicking on the tag labelled 'Charley' alongside the rest of the work our group produced.

Once again, thanks for your time and I hope you enjoy reading and watching the content on my blog!

Charley Packham Candidate no. 3565 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


But feel free to have a look around :)

Evaluation Question 1

"Mute- the 2011 Action/Drama starring Anjelica Barbe 

Living in a speechless world where evolution has led humans to be born without voice boxes, Ava meets two rebellious boys who have somehow managed to keep their voices.
Together, immersed in a world of revolution and secrets, they flee the country to locate a team of rebel scientists developing their own manmade voiceboxes. The only thing they need is the DNA of a human who can speak, but the government is on the team's trail and what began as a journey of hope turns into one with only the tiniest chance of success, even if they do make it in time. A thrilling, fast-paced Action-Drama from Binary Studios™, Mute is far from the average rebellion story and certainly doesn't end in fairytale perfection, yet audiences are guaranteed to be glued to the screen from the first second to the last.

1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

a) Genre
Moodboard showing a few of our Genre influences

The genre of our film was Action/Drama but as the pre-production process progressed we tried to incorporate elements of Sci-Fi to compliment the story's dystopian ideas, strongly picked up on by the focus group from our screening. Harnessing initial individual research into film openings we noticed  often with Action/Drama films the characters and narrative is often established through a voiceover, as displayed here in the Spiderman opening sequence.

However, we decided to challenge this by not including a voiceover and setting up a very enigmatic sequence which raises a lot of questions to be answered by watching the fim, engaging our audience by providing them with cliffhangers and a reason to keep watching.

Sci-Fi films like Gattaca (Niccol, 1997) and Minority Report (Spielberg 2002) often feature uturistic mise-en-scene and a lot of technology, so we tried to include lots of electronic devices such as iPhones, iPads and XBox's to illustrate the themes of our movie. However, our film is set in present day London so it was not necessary for us to try and make it look radically different, the creepiness and USP of the sequence relies on the subtlety of the dystopia: everything LOOKS the same except people do not speak. To create authenticity and verisimilitude we shot our sequence in a typical middle-class, suburban area. This coupled with the ordinariness of Ava challenges the sterotype of typical action films with exotic locations and super-hero like main characters, making her journey all the more extraordinary.


 b) Narrative structure

Although the film deals with an unusual idea, it has a fairly formulaic plot and we can easily apply Todorov’s theory of equilibrium to the opening sequence:

The rest of the film would illustrate her journey to reach a new equilibrium where everyone is able to speak. Here is a chart of the whole plot:

As action/drama films often have sequels (e.g The Batman Trilogy) or ambiguous endings, (e.g Inception) we decided to  create another disruption at the end of the film: whilst the nation celebrates, we hear the government plotting to kill off Ava and Benjamin with the cover story that the voiceboxes are infected and everyone needs to have them removed.

Our film fits in with Propp’s character theory although we have challenged the traditional gender stereotypes of the 'princess' or 'damsel in distress' by having a headstrong lead female character. Our protagonist Ava is the heroine with the function of moving the narrative forward. Although he does not appear in the opening sequence, Benjamin’s friend serves as the victim tragically killed by the villainous government represented by the merciless guards who follow and try to kill them (like the collateral damage of agents in James Bond movies).

c) Form

The traditional form of an opening sequence introduces characters and plotlines conventionally or begins 'in medias res' the middle of the action, cutting back to an earlier date to show events leading to this point. We decided to go for a conventional approach for our sequence but ensured we made the audience aware of what the rest of the film might be about from the zoom on the webpage at the end. To establish Ava as the main character, we framed her shots so that she was nearly always central in composition and were stylistically inspired by director Aronofsky including a hand-held behind the head shot which helps put consumers in her position to feel closer to her in order to straight away establish a connection between audience and characters- breaking the 4th wall. We deliberately chose an actress with long blonde hair which is striking and would bring her out of the dull backgrounds.
Aronofsky's famous 'behind the head shots'

As we only had 2 minutes for our sequence, we placed our titles over the footage; only using black screens for the title and institutional information, similar to the opening titles of This Is England.


To keep to the conventions and form of an opening sequence we had to apply our knowledge of continuity. We did this by filming the same shots from different angles, with Anjelica staying as still as possible in between takes to make the action flow seamlessly. Although we had a variety of shots, we had take care not to break the 180 degree rule as this would be disruptive to the audience. In post-production we edited several clips together to create match-on-action shots such as this one:

 d) Style

We wanted to differentiate our film away from cookie-cutter Hollywood high concept blockbusters by creating a gritty, kitchen-sink, British visual style. From the initial stages of planning and pre production through to post, we kept referring to the TV asbo-superhero drama Misfits for inspiration for our cinematography and decided to replicate its low saturation and high contrast grading.

To make our sequence physically look like a film of Action/Drama/Sci-Fi genres, we spent a long time in post production colour grading to create a cinematic, dark and moody look and filmed the exterior shots at dusk in overcast weather for a low key lighting effect. Without replicating we took inspiration from films such as Shutter Island (Scorcese 2009) and recent release Limitless (Burger 2011), which use colour grading to particularly great effect with vibrant colours when the protagonist is under the influence of the drug and desaturated colouring when the effect is over.

Some attributes of our sequence were pretty conventional, for example, the choppy fast paced editing of the exterior shots and the loud thumping music, similar to the opening of Fight Club (Fincher 1999).

We constantly included close ups to show the blankness and almost mechanicism of the characters in the film and in a sequence with no dialogue it was vital we kept the audiences attention by making sure everyone was always doing something. In moments of interaction (via text) we had to make sure our actors were very expressive e.g the exaggerated eye rolling and puzzled looks almost as a substitute for words, instead of telling, showing.

We chose a digital font for the title to anchor the film in technology and illuminate the sci-fi aspects.

The exterior shots in the first half are not real time but are instead choppy, jumpy, timed to music montage editing to establish the scene and create fast pace and enigma (harnessing Barthes enigma code).

Using our knowledge of Levi-Strauss’ theory we tried to create binary opposites throughout our sequence to make Ava stand out in this silent world. The establishing bus stop shot shows her sitting down, staring out pensively in contrast to everyone else standing, looking down and texting.

We also tried to create a contrast in noise from the loud music to the quiet diegetic sound of the house- the only noise in the sequence coming from escapist mediums e.g music and television. This was well received by our audience as many wrote on the feedback questionnaire that the absence of sound created an eerie atmosphere and kept them on edge. The pace of the film changes once she reaches home with longer pan and track shots as opposed to quick-cut close ups to reflect the normality and mundanity of her domestic situation.

Evaluation Question 2

 2. How does your media product represent particular social groups?

As a group we decided it was very important for us to create a sequence that looked very real- like it could actually happen. By including CUs of people at the busstop at the beginning we were trying to make it look like a social commentary on how much the youth of today text and communicate non-verbally, playing on the idea of overexposure to technology, a trait associated with the 'generation Y' demographic.  

Source: Brand Mercenaries

We cast ethnically and racially diverse extras to replicate the multiculturalism seen everyday on the streets of London. We wanted to ensure a fair and realistic representation using people from different backgrounds, with different styles and tastes to show that this inability to speak is something that affects EVERYONE equally, subjugating their autonomy and blanketing them under this one idea of lost verbal communication. This makes the characters in the film almost robotic which further connotes Sci-Fi themes.  The real signifier which reveals the film as a dystopia is when the middle aged mum uses an iPad to communicate with her daughter, showing that EVERYONE in this world uses technology, regardless of age and creates a pretty eerie effect.

 Challenging Gender Stereotypes

"Out of Total Film’s list of the 100 Greatest Female Characters in movies, ‘38 are a character in someone else’s story. 25 of those are primarily a love interest. Approximately 1/5 do not survive their film."

We wanted to break these outdated conventions by featuring a headstrong female character, a bit sassy and edgy but not too much of a tomboy. We tried to reflect this in costume with Doc Martens to show a bit of toughness but softened by her long blonde hair and feminine features to make her a bit more vulnerable and relatable

We wanted to portray a fairly conventional family unit so we saw the characters interact with eachother with traditional relationships concerning mother/daughter conflict and the reserved and distracted younger brother.

Evaluation Question 3

3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?

We created the fictitious institution Binary Studios as an independent British production company specialising in cutting edge Brit-Grit dramas. Dystopian films are often very controversial (A Clockwork Orange, 1984) so we needed a corporate identity which could pull off the issues in our film successfully. Mute’s action and Sci-Fi elements would require a pretty high budget so would potentially be a co-production financed by foreign investors (hence our distributor Phoenix INTERNATIONAL Pictures).  Often British production companies are not traditionally known for making action films, and are associated with emotive dramatic films from directors such as Mike Leigh or typically ‘British humour’ comedies from the likes of Richard Curtis.

Our film could break into an untapped market and could potentially create a large revenue in doing so. We best decided as a group that our films rights for distribution could be sold at a film festival e.g Sundance, SXSW so it is up to them to use their knowledge and expertise to distribute and exhibit the film as they best see fit. It could potentially have a worldwide release due to the universal themes, young, hot cast and topical issues. American audiences may enjoy the ‘happy’ending, but the last twist could engage audiences that like to be left thinking about the film long after the credits are over and paves the way for sequels also which will appeal financially to potential distributors. The distributor may chose to market the film with a viral campaign- popular with a young audience and particularly relevant since it is a film about advances in technology, spawned by the Web 2.0, Generation Y demographic. In addition to this there could be a variety of short form content such as iPod/iPhone apps, a YouTube channelsshowing clips from the film in anticipation of its release and a Twitter and Facebook page to target specific niche audience groups from our core demographic of 16-24 year olds.

A real life comparison- Pathé UK

Unlike Phoenix International, Pathé UK is a fully integrated studio involved in all aspects of filmmaking, from production and development through to international sales and distribution and is the longest established film company in the world. Previous releases range from  Chicken Run (Lord & Park 2000) to Slumdog Millionaire (Boyle 2008) and the company is continental Europe's leading cinema exhibitor and one of the leading distributors in the UK and France. Pathé is part owned by Vivendi so has the financial infrastructure of a huge media conglomerate behind it, meaning that if entered into a co-production with Binary Studios, they could supply a fairly high budget for a film like Mute in return for the distribution rights. Pathé would be an ideal distributor for our film as the universal themes mean it can target a broad reach across Europe and have a mass release in cinemas. However it would be beneficial to intitially release it at film festivals to perhaps gain critical acclaim and buzz before a cinematic release.

Evaluation Question 4

 4. Who would be the audience for your media product?

Our film rating is 15+ so we aimed to target the most proliferate film going audience of 16-24 year olds. We decided to rate our film this certificate due to the complex themes and darkness of the plot-it does not exactly make for light hearted viewing. However, after undertaking research by compiling focus groups we noticed that we also had a secondary market of older adults, intrigued by the sophisticated storyline and political/social/technological conflicts raised by the film.

Though predominantly aimed at a young British urban audience, due to its location and style, the universal themes of language and love makes it appealing globally. As a hybrid genre film, it has a wide reach and appeals to both genders. 

The Sci-Fi elements help appeal to a male audience as does the supporting male characters and good looking female star but the fact she is a strong independent woman helps to draw in a female audience as does the sub plot of a love story.

All these elements combine to create a film more targeted at a niche market than mainstream audience attracted by formulaic Hollywood blockbusters. The young cast makes it hip and current and the ideas behind the story are very topical. Some viewers may not enjoy a film without dialogue- in our audience feedback a few people wrote that they would find it difficult to watch a film without speaking in and the novelty of it would soon wear off. This posed us to question if we were to make the whole film perhaps including a voice over to make it slightly more accessible. Constantly having to the screen to understand what each character is saying may put off some people that perhaps do not enjoy watching foreign language films due to having to read subtitles.

Typical Audience Member Profile:

Name: Clare Alridge
Age: 22
Nationality: British (originally from Manchester)
Occupation: Student (Receieved AAB at A-level is now studying English Literature at Sussex Uni) Has been on a gap year travelling across Australia and Asia
Enjoys: Going out with friends, going to clubs/gigs, shopping (favourites include Topshop, H&M and Zara), watching television, listening to music, reading, topical contemporary documentaries e.g My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and drama's like Misfits, film interests vary on mood but enjoys a hard hitting thrilling watch as much as a easily palatable rom com
Media Consumption: Uses Facebook and Twitter occasionally, keeps up to date with news via BBC and celebrity gossip sites like Perez Hilton, attends the cinema maybe once or twice a month (usually on Orange Wednesdays due to student income!), Owns a Blackberry Smartphone

Evaluation Question 5

 5. How did you attract/address your audience?

 To draw in a young adult audience, we used a range of actors from this age group and chose a Drum & Bass song, the genre being very popular with students and young people who frequently go to clubs. To ensure we had a fair representation of modern Britain, we used extras from different ethnicities and different backgrounds to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in the story by creating as normal a setting as possible, making it all the more shocking when we find out noone can speak.  We have a good looking and talented cast of young actors and we could include an actor with critical acclaim such as an ‘Orange Rising Star’ award to give the film more credibility and generate publicity.

  • The issues tackled in the plot and overall feel of the film lends itself quite well to a viral marketing campaign- particularly popular with the young Web 2.0 generation.
  •  We decided that a film predominantly without dialogue may be a bit too dull and difficult to understand so we thought that the rest of the film could have Ava’s voiceover so the audience can empathise and relate to her more easily. However we chose not to include this in the opening sequence to generate lots of enigma and make viewers want to continue watching.
  • As previously mentioned, the inclusion of a female protagonist helps give the film more female appeal.

Action films are an incredibly popular genre but Drama is not traditionally favoured by a young audience that generally enjoys ‘having a laugh’. However, we have seen through highly popular TV series Skins, and hard hitting dramatic films such as Kidulthood (Clarke 2006), Trainspotting (Boyle 1996) and This Is England (Meadows 2006) that there is definitely a market for drama, all these films cited most popular with males aged 17-29 (source: IMDB Pro).

To publicise our film sequence, we held a screening in school creating a Facebook event and sticking posters up around the areas most frequently visited by older students and sixth formers. We kept the description very minimal, just outlining important information, playing on our audience curiousity so they would be hooked in to see it, just as we want them to the real film. 

Blumler and Katz's Uses and Gratifications Theory
Our film and opening sequence harnesses this theory in order to appeal to our intended audience:
 The strange idea, what if we lived in a world without voices? is a strong talking point and arouses discussion between friends, family and film fans alike satisfying curiousity, establishing personal relationships and particularly appealing to a young audience as it concerns a contemporary topical issue: the proliferation of technology and how it is leading people to communicate less and less face to face. Our film is very escapist, as it is a dystopia, so the audience is able to fully immerse themself in the films narrative enriching their experience of the film. 

We were succesful in appealing to our audience as our feedback from our screening was overwhelmingly positive, with ratings of 6-10 and a median of 8 with a majority saying they would see the film if it came out because of its original and unusual idea.

Mute - Filled In Questionnaires
A selection of feedback questionaires