Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Watching: Documentary

The documentary "Watching" from the BBC talks about films opening title sequence and the first few scenes which are aimed to capture the audiences attention. 
Thomas Sutcliffe highlighted that " Films need to seduce their audience into long term commitment. While there are many types of seduction, the temptation to go for instant arousal is almost irresistible." This means that in order to attract the audiences attention in the first scenes of the film you have to do something either dramatic or possibly unexpected. However to do something dramatic or unusual is really irresistible. It will make all films the same layout. Which audiences I believe will pick up on quickly. 

I agree with Jean Jacques Beinix that the audience need to nurture their inpatients or want. If you start strong it poses the question what should you do after to maintain the audiences' interest. This is a big risk because in the remainder of the film you will be forever answering questions rather than thickening a plot.

Obviously, you want to reveal information to audience to help them along but at the same time you don't want to have the audience suss the whole plot before the story even develops. Its a two way street. A great opening can achieve this balance without loosing the audiences' interest.

Stanley Kauffmann describes a classic film opening where it starts with an establishing shot (which ironically we use this in our thriller opening too). Gradually with each shot the footage gets closer to a level where we are used to seeing humans.  By this method we are told where the film is set, what time period, what a characters is doing and what possibly their occupation is. 

Another director, explained what the intentions for each of his shots where. For example the slow pan from right to left it suggest that this is going to be a long film until a jump cut to a guy who has his foot on throttle which indicates that anything can happen in the film. In addition he highlights that there is no dialogue which he believes is the best way because you are told what may happen or what's happened with out the need for dialogue (we used no dialogue as we thought it would be more effective). 

Kyle Cooper's title sequence for Seven was effective because it was the film starting instantly. The discrete titles were used to introduce the character and what things the character maybe known for doing. The quick cuts and cross fades never really settled the audience which could be a factor that made the title sequence effective. The sequence in a nutshell foreshadowed what may/will happen in the story.

Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" had opening titles which were not his intentions, the studio won a battle because Orson insisted not to put the titles and musical score on it. Welles wanted to achieve a seamless opening which seemed as if the audience know exactly what is going to happen. However, at the end of the tracking the film starts with a "bang" literally. An explosion which is now common in modern day cinema.

The "favourite trick of film noir" is that the beginning starts like an ending. For the audience we aren't sure whether we are coming or going. 

The opening to "The shinning" creates suspense by firstly having establishing shots consisting of a wide shot and a birds-eye-view  shot. But at second glance you realise the camera is pursuing a car in a rural landscape with the introduction of the non-diegetic music which is very solemn. The camera never strays from the car nor does it compromise the views surrounding the car. This creates suspense because as an audience we know that the camera is fixated on this aloof car but is barely an indication of what the film may entail or why the camera is interested.

Therefore the morals i have learnt when making a great opening title sequence is that; the best opening achieve the balance of giving and withholding information in the audience. At the same time, creating the mood for the audience. Whether it be unsettling like "Seven"; or settling like "The shining". Most importantly, all openings are different and not all use the same "classic establishing shot". 

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