Friday, 6 May 2011

Evaluation Three: What have you learned from your audience feedback?

Audience feedback has been invaluable to us. To make as professional, well targeted, a promotional package as possible, we relied on outside opinions from our target demographic to offer unbiased critique on our work.

First impressions are important, hence we wanted a title which we felt represented our film and would entice our target audience. After drafting three prospective titles, based on a map of key words, we produced a survey to receive feedback on which our prospective audience found the most appealing. As well as the main question about our film's title, we included questions about the participant, such as their age and sex, how often they visit the cinema, and about their interests. This enabled us to not only discover the most popular title overall, but the title that was the most popular with our target demographic/audience.

To receive targeted responses from our key demographic/audience again, as we felt this was the most valuable audience feedback to us, we posted the first mock up of our teaser poster on to my fashion blog on Tumblr. In doing this, we were introducing ourselves to our absolute key audience; predominately females 18-34, with a strong interest in fashion modeling, who pursue this interest as recreation. We received quite a few comments, including:
"This looks interesting... but the combination of the shadowed background and hair falling across her face is giving off more of a thriller feel."
"Assuming the tape measure is the main focus, you may want to remove some of the other factors. The tape measure didn't catch my eye when I first looked at the poster, and it took me a while to realize what I was supposed to be looking at."
"This looks quite professional! It has a lot of potential, but there's something off... I think it's the top/skin/bottom proportions. They're uneven."
We found this feedback to be so valuable, because we too had felt something was off; but it took an outside, unbiased, critic to pinpoint exactly what was wrong.
With this constructive criticism, we were able to develop our teaser poster. We changed the orientation from portrait to landscape, cropping the head away to remove the thriller-like and distracting covered face and to equalize the proportions of the top/skin/bottom. We used this change of orientation to our advantage, creating a billboard teaser from the background of the posters for "Picture Me" and drawing inspiration for the style from the popular Calvin Klein campaigns. Having read that "the tape measure didn't catch my eye when I first looked at the poster", we hoped that, even though we had tidied the poster up and drawn better attention to the tape measure, should the tape measure still not catch some members of our target audience's attention, perhaps the pretention of a renowned fashion brand would.
We re-uploaded our new poster, and received much more positive comments. Most included acknowledgement of our Calvin Klein campaign inspiration, which was very re-assuring, and the user who commented before about the shadowing and hair combination said; "Much better :) The shadowing looks great now, much more atmospheric... more ominous instead of scary."
Whilst we really took advantage of audience feedback to develop our poster, and found it very valuable, we feel that we could have connected with our audience more during the development process of our website. We focussed more on drawing inspiration from and challenging the conventions of other websites we had researched, and, as we received very positive feedback from our classmates throughout the process, we did not feel that we needed to change anything. However, in hindsight, I wish we had also appealed for opinions from our target audience as we did with our poster, because at times we have wondered whether our poster has come out as too generic and not fashion orientated enough.
After editing the first sequence of our trailer, including the sequence to the intro of Paramore's "Decode", our production company logo, and a scene of dialogue between Cindy's character and her friend, we uploaded it to all of our Facebook accounts. With the majority of people on Facebook, uploading a section of our trailer to the site was similar to launching it to a sample of a "real world" audience.
The comments we received were positive about the music we chose, and felt the editing worked in sync. We received one comment from an 18 year old female (so in our target demographic), which said; "I feel really sorry for the girl in the intro. The scenes with her mother and boyfriend were very sweet and she looked so sad thinking about them." We were pleased that the intro had receive our desired sympathies from a member our target audience, and that she had realized that Cindy's character was reflecting on our past; it told us that we had edited the intro well.
However, the scene of dialogue after our production company intro (a scene between Cindy's character and her friend, walking towards a post box with an envelope, containing Cindy's modeling photos for the agency but this is never mentioned, whilst Cindy's friend asks Cindy if she "is sure she wants to do this", never mentioning what "this" is) received predominately negative feedback. For example, "I don't understand, what is the "this" they're referring to? Is it her modeling?" (which came from a friend who knew the theme of our film before watching) and "I don't think this adds very much to your trailer other than confusion, to be honest. Perhaps cut it?"
Having found audience feedback so valuable during the production of our teaser poster, we decided to trust it again and cut the small scene of dialogue.
- Trailer: We felt like scenes were moving too fast, Ryan "liked, didn't feel like he was missing anything, was definitely interested to see more." not so keen on font. He's opposite sex to our demographic, but has same interest in the arts and fashion.

The next time we shared our trailer with outside critics was after we had cut all of the scenes to fit our music, to both the "Decode" intro and the intro to Muse's "MK Ultra". The fast pace of "MK Ultra" had lead to our cutting our scenes quite finely to run in sync with it.

Evaluation Two: How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary tasks?

As a promotional package overall, I think the combination of our main product and ancillary tasks is very effective. 

Across all three products, we have used a minimalistic and exposing aesthetic, as we are representing our film, which is an exposé style drama about the modeling industry. We needed to make this clear to our target audience (females 18-34, cosmopolitan, with an interest in the fashion industries), and from our research we were able to understand icons of this theme; such as minimalism, powerful images, and references to fashion houses. To produce the best representation of our film, we considered all of these elements and incorporated the most representative into all three of our products.

Using a predominately monochromatic palette for our teaser poster and website were how we achieved our minimalistic aesthetic, and the stark images used in our teaser poster and trailer supported the exposé style we have attempted to achieve with our film. We downloaded the minimalistic Calvin Klein font and created a title for our film in Adobe Photoshop CS3 which we were able to use across all if our products, to enhance the references our film contains to the real fashion industries and stories for our audience.

Using the same title font across all of our products also acted as a constant, to make it clear to audience that each piece of material is promoting the same film.

As well as being consistent in style as a set, each piece of material also has its own strengths as a promotional tool, which, when combined, enables the whole package to have covered three different styles of advertising for three slightly different consumers. Should our film be being released, the teaser poster would be the first piece of promotional material released. It's simplicity allows for even the more passive members of our target audience to be able to consume the strong iconic image and the basic information we provide with little concentration. 

Our trailer would be next to be released, developing upon the initial interest our teaser poster would have created by providing more information for members of our target audience who are a little more focussed. Finally, our website would be available for members of our target audience who have developed a strong interest in our film and would like to research more information. We, as a group, feel that the three stages of promotion our package establishes combined is very effective in reaching out to our target audience and creates the best chance of our film's success.

Evaluation One: In what ways does your media product use, develop, or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

When planning and producing our film trailer, there were many elements of other films, television shows, and their respective trailers which influenced our group's decisions.

One of the trailers which we came to look to the most throughout our pre-production research was the trailer for Joel Schumacher's 2010 film "Twelve". "Twelve" is a film that touches on many similar themes to our own, and is targeted towards the same audience. The element to the trailer for "Twelve" that we found the most interesting was the retrospective opening.

The trailer for "Twelve" opens with a long panning shot of Chace Crawford's character, White Mike, at an emotional low point.

This single shot is intercut with flashbacks to the protagonist's most poignant memories; memories of his deceased mother. This effect is used as an establishing sequence for the audience. It establishes a key moment from the protagonist's past, which in turn establishes a key element to his emotional state and establishes how the following events shown in the trailer started to unfold in the film's world.
As a group, we liked this technique because it was quite unique and drew audience interest. (In an industry as competitive as the film industry, a drawing first impression from promotional material is essential to a media product's success.)

We used this technique with a similar single long panning shot of our protagonist at her low point, at the pit of her story; when she has become homeless. Although this showed a specific key moment in our plot, whereas the trailer for "Twelve" just showed an unspecified moment when the protagonist's low emotional state was open to the audience, we still felt this was not a plot spoiler; it's not the ending of our film, it's the pit of the protagonist's story. Rather than being a plot spoiler, we felt that it would be an incentive to the audience to see the film to see how the character recovers from the situation.
We considered using a still long shot which zooms into a close up shot of our protagonist, but felt that the pan, in the direct style of the "Twelve" trailer, worked far better. The pan's moving to focus on our protagonist on the street was a far better representation of this shot being from a passing person's (or the audience's) perspective, in contrast to the flashbacks which are from the perspective of our protagonist.

As in the "Twelve" trailer, we used literal flash transitions between our panning shot and the flashbacks. However, we developed upon "Twelve"'s use of poignant memories, which were used to establish their protagonist's mental state which was key to establishing their film's plot, by using happier memories, which establish the difference between where our protagonist has come from to where she is now, which is key to establishing our film's plot.

Other trailers we looked at also influenced decisions we made about the production of our trailer's opening. For example, we looked at the trailer for "Black Swan" as it is another film which touches onto similar themes to our own, and found it's use of color interesting.

The washed out effect represented the emotional draining Natalie Portman's character Nina suffered due to the strain of her career, and we decided to emulate this coloring on the panning shot in our trailer's opening with a color filter in Sony Vegas Pro 9.0 to represent the emotional draining of our protagonist due to the strain of her career.
We developed upon this technique by using a warmer color filter on the flashbacks in our trailer opening to contrast with our protagonist's drained, "cold", emotional state after her career has taken everything from her, with the happier, "warmer", emotional state she was in prior to modeling.

The same washed out effect was used in another trailer we looked at, for the documentary "Picture Me". In this trailer, washed out, over bright, coloring is used to represent the documentary's exposé style, "shining the light" on the modeling and fashion industries.

We decided to emulate this effect on scenes from our trailer which were inspired by true stories we had read about in the media and seen in other films and television shows, scenes which were more exposing. However, after showing a sequence from our trailer to our Media Studies class, who are close in age to our target audience, the feedback we received was negative towards this decision. Class members thought the differences in coloring on different scenes in the sequence made it feel disjointed. So, we reversed the decision and made the coloring on our trailer, post the opening, constant.

As mentioned, many of the scenes shown in our trailer were inspired by true stories we had read about in the media and seen in other films and television shows, and a few were inspired by fictional stories with an element of truth. This was because we wanted our film/trailer to have as high a level of verisimilitude as possible, and for us to be able to tell as honest and exposing a story as possible. For these stories, we looked to print and online fashion media sources which are targeted towards our audience (such as more "accessible", lower end fashion magazines like "Grazia", and more popular online fashion blogs like "The Cut"), and documentaries and television shows like "Picture Me" and "The Beautiful Life". We took themes from real stories, such as the sexual harassment charges associated with photographer Terry Richardson and often speculated about extreme diets/eating disorders, and developed upon them by amalgamating them into one plot.

We turned this plot into a sequence of key scenes for our trailer by editing to a piece of music with a strong beat and a mood which reflected our film, a technique we drew from, again, watching trailers for films similar to our own, such as "Twelve" and "The Social Network".
Post it's opening, the trailer for "Twelve" picks up pace with the song "Kids" by MGMT, to reflect the should-be innocence of the film's characters, before progressing into the even faster-paced and more erratic "MK Ultra" by Muse, to reflect the actual insanity and downward spiraling effects of their situation. As a group, we liked the use of "MK Ultra", and the editing of scenes in the trailer in correlation with the song's rhythm, in particular.
The trailer for "The Social Network" uses the same editing technique, to a cover of Radiohead's "Creep". With each beat, the shot changes. This makes the trailer easier for the audience to watch as the visuals are in sync with the audio, which, with the fast pace, helps to sustain interest.
Hence, editing our trailer in sync with our chosen music is a technique we were keen to use. For our trailer's opening, our music choice was more atmospheric, because our shots were longer and our priority was to build the film's mood. For this we used the intro to Paramore's "Decode", which has been used in retrospective sequences in the trailer for the film "Twilight". As we moved into our main sequence, where we wanted to build tension and represent our character's losing control, we moved into the intro of Muse's "MK Ultra".
Teaser Poster and Website:

To draw inspiration for our teaser poster, we looked at the posters for several films and television shows similar to our own film. Whereas for our trailer we researched several example trailers of differing but similar themes to our own to explore all of the conventions which appeal to our target demographic, for our poster we focused on researching example posters which were targeted towards our demographic and are for media products which explore the same themes as our film, because a teaser poster needs to make more of an instant impression.

The three posters we were most inspired by were for the documentary "Picture Me", and television shows "The Beautiful Life" and "Beautiful People". A constant convention amongst them was minimalism; with monochromatic or light coloring, and characters dressed in little (to none, in the case of "The Beautiful Life") basic clothing. We used this idea whilst drafting and creating our initial poster, shooting our protagonist with a full body shot, wearing a simple shirt and trousers set, against a white background. We developed upon this by adding a tape measure around her waist, and having her face covered by her hair as she looks down at the measurement, to represent where the focus of her mindset becomes directed in the film. Using Adobe Photoshop CS3, we adjusted the coloring of the image to black and white, and used simple Arial font, similar to that used on all of the aforementioned posters. We liked the finished effect, feeling that it represented the exposé nature of our film.

However, after receiving audience feedback, we realized a full body shot was not enabling the audience to focus on the tape measure, a key symbol of our film. We looked back at the original posters which had inspired us, and noticed the billboard in the lower half of one of the alternate posters for "Picture Me".

We decided to develop upon this inspiration and challenge the convention of using a traditional poster to promote our film. The minimalistic approach to design was still a theme that we wanted to use, so we researched minimalistic fashion billboard campaigns. Calvin Klein stood out to us, as the clothing collections themselves are minimalistic in design and are promoted in black and white images each season. In emulation of this, we shot our image with our protagonist wearing the same trouser and shirt set as before, against a white background, and in black and white. However, we also made some developments, coloring the skin of her stomach to draw even more of a focus to the character's weight obsession. To finish, we downloaded and used the Calvin Klein logo font to add our film's name and "coming soon" to the poster.

We used the same minimalistic approach whilst producing our website. We looked to the websites for the same films we had been researching for inspiration for our trailer edit and poster.
The website theme we drew the most inspiration from was from the website "Picture Me". It was in keeping with the minimalistic them were using across our media products, and the clean layout allowed information to be easily consumable for our audience. Hence, whilst browsing the galleries on Wix to find a template to edit, we were looking for (and found) one which was similar to this website.

However, we also wanted our website to represent the dark undertones our film features. To do this, we challenged to conventions of the minimalist, white background, black font, fashion media websites and reversed their color scheme, using a dark background with a white font. Before we applied this to our website, we were concerned that it may be reflective of a film from the horror genre, but we were pleased with the finished result and audience feedback was very positive.

Production - Website Production.

We have now started to edit our website. As mentioned in my Website Planning post, our group has settled on Wix's "Grill & Bar" template

Production - Request for Permission to Film.

As our trailer script shows, we will be shooting one scene in a public fitness center. There are a few in our area, and our group has chosen to use the one at QE School in Wimborne, as one member of our group, Phoebe, used to be a student there, and the layout of their fitness center fits the layout we have pictured.

However, as it is a public fitness center, and is not owned by us nor our school, we sent them a request to film via email.

"Dear Sirs,

We are a group of A2 Media Studies students from Ringwood School. For our coursework, we would like to use your fitness center to shoot one scene. We would aim to film within the space of one hour, and there would be a group of four. (One actress, three production.) Would this be possible?

Kind regards,

Melanie Davis, Oliver Kent, and Phoebe Ward"

We received a polite response the next day, informing us that we will be able to film at the fitness center, provided that we give them two weeks' notice and come before lunch, as this is their least busy time.

Production - Cast.

We have now cast our film, so that, with our trailer scripted and arranged, we are prepared to film. We have cast two members of our group for two minor roles, as our main priority for those is that we use people who we have faith are reliable. We have cast outside our group for our three main roles, however, as our main priority for those roles is that we use actors who are skilled and fit the character description, as this will support the verisimilitude of our film.

Our cast are, in order of appearance;

Yasmine Hyne as Cindy

James Butler as Cindy's Boyfriend

Adele Ward as Cindy's Mother
Phoebe Ward as Cindy's Friend

Planning - Title Ideas and Audience Feedback.

With our filming script finished and the production of our supporting media (poster and website) underway, our group now has a very clear vision of our film and its message, and are able to start discussing potential titles.

We are all agreed that our main theme is our protagonist's struggles with her weight as she pursues entering the modeling industry, and that this should be reflected within our title. This lead us to list various "keywords" associated with extreme dieting and modeling, such as; weight, size, measure, thin, figure, image, face, perception, beauty. From these we were able to draw up three potential names, all of which we would be content to attach to our film. These are; Thinspiration, Extreme Measures, and Weighted Decision.

  • Thinspiration is drawn from our protagonist's initial "inspiration" to start modeling and, as a result, extreme dieting. We feel that it highlights her obsessive nature about pursuing both. It is also a reference to the real world pro-anorexia websites which bring together communities of extreme dieters to share tips and images of their "thinspirations"; often the thinnest of models.

  • Extreme Measures is drawn from our protagonist's determination and will to do whatever it takes to succeed. The "Extreme" portion of the title is a direct reference to her extreme dieting, and the "Measures" references her reasons for her actions; to fit into the fashion industry's small standard sample size. The "Measures" portion would also reflect the image on our poster, should we chose to use one of the designs featuring a tape measure.

  • Weighted Decision is drawn from the drastic decisions our protagonist makes in her pursuit to be a model; in particular her decision to follow an extreme diet to drop her weight. We feel that the title highlights just how drastic a decision this is, with the "Weighted" portion of the title not only being a reference to what the decision is concerning, but also the impacts it has on her life.

As we have three potential titles which we, as a group, feel could all work for our film, we turned to our potential audiences for feedback about which they feel is the most intriguing; the one which would be most likely to draw them to see our film, which, of course, is our main objective.

I made a basic survey for us to use to collect the opinions of our potential audience, and also to get to know a little bit about them. For example, we know that our target audience is females 18-34, so by including those surveyed's genders and ages in with their feedback, we can get an idea of which title is the most popular overall, and which is the most popular with our target market.

Production - Storyboard.