Research & Planning

Film Poster Analysis

A short analysis of a film few posters ahead of producing our own poster for ‘The Widow’s Web’. This will help us conform to the typical expectations of a film poster regardless of the genre.

It is also important to consider what role a film poster has in the industry. Put simply, the purpose of a film poster is to advertise the film to a general audience. This could be on billboards, buses or in print media. Therefore, the poster must be appropriate to be viewed from both a close and far distance, large or small. Thus, the font and image of your poster should be clear to read on both mediums. If your poster is eye-catching enough and sells the main features of your film (be it a famous actor or director), then there is a good chance that an audience member will look up your film online and do some further research which may end up with them seeing it in a cinema.

So, when we come to produce our own poster, we must consider not only the ways that we should conform to the noir genre, but also to help our poster act as the best promotional tool possible.

The State of the Magazine Industry

Figures from the PPA indicate that the print circulation of magazines is fast decreasing, with the main emphasis now being placed on online content. This is not just a fact for the magazine industry, but most of the print industry itself. Despite this proliferation of web content, which can be hugely successful (see Top Gear Magazine); there is still a healthy audience that enjoys buying niche and high-brow print products.

An example of this within the film genre is Little White Lies. Designed by the Church of London, the magazine prides itself on:

“Each issue of the magazine dedicates its entire front section to an upcoming theatrical release, drawing inspiration from the themes and visual tone of the carefully selected film.”

Whereas Sight & Sound, which is designed by the same company (Church of London), focuses on a similar high level of analysis- reviewing not only the mainstream films but also limited art house releases. This combined with their more analytical sections of the film industry itself cater for a more ‘educated’ audience who have a keen interest in film. Figures from 2015 suggest the magazine sold an average of 16,623, down 6.4% from the previous year. This is a respectable number when Future Publishing’s Total Film, was down 12.7% to a combined 58,916 (including 11,429 digital).

 

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A typical Sight & Sound publication

 

However, it is important to remember that these are more niche publication and are not intended for mainstream consumption. In comparison, Empire and Total Film are produced and designed for an audience who enjoys cinema but only wants to read about the latest Hollywood releases. The images they use on their cover are far more likely to be a promotional image rather than a custom designed one. The features inside may also include interviews with mainstream actors, rather than some of the more obscure directors they may feature in Sight & Sound.

Either way, both of these publications act as a good promotional tool for the film or director that is on the cover. In both cases, this will create a symbiotic relationship with both the publisher and the production company as they both seek to profit from this relationship. The magazine sells copies by riding off the back of the popularity of the text they are advertising, whilst the film itself gets extra exposure from featuring in this magazine.

Therefore, it is clear to me that by producing a magazine cover for Sight & Sound for our film, we must create something that is of a more sophisticated quality for an audience that has a deeper interest and understanding of film. This will act as a good promotional tool for both our film and the Sight & Sound publication itself.

Research Into Planning

I spent considerable time researching noir in order to create the most effective trailer as possible. This ranged from examining the trailers of existing noir films or creating my own poster as part of the practice ahead of making the poster of our film.

For example, the very first noir film I ever examined was the 1946 classic-noir ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ (Garnett). From examining parts of this film, I gained an insight into the stereotypical elements of what makes a noir film. This helped me shape the plot of the noir film with my other group members. This was developed further by watching the documentary on Film Noir and some of the thoughts of its notable directors. This also gave me a wider perspective on the patterns that appear when making a noir film. I conducted a similar exercise when viewing a video with interviews from Shane Black and Brian Helgeland who gave their thoughts on their inspirations of noir. This showed me the motivations of some of film noir’s more notable directors and I hoped this would influence our trailer by channelling the same thoughts and ideologies.

Once I had gained this basic understanding of the genre I began to look in more depth at singular film trailers. The first one that I examined was ‘The Long Goodbye’ (Atlman, 1973). This confirmed to me the existing semantic elements within noir. Some of these elements include; cigarette smoke, claustrophobic camera angles, low-key lighting and shadows across characters faces. By identifying these features, I could then ensure that I used them when producing our own noir trailer. We included the claustrophobic camera angles when Mark is hiding in the cupboard, which also included low-key lighting. I also conducted an exercise into examining the differences between a trailer and the actual film itself. By doing this I could then discern what features of the plot of our film needed to be included in our trailer.

It was at this point I began to take a more advanced look into some noir trailers. Within class, we have come to the realisation that trailers are formed of five key scenes, as otherwise, it makes the trailer feel more like a ‘best-of’ montage rather than an advert for the actual film. To refine my understanding, I looked at two more trailers; Nightcrawler (Gilroy, 2014) and Brick (Johnson, 2005). By examining Brick I took away some principals about the use of sound and editing within a trailer. Namely, that you do not have to have one continuous track throughout your trailer and you can use the transition (i.e.-silence) to create tension. I also discerned that you can use the audio of one scene over the top of another. This, in turn, will be used within our own trailer when the audio of Rosette saying “come back to bed, I’m sure it’s nothing” is used with the shot of Hans’ feet. Furthermore, the examination of Nightcrawler I discovered that it had a very similar opening shot to our own, which was of Lou during a job interview (of sorts).

Finally, once we had a detailed plan of our own film, I looked at the trailers for two more films in order to confirm to myself that we were heading in the right direction. One of the films was LA Confidential (Hanson, 1997). It was immediately eminent to me that this filmed had not aged very well. The voiceover used is nowadays seen as a cliche and the use of music was not particularly effective in my opinion either. Although it did show to me how to frame and dress a femme fatale, it was mostly an exercise of what I didn’t want our trailer to be. The second film I examined, Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994), was far more useful. Namely, its use of music was very effective. I would seamlessly use transitions to switch tracks and placed a lot of emphasis on the reveal of the title. I took this idea of the gunshots revealing the title of the film for our logo of ‘The Widow’s Web’.

Overall it is clear to see that over the course so far there has been a clear progression in my understanding of the noir genre. I hope what I have covered will positively impact my own trailer during the production stage.

Ancillary Tasks: Magazine Cover Analysis

In this task, I analysed the differences between Empire and Sight & Sound magazines. By completing this task, I now know the differences between a mainstream and a niche magazines cover. This will help us as a group during our own magazine cover production once we have decided what sort of an audience we are going to target.

The Widow’s Web: Animatic

As a group, we have produced this animatic for our trailer (drawn by Luke and edited by myself and Luke). We have used the same shots that will be in our trailer alongside the same lines of dialogue and music. Whilst these may need some slight refining for the final trailer, this animatic has now given us a placeholder to replace the drawings with the final footage.

The Widow’s Web: Storyboard

Here is the storyboard that we made as a group in preparation for the creation of the trailer for our Neo-Noir film (drawn by Luke). From this exercise, we learnt how we need to frame certain shots and for how long each shot will be on screen. Through this careful use of planning, we can now focus on moving onto the production of the trailer for our film with the knowledge of how we are going to piece it together.