Friday, April 17, 2015

Critical Reflection for A-Level Project


A-Level Project

Our two trailers:
 
Music licensing for Trailer #1:
"The Escalation" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ 
 
Music licensing for trailer #2:
"Undaunted" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
 
 
And our poster:
 

Spinning an intricate web(site)

As Elanna spearheaded the editing and the creation of a poster, I've ventured into a territory I've never really explored before: web building.
 
So after much trial and error (God, SO MUCH error)  I finally constructed something I can say I'm somewhat proud of. Disclaimer: I know I said before that our website was going to be at almasangels.wordpress.com, but for the life of me I could not figure out how to make an attractive website using Wordpress due to my complete utter lack of fluency in html, which is essentially a prerequisite to building a halfway decent Wordpress site. Instead, I opted for using Wix, which is far more user-friendly for the technologically impaired such as myself. Our finished product is available at
 
Using a single page scroll site, I built the site to follow a logical path that entices a prospective consumer the more he scrolls down.
 
Our first screen below the header is a theatrical poster featuring raving reviews of our production, and ultimately serve to pique a reader's attention to find out what the hype is about.
 


Next, we feature our trailers and a brief synopsis of our production. This provides the background information about the film, giving the reader a broader understanding of what themes the film will tackle and its general plot. Including the #BeTheChange hashtag in this portion of the site also provides a subliminal clue to the viewer about engaging with us on social media.

 
Next, an exclusive sneak peek will compound the interest of the viewer, especially since the scene is both ambiguous and carries a strange sense of foreboding. This is our film opening, and it equips the viewer with the necessary background to ensnare them into our production. 

I always loved character profiles that accompanied movies, because they provided a dimensionality beyond what was on screen. Our "Meet the Characters" component does just that: provides the background and motivations for our characters, and helping viewers develop a greater idea of their complexity (thereby increasing their interest).
And, finally, a uniquely critical component: the call to action. Part of our branding is that there will be a real-life Alma's Angel movement alongside the fictional one portrayed in our film. This will not only mobilize viewers to advance our cause, but will provide a method of engagement and positive publicity as viewers sign our petition.
And finally, an increasingly crucial part of our website will be the social media engagements, including the following sites available on both web and mobile platforms:
 
Instagram,
and Twitter.
 
Our website provides not only a web presence and convergence of our product, but also a platform to engage and interact with our audience.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Constructing a website

Since our project also features a web-building component, I've not only started to construct our promotional site, but also looked at engaging examples from other hit movies.  Though most of my posts and visuals are still saved as drafts on our website, you can see our project at almasangels.wordpress.com.

Two of my favorites were the promotional websites for Gone Girl and The Imitation Game. The Gone Girl site alluded to the general conflict of the movie in a creative way – with television reports, newspaper clippings, and interviews that implicated the central character in the disappearance of his wife. This approach added a real-world dimensionality to the movie, which was probably captivating to its core audience.

The Imitation Game’s website, on the other hand, featured a code as its central motif, which though I have not seen the movie, I understand that is a recurring image on the film. Though it was a little more convoluted and harder to access information to movie as a result of the code or puzzle on the home page, I’m assuming that the site is more intended to dazzle die-hard fans of the movie rather than attract a new following.

The key problem with both of these sites is that they are both intended for a more mature audience than our project, and so they can afford a greater degree of subtlety and sophistication than our movie. So in addition to these, I also took a look at more teen-oriented films, such as the recent If I Stay and Fault In Our Stars, and concluded that they are much more simplistic and straight-forward, often featuring a one-page layout with the film's basic information, a trailer or teaser, and maybe some engaging photography.

Another aspect we need to consider, especially with our young audience, is connectivity through social media. Since our film wants to not only captivate these young people, but also promote social change, its vital that we inspire people and connect with them even after they finish watching the movie.

Back to square one: Scriptwriting Edition

AICE Media Project, take two. Now we are turning our attention to creating a marketing campaign, featuring two movie trailers, a website and a movie poster.

Over the course of the past week, Elanna has concentrated on creating a movie poster, I started our website, and we both completed the scripts for our two films. Since we don't have the luxury of filming an entire movie and extract parts of it, we constructed entire scenes just to have them for trailer.

We decided, in order to better pander to our target audience, to launch a two-pronged marketing strategy in order to receive the largest share of our 15-27 year old audience: one more focused on establishing an inspirational uplifting tone, and the other focusing more on dramatic aspects to cater to the dramatic audience.

Below are the two scripts we created:

Trailer 1:
Tone -- uplifting, inspirational, focused more on perseverance of M.C.



Black screen. As REPORTER voice is heard, the screen fades into an image of ELEANORA making eggs in the kitchen.


REPORTER
In other news, 17-year-old Alma Rodriguez committed suicide last night.


ELEANORA whips around, dropping the egg-y whisk on the ground. Report takes over the screen.


REPORTER
The Harrison High school junior was reportedly being bullied at school for being gay and died from drowning herself in her bathtub.


ELEANORA
Oh my God.


Fade to black. Cut back in to see Eleanora, flyers in hand, walking from door to door, handing out flyers and giving speeches.


ELEANORA
I thought Alma was really brave. She put up with a lot of shit just for being gay, and I always admired her. I’m bi, and I never really told anyone and she just… I dunno. It’s my last year, and I want to make sure that what happened to your sister never happens to anyone again.


Cut to ELEANORA’s face, pleading with RAINA.


ELEANORA
Or, y’know, at least try.


RAINA
I appreciate that, but now isn’t the time.


ELEANORA
I understand. I’ll go. I just wanted you to know.


Fade to black. Cut to ELEANORA opening her door to RAINA, the two of them working on Photoshop, RAINA passing out flyers on campus. While this is happening, ELEANORA’s doing a voiceover.


ELEANORA
There is no difference between us. Gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, demisexual, transgender, and all the rest: we’re all just people trying to make it in the world, trying to find our joy and our pleasures.There is no need to be cruel to each other. There is no need to belittle those who are different from us.
Life gives us enough troubles.


Cut to ELEANORA on a stage.


ELEANORA
Why do we need to help it along the way? Sign the pledge, join Alma’s Angels, and together, we can make a difference in lives across the city, across the nation, and maybe even across the world.



Trailer 2:
Tone -- sad, focused more on struggles


Black screen.
NORA
Something happened. Something bad. And nothing will ever be the same.

Abridged version of suicide scene, interspersed by flashes of black, fading in and out, more somber music. Drinking alcohol, grabbing pills, sinking into bathtub. A drum beat per shot
REPORTER
In other news, 17-year-old Alma Rodriguez committed suicide last night (pause). The Harrison High school junior was reportedly being bullied at school for being gay and died from drowning herself in her bathtub.

Shot of grieving family, sitting at table covered in black. Shot of memorial made by students with pictures, teddy bears, flowers


RAINA
Why are you doing this?

NORA
(tearfully) To make what happened to Alma never happens to anyone - gay, straight, whatever - ever again.

BULLY (screaming, with a laughing crowd around him)
You’re nothin’ but a bunch of FAGGOTS!

Nora riding bike, with fliers under her arm. Nora looks broodingly at mirror. Nora stares into her bath..

RAINA
You can’t do it. It’s impossible - the people, the prejudices - they’re not going to change. You can’t possibly take on the world.

Large crowd of people flocking to table and signing up.


NORA
You can take on the world, or let it take you. But it should always be your choice. It only takes one person to make a difference.



We will be filming our trailers both today and tomorrow, so though I have the sneaking suspicion that we (once again) overscripted, I look forward to getting this part of the project in the bag and over with. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Final Project & Critical Reflection

Whew. What a ride. My final project and critical reflection are below.


 
Note: Due to the protocol of the Creative Commons format and the wishes of the music's creator Kevin MacLeod, our music is credited in a very particular way in our production. We apologize if this is unconventional.
 

Wrapping Things Up

Whelp, the end is nigh. Basically, everything was done with our project - except one crucial part. The soundtrack of our piece has just been one continuous headache for the past three weeks - I have called Chad Brown, my contact at Glassnote Productions, every day for the past week on both his cell phone and home phone numbers, and day in and day out the response has been the same:  no, your paperwork is still being processed with upper management.

Urgh. It was enough to pull out my hair.

Finally, about three days ago, Mr. Brown told me that it was time for me to formulate a contingency plan, because it did not look like our request was going to be accepted. Elanna and I were very chagrined, especially since it was such short notice. But after some sleuthing, I found that there was in fact royalty-free music online, which was free to use provided we gave credit to it author, Kevin MacLeod. The Creative Common licensing that we used is available here. http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/licenses/

We ended up using Heart of Nowhere, which was hauntingly beautiful and widely appropriate for our piece, matching it wonderfully. The credit is as follows:

"Heart of Nowhere"
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

In other news, I committed a bit of a faux pas in my last post by answering the A-level questions on our AS level project. My new-and-improved script, which I've been working on for the past week, is in my next post in my Critical Reflection video.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reflecting on reflections

Now that our project is basically completed, except for the critical component of background music (curses, Glassnote Music!), it's dawning on me that I must be completing a critical reflection in the nest few days. Though I was initially smitten with the idea of a director's commentary, having been thoroughly impressed by some such as The Talking Dead and the commentaries provided on one of my favorite television shows, House of Cards, after one mangled first attempt I realize that not only is providing an elegant director's commentary beyond the realm of my digital capacities, but also that I have much more to say about our project than the run-length of our two minute project. Thus, I decided, an engaging podcast would serve my needs and abilities much better.
 
This post will essentially serve as my first stab (or second, if you count my botched director's commentary attempt) at brainstorming responses to the compulsory questions established by Cambridge:
 
1. How do your products use or challenge conventions and how do they represent social groups or issues?
From the onset, our project tackles issues confronting LGBT characters, a community that is all too often stereotyped, irresponsibly or unilaterally displayed or altogether neglected by the media. As I discussed in a post while I was still researching the seed that would eventually blossom into Alma's Angel, I found that gay men have six times the media representation as lesbians and 18 times the representation of bisexual characters. (To make matters worse, gay men themselves represent only 3.6% of all media portrayals). In our production, not only do we document just how the scourge of bullying drives LGBT youth to sometimes suicidal measures, but we humanize and flesh out characters so that they attain a dimensionality beyond their sexual orientation of lesbianism and bisexuality. Also, as a Latina myself, I am continuously irked that though we are the fastest growing ethnicity in the United States, Hispanic characters comprise only three percent of appearances on television, and often as the sidekick or the confused, doofusy foreigner, or for women, the sexual firecracker. Alma Rodriguez, the instigator of the events in our film, is Hispanic, and she is certainly not maligned as a sideline character.
2. How do the elements of your production work together to create a sense of ‘branding’?
We extensively researched our target demographics within the film and incorporated elements that will help brand the production to our viewers. For one thing, our production centers around a very familiar realm in the lives of the 15-28 year olds in our audience: high school. This is a domain and setting that taps into the collective conscience of this particular audience. Our inclusion of music such as Daughter's "Medicine" also taps into our core demographic as an indie band that would appeal to this audience. Our A-level project, which we will start in the course of the next week, will also brand the film to our audience in a way that incorporates social media, an attractive web presence and website, and dramatic trailers that establish the mood of the film. 
3. How do your products engage with the audience and how would they be distributed as real media
products?
Our product serves as a rallying cry for our audience to be sympathetic and supportive to the LGBT community. Rather than merely being a piece that would be viewed by an individual and quickly discarded from memory, we hope to evoke a form of advocacy that will enable viewers to share their experience in online forums and platforms, and donate to a real Alma's Angel foundation (much like Breaking Bad's "Save Walter White" page raised real-life money for cancer research). Plus, media such as cast interviews and photographs will be distributed exclusively online, allowing audience members to engage with our product even after seeing our film in theaters.

4. How did you integrate technologies – software, hardware and online – in this project?
As I mentioned before, our film would be showcased in theaters and later distributed through Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc., but it will feature exclusive web content that will enable audiences to engage along a spectrum of converged media, available digitally on computers and mobile phones alike. Online content, including cast interviews, background information about the movie, and a real-life Alma's Angel movement, will be featured on a website and across Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Snapchat to allow our viewers greater access to our product.


Attaining music right is not rockin', and it sure isn't rollin' either

Our project has essentially turned into the waiting game. With the filming and editing completed, we are now simply waiting to obtain the rights to Daughter's "Medicine." What I didn't imagine was how infuriating the process could be - I sent my request a full week ago and have yet to hear back from Glassnote Music, the production company, since our last correspondence. With the final product's deadline looming, Elanna and I are growing a little desperate for their response.
 
The last communication I received was from a Mr. Chad Brown, who asked that we fill out a Licensing Request Form.
 
 
After asking for personal details such as my phone number, address, and name, the Licensing Request Form entailed answering the following information:
 
Recording/Song: “Medicine”
Artist: Daughter
 
Name of Production: “Alma’s Angel”
Distributor/Production Co: N/A
Production Budget: $0
Music Budget: $0
 
Logline/Brief Synopsis: After hearing about the suicide death of an LGBT classmate, high school junior Eleanora Jones sparks a movement, Alma’s Angel, to combat homophobia in her school and beyond.
Detailed Scene Description: Low angle shot of ALMA’S BEDROOM with the door closed. We see ALMA open the door (alcohol in hand), walk in, and close the door as she tosses her backpack to the side, taking swigs from the bottle. MUSIC starts playing. She kicks off her shoes and walks into the bathroom, turning on the tub. She then goes to the medicine cabinet and pulls out several pill bottles, downing an indeterminable amount from each, using the alcohol to help them go down. By this time, the tub is full and she steps into it, fully dressed. She closes her eyes, sinks until she’s almost under the water, and the screen fades to black.
 
Please attach script pages, if possible. Two minute opening:
Director: Lisa Burgoa and Elanna Heda
Cast: Lisa Burgoa
 
Type of Use
[e.g. background vocal/instrumental, end title, etc.]: Background vocal/instrumental
 
Type of Media
[e.g. all media, film festival, television, DVD, online, etc.]: Two minute film opening for school project
 
If DVD, number of units:
If for advertising, what brand, product:
 
Are you monetizing online [e.g. YouTube Partnerships or Monetization]?: No
 
Duration of Use [in minutes/seconds]: Two minutes
 
Term [e.g. the length of time of the license]: 8 months to 1 year
 
Territory [e.g. worldwide, North America, US, etc.]: United States
 
 
 
 
 
 
For the most part, completing the licensing form was much easier than I imagined, though Elanna and I had reservations with the last two questions. We weren't completely sure how long our term would be, so we assumed eight months to a year would be within the realm of reason. We also hesitated before putting the United States as the territory, since we know that our final product would be most heavily scrutinized in the United Kingdom, but eventually we agreed that would be our safer bet.
So far, waiting for music licensing has taken more time than the filming and editing of our production combined. Tomorrow, March 31, was the deadline I imposed for their response - if Glassnote Music does not respond by tomorrow, it is time to adopt to reach out again, and maybe ask Daughter's European label, 4AD, for their permission instead.
If anything, this portion of the project has taught me to adopt me that creative projects, and probably professional ones, too, are bogged down by obstacles such as bureaucratic  roadblocks and paperwork. Now that the more fun component of our project is over with, we are forced to contend with the surprisingly complicated process of attaining rights  to music.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On a high note: Planning our music

As one can probably notice, right now our production suffers from a deficit of sound. Sure, there are a few smattering here and there: my footsteps, pills rattling in their canisters, the water running from the bath's faucet. But other than those scattered noises, we need something more substantial in order to compensate for our lack of dialogue: a musical score.

This was something Elanna and I have discussed for a while, but now with our film edited together, the matter needed to be resolved. From the onset, Maria Mena's "Internal Diaogue," Daughter's "Medicine," and "Down" by Jason Walker were some of Elanna's favorites.

As I let Elanna know, "Medicine" was my favorite. Besides the fact that its lyrics deal with trying to procure an unhealthy solution to problems, it's haunting melody and soft flourish are much more appropriate for this sensitive scene than the other two, which strike me as a little more explosive than "Medicine"'s more muted solemnity.


I was smitten with the prospect of "Funeral" by Band of Horses or "Trouble" by Cat Stevens, but Elanna and I reached the mutual agreement that "Funeral" had a tune that was tad too upbeat, and that "Trouble" was too "folk-sy" for our target audience.
So that settles it: "Medicine" by Daughter will be our background track. After a bit of sleuthing online, I discovered that Glassnote Records was the band's production company, and their FAQ page directed us to a Mr. Mark Nichols for licensing of music of our project. I wrote him an email - hopefully, he gives us the clear soon and we can proceed with our project.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The camera (sort of) loves me: First day of filming

I can say in all honesty that I almost gave my life to this project. As in, I just about drowned during my first dalliance with the camera. Here are a few clips from the excruciating experience (note the pained expression):
video
video

 The things we do for art.

The rest of the filming was far more fun, even with the occasional mishap (i.e. that time when I accidentally kicked a shoe into Elanna's face).

video 
One thing I  definitely did not anticipate was how many shots the most insignificant shot would take. For a millisecond shot of me turning on the faucet of a bathtub, we did three different takes. For a measly shot of me taking a (fake, of course) swig from a bottle of rum, we tried four different shots at different angles.

video video
And of course, these were among our simplest shots. More complex sequences took even longer.

Continuity was another matter to contend with. As a viewer, I always took it for granted that in each shot a character would be holding a bottle in the same hand, or that they would be standing in the same exact spot. While staging theses scenes, we had to shoot and reshoot and reshoot, pouring over our footage to make sure we didn't commit and grievous from faux pas.

The most interesting aspect of our filming was that we were afforded with the opportunity to use a mirror in our shots, lending itself to creative frames and compositions (however, not without the added challenge of concealing the camera from the mirror). Here are a few of my favorites:
video video
Overall, I'm rather proud of our finished product. Here is a tentative version, sans post-production effects, music, and finer editing:
video

It's official... We're overscripted

Elanna urged me not to share our entire script a few posts ago, but seeing as she posted it on her blog, I'm disclosing it below. As evidenced by our first filming session on Friday (which I would share, except my partner's phone cannot send large files to my email), Elanna and I grossly underestimated the duration of our first scene.

Two minute opening:
Low angle shot of a girl’s bedroom with the door closed. We see a Alma open the door (alcohol in hand), walk in, and close the door as she tosses her backpack to the side, taking swigs from the bottle. MUSIC starts playing. She kicks off her shoes and walks into the bathroom, turning on the tub. She then goes to the medicine cabinet and pulls out several pill bottles, downing an indeterminable amount from each, using the alcohol to help them go down. By this time, the tub is full (#MovieMagic) and she steps into it, fully dressed. She closes her eyes, sinks til she’s almost under the water, and the screen fades to black. Over the black screen, we hear a casual news report about HAPPY EVENT.

REPORTER
The Grayson family is very grateful they were able to find Spot after a large group from the community got together to search for him on Friday. They will be offering free ice cream at their parlor, Berries and Cream, tomorrow, Sunday March 12, to everyone who helped out.

Cut to ELEANORA making eggs in the kitchen.

REPORTER
In other news, 17-year-old Alma Rodriguez committed suicide last night.

ELEANORA whips around, dropping the egg-y whisk on the ground. Report takes over the screen.

REPORTER
The Harrison High school junior was reportedly being bullied at school for being gay and died from drowning herself in her bathtub.

ELEANORA walks forward, grabbing the remote.

REPORTER
A memorial service for close family and friends will be held on Tuesday at 4 in the Rodriguez's home. The school has refused to comment, and our hearts and thoughts go out to the family during this troubling time.

ELEANORA shuts the TV off, then clutches the remote to her chest. Fade to black.
Open to ELEANORA at the door to RODRIGUEZ house. She knocks. SISTER opens door.

ELEANORA
Hi, my name’s Eleanora. I, um, I went to school with --

RAINA
This is for friends and family only. We don’t want anyone from school here.

RAINA starts to close door.

ELEANORA
Wait, please,

RAINA stops.

ELEANORA
I know, I understand. I just wanted to say that I thought Alma was really brave. She put up with a lot of shit just for being gay, and I always admired her. I’m bi, and I never really told anyone and she just… I dunno. It’s my last year, and I want to make sure that what happened to your sister never happens to anyone again. Or, y’know, at least try.

RAINA
Listen, I really appreciate that, but now isn’t the time. I just can’t right now.

ELEANORA
I understand. I’ll go. I just wanted you to know.

RAINA closes door. ELEANORA walks back to her car, closes the door, sighs, and turns the car on. Cut to TITLE SCREEN.
FIN

Just filming the first sequence - essentially Alma drowning herself in the bathtub - took a total of a minute and 40 seconds out of our two minute intro. Obviously, we need to reevaluate exactly what we are doing. Granted, that's before we truly refine the refine the editing of our scene, but it's still such a substantial chunk of time that I find it might be better to just include the suicide in the opener. 

I'm not too thrilled at the prospect, since that would mean scrapping all of the dialogue in our script, along with two other vital scenes, but it looks increasingly like that's what we are going to have to do. Since for the A-level component of the project we have two film two trailers, I think perhaps we could still film  the next two scenes in our script and rehash them for our trailers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Character Sketches

After formulating the script,we decided to set about fleshing out our characters. Part of the process was formulating their personalities, establishing backstories, and even researching the etymology of their names (my favorite!). Below are some of the character sketches Elanna and I came up with:

  • Eleonora Lee (or Nora, for short). We arrived at this name after researching "light," seeing as Nora will enlighten her community. We want her to be compassionate, spunky, though a little hot-headed, and driven by her desire to spread awareness about LGBT rights to carry on Alma's legacy and come to terms with her own bisexuality.
  • Alma Rodriguez - her name means "soul" in Spanish, reflecting her serenity and Hispanic descent. Though she was very courageous in being openly gay at her school, eventually the inhumanity and cruelty of her classmates drove her to suicide. We want Alma to be more than just a name dropped throughout the plot, so we will detail aspects of her personality throughout our production - her love of sunflowers, her affinity for large dogs, her self-consciousness about her smile. 
  • Reina Rodriguez - As Alma's older sister, she always  served as her protector. Though reserved and somewhat sullen, her inner sunshine peeks through the cracks and she demonstrates a formidable strength even in the face of the scrutinizing attention paid to her family in the wake of a horrible tragedy. 
We figured coming up with character traits will help us advance the plot and also direct the actors in our production. Though we still haven't cast our actors, knowing the character traits will definitely help us cast our actors.