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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

R+P Post 5: Our opening sequence idea

The basic story of our opening sequence is that five youths, the closest thing the police have as witnesses to the disappearance of a sixth teenager, are brought in for questioning. After a brief introductory montage showing small parts of each character, including some quirks and traits, the detective enters the interrogation room where the first person is waiting, and opens by ensuring the facts he has on file about each person is correct. He then begins questioning- however, as shot reverse shot happens and the interviewee goes out of view, when the camera goes back it is revealed that the interviewee is now a different person, despite the detective effectively only having one conversation.
A scene from 'Glee' that we used to influence our opening. In this, the adult character interrogates the younger characters, seemingly having one conversation with one character before the camera cuts back to reveal a different character. This happens multiple times and is accompanied by shot-reverse-shot. Although we are intending to swap characters in more ways than in this scene, it was still a good influence. Click to play.

This happens throughout the opening multiple times, allowing us to cover each character in a short time, while also revealing the basic outline of the case by giving us all the facts the detective receives over five interviews in what is essentially one interview, all in an interesting and hopefully compelling way. At the end of the questioning another police officer comes in and informs the detective that a body has been found, and as such the case is now murder rather than that of a missing person.
A still from 'CSI.' In this scene, two of the CSI team are interrogating one person. Two police officers or similar working together on one person is quite conventional for the crime and mystery genres, so we wanted to draw inspiration from that. As such instead of just having the detective reveal the information, we have a second police officer breaking the news. This should both increase appeal to genre fans as well as increase the drama of the scene. Click to enlarge. 
This bombshell elicits different reactions from each character, as does the detective revealing that they are now all suspects. There are some short credits at the very beginning, some superimposed over the first few shots, and the film title is given its own slot right at the end.

A big influence on this opening was of course the previously mentioned 'The Usual Suspects,' due to the fact it tells its story through the questioning- here it helped as it has before, but it also helped influence how we placed our titles, e.g. superimposed over the first few introductory shots, which are set in the film's universe rather than over a black screen, but not over shots that are directly part of the story.
These are some of the opening credits to 'The Usual Suspects.' The camera constantly pans to the right, across the river, as the superimposed titles appear and disappear in turn. The camera eventually reveals the first scene of the movie, set on a nearby boat. We incorporated this 'removed from yet still in-universe' style of superimposed credits into our own film. Click to enlarge.
However, as that movie only contains one interview with one subject, and further we didn't want to base all our ideas in one movie, we did some more research into interrogation scenes, especially those with multiple people, and came up with a few interesting finds. One particularly good inspiration was 'Now You See Me,' which contains an interrogation of two different suspects by the same two officers in the same room, but at different times. As such, sometimes the camera moves and everything in the room remains the same except the interviewee. This allows fluid and compact storytelling, with both suspects having different lines of questioning applied and responding with different things. We thought this was a great idea, and incorporated parts of it (of course with some modification to fit our needs, such as having even more interviewees) into our opening.
Here is the aforementioned scene from 'Now You See Me.' Hopefully you can see where we drew inspiration, as well as where we have changed how this technique works to fit our film better. We built on what we had learned from 'Glee' by looking at the more interesting camera movements that swap characters around in this sequence. Click to play.

Our current script reflects our current ideas, in that the dialogue has been specifically designed to work well when swapping between characters. As you can see from the clip above, when moving between characters, you cannot leave conversation hanging, even if each character has their own story. We have tried to incorporate this style of dialogue into our script by making it one continuous flowing conversation- thus it has no loose threads and tells the story we wish to tell despite the changing characters. The script was also a useful way of committing to record some concrete dialogue and character interactions.
An extract from our current script. As you may note, it is not yet typed up, purely verbal (as in we have not yet added actions and movements to make it clearer,) and has gone through revisions already. Right now this is still more than sufficient, and should still be useful by the time we reach the 'Animatic' voiceover stage. Hopefully you can see where conversation swaps between characters uninterrupted, too. Click to enlarge.
We plan to use quite a few narrative conventions throughout our sequence. Chief amongst these are filming techniques to ensure continuity and tie the story together, such as shot reverse shot to show conversation, as well as the 180 degree and 30 degree rules to keep the conversation fluid and realistic despite the changing characters in the conversation.
An example of shot-reverse-shot from the 'Glee' clip.
We also want to include match-on action to create continuity between individual shots. In terms of the camera itself, we are intending to use a variety of framings and angles to keep the scene dynamic and interesting despite being confined to one fairly small room, such as close-ups for facial expressions and emotions, high angles to show more characters at once and their interactions, and so on.
Some examples of different angles in 'Now You See Me.'
We even plan to use techniques like chiaroscuro to help get across the underlying messages of the film- a good example of this we have already planned is having one character be partially in light and partially in darkness during their reaction to hearing that the case has become a murder, in order to cast suspicion on them. Examples of most if not all of these techniques can helpfully be found in the very same 'Now You See Me' clip above.

This was a very important step for us. As well as amassing more research and inspirational films, which no doubt we will use for other purposes in other areas of planning later, we have made a lot of progress in nailing down exactly what we want to happen throughout our sequence, which of course is the first step towards planning out a storyboard, shootboard etc. which in turn should transition into a filmed opening. At this point we are not just laying groundwork for our ideas, we are directly choosing what we are going to do.

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