Little Star Reflection

When I first came to university one of first things that stood out to me was the 5 Ideas for our blogs, one of those ideas that I developed was titled Little Star.

Little Star revolves around the struggles of Annie, a single mother who’s son Keekin is half human half alien hybrid, and the difficulties that come with raising him in world full of prejudice.

I was quite surprised when I came up with the idea for Little Star. Most ideas that I had brainstormed before were action adventures and/or thrillers involving heroes battling titanic monsters to save the world, but not this time. It started when I watched the trailer the film Wolf Children (Hosoda 2012). I was already familiar with Hosada’s previous work, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Hosoda 2006) and Summer Wars (Hosoda 2009) so I interested to see what his latest project was. The trailer for the film captured my imagination and started to think about the concept for Little Star. The idea for Little Star was born out my own views of racism and discrimination, except I wanted to add a science fiction twist to the concept. One often talks about human rights but what about a creature on a equal evolutionary level? are they not entitled to similar rights or are they reserved for humans alone?

Racism is the idea’s central theme with a world caught in the midst of an upheaval caused by the arrival of the Gaizan. When the aliens arrived on earth their ships were damaged and they crash landed on the planet, which caused a lot of death and destruction for both the humans and the Gaizan. With the skills that I will develop while at university I could revisit this idea and develop it using what I learn in my studies. I look forward to finishing this project in the future.

Bibliography

Hosoda, M. (2012) Wolf Children (trailer) [online] available from <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xLji7WsW0w&gt; [29 November 2013]

Hosoda, M (2006) The Girl Leapt Through Time. [Blu-Ray] Japan: Madhouse

Hosoda, M (2009) Summer Wars. [DVD] Japan: Madhouse

Evaluation and Reflection

Although it can be said that the group has a good chemistry with working together and sharing ideas I must question my own input whether it was enough. Looking back my skills appear to be very limited as I was only able to provide information regarding the narrative, this combined with poor time management on my part has severely hampered my performance during this module.  if I am to continue I must develop my skills to cover a wider range of areas such as technical skills, time management and I need to feel more confident to contribute to the project or I fear my future projects will suffer as a result.  In order to improve I will have to become more involved in every aspect of the production to ensure that the assignment expectations are met.

I do not believe that we had enough meetings to discuss ideas and with the essay of module 105 it has made it very difficult to arrange meetings as we needed to arrange time to dedicate to two projects with deadlines looming at the same time.  In future group projects we will need to determine dates in advance when we can meet and schedule them in our personal diaries so as to avoid conflicting arrangements with other modules or personal appointments. however I will admit that I worked with this group a lot better than the previous four week challenge which I think maybe is due to social interaction thanks to the facebook group  [https://www.facebook.com/groups/524893797587981/], which proved invaluable for setting up our meetings to discuss work and also kept us informed upon each others status.

My contributions in regards to the narrative were built upon my pre-existing knowledge of Celtic pagan cults such as the aforementioned Crom Cruach, I do believe that this helped us to develop our narrative and gave us some strong footing to engineer a presentation that could be both believable and allude to the supernatural.  However in future I would like to expand my horizons outside of fantastical elements for it I do not I run the risk of bottle necking potential future stories to the generic conventions of the fantasy genre. I would also like to experiment with different techniques outside of narrative such as technical skills as this would allow me to operate independently with the equipment that the University provides.  I would also engage in social activities in order to create a list of contacts with whom I can enlist services if a situation called for them such as if we needed a photographer or actor I would have a net work to call upon.

In conclusion this project has highlighted some strengths and areas that require improvement as an individual and as a member of a group, I will take everything written here into consideration for future projects.  If I am able to develop these skills then the quality of work that I and my group produce shall improve as a result of the experience.

Analysis

Outside of 160mc we had 105mc which taught 4 key concepts such as genre, narrative, representation and audience, applying these concepts can be applied to our project by comparing and contrasting our ideas to the theories within the four key concepts for instance according to Tzetan Todorov (Todorov 1977) structuralize theory we would begin our story with a equilibrium which would be represented as a state of normality, the disruption of the equilibrium would occur when Lisa Smith is reported missing, The recognition of the disruption would be when the police investigate her disappearance, unfortunately there is no reinstatement of the equilibrium as the story does not give a proper ending so Todorov’s theory.

However alternately one could view Lisa Smith fleeing Ireland as a disruption, the cult recognising her disappearance, the cult pursuing her and her eventual capture as the five stages are realised within the context of the stories narrative.

When applying representation to our story the group would need to consider how to depict /apply the cult.  The symbol which the police would discover would instantly be recognised as alien, based upon the culture the audience lives in for instance modern day England the symbol would be associated with old outside forces not to be trusted. I applied Stuart Hall’s Theory on stereotypes“Stereotypes, in other words, is part of the maintenance of social and symbolic order” (Hall 1997: 258) to come to this conclusion.  The police officers would represent modern law and order this can be seen as a clash of cultures, in terms of stereotyping the police would take the form of the insiders the ones the audience can relate to or belong with in the same cultural context the symbol is the outsider it does not belong.

Applying our story to genre it displays the generic conventions of a horror the implied supernatural goings on, a disappearing person, for boding atmosphere and fear of the unknown. Genre has been defined as an established set of conventions been repeated over a period of time and are equally recognised by its creators and its consumers. We see elements of this practise within our comparison between our project and the Wicker Man for instance they both feature the fear of the unknown in outsider cultures, both feature a Pagan deity that calls for a blood sacrifice in return for fertility.

Bibliography

Hall, S. (1997) Representation; Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: SAGE Publications Ltd

Todorov, T. (1977) The Poetics of Prose. Oxford: Blackwell. Cited in Branston and Stafford. (2010) The Media Student’s Book. 5th edn. Oxon: Routledge

 

Research

For research I was fortunate in that my group seemed to enjoy the idea of the sacrificial cult, I had pre-existing knowledge of the Ouroboros and Crom Cruach legends.  The Ouroboros ( Token Rock 2006) is recognised as the snake consuming it’s own tale. All over the world this serpent has been seen as the embodiment of the eternal cycle of life and death. Originally the plan was to have the main character and cult originate from the Indonesian islands, the intention was to completely alienate the typical western audience as per Stuart Hall’s theory of stereotypes; “another feature of stereotyping is its practice of ‘closure’ and exclusion. It symbolically fixes boundaries, and excludes everything which does not belong.” (Hall 1997: 258). I have seen this theme explored in films such as “The Wicker Man” (Hardy 1973) wherein a devout Christian police officer is sent to investigate the disappearance of a young girl on an island inhabited by a cult of pagans. However in our idea the roles are reversed as the audience will identify with the local culture rather than the outsider.

However before I could conduct any research on Indonesian culture we changed the location from Indonesia to Ireland; the reason for the change was, during our first presentation the feedback we received made us change our minds so we decided to change location. It was at this point that I remembered the legend of Crom Cruach.

As previously stated the Ouroboros takes the form of a snake, Crom Cruach has also been depicted as a snake in some interpretations. Crom was also associated with human sacrifice so I began to put two and two together to create the basis of the cult that would be featured in our presentation. According to the legend Crom Cruach had a symbol which depicted a single gold stone surrounded by twelve normal stones in a circle, it is widely believed that these stone represent the months of the year and the Crom Cruach was some form of fertility god.  the gruesome details came when I learned that in pre Christian Ireland in the Ulster province where the Crom Cruach cult resided the locals were said “To him the early Irish sacrificed one third of their children on Samain (November 1) in return for milk and corn and the good weather that insured the fertility of cattle and crops” (Lindemans 1997) I took this idea and created blood cult’s symbol by combining Crom Cruach’s traditional gold stone encircled by 12 regular stones with the Ouroboros snake.

Bibliography

Hall, S. (1997) Representation; Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: SAGE Publications Ltd

Hardy, R. (1973) The Wicker man. [DVD] United Kingdom: British Lion Films.

Lindemans, M. F. (1998) ‘Crom Cruach’. Encyclopedia Mythica [online] available from <http://www.pantheon.org/areas/mythology/europe/celtic/articles.html&gt; [29 November 2013]

Token Rock (2006) Ouroboros [online] available from <http://www.tokenrock.com/explain-ouroboros-70.html&gt; [28 November 2013]

Process/Development

At the beginning of this assignment  our task was to create production which revolved around the disappearance of a character that we have created as a group. We must create this character using the objects in our Cabinet of Curiosities, by that I mean we must use the objects to convey our character to the audience: For example if we used one of my anime dvds it would tell the audience that this character watches anime.

The members of my group include:  Shahid Mahmood (https://www.facebook.com/shahid.mahmood.3762), Shaquilla Caines (https://www.facebook.com/shaquilla.caines), Nawaz ‘Noah’ Sheikh (https://www.facebook.com/nawaznoahsheikh), Annie Remell (https://www.facebook.com/AnnieRemell), (https://www.facebook.com/zachgreenmaximen) Zach Montana and Anita Kaur (https://www.facebook.com/lilnita) we used facebook to arrange our meetings and share information.

We began by listing the contents of our cabinets of curiosities. From those contents we constructed a character whom was of Asian decent (specifically the Indonesian islands) who came to the UK in order to hide from a pagan cult obsessed with killing her and consuming her flesh in order to complete a dark ritual.

This cult worshipped some form of snake deity that demanded the sacrifice of an entire blood line in order to rejuvenate their island, this ritual was carried once every generation.  This idea stemmed from an old Irish legend and the Ouroboros symbol which depicts the snake eating its own tail.  The Ouroboros represents the eternal cycle of death, birth and renewal.  Based on this information it was not hard to create a ritual sacrifice cult that revolved around this concept. The symbol also holds international appeal because the Ouroboros has been sighted in may parts of the world.

we presented our idea to the class and we received feedback. A lot of the feedback revolved the complexity of our idea and how we would convey it during our presentation. We shouldn’t get too far a head of ourselves. Our idea was compared to the The Wicker Man (Hardy 1973) because it follows a similar premise.

We later changed the Indonesian islands to Ireland because Ireland is closer to the UK and has a pre-existing snake cult that delved in ritual sacrifice the cult worshipped a god named Crom Cruach.  I had discovered this deity in the past while researching pagan deities for personal projects.  depictures of this character can vary depending on the source but one of the most recent examples can be found in the Irish animated film The Secret of Kells.

During our second presentation there was still some confusion regarding how we would present our idea given the complex nature of the cult in question, we assured ourselves that it was doable based on the fact that we could use the method of ambiguity this means we do not have to reveal any real truths to the audience for example in the Wicker Man there is nothing overtly supernatural going on in the film it is merely the pagan cult and their practises that is the source of the films fear and tension.  for this project the group really wanted to play upon the notion that what we don’t see can be more terrifying than if anything was shown we leave it to the audiences interpretation.

Bibliography

Hardy, R. (1973) The Wicker man. [DVD] United Kingdom: British Lion Films.

Production Diary Developing Meaning in Media Production

28/09/2013: On Friday the 27th I was given the first of my University assignments. I have been tasked to get into a group of around 6 people, preferably two boys and two girls. In these groups we have to produce a two to four minute film from a genre of our choosing. At this time of writing I have been unable to find a group, which is causing me some stress as I don’t know any of the other students or their contact details. I could use Moodle but I am still trying to get to grips with the software. I do not wish to send out random emails to people who may or may not have groups already.

The tutors have stated that if we have not found groups by Friday, they would put us in groups. On Friday we would have lost a week of time which makes the situation even more difficult to produce a Soundscape on time. I have decided to plan a Soundscape, Story ideas and Script myself, which I know will be difficult. Although this is the first assignment I feel like I am being tested already and I still have not settled into this new environment.

29/09/2013: Today I looked some of the links that the module on Moodle provided. I found the one about the Wall E soundscape particularly interesting (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eySh8FOUphM&list=PLCKl6WihXPZP9hE2yvA_oS0AnOtGnON_T&index=4), it covered the history of soundscaping from the days of Walt Disney and the intruments he used to more modern techniques. The video revolved around Ben Burtt and how he produced the sounds for Wall E using a variety of materials. Mr Burtt used a lot creative words to describe what sounds he used for the characters. For instance when he was describing the sound Eve would make, he used quiet smooth and high tech sounds that would also create an aura of mystery about the character. I was intrigued by his notion that sound alone can tell you so much about a character and how it can make them unique.

Mr Burtt also showcased some of the materials he used in the film, including an old army generator that he bought off of Ebay to create the sound for Wall E’s tracks when he is moving slowly. He continued with how he added additional sounds for different situations, for example when Wall E picks up speed he would add sounds created by a device called an inertia starter, which was to start up engines of older air planes. It then occurred to me that there was a reflection of the character in the materials used to produce his sound effects, what I mean is Wall E is meant to look old fashioned and the devices that produce his sounds come from an older era.

This had made me curious as to what kind of sounds I can produce by using mundane items.

02/10/2013: Today I consulted Debra on my situation with assignment 1. I was told that I should pitch my idea solo while waiting to be put into a group. During the talk with Debra I mentioned my philosophy surrounding hope and despair and then the gears in my head started to turn. I remembered a scene from No Country For Old Men when the assassin makes a bet with the owner of a Gas pump and flips a coin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iAezyDzj0M).

03/10/2013: The premise of my idea is a young man/woman is walking down the street when he/she notices a beggar in the street, he/she contemplates giving them the coin they are carrying. He/she is approached by two characters representing the two choices they have, they each try to convince the character to do what they want. In the end he/she decides to flip the coin to determine their course of action (the outcome is left ambiguous). I incorporated a character from the presentation I took part in during freshers week. The Mr L character would represent the cynical selfish element of the central character. The theme of the story revolves around the question that should we leave morale choices to chance? shades of the Two Face character from Batman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJma8pVAvH4). I have drawn a storyboard and plan to pitch the idea tomorrow, I have also started work on mock script that I will show my group when I join them.

04/10/2013: Today I joined my group which is comprised of Myself, Cameron, Jenny, Halim, Sage and Camarel. During the lecture we exchanged phone numbers and discussed when we would discuss our idea. We agreed to meet on Monday at 11:00am outside the Ellen Terry building and we would discuss our ideas.

07/10/2013: I arrived early in order sought out some business with student finance. When I was leaving the student centre I received a text from one of my group members who informed me that that the group wouldn’t be coming in. No explanation was given but I did ring him back to ask when we were going to meet, he said we would meet tomorrow during break. This is concerning I was not given an explanation as to why the meeting was cancelled. I could of asked why but I had a feeling that may have been confrontational, in hindsight I feel that was a poor course of action to take.

08/10/2013: Today I tried to get contact with Sach as I was concerned about when we would meet up to discuss the ideas for our short film. I rang his number but there was no answer so I left a message. Around 7:00pm I received a text from him asking me to meet him and the others in the group tomorrow on the first floor of the Hub, after the Add+Vantage Module. The Add+Vantage Module finishes at 10:00am at least according to my time table.

09/10/2013: Today I arrived in the Hub and met up with my group, we discussed ideas and eventually chose a story that revolved around a student who was suffering from extreme depression. We decided to utilise clever camera angles and lighting to make our project unique and the main character would not utter a single line of dialogue, instead all the sound would come from diegetic sources within the film and his own memories. I was tasked with writing the script and drawing a storyboard. I was given some notes to build my script around.

10/10/2013: Today I collected my Macbook from the Ellen Terry building and was given the terms and conditions. I thought I’d use the Celtx program to write the script after I had completed a hand written draft to present to the group on Friday. I started and finished the hand written script after analysing the notes I was given, I also started work on the storyboard.

11/10/2013: Today we were shown the opening from Apocalypse Now and how the sound was used to give the audience an insight into the characters mindset. The character hears a helicopter blade and has flashbacks to a battle in the Vietnamese jungle with a number of helicopters flying by, these scenes fade in out between shots of the character and a ceiling fan spinning above him. We learned Apocalypse Now was a landmark in cinema history for its use of surround sound which gave me even more reason to watch the film now.

We were informed of a book by Michel Chion called Audio Vision which examines the relationship between images and the soundscape. It states the importance of sound and provides a new vocabulary with which analyse  it. I will surely need to track down a copy of this book as the points raised in the lecture could very useful for my own creativity. An example of this creative use of sound was presented when we were shown a clip from the Godfather, in the scene Al Pacino’s character is meeting the head of a rival mafia family and a corrupt cop in a restaurant, both of whom played a role in his father’s shooting. They exchange dialogue in Italian but there is no subtitles which puzzled me at first, then Pacino goes into the bathroom to get a gun that planted there. As he leaves the bathroom a train passes above the restaurant while Pacino clutches his head as if distressed. He walks back to his table and another train passes over, during which he shoots the mafia boss and the corrupt cop. The sound of the train is a very effective use of sound as it represented Pacino’s crossing a point of no return. After the lecture a member from my group told me that we were meeting on Monday at 12:00pm in the Ellen Terry building.

I also used Celtx to type my script in a professional manner, this will be used for the actual shooting although I will need to consult with the group to discuss shots for the Storyboard and Shot List.

14/10/2013: Today I got together with the group and we recorded some audio for our Soundscape. We went to the Hub and recorded the people there and we went to west orchards to record there. We were recording large crowd sounds for the scenes when Aaron (the Main Character) is among crowds. After we recorded in West Orchards the members decided to part ways, some of them went to the train station to record sounds there and I went back to the Ellen Terry Building to book a recorder for tomorrow during a lecture.

15/10/2013: Today I recorded audio during the Key Concepts in Media lecture, I managed to secure permission from Stephen Dawkins using a consent form. Because I only had Stephen’s permission I could only record his voice and no one else’s.  After I recorded the audio for the soundscape I handed the Eddieroll recorder to cameron who preceded to transfer the footage to his computer.

18/10/2013: Today we explored the various roles that exist within the production of a film. We mentioned Directors, Cinematographers and Editors. Many great films had talented cinematography, editing, sound design, etc in addition to directing. However the Director receives a lot more attention than the aforementioned roles. We were asked about who filled what roles in our production team during the lecture and I raised my hand for script writer, but none of the other members raised their arms when the roles were announced. This gave an impression of grave disorganisation and seeing as this is university not college we cannot afford to making amateur mistakes. I asked my group who was occupying what roles, to which Sach said we would remain flexible allowing everyone a chance at different roles. I think he was missing the point but not one to cause conflict I went along with the plan. We will be meeting on Monday to finish the storyboards, shot lists and call sheets.

21/10/2013: Today I met up with the group and we discussed shots for the Storyboard so that I could illustrate them. After that was finished I handed the Shot Lists and Call Sheet to Sach for him to fill out. We started filming some indoor scenes for the project.

23/10/2013: Today was primarily focussed on outdoor footage. We shot outside Ellen Terry all the way up to the train station. This kind of shooting forced us to rethink segments of the script and even invent entirely new scenes. While it was disheartening to see several planned scenes not make it the new scenes were interesting and changed the narrative from an ambiguous ending to a saviour whom shows up at the last minute (kind of like Superman in All Star Superman).

24/10/2013: Today we wrapped up the remaining shots and started editing. All together if this project is the stepping stone towards future projects I regret to announce that I do not feel that I will be able to live up the standards set by the University. My involvement could have and should have been better, perhaps I am not cut out for media and I have inadvertently wasted everyone else’s time. The reason I am saying this is because I cannot see myself coping with the University environment but that is entirely my own fault for not being mature enough, at the age of 22 I cannot see myself with a media career in the future it is truly regretful but it is just one of those things. Thank you for all your help and support and I apologise for failing you.

Kind Regards

Sean Maguire.