Audio plays a huge role in all films, but it’s especially important in suspense as a dynamic soundscape can be responsible for the tension that’s really needed to set the desired atmosphere or build up to a jump-scare or other extreme moments. I am very interested in utilising sound in my short film as it’s something I haven’t explored very much in my previous projects, although I have been able to play around with Foley and different recording equipment  at times throughout the course. Some aspects I’m going to be experimenting with include; original music tracks by collaborating with music students, Foley, and other diegetic sounds such as radio audio by prerecording original snippets of a news broadcast.

I want to experiment more with dynamic soundscaping. As thrillers and other suspense-based genres often rely on sound cues, contrasting eerie quiet with loud, sometimes distorted and unrealistic sounds. As we wait in the silence for something to happen or jump out at us, audio plays such a huge role in setting the atmosphere and without it, or with bad quality sound design, a scene can seem unnatural and shots disconnected.

Earlier this year we have learned about a variety of sound types and techniques, like diegetic and non-diegetic sound. As I haven’t been over these ideas in quite a while, I think it’s important for me to look back over any lessons on them (via slideshows) and also research a bit more into other techniques useful for a psychological thriller/suspense.

Diegetic Sound:
Diegetic sound (what the characters would be able to hear in their reality), is a major way to create a sense of realism and build tension. If there is a lack of sounds, including lowered music, diegetic or non-diegetic sounds, it could make the characters and presented world feel distant from us, which is great to reflect how a character is feeling (if the sound created by them is still normal), maybe showing their sense of panic, or if not, making the audience question the reality on screen or the ‘real’ world. These sounds encompass what can be heard in the character’s world, the source is within the film, like characters speaking, noises from objects would be what we could see on screen, and other Foley. Without a sufficient amount of these sounds, the film can appear unfinished and take the viewer right out of the experience. Music is sometimes used both as non-diegetic and diegetic, serving as a transition from a scene with just natural sounds to something like a montage:
The slideshare on diegetic sound in psychological-thrillers above has given me inspiration and insight on how exactly I can utilise sounds in my piece to put across the idea of terror or panic. As my film will have aspects of panic, with the main character, Noi, reflecting what might be going on in their head through layered loud, distorted noises like radio static, police sirens, inaudible speaking and wind will be great to allow the audience to share their experience to some level. Contrasting with silence or just quiet, minimal sounds throughout the film will create a dynamic soundscape and make these moments of frantic audio more noticeable.

BFI Horror Tips:
On 13th February, I was attending BFI Film Academy session where I was able to ask a member of the Resource Productions team and sound artist, Amit, about sound editing, Foley and more specifically, the ways of creating tension in a horror or thriller movie. The memorable point that I took out of this talk was that it’s all about irregular tension, as we usually aren’t sacred by regularity. I learned that suspense comes from the contrast of silence and sound and how with score composer, Jerry Goldsmith’s work would always let you know that something major is happening all through the audio, as it becomes so intense.
Amit quoted “If you notice sound, then something is wrong” as it’s all there to help the story along. If you were to consciously notice a background sound, it is sometimes a sign that the sound scaping is insufficient as most of the time, these sounds are intended to be heard subconsciously, bringing the viewer into the world that’s being presented on-screen.

Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004):
This American composer had many noticeable pieces of work, such as Disney’s ‘Mulan‘ score, the ‘Alien‘ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager‘ main titles. He used intuition when creating his pieces for film and television, rather than a structured, calculated approach. This way the music was made from what he felt which reflects in his scores, with a seemingly natural flow and were well-fitting to each project he worked on.

His fantastical score from Disney’s ‘Soarin’ Over California’ ride:

In this piece of music, you can guess where you would hear it. It’s use of a large orchestra with lots of violin and major notes make the song dreamy and match to a great adventure or discovery. This song, Soarin’,  builds up the idea of a flying adventure around California perfectly, and within the score, you are able to hear how it is shaped around the environmental sounds that you would hear if you were there, with more low-key, quieter music when there are Foley sounds; of the golfers and surfers for example. It shows how everything in the soundtrack for your Disney ride, or film needs to be cohesive, complementing each other. This is just one of the reasons that a large amount of big films produce their own soundtrack, as it allows them to pin point exactly the message, genre and atmosphere that they are going for as well as being able to emphasise the other sound effects and dialogue wherever they need to, just giving more of a sense of control with creative freedom.

This is why I would love to work with the music students at college to create a specific sound for my short film. There are a few issues, however, including a lot of students having to produce their final major projects at the same time, which might not be feasible for a music student to produce a further music track at this time. With the resources I have, there are two further options for me to include music in my film, being a lot of royalty-free websites on the internet, and the option of myself producing a song, which I don’t have a lot of experience with, however I do know how to play guitar and a bit of keyboard. The second solution would probably not be likely to have a professional-sounding turnout, due to not having a lot of time to figure out a song and the production of one, so I am going look further into the resources that are on the internet and research into specific websites, artists or overall music genres that would fit my psychological-thriller.

Music for my Film:
In my previous projects I have used royalty free music and sound effects from a range of sources, including the Internet Archive, where there are lots of free-to-use archive media, Epidemic Sound, YouTube and Freesound, all of which cater to a different use. I will be searching the first three that are listed as they are great places to find songs and you can be quite specific in what you are looking for, while Freesound mostly includes short music clips, Foley and sound effects.

As my video is being made for a student project, without the intention of being monetised, there is more music that is available to use legally and some may only ask for credit, or nothing at all. The only mentioned resource that will probably not be reasonable is Epidemic Sound as, although their selection is wide and of great quality, the reason for that is the requirement of a subscription and monthly fee. Because of this, I will mainly be refering to the Internet Archive as their selection is completely free and copyright-free, as well as YouTube as there is a huge selection of music and other media that include fair use.

Radio Broadcast Research:
I will be including radio news broadcast segments throughout my film so I wanted to learn how actual radio stations tend to structure their News section so I have listened to my local radio (Greatest Hits Radio) on the hour a few times as this is the regular time when they speak about the news. I did miss one News broadcast I intended on listening to, so I made sure to set an alarm a few minutes before the next one at 1pm to tune in. I couldn’t find any recordings available to the public of the news on their website or others that I looked at as it probably wouldn’t be very efficient to keep putting the new broadcast recordings up each time. Although, having to tune in beforehand, when songs or other talking segments were going on, gave me a look into how they seem to transition from them to news stories.

Here are my notes on the broadcast that I will be using to structure my own script:

Psychological Thrillers

Unit 12 Research:
For an independent project for Unit 12 (researching an era or subject of film), I had looked into the genre I intended to do for my FMP, the psycho-thriller, including the typical codes and conventions, characteristics and history of it. The past structured research has helped with finding out what people find so enthusing about the genre as well as occurrences around the time of psycho-thrillers became popular (around the 1990s).

The Aesthetics and Psychology Behind Horror Films:
A thesis by Michelle Park, Undergraduate from Long Island University in 2018 explores why people enjoy being scared by thriller and horror movies. My tutor, Nick, sent an email to all students suggesting to read this thesis if we are producing this genre of film, which I found very helpful as it really went into specific elements of mise en scene, meanings and the audience that I am quite interested in and that are important for a film that is focused on visuals, particularly psychological insights of characters.

A line that I found useful and fitting for my story is: ‘In the end, the killer, the antagonist has to suffer, which gives the ultimate resolution for the viewers.’ (page 7). This passage seems to resonate a lot with how the main character is taking revenge on the antagonist (after they had killed the main character’s partner). It definitely helps to create a connection between the character and audience, by sharing a motive and view of what should happen to the ‘bad guy’. Making this thought clear to the viewer is what I want to be doing, and throughout the film feelings of guilt that the character is experiencing will ultimately come to validation of taking revenge on the antagonist through dialogue such as “he deserved it” and other less blatant signifiers, like a transition from panic to calmness using a quick turn from lots of noises showing the character’s clouded mind, to quietness. This will also build into the dynamic sound scaping I’m looking to focus on and it will be something new that I haven’t done much in past projects too much.

Target Audience

The age range that I am aiming my film at is around 16-30. Psychological movies and series are popular with young adults and older adolescents as this is the time when we start to seek comfort and something familiar or relatable. People around this age often have full access to a device that allows them to view online videos on platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook or Instagram, and because I will be producing a short film of around 5-10 minutes, YouTube would be the best place to upload it with this target audience in mind. Especially for a short indepentent film, creators use YouTube a lot to share their productions, usually allowing them to gain the most traction as a constantly visited website by young people. With easy access via direct links or by searching without needing an account, it would be the best place to put my film.

With this target audience in mind, I put together a survey to learn about what people think is important to have in a psychological-thriller and how they feel about ending tropes:

Filming in Rain

Due to weather forecasts around the date that I will be filming my production (Saturday 08/05/2021) showing rain, I have to install precautions to ensure the equipment is able to keep filming as much as possible while ensuring it and the crew are safe. There are a few easy to do this, including extra equipment as well as actions to take between shots.

Reading the article on using artificial rain in films, I’ve learned ways of ensuring safety on set, which goes for natural rain too; for example by sealing all connectors in a plastic bag and electrical tape due to it being waterproof (rather than gaffer tape). After talking with Attila about the possibility of filming in the rain on Saturday, with the same technique mentioned, I will be wrapping the camera and connected monitor in a plastic bag to protect it from water damage, even though the Panasonic camera is waterproof, it may not withstand sudden and constant rainfall. I had asked Attila for recommendations when doing this production, in which he brought my attention to camera rain covers, specifically ones that fit all around the camera, with openings for the operator’s hands as well as the lens. As for now, I don’t have access to a camera rain cover, however I have looked into ways around this. The most accessible and easy technique I will probably be using (see experiment) a large plastic sandwich bag as they are sturdy, unlike a more moldable material like cling film.

Thriller Posters & Title Cards

An element of a film that has a huge impact on setting the tone is the title card. I have noticed this when watching thriller or dark films in general, often where the font of the title incorporates a lot of sharp edges, either with a lot of sharp, straight lines when the letters are thin, or with the use of serifs on more wider fonts:

ENEMY poster analysis:
The elongated sharp serifs of the ‘E’s seem to reflect the imagery of daggers, and how they very almost touch the following letters evoke a bit of tension seemingly almost stabbing them.
The bold contrasting colours make the whole title card pop. To me, yellow is not usually a colour associated with darkness and thrillers, which is why this title had stuck out from the others when looking for examples. This also could imply that there is darkness within the happy or normal.

I’ve noticed that a lot of titles of this genre have some sort of warp or subtle distortion, suggesting that there is more going on than what it seems. For example, the ‘Enemy’ title card has very subtle jolted lines where the yellow meets the black, which I didn’t actually notice until I looked a bit closer to evaluate the colour scheme. For my own title, I think it would be effective to incorporate one of the main elements in my film, either melting candle wax, dripping blood, or a small gust of smoke (from the blown-out candle). As for colouring, a dark red would be the obvious choice as it usually makes us think of danger and even the blood-red candle and blood within my film, however I do want to work this colour in, as well as another, possibly more muted, neutral colour for some juxtaposition of moods. Blue would be a great representative colour also as it would give the impression of deep sad feelings that are a large element in my film too.