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Investigation and concept

Investigation and concept

Settling on an idea for your production can sometimes be the most difficult stage. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration strike. Ideas are developed through a process of research and investigation. You need to watch, scrutinise, think about and immerse yourself in the media. Because creating a media product is a long and time-consuming process, developing an idea that is achievable and will sustain your interest is crucial.

When you’re developing your ideas, talk to as many people as possible. Discuss your ideas with your teacher, your friends and your family. The process of talking about your ideas means you start to clarify exactly what you’d like to make and other people might suggest possibilities that you hadn’t thought of. There are a few different approaches to brainstorming your ideas. What’s most important is that you keep a record of these ideas, you get them down on paper. The first few pages of your production design plan should be devoted to thrashing these ideas around and starting to flesh them out. We should be able to see all of your ideas, even the ones that don’t work out on the page. We should be able to see how they develop and evolve.

For those who have no ideas at all, start by investigating media texts that you like and enjoy…do a genre study, watch your favourite film, examine how a notable directors use visual composition, scour newspapers and books for story ideas. Go out there and watch stuff that inspires and write about it. When you’re doing this type of investigation, try to avoid cutting and pasting. Your teachers aren’t looking for a collage, they’re looking for an insightful and thoughtful commentary on the type of things that inspire and inform you.

Ideas for investigation

1. What do you like? Make a list of all the films, magazines, radio programs and other texts that you’ve found appealing. If you’ve already decided on a medium to work in, focus on that, listing examples of what you find interesting and explaining why you enjoy it.

2. What do you want to make? Think of the type of media product you’d like to create. Maybe it’s a fashion magazine or a horror film. Find examples of the type of media text you’d like to create. What are considered the best and most influential?

3. Think about a media product that has influenced you profoundly. It could be a horror film, a magazine or an exhibition of photographs. Why did this media text engage you?

4. Select examples of media texts that have inspired you and annotate them, explaining which aspects of the text appeal to you. For example, if you are investigating a film or television program, you might annotate stills to illustrate an aspect of colour grading or mise-en-scene that appeals to you.

5. Investigate a media professional. Perhaps you’re drawn to the work of a particularly director or photographer. Read as much as you can about this person, their style and influences.

6. Think about the technology you have available to create your media product. What have other done with this technology? What is possible? Research and explore what the technology is capable of.

7. Compare two media texts. Whether you’re making a magazine or a film, collect two good examples of the media form and compare their use of different techniques.

Wordle and bubbl.us are useful tools for visualising your ideas.

Getting feedback on your initial idea

Before pitching the idea for your production to the class, it’s a good idea to run your idea past someone else first. In the process of articulating your idea for someone else, you are forced to think carefully and might identify potential issues with the concept. Use this sheet to document your conversation with a trusted peer or parent.

School Assessed Task Feedback Sheet

Pitching your idea

Present a detailed pitch for your film to the class. It will include: log line; story outline; dates for shooting, locations, actors, props, makeup, production design, costumes, other details. When you’re developing your pitch, consider the following:

  • Is your idea simple and achievable? Your film must be between 3 and 10 minutes long. Don’t come up with a story that is overly ambitious. Watch previous examples of Top Screen films to get a flavour for what is achievable in this time length: http://lessonbucket.com/category/vce-media/units-3-4/top-screen/ Every time you add another actor or location to your film you’re increasing the complexity of the production and increasing the likelihood that you won’t be able to complete it. Keep in mind that you will have to make this film at the same time that you’re completing coursework for all of your other subjects.
  • Is it acceptable? The School Assessed Task will not include guns, drug use, excessive or gratuitous violence, nudity, sex scenes, driving, suicide the consumption of alcohol, use of cigarettes, any illegal or potentially dangerous acts or any acts that may be deemed inconsistent with the values of our community.
  • Is it safe? You have a responsibility to ensure that the production is safe for yourself and others. Productions that may result in any type of harm, physical or otherwise, will not be approved or receive a satisfactory grade.
  • Do you have a plot? Although you are only making a short film, you need to think carefully about your plot. Even documentaries tell a story. Here is some advice for developing the plot of your film: http:// lessonbucket.com/category/vce-media/units-3-4/top-screen/
  • Is it engaging? How are you going to make the story and the characters engaging for the audience? It’s best to keep your film short. A good 10 minute film is a 6 minute film! Try to avoid unnecessary journeying. Reduce your opening credits to a simple title card. For every scene in your film, ask yourself whether it is contributing to the story. If not, chuck it out! Use these techniques to structure time: http:// lessonbucket.com/media/year-10/day-in-60-seconds/
  • Are your locations accessible? Make sure that any locations you use in the film are accessible and safe. It’s no use getting access to a location for just one weekend when you may need to use it for reshoots. There are certain public spaces, such as trains and buses, that you will require permission to shoot on.
  • Are your actors reliable? Choose actors who are reliable. Your friends will let you down when it comes to the crunch. They will be busy in the middle of the year when you’re shooting your production. Think carefully about your story, keep your characters to a minimum and choose actors who won’t flake out on you.
  • Do you have copyright clearance? Many of you will make successful films. You will want to enter these in Top Screen and upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo. For the purposes of assessment, you may use any copyrighted material that you like but keep in mind that you cannot be assessed for material that is not yours. When you submit your work to a festival or distribute it, however, you will need written permission from the copyright holder to use any copyrighted material such as music, images, footage or brands.

You will need to present your pitch to the class. You may simply read through your treatment or your may like to use a PowerPoint presentation. After presenting your idea for the film, animation or documentary, you will need to explain how you have addressed the above points. Your film will then be critiqued by your teacher and classmates. It is expected that you will adapt your idea in response to this advice.

Photograph: Death to the Stock Photo