The first entry...

I have chosen brief 10 for my A2 media coursework which consists of producing a short film in its entirety, lasting approximately five minutes. I chose this as I take a huge interest in film and have accepted a conditional offer study it at degree level at the University of the West of England in September.

The brief also asks for two ancillary texts and these will be in the form of a poster advertising my film and a film magazine review page also featuring it.

Initial thoughts

To try and decide on what genre of short film I am going to produce I will look through my university prospectus and read in the syllabus which topics I will be studying. This will mean that any work I do now can be helpful and relevant in my later studies.

After consulting with the UWE prospectus, Film Noir has stood out as a genre that I would be interested in producing. The black and white, raining suburbs appeal to me due to its stylistic cinematography. Cinematography also happens to be an area of the film industry that I aspire to work in, making this a suitable choice.


One of the films that I adore and drew inspiration from before beginning my research was Robert Rodriguez's 'Sin City' (2005). The film utilises a lot of the same techniques that are employed in film noir such as the use of black and white film. It then couples this with newer technologies to highlight specific colours such as the red in the girl's dress to draw the audience's attention to them.

Another film that I drew inspiration from was Robert Siodmak's 'The Killer's' (1946). Burt Lancaster played the film's main protagonist in his first feature length film and its success spring-boarded his career into being regarded as one of the best actors of his generation.

In the opening sequence Siodmak ensures that the lights from the windows illuminate only part of the killer’s faces. I found the technique to be particularly effective in creating a sense of mystery and dehumanising the characters.

Research and planning

French critic Nino Frank first coined the term in 1946, as the visuals were very dark and influenced by German expressionism. This was because the Nazi regime had caused German filmmakers to emigrate to the production studios in Hollywood, USA. They would have had links to the expressionist movement and it was evident in their films.

Prominent noirs such as ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946) and ‘Double Indemnity’ (1944) possess a recurring theme that is ubiquitous throughout the genre; they were shot almost entirely at night and without any colour. Using low-key lighting techniques, they cast shadows on the character’s faces that evoke secrecy and deceit. This iconic style of cinematography is what made the genre so famous and is what I tried to replicate.

Film noir is renowned for famous musical scores. ‘The Killers(1946) is one film that I have seen with a notable soundtrack. In the final scene (see video below) the sound of a piano can be heard and becomes more frantic as the tension of the scene rises. Suddenly, a brass band cuts over the top (2.37) to alert the audience that the killers have arrived. The film’s composer Miklos Rozsa won the academy award that year (1946) for best musical score.

The stylish crime-thriller storyline is prevalent throughout the noir period, this was due to a lack of writers during World War Two and so the same plots were being regurgitated to save money. I also discovered from my research that police detectives and private eyes formed the vast majority of film noir’s main protagonists. These ‘drifters’ (Naremore 2008) were seduced into a world of sin by the deceptive ‘femme fatales’ who hired them. I made sure that I included these character stereotypes into my script.

Having researched what elements comprise film noir, I then needed to brainstorm potential plot lines and produce a storyboard of the one I had opted to use. I had to ensure that the film was a plausible idea with the resources I had available to me. For instance, filming a high-speed car chase or gunfight would not be possible for me to produce on an extremely limited budget. My film follows the story of a private detective called ‘Max Wilde’. He is hired by the ‘Kane’ family to investigate their son’s mysterious death by first interrogating his wife ‘Loretta’. ‘Max Wilde’ and ‘Loretta Kane’ are names typical from 1950s America. I integrated ‘hard-boiled’ speech such as ‘good-looking doll’ into the script, having been inspired by the dialogue used in noirs that I had previously seen.

In addition to this, a superior level of acting was required. I decided to use two friends with previous experience as drama students. Both were dressed in full costume to add realism; the male in a suit – typical of a 1950s gentlemen and the female wearing a vintage dress bought from a charity shop and decorated in jewellery to suggest wealth.

Naremore (2008) suggests that noir sets usually consist of ‘urban diners, shabby offices or swank nightclub’, but as all three of these locations would have required some sort of cost being involved, I needed to find access to somewhere that was freely available to me. Fortunately, I was given permission to use a friend’s home which provided an excellent set due to its oak walls giving a vintage feel that was in line with the authenticity of my 1950s period film. Modern cars would have potentially ruined the authenticity that I strived so hard to maintain and so I moved my own and the house owner’s cars out of shot to overcome this problem.

Filmmakers have access to industry standard equipment when they produce their work. Unfortunately, I did not have this privilege when producing my film clip so I had to use my initiative in some cases to compromise. For instance, for lighting I used a portable light from my bedroom which had a flexible stand. When I turned off all other sources of light in the house I could point it up into my actor’s faces and it would cast shadows onto the walls behind them. This as I stated earlier is one of the conventional forms of noir filmmaking that I was trying to convey. It was not possible for me to use a professional soundtrack as I did not have access to a studio, but the use of silence and diegetic sounds was still effective in creating a tense atmosphere and tone.


“The Double Crossing Dame”


Stephen Dunn

Max Wilde

-Private eye hired by Mr Kane’s family to investigate his death.

Mrs Loretta Kane

-The late Mr Kane’s young grieving widow.


Max approaches the Kane household and walks round to the window to peer in as the light inside is on. He then knocks on the door. The front door opens.



I’m sorry to be calling at this hour Mrs Kane. My name is Max Wilde; I’m a private detective. May I speak with you?

Mrs Kane descends halfway down the stairs.

Mrs Kane

Of course Mr Wilde. Please, do come in. What brings you here?


I’ve been hired to investigate your husband’s death Mrs Kane. I have a few questions I’d like to ask you.

Mrs Kane

I’m still grieving the loss of my poor, poor Bobby. But if this will help find his killer then I am more than happy to be of assistance.


I see. You’re a young, pretty looking doll Mrs Kane. I’m told Mr Kane was a well-respected gentleman. Were you attracted to his wealth?

Mrs Kane

What are you implying Mr Wilde?


I’m not implying anything. Was it not a factor in your relationship to him?

Mrs Kane

No. I loved Bobby.


I think you did it, I think you killed Bobby!

Mrs Kane


Character Profiles

As I stated earlier, my actors will require a degree of acting experience in order to give my film authenticity and professionalism. Therefore both actors that I have decided to use for my characters have a relevant background in acting.

'Max Wilde' played by Patrick Neligan, 18
Grade B in A-Level Drama

Patrick plays the main protagonist Max, a private detective hired by the Kane family to invest their son's death.

'Loretta Kane' played by Siobhan Lawless, 19
LAMDA Grade 6 Acting

Siobhan plays Loretta, Mr Kane's widowed wife and is the femme fatale of my noir.


At this stage in my project I have scripted and story-boarded my film concept 'The Double Crossing Dame' and cast actors for the roles of 'Max' and 'Loretta'. I need to plan the logistics of the shoot to ensure that it runs smoothly and successfully.

I have booked to hire the college's camera equipment over the half term break. This will mean that I have use of the camera for ten days, which should be more than sufficient time in which to carry out the shoot in its entirety.

Camera Hired: 18/02/11 - 28/02/11
Week of editing: 28/02/11 - 04/03/11
Deadline for blog draft: 05/02/11

Equipment checklist:

1 DV tape
1 Panasonic DV Camera
1 Tripod
2 sets of wireless clip-on microphones
(1 per character)

1 Firewire cable
(For retrieving the footage from the camera to my mac at home, using FCP to edit)

Discussion of film

The production process went smoothly without any major setbacks. Minor setbacks included the set being a lot smaller than I anticipated. This meant that there was not much room for the camera equipment and even less space for me to fit behind it. I had to alter some of the shots because of this but still managed to shoot from my desired angles. As a result of meticulous planning, the production process had very few flaws and I finished on schedule, within the deadlines I had set myself. This is evidence that I managed the project successfully.

I believe that I was successful in producing a short example of film noir. I achieved this by effectively researching noir camerawork, lighting, sound, script, set and costume. I managed to incorporate all of these elements into my short video clip and I accomplished this at a high level of professionalism, as my film did not appear amateur when aired to an expert audience who are familiar with filmic concepts.

Director's Commentary

Film Poster


Before producing my own film poster I needed to start by researching what key elements are used by filmmakers to produce their posters to industry standards.

At first glance I noticed that all posters stuck religiously to a theme. 'Public Enemies' uses black, white and silver colours, 'The Matrix' has a purple hue and 'Watchmen' is teal and bright yellow. They do this to give the product a sense of brand identity that can be instantly recognised by the consumer. I will need to have a consistent theme across my coursework to show that they are related.

After studying the posters more closely there are other qualities that are prevalent throughout. All three consist of a picture of the character/s and only a small percentage of it is covered with text describing the title or crediting actors and staff. A tag line is also sometimes used or a quote from a review it has received. 'The Matrix' credits its main actors at the top of the poster and 'Watchmen' has included a release date beneath the credits.

My Film Poster



As you can see in my poster I have made sure to keep to a theme. The black and white colour scheme continues to produce a sense of brand identity in line with my other texts and I have made sure to incorporate all the other qualities present in the industry standard posters. These include crediting the two main actors at the top of the poster, a quote from my own magazine review page and a date for the release. I also made sure that the picture was one of my character and that the text is not dominant.

Magazine review


To provide some background research before producing my magazine review, I purchased a copy of Empire magazine to see how the professionals review films. I have scanned two of their articles reviewing the films 'The Adjustment Bureau' and 'The Green Hornet'.

This review uses a still from the film in the middle of the two pages as the main focal point. The colours yellow and blue create a sense of theme for the review. To begin the review they provide a breakdown of the details including release date, director, cast, certificate, running time and plot. There is also a quote from the review that has been highlighted and magnified.

This review has the whole left page taken up by a photo advertising the film. The title uses the same green as the picture but unlike the last review there is no breakdown of the details or quotes highlighted. Everything is included in the text instead, which is presented in vertical columns with a clean line underneath.

My Two-page Film Magazine Review pages

Review (page 1)

Review (page 2)


I have stuck to using two colours in my review to create a theme and have used the original title from my poster to show brand identity. I have included stills from the film and presented a breakdown of it's details such as release date, director, cast, certificate, running time and plot. I have also awarded the theme a rating using a star system that is common throughout film reviews. I have highlighted a quote from the review 'one of the best noirs of the 21st century' and have also quoted it in my film poster. The text is provided in vertical columns with a clean line underneath to finish.