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Lauren Reeves

Media Production

Portfolio draft

FMP Portfolio

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FMP Production: Week 4

This week, I worked on creating a front cover for my Portfolio and a poster for my video. I started by looking at other examples of film posters for inspiration. I am a big fan of Independent films so I looked into different independent film posters. I also felt that the style would go well with the story I was telling.

From this, I used the application ‘Adobe Spark’ to create different covers. Below are only a few of the designs.

Whilst I liked the designs, I felt they didn’t fit correctly with the story and they looked more like a book cover than a film poster. I went back to looking at the film posters and began designing again the following day with a new set of eyes.

I then created this design.

I Have Questions Poster.jpeg

I chose this image as I felt it could represent Maddie as a child. American culture has children learning to use guns before the can form a coherent thought. I thought that by using the image of a young girl instead of a young boy, it could have more of an impact as it is normalized that young boys have an interest in toy guns whereas to see an innocent, young girl aiming a gun is more difficult to understand.

To me, the image shows Maddie having fun as a child, being led to believe that guns aren’t harmful. I felt that this image could act as a betrayal. As I plan on extending this story in the future, I would like to write a scene of Maddie after the shooting seeing a photo of her as a child holding a gun, smiling.

Another factor that was pointed out to me by my tutor was the significance behind the girl wearing nail varnish. This could signify her desire to be older.

I also added a filter to this image to create a white glow around the girl. I wanted to give her an almost ethereal look and focus in on her childlike innocence. It can also refer to the fact that the image is a memory, therefor making it hazy.

 

Next, I worked on my script. I added several parts and changed the format to fit a professional script.

I Have Questions Script NEW

No Dialogue I Have Questions Script 2

 

I also worked on creating a tutorial document on creating lines in Photoshop for my images. I created another of these (refer to Week 2) however, I focused more on the paint brush tool compared to now when I focus on the pen tool.

Illustration Tutorial Part 2

FMP Production: Week 3

This week, I created and finished my stop motion video. I did this by using Adobe Premier Pro to put all the images together to make it a video.

The following is my first draft of the video.

I Have Questions DRAFT Video PP

 

I showed this video to my peers and my tutor and gathered their feedback. My tutor advised that I focus more on Maddie, the main character, being spared and why. This thought was also shared by several of my peers as they felt I hadn’t made it clear enough that Lucas had spared her. I took this on board and went back to the drawing board to see what I could add. After brainstorming with my tutor, I decided on the idea to extended the first scene to show Maddie waving at Lucas whilst he just stares at her. I also decided to add an audio clip of Lucas saying ‘Not her.’ My friend Robbie was able to say this line for me and I was able to add it into my work to build up the relationship between Maddie and Lucas.

I also decided to add audio over the final titlecard. At first, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to add however, I eventually came up with the idea to add the 911 call from the Columbine shooting. I edited the footage using Audacity to remove the name of the school and to fit with the story I am telling.

After I added these pieces, I was left with my final product below.

I Have Questions 

 

 

Once I had finished the video, I continued to work on my script. I decided to add more on the relationship between Lucas and Maddie by extending several scenes. I have one No dialogue script to work as a companion piece to the video and a second script that includes dialogue and doesn’t exactly follow the video. You can find them below.

No Dialogue I Have Questions Script 2

I Have Questions Script NEW

FMP Production: Week 2

This week, I finished my first draft of my script in two different versions. One being with dialogue and the other being with no dialogue to accompany the video I am making.

No Dialogue I Have Questions Script

NEW I Have Questions Script

 

Once I had finished these first drafts, I began on making the drawings for my video. I cannot currently add the ones I did at college but I can show the ones I have drawn so far over the weekend and Monday.

 

I am hoping to have finished the drawings by the end of the week so I can edit them into a video, add sound effects and a title card, this way I can go back on to my script and portfolio next week.

I have also documented my progress on my illustrations and how I do them through the following document.

Illustration Tutorial

FMP Production: Week 1

This week, I worked on my portfolio and coming up with scene ideas for my script. Below is what I have done so far.

Scene Ideas 2

FMP Portfolio

05.04

Thursday 5th April- 11am

 

I am currently working through the suggestions given to me by my tutor. I have almost finished, my work should be up by 6pm at the latest.

Research Report (Updated 10.04- New work is underlined- Work in progress)

What are the lasting effects of a school shooting?

Lauren Reeves

 

Introduction

Guns have been the foundation of American culture for centuries. With over 40% of American homeowners possessing a firearm in 2017 and 64% of homicides being gun related, America has the highest number of gun crime in the developed world. From gang violence to mass shootings, the problem is spreading more and more each passing day. With 46 mass shootings since the beginning of the year alone, 74 lives have been lost in the span of just a few months. Most of these mass shootings occur in the one place you’d least expect. Inside of a school. A place of learning where children should feel safe. Where their biggest concern is passing a quiz, not whether they are going to be shot that day.

I have chosen to explore the topic of gun control through school shootings as this is something I feel very strongly about. Gun control is something I feel very passionate about but the idea of innocent children being shot and killed is enough to make the coldest of hearts drop. With the increasing number of school shootings, I felt that I should use my voice as both a writer and as someone whose generation will be picking up the pieces of the previous generations leadership.

When researching this topic, I will collect multiple accounts of people’s experiences and different forms of information from films, books, articles etc. I will begin looking at different books and films to gather an insight into what creates these tragedies. A lot of thought went into choosing my media pieces as I feel I need to look at this growing epidemic from every angle.

I have chosen two films and two books to conduct extensive research upon and examine the writing techniques used. From these, I will be able to gather information regarding gun control and school shootings.

To me, each of these pieces focuses on different parts of a school shooting and I felt it was crucial to understand every part before writing about it.

I will also conduct a survey on SurveyMonkey.com on the topic of gun control. The questionnaire will focus more on Gun Control as a whole, asking questions such as ‘Do you think the American Government are doing enough regarding gun control?’ instead of focusing solely on school shootings. I want to ask these questions as I wanted to see how British people feel in light of the recent Florida shooting. This research will correlate into how I will portray the international reaction to the shooting in my story.

This research report will showcase the findings of my research and how it will affect my writing.

 

Methodologies

Before I began my research, I created a mind map of my ideas to help my thinking.

The mind map helped me decide what topic I wanted to research as I was able to see all of my ideas laid out in front of me.

FMP Ideas

From this, I decided on the subject of School Shootings and continued on to make a second mindmap of scene ideas that could turn into research. We also did a class exercise where we would tell each other our ideas and they would have to say the first word that came into their heads. This helped me expand my ideas.

Scene Ideas

Some of the scene ideas I came up with were created through research, such as the idea of the community destroying the memorial crosses of the gunmen came from a scene in Zero Day in which the community burn the crosses of the gunmen.

 

Primary Research

I will create and distribute a questionnaire on Surveymonkey.com on the topic of gun control. I decided on creating this survey as I will be using a platform accessible to everyone and I can ask the questions I want. I will find out the information I need through this survey by posting the link and encouraging people to answer.

The findings from this survey will impact how I write my piece as I will know what the British attitude is towards guns and the current situation happening in America. I will aim my survey at British people as I wanted to gain an insight into the international feelings regarding gun control in America. I have chosen specific questions relating to gun control such as:

  • Do you believe guns should be illegal in the US?
  • In light of the recent Florida School Shooting, are the American Government doing enough to protect children?
  • Should teachers be given guns?
  • Should schools be fitted with special precautions in case of a shooting?

I chose these questions as they allowed people to elaborate with their answers, therefore providing more detailed answers. These questions also allowed me to find out specifically what information I needed

There are both strengths and weaknesses of the research methods I used.

The strengths of the survey are as follows:

  • Easily accessible
  • Free to make and distribute
  • Easy to make

However, whilst the survey does carry many positives, there are several problems you could run into such as:

  • Online data can be lost
  • Lack of responses
  • Have to pay to get more responses

From conducting the survey, I have learnt that this method isn’t always reliable for gathering information so I decided to look into the primary research format of focus groups. I have stated the pros and cons below.

Pros of focus groups:

  • Detailed answers
  • Selective participants (to fit specific age group/interests/ gender etc.)
  • Cheap to set up

Cons of focus groups:

  • Dependent on the participants (ie. If they cancel, can’t make it etc.)
  • Answers can get off track which can be both a pro and a con
  • Opinions may not represent the larger target group

From this experience, I have learnt that I need to look into primary research methods more and that I shall most likely use a different form to collect data in the future.

 

Secondary Research

For secondary research, I examined multiple pieces of media. I gathered information on the production, influences, producers/authors and the writing techniques used. I found this information using resources such as the internet, books, films, articles, and podcasts.

When deciding what pieces to research, I knew I had to look at school shootings from every angle. Each piece I have looked at focuses on a different part of a school shooting, from the killers themselves to the aftermath. I chose Zero Day as it looked at the gunmen and their mental state, I chose No Easy Answers as it focuses on the aftermath of the shooting as well as the friends of the shooters, and I chose We Need to Talk About Kevin because it looks at the shooters family and the psychology behind the shooters motives.

Another piece of Media I looked at was the show Twin Peaks. I began examining the script and found it was very different to other crime shows I have watched. Twin Peaks has a very slow pace and that was something that caught my attention. From that, I started looking at the episodes in more detail by examining the scripts and taking note of the cinematography. I chose this show to research as the pace was unlike anything I had seen before and I found that it really worked with the crime theme.

I also used many different websites to gather information to help me create my script and stop motion video. Luckily, my tutor was able to link me to several different websites that could help me. I used websites such as these:

  • Success Secrets of Top Authors by CreativeJuicesBooks.com. (Here)
  • 8 Creative Writing Tips from Famous Authors and How to Incorporate Them Into Your Own Work by Oxford-Royale.co.uk. (Here)
  • 7 Techniques from Creative Writing You Can Use to Improve Your Essays by Oxford-Royale.co.uk. (Here)

 

I also looked at other websites to help me create my stop motion video and my script. They are as follows:

  • 30 Best Cinematography Techniques & Tips You Didn’t Learn in Film School by StudioBinder.com. (Here)
  • How to Produce a Stop Motion Video by Wistia.com. (Here)
  • 5 Tips for Making a Stop Motion Video by Digital-photography-school.com. (Here)
  • How to Draw over an Image in Photoshop by Techwalla.com. (Here)
  • How to Write a Screenplay by Writersstore.com. (Here)
  • Writing a Short Film by Filmsourcing.com. (Here)

 

Findings

The first piece of media I researched was Zero Day, an independent 2003 film following two teenagers as they plan to commit a shooting at their high school. I chose to research this film as it focuses on the gunmen and what lead up to the massacre. The film allows the audience to navigate their way around the minds of two homicidal teenagers and to me, this film was crucial when coming to understand the tragedy. Also, the production budget was very low and the entire film was recorded on a mini DSLR camera. This was really interesting to me as I am also a creator on a small budget and to be able to see such a well-made, rich in character film is really inspiring to me.

To me, Zero Day is the focal point when it comes to looking at the shooter I will be writing about. Zero Day takes you step by step through the gunmen’s minds and I found this the most beneficial piece to research as I was able to look into the characters in more detail which will help me when doing my own writing.

From Zero Day, I was also able to take the fact that most school shooters have a god complex, usually made from being outcasts. This was also legitimized through other research I did into real life school shootings. Most shooters I could find, such as the Columbine Shooters, Dylann Roof and TJ Lane, just to name a few, felt they were above everyone else and that it was their choice on who lived and who died. This knowledge will influence me when writing the script as I will be able to use this way of thought when creating the character of the shooter.

Looking at the techniques used in this film, I aim to use some in my own work. For example, Ben Coccio, the producer, didn’t have a set script for his actors. He allowed them to improvise and truly delve into the mind of the characters they were playing. For my project (and my work in the future) I would like to work with some actors from our drama department to really explore the possibilities of this story.

Another technique from this film that I recognised that will affect my writing is Coccio’s use of characterisation. Coccio constantly uses characterisation to add layers to his characters, creating an inner turmoil for the audience as they see these two likeable characters commit such a despicable crime. Coccio also adds humour into his work. This could be to remind the audience that these people are in fact children, whilst also trying to lighten to mood and take a short break from the dark theme. The audience knows what these characters are planning yet they feel uncomfortable for relating to them or liking them. The following is a quote from the film, said by Cal:

‘Our original plan was that Zero Day would be on zero degrees, but that only happened once because it was so warm this winter, and that was the day that Andre had diarrhea.’

The line is humorous and light-hearted until the audience remember what the protagonists plan on doing. This is something I want to replicate in my own work, having the audience conflicted with their feelings about the characters, whether that be through humour or empathy.

As Coccio uses a lot of characterisation in his work, it is something that will definitely affect my writing from now on. I aim to create characters that people can relate to/empathise with even in their darkest moments. I will use characterisation in my own work to create characters that make the audience morally conflicted.

 

The second piece of media I researched was the book ‘No Easy Answers’ by Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt. Brooks Brown is a columbine survivor who was friends with the shooters. This book is his account of what happened and his experiences with the two Columbine killers. From this book, I was able to focus on what happens in the aftermath of a shooting and how people react, either by coming together or turning against each other. This book also provided me with a look at the shooters from a personal perspective, I was able to identify turning points of when two teenagers turned into murderers.

From this book, I also learnt about the grief. The friends and families of the Columbine shooters had to grieve for someone they felt they no longer knew whilst simultaneously feeling disgusted at their actions. They all experienced a lot of conflicting emotions which is something I want to do justice in my own work. The book also deals with how it affects not only a town, but the entire western world as many blame Columbine for the current epidemic of school shootings.

From No Easy Answers, I was also able to learn about the process that the survivors go through after the shooting and how they cope. I also learn about the inner conflict that the friends and families of the shooter(s) go through whilst trying to grieve for their loved ones. This book has really opened my eyes to the struggle the families are still going through as they are made to feel guilty for still loving their child. This will influence my writing as I will be able to better understand the mental state that they are thrown into during and after the tragedy.

 

 

My third choice is We Need to Talk About Kevin, the film by Lynne Ramsay based on the Lionel Shriver book. From my point of view, this book looks at the psychological side of things. It delves into whether a person is born to commit such a crime or if they are moulded into a hateful being by their environment. It showcases the classic nature vs nurture argument. This book also shows the build up from the family’s POV and how they deal with the aftermath.

From both the book and the film, I was able to gather a lot of information such as the use of characterisation to create conflict in the story. As more of Kevin’s personality was revealed, his actions became more extreme as the film/book reached its climax.

From We Need to Talk About Kevin, I learnt about family and how their dynamics can play such a big influence on a child. I also learnt more about the nature vs nurture debate regarding Kevin’s behaviour, whether or not he was born that way or if there was an environmental factor that came into play. This will influence my writing as I will have a better understanding of the psychology behind a shooter’s actions and how their home life could have impacted that.

In Twin Peaks, I looked at the cinematography in particular as I am making a stop motion video. I took note of the camera angles and the cinematography techniques used. What I found through this is that the producers/creators Mark Frost and David Lynch, use unusual camera angles. For example, anyone who has ever studied any form of film making or photography knows that when you put the subject in focus, it shouldn’t be in the centre of the frame, it should be on either side. This technique is called the ‘Rule of Thirds,’ in which the shot is divided into 9 equal squares and the subject in to either side of the middle squares. However, in Twin Peaks, many of the scenes show the subject of the scenes in the middle of the screen.

 

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However, through this observation, I also noted that the majority of scenes that features the subject in the middle of the shot, the character is sitting down. Whereas in scenes where the character is standing, they are usually shown at an angle of on either side of the shot, even if it is just slightly.

 

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The use of these camera angles allows the audience to fully see what is happening on screen whilst also allowing the scene itself to be aesthetically pleasing. You could read into the different camera angles in a multitude of ways but these angles are something I am going to use in my own stop motion video.

 

Regarding my survey, I was unable to gather enough participants to draw data from so my survey results are currently inconclusive. Whilst this is unfortunate, I have learnt from it and in future, will consider other techniques to get more respondents and other ways to gather primary research, such as focus groups and Vox pops interviews.

From the research I conducted and the survey I created, there were several questions I wanted to ask. The first being ‘How does someone become a school shooter?’ I believe that I answered this question through my research and now know the most contributing factors into what makes a person want to commit mass murder. This will help me when writing my film script as I will be able to write an accurate representation of a murderer.

Another question I wanted to answer was ‘What are the lasting effects of a school shooting?’ I believe I also answered this question as I have read several accounts of people who survived the Columbine shooting, one of the most infamous school shootings of all time and one many believe started the epidemic. After almost 20 years, survivors and the friends and family of the shooters still live with heavy hearts. I have learnt that one of the shooter’s mother’s is close with the daughter of one of the victims. I have learnt that a friend of the shooter still visits Columbine every year on the anniversary and lights a cigarette to reflect. From this, I have been able to take that even after all this time, people are still effected and will probably never stop grieving whilst simultaneously feeling guilt.

 

From the websites I looked into, I learnt a lot about both filming and writing.

In regards to my stop motion video, I learnt about making empty shots to both fill up space and to also use as a background to draw over. I also gathered information on camera angles to use for my video and how it can compare with other film/TV work.

As for writing, I gained a lot of knowledge in script writing. I now know more on how to structure a script and how to make it seem more realistic as scripts can sometimes feel forced if you are unsure of how to write in such a format.

For example, I learnt that one of the key elements of making a good short film is the amount of research that goes into the subject. Without extensive research, a piece can feel poorly written/made as you can appear unknowledgeable, therefor untrustworthy. For example, in the 1998 drama Shakespeare in Love that is set in the late 16th century, characters are seen drinking from modern beer glasses, the Queen attends public plays and theatres are very popular, even though most people at this time were succumbing to the bubonic plague, therefor forcing most theatres to close. These are just little things that can ruin the immersion of eagled-eyed audience members but can be avoided if you research your topic.

Another key element of short film making is having an impactful ending, something that stays with the audience. Edinburgh Short Film Festival Director Paul Bruce states ‘The ending is important in a short film and the short film-maker needs to make sure their ending is satisfying, coherent and works with the rest of the film.’ This is because the ending of any film is what you remember. For example, the 2013 thriller Now You See Me is renowned for its’ plot twist ending. Just as the 2016 thriller Split is remembered for its’ bad ending of going off on a tangent, going from having a human, mentally ill villain to human sacrifices and supernatural beings. Endings can be the make or break of a film, there are countless articles about films with memorable endings, however, they are not always for positive reasons.

When comparing short films to features, the first major difference is the budget. Making a short film is a lot cheaper than making a feature film. Most short films are under 30 minutes whereas feature length films are usually at least 80 minutes long.

Many feature films originated from short films such as the 2014 film Whiplash. Writer/director Damien Chazelle wrote a 15-page screenplay about an aspiring drummer and an abuse instructor, based on his own experiences of being in a Jazz band in high school. Right of Way films and Blumhouse Productions helped Chazelle turn the screenplay into an 18-minute short film which debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film attracted interested and was financed by Bold Films for $3.3 million.

However, making a short film does have some restrictions. For example, the longer the film, the more time the audience has to really connect with the characters. This could explain why people can become so attached to TV characters that are developed over multiple seasons through multiple years. Having such a short time to tell a story can be the downfall for short film makers. It all depends on the topic and how the it is produced.

This new knowledge I have come into possessing with influence my work by allowing me to become a better, more structured and more well-rounded creator. As I research more and more, my work will be of higher quality and more professional.

 

Survey Findings

Whilst I was unable to gather enough participants to collect sufficient data, I still received some answers from participants. The conclusions I have drawn are solely based on the answers given by the participants and do not represent any given group/population outside of the survey.

Question 1

Question 1
Responses to Question 1

The responses to my first question were fairly mixed. 3 out of 7 people said ‘Yes,’ that guns should be illegal in the US whilst 2 said that only the Police should possess firearms. The remaining 2 participants answered ‘Other’ and typed in their respective comments.

The first stated ‘I think some people should have them with a license like in England and some Police Officers should have them depending on what they’re called out to do.

The second said ‘I don’t think they should be illegal but I think that guns should be illegal for those under 25 to access.’

From these answers, I can draw the overall feel of the participants. As none of the respondents answered ‘No’ to the question, this allows me to conclude that the attitude overall is quite anti-guns.

 

 

Question 2

Question 2
Response to Question 2

From this question, I wanted to find out the attitude of British people towards the American government. The responses to this question would influence my writing as I would be able to write about the British reaction to a school shooting.

The response to this question had the overall majority saying ‘No’ with 6 out of the 7 participants stating that they thought that the American government wasn’t doing enough to tackle gun crime. The other participant said ‘They are in the way of debating changing the law. However, they aren’t actually doing anything short term to help change the way that guns are used and who can access them. Not only that but they aren’t doing anything at schools to provide protection.’

From these answers, we are able to conclude that people aren’t satisfied with the American Governments actions regarding gun control of late.

 

Question 3

Question 3
Response to Question 3

I chose this question as I wanted to understand how the British people felt regarding Trumps idea to arm teachers with guns in an attempt to stop school shootings or at least minimalize the number of casualties. The responses to this question will influence my writing as I will be able to write the characters attitudes towards the idea in the aftermath.

6 out of the 7 respondents answered ‘No’ to the question, affirming that they think that teachers should not be given guns. The other respondent said ‘I think they should have a gun put away (like a pistol) for emergency purposes. I don’t think that the students should know the teachers have the guns. Although saying that, the teachers could abuse this system and start threatening kids for homework.’ Whilst I am unsure if the respondent was joking in their last sentence, the sentiment is there and they express their opinion openly.

From these responses, I can see the overall attitude towards this proposition as the results are almost completely one sided.

 

 

Question 4

Question 4
Response to Question 4

I chose this question to ask respondents as I felt that it lead on from the previous question regarding children’s safety in schools. With this question, I wanted to delve deeper into the gun control situation in the US from an outsiders POV.

All of the respondents answered ‘Yes’ to this question which is very interesting as you would think that schools shouldn’t have to be fitted with special precautions but still, people believe they are needed. The responses to this question were particularly eye opening as they provided insight into what people think of American schools and how safe they are.

 

Conclusion:

Whilst I wasn’t able to gather a lot of data from this survey, I was still able to make several conclusions about the respondents and collect some data from said participants. I feel that the questions I chose worked with the topic and allowed me to open both open and closed questions as I allowed respondents to expand past the ‘Yes/No’ answers.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Through my conducted research, I have gained a lot of knowledge on the topic of school shootings, therefore making it knowledge on gun control as a whole. This research will help me write my film script and create my stop motion video.

I have discovered many contributing factors into what makes someone a school shooter as well as learning about the long lasting aftermath of the horrific act which was something I was previously unknowledgeable on. I have been able to take major points away from each form of research and each media piece I examined.  Now that I am a lot more knowledgeable on the subject, I will be able to accurately create and portray characters and scenes in my work.

My research will affect me as I now feel quite personally attached to the tragedies. For example, I discovered that Brian Rohrbough wasn’t told that his son had been shot and killed in the Columbine attack. Instead, the day after the shooting, he saw a news report and lying on the pavement was his 15-year-old son Daniel, shot dead. This piece of information has really stayed with me and I feel that it will for a very long time. To me, that was when I was hit with the realisation that this really did happen, these aren’t characters in books or films anymore, these are real people. This realisation definitely made me more emotionally attached to those who have suffered through school shootings. It has also made me more aware of the pain suffered by those who lose their children and I hope that through my writing, I can honour the victims by portraying characters accurately whilst still respecting their memory.

In the future, I aim to use different primary research methods such as a focus group instead of an online survey. This will help me broaden my research and gather different types of information. As previously stated, my primary research survey didn’t gather enough participants and therefore, the data became inconclusive. Whilst this form of gathering data didn’t work, I will in future use different forms such as focus groups or random street interviews.

Through my research, I have come up with several other story ideas such as a government worker being sent back in time to stop/minimalize a tragedy before getting stuck in said time. I have also come up with the idea of writing a piece in the style of a diary, documenting the journey of a teenager becoming a mass murderer. These are both ideas that I want to explore further in the future, either as part of an academic course or in my own time.

Overall, I feel that the research conducted was very eye opening and successful. I have learnt a lot about gun control whilst also learning about overcoming issues as a writer. I think that this will be a big turning point in my writing and I will use the information I have gathered to accurately represent a fictions event.

Research Report Draft

What are the lasting effects of a school shooting?



Introduction

Guns have been the foundation of American culture for centuries. With over 40% of American homeowners possessing a firearm in 2017 and 64% of homicides being gun related, America has the highest number of gun crime in the developed world. From gang violence to mass shootings, the problem is spreading more and more each passing day. With 46 mass shootings since the beginning of the year alone, 74 lives have been lost in the span of just a few months. Most of these mass shootings occur in the one place you’d least expect. Inside of a school. A place of learning where children should feel safe. Where their biggest concern is passing a quiz, not whether they are going to be shot that day.

I have chosen to explore the topic of gun control through school shootings as this is something I feel very strongly about. Gun control is something I feel very passionate about but the idea of innocent children being shot and killed is enough to make the coldest of hearts drop. With the increasing number of school shootings, I felt that I should use my voice as both a writer and as someone whose generation will be picking up the pieces of the previous generations leadership.

When researching this topic, I will collect multiple accounts of people’s experiences and different forms of information from films, books, articles etc. I will begin looking at different books and films to gather an insight into what creates these tragedies. A lot of thought went into choosing my media pieces as I feel I need to look at this growing epidemic from every angle.

I have chosen two films and two books to conduct extensive research upon and examine the writing techniques used. From these, I will be able to gather information regarding gun control and school shootings.

To me, each of these pieces focuses on different parts of a school shooting and I felt it was crucial to understand every part before writing about it.

I will also conduct a survey on SurveyMonkey.com on the topic of gun control. The questionnaire will focus more on Gun Control as a whole, asking questions such as ‘Do you think the American Government are doing enough regarding gun control?’ instead of focusing solely on school shootings. I want to ask these questions as I wanted to see how British people feel in light of the recent Florida shooting. This research will correlate into how I will portray the international reaction to the shooting in my story.

This research report will showcase the findings of my research and how it will affect my writing.

 

Methodology

I have conducted both primary and secondary research to gather my findings. I have created and distributed a questionnaire on Surveymonkey.com on the topic of gun control.

For secondary research, I have examined multiple pieces of media. I gathered information on the production, influences, producers/authors and the writing techniques used.

The first piece of media I researched was Zero Day, an independent 2003 film following two teenagers as they plan to commit a shooting at their high school. I chose to research this film as it focuses on the gunmen and what lead up to the massacre. The film allows the audience to navigate their way around the minds of two homicidal teenagers and to me, this film was crucial when coming to understand the tragedy. Also, the production budget was very low and the entire film was recorded on a mini DSLR camera. This was really interesting to me as I am also a creator on a small budget and to be able to see such a well-made, rich in character film is really inspiring to me.

To me, Zero Day is the focal point when it comes to looking at the shooter I will be writing about. Zero Day takes you step by step through the gunmen’s minds and I found this the most beneficial piece to research as I was able to look into the characters in more detail which will help me when doing my own writing.

The second piece of media I researched was the book ‘No Easy Answers’ by Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt. Brooks Brown is a columbine survivor who was friends with the shooters. This book is his account of what happened and his experiences with the two Columbine killers. From this book, I was able to focus on what happens in the aftermath of a shooting and how people react, either by coming together or turning against each other. This book also provided me with a look at the shooters from a personal perspective, I was able to identify turning points of when two teenagers turned into murderers.

From this book, I also learnt about the grief. The friends and families of the Columbine shooters had to grieve for someone they felt they no longer knew whilst simultaneously feeling disgusted at their actions. They all experienced a lot of conflicting emotions which is something I want to do justice in my own work. The book also deals with how it affects not only a town, but the entire western world.

My third choice is We Need to Talk About Kevin, the film by Lynne Ramsay based on the Lionel Shriver book. From my point of view, this book looks at the psychological side of things. It delves into whether a person is born to commit such a crime or if they are moulded into a hateful being by their environment. It showcases the classic nature vs nurture argument. This book also shows the build up from the family’s POV and how they deal with the aftermath.

Research Pack (Updated)

My Research Pack

Lauren Reeves

 

 

3 pieces of Media – (LO1.1 – Critically describe range of contextual perspectives influencing a chosen discipline in creative media production)

  1. Zero Day- Movie

 

Zero Day is a 2003 movie written and produced by Ben Coccio. The film follows the lives of two high school students as they plan a massacre at their school.

Zero Day was only Coccio’s second film, his first being a short called ‘5:45am.’ He has since two more scripts for films such as The Beginner in 2010 and The Place beyond the Pines in 2013.

Coccio graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1997 after becoming influenced by his older brother who was a film maker. He credits directors such as Sergio Leonne and Akira Kurosawa as his inspirations as he would often watch their films with his Mother as a way to bond.

When talking about Zero Day, he stated the 1999 Columbine shooting as his biggest ‘influence’ as he remembers being in a New York Pizzeria when the news of the attack was breaking. He said, ‘I was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.’ It was from this tragedy that he decided he want to make a film based on the massacre.

Coccio began writing the script in April of 2001 after getting into a car accident which he says ‘It made me think ‘If I want to make a movie, I’d better make it, because tomorrow may never come.’’

Pre-production started the following month with Coccio moving to Connecticut and contacting schools across the state, requesting filming permission and enquiring about drama clubs for him to hire actors from. ‘Some parents and teachers are suspicious of my motives,’ Said Coccio in an interview with MovieMaker.com, ‘I lost a lot of prospective actors.’

In June of 2001, Coccio met Cal Robertson and Andre Keuck, two drama students. He spoke with the two and their parents for hours, talking about how much the film meant to him and how much he wanted to use the parents in his film as well to create a feel of realism. ‘I wanted to use as many non-actors as possible. That was the thing that I was striving for all the time, to make it feel real to the viewer.’

Cal and Andre also used their real first names due to Coccio’s insistence and dedication to realism.

 

The budget was $23,000 which Coccio said was mainly spent on food for the (teenage) actors and the location for the massacre scene. The final scene of the actual massacre was filmed in The State University of New York and cost $5,000 to use, including insurance.

Filming took 20 days between July 4th and October 10th, 2001. Only two cameras were used, a Sony DCR-TRV 900 3-chip Mini DV and a Sony Digital 8 Camera. Natural light was used in most scenes, however, when needed, an old Lowel light kit was used. For editing, Final Cut Pro 3 was used by the production team, cutting down 13 hours of footage into a 90-minute film. Props, including everything from costumes to blank firing gun rentals, cost roughly $2,500.

When researching the Columbine shooting, Coccio discovered that the perpertrators, 18-year old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold made video tapes of them planning the massacre, building bombs and creating a hitlist. The tapes themselves have not been released to the public, however, a transcript was released by Jefferson County Police Department. They are most commonly known as ‘The Basement Tapes.’ Coccio decided to have this fact become the staple of his own film as the entire film is seen through Andre’s video camera. When comparing the Basement tapes transcript with the Zero Day script, they are very similar. It is clear that Coccio took a lot of inspiration from the tapes, not just the idea of them. Both pieces show the perpetrators acquiring ammunition, spewing their hatred of those deemed ‘popular,’ and building bombs.

 

 

Zero Day is filmed to look like a found-footage piece, filmed on a cheap video camera. The movie delves more in to the psychological side of the topic and what drives the characters to commit such an atrocious act, whilst simultaneously making the characters rather likable. Coccio took inspiration from The Blair Witch Project when it came to cinematography. He identified the tone that the cinematography, such as the cameras used, provided and wanted to recreate it.

Whilst Coccio has described Columbine as his main influence, the infamous 1999 school shooting wasn’t the first of its kind. The earliest recorded school shooting occurred in Pennsylvania in 1764. On the morning of July 26th, four Lenape warriors entered a school house and shot and killed the school master, Enoch Brown, and nine children. This is regarded as one of the most notorious incidents of Pontiacs War.

Before Columbine, school shootings were relatively unheard of. However, in 1998, a year before the massacre, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel shot and killed his parents before driving to Thurston High School and killing 2 students and injuring 23 others in Oregon.

Another major shooting that occurred before Columbine was the Dunblane Massacre. In March of 1996, in Stirlingshire, Scotland, 43-year-old Thomas Watt Hamilton stormed Dunblane Primary School, killing 16 children and one teacher before committing suicide. It was this tragedy that created new UK gun laws, outlawing private handgun ownership.

 

One of the techniques Coccio used was the method of using the actors’ real names in the film and including the actors’ real parents. ‘It’s a challenge because when you go into a movie theatre and you watch a movie, it’s very hard to pull one over on an audience anymore and I mean, I think I came close. You know, there are scenes when I cringe, but using their real names and their real families was just a device, just like having them actually break into the house.’

Another technique Coccio used was characterisation. He builds up backstory for the characters and provides anecdotes to make the audience connect with the characters even though they are planning an unforgivable act. The film includes scenes in which we see a more human, light-hearted side to the teenage protagonists, such as one where Andre celebrates his birthday with his family or one where Cal spends time with his friend Rachel who is also his prom date. In this particular scene, Rachel tells Cal that she thinks he acts differently when he is around Andre, compared to when he is around her. This provides more depth to the characters, we see them as real people instead of poorly written, 2D fabrications.

When thinking about the target audience, I am not exactly sure of who Coccio wanted to aim this film at. However, I can see it being a lot more appealing to a younger generation who have become familiar with the idea of their school not being safe than those who have grown up surrounded by different tragedies. I think that someone who has grown up around school shootings will be more likely to watch this film than those who grew up surrounded by IRA threats and recessions.

Regarding the gender of the target audience, I feel that this film will be more likely to appeal to females than males. I feel this way because females, specifically teenage girls, most often than not, relate to ‘troubled’ characters. It has been scientifically proven that women tend to be more empathetic than men. Teenage girls especially are attracted to ‘dark’ characters. This could be because they themselves are going through a difficult time and that lets them relate to someone who understands them, or it could be due to them wanting to ‘fix’ these characters. I believe that, in general, humans are very attracted and interested to the ‘dark side.’ The difference between men and women, however, is that women feel that they can fix these people whereas men are most commonly just interested in this side. If you need proof, just look at the YA section of any book shop and you will see countless books telling the same story, a normal girl falls in love with a dark and mysterious guy.

Regarding age, I don’t see this film being a favourite to anyone with children. Whilst those interested in human psychology might be drawn to this film, watching teenagers getting shot is hard for anyone to watch, let alone those with children of their own. Whilst parents may be able to watch this film and think that it is well made, I imagine that the final shooting scene would be enough to evoke a strong reaction. This disturbing movie plays on any parents’ worst nightmare as school is where a child should feel safe and learn, not hiding under tables, fearing for their lives.

Regarding nationality, I feel that this isn’t a big factor as the film has different subtitles so it can reach a wide audience. However, I feel that it would be more accessible in more developed, western countries and countries that have received news coverage of mass shootings. Also, regarding class, I think that this is an issue that affects everyone but mainly children in the public-school system so I feel that people from working class, lowers class and even upper middle-class families would be more likely to watch this compared to those who have been educated in a private school.

As this film isn’t widely available, it isn’t on DVD or on streaming services such as Netflix etc, I think that you could only watch this film if you were looking for it. As it is a small independent film, it is not majorly publicised or well-known. I feel that unless you were researching true crime or independent films, it would be rather difficult to come across. From this, I gather that it would not meet mainstream interests and would not be watched by this group.

Whilst the film was self-produced by Coccio, it was distributed by Avatar films. Coccio recalls paying thousands of dollars to multiple festivals to have his film shown.

Looking at the techniques used in this film, I aim to use some in my own work. For example, Coccio didn’t have a set script for his actors. He allowed them to improvise and truly delve into the mind of the characters they were playing. For my project (and my work in the future) I would like to work with some actors from our drama department to really explore the possibilities of this story. I haven’t worked with actors before so I feel that this could be a really interesting learning experience for me.

Another technique from this film that I recognised that will affect my writing is Coccio’s use of characterisation. Coccio constantly uses characterisation to add layers to his characters, creating an inner turmoil for the audience as they see these two likeable characters commit such a despicable crime. Coccio also adds humour into his work. I think this is to remind the audience that these people are in fact children, whilst also trying to lighten to mood and take a short break from the dark theme. The audience knows what these characters are planning yet they feel uncomfortable for relating to them or liking them. The following is a quote from the film, said by Cal:

‘Our original plan was that Zero Day would be on zero degrees, but that only happened once because it was so warm this winter, and that was the day that Andre had diarrhea.’

To be honest, this line did make me laugh. However, I was quickly pulled back when I remembered what this person was planning on doing. This is something I want to replicate in my own work, having the audience conflicted with their feelings about the characters, whether that be through humour or empathy.

As Coccio uses a lot of characterisation in his work, it is something that will definitely affect my writing from now on. I aim to create characters that people can relate to/empathise with even in their darkest moments. I will use characterisation in my own work to create characters that make the audience morally conflicted.

 

 

  1. No Easy Answers by Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt – Book

No Easy Answers: The Truth behind Death at Columbine High is a 2002 book written by Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt. The book was published by Lantern Books, a New-York based publishing company, founded in 1998. The book follows Brooks Brown, friend to Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, as he recounts his experiences growing up with the two. The book provides a well-rounded insight into what made two teenagers commit mass murder.

Journalist Robb Merritt, who co-wrote the book, graduated from the University of Iowa in 1999 with a BA in Journalism & Mass Communications and Theatre Arts. He began work as an Education Reporter for Marshalltown Times Publications in 1998 before being promoted to Features Editor in 2001 before leaving in 2004. In 2005, he began working as an Arts & Entertainment for The Gazette Company before leaving in 2007. In July of the same year, he began work as Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Theatre Cedar Rapids. He worked there for 5 years before leaving in 2012. In February of 2013, he began working as Marketing Director for the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library before leaving a year later. He returned to The Gazette Company in 2014, this time as a News Editor, where he worked with ABC News before leaving in mid-2016. He is currently working as Director of Communications for Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, where he has been working November 2016.

Brooks Brown was born in 1980 in Littleton, Colorado, to parents Randy and Judy Brown. Brooks first met Dylan Klebold when they were in Elementary School. The two were best friends for years before losing touch as they went to different middle schools. The two reunited in High School, however, by this time, quiet and awkward Klebold had become good friends with short tempered, brash Eric Harris.

Little is known about Brown’s academic history past his education at Columbine High School due to him understandably wanting to keep himself out of the spotlight. However, it is known that Brooks worked on the Michael Moore political documentary ‘Bowling for Columbine’ which focuses on gun control in the US.

Whilst very little is known about both authors creatively, I can imagine that the there are two main influences for Brooks. The first being, he experienced it. He was at the school when the shooting happened and he was friends with the gunmen. It’s a life changing event for anyone and I imagine it must really affect you mentally for the rest of your life. Another influence I believe Brooks has is what is known as ‘survivors guilt.’ He wants to tell the story of Columbine because so many can’t. Whilst this may not be a positive influence, it most definitely made an impact in his life and made him want to tell his story. This could be through survivors’ guilt or to honour the victims. This book could be his way of giving the world a wakeup call.

Lantern Books was co-founded by Martin Rowe and Gene Golloghly in 1998 in New York. They are distributed by Steiner Books and in turn, distribute a number of publishers including the American Mental Health Foundation. They have been the publisher of 2004 Nobel Peace Prize-winning book The Green Belt Movement by Wangari Maathai. Other notable authors they have published include Carol J Adams, Steven Best, Thomas Keating and many more. Lantern Books publish and distribute a wide variety of books; however, they specialize in books on the topics of religion, veganism, social justice, animal advocacy and family therapy. They aim to provide books for people wanting to live a life in greater depth.

Regarding target audience, I believe that this book is aimed at people over the age of 18, purely because of the subject matter. When it comes to gender, I believe that it isn’t particularly aimed at either gender but I believe that women would be more likely to read this book. I feel this way because during one of my projects last year, when I wrote about JonBenet Ramsey, I found out that women are usually more interested in True Crime compared to men and for this reason, I believe that women will make up the core audience for this book.

I also recently found out that this book is taught in several college classes across the US, so I believe that when it comes to class (ie. Middle, lower etc,) this book isn’t aimed at any one in particular but is more susceptible to those who have attended public school.

This book has affected my writing massively. Brown uses short sentences that add a lot of impact in his work and this is something that I aim to replicate in my work. These sentences are structured to be informative without drowning the reader in unnecessary information.

He also has a very personal style to his writing which isn’t surprising due to the subject but I feel that he was really able to reach the audience through his words which is what all authors aspire to do. He knows how to reach people and this is something that will affect my writing as I want to be able to do the same.

 

 

  1. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Movie & Book

We Need to Talk About Kevin is 2011 psychological drama based on the book of the same name by Lionel Shriver. Directed by Lynne Ramsay, the film was produced by a multitude of companies including BBC films and UK Film Council.

Lynne Ramsay is a Scottish Director, born in Glasgow in 1969. She studied photography at Napier College, Edinburgh before graduating from The National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, England, specialising in cinematography and direction in 1995.

Ramsay’s debut short film called ‘Small Deaths’ was released in 1996 and centres on three disturbing experiences a woman has. Ramsay has also produced several other short films such as ‘Kill the Day,’ ‘Gasman,’ and ‘Swimmer.’ She has also produced several feature films such as ‘Ratcatcher,’ ‘Movern Callar,’ and ‘You Were Never Really Here.’ One common theme in her work is grief and death amongst children. Her most famous film is ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin.’

Regarding influences, Shriver states Ian McEwan, Philip Roth and Richard Yates as just some of her influences. When Shriver was asked who or what influenced her novel, she said that there was not a set event that triggered her inspiration but her brother

The author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver, was born in 1957 in North Carolina. She studied at Columbia University and Barnard College in New York. Shriver wrote seven books, six of them being published before writing We Need to Talk About Kevin. Shriver has stated that she prefers writing characters that are ‘hard to love.’

Ramsay doesn’t shy away from difficult topics with her low dialogue and visually bold films. Her films are gritty, realistic and personal. They capture the audience’s attention. She uses angles and scenes to make the audience uncomfortable. For example, in We Need to Talk About Kevin, there are two scenes in which we are zoomed in to the point of discomfort. For almost 20 seconds, we watched Kevin bite his nails before placing them on the table. We can’t drag our gaze away from the screen, even when we are zoomed in on his mouth and on the bitten fingernails on the table. Another scene that causes discomfort is short but not sweet. The camera is zoomed in on some Lucky Charms cereal pieces on the counter top. Kevin licks his finger before crushing them under his fingers. This scene overall lasts for about 10 seconds but it is enough to leave you squirming. It’s an odd scene that would seem out of place and pointless in any other film but in this, it works.

Something else I noticed about her camera work was the fact that she never showed the explicits of the killings. For example, in the school attack, the camera is solely based on Kevin the whole time. We don’t see who he kills or any of the victims. I believe this is for one main reason. That being the fact that the most effective things aren’t always the ones we can see. She is using the technique of showing and not telling. She is showing that Kevin is hurting people without explicitly telling us that he is killing them but we can draw that conclusion ourselves.

The only time she shows anything violent is in the final 10 minutes in which there is a scene where Eva finds her husband, Franklin and her daughter, Celia, dead in their garden, murdered by Kevin. In this scene, we see still close ups on the bodies that are paired with quiet, sombre background music. This can really impact the audience as the scene is quite upsetting and has a completely different style to it compared to the rest of the movie. This is the first violent scene we see.

Throughout both the book and the film, we are guided by Eva. We see everything through her eyes and every situation from her point of view. This could be seen as having an unreliable author. Whilst Eva is not the most likable character, we feel the most attached to her as we know how she feels and what she thinks.

Regarding target audience, I feel that this film is more suitable for those over the age of 30 due to the predominant theme of family throughout the film. The film focuses more on the family dynamic and how it plays into Kevin’s mental state. I think that whilst a teenager would watch this film for the thriller aspect, someone either over the age of 30 or someone with children will be able to empathize with Eva and the story.

As the film was produced by both British and American companies and distributed by Oscilloscope, an American company, I see the main audience being from the Western world. Due to the availability and media interest, I believe that the nationalities and class of the target audience is those living in first world, mainly English-speaking countries. Considering how much of an issue school shootings have been in places such as the US, Australia, Canada etc, people living in said countries where they are exposed to the tragedy are more likely to watch this film.

As this film focuses on a very raw subject and was made by an independent film company, I would hardly call the film ‘mainstream.’  It didn’t receive a lot of press coverage or any big marketing scheme, however, it is available to watch online through Amazon Prime. However, you have to search to find it so that leads me to believe it isn’t a very popular film.

We Need to Talk About Kevin will inspire my writing in many ways. The first technique that I want to use in my own work is the style of an ‘unreliable author.’ The entire story is told from Eva’s point of view as we experience everything through her eyes. She makes several assumptions about Kevin’s behaviour, such as him being responsible for his sister Celia, losing an eye. We never know for sure if he was responsible. However, this could also be seen as the use of ‘showing not telling.’ As we only see through Eva’s eyes, it is difficult to gather an unbiased version of the story. This technique used by Shriver is very effective as it casts a shadow of doubt over the protagonist whilst using other techniques such as ‘showing not telling.’

Another technique I want to use more is the use of flashbacks. When I wrote my JonBenet Ramsey piece last year, I would go back and forth between the present (the crime scene) and her experiences growing up. This is something that I feel really enables me to be able to tell a grounded and intricate story and after reading We Need to Talk About Kevin, it is something that I want to use in my writing again. Switching between the scenes is a way to keep the audience interested and the tension high.

The book provides an insight into the lives of the parents of school shooters and the guilt and grief they have to deal with. Parents of school shooters are often scrutinized in the media as they are demonised for not ‘knowing’ their children. Shriver shows the aftermath of the attack and how the world quickly sharpens their pitchforks to point them at Eva. We see Kevin grow up and his mental state spiral as he becomes more and more resentful of his Mother. In the final scene of the film and book, Kevin admits that he doesn’t know why he committed the murders. This is a rare moment of vulnerability for Kevin as Eva tells him she still loves him. This scene is crucial when trying to understand the psychology behind Kevin’s actions as we were led to believe that Kevin did this as an act of spite towards his Mother.

Through reading this book, I feel like I have not only learnt about writing, I have also learnt about grief. This will give me other avenues to explore when writing. To me, this book is a looking glass into a family suddenly struck with both grief and guilt. This book/film really turns ‘unconditional love’ on its head and it makes you question if it is possible to love a child through anything.

 

 

 

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