ZIP: The Final DOL

My inquiry question is “what makes an effective short horror film?”. Initially, I chose this question because I have a fascination with horror films. Ever since I was a child, I was interested in how horror films could make me feel so scared of something that had always been so familiar to me. For ZIP, I wanted to create this feeling myself and present it through a medium that I enjoyed tinkering with. Surprisingly, my question has not changed throughout the process of my inquiry. About a week ago, I considered narrowing my question to “what makes an effective short, found-footage horror film?”. However, after finding some information that made me question my decision, I decided to stick to my original question. My question stayed the same because the question is just the right size. It isn’t so broad that I am forced to narrow it down, nor is it so narrow that I need to make it broader. Due to this, I found enough information from my research to create my artifact, so there wasn’t a need for me to change my question.

Through ZIP, I expanded on multiple skills. One skill I expanded on is my researching skills. This year, I researched effectively and managed to finish my research in less than a week, a drastic difference from my research last year, which took a couple weeks. Additionally, I improved my synthesis skills. By having an inquiry which requires me to create an artifact, I forced myself into synthesizing the information on my notes into practical information that I could apply. Then, I synthesized the practical information into my actual artifact, my short horror film. Furthermore, I improved on my filming and editing skills. I took many ambitious risks in my filming, such as filming while moving for the first time, and I applied various effects while editing my film, such as turning a day scene into a night scene. As a student, I can use my researching skills for note-taking in future classes, while I can use my synthesis skills in all my future classes, whether that be incorporating literary elements into creative writing or writing a science report using information from various sources.

I learned a lot about what makes an effective short horror film, but I do not have an answer to my inquiry question. Simply put, there is not a single answer to my question. Horror is subjective, and there isn’t just one way to achieve the feeling of horror. A gory scene of splattered blood and guts can achieve the feeling of horror, but so can objects randomly moving around in a room. The effectiveness of a short horror film is not determined by the amount of gore or how superstitious your film is. Rather, the effectiveness depends on how well these elements are executed. However, there are some universally applicable short horror film tips. For a short horror film, and short films in general, keeping the film simple is very important; there is no need for lengthy takes and visual effects unless it is relevant to the plot. Additionally, maintaining a feeling of unfamiliarly and the unknown adds to the effectiveness of a short horror film. According to Hari Hara Sudhan, a film critic, “an unknown rat is scarier than a known snake” (Sudhan, 2017). Once we see something, our survival instinct towards it lowers, and we feel less afraid about it. This is the reason why monsters rarely make an appearance in the first half of a movie; it simply wouldn’t be effective for the monster to make an appearance so early. By keeping things in the unknown, the film maintains a feeling of suspense and builds up to the climax. To conclude, there is not a true answer to my question, but there is universal advice that a filmmaker could follow to increase the effectiveness of their short horror film.

My final learning artifact is a short horror film that I created myself. It demonstrates my learning by synthesizing my research into my film. By implementing my learning into an artifact, I am able to prove that what I did was more than just regurgitate information found on the web. Additionally, my artifact connects to my core competencies.

  1. Think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts

During my research, I thought critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore the various ideas and information I encountered. Ultimately, my task was to create a short horror film myself, so during the research process, I critiqued different ideas and explored the possibilities that came with each idea I encountered. Midway through my research, I considered the idea of creating a found-footage film. However, I discovered that many filmmakers advised using found-footage as a medium if the effect could only be accomplished through that specific point of view. After critiquing and reflecting on the idea, I finally decided that since I could achieve the same effect without using found-footage; I would not use the idea and stick to what I planned originally.

Exploration of different ideas.

Exploration of different ideas.

Exploration of found-footage idea.

Exploration of found-footage idea.

  1. Explore the relevance, accuracy, and reliability of texts

I explored the relevancy, accuracy, and reliability of texts. When it comes to anything creative in general, such as filmmaking, there’s always a level of subjectivity. Thus, in my research, I encountered both contrasting and similar ideas. For example, one source told me that if the horror movie was not achieving its effect, I should “just ratchet up the intensity” and add lots of gore (Dowd et al, 2015). Meanwhile, in another source, I was told not to “focus on the story” as “gore is not the point” (Frank, 2016). These two answers weren’t wrong; they were simply two different solutions to the same problem. Deciding which one to choose forced me to explore each of the source’s relevance, accuracy, and reliability, which involved me looking up the authors of the different articles and searching up their credentials. If the author’s information was not available, I would simply continue my research, see if similar opinions popped up, and go with the popular opinion.

https://film.avclub.com/how-to-make-a-good-horror-movie-9-lessons-from-the-gen-1798277684

https://film.avclub.com/how-to-make-a-good-horror-movie-9-lessons-from-the-gen-1798277684

https://www.funsizehorror.com/community/5-tips-for-making-a-short-film

https://www.funsizehorror.com/community/5-tips-for-making-a-short-film

  1. Use writing and design processes to plan, develop, and create engaging and meaningful texts for a variety of purposes and audiences

To create my artifact, I used a variety of writing and design processes to plan, film, and edit my short horror film. First, I brainstormed some ideas and put them on a word document.

Exploring different ideas.

Exploring different ideas.

Next, I picked one specific idea and started going into the details, such as where I wanted to film, how many actors I needed, whether I was going to have a monster, etc.

Planning the film.

Planning the film.

Then, I storyboarded my film, drawing scenes and figuring out the best angle to shoot for each scenario. Basically, I drew out my scenes in a “comic book” style with a scene in each box and a short description below.

Afterwards, I filmed my scenes, and then got right to editing. Editing was where my film really started to get developed. In the case of creative writing, one uses one’s writing to create effects, such as expanded moments, suspense, and a dramatic climax. For video editing, I can literally stretch clips to slow down movement and make expanded moments, which in turn allows me to build up suspense. I could also add a dramatic sound effect to make my climax more apparent.

By using these different writing and design processes, I planned, developed, and created an engaging and meaningful artifact.

I consulted a variety of resources for my inquiry. However, a lot of the sources gave me identical information. Here are my top five resources that gave me unique and useful information that I incorporated into my short horror film.

Science Focus

This source gave me an answer to my question from a scientific point of view. By providing me with the science of fear, I could start brainstorming ideas with information to back me up.

Fun Size Horror

A lot of other sources gave me great tips, but a lot of the tips were geared towards longer horror films, not short horror films. By giving me some tips on making a short horror film, this source gave me practical information that I could incorporate into my own film.

B&H Photo Video

Not only was the information in this source easy to digest and understand, it was also easily applicable. The video went over makeup, costuming, lighting, atmosphere, and showed me the “how” of doing things rather than just telling me “what”.

Rain Dance

This source gave me some great tips on creating the feeling of fear. It addressed some common mistakes amateur horror filmmakers made, such as overusing the jumpscare and adding too many sound effects. The trick was to keep things simple and realize that sometimes something as simple as silence could easily build up enough suspense.

Author Stream

This is a very concise source, but the information it gave was invaluable. By equipping me with the knowledge of how different transitions, such as cut and fade to black, were used and what effects they achieved, I could confidently edit my video knowing that the transitions I applied would give me my desired effect.

Initially, I thought I would not have any more questions since I thought my inquiry question was pretty straightforward. However, throughout my inquiry, I asked myself more questions than I actually answered. Horror is a surprisingly broad genre, and even within it, there are subgenres, such as psychological, slasher, found-footage, possession, urban legend, and “cat and mouse” horror films. This leads me to have questions about what makes an effective psychological short horror film or what makes an effective found-footage short horror film? As cliché as this sounds, horror is a world of possibilities; there is just so much you can do in this single genre. This motivates and excites me to research more about this genre as a whole, as well as look more into the different subgenres and find my niche.

Well. That’s it. The moment I finish typing this sentence, ZIP 2019 will be over.

In Depth 2K19 Blog Post #1: The Journey Begins

For my last year (oh my, time went by fast) of In-Depth, I would like to learn Japanese. More specifically, I have set the rather ambitious goal of being able to read, write, and speak in the language.

I have a myriad of reasons of why I want to learn Japanese. First, I want to be able to speak a language confidently other than English and Korean. Despite learning French in school for many years, I don’t feel comfortable speaking the language even for basic phrases. If all my knowledge about a  language is pedantic, and I can’t practically apply my skills, I can’t say that I really learned the language. Hence, I want to learn Japanese to gain the practical skills necessary to use the Japanese language in a way that goes beyond being able to memorize phrases on a piece of paper or being able to fill in the blanks on a Japanese grammar quiz. Additionally, I want to be able to gain an in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture. Learning a language allows one to immerse oneself in another culture; languages make us adapt our mannerisms and characteristics to fit the language. Personally, growing up in a country with rather strong anti-Japanese sentiments, I want to know more about this culture that I was told to hate to gain a comprehensive understanding of issues from a different culture’s point of view. Finally, I have an interest in Japanese media, almost to the point of addiction. However, translated media just isn’t the same with certain details, jokes, and effects being lost in the translation process. By learning Japanese, I will evolve into a superior form, watch media without subtitles, and read the latest chapter a week earlier than the mere mortals who must rely on fan translated media.

My mentor this year is a Japanese person with a teaching certificate in Japanese from a college in Canada. I will not mention her name in this post as I have not yet asked for permission to use her name yet. She teaches Japanese to individual students while also teaching Japanese at a local community center. Our mentoring sessions will take place every two weeks, starting this following Monday. During these sessions, I will address the questions given in Ms. Mulder’s blog post while also asking lots of questions and asking for feedback on pronunciation.

Well, that’s it for now. For once, I want to be able to say, “I have no regrets,” at the end of In-Depth. Rather than setting another goal and getting disappointed at myself for not meeting it, I will do whatever it takes to meet my goal. It’s the last one, and there’s no redos. Let’s make it count.

ZIP: DOL #3

Describe the ups and downs you have encountered to date in your inquiry. Specifically, when you were frustrated or struggling in your inquiry, what did you do to address the situation?

 

To start off, let’s describe some of the ups so far. Personally, I think my research had been pretty effective. I managed to meet my goal of getting three more pages of notes, and now I feel more confident in my ability to create a short horror film than I was at the beginning of my inquiry. Additionally, I’ve been following my schedule and meeting deadlines so far. I finished my research, as stated in my schedule, and I am now moving on to brainstorming ideas and storyboarding them on paper to see how these different ideas look.

Let’s move on to the downs now. First, I’m finding it rather difficult to brainstorm ideas in fixed amounts of time dedicated specifically to ZIP. When I timebox an hour or more of time to work on ZIP and set myself a goal, such as finalizing what I want to do for ZIP, I often end up not meeting my goal. I might be able to think up of a clear idea of what I could do, but I end up doubting whether this is the idea I really want to do or if this is the idea that I really should be doing. It’s only much later, in the middle of the night (or early morning) when a light bulb switches on, and I open up my Word document, a dozen or more tabs, and start furiously typing an idea onto my Word document. In a nutshell, it feels like my creativity turns off when I most need it, and it turns on when I least need it. To address this, I’ve been being more flexible in my schedule. Rather than just setting an exact time for me to do only ZIP, I’ve been simply working on other work while thinking about ZIP in the background and fitting ZIP into time slots in my schedule.

For now, these are the main ups and downs of my research, but I predict that in the future, especially with filming and editing looming in the horizon, I will be meeting even more challenges and frustrations. However, rather than spending time worrying, I will try to take the sage advice of William Wordsworth and just begin.

ZIP: DOL#2

What is a specific source of information that you have found valuable in answering your inquiry question? How has it proved valuable? Explain.

One source of information I have found valuable in answering my inquiry question is the article found via the URL, https://www.funsizehorror.com/community/5-tips-for-making-a-short-film.

A lot of the information I found regarding my topic so far has been mostly general and repetitive, but this source was quite different. Instead of giving me the same five tips as all the other websites I researched, the article gave me practical advice that I could easily incorporate into my horror film. The fact that I can easily incorporate the advice given in the article makes it a great starting point in the creation of my short horror film and allows me to start incorporating concepts as I start thinking about ideas for my film.

Additionally, this article is very valuable since it has multiple links to other articles and videos on the website. If I’m curious about one of the five tips or just want to know more about a certain concept, I can click one of the links found in the article to find even more information. For example, when the article mentioned keeping my short horror film simple, I didn’t fully grasp what the article meant by keeping things simple, so I clicked one of the links found hyperlinked on the article to see a short horror film that used something as simple as a closet door to give the same feeling of dread found in high budget horror films. Not only did this give me great advice, the article also helped me stop overthinking about some of the aspects of the project. Due to my limited equipment and budget, which is basically nonexistent, I have been worrying about how I would make an effective horror film without the same effects of high budget films. With my newfound knowledge from this article, I have been able to stop worrying about my lack of funds. Instead, I can now focus on what I can do with my limited equipment and make the best usage of what I have from there.

 

ZIP: DOL #1

Record a journal entry of how you used one of our in-class focus blocks. What did you accomplish during this time? What did you struggle with? What might be your next step in your next focus block? Set a goal.

January 8, 2019

Yesterday, I had a day of research. After opening my word document, I immediately headed to the internet to get some information. A couple of Google searches later, I found myself with a number of articles that covered the essential components of an effective horror film.

Midway through my reading, however, I realized that I didn’t fully understand what made horror different from scary. Sure, I realized horror had a bit more of a shock element and could include gore that made the audience wince, but other than that, I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the word “horror”. Hence, I explored the question, “What makes a horror movie, horror”, From this, I gained a new, critical insight. Horror is something people watch to see people like them experience things they would never experience themselves. While familiar things could be scary, they were seldom horrifying.

From there, I moved on towards the psychology of horror and what made things horrifying for people. I read a couple of articles and gained an understanding of my question through a scientific lens. I found it interesting to see what triggered the evolutionary feelings of horror and fear, and this unwittingly gave me some ideas for my own short horror film.

Surprisingly, I didn’t struggle with anything in particular. Unlike last year, where I had a hard time finding out where to start, this year, I jumped right into my research and tried a method that involved researching as much as possible about my question right away. The only “struggle” I can think of for the sake of this blog post would be that I didn’t know what made horror, horror, before I started my research, which made researching about effective horror films a bit difficult and made me take a few steps back and research this information.

For my next focus block, I intend to finish and post the doc of learning that I am currently typing up right now. I also intend to narrow my research a bit more now that I have some general knowledge regarding my question, and I plan to explore my inquiry from there. This goal, however, is pretty subjective, since there really isn’t a way to objectively measure this, so I will also set an objective goal. My goal is to watch at least two short horror films/trailers and take notes on what made the film horrifying for me. Additionally, I also plan to get at least three more pages of notes by the end of the day of my next focus block. Hopefully, by going at this pace, I will be able to finish my research by January 10th and begin planning the filming of my short horror film.

Notes:

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