I’ve always enjoyed films, not only for their content, but for the reactions they evoke in audiences who watch them.I believe film and the cinema itself to be one of the greatest outlets for human and artistic expression. So when I was initially brainstorming ideas for a media project, I knew I wanted to focus my project on film in one form or another. My original idea was inspired by week five’s topic ‘Cinemas- Strangers in Public’. I was also influenced by two other sources; Gogglebox, a reality show where audiences react to different television shows, and Shia LeBouf’s artistic project #allmymovies in which he watched all his own movies, back to back on a 10 hour live stream (luckily I didn’t subject my participants to this!) . For my initial project I wanted to record participants reactions to different genres of film and analyse how they acted within the cinematic space.
However, upon discussion within my tutorial group I realised how broad my topic was and how difficult it would be to achieve in such a short period of time. Another member of my tutorial expanded upon my original idea, suggesting that I still record and analyse audience reactions, but rather do this in relation to horror films. Specifically he suggested I focus on the psychological, slasher and paranormal subgenres of horror in order to see which subgenre my participants were most affected by. This collaboration of ideas directly related to a TED talk I had watched in which Steven Johnson states that:
“We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens.” (Johnson 2010)
Thus, I took my original idea and through discussion with another class member, developed it into an idea which would focus on both the participant’s reactions to the various genres and participant’s previous exposure to the genre. I wanted to explore the notion that the extent of how much a participant is affected by different horror films is directly related to their previous exposure to the genre.
My study consisted of four participants who have had varying levels of experiences with the horror genre. Sarah and Madeline were my experienced horror movie participants, Dean was my adequately experienced participant, and Georgia who had never watched a horror movie before was my inexperienced participant. For my project, participants had to watch three movies from three selected subgenres of horror; psychological, paranormal and slasher.I filmed their reactions and compiled these into short reaction Youtube videos. I then interviewed them to gain further understanding of their thoughts, feelings and reactions in the media space.
As “ethnography is, by definition collaborative”(Lassiter 2005 p.15), before engaging any of my participants in this project, I ensured that all ethical principles were upheld in relation to their involvement in this study. Every participant was informed about what the project would entail, that their reactions would be filmed on camera, and that the project would be posted on an online public WordPress blog. I also collaborated consistently throughout the project with my participants to ensure that they were happy with the way they were being presented online.
In conducting my project I had quite a few issues that were resolved with the collaborative help of my participants. The first and foremost problem I encountered directly relates to Thomas Hagerstrand’s conceptual framework of time geography. I faced a number of coupling constraints in regards to scheduling times that suited my participants to watch the films. Sarah and Madeline were not available during the day or late at night. Georgia works two different jobs so scheduling time with her was equally difficult and Dean often had to watch the films late at night after work. I tried to work around their availabilities the best I could as I didn’t want this project to be too much of an interruption to their busy lives. This issue was eventually overcome by group screenings for the participants whose schedules allowed for it.
Another issue I had related to the video editing process. I have only recently purchased a Macbook and have literally no experience with using the apps on it. This made things difficult when I had to edit the reaction clips together. In combination with this, my phone wouldn’t transfer the clips across which meant I was missing potential reaction footage. Then, once they were transferred I had to teach myself how to use imovie through the help of Google and Youtube. I found this video to be fundamentally helpful. Although my videos are far from polished and I can still learn a lot more about film editing, I think my reaction videos were a good first attempt considering I have never used the medium before.
I think my research although very small, could be replicated on a much bigger scale and analysed by film makers to help understand what elements of a film work best to affect audiences. Although this study is focused on horror, it could easily be adapted to suit other genres in order to find out what aspects of films are most engaging for audiences.
In conclusion, although challenging I really enjoyed undertaking this study. It was a new experience for me to actively collaborate with my participants in order to form a media narrative I, and I’m sure they are proud of. I look forward to future media projects where I can involve my participants as much as possible to further understand the media, audience, and spacial landscape.
Lassiter, E 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Steven Johnson 2010,Where Good Ideas Come From, online video, September, TEDglobal, viewed 25th October 2016, <http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from?language=en>
Witheridge,G 2015, Harerstrand not the irrational man: an analysis of why tumbleweeds have replaced jaffas rolling down cinema aisles,Giverney Witheridge, weblog post, 30th August, viewed 29th October 2016, <https://givernywitheridge.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/hagerstrand-not-the-irrational-man-an-analysis-of-why-tumbleweeds-have-replaced-jaffas-rolling-down-cinema-aisles/>