Key questions for this unit:

  • What is the difference between suspense, surprise and mystery?
  • How do film makers create suspense?
  • What skills can I use to create a suspense film

Let’s learn from the Master:



How does this work in these clips from Jaws (1975 Steven Spielberg)





Some broad principles for creating suspense – what are the ‘rules’?

Notes taken from ‘Screenwriting Tricks for Authors’ – Alexandra Sokoloff:

1. ASK A CENTRAL QUESTION with your story. e.g. What is going to happen next, who or what is hiding in the dark corner?

2. STAKES. What do we FEAR is going to happen?

A good story makes the stakes crystal clear—from the very beginning of the story.  We know right up front in Silence of the Lambs that there’s a serial killer out there who will not stop killing young women until he is caught or killed. How do we know that? The characters say it, flat out, and not just once, and not just one character.

You need to tell your audience what they’re supposed to be afraid of.

What is scary in the physical environment, in the visual and in the symbolism of the space? How can you use sound to create chills? What is going through the character’s head that increases the danger of the experience?

4. You have to make the audience  CARE. Because if they don’t care about the characters, then they have no personal stake in the scares – they do not feel the fear for the character.

5. You have to layer in all six senses—what it looks, smells, sounds, feels, tastes like—as well as what your characters sense is there, even though there’s no physical evidence for it. You have to create the effect of an adrenaline rush. In a  good suspense scene the pace can actually slow down, so that every detail stands out and every move takes ages to complete.


7. USE INTERIOR MONOLOGUE –  So we know what the character is thinking/feeling


Sound Knowledge

Any filmmaker will agree that capturing sound correctly is just as important as capturing great images. Sound can make or break a professional or amateur production, so making sure you know your way around a microphone can’t hurt. So let’s go over some basic ways to capture sound and take your video to the next level of awesomeness we all know it can be!

The sound from your camera does not always suck! it depends on how far you are from your source of sound. The camera mic is ok as long as you are about 10 feet or about 3 metres away.


Any more that that and you need to use an external Microphone and maybe even an external recorder.





Check out some of this equipment and see how learn how to use it with your team.

Sound Tips:

    • Microphones that
      have a 3.5mm stereo mini jack normally require some type of separate power source, so make sure you have batteries!
    • XLR microphones normally use the power given off by the camera or device they are connected to, but double check to see if it requires it’s own power source before recording.
    • Before recording, try taking a 5 second video clip and playing it back with headphones. This will give you a good idea of how the camera or recorder is picking up sound, that way you can decide if you need to change locations, sound levels or mics, etc.
    • Finally, make sure your microphone is on and the camera is set to use it! If your microphone isn’t turned on, you won’t capture any sound. The same thing will happen if you don’t tell your camera to use the external microphone (normally located in the cameras settings, however newer cameras detect the microphone automatically and don’t need to be told about it).

Sound Poem Challenge


Finding the way


Emotional Anarchy

These were created using Garageband. Get to know the basics of Garageband by having some fun experimenting with the software. Gather some sounds from the school import them into Garageband and have some fun manipulating them.

CREATE YOUR OWN 30 second Sound Poem about ISM  to be played to the rest of the class

You will learn how to use Garage Band in Class but this video might give you some ideas too.


Film Magic

The Big Picture for this Unit:

What are the essential similarities and differences between ‘primitive’ and ‘modern’ film-making ?

How can learning about early film help us to learn about film language?

Persistence of Vision

Film v Video

One of the fundamental differences between the films of primitive cinema and the films we create today as part of the Intro Film Course is contained in the two words


Video stores moving images digitally. They can be played back instantly and saved as digital files on a computer. Film stores images in such a way that the film has to be chemically processed before the images can be seen. 

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To understand how we make sense of moving images and how the cinema was born it helps us to understand the concept of persistence of vision.

Eadweard Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope


Make a Thuamathrope


A Flip book


An Animation


The Earliest Cinema

Do some research about early Film pioneers like Muybridge

Online Treasure Hunt

Although you will have seen from your research that there where a lot of people in Europe and America all developing cinematic techniques around about the same time, the Lumiere Brothers where the first to show their moving images to a paying audience.

Make a note of the similarities and differences between early cinema and modern cinema

The Shot


Workers Leaving The Factory (1895)


Arrival of a Train (1895)


Shots of Lyon (1998) – What is different about this Film?


The Sick Kitten (1901) – And what about this major breakthrough?!


Or this one is even earlier Grandma’s Reading Glass (1900)

The Cut

Look carefully at this film  – Fire, by James Williamson (1901). How is it different to ‘Workers Leaving The Factory’ ?


The Narrative

By 1903 pioneer filmmakers had already begun to create film narratives based on popular fiction of the time.

The Weird and the Wonderful

In Europe the people who were most excited about the invention of the moving image were kind of divided into two groups, those who were interested in creating art and those who were interested in creating entertainment. Both groups created some weird and wonderful films.





The Magician

George Melies is was a magician and show man. He was one of the first to see the Lumiere bothers films and realised the potential of showing films to audiences for a profit. As he began making his own films he developed a number of techniques which have since led to him being called the father of special effects.

Here are some of the techniques he used and how they are still used in modern films.


The Stop Edit

How is the magic being created?

What is happening in the narrative? What is reaction of the people at the end of the film?


This is a bit scary folks! Can you spot the stop edit?


The Ring ( Gore Verbinski 2002)

The Dissolve


This one used amazing stage make up and robotics but is essentially the same technique


The American Werewolf In London (John Landis 1981)

Double Exposure 


Now we use the same technique but we call it split screen


Jack and Jill (Denis Dugan 2011)

Another director inspired by George Meilies is Martin Scorsese. He made the magical film “Hugo” about him in 2011 based on the amazingly illustrated book by Brain Selznick. Well worth a watch!



Special Effects have come a long way with CGI but still some of the most effective special effects are not done with computers but with practical techniques and creative ideas.


Production Instructions

Film Language

 How to create Split Screen Magic!

Pleased to meet you!

Exercise One
a) Individually write down the following details about the best film you watched this summer. If you can, make a note of:
the director,
genre/type of film
Why did you particularly enjoy it and why would you recommend it to others in the class?
b) Discuss your ideas with the two other people. Find a Youtube trailer for the film.
c) Present your ideas to the rest of the class.( You can do this in pairs if you share the same film recommendation)

Exercise 2
Make a very short (1 minute) film about yourself. Use a Vado camera, phone or Photo Booth on Mac. Things to include:
Your name
Country of origin or culture you most identify with
Films you have enjoyed watching and why
What you are looking forward to on the Intro course and what, if anything, you are nervous about.

Upload the video to the server and export to youtube – make sure the video is ‘unlisted’
Embed the video in your Film Intro Googlesite
Send the site link by email to