Sunday, 19 February 2012

Niche Genres: The Found Footage Film

This is a new Big Fairbanski feature which takes a look at some of the more obscure sub-genres hitting the screens today.

In celebration of Chronicle, we will start by taking a look at Found Footage films...

What is a Found Footage Film? A film consisting of amateur footage usually shot on home video camcorders supposedly left behind by missing or dead protagonists.

Not to be confused with... mockumentaries. These are fake documentaries supposedly put-together by a professional production company. Examples include Spinal Tap, Borat, Surf's Up and TV's The Office.

Trademarks of the genre: unknown cast, low-budget, hand-held cameras (obviously), realism, usually a supernatural element, ambiguous ending.

Examples: The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, REC, Troll Hunter, Chronicle.

Where did it all begin? although it dates back to the 1980 Italian film, Cannibal Holocaust, it was really The Blair Witch Project in 1999 that has popularised the genre in the past decade. As such, this is still a new and developing genre. 

Highlights of the genre: none of the cast must be recognisable so this is a good excuse to cast a talented bunch of unknowns. They are also relatively low-budget because they shoot on location, use handheld lightweight camcorders and don't concern themselves over fancy lighting or make-up. As such, they are a great vehicle for first-time directors to make a splash.

Limitations of the genre: often limited to the perspective of the person holding the camcorder. You therefore rarely see the face of the protagonist. Also, the scripts have to to wedge a camcorder into unlikely situations to maintain the continuity of the story, which can often compromise the realism which these films rely on. For instance, why would they keep filming the Blair Witch documentary when everything is going crazy in the woods? Surely it would be easier to run without a camcorder? The endings are usually quite rushed too.

Best Example: Chronicle - the recent and most effective use of the genre. It learns from its predecessors and manages to avoid the above limitations by cutting between multiple camcorders to show different perspectives and utilising CCTV/news footage so characters don't have to lug around camcorders during the epic showdown. It also brings in lots of home video YouTube-style larks which are great fun in the first half of the film. Also, Chronicle manages to deliver a proper ending and not another abrupt die-and-drop-the-camcorder moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment