Session 5 Production Project – The Perfect School

Session 5 Production Project – The Perfect School

Hands Across America, Philadelphia (1986)” by VCU CNS is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.




Intention (SMART Goal)

By May 10th, as part of team 5, I will have added detailed notes to the script and storyboard on music choices and the use of tension building through music using Robin Hoffman’s “What is The Function of Film Music” and MasterClass’ “6 Ways to Create Tension and Release in Music”.


Leader(s) in the Field / Exemplary Work(s)

John Williams

John Williams is one of the most well-known and highly regarded American film composers, having composed over 100 films and having 52 Oscar nominations, five Oscar wins, two Emmy wins, three Golden Globes, and 25 Grammy wins. Some of his most well-known compositions include the score for Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, the first three Harry Potter films, and nine Star Wars films. Williams’ ten rules for success are mostly related to working hard and finding joy in everything you do. Throughout his career, Williams has stayed incredibly humble despite his extensive success and recognition, as he cares deeply for his work as a musician and finds immense joy in his every interaction with music.

Training Source(s)

6 Ways to Create Tension and Release in Music

  1. Repetition
    • Repeating one bundle of chords/notes creates rhythmic tension
      • Predictable pattern and emphasis on particular sounds
    • Sudden chord change to break up repetition can …
      • Produces satisfying release for the build up OR
      • Create more tension
  2. Dissonance
    • Putting two notes together that feel unstable creates harmonic tension
    • Dissonant note pairings are common in horror films to escalate tension
    • Following dissonant notes, you can use consonance or harmony to create release
  3. Key changes
    • Key changes create anticipation for a return to original key
    • Adding minor keys or changing keys contributes to musical tension
      • Listeners feel uneasy until the music returns to its original sound
  4. Dynamics
    • Reach climaxes with increasing pitch or volume (quickly or slowly)
    • Create release with decrescendo
    • Can also use silence to add to the dynamics of music
  5. Restriction
    • Can continue building tension by holding off on release
      • Often used in EDM
    • Climactic moments come with build up of rhythmic patterns
      • “The drop”
  6. Syncopation
    • Syncopated rhythms: disruption to regular pattern of beats
    • Tension builds with off-beat rhythms
    • Release happens when rhythm is on beat
What is the function of film music?
  1. Commentary
    • Commenting on the image presented in each scene
    • Pushing the audience to perceive things in particular ways
      • Heroic, sad, romantic, etc.
  2. Movement
    • Accenting music with every visual movement
      • Often referred to as “mickey-mousing”
    • Often feels cartoony and is useful for slapstick, but can be employed in dramatic moments
  3. Plot Relationships
    • Giving certain characters, situations, or places a “thematic identity” with a repeated song or note/chord pattern
      • Using this can almost act as foreshadowing to an upcoming event or character appearance
  4. Atmosphere
    • Very important and powerful; sets the tone
    • Particular music in an intro: establishing genre or “feeling” of entire film
      • Could be used to set the stage for plot twists as well
  5. Emotion
    • Getting into the emotions of the characters
    • Intentionally pushing a certain feeling onto the audience (tell them how to feel!)
  6. Social, Cultural, or Geographic References
    • Music that represents a certain setting, especially as characterized and perceived by Western ears
    • Alludes to the main setting of the film by making us feel like we’re in a certain location
  7. Time Period References
    • Musical styles change throughout time
      • Use to establish time periods and bring an audience into that time
      • Can be especially useful in flashbacks to heighten audience understanding of the amount of time passed
  8. Connect Scenes or Montages
    • Glue or connect scenes together
      • Harsh cut between scenes is softened with music
    • Especially useful with montages to understand meaning and purpose
  9. Manipulate
    • Manipulating the opinions/perceptions of the audience in the “right” direction
    • Used commonly in propaganda films
    • Useful in misleading audience for a greater plot twist
      • A character portrayed as the “good guy” is revealed to be the villain at the end
        • Use heroic/happy music for his appearances to guide viewers away from suspecting any evil
  10. Perception of Time
    • Altering tempo can push or drag a scene
    • Extending or shortening the actual time passed with differing tempos
  11. Space
    • Using something like a full orchestra matches with deep space
    • A more intimate piano and violin piece matches with shallow space
  12. Unreal Situations
    • Used to characterize nightmares or unreal moments
    • Focusing on the extreme fictional nature of the scene
  13. Contradiction
    • Sounds that don’t match the visual appearance of the scene are unsettling
      • Alludes to something being off
    • Dark music under seemingly neutral dialogue – something is wrong
  14. Parody
    • Music can dictate whether a scene is serious or laughable
    • Often used in comedies to poke fun at a traditionally intense scene
      • Think the final match in Dodgeball: the intense, big “battle” of the film still made comical with music
  15. Physiological Conditioning
    • Influence and stimulate audience emotions
    • Used especially in horror and thriller films to build tension and instill fear in the audience
  16. Size Relations
    • Example of a little boy walking alone through a big city:
      • Visual differences between the boy and the city can be emphasized by music
      • Light flute motif combined with a deeper music provides auditory contrast with visual contrast
      • Can change the degree of auditory contrast if the little boy is developing into a “bigger” character
        • Music can express that new “size” dimension even though we can’t visually see it yet
  17. Psychologically Uniting Listeners
    • Real world example: national anthems working to “unite” a nation
    • In film: more euphoric or heroic scores can be used to “unite” the audience to a common emotion
      • Allows the audience to feel as though they’re part of the scene
    • Using well-known, popular songs can have the same effect as the audience is familiar with the piece
  18. Character Development
    • Music can be used to develop characters or aid audiences in their understanding of said character

Project Timeline

  1. Brainstorm ideas
  2. Create storyboard
  3. Present storyboard to class and get feedback
  4. Create slideshow and share with all team members
  5. Make story adjustments and write screenplay
  6. Decide on location and character roles
  7. Gather/make props, costumes, equipment
  8. Set up shots
  9. Prepare blocking for each scene
  10. Film all scenes
  11. Record all sounds/dialogue
  12. Put all recordings for audio and video in shared Google Drive folder
  13. Decide which scenes to keep, get rid of, or re-shoot
  14. Label final shots and audio clips
  15. Transfer audio and clips into Premiere Pro
  16. Put clips in order and make all edits
  17. Create music
  18. Put audio in and sync up to video
  19. Make all finishing touches
  20. Export final film
  21. Add evidence to slideshow
  22. Present film and slideshow to the class and receive feedback

Proposed Budget


The (FILM, SOUND, or GAME Creation)

The Perfect School

Skills Commentary


I acted as composer – my evidence is on slides 25 and 26.


21st Century Skills

Ways of Thinking (Creativity, Innovation, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving)

Considering the number of actors we used in multiple scenes, creativity and problem solving was crucial to the success and completion of our film. The class we were originally going to use in those scenes was unavailable the day of shooting, so we had to problem solve to try and find a new class last minute. We also had to overcome issues related to the time constraint, as we changed our original filming plans and cut hallway running scenes. On top of this, our editor was absent the entire week of editing, so we had to problem solve in order to ensure we had a finished film with all the necessary components.

Ways of Working (Communication & Collaboration)

Throughout the entire production session, our team was in constant communication, which was especially necessary because we are a six person team. When our editor was out for the entire week of our editing process, we all had to collaborate to make sure we ended with a finished, well-done film. Decisions on cutting scenes, sound design, and music were all a collaborative effort, as we checked in with each other every day and each watched our film before publishing it. We also had to communicate during filming to finish our scenes efficiently, and we collaborated by helping each other out with our individual roles when someone was gone or had to be an actor in a scene.

Tools for Working (Info & Media Literacy)

Due to the limited time we had to edit the film, add sound effects, and create music, I had to learn how to use a music composition site other than GarageBand so that I could work in the classroom and from home. The website I used was called Soundtrap, and I had to learn all of the details and specifics of the site in order to make progress on our film’s music and complete the finished product in time. As a learning tool, I read about the purpose and potential of music in film with Robin Hoffman’s article “What is the function of film music?” and researched how I could create conflict and release in my music with MasterClass’ “6 Ways to Create Tension and Release in Music”. As a team, we used Celtx to write the screenplay, Google Drive to share files, and Trello to keep track of our progress.

Ways of Living in the World (Life & Career)

In this production session, I gained a lot of life skills regarding collaboration, teamwork, and general creativity. Because this was our last film and every team was given the same prompt of “community”, my team and I pushed ourselves to come up with something unique and creative that would stand out among all the other films. Especially during our pre-production and brainstorming process, I learned how to effectively collaborate, and express and communicate my creativity and ideas successfully within a group. When new, often conflicting ideas were proposed, we had to blend them together and work through everything as a team, which I feel is a very important skill to have in the real world. In a more specific sense, I continued my learning about music theory and composition, which is a skill I would like to build upon in the future.

Reactions to the Final Version

“The music built very successfully, starting with a wholesome feeling and then shifting as the tone of the film shifted. The inclusion of the heartbeat sound was also really effective to portray the panic of the character, even though it was a smaller, background noise.” – James

“The music flowed really well and matched the tone of the film, which helped move everything along and provide clarity in the plot.” – Moira

Self-Evaluation of Final Version

Our final film was simple, as we only included shots and scenes that were necessary to develop the plot of the film and communicate our story. It was also emotional, as we used sensory language and specific film techniques to instill fear and create suspense with our audience. Additionally, our film was concrete and unexpected, as we shocked our audience with a final plot twist and addressed the prompt of “community” from a unique perspective.

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

During this project, I learned a lot of technical skills, especially regarding music composition and the specificities of the Soundtrap software. Before this production session, I had only ever used GarageBand, but now that I am well-versed in an entirely new program, I feel more prepared for any music I compose in the future. In a more general, real-world sense, I continued to gain skills relating to leadership and group collaboration, which will be very helpful in the future. I also solved many problems alongside my team members during this production session, as we had a large task including nearly 50 actors that needed to be completed within a relatively short period of time.

Grammar and Spelling

Grammarly, Edublogs Spell Check


Merja Haatanen

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