An Attempt at Horror

We have finished the scariest unit we have ever done in PLP. As you may know from my past few posts, we were doing a unit on Horror. As someone who gets scared VERY easily I was not super excited for this unit, but it was actually pretty fun. As with every unit, we had a driving question and here it is.

Why is horror such an effective way to reflect and comment on our society?

As with every PLP unit we had a couple of core competencies to focus on while going through this unit and they were Reading and Personal Text response, Creating and Extending Shared Understanding, Continuity and Change, and Understanding Language Construction and Intent.

Read for enjoyment, to achieve personal goals, and to think, construct, and respond personally, critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts to construct meaningful personal connections between self, text, and world.
Respectfully exchange ideas and viewpoints from diverse perspectives to build shared understanding and extend thinking.
Appreciate and understand the role of personal, social, and cultural contexts, values, and perspectives in texts, including culture, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic factors and how language is used to construct personal, social, and cultural identity, including discerning nuances in the meanings of words, considering social, political, historical, and literary contexts.

To start off this unit we got to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This is a classic horror novel and it was a great way for us to start to understand horror and monsters. The big question we focused on while reading Frankenstein was “Who is the monster?”, which is a more difficult question to answer than you might think. To help us answer this question we watched Gods and Monsters which is a movie about James Whale who directed Frankenstein the movie. This gave us a great insight into who the monster might be. I wrote a blog post about the monster which you can read here.

In classic PLP style, before we started the project for this unit we went on a field school. We went to Seattle to immerse ourselves in horror. Our first stop on this trip was a car museum. Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with our unit, and so was I. This car museum had a lot of old cars and we went through the museum focusing on the core competency of continuity and change. We had an assignment to focus on an aspect of cars and look at how it has changed and stayed the same throughout time. Here is mine.

Another stop on this field school was the Museum of Pop Culture. I have probably been there 4-5 times but I had never been in the horror exhibit due to being too scared. The horror exhibit there is very cool. It was full of props and costumes from horror movies and so much behind the scenes stuff of how horror movies were made. It was a great way to get ready for our project which was to make our own class horror movie. Making a class horror movie has been attempted many times by PLP classes but has never been successful. Spoiler alert, my class wasn’t successful either but I’ll get to that later. Our last horror related stop on this field school was the Georgetown Morgue. Now this is no ordinary morgue. It was an old morgue that was transformed into a haunted house. It is one of the best haunted houses in America, and by best I mean scariest. Being the little chicken I am, I was unable to gather the courage to enter the house, but all of my friends said it was terrifying.

On this field school we started our project for this unit. Our project was to make a class horror movie. This may not sound super challenging, but it was by far the hardest project I have ever done. Other PLP classes have attempted to make class movie but no class has ever been successful. To start off this project we all needed roles, and to get some of the bigger roles such as producer, director, and screenwriter, you had to go through an interview process. We being who I am I obviously wanted one of the big roles and I was lucky enough to get screenwriter, which turned out to be not so lucky in the end but I’ll get to that later. The other members of the key creative team were Sam and Alex as the producers, and Adam as the director. Our first job as a class was to come up with our story which I was in charge of making the final decisions on. We spent hours in the lobby of the hotel going through many ideas until we found our story and then we were ready to head back home.

Back in the classroom I lead my small team of writers in writing the script for the movie, and it was not easy. Writing a script means writing EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of the movie from what’s going to be said to what time of day it is and what’s going to be in the background. We spent hours writing the script and formatting it. We then took a small break from working on the movie and watched a couple of horror movies so we could make ours better. First we watched a classic horror movie, Halloween, and it was a great movie. I wrote a post about it that you can read here. After Halloween we watched Get Out and it is an amazing movie. It was a completely different type of horror and gave us many more ideas for our horror movie. I wrote a post on it that you can read here.

Finally it was back to making our movie. Our teachers read our script and had some issues with the story so they gave us lots of feedback and we went back to writing. After we had finished re-writing the script, our teachers decided to completely change the story again without anyone from my team even being in the room which did not make me happy. This meant we had to almost completely re-write the script. After we were done that we got ever more critique and had to re-write parts of the script AGAIN. All of these last minute re-writes put us behind schedule and we had to change the due date. I may have not liked all these last minute changes but it was a helpful challenge and I feel a lot more comfortable getting critique now.

Everyone else in the class got the props ready and assigned the actors and we were ready to film. We got some fancy lighting and a camera and we got to filming. Filming a 20 to 30 min movie takes a LONG time. On our first night of filming we were climb for about 4-5 hours and we got about 2 to 3 scenes which is not much. After this first day of filming we learned a lot. None of our footage was usable because we didn’t review it on set and there were a lot of other little mistakes because we honestly weren’t ready to film. Our teachers decided a change needed to happen and they replaced all of the key creative team except me because I was honestly the only person doing my job and I was doing everyone else’s job too. Our new producer was Spencer and our new director was Willa. Considering they came in so late they did a great job.

Our second attempt at filming went a lot better but still wasn’t perfect. It was extremely hard to get everyone we needed on set at the same time due to our busy schedules. I filled in as director for Willa for half of the filming. We did end up having a lot of fun filming. In the end we ran out of time to film the movie and we were only able to get a trailer together. This project took a lot of work and I am upset that we weren’t able to finish it but it was still fun. Maybe if everyone worked really hard we could have gotten it done but some people didn’t have the same motivation as me. I learned a lot of writing skills throughout this project and a lot about communication, but I never want to make a class movie again.

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