Research: Vehicle/Pedestrian Collisions in Films

In films and tv series, people often get hit by cars. Sometimes the character darts out in front of the car, sometimes, for whatever reason the driver has lost control, but in the vast majority of scenes I’ve watched of vehicle/pedestrian collisions, neither the pedestrian nor the driver have been paying attention resulting in tragedy. But what does this mean? Often, in more cases than not, recklessness of hope in a cruel and unfair world is summed up on screen by scenes of a pedestrian collision.

I intend to film a man crossing the road on a bike but just before he gets hit by a car, the scene will cut to black, however the audio will continue to play for a few seconds afterwards. This will reduce the need to film real stunts yet still give a believable impression on the audience that a pedestrian collision has taken place.

A film that demonstrates this incredibly well is ‘Me Before You’ which tells the tale of a lady that takes care of a rich man after he becomes paralysed upon being involved in a motorcycle accident.

 

This example ties in well with my own short film. The scene in which the man gets hit by the motorcycle is in fact a flashback, which is exactly how I intended on presenting my own crash scene. Another reason for picking ‘Me Before You’ is due to the way the film creatively avoids showing the audience the crash, yet the audience are still aware that it happens. This was achieved by cutting to black and then having sound effects such as nearby people screaming and the sound of tires screeching. This is exactly the effect I am looking to execute in my short film.

Another example of a pedestrian collision is from the tv series ‘Skins’. At the end of the first series, one of the leading characters gets hit by a bus whilst on the phone to his ex-girlfriend. This crash scene is more graphic than the first example as it actually shows the character being hit by the bus, however the scene is quick and no injuries or blood are shown on camera. A similarity between this example and the first is that both characters are on the phone, which links back to my previous statement about most pedestrian collisions happening due to inattentive pedestrians and/or drivers. I chose these examples in specific because I intend on having the pedestrian collision in my short film to be caused by talking on the phone.

Obviously, films like ‘Me Before You’ often have a budget of at least $20 million and I do not have this kind of money to spend on a film. Usually, I refrain from including action scenes in my projects for this reason, as I believe low budget action is a surefire way to make your work look unprofessional. However, in order to improve my filmmaking skills, I need to challenge myself. The key importance of this research is to study how to make low budget action look tasteful and semi-professional. As previously stated, the main way in which I will achieve this will be through an emphasis on audio over visuals. Sound effects of a car screeching to a halt and people screaming will allow the audience to visualise the scene for themselves and will allow me to avoid trying to create a low budget scene of a character actually getting hit by a car.

At this point, I think I’ve researched everything necessary to make sure my collision scene looks and sounds semi-professional. In conclusion, I believe that vehicle/pedestrian collisions in cinema are extremely effective as a storytelling technique. Not only do they convey a visual representation of tragedy but they can also be used as an interesting way to end a conversation between two characters.

 

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