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I’m Starting My Film with a Cinematic Hook – The Ghost Story of Hazel Drew

– Posted in: Unfolding Documentary

I need to start my film with a hook

Right from the start it’s important that a film’s audience intuitively feels that they are in good hands. They need to trust that they will be entertained in a way that meets their story and cinematic expectations. The audience doesn’t express this need, but every filmmaker knows just how important it is. I know that maybe more then any anything else, I need to start my film with a cinematic hook.

The Audience Has Unspoken Creative Expectations

If I watch myself when choosing a film on Netflix or Amazon,  I notice that I go through an “expectation checklist.” It’s not obvious or conscious, but I’m doing it. I’m looking for early clues that will help me determine if the film is going to be full-filling. Everybody does this. Their expectations change but the process is the same. As a filmmaker I must be aware of this process and plan accordingly.

Can I get People to Watch my Film?

It’s not going to be hard to get the “Cold Case” and  “Twin Peaks” audiences to consider watching this film. Now, this assumes that the artwork is good and the marketing campaign is working. The “attention hook” at this phase is “Hazel Drew’s connection to Twin Peaks and Laura Palmer.” It’s built into the project, but while that may be enough to get them interested, it’s not enough to ensure success. For this film to be a success I need to start out strong by getting the viewer invested in the mystery.

I Need to Start My Film With a Hook.

This story stands on it’s own. That is, if you’re willing to invest time into reading old newspapers and playing detective.  That’s exactly what Mark Frost did when he was working on the Twin Peaks pilot and it’s what I’m doing with “Who Killed Hazel Drew.”It’s the storyteller’s job to take fragments of information and form it into a compelling story.

I’ve got to make sure that the first three to five minutes of this film is so intriguing the viewer can’t help but get invested in the story. I need to start my film with a cinematic hook but first I need to find it.

Did I Uncover the Hook?

It was after much research and during a drive back from visiting family in Syracuse, New York that the hook for this film began to reveal itself. If you’re a new or “want to be” filmmakers I highly recommend you listen to this recording. As a future creator this will soon be your task. I hope my process may give you a place to start.

Please leave a comment, ask a question or share an idea in the comments section below.


Here’s the audio recording of my thoughts beginning to take shape.

Audio Recording Time Markers

 Turning ideas into a cinematic narrative and shot-list ideas

  • 1:30 – Start the film with Grandma Calhoun telling the Hazel Drew Ghost Story to Mark and Scott Frost.
  • 3:50 – The ghost story is told in the form of a cautionary tale, so I think use boys instead of drunks walking home who hear her cries.
  • 9:00 – Cinematic and narrative transition ideas to move from the ghost story to Twin Peaks and Laura Palmer.
  • 12:00 – Maybe art can help explain art. Using imagery to connect Sand Lakes country side and culture to make a connection with Twin Peaks
  • 16:00 – The first detective reenactment scene with Hazels body in the Pond. What needs to be conveyed.
  • 18:00 – Weaving dramatic reenactments with interviews and newspaper clips.
  • 21:00 – 30:00  – Shot-list ideas for the ghost story open.
  • 32:00 – How many days of pre-production should I plan?
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