Production Elements of the “Bates Motel” Pilot


In the Pilot episode of Bates Motel, the production elements (outlined by Orlik in the text) contribute to the meaning of the media text by creating an unsettling atmosphere. It is clear that the producers’ goals while making this episode were to set the scene for an unnerving, suspenseful show that will leave the viewers wanting more after the Pilot.

The opening scene begins with the main character, Norman, waking up from a nap and stumbling around his house and eventually to the garage where he finds his father, dead on the floor. The shaky-cam technique is used throughout this scene. The shaky-cam suggests his confusion and instability, emphasizing that he is dazed from his nap – this detail is relevant because later in the series the audience finds out that he sometimes blacks out and acts out of character. It is not mentioned in the text, but there is also a shot using a Dutch angle, which signifies something is wrong and it is being used to create suspense. As expected, this scene sets the tone for the rest of the episode.

Many of the episode’s shots show a perspective from either the top corner of the room or directly above the actor(s), giving the audience an alternative perspective and showing more of the location. Tight shots/close-ups are often used on the character Norman. He shows a lot of emotion on his face and the producers want the audience to see his expressions because it is important to the plot. This is not only because he is the main character, but also audience is most likely trying to figure out Norman, because everyone knows how he turns out due to the movie Psycho.

Camera-base motion on a horizontal plane is used most often in shots. Many scenes include the camera moving with the character, specifically Norman. The producers want the audience to pay attention to Norman’s actions, as well, which is emphasized by the spatial mobility in the episode.

Overall, the production elements contribute to the meaning of the episode, including the focus on Norman and the eerie tension.