Thursday, May 28, 2009

AS Exam guides

If you weren't at the revision sessions on this, it may be useful to catch up with some of those who were. I focussed in particular on the issue of DISTRIBUTION, which exam board feedback from January suggests was an area students countrywide didn't tackle too well. This doc briefly summarises some key points on this, though I went into more detail in the revision classes. If time permits, I'll type up further notes and add them here.
This doc takes you through the outline of content covered in this question, and the assessment criteria. I also focussed on the issue of the Key Concepts in the revision slots, as cited here.
Some key points to work on for the exam:-
  • look closely at the issue of distribution; the doc above gives a brief summary of this, with links for further reading; I'll add to this if I get time (distribution co's pay a flat fee and/or a % of potential profits for the rights to sell a production co's film to exhibitors - cinema, TV, DVD etc. Distributors pay for the marketing of a film, not the production co - tho' WT are unusual as they insist in being involved in the marketing campaign - use BJDiary as a case study, but also ref Love Actually)
  • do focus your answer on the case study of WT, but put this into context with reference to Warp Film/X as a more typical Brit production co (working on much smaller budgets than even WT's 'Indie' arm, WT2; social realist films; genre films 'with a twist'; working with Optimum Releasing and Film4/C4 for distribution; tho WT was sim to Warp when it started out) AND some specific comparison too to a Hollywood producer (use Universal, obviously part of the NBC-Universal conglomerate)
  • how do these sometimes giant corporations go about targeting an audience? Marketing is key to this (BJD cleverly taps into a wide aud thru its soundtrack etc), but so is the use of stars (Richard Dyer's star system), setting/accent (focus on white, S.Eng, m-class?), and the trend of hybrid genres (rom-COMs reach out to males thru comedy aspect; LActually makes this explicit with its 'ironic' sexist music vid with Bill Nighy, a parody of Robert Palmer's 1980s 'Addicted to Love' music video. For a company like Warp X, use of stars generally won't be an option; they focus on working within familiar genres - eg the slasher Donkey Punch taps into the wide fanbase of horror/slasher movies, featuring a 'final girl' - a tough, resourceful female character who overcomes the typically male killer - to reach out to a female audience for this primarily male genre
This part of the exam may focus on Aud/Inst'n, but there's certainly scope for touching on issues of representation - do you feel the typical WT film represents you as British person? Look at the fate of Mickybo & Me, a $5m WT2 film that, unlike the similar Son of Rambow with its S.Eng protagonists, flopped - it was only shown for one week in N.I. cinemas, the decision then being taken not to fund a UK wide cinema distribution.
On this topic, but also for some light relief, have a look at the BBC3 satire 'Curtisland', which savagely critiques the WT/HGrant/RCurtis rom-coms narrow white (upper-)middle-class, S.Eng representation of Britain (NB: the humour is fairly adult):

For the TV Drama Q, though, nothing will help more than practicing note-taking and writing up your analysis - using the exam timings [30 mins for 4 viewings of 4-5min clip of recent British TV drama; 45 mins for writing essay on this]. Look at the listings for programme descriptions, and make an educated guess at which area of representation it might be useful to look at - a female lead for gender [eg Ashes to Ashes], a northern setting for region, etc - record, play, write...
If you want me to add docs from earlier in the year on semiotics and TV drama send me an email and I will:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Warp X: Low Budget DIGITAL Film Production Co

There are a series of materials I'll add to this, as well as posts on the films This is England and Donkey Punch which we've looked at to varying degrees; many are linked below. I'll revise this doc and add a fuller summary.
Warp contrasts nicely (effectively forms a binary opposition) with the juggernaut that is WT (whilst sharing the same roots).
There's much more detail in the docs that follow, but some key points:
  • just like WT, the key personnel behind Warp gained their initial filmic experience in music videos (Warp was initially a record label)
  • Warp Films was set up first, followed in 2006 by Warp X - both are essentially the same company, but WX was specifically funded by the UKFC to the tune of £3m (EM Media & Screen Yorskhire added £1.5m [total £4.5m]) to produce 6 films in 3 years and to foster the development of low-budget digital film-making in the UK. WT's low-budget subsidiary, WT2, spends more than this on any one of its releases!
  • Optimum Releasing handles distribution (TV rights to C4/Film4) - hardly on the same scale as WT with their tie-ins with Universal and Studio-Canal providing distribution deals for the USA and Europe
  • Just as with WT in their early days (with MBL), Warp has had critical acclaim for some of its initial output, including Shane Meadows' TisEng and Dead Man Walking
  • forging long-term creative relationships seems to be another trait they share with WT (perhaps they've studied what has made WT such a success?), with Paddy Considine and Shane Meadows two examples of this
  • amazingly enough, given the tiny budgets they work on, Warp has even found time to launch its own offshoots, or subsidiaries: as well as a competition for female comedy film-makers, it has sought to set up a production arm in Australia, taking advantage of government funding there

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006): Case Study

If the Richard Curtis/Hugh Grant series of WT rom-coms exemplify one prominent trait of contemporary British cinema, the gritty, low-budget social realism of films like this mark out quite a different trend within the UK's film industry. Whilst nothing like as commercially successful as BJD, Love Actually et al, it can certainly be argued that films like this are culturally vital to Britons' sense of self-identity.
This Is England promotional brochure This Is England promotional brochure DB

Potential financiers of this film would have seen this brochure, which seeks to sell the idea before filming can commence.

What's All This Then?

Across the year a variety of handouts are distributed, which I'll start making available through this blog, but there are a great deal of additional materials you may wish to access. These include case studies of films we've looked at (and many we haven't), useful links and suggestions for further reading, and overviews of relevant concepts and theories linked to the study of cinema.
For 2008-9 there are significant overlaps between an exam sat by the A2 and that sat by AS, so I'll make most of this available to all, with some additional points (including tips and guidance on exams, and past questions) specific to AS or A2 kept in a separate posting.
If you come across any materials or resources you think would be useful, please pass on the details. The same goes for any ideas, suggestions or comments you may have.