Thursday, October 14, 2010


Here's a question for you (please don't use google to answer it!): which film does this quote describe?
a worldwide gross of $248m for a poorly lit video with a three-person cast and a budget of $60,000

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Warp/WT/Optimum - French connection

Extremely useful from our old friends at Film Guardian, looking at the growing influence of French finance and film companies in the future of British cinema. The article fails to note the more formal links between StudioCanal, WT + Universal, but provides some great detail and insight into the workings of 'our' domestic film industry. Interesting to note Universal passing on a WT movie too; could that relationship be on the rocks?

Changing Channel: France becomes the unlikely saviour of British film

Antipathy has long been the default setting for the countries' cinematic relations, but French investment is behind a string of new British productions
SOURCE: Adam Dawtrey, 7.10.10 at

The Hollywood studios are retreating, and the UK Film Council is heading for oblivion. But help is at hand from the other side of the Channel. The French are coming.
François Truffaut famously once suggested that the words "British" and "cinema" were incompatible. Fortunately his compatriots at StudioCanal don't seem to agree.
StudioCanal has emerged this year as the most significant new force in UK film-making. It stepped in to finance Working Title's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when Universal passed, and it's powering up the production slate at its own company, Optimum Releasing. After many years distributing crucial British films such as This Is England, In The Loop and Four Lions, Optimum has plunged headfirst into making its own. Its first production, Rowan Joffe's Brighton Rock, premiered at Toronto and opens next February.
Joe Cornish's alien invasion film Attack the Block, Nick Murphy's period ghost story The Awakening and Nigel Cole's Asian family comedy Rafta Rafta are also in the can for release next year. Matthias Hoene's gangster/horror mash-up Cockneys vs Zombies is getting ready to shoot next spring. StudioCanal is also looking at the Sam Mendes project On Chesil Beach, based on Ian McEwan's novel, after US studio backer Focus Features dropped out.
As a distributor, Optimum is also handling two of the most hotly anticipated UK directing debuts – Submarine by the IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade, which went down a storm in Toronto, and Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur.
Historically, the UK and the French film industries have never been as close as they should have been. The British have always looked to Hollywood first while the French barricaded themselves behind the fortress of their language. In cinematic terms, the Channel is wider than the Atlantic, and harder to bridge.
The British mistrust the seriousness with which the French regard the septième art while envying the unshakeable political and financial support their film-makers enjoy. The French laugh at (not with) our floppy-haired comedies while envying our international success. And like Truffaut, who delivered his notorious snub in an interview with none other than Alfred Hitchcock, they love to provoke us with their sense of cinematic superiority – yet cherish our great directors better than we do ourselves.
But some on both sides have always dreamed of an entente cordiale that could unite the contrasting strengths of these two industries and mount a real European challenge to Hollywood.
"Being French, StudioCanal want to produce great cinema – and they are passionate about talented film-makers, and so are we," says Optimum's chief executive, Danny Perkins. "For example, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has got a great literary pedigree and a very exciting Swedish film-maker attached in Tomas Alfredson, so Working Title found a better fit with StudioCanal. We're also very involved in The Tourist, with another highly-rated European director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, going on to his second film."
Another French studio, Pathé, showed the way by backing The Queen and Slumdog Millionaire. Pathé's François Ivernel says: "We are naturally drawn to a different type of material than the Americans because we come from a different cultural angle. Our relationship to film-makers is more one of respect and collaboration and flexibility."
StudioCanal has been waiting in the wings for a while. It already owns a big chunk of British cinema heritage in the shape of a library of 5,000 titles, including the Ealing comedies. It has been a quiet investor in Working Title's films for many years. But now it is moving to centre stage.
Optimum is mining its library for material – both Brighton Rock and Rafta Rafta are technically remakes. But it has also shown a French willingness to take a punt on new talent – Joffe, Cornish and Murphy are all big-screen debutants.
"We are standing very firm in a fragile landscape," says Optimum's head of production, Jenny Borgars. "We want to encourage established film-makers to come and make a home here. We offer the comfort of cash and a creative partnership. And it's very helpful to have a proper financier with a European sensibility, which perhaps has more respect for the film-maker than the American one."

Thursday, September 30, 2010


This post gathers together a range of resources - and viewpoints - on the issue of 3D. This is a key development for cinema in the UK and worldwide; for the time being at least, notwithstanding the first batch of 3D TVs being released and the growing number of 3D broadcasts and channels, this remains one area in which cinema offers an experience 'home cinema' cannot match.
Cinemas routinely charge 2-3 times normal ticket prices for the privilege of getting 3D, which is actually most often a 'retrofitting' of a 2D movie, rendered into 3D via a computer process rather than planned and shot in 3D.
Its a key issue to consider not just for your AS exam, but also your coursework!
Speaking of which, with the A2 task in mind, I wonder when we'll start getting music videos in 3D? Surely somebody has thought of this by now?! If you find the article which considers director Wim Wenders' opinion that 3D transforms dance-based movies, surely the same applies to the average performance-based music video?

The Guardian gathers together articles on 3D at:

Here's a good, opinionated article to get you started. The user comments are typically robust, featuring some strong language, but a goldmine too, eg this from 'Gelion':
At present putting a film out in 3D must be synonymous with the audience knowing that that film is going to be poorly rated.
Some weeks ago on another thread I looked at the scores for films in 3D out to date on Rotten Tomatoes.
The average score was 30% (you could argue the only one holding it up was Avatar - but take the special effects out of that film, and in my view you have very little left.)
The Last Airbender with 6% and Cats and Dogs, The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D! at 13% were the bottom of a very bad pile.
So at the moment, 3D remains a gimmick used to entice film goers to pay their money to view poorly rated films.
It must be a haunting fact for the producers of these films that 3D might soon be common place. 
 The article (
 Blurred vision on the 3D bandwagon
With Star Wars and Inception returning in stereoscopic vision – and three-dimensional HBO due to launch – is 2D dead?
Jar Jar Binks, Star Wars So much prettier in 3D ... a two-dimensional Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Photograph: AFP The intriguing thing about 3D is that even after the enormous success of Avatar nobody knows yet how extensive its use will become in modern film. Might 2D eventually become the exclusive preserve of low budget or independent film-making, with virtually all mainstream fare pushed into stereoscopic vision? Or, once all the fuss and hype dies down, will we see 3D only where its use is sensible: in features with the kind of content that lends itself to the experience?
Up until recently, most observers have seen the second outcome as the more likely one. But there appears to be a rabid frenzy going on in Hollywood right now, with every project under the sun seemingly being green-lit in 3D. Today, the US trades confirmed the rumours that George Lucas is to bring his entire six-film Star Wars saga back to the big screen in stereoscopic vision, starting with 1999's The Phantom Menace (because blooming Jar Jar Binks' fizzog will naturally be infinitely less irritating in three dimensions than it was in two) in 2012. And, in a separate report, I read that Warner Bros is considering retro-fitting Christopher Nolan's Inception for a 3D re-release in cinemas and on the small screen, via US network HBO's soon-to-be-launched 3D TV channel.
Yes, that's right, 3D TVs are very much here. You can buy one now, though you may have to remortgage your house to do so. Naturally, however, as more people grab one the prices will come down. And before long you won't have to wear glasses in order to see that extra dimension: new technologies are already in place which use a different system to trick the eyes into picking up extra depth.
Whether we actually want all this extra gimmickry is a moot point, but it has to be a concern if's report is correct and a film-maker such as Nolan, who specifically chose not to make Inception a 3D project, is now being pushed into doing so retrospectively. Even worse, the article suggests that the film-maker's forthcoming sequel to the Dark Knight, the third in his excellent Batman series, will be shot in three dimensions – whether Nolan likes it or not.
Imagine that. In a few years' time, you sit down for an eight-hour Batman marathon, watching all three films back to back (I'm sad enough to have done this with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, so I'm confident that this is a genuine potential scenario) and when it comes to the final movie everything suddenly goes all 3D. Or will Warner insist that the first two films are also refitted? What a bunch of jokers.

I'll add a few links here in due course, starting with this...from The Guardian. I can't recommend strongly enough that you browse/read the paper/site regularly, it is a real treasure trove.
With the market overall slipping 3% from the equivalent frame from 2009, when Slumdog Millionaire and Gran Torino led the field, cinemas are hotly anticipating the arrival of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland on Friday. All the big plex chains have now made their peace with Disney over the film's early DVD release date, presumably extracting more generous terms in the revenue split on box office. This means Alice will be limited only by the still insufficient number of 3D screens, where it will presumably lose the late-evening showtime to Avatar.

A Woman's Place is in...the Editor's Chair?

Great Guardian article here that reminds us of the many unlikely examples of macho directors whose trademark style, the hallmarks that earn them their auteur stripes, are often closely tied to a more feminine touch. Scorsese, Coppola, even Hitchcock; all worked closely with a crucial female collaborator. This article (read it at the Guardian site and you'll see embedded film clips to illustrate each paragraoh) focuses on Quentin Tarantino's muse...


Sally Menke: the quiet heroine of the Quentin Tarantino success story
Tarantino's trusted editor and 'number one collaborator', found dead yesterday, was partly to thank for his signature style

Read Sally Menke's obituary here
Quentin Tarantino and Sally Menke in 2007. A cut above ... Quentin Tarantino with editor Sally Menke in 2007. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Sally Menke died this week, aged 56, after going hiking near the Hollywood Hills on a day that was extremely hot even by Los Angeles standards. Her sad death brings to a close the longstanding collaboration with Quentin Tarantino – Menke was the only editor with whom the writer-director has ever worked – that yielded some of the most exhilarating and accomplished films of the past 20 years. He once described her as "hands-down my number one collaborator", noting in an interview for the Grindhouse DVD that "I write by myself but when it comes to the editing, I write with Sally. It's the true epitome, I guess, of a collaboration because I don't remember what was her idea, what was my idea. We're just right there together."
Menke was hiking when the collaboration began, too: she was standing in a phone booth on a remote Canadian mountainside when she learned Tarantino wanted her to cut Reservoir Dogs. Although Tarantino was an untried filmmaker, Menke – whose two previous credits included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – had loved his script, plus the fact that Harvey Keitel was on board, and was attracted by the possibility of working with a director whose interests seemed so ostensibly macho. She thought of Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker.
Tarantino later said (in the documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing) that he had expected a female editor to be "more nurturing to the movie and to me. They wouldn't be trying to win their way just to win their way, all right? They wouldn't be trying to shove their agenda or win their battles with me. They would be nurturing me through this process." Menke, too, felt this dimension of the working relationship: "I think editors play a big role with directors in giving them support, making them feel like they can look at something that may have trouble or problems and be comfortable enough so that they can approach those problems."
She once described editors to the Observer as "the quiet heroes of movies", noting that "we have a very private relationship with our directors, most often conducted in dark rooms". It could be "so intense", she said in The Cutting Edge, that "I see [Tarantino] more than my husband". He in turn noted in mock-dudgeon that "sometimes I get annoyed with her for not reading my mind 100%. It's not good enough that she reads it 80% of the time."
Many aspects of the style Menke developed with Tarantino were already evident in Reservoir Dogs (1992), from long, dialogue-heavy takes shot with a restless camera to bursts of immersive violence. Another signature was the brilliant use of obscure music over material tellingly heightened through devices such as slow motion. Intriguingly, Menke revealed that "I don't cut to music. I just make the scene work emotionally and dramatically, and then Quentin will come in and lay the track over it and we'll tweak it to the beats." The opening sequence of the film remains a masterclass in the technique.
Their next project, Pulp Fiction (1994), was altogether more ambitious but developed familiar motifs. The scene in which Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) dance was shot to live playback of Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell and plays out in sensuous continuous takes rather than the fast cutting that characterises the rest of their date – a sequence that played out almost in real time until Menke helped Tarantino boil it down. "Most editing is painstaking but this was an exciting scene to edit because it had momentum of its own and an obvious magic," she said of the dance scene itself.
Jackie Brown (1997) offered fewer obvious bravura set-pieces but still plays as effortlessly impressive. This clip shows not just a range of judiciously timed reaction shots but also, thanks to the show Chicks Who Love Guns on the TV, a taste of the outrageous and beat-perfect exploitation-genre pastiche that would play an ever-larger role in the Tarantino oeuvre.
This tendency was indulged to the full in Kill Bill: Vols 1 and 2 (2003 & 2004), a riotous two-volume collage of genre tropes for which appropriate editing was absolutely essential. Yet as the fight sequence from Vol 1 in which the Bride (Uma Thurman) faces down the Crazy 88 shows, Menke was adept both at emulating chop-socky style and interpolating other techniques, such as spaghetti-western-style extreme close-ups. As she told the Observer: "The thing with Tarantino is the mix-and-match ... Our style is to mimic, not homage, but it's all about recontextualising the film language to make it fresh within the new genre."
Death Proof – half of the Grindhouse double-bill that Tarantino made with Robert Rodriguez in 2007 – expanded the love of exploitation to the physical material of the film itself, involved distressing the celluloid to mimic ill-treated old prints. "We'd take a pen, a needle or some other implement and scratch the film," Menke told the Editors Guild Magazine, "thrash it against the bushes on the driveway". But the editing was no less important here – in fact, the meat of Death Proof is an extended car chase, a form in which montage is everything. As this clip shows, Menke knew exactly how to ratchet up the tension while maintaining character engagement.
By the time of last year's Inglourious Basterds, Menke reported, the implicit trust between her and Tarantino was such that "he gives me the dailies and I put 'em together and there's little interference". His confidence was amply rewarded. One of the film's most widely praised sequences was the introduction of the charming, sinister SS officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Thanks to Waltz's performance and Menke's editing, almost unbearable tension was wrung out of the most ostensibly banal subject matter. Menke told the Observer how she had learned from Scorsese and Schoonmaker's example how to "follow the emotional arc of a character through a scene, even if, as in the opening of Inglourious Basterds, they're just pouring a glass of milk or stuffing their pipe. We're very proud of that scene – it might be the best thing we've ever done."
It's worth noting that the nurturing aspect of Menke and Tarantino's relationship went both ways. Editing on Tarantino films would take place not at studio suites but in small, rented private houses – a more personal setup than the norm, but also perhaps a more isolated one. Tarantino thus got into the habit of asking cast and crew members to slip greetings into their work when the opportunity arose, to stop her feeling lonesome.
Every botched take became an opportunity for a goofy "Hi Sally!"
The farewells of the director and his team will surely be no less heartfelt.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are Critics Critical?

'In a repeat of the previous weekend, three releases on 100-plus screens completely failed to engage wide audience attention. Torture-horror The Collector, from the writers of the past four Saw movies, struggled past £100,000 for a weak £586 average. The film wasn't a hit with critics, but the genre audience is considered virtually reviews-proof, and can usually be relied upon to generate a much stronger number than that.'

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Star system

I'll add some notes on Richard Dyer's theory later; for now, this article adds an interesting slant to it:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

China to become biggest film market?

Good article which looks at trends in US film industry, especially on the cinema (exhibition) side. A snippet:
Take China. Its 2009 box office was roughly $1bn, but the rate of cinema construction is so quick there that one producer I spoke to this week believes the country's box office will reach $10bn by 2015. China delivered stingy returns for most Hollywood movies until several years ago. Then along came Transformers 2, which made a load of money there, and of course, Avatar. China was the second biggest market in the world for Avatar behind North America. The producer reckons that by the time Transformers 4 opens in around 2014, China could be its biggest market.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Viral Video chart

Should we consider any of these 'British film'? A useful source to look at with digitization in mind: (taken from

What about amateur productions such as this: Zombie Bosh - amateur short from Huddersfield enthusiasts

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Report on UK Film Industry

Very useful article copied in below, which raises a number of issues and includes a link to a new Oxford Economics report on the economics of the UK film industry, eg:
  • UK film needs a government subsidy and/or tax breaks
  • this currently amounts to £110m a year ...
  • which generates £1.3bn extra film-based revenue
  • in total, the UK film industry generates £4.5bn, including £1.2bn which the government takes back as tax
  • the industry directly employs 36,000 people (and the same again indirectly)
  • in addition, UK films 'generate around 10% of revenues from overseas visitors, or around £1.9bn a year' (various examples are given of how individual films have created massive visitor surges)
  • 'The report, called The Economic Impact of the UK Film Industry, and downloadable at the UK Film Council website, also emphasised the importance of Britishness to audiences. An indigenous film can expect 30% higher box office takings than a similar foreign film.'
This last point seems questionable - are they referring to non-Hollywood films only as 'a similar foreign film'? Bond and Potter movies, and the occasional WT-blockbuster (basically the RC rom-coms), 'British' (and we have to remember many so-called British movies, including those by WT, all too often are largely financed by Hollywood companies, who also then take the profit) films simply cannot compete with Hollywood blockbusters, no matter how awful they are.

When over well over $100m is spent on abysmal films such as the recent Terminator and Transformers sequels, they are virtually critic-proof; such is the level of CGI and SFX that many will view these simply for the spectacle they offer. (You should be thinking here about the concepts of the big 6 and the tentpole strategy, not to mention the horizontal integration, vertical integration and synergies available to a giant conglomerate such as News Corporation, with its subsidiary Twentieth Century Fox, the Avatar main production co)

You can read the full report for yourself at and the article at

Economists defend UK film tax breaks
UK Film Council welcomes Oxford Economics report over concerns that ending filmmaking relief will cost economy 
Mark Brown, arts correspondent,
Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland, England
Visitor numbers for Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, went up because of the Harry Potter film. Photograph: Lee Frost/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Ending the tax relief given out to encourage filmmaking in the UK would cost the economy £1.4bn, a report on the economics of the British film industry warned today

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

80s boom: go old school?

When considering the style and look of your work perhaps you should consider amongst the options a retro approach? There has been a huge 80s turn in contemporary culture, from the music charts to the cinema screens, which this intriguing article (I've long argued a similar point and wholeheartedly agree with the analysis) puts down primarily to the age of the creatives and executives behind the media. The folk in control now are looking back to the 80s as 'their' age - the era when they were adolescents. It'll take 20-30 years but the noughties and then the tens will experience a similar retro boom in time, perhaps fuelled by some of you - just with inferior music and fashions!
From TisEng to Son of Rambow, not to mention Ashes to Ashes, movie versions of The A-Team, re-makes of Battlestar Galactica and horror icons such as Nightmare on Elm Street, the 80s revival is finally here!

April 23, 2010
Why Hollywood is remaking the Eighties

For today’s movie moguls it was the decade that rocked their world and they are certainly not going to let us forget it

The A Team, 2010 remake

Colin, the £45 film

Read more on Colin, reportedly a £45 movie that got a cinema release: Guardian article; forum thread; is the true budget much higher/is it all hype? 
Further articles linked from IMDB entry.

The trailer, naturally, is a tad gory, but search YouTube and its easily found. Below is a piece from SkyNews with the director interviewed.

£25k 'kitchen-table auteurship'

Another very useful article from the Guardian... (skip ahead and read the article if you wish!)

As with the $10k US Indie detailed in a separate post, this article (and accompanying video, with clips and interviews) centres on the growing phenomenon of micro-budget film-making, made possible by digitization, new media, web 2.0; call it what you will.

The cost of film itself, whether 8mm or 35mm reels, used to be an effective barrier to low-cost film-making. Digital media reduces this to effectively zero, and means, certainly as increasing numbers of cinemas install digital projectors, distribution and exhibition is made possible at a similar near-zero cost. Self-distribution through the web is also possible: this movie has racked up 810,036 views at YouTube by 1.6.10 - and thats just the full-length posting; its also split into 12.

The article's author, Tom Lamont, uses a superb phrase to describe director Kate Madison's status: 'kitchen-table auteurship'. He refers to another, well-established, concept seen as a key characteristic of creativity in the online age: 'crowd sourcing'. Read more on this concept: wiki; wired on rise of this; twitter feed; a slightly bizarre blog,; and, of course, The Guardian's articles on this!

It may seem a hell of a stretch, but the sort of features this article discusses aren't a million miles from you do at AS and A2 Media Studies, and the particular exam board we use, OCR, are especially keen for students to take this on board. The concept of web 2.0 was coined to describe the radical change from the early days of the web (web 1.0 in effect): users, the passive audience, went on the web to search and use media; in web 2.0 the audience and 'the media' effectively merge, as so many users are also now media creators. If you've exhibited your coursework on YouTube, well done, for you are now a distributor (the blog to drum up attention and feed potential fans inside info!) who has found an exhibitor (YouTube)!

Even just 5 years ago, Media coursework would remain largely within the confines of the school it was created within, with the possibility of exhibition at a handful of festivals including the Co-Op's. Now, you all have the power to put your work out there and attract an audience (from which you can make money if you attract a large audience: you can join YouTube's advertising programme, and take a cut of the advertising revenue they rake in from people who click through to your channel!).

I've detailed several examples of micro-budget films in this blog, all very useful to consider for your AS exam and coursework blog, not to mention both sections of the A2 exam. If any of you do watch (or have already seen) Born of Hope, Colin or any other feature-length micro-budget movie, post a comment below.

[Read more on Colin, reportedly a £45 movie that got a cinema release: Guardian article; forum thread; is the true budget much higher/is it all hype?]

Born of Hope – and a lot of charity

A budget Lord of the Rings prequel put together by hundreds of people working for nothing has recorded nearly a million hits on video streaming sites
Tom Lamont The Observer, 7 March 2010

On the eastern flank of Epping Forest, a short walk in from the town of Debden, there is a huge tree, lying on its side, upended by a storm. It was in this clearing that independent film-maker Kate Madison, along with dozens of game volunteers, filmed Born of Hope, a homemade prequel to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy that has caused a great stir since its release in December. A production pulled together over four years with a budget of a mere £25,000 – about a tenth of one per cent of the cost of Jackson's epic – it has impressed critics and recorded close to a million views on video streaming sites.

Birdemic, $10,000 US Indie (Nguyen, 2008)

"Birdemic" was the lowest rated film on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), with a 1.8 rating until it was overtaken by Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas with a rating of 1.5.[37] [Wiki]
$10k budget; straight-to-DVD (touring single print, but no record of box office)

BASIC LINKS: Wiki; IMDB; Rottentomatoes; Official site
Critical reception was so bad it actually became a promotional device! It was for a time the lowest-rated movie on IMDB too!

Sometimes, being very bad can be a good thing ... This is a film seen as so bad its actually entertaining, much like The Room (though that was a $6m budget disaster), and has taken on cult movie status. It has also led to a 2013 sequel!
Birdemic was made with no studio support, largely self-financed and produced through Nguyen's Moviehead Pictures company for a budget of less than $10,000. The film has gained notoriety for its poor quality, with many critics citing it as one of the worst films of all time.[2][3] After a limited theatrical release, the film gained a cult following and was picked up for distribution by Severin Films in 2010. [Wiki]
This video sets out its critique over 20mins (the same vloggers gave The Room their unique treatment) - NB: I haven't had time to pre-vet this for language, so exercise caution.

Hebden Bridge re-premiere 1921 film

Helen of Four Gates to get screening after 80-year hiatus

After global search for last remaining negative, Cecil Hepworth's 1921 classic to be shown in Yorkshire town where it premiered
helen of four gates
A still from Helen of Four Gates starring the actor Alma Taylor in the title role. Photograph: BFI
A classic British film which helped the birth of the Hollywood star-and-blockbuster system is to be screened again in the UK after an international search for the last remaining negative.
Packed with 19th-century northern melodrama, from broody moors to cobbles, the 90-minute silent epic Helen of Four Gates was last shown in this country in the 1920s.
Based on a novel by a Yorkshire mill girl, who took the literary world by storm at the end of the first world war, the film had punters queuing at cinemas when it was released in 1921. Critics acknowledged the power of the much-clogged and be-shawled cast, and especially the landscape of Hebden Bridge in the Pennines where the pioneer director Cecil Hepworth did much of the filming.

DVD finally to kill cinema?

Closing the window on the multiplex
Plans to slash the time between cinema and DVD release, alongside improvements in home viewing technology, could kill multiplexes. Would you care?

Prince Charles wearing 3D glasses in Budapest, March 2010
An old business model gets a revamp … Prince Charles wearing 3D glasses in Budapest, March 2010. Photograph: Imre Foeldi/AP
It does not seem quite the right moment to be worrying about the future of our multiplexes. This weekend, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland will become the second movie of 2010 to break the $1bn barrier at the box office, following James Cameron's Avatar earlier in the year. Prior to its arrival on cinema screens, some speculated that audiences might find a reimagining of Lewis Carroll's famous tale from the peculiar mind of Tim Burton a little too weird for comfort. Yet it is about to join an exclusive club of six movies, including Titanic, The Dark Knight, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The huge success of these films suggests that people are seeing movies in ever greater numbers.

UKFilm best on low budget?

Budget cuts are no problem - British film is best when it keeps it real
Danny Leigh Friday 28 May 2010
It might be derided as 'poverty porn', but social realism provides British film-makers with a poetic – and relatively cheap – way to make truly great cinema
Lesley Manville and Peter Wright in Another Year by Mike Leigh
Real life rewards ... Lesley Manville and Peter Wright in Mike Leigh's Another Year
The sight of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach soaking up the plaudits at Cannes should have been omen enough. Then, with impeccable timing, came this week's sun-kissed announcement of the long-pending first round of government cuts, Tory chancellor George Osborne ushering in the new age of penury. For the observer of British cinema, these twin signs could mean only one thing: an imminent new wave of social realism, a gold rush of movies about dole claims, manky flats, smack habits and black eyes. I can see you wincing from here.
But personally, should such a thing arise, I'll welcome it. For one thing, in contrast to, say, the CGI-laden blockbuster, social realism has always been something British cinema is actually good at. Invariably cheap to make and enriched by the complexities of class, our eternal elephant in the room, it's been responsible for some of British cinema's most indelible movies ever since the kitchen sink era (in fact, ever since the Boer war), from the knuckle-hard It Always Rains On Sunday via the undimmed brilliance of the late Alan Clarke to the vibrant self-confidence of Andrea Arnold.
And yet there's still that persistent bad name: in certain eyes, the genre has become a byword for dreary poverty porn. Calling on some, if not all, the social realist party pieces (non-professional casts, dowdy small-town locations), Shane Meadows has slogged his way to a certain commercial reliability; Shifty, with its scuffed-up naturalism, pulled in a decent crowd. And, of course, Leigh and Loach have their audience.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Rather handy this for applying concepts such as convergence and horizontal integration...[see below for defintions + a 2nd example, using Avatar, which i encourage you to use for the exam!]

Reading The Guardian the other day - which I encourage you all to do, especially the Media (Mondays, or any day on the web!) and Film (Fridays, or..) supplements - I came across the news that Working Title TV is now up and running!

The above is a preview of WT TV's first networked show, Love Bites (

You can find WT's press release on WT TV here; how The Guardian covered it; discuss WT films that would make interesting movies;'s report; IMDB entry; wiki on Love Bites; Poptower on it;'s take; and the entirely unrelated video for Sheffield rockers Def Leppard's classic ballad Love Bites just in case you need a wee break from all this!

Convergence: the idea that the barriers between the once distinct media are collapsing because of digitization, new media, web 2.0 (20 years ago a newspaper was simply a paper - today they're websites, and effectively radio + Tv through their podcasts and video content)
Horizontal integration: where conglomerates use their subsidiaries to cross-promote and make money from one part of the company. A good example is Murdoch's News Corporation: it owns Twentieth Century Fox which produced Avatar; Sky One got privileged access to stars and clips, as did The S*n, which enabled these two to promote the movie while also attracting an audience for themselves
(Vertical integration is where a film company is able to control all three elements of the film cycle: production, distribution, exhibition - so this also works for Murdoch's News Corp + Avatar)

This is how the always entertaining - but hugely informative - Media Monkey covered this story:
So how many times can the Sun find pretexts for mentioning James Cameron's movie Avatar in its news pages? Answer: quite a few. "Rugby in a 3D first ... 3D fever, begun by film Avatar", "3D set to go seedy ... adult film makers have jumped on the Avatar bandwagon", "District 9 review: James Cameron's £300m breathtaking Avatar is currently taking cinemas by storm ...", "Ava-Ta Very Much ... The huge success of 3D blockbuster Avatar is helping Cineworld to battle the recession" and so on. The Sun is owned by News International, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation which also owns Twentieth Century Fox, which made ... Avatar.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Young Brit dir Noel Clarke

I want to do more commercial things. I wantDistrict 9, I want… maybe not Independence Day, because we don't have the budget, but I want event movies. I can't always be making "British films". Why should we be making films about corsets and horses and girls learning to drive when Americans send over an event movie and make five or 10 million?
The above is an excerpt from an interview Noel Clarke did for the Film Guardian. You know Noel ... director of Kidulthood, Adulthood; Mickey in Dr Who...
Read the rest of the article below

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Warp's jihadi comedy a hit

Latest box office analysis from FilmGuardian leads on Warp's controversial comedy about Bradford suicide bombers; I've also re-posted an earlier post on this below with further reading resources:

Four Lions has roaring weekend at UK box office
Iron Man 2 may still be sitting pretty atop the chart, but the real winner is Chris Morris's jihadist comedy, which enjoyed the highest site average of all the new releases
Chris Morris's Four Lions
Crowing … Chris Morris's Four Lions
The winner
A comedy about British-born suicide bombers starring Riz Ahmed and Fonejacker prankster Kayvan Novak is by no means a sure thing at the UK box office. Hence, executives at Four Lions' backers Optimum posted messages of excitement and relief on Facebook over the weekend as the impressive numbers came rolling in: £609,000 from just 115 screens.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A beginner's guide to blockbusters

Great article from Murdoch paper The Times taking a wry, but well-informed, look at the process of making a hit movie - lots here you can reference, especially within your coursework blogs and evaluations:

April 24, 2010

A beginner's guide to blockbusters

You need neither script nor star to have a box office success, it’s all just a matter of timing, chutzpah and explosives

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Audience watch the 3D film 'Avatar' through 3D glasses at a cinema
 on January 7, 2009 in Taiyuan, Shanxi province of China.

“The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things — Bread and Games!”
So wrote the poet Juvenal in AD104, but then he never lived to witness the blockbuster movie season in America: one long canyon run stretching between Memorial Day and Labour Day, in which the studios loose one $200-million behemoth after another in what amounts to what one observer has called a “multimillion-dollar demolition derby played with Porsches”. To make sense of all this, here is a ten-point guide to surviving the summer season.
1. Pick a date. Any date, as long as it lies between May and August. The summer used to be a wasteland, the place the studios dumped dreck like Electra Glide in Blue (“He’s a good cop. On a big bike. On a bad road”); blockbusters were things that happened once in a generation, like Gone with the Wind. But then along came Jaws and Star Wars, ripping up all known box-office records, and audiences hunkered down for repeats. Blockbusters became things that happened every year. Now, a new one is expected every week. This year Iron Man 2 on May 7 is followed a week later by Robin Hood, then Shrek Forever After, then Prince Caspian, all jostling for position.
“There are more teens living in America now than in the history of this country,” says Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “It’s all about when the schools are out. It’s driven by that, by how you get them into theatres

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Should UK ban Hollywood?

If you read the article on Bangladesh recently lifting, then putting back in place, their ban on Indian, Bollywood movies, you find a useful example of a small nation fighting to avoid being dominated by a much larger, economically powerful country (an example of cultural imperialism being resisted).
Read the article and, where it says Bangladesh, read the UK... [excerpt:]
Bangladesh's near-four-decade-old ban on movies from Bollywood has been reinstated after the commerce ministry's decision on Saturday to lift the injunction, in an effort to boost the country's struggling cinemas, was greeted with furious protests by local actors and directors.
Films from India have been proscribed in Bangladesh since 1972, the year after the country's independence, to protect the local film-making industry. However, the number of cinemas has fallen from 1,600 a decade ago to 600 this year, a decline which cinema exhibitors attribute to poor-quality homegrown films failing to draw viewers. At the same time, Indian films are hugely popular in Bangladesh and locals can get their Bollywood fix on cable TV and through pirated copies which circulate widely.
"Film enthusiasts can easily see good Indian films on cable television so why should we stop Indian films being screened in our cinemas?" Kazi Firoz Rashid, president of Bangladesh Cinema Halls Owners Association, told AFP.
"By contrast, the standards, scripts and production of Bangladeshi films are so stale and poor they have trouble winning hearts or making enough money," he said.

Should Britain ban Hollywood? Would this transform the fortunes of our film production companies? Or are we just too tightly tied into the US film industry to be able to go it alone? [If you read any history of UK cinema you'll find that there have been times when limits were placed on US films being screened, and/or a minimum number of UK movies set for cinemas...which Hollywood got round by producing ultra-cheap movies in the UK. This was as recently as the 1980s, when Thatcher ended the policy]

This article on Sacha Baron Cohen's latest deal is an illustration of why UK producers simply can't compete with the lavish scale available to Hollywood:

The Borat and Brüno creator's new comedy, where he plays a goat herder and a deposed dictator, has been snapped up in a lucrative deal after a bidding war
Sacha Baron Cohen with wallaby at Australian premiere of Borat
It's the quirky tale of a British comic, a Hollywood studio and a rare $20m offer to shoot a new movie. Oh, and don't forget the goat.
According to the Deadline blog, Sacha Baron Cohen's next movie has been snapped up by Paramount in a lucrative deal which instantly catapults him into the ranks of Hollywood's biggest stars. It will see the comedian play the dual roles of a goat herder and a deposed foreign dictator who finds himself lost in the US.
Paramount reportedly sealed the deal by sending a real live goat dressed in a studio T-shirt to Baron Cohen's LA home, after offering him a "20-20" deal. A rare phenomenon in an increasingly straitened Hollywood, this would give him $20m (£13m) upfront and an initial 20% share of the new film's gross, rising to 30% if the movie is successful.

The concept of films, and a film industry, being crucial for a nation's sense of identity and pride in itself can be seen with the tale of the record-budget $55m Russian movie that flopped. Seen as just too closely linked to the Russian government, the movie, and particularly its high profile director, lost credibility with the Russian public, and has initially taken a feeble $2.5m despite the nationalist narrative, portraying a Russian WW2 victory over the Nazis.   [excerpt:]
The premiere took place inside the Kremlin. Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, did not manage to turn up. But Mikhalkov's fervent support for Putin and his strong Russian nationalist views are well known.
The film has many virtuoso setpieces but sticks closely to the Kremlin's approved version of the war: as the heroic Soviet triumph over Nazi barbarity.
This fact appears to have put the public off: the film has played to near empty halls, with box office receipts of just $2.5m from its opening weekend. Burnt by the Sun 2 cost a record $55m to make.
"The reasons it has flopped are psychological [not artistic]," critic Oleg Zolotarev said. "Mikhalkov is no longer seen as a director but as a state bureaucrat."

Monday, April 26, 2010

UK motion-capture studio?

The actor, whose performances as Gollum and King Kong were created through motion capture, is to head his own studio specialising in the technique

As he told a recent British Screen Advisory Council discussion on working with digital film technology, Serkis caught the bug of "cyber-thespianism" working with Peter Jackson at his Weta studios in New Zealand, first on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and then on King Kong. He has since directed performance capture for two video games, one in America and one in New Zealand. That made him wonder why the same facility wasn't available in Britain, when so much of the original technology was developed out of Oxford and Cambridge.

End of medium budget film?

I've touched on this before, the growing sense that mid-level Hollywood cinema is being squeezed out by tightening economics on the one hand and the Big 6's tentpole strategy on the other (making fewer movies, and concentrating on mega-budget blockbusters). Karl Sutter argues [NB: there is some strong language in this blog piece] that US cable TV (think HBO, home of The Sopranos, The Wire and many more) has become the new home for much of the talent that would previously have worked on $10-50m movies. [There is no set definition for low or medium budget movies]
It was Walt's observation that cable is now fulfilling the creative and compensatory void that has been created by film's dying middle-class.

Challenges facing UK directors

I've also linked to this in the post on women directors, which, like many others, I keep updating when I find useful new articles.

Good detail in this article on how the careers of British directors (Lynne Ramsey), and even the fate of one of our foremost film companies (Film4), can be turned upside down when Hollywood takes interest in a project which was all set to be directed by Ramsey for Film4:
[Ramsay] read [The Lovely Bones] when it was half an unpublished manuscript. Like many readers to come, Ramsay was gripped by the voice of a 14-year-old girl narrating her murder from beyond the grave. Film4 signed her up to adapt it.
But then several things happened: Sebold delivered the rest of the story, which departed into a gooey spirituality at odds with Ramsay's vision; the novel became a huge bestseller; and Hollywood heavyweights such as Steven Spielberg began to show an interest. Suddenly, The Lovely Bones was a potential blockbuster, and Ramsay's involvement started to look incongruous.
Meanwhile Film4 was downsized under new management. Its new head, Tessa Ross, was bemused to find herself courted by the most powerful players in Hollywood, all because of The Lovely Bones. Ross eventually bowed to the logic of the marketplace, and dropped Ramsay in favour of Peter Jackson. Jackson proceeded to make an utter mess of the film, but that's another story.
The article goes on to highlight the difficulties British directors face in building a career:
Next month sees the release of Philip Ridley's Heartless, his first film since The Passion of Darkly Noon in 1995. Richard Stanley is gearing up to shoot Vacation, his comeback after his career nosedived with his firing from The Island of Doctor Moreau, also in 1995. These two don't have the cachet of Ramsay or Pawlikowski, but they illustrate the general point that sustaining a career is much harder than starting one for many indie film-makers, particularly those with a distinctive vision. That's something the UK Film Council should bear in mind, as it concentrates its production funding on new directors.
As ever, there are some insightful comments following the article:
Does Ramsey make the sort of films that people want to watch these days?
I feel that stuff like Red Riding is far more relevant, look at its success in US. Made for TV, sold as movie in different markets - cool looking, genre movie deep in story, but routed in context (70s yorkshire in this case). I hope that '...Kevin' is like that, it certainly has the scope to be.
Ramsey's films have that 90s 'film council funded' feel to them, lot's of silence bookended with gritty and staring out of windows. Is that really going to put the British industry on the map right now? [jonaent, 22 Apr 2010, 1:13PM]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Perils of web marketing

Interesting article, which looks at the examples of movies which have sought to build appeal through silly titles which bloggers will pick up on, Snakes on a Plane being the prime example. Excerpt:
Once it's completed, Hobo With a Shotgun will become the latest film to join the ranks of that increasingly depressing sub-genre – the Deliberately Dumb Internet LOLZ movie.
You know the type of movie I mean. The one that doesn't have much of a budget and gets marketed purely on the fact that its title makes a handful of blogs get all ironically OMG about it for a couple of days. Snakes On a Plane started the trend in 2006 – by the time the internet heard that a) there was a film about some snakes on a plane called Snakes On a Plane and b) the internet had actively rewritten parts of it to make it even more stupid, then hype became so deafening that its success was all but guaranteed. Until it was released, that is, because then it became apparent that it would struggle to make its money back domestically.
But that didn't stop other producers from realising that if you give your film a ridiculously on-the-nose title, then the internet will go crazy for it. Just look at how it fell for Hot Tub Time Machine or the impossibly tedious Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus when they were released. And soon there'll be Hobo With a Shotgun as well, lapping up the kind of online attention that YouTube videos such as Monkey On a Segway or Bear On a Trampoline did. Except that you'll actually have to pay to see Hobo With a Shotgun, and people tend to expect a little bit more than a funny title if they're actually going to cough up for it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The 1st iPhone movie

The first film made for the iPhone
Is this the start of a whole new cinematic genre? 
Ryan Gilbey 4 April 201
An early adopter of Murder on Beacon Hill
An early adopter of Murder on Beacon Hill
The torture of seeing films intended for 30ft cinema screens being squeezed into a 2.5in space has done nothing to deter millions of iPod users from downloading those burnt offerings. But now the traffic is heading in the opposite direction for the first time, with the screening next Sunday at the Boston International Film Festival of a 43-minute movie that was only ever made to be watched in the palm of the hand, and even then in bite-sized, site-specific instalments.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kermode: 3D is Rubbish!

Excellent Film Guardian article by Mark Kermode, fellow quiff-bearer, on the economic importance of 3D to the film biz, but also on why he sees it as basically a con.
There's an interesting comment too by 'chewtoy':
Call me paranoid, but the new 3D offensive has a much more sinister side to it than merely fighting piracy and getting bums into cinema seats. Cinematic immersion is a concept straight out of Brave New World. It's the extreme opposite of the Brechtian distancing (a.k.a. alienation) effect. The audience is meant to lose itself passively and completely in the depicted action, being transformed from consciously critical observers to mindless consuming drones.
This touches on a key debate within Media Studies (and amongst practitioners too; whole movements, such as the French New Wave, have come about as a response to the perceived power of the media over the audience): whether an audience is essentially passive and meaning is controlled by texts' authors (eg the hypodermic syringe model), or active and in control of meaning (eg the uses and gratifications theory).
The article:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More useful box office analysis from Gdn

Nanny McPhee sends Alice in Wonderland to the naughty step at the UK box office
In a fight for family film faces, Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang joined previews of How to Train Your Dragon in knocking off Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland from the top UK box office spot

Easter is still a few days away, but the contest for the seasonal family box office is already well under way. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang opened on more than 500 screens, knocking off Alice in Wonderland from the top spot in its fourth weekend of play. But it was a close-run thing, Nanny's £2.59m comparing with Alice's £2.50m. Both films might have been stronger had they not faced additional competition on Saturday and Sunday from paid previews of DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon.

Monday, March 08, 2010

'Great' British Cinema?

Spotted a few useful items on YouTube
This is a trailer for a TV show on the poor state of the British film industry - does anyone have this by any chance?

As they feature strong language, I won't post links to these, but 'Save the British Film Industry (by Hamish MacDougall)' and 'Brit vs. U.S. Movies - Eddie Izzard' may provide a smile as well as food for thought - ditto 'Eskimo Nell (1975)', a good illustration of the poor state British film reached in the 70s.

Something we may look at time permitting is the popular usage of the British (usually English) villain in Hollywood and US TV productions ... how many examples can you think of? [please add any eg's as a comment]

Your thoughts then?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

BritFilm used to campaign for social issues

Intriguing article over at your much beloved Guardian site:
Richard Curtis is making some amends for giving Hugh Grant a career by getting involved, with Bill Nighy, in a campaign to add a tax to bank transactions (to fund developments in poorer nations), echoing his role in Red Nose Day (which was largely his creation).
RC naturally can't help himself and uses stereotypes to get his point across, but still...
Certainly a useful example for you A2 folk, and an intriguing addition to our AS case study of WT.
I'm curious as to how the right-wing papers (the Guardian being ideologically centre-left) will cover this, being ideologically opposed to regulation of the private sector/in favour of free markets. If anyone spots coverage of this, please add any details/a link as a comment.
The film, directed by Curtis, is being premiered on and YouTube.
Presumably The Guardian was selected as a paper likely to be sympathetic to the idea of raising taxes to help the poor (the tabloid Mirror would have been another option, as the only other centre-left national daily paper, though The Indy is also centrist in its political outlook).
I've embedded the short film below.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Archive of Brit comedy

See full article at
Archive footage, audio and never-before-seen stills from some of the biggest British comedies of recent years featuring the likes of Steve Coogan, Robbie Coltrane, Julian Clary and Jack Dee will be made available to the public from today as part of a new website billed as the "online encyclopedia of British comedy".
The portal, created by the independent production company and comedy specialist Pozzitive , will include 70 video and 100 audio clips, including trailers and out-takes, as well as 570 photos. These will include many behind the scenes pictures of hit shows such as Coogan's Run, Armando Iannuccio's Charm Offensive and TLC, which have been collated over 20 years by Pozzitive's founders Geoff Posner and David Tyler.
The pair, who set up the company in 1992, are two of the leading lights of British comedy, between them having worked on shows such as Spitting Image, Not The Nine O'Clock News, French & Saunders, Harry Enfield & Chums, Dinnerladies, Little Britain, The Paul & Pauline Calf Video Diaries, Absolutely, Saturday Night Live, Radio Active, Victoria Wood – As Seen On TV and The Young Ones. Pozzitive is also a specialist in radio comedy, with shows including Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation, Another Case of Milton Jones and Cabin Pressure.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Audience tests + using festivals for distribution deals

There is significant overlap between the two points of the post title: every movie will go through audience testing before the final cut is released to cinemas (if at all); if the studio doesn't like the feedback they may re-edit or even order re-shoots under a different director (and in some cases simply refuse to sanction further spending on distribution other than as straight-to-DVD); film festivals are used by producers and distributors alike as informal forums for audience testing - good 'word-of-mouth' can transform a film's fortunes.
From the AS case studies we know that very small details can be crucial (the bewildered US audience, with an unamused Harvey Weinstein looking on, finally laughed as Colin Firth turns round to reveal his novelty reindeer jumper, securing a costly promotional campaign for Brisget Jones' Diary).

The typically low-budget Indie production, Four Lions, was recently entered into the Sundance Film Festival, a key event for Indie film-makers looking to find a deal to get their movies into cinemas or just a DVD release with some financing for marketing. Their diary is published on ... the Film Guardian! An excerpt:

[Sam Bain:]Back to the big event. Chris introduced the film (brilliantly) and as the lights went down it was gratifying to hear a lot of laughs, as well as the odd gasp as the story got more intense and the ­audience didn't seem sure whether they really should be laughing. Anxiety set in when I ­remem­bered just how many British references there are in the film – from Boots to Gordon Ramsay to Mini Babybels – not to mention the Sheffield accents which, unlike the Urdu and Panjabi dialogue, didn't have subtitles. But there was a genuine sense we'd grabbed the audience and they were very much along for the ride – and with absolutely no idea where that ride might end up. Exciting.
[Jesse Armstrong:] The screening goes well, but I find it excruciating. Sometimes when I'm scared of flying, I have this feeling like it's taking my full powers of concen­tra­tion to keep the plane in the sky. It's the same at the screening – as little pockets of laughs emerge here and there, I'm examining them for tone, timbre and implications. In my head I'm a sheepdog – circling the room wanting to shepherd people to draw the right inferences, go the right way.
Afterwards, I try to make a frank assessment of how the film has gone down. If it's possible for something to go rather well while simultaneously taking you repeatedly to the brink of throwing up throughout, that's what it felt like.
[Sam Bain]: The evening ended at about 4.30am with me and Mark Herbert listening to the Today ­programme piece on Four Lions, which included Robert Redford talking supportively about it. Who cares that he's not actually seen it? Most of the people who'll probably take a pot shot at the film in the UK press won't have seen it either.
 SOURCE: "Four Lions Sundance diary"
What happened when the co-writers of Four Lions, Chris Morris's 'jihadist comedy', took the film to Sundance? Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong open their diaries