Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Future's bright(ish), Future's digital...Blu-Ray+Hulu

Useful stats in this article about the rapid growth in Blu-Ray sales and revenues, as well as online streaming/rental etc revenues for film and TV.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How success of film Bridesmaids brought change to US TV

A long article with good detail about the current wave of female-led comedies on US TV which are pushing boundaries and causing a real outcry, not least for their wisecracking leads playing such countertypes and transgressing the gender boundary with much risque, traditionally male, humour.
Could this simply be the 'ladette' phenomenon again though?
All this has come about after Hollywood executives noted the ability of Bridesmaids, a seeming chick-flick comedy, to attract a large male audience to cinemas. ... A useful point to consider when addressing your coursework's target audience.

Female comics take over US sitcoms following success of Bridesmaids

American TV executives wake up to fact that wisecracking women don't need male foils to be funny


    zooey deschanel
    Female comedians and actors such as Zooey Deschanel are leading the new wave of US sitcoms

    Something strange is afoot in the world of the American sitcom. A breed of character has emerged that curses profanely, talks frankly about sex, sleeps around and drinks too much, all while wisecracking rudely with the best of them.
    None of those attributes is especially original, except that these characters are all women. A fresh crop of TV comedy shows has hit the US cultural landscape anchored on a new breed of sassy, independent, freethinking woman.
    Building on the success of the hit Hollywood movie Bridesmaids, which seemed to convince movie executives that male cinemagoers would pay to see funny women, America's television channels are now also placing a big bet on a feminine twist to some tried and tested comic set-ups.
    They have even raided the worlds of independent cinema and cutting-edge stand-up to get their talent. First up is New Girl, which stars indie darling Zooey Deschanel in her own show about a woman called Jess who moves in with three men. Though it is an ensemble cast, the show is firmly centred on Deschanel as its main draw. Next is 2 Broke Girls, which features another star of the independent scene, Kat Dennings. She plays Max, a gritty waitress with a strong line in witty put-downs that have stretched what is previously tolerated on mainstream TV. In the first show – on the CBS network no less – Dennings's Max responds angrily to a restaurant customer who clicks his fingers at her to get her to come to his table. "You think this is the sound that gets you service," she says, clicking her fingers right back. "I think this is the sound that dries up my vagina." That line alone inspired a wave of hand-wringing articles in America wondering about current broadcasting standards.
    Finally, there is Whitney, a show that stars Whitney Cummings, a rising stand-up comedian who has drawn rave reviews for her comic routines. Now she has been given her own TV show. The format is standard – it explores Whitney's life as she lives with (and refuses to marry) her boyfriend – but network executives have been promising the show will not pull its punches in dealing frankly with sex and relationships. "This has been coming for a while. A lot depends on these shows. If people respond well to them, then that is all we are going to see. If not, then we'll have to wait another five years to try again," said Janette Barber, a stand-up comic turned radio host on SiriusXM satellite radio.
    Of course, there is a long tradition of sassy, funny women in US television comedy. From almost the very start of the genre, major female stars emerged, like Lucille Ball in the classic 1950s show I Love Lucy. In the 70s Bea Arthur starred in Maude as an outspoken liberal, while Loretta Swit was nominated for 10 Emmys during 11 years in M*A*S*H. In the late 80s Roseanne Barr, as the lead character in Roseanne took a wisecracking female lead character to new heights. However, those series nearly always placed their female comics in the role of a wife or mother. With a few notable exceptions – such as the TV news comedy show Murphy Brown – they were set against a husband or with a family.
    That phenomenon reached its apogee with a wave of comedy shows in the 2000s which seemed to make a fetish of placing attractive, intelligent and witty women in roles where they played second fiddle to often overweight and not especially clever husbands. Shows like The King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond and According to Jim were enormously successful using this formula. "We were seeing a lot of this. The pretty, attractive woman who lives with a schlubby guy. Why did these women marry these guys? They are brighter and more intelligent and more funny than their husbands, who clearly often infuriate them," said Professor Robert Thompson, a pop culture expert at Syracuse University.
    The new TV comedies are helping to end that. Here the women characters are not defined by men, even as they fulfil some of the cliches of the sitcom genre: by getting dumped, or trying to bring spice back into a relationship or going on a first date. They put the woman character first and are building on a number of recent female successes, especially Tina Fey's award-winning role in 30 Rock and to a lesser extent the Amy Poehler-led comedy Parks & Recreation.
    But the largest influence is the runaway critical and commercial success of Bridesmaids, which starred and was co-written by Kristen Wiig. That movie blew away the critics with its focus on female friendships and, far more importantly in the minds of entertainment executives, it cashed in at the box office in spectacular style. It notched up a staggering $283m in ticket sales, on a budget of just $32m: a paper profit of almost a quarter of a billion. No wonder a host of follow-up films, such as the upcoming Bachelorette, are now in the works. And no surprise that America's TV executives hope to cash in with their female-centric shows. "New things don't happen on TV. They happen somewhere else and TV gloms on to them. The audience for Bridesmaids had a lot of purchasing power and they want a piece of that," said Barber.
    That clear-eyed focus on the bottom line is gradually shaking up US television's natural conservatism when it comes to recognising social change. After all, American life is filled with several generations of independent, working (funny) women unconstrained by their men. But TV, many experts say, has a history of being slow to catch up with the society it claims to reflect. Thompson points to the success of the 1960s comedy show Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. Despite being set on a marines base during the brutal height of the Vietnam war, the show never once mentioned the conflict. Instead it focused on the daily tribulations of its main character, a former petrol station attendant who had signed on in the military. Or look at the furore surrounding the coming out of Ellen DeGeneres as a lesbian on her sitcom Ellen in 1997. Though it became a momentous event in TV history, gay people in actual public life in America were already prominent and had long won numerous civil rights and social acceptance. But with these new shows it is possible that the medium is at last catching up with the reality of everyday life. "We are finally at the point when TV is not so many steps behind. Soon it might even sometimes be a few steps ahead," said Thompson.
    However, there is still a way to go when it comes to the treatment of women in comedy. It has long been a male-dominated world. "I'm saddened that we are still talking about women in comedy as if it were an oddity. When I first started doing stand-up in the 80s, I was usually introduced: 'And here's something different – a female comic!'," said Judy Carter, a comedian turned motivational speaker. Despite the wave of new women-led shows, there still does seem to be a double standard when it comes to female comics. They are not entirely judged on the quality of their jokes, but also on their gender, in a way male comics are not. Perhaps the new shows will help change that. To do so they will have to be successful in terms of ratings, thus generating the required advertising revenue to make them a standard part of the broadcasting ecosystem. The early signs are good.
    New Girl's debut scored some 10.1 million viewers and was the most popular show of its night among younger viewers. Meanwhile, 2 Broke Girls got a huge 19.2 million viewers for its heavily promoted first show. If such performances are kept up, the shows might cease to be viewed as sitcoms featuring funny women and just seen as funny TV shows. "I look forward to the day when we laugh at a movie such as Bridesmaids, and we don't even notice: 'Oh my God, women are funny!' Funny is funny regardless of gender," said Carter.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

3D Boom: All over by summer 2011?

There are previous extensive posts on 3D, but this one takes a distinctive line ... signalling the end of the 3D boom...
10.6.11 http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2011/jun/10/transformers-dark-of-the-moon-3d

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – the saviour of 3D?
Michael Bay's latest robo-fantasy offers mindblowing visuals, but in a world falling out of love with 3D, it can't afford to lose its plot
Still from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, out on 29 June 2011
Smokin' visuals – but is it enough? ... scene from Transformers: Dark of the Moon
As I race inside the auditorium at Paramount Pictures – running a bit late, it must be said – one of the press people dutifully calls me back to inform me that this screening of 20 minutes or so of footage from Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers: Dark of the Moon is being staged for one reason and one reason only: for journalists to talk about the 3D. They would rather we did not comment on the story.
What strange timing. Not long after my visit to the studio's London offices, nestled in beside a number of similar media HQs in Soho's Golden Square, an interview is being published with DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, in which he responds to the news that US audiences are choosing for the first time to see blockbuster movies in old-fashioned 2D, even when the more celebrated option is available. The phenomenon emerged for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last month and continued for Kung Fu Panda 2 two weeks ago.
Previously, filmgoers have always seen 3D screenings in greater numbers, an unbroken rule that has fuelled the format's rapid growth. 3D tickets attract a premium, which means yields are higher and end-of-year box office charts are slanted towards movies that are shown in stereoscope. Directors of mainstream films not available in the more expensive form have begun to find themselves questioned as to why: Inception's Christopher Nolan being the most high-profile example.

Does slow pace = boring?

An eminently quotable debate here, sparked by one critic's assertion that he was simply fatigued from all the worthy but slow films he'd been watching. Your own productions, bound by genre conventions and the 2min limit, are typically fast-paced. You could pick out one or more of the well-known names quoted below to support/interrogate your own choices, and the impact of these choices:

12.6.11 http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jun/12/boring-films-critics-culture-fatigue

Are boring films good for the soul?

Dan Kois's confession that he has 'cultural fatigue' after watching too many boring movies has sparked a bout of soul searching by his fellow film critics
64th Cannes Film Festival - The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick's perplexing Palme d'Or winner, The Tree of Life. Is it a film to enjoy or endure

A troubling issue has gripped film critics. Are "boring" films really good for you? And if so, are cinema audiences of the future likely to sit still long enough to take their medicine?
On one side of the aisle sit those critics who embrace the best of popular entertainment and who regard slower-paced films as the equivalent of eating their "cultural vegetables"; on the other side are arthouse aficionados who much prefer an oblique or contemplative work to the hectic approach of multiplex blockbusters such as The Hangover II or Pirates of the Caribbean.
With the release this summer of a new slate of potentially challenging, thoughtful films and the announcement of a British release date for Terrence Malick's perplexing Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life, the question has prompted a bout of popcorn throwing among British and American critics.
The debate kicked off when American critic Dan Kois confessed he was "suffering from a kind of culture fatigue". Writing in the New York Times, he asked whether some films are designed to be endured and then remembered with fondness, rather than enjoyed at the time. More controversially, Kois questioned his own assumption that glacial speed was the mark of cinematic sophistication.

Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film

The following is taken from http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft809nb586&chunk.id=d0e4943&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e4713&brand=ucpress
You can find further chapters and sections there on feminism, representation etc

Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film

next sub-section

The Slasher Film

The immediate ancestor of the slasher film is Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Its elements are familiar: the killer is the psychotic product of a sick family, but still recognizably human; the victim is a beautiful, sexually active woman; the location is not-home, at a Terrible Place; the weapon is something other than a gun; the attack is registered from the victim's point of view and comes with shocking suddenness. None of these features is original, but the unprecedented success of Hitchcock's particular formulation, above all the sexualization of both motive and action, prompted a flood of imitations and variations. In 1974, a film emerged that revised the Psycho template to a degree and in such a way as to mark a new phase: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper). Together with Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), it engendered a new spate of variations and imitations.
The plot of Texas Chain Saw is simple enough: five young people are driving through Texas in a van; they stop off at an abandoned house and are murdered one by one by the psychotic sons of a degenerate local family; the sole survivor is a woman. The horror, of course, lies in the elaboration. Early in the film the group picks up a hitchhiker, but when he starts a fire and slashes Franklin's arm (having already slit open his own hand), they kick him out. The abandoned house they subsequently visit, once the home of Sally's and Franklin's grandparents, turns out to be right next door to the house of the hitchhiker and his family: his brother Leatherface; their father; an aged and only marginally alive grandfather; and their dead grandmother and her dog, whose mummified corpses are ceremonially included in the family gatherings. Three generations of slaughterhouse

workers, once proud of their craft but now displaced by machines, have taken up killing and cannibalism as a way of life. Their house is grotesquely decorated with human and animal remains—bones, feathers, hair, skins. The young people drift apart in their exploration of the abandoned house and grounds and are picked off one by one by Leatherface and Hitchhiker. Last is Sally.

Final Girl: Carole Clover and critiques

The following is taken from Men, Women and Chainsaws

Men, Women and Chainsaws: The Final Girl

The final girl is a thriller and horror film (particularly slasher) trope that specifically refers to the last woman or girl alive to confront the killer, ostensibly the one left to tell the story. The term was coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover suggests that in these films, the viewer begins by sharing the perspective of the killer, but experiences a shift in identification to the final girl partway through the film. The final girl has been observed in dozens of films, including HalloweenFriday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm StreetThe Texas Chain Saw MassacreI Know What You Did Last SummerHellraiserAlien and Scream.
According to Clover, the final girl is typically sexually unavailable or virginal, avoiding the vices of the victims (sex, narcotic usage, etc.). She sometimes has a unisex name (e.g., Teddy, Billie, Georgie, Sidney). Occasionally the Final Girl will have a shared history with the killer. The final girl is the "investigating consciousness" of the film, moving the narrative forward and as such, she exhibits intelligence, curiosity, and vigilance.
One of the basic premises of Clover’s theory is that audience identification is unstable and fluid across gender lines, particularly in the case of the slasher film. During the final girl’s confrontation with the killer, Clover argues, she becomes masculinised through "phallic appropriation" by taking up a weapon, such as a knife or chainsaw, against the killer. Conversely, Clover points out that the villain of slasher films is often a male whose masculinity, and sexuality more generally, are in crisis. Examples would include Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Clover points to this gender fluidity as demonstrating the impact of feminism in popular culture.
The phenomenon of the male audience having to identify with a young female character in an ostensibly male-oriented genre, usually associated with sadistic voyeurism, raises interesting questions about the nature of slasher films and their relationship with feminism. Clover argues that for a film to be successful, although the Final Girl is masculinised, it is necessary for this surviving character to be female, because she must experience abject terror, and many viewers would reject a film that showed abject terror on the part of a male. The terror has a purpose, in that the female is 'purged' if she survives, of undesirable characteristics, such as relentless pursuit of pleasure in her own right. An interesting feature of the genre is the 'punishment' of beauty and sexual availability (Leading to the idea that "Sex = Death" in Horror Movies)
Examples of final girls
Before the release of Alien 3, Clover identified Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise as a final girl. Elizabeth Ezra continues this analysis for Alien Resurrection, arguing that by definition both Ripley and Annalee Call must be final girls, and that Call is the "next generation of Clover's Final Girl". Call, in Ezra's view, exhibits traits that fit Clover's definition of a final girl, namely that she is boyish, having a short masculine-style haircut, and that she is characterized by (in Clover's words) "smartness, gravity, competence in mechanical and other practical matters, and sexual reluctance" being a ship's mechanic who rejects the sexual advances made by male characters on the ship. Ezra notes, however, that this identification of Call as a final girl is marred by the fact that she is not a human being, but an android.
Christine Cornea disputes the idea that Ripley is a final girl, contrasting Clover's analysis of the character with that of Barbara Creed, who presents Ripley as "the reassuring face of womanhood". Cornea does not accept either Clover's or Creed's views on Ripley. Whilst she accepts Clover's general thesis of the final girl convention, she argues that Ripley does not follow the conventions of the slasher film, as Alien follows the different conventions of the science fiction film genre. In particular, there is not the foregrounding in Alien, as there is in the slasher film genre, of the character's sexual purity and abstinence relative to the other characters (who would be, in accordance with the final girl convention, killed by the film's monster "because" of this). The science fiction genre that Alien inhabits, according to Cornea, simply lacks this kind of sexual theme in the first place, it not having a place in such "traditional" science fiction formats.
Laurie Strode (from Halloween III, and H20) is another example of a final girl. Tony Williams notes that Clover's image of supposedly progressive final girls are never entirely victorious at the culmination of a film nor do they manage to eschew the male order of things as Clover argues. He holds up Strode as an example of this. She is rescued by a male character, Dr. Samuel Loomis, at the end of Halloween. He holds up Lila Crane, from Psycho, as another example of a final girl who is saved by a male (also named Sam Loomis) at the end of the film. On this basis he argues that whilst 1980s horror film heroines were more progressive than those of earlier decades, the gender change is done conservatively, and the final girl convention cannot be regarded as a progressive one "without more thorough investigation".
Williams also gives several examples of final girls from the Friday the 13th franchiseAlice from Friday the 13th, and the heroines from Part II and Part III. (He observes that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter does not have a final girl.) He notes that they do not conclude the films wholly victorious, however. The heroines from Parts 2 and 3 are catatonic at the ends of the respective films, and Alice survives the monster in the first film only to fall victim to "him" in the second. The final girl in Part 2 is carried away on a stretcher, calling out for her boyfriend (which Williams argues again undermines the notion of final girls always being victorious). Moreover, Ginny's adoption of the monster's own strategy, in Part II, brings into question whether the final girl image is in fact a wholly positive one.
Kearney observes that in the middle 1990s the trope of the final girl in horror films was "resurrected, reshaped, and mainstreamed". She points to Sidney Prescott (in Scream III, and III) and Julie James (in I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) as examples of this.
Other characters identified as final girls include Sally Hardesty of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Nancy Thompson of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Roseanne on class prejudice/sexism of TV

I made the mistake of thinking Marcy was a powerful woman in her own right. I've come to learn that there are none in TV. There aren't powerful men, for that matter, either – unless they work for an ad company or a market-study group. Those are the people who decide what gets on the air and what doesn't.
Complaining about the "created by" credit made an enemy of Matt. He wasted no time undermining me, going so far as to ask my co-star, John Goodman, who played Roseanne Conner's husband, Dan, if he would do the show without me. (Goodman said no.) It was then that I had my first nervous breakdown. [excerpt]

I'll cross-post this on several blogs as it touches on gender, regulation, class prejudice and the general financial machinations of the entertainment business. Assuming you're unaware of what 'Roseanne' is, a few clicks on wikipedia or youtube will swiftly bring you up to speed - it was a hugely successful US sitcome with the USP of centring on a working-class family (with money problems and lousy jobs, not the usual facsimille of working class, or 'labour as Roseanne Barr refers to it, with a tough domestically inept/disinterested woman at the head of the family).

There are very, very few comparisons - aspects of Taxi perhaps, maybe even Married With Children.
Her article, and forthcoming book, reveal just how unprepared the US TV network (whose working practices, being fundamentally driven by financial calculations and audience testing, are not so different to those of the film biz) was to let an unvarnished depiction of working class folk go on, let alone allow a female creative lead the way. Roseanne Barr found that her own creation was credited to an entirely uninvolved male producer, who went on to make her life hell.

There may be a 'PC' moral behind this, but it is a fascinating read from a very un-PC lady.

Roseanne Barr: 'Fame's a bitch. It's hard to handle and drives you nuts'

With a hit TV show, Roseanne Barr could get the best tables in the best restaurants. Never mind about the empty flattery, the nervous breakdowns and the feeling of being used for 10 years. But she's not bitter. Honest
Roseanne Barr 11.6.11 http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/jun/11/roseanne-barr-on-fame
    Roseanne Barr
    'I walked into the producer's office, held up a pair of wardrobe scissors to show her I meant business - "This is no character! This is my show. You watch me. I will win this battle." ' Photograph: Robert Maxwell/Art + Commerce
    During the recent and overly publicised breakdown of Charlie Sheen, I was repeatedly contacted by the media and asked to comment, as it was assumed that I know a thing or two about starring on a sitcom, fighting with producers, nasty divorces, public meltdowns and bombing through a live comedy tour. I have, however, never smoked crack or taken too many drugs, unless you count alcohol as a drug (I don't). But I do know what it's like to be seized by bipolar thoughts that make one spout wise about tiger blood and brag about winning when one is actually losing. It's hard to tell whether one is winning or, in fact, losing once one starts to think of oneself as a commodity, or a product, or a character, or a voice for the downtrodden. It's called losing perspective. Fame's a bitch. It's hard to handle and drives you nuts. Yes, it's true that your sense of entitlement grows exponentially with every perk until it becomes too stupendous a weight to walk around under, but it's a cut-throat business, show, and without the p

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Accents: Cheryl Cole dumped from US X Factor

Headline news(?!) this morning, Cole has been dumped as contestants and audience alike couldn't undertsnad her not especially broad Geordie accent, a nice illustration of the hegemony of the S.Eng accent espec where US media + mainstream audiences there are concerned!
See http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/may/26/cheryl-cole-us-x-factor

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coen brothers 90min interview

The Israeli accents are harsh, and the shared mike setup clumsy, but this is FREE for goodness sake! A 90min interview with perhaps the most distinctively creative force in Hollywood filmmaking today (Wes Anderson? Christopher Nolan? Darren Aronofsky?) who also happen to be produced by WT...

There's a nice detail for example on how they handle their film credits; as they wish to avoid these reading 'Coens' over and over again, they adopted the pseudonym Roderick James for the editor credit - running into issues with the Oscar committee, who no longer allow proxies to pick up awards since Marlon Brando used an award to give a platform to an aggrieved native American!

Digitisation [DRAFT]

There's another thing these three new films have in common, beyond heroism, though: their DIYish use of new technology, including the easy-editing facilities and bedroom-DJ accessibility that allowed TT3D to be distilled from over 500 hours of initial footage. Christian says: "For us, it was all about using the technology. Digitalising the screens in recent years means we can make a film like this very cheaply. For the first time in my career we've not used film at all." Riley agrees: "With the technology now you can shoot high-end footage in HD that looks great. It's a lot more accessible. You can edit it at home on a Mac. It's easier and cheaper than it would have been before."
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/may/12/documentary-fire-babylon-ashes-tt3d
Our exam board consider digitisation, and the development of new media, as absolutely central to understanding how the media operate today ... and I fully agree! It is a topic that we look at closely with the Media Regulation exam topic for A2, as well as within the A2 music video coursework.
The impact on the film industry is already pronounced and looks likely to increase in impact and influence. In summarising in what manner and means digitisation is influencing the film industry I'll note some particular examples of films to demonstrate the points made, but you can always use your own examples, perhaps films that you read up on when undertaking coursework research.
This transformative impact spreads right across the three elements of the film business: production, distribution and exhibition. It also impacts on what the exam board refer to as 'exchange', the idea that the relationship between industry/film text and audience is not a passive, one-way affair but involves some mutual influence.
Lets consider then how this potentially revolutionary force of digitisation is impacting the film biz; in doing so, one fundamental question arises: do the potential changes being wrought open up the industry to Indies at all three stages of the business OR simply reinforce big 6 dominance ... or does the scope for piracy and the rise of home cinema undermine Indies and conglomerates alike?

The potential impact on production budgets is the key point here: digital film-making is seen as substantially cheaper than traditional celluloid-based film-making. Why is this?
digital cameras are smaller and more portable
traditional cameras, with canisters of film (35mm or 70mm usually) inside are often used in conjunction with tracks laid down on location or in the studio (thus 'tracking' shot) for their smooth movement
the time taken to set up shots is radically reduced with digital cameras
indeed, films such as the $800k Indie Monsters and even the big 6 release Cloverfield (Paramount's $25m found-footage flick tried to apply a veneer of Blair Witch-style credibility) featured just ONE cinematographer. Monsters' entire crew amounted to just 4 people...
Viewing daily rushes is traditionally a major production cost, involving processing of expensive film and requiring projection rooms. Digital shots are instantly avaiulable for review, and Monsters 4-man crew included an editor who travelled with the shoot to check each day's footage on his computer
Its not so long ago that digital film-making was seen as remarkable and unusual; WT's Atonement received much publicity as a digitally-shot high-profile release. At $40m it wasn't cheap, but would have cost much more if shot in the traditional manner
Now, digital film-making is rapidly becoming normalised and unremarkable. The Coens' latest, True Grit, was shot and edited using equipment and processes fundamentally similar to that used by Media students here at IGS: HD digital cameras (we use these at A2), Apple computers and the software Final Cut for editing (again, we use this at A2), and the use of the web to share rushes, rough cuts etc and gain/give feedback on these while the shoot is ongoing
The UK Film Council reacted to the slowness of our bigger production companies to develop a digital production base by funding the Indie Warp Films to set up a subsidiary, Warp X, to shoot 6 low-budget films over 3 years, with a total package (including National Lottery money) of just £4.5m, using digital equipment. They were concerned that the UK wasn't developing a workforce experienced and skilled in digital production swiftly enough. Their intervention was successful, and the UK is now something of a world leader - one wonders what would have happened if the previous government had had the approach the current ConDem coalition have to the creative industries (they've scrapped all funding to the UKFC)
Donkey Punch was the first Warp X production, and the fact that its budget, less than £1m, was mostly taken up by the £600k cost of hiring a boat (the main setting) is symbolic of the impact on costs of digital film-making. This slasher-at-sea was a modest success, but one that likely wouldn't have been made by traditional means - just look at the bloated fiasco that was Kevin Costner's Waterworld (or even some of the legendary waterfront scenes from Apocalypse Now) to see how problematgic this would have been with traditional camera kits and crews.
Even more so, the parent company Warp Films green-lit an experimental mockumentary production by Shane Meadows, Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee, which he shot in just 5 days. The budget was a mere £48k (with the added boost of synergistically featuring Warp act the Arctic Monkeys!), at which level film companies can afford to take greater risks. Warp have since announced plans to develop a strand of films with 5-day shoots, potentially opening up the industry to newcomers who otherwise would never get the chance to shoot given the usual multi-million cost involved. Even WT have gotten in on the act with their own production funds including a WT Australia subsidiary for low-budget digital shoots (eg Ned Kelly)
So, production costs are potentially slashed, and the Indies have been swift to take advantage of the potential. Smaller, more portable cameras mean much faster setups and vastly reduced crews, while the editing process and checking of rushes also becomes a much cheaper, swifter process.
CGI and SFX are also now coming into reach of the Indies; both Duncan Jones' Moon and Monster made use of superbly impactive and convincing SFX (or VFX as Gareth Edwards prefers to term these) on budgets more traditionally associated with CGI-free social realist productions. Jones, in the behind-the-scenes feature on the Monsters DVD, shows how he was able to improvise scenes based solely on coming across a stimulating location not in the call sheet in the knowledge that SFX could be added later.
BUT ...
Does this really mean that the days of the big 6 dominance is over? Does digitisation mean that we don't now need to think about the consequences of such few companies controlling the 'dream factory', shaping at least some part of our collective unconscious and belief systems? (Chomsky and Herman's propaganda model argues that our mass media do not work on behalf of the mass audience but rather to reflect and reinforce the narrow interests of the rich, big business elite who control the major media, citing concentration of ownership as one of the five filters that effectively washes out any radical, especially left-wing [think social realist for example], counter-hegemonic material. Flak is another filter, which the horizontally integrated conglomerates such as News Corporation are able to deploy against films such as The Wind That Shakes the Barley [a WT production], Hunger and, a film that some of WT's key personnel cut their teeth on before launching the company, Hidden Agenda)
Well, no, not necessarily! It does provide an opportunity, though if any Indie makes a success out of this its almost inevitable they'll be swallowed up by a conglomerate, as WT was 20 years ago now.
Certain fundamentals are not changed by digitisation, foremost amongst which is what Richard Dyer describes as the star system. Our consumption of films, and thus their marketing, is very heavily centred on stars and their identities, not just in a particular film but also through their previous work and wider media appearances, including the gossip magazines and tabloid press. We pay for access to a star persona as much as any desire to follow a 90-minute fictive narrative!
This is of course an unstable process: the screen king of nearly 3 decades, Tom Cruise, jumps rather dementedly up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch to express his love for his new bride (and combat public hostility to his adherence to Scientology), and becomes toxic, no longer a $20m+ a film must-have but someone with a tainted star persona who could sink your blockbuster's prospects. Kiera Knightly has hoovered up many such A-lister fees, but failed to show that her presence alone can sell a film, her successes coming within ensemble pieces.
Star-free films such as TisEng will continue to struggle initially, but the strength of word-of-mouth can lead to huge DVD sales after brief cinema runs.
To sum up, the basic fee (before additional % of profits which some also negotiate, most famously Jack Nicholson) for just one A-lister in just one film would cover the entire annual output of most if not all of the UK Indie releases in a single year! The star system is not yet threatened by digitisation, though there is scope to digitally reproduce dead stars and so slash this particular production cost!
If we think again about Atonement, WT's first large-scale digital production (its low-budget subsidiary WT2 uses digital production), after the cast the major cost was rights to the internationbal best-seller book it was based upon (ditto BJD!).
Indies then still cannot compete when it comes to stars or rights to hit books/comics.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Monsters: slick sci-fi shot by 4-man crew!!!!

The following is written primarily with the A2 exam in mind, but also has obvious application for the AS, given the example of digitisation explored. What follows is a bit of info on and analysis of Monsters, an $800k UK Indie produced in a manner genuinely very similar to that of IGS Media students' work... I'll look to get the DVD into thje Lib so you can watch the extras for yourselves.

With thanks to Simon Walpole (IGS Helpdesk technician) for the suggestion, one nice example of how the relationship between planning and creatively shooting can be very fluid: Monsters, Gareth Edwards' feature debut, shot for $800k through Vertigo Films but achieving a real gloss, CGI-heavy look nonetheless.

The DVD extras include an extensive behind-the-scenes doc on the shoot (and additional docs on the editing and creation of VFX [ie SFX]) which reveal the highly guerrilla-style approach. I've often used the examples of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh as low/micro-budget Indie filmmakers who usually rely heavily on actors' improvisation; the lack of advance scripts is one reason they've struggled to get funding in the UK despite hoovering up awards over the past three deacdes across Europe.
Edwards here works in a similar fashion. The aesthetic effect is not unlike social realism, although of course he's highly dependent on post-production CGI (with the titular monsters seeking to cross the US border from Mexico there is clearly an allegory of a contemporary social issue too: immigration, with the US spending billions on a security wall to keep immigrants out). His initial treatment lacked some detail, but the central concept (and his showreel of a short with impressive SFX on micro-budget and a BBC feature) was strong enough to win the backing of an Indier production company, Vertigo. The manner the film was shot exemplifies the potential impact of digitisation: Edwards acted as the sole cinematographer, with a boom operator/sound recordist, editor to check through each day's rushes and producer forming in essence a 4-man crew. Thats a FOUR MAN CREW. Check it out here ... and compare this with the listing for Cloverfield (which had the working title of Monstrous!), big 6 member's $25m JJ Abrams' produced but highly comparable 2008 release (Matt Reeves directed). This had a much bigger crew ... though again was shot with a single cinematographer (in both cases credited as DoP - Director of Photography).
The Monsters shoot was researched and planned: the cast and crew would speed through various locations in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and the USA in just over a month's shooting, which required thorough advance planning. Nonetheless, Edwards continually improvised the narrative, and other then the two co-leads (a couple in real life, which he had insisted upon for a convincing chemistry - and tested this by sleeping on their couch for a week prior to finalising the casting!), used non-actors throughout, such as the police escorts that local authorities offered up for most of the shoot. The leads themselves generally improvised the script - as did the locals conscripted into the film (indeed, many shots were shot documentary style, Edwards taking advantage of the language barrier and inobtrusive portable single camera set-up to film genuine interaction with various locals). Furthermore, and I've seen many great examples of this across AS and A2 work, kept a constant eye out for locations that might work within the overall framework of the film, often coming up with new material to utilise what looked like interesting locations as the small crew travelled around. Cloverfield had a huge set-design team, not to mention extensive make-up personnel, but Monsters really was comparable to the way you yourselves produced your work.
One final observation: there is a great irony here; Monsters successfully set out to make a glossy, convincing sci-fi flick that would sit comfortably alongside Hollywood multiplex fare ... while Cloverfield, a genuine production of a Hollywood major, set out to attain an Indie look and credibility, almost mimicking the archetypal Indie breakthrough hit, slasher Blair Witch (Abrams explicitly cites this as his inspiration in the interview below). Of course, the film with genuine Indie sensibility has no announced plans for a sequel, but Hollywood loves nothing more than a franchise and Cloverfield 2 looks a good bet. (Its also a good example of how digitisation and new media are more than just a threat, through piracy, to the film industry: there are already several fan-made Cloverfield 2 trailers on YouTube, helping to generate pre-release - even pre-production! - hype and anticipation):

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wild Child + audience


[a quick point on this from your sample essays: if addressing the male gaze theory/use of Emma Roberts to attract a secondary male audience, think of what other issues tie into this. This links to hybrid genre. Also to budget: the likes of Warp cannot afford US stars; WT routinely use them - you'd give specific figures for this, and consider the very nature of WT, its funding and its unsusual focus on the US audience given its a UK company. Richard Dyer's star system also relevant. Points on Maslow/U+G model can also be raised]

Wild Child (Nick Moore, 2008), a $20m WT film (so, a medium-budget film) can be used to make a number of points linked to audience.
These will include aspects of...
  • semiotics (giving specific and precise ""Use of Examples)
  • genre + hybridity
  • gender + representation issues...
  • male gaze theory
  • using Celts for comedy (or simply non-S.Eng white m.cls!) [Shirley Henderson character]
  • social class
  • audience theories such as Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the Uses + Gratifications model
  • UGC/fan made media
  • digitisation + piracy
  • soundtrack/marketing + horizontal intergration/synergies
  • vertical integration
  • targetting international audiences as a UK producer
  • budget + stars (Richard Dyer's star system)
  • intertextuality (postmodernism): St Trinians (+ the film industry's lack of creativity)
A couple of links for you:
IMDB entry
St Trinians IMDB
YouTube vids:
Piracy: the film online
Everlife music video
Soundtrack listing
Fan-made trailer

Here's the trailer:

IMDB narrative summary: 'Since Malibu brat Poppy Moore's mom passed away, she has pushed her rich, usually absent dad Gerry shamelessly. When his patience wears out, she's shipped off to her mother's former English boarding school for girls, Abbey Mount. On her first day she makes enemies of most dorm mates, especially dominant lacrosse school captain Harriet, and of staff disciplinarian Mrs. Kingsley. Unwilling to accept the strict regime, she decides to misbehave and take the blame for everyone until she's dismissed. The school only appealing feature for her is Kingsley's dashing son Freddie. When the dream prince transfers his favor from ambitious, uptight Harriet to unruly Poppy, that changes everything.'

Monday, May 09, 2011

Compare marketing of Avatar v BoatThatRocked

This is covered in real depth at the fantastic '12cMarketing' blog:

Avatar: eg of Big 6/Hollywood dominance

Whilst your main case studies are of Warp + WT, binary opposites in terms of scale, representations and target audience, it is also useful to have an example of how Hollywood works at the very top end. Working Title may be pushing the envelope with its $100m-budget Green Zone (Paul Greengrass, 2010) - an utter flop that would have bankrupted WT if it were an Indie and not a subsidiary - but thats not even close to the almost absurd $237m spent on producing Avatar. (Even this pales beside the $300m budget of the third Pirates of the Carribean).
Indeed, there is some speculation that the actual budget was closer to $500m (although an in-depth report in Vanity Fair magazine suggests that that is the full production + prints/marketing figure (budgets only cover production, even though prints/marketing, as part of the distribution process, typically cost the same again). This is a prime example of a growing trend amongst the 'big 6' (20th Century Fox being the producer): producing fewer films and basing the company around a smaller number of mega-budget releases, increasingly released simultaneously worldwide rather than the expensive prints touring territory by territory. The simultaneous marketing blitz often demonstrates the global reach of these mostly vertically AND horizontally integrated conglomerates.
As well as the unescapabale billboard, bus and general paid-for media ad campaign for Avatar, the UK was far from unique in seeing News Corporations other assets being fully exploited in a prime example of horizontal integration (having global TV/satellite, and web, operations also helped with the vertical integration!). The Guardian's Media Monkey column noted on 18th January 2010 how Murdoch's tabloid The S*n was deployed to assist this blitz:
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.
News Corporation also benefitted from its Sky network, enthusiastically pushing Avatar as a 'must see movie', but also using its Xmas Eve 2010 UK TV premiere on Sky 3D to push subscriptions for the company. This also points to some of the hidden benefits from News Corporation and James Cameron's huge investment in the film: not only did it help to establish 3D cinema as a real force (cinemas charge large premiums for 3D films), the R+D work behind it ensures that Cameron has developed cutting-edge technology which can be used for further films (the cameras and other equipment were actually leased out to other filmmakers). As Avatar eventually soared to $760m in the US (totalling $2.7bn worldwide, trouncing Titanic), it reinforced Hollywood's big 6 conviction that spending to levels unimaginable by other nation on Earth (possible because they profit from most nations on Earth!) is a wise and sustainable strategem.

The marketing campaign for Avatar was no less extravagant than the production itself, and tells us much about how the media giants today use new and social media, as well as more traditional methods such as tie-ins with companies such as MacDonalds. A reported $18,000 a day was spent on Google adwords for the US alone!!! (This is where you pay to have sponsored results at the top of a related Google results page) Perhaps ironically (given News Corporation's disastrous purchase of MySpace just as Facebook began to consign it to a slow death), 20th Century Fox used social media with real panache. As reported here, Facebookers were able to submit questions to Cameron through an official Avatar Facebook Page, the results of which were spun off into an MTV Behind the Scenes special (neatly using two global brands!).
As reported here, Avatar had run up 1.15m Facebook fans by Jan 2010, and 800,000 MySpace 'friends', fantastic resources for well-directed marketing. It was a hit on Twitter, a massive story throughout the blogosphere, and 'If that wasn't enough the Avatar YouTube page drew in millions of fans in their drones, loaded with behind the scenes information and fake videos by the character Dr Augustine.' as reported in this fantastic analysis, which also highlighted...
A high-tech approach was used, creating online games for the McD's website. 'The game called PandoraQuest was accessible on McDonald’s local Web sites around the world from December 18 2009. The games goals included finding hidden objects within three different Pandora landscapes. Retrieving all objects enables the player to advance deeper into Pandora and reach their goal of becoming a member of the “RDA Research Team” as seen in the movie.
A key component to the game was McD VISION, an augmented reality experience that immerses players in Pandora. In addition to this was PandoraROVR a vehicle which can transport the player all around the web version of Pandora.'
'McDonald's also ran a Twitter campaign, asking followers to be the first 10 to decode daily word scrambles. The grand prize was a private screening of Avatar over a Big Mac lunch with producer Jon Landau (Source: Promo Magazine.) '
There were also tie-ins with Coke zero and an interactive trailer which gave three options for buying tickets - Avatar has truly shown the future of blockbuster marketing. LG even launched a brand new smartphone as a tie-in to Avatar (the Chocolate BL40). This campaign also saw the growing trend of trailer-as-event taken to new levels. The obligatory visit was made to Comic Con, home of the all-important (as far as sci-fi box office is concerned) geek, but more than this the second teaser trailer was premiered live to 80,000 people inside the Dallas Cowboys football stadium - an event heavily hyped by Fox News (another News corp subsidiary). Almost as spectacular, the release of 16mins of advance footage to IMAX cinemas caused a real sensation.
If you think about the audiences targeted, this is pretty damned comprehensive...
McDonalds (children, parents - two age ranges - plus the vital teen demographic)
LG's smartphone - the tech-literate early adopters, a natural target for sci-fi (and the story of the technology behind the film became a key part of the hype by itself)
Comic Con - the (male, teen to 30-something) geek
Coke Zero - fairly female friendly, and yet another global brand
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace - smart; used by a growing proportion of the entire population, not the preserve of the young it was in the mid-noughties
Google adwords - again, fairly universal!

You can read more still at these links:
Vanity Fair article
LG's press release
Incredibly detailed article (LAOfficeLounge.com)
Brief one on use of social media
The Facebook/MTV tie-in (brief)
Well illustrated, in-depth overview (12cMarketing.blogspot.com)
How digital marketing helped Avatar break records (in-depth: Media Shift)

Budget $237m - tentpole strategy
Main production co Twentieth Century Fox = Big 6 (a subsidiary of the conglomerate News Corp., owned by R. Murdoch [S*n, Sky, Times etc in UK = much scope for horizontal integration, + vertical integration as also has exhibition arms [Fox TV network, Sky etc])

Revision materials

This is a long, long post. I'll update my own materials at the top of this post, but have found a range of excellent resources from other centres too which I'll embed below.

As Exam Brit Cinema Revision Guide 2011

Film Industry Terminology 2011





A BLOG ON WARP: http://mediachs.edublogs.org/film-industry/as-warp-films/

A BLOG ON WT, INCL. DETAILED POWERPOINT CASE STUDIES: http://mediachs.edublogs.org/film-industry/as-working-title-films/

A blog that provides overviews of some of the topic prompts provided by the exam board: http://mediachs.edublogs.org/film-industry/as-film-ind-key-themes-essay-plans/
7audiences (1)

8own-experiences (1)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Past papers and revision guides

Revision materials will be added here shortly; in the meantime you can access older versions at http://mediabritishcinema.blogspot.com/2009/12/as-exam-summary-of-brit-cinema-material.html and elsewhere on the blog
Past papers, plus markschemes with examples of essays, can be accessed at http://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/type/gce/amlw/media_studies/documents/index.html

The Jan 2010 paper is here (also embedded below); its markscheme here; examiners report here. There aren't exemplar essays available for this paper, but there for the June 2009 and June 2010 exam papers.

Two recent examples are embedded below:

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

BJD marketing

BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY and love actually MARKETING compressed                                                                                                   

Friday, April 15, 2011

2 Views of Englishness...

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/apr/14/william-kate-movie-preview-royal-wedding and http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2011/apr/13/johnny-english-reborn-trailer

Blu-Ray - a game-changer or same ol', same ol'?

This is a good summary of how the online challenge, as with the music industry before it, threatens the film industry's cash cow of DVD/Blu-Ray: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/29/dvd-industry-sales-slump-blu-ray
Plus http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/apr/18/digital-video-streaming-online-netflix ('As more and more television moves online thanks to streaming services such as Netflix, Jemima Kiss examines the options available to traditional media – which some say faces a bleak future')

Digitisation reaches cinema ticketing

In a move that its rivals will presumably be compelled to follow before long, Cineworld, one of our major cinema chains (=exhibition remember), has announced discounts for those buying tickets online through 'the company's MyCineworld service' as well as scrapping its online booking fee. Read full article here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Britishness = miserable?

[cross-posted from another DB blog]
Interesting article here on the Ricky gervais Britflick Cemetery Junction; here's an excerpt which may help you think about yourselves as British filmmakers yourselves. This is a brief excerpt:

Our cinema doesn't depend on lavish, feelgood reassurance; it revels in seedy grittiness. That's the way we like it. We're not a nation of optimists who're certain we'll be redeemed. We're glum and suspicious. We quite like misery and are more at home with grunge than glitz.
Some interesting reader comments follow too, e.g. this:


19 Apr 2010, 11:32AM
It's interesting the feelgood romantic comedies that characteristed British cinema since the 1990s - Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Love Actually and the like - have disappeared. Even Richard Curtis's last film - The Boat That Rocked - was set in the 1960s Ditto Cemetery Junction takes place in 1973. For British filmmakers, we can feelgood about the past but not the present. Too many recent British movies - Fish Tank, Harry Brown, Eden Lake - present a thoroughly grim and despairing vision of the country. The odd exception was Mike Leigh's 'Happy Go Lucky'.
It's interesting that 'Four Weddings' opened in Britain in May 1994, on the very week John Smith died and Tony Blair emerged as the future leader of New Labour. There were a lot of parallels between Hugh Grant in that movie and Blair. Now, we have 'The Ghost' opening in the last days of the New Labour government - almost like a final nail being hammered in the coffin.
I often think that anyone who lived through the 1970s wouldn't want to return there. Films like 'Bloody Sunday', 'The Damned United', 'Control' and the 1974 segment of 'Red Riding' capture the grimness perfectly. Strikes, the Troubles in Ulster, football hooliganism, police corruption, drab provincial cities and raging inflation (just try going through newspapers of the period and you'll see how expensive everything was). It wasn't all bad, but on the whole I do prefer now.