Friday, April 15, 2011

2 Views of Englishness...

See and

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:
Plus ('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.

Curtisland goes to sea

[addition 13.6.11: see for a useful, brief guide on RC's career]
[this is from another DB blog intended for A2; you may find it quite hard going]

Opening title for The Boat That Rocked:
Not England. Britain. And it's set on a boat in the North Sea. ... Yet, even in this scenario, there are no Scots, no N.Irish, no Welsh; the only variety from S.Eng characters comes from an American (a US star, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in to help sell to a US audience), a Southern Irishman and an Australian character.

The horror...

[re-posted from another DB blog]
A cracking article (is there any other kind?!) in today's Film Guardian got me thinking again about how British horror might tie into your exam topic, an idea that initially took hold from watching Eden Lake (superb; very, very well crafted, with an utterly modern, mature final girl) some weeks ago.
The article - given a different title on the website for some reason - is worth reading in full; its rammed with quotes that could have been picked out by someone sitting your exam!
See by Ryan Gilbey (11.6.10) [its copied in at the end of this post]

So, how does the contemporary resurgence of British horror, now achieving success on a scale not seen since the halcyon [successful!] days of Hammer Horror, tie into your exam you may ask?
Lets start with the future!

Budgetary constraints obviously have an effect on the look of UK horror movies: they simply can't compete with the good-looking US model populated by, well, good-looking US models. "We do gritty and realistic better than anyone else," says Kevorkian. "I don't think we have the budgets to do big elaborate horror films here, so we turn to a more reality-based horror, which is a hell of a lot more  frightening."
"Money definitely has something to do with it," says Lawrence Gough, who financed Salvage with £250,000 from Northwest Vision and Media. "A big budget production here can mean £10m-£15m, whereas $40m (£28m) in the US would be considered cheap. There's also a tendency in British film-making toward realism, which I don't think the Americans share."   [quoted from Gilbey's article]
I'm surprised there's no mention in this article of two features that show that low-budget, digital film-making doesn't have to mean the £750k spent on Donkey Punch (£600k of which paid for the boat rental!) with government funding through the UKFC (as I blogged yesterday, a new report, coming as expectations rise of severe cuts in government funding/tax breaks for UK film, makes the argument that UK film is economically very important and should retain special funding).
What does Colin, the £45 Brit-zombie flick that managed to find a distributor and funding for a cinema release [see this post for more info], suggest about the future direction of UK film-making? [Its not horror, but the £25k Born of Hope and of course Shane Meadows' £48k, 5-day-shoot, Le Donk and Scor-Say-Zee, also tie into this]

UK rep'd by rom-coms?

A comment following the article at raises an interesting issue:

I am always touched that people from overseas want to associate romance with us despite our appalling dentistry and somewhat random attempts at hygiene. The popularity of the Romcom may also go some way to making up for a number of our other recent exports to the world including drunkenness on an industrial scale, armed conflict, and the hairstyles of the 1970?s, which if my recent experience is to be believed, are still a regular fashion feature in a number of East German towns.
The Romcom is a universal scream of hope that one day things will get better. It is a hope that the future is not all gurning politicans, old age, death and taxes.
23 Apr 2010, 12:08PM

YouTube vids about TisEng [draft]

Not very highbrow...

In the words of the man himself

A tad more highbrow this time...


S.Meadows films - trailers [draft]

Dead Man's Shoes

This is England

London to Brighton

A great social realist film, and perhaps also noteworthy for centring on female protagonists (social realism is also frequently guilty of failing the Bechdel Test!), you can currently catch this on iPlayer:

Online views, including the Amazon user reviews, are mainly v positive. I concur that its an excellent film with a gripping narrative, strong use of a non-linear device (flashbacks) and engages the audience well with the protagonists, but I also think the cinematography is at best unexceptional, with the degree of camera movement quite distracting at times. How easy would it be market this to a US audience, never mind a UK audience?!
If you do watch it, add your views as a comment below.

Big Talk Productions [draft]

Hadn't noticed until reading this article about the best upcoming films for Spring 2011 another common link between Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul - not just S.Pegg, N.Frost + (on the former two) director E.Wright, plus WT/WT2 ... but also the UK production company Big Talk Productions:
Big Talk Productions was founded in 1995 by producer Nira Park.[1] The company's first television series was Spaced. Directed by Edgar Wright, the series featured Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes and Nick Frost. Two seven-episode series were made for the show from 1999 to 2001. Since the end of its second series, Spacedcult following. has gained an international
Big Talk continues to establish itself as a leader of British sitcoms with shows that include Black Books and Free Agents. The company's most notable productions however are its feature films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the first two films in the "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy" continued to establish the career of the lead actors upon their releases. In 2010, Big Talk Productions served as a co-producer for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a feature-film adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim comic book series.[2] Paul, directed by Greg Mottola, stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two men who befriend a fugitive alien.[3] Attack the Block is the debut feature from comedian Joe Cornish and is executive produced by Edgar Wright. It stars Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway and a host of newcomers, and will be released in the UK on May 13th 2011.
Future projects
Big Talk has several feature films and television that either in production or in development. Edgar Wright has been reported to be directing three feature films for Big Talk. Baby Driver, a film set in the United States, has been described as "a wild spin on the action and crime genre"; The World's End, another film featuring Pegg and Frost, will be the final film in Pegg and Wright's "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy";[4]

Apart from its feature films, the company will produce several television series for BBC Two and BBC Three. Him & Her, is a new comedy series focusing on a couple in their mid-series. The series, produced by Big Talk's CEO Kenton Allen, stars Russell Tovey and will air on BBC Three;[5] Rev. is another sitcom, focusing on the enormous daily frustrations and moral conflicts of a reverend (played by Tom Hollander). The series began production in January 2010.[6]

They're the sole production co (highly unusual, at any budget level) behind the new sci-fi Attack the Block, budgeted at £8m [IMDB].

Nice link to Paul in particular, but also note that, just as with WT (HGrant/RCurtis; PGreengrass etc) and Warp (SMeadows, PConsidine), there are key creatives behind the company's impressive record of success: S.Pegg, N.Frost, E.Wright (all also stalwarts of WT/WT2).

Furthermore, there's a nice example of marketing, and how its differentiated between the US and UK auds. Take a look at the US promo site + the UK promo site and note the differences; the same as we'll see with the marketing of a great many other WT films, espec the rom-coms

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Shane Meadows – a very British auteur [DB notes]

This is a great article, but even so, for it to be useful you'd need to pick out some key points. Below I've paraphrased some points, added in some additional points to link into my existing knowledge, and directly quoted where abbreviating quotes didn't seem useful. Practising note-taking is a very useful activity; this is a key skill to hone for all subjects, and time spent on this will not only benefit your Media and other A-Levels but also potential university study.

- Meadows reflects his own working-class background in his films: 'his early short films were largely financed by his dole money'!!!
- his 1997 breakthru [yes, when note-taking, abbreviations are useful!] 24.7, funded by BBC Films, was critically acclaimed, featuring common SM themes: rites-of-passage; optimistic; community; father-figures; bleak (sub)urban estates but also countryside
- 'A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) ... continued the themes of alienation and suspect role models. It also introduced the world to Shane’s friend, the actor Paddy Considine'. 'Much of the acting in the piece comes from Meadows’ use of improvisation.' - This is a common hallmark of social realist work; Mike Leigh is also famous for working without scripts
- 'FilmFour’s Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002) is considered by Meadows to be his weakest effort.' The rom-com featured high-profile UK stars, something he would avoid repeating, going back to social realist stylings
- 'Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) was shot on a micro-budget of less than a million pounds and was a real return to form.' The common SM theme of bullying is evident. 'The film again was largely improvised and Meadows shot the film in chronological order which gave a sense of unpredictability to the proceedings. The film is extremely violent but there is a careful balance between humour and darkness which is inherent in all of Meadows’ work.'
- and so to TisEng (2007) 'The film starts with a montage of 80s imagery, everything from Roland Rat to Duran Duran, Knight Rider and the royal wedding of Charles and Diana. Also included in this is footage of Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Prime Minister of the period – whose policies and philosophies loom large in this film. The shattering of working-class communities is a common theme in Meadows work, and in this film this is implicitly seen as a result of the Thatcherite belief in individualism and the promotion of consumerism.' (you may find the section on 'Youth cults and a sense of belonging' useful to appreciate the preferred reading)
'Shane Meadows has suggested in a number of interviews that Combo’s racist ideals are rooted in a lack of identity and uncertainty of what being English is all about. The immigrant communities had strong identities, a real sense of community and a clear culture as evidenced in areas such as music.'
'However, what is central in This is England is Shaun’s development. It is a tough rite of passage for him as he searches for a sense of belonging and very possibly a new strong father figure. In the final shots of the film, the Cross of St George flag (a present from Combo) is used to excellent effect, as Shaun throws the flag into the sea. It raises fascinating questions beyond the narrative about where he will go next and what exactly he is rejecting.'
- SM was furious at the 18cert given by the BBFC: "By having one piece of violence and one piece of really acute verbal violence I’ve managed to get an 18 certificate, whereas someone else can slay thousands of people in a single film and that’s OK. To be honest I don’t understand it because, yes, the film is affecting but I think it’s something that someone of 15 can cope with." Its 'ironic that Thomas Turgoose, the star of the film, isn’t able legally to watch the film in the cinema.' Sev local councils overturned the BBFC rating, giving it a 15 in their area.
'With the backdrop of the Falklands War, there are sharp parallels to be drawn with the present conflict in Iraq. There are still fears around youth crime and disaffection, which are clearly highlighted in the film. In many ways Shane Meadows in his own idiosyncratic fashion, crafted a film that is a very much a ‘state of the nation’ piece for how we live today. And he has managed to do this on a small budget and with considerable style and panache.'

The passages in bold suggest still briefer bulleted notes that might be taken, assuming you had taken in much of the additional material so as to be able to make sense of these when reading them back later

You have access to a lot of information for Media. For this, and any subject, a key way to work on revision is to steadily whittle down your notes and resources; once you've got (and understood) extensive notes from an article, blog post, book chapter or lesson, go back through and see if you can (i) order these [are there certain themes emerging that you can group several points with] (ii) highlight terminology and (iii) re-work your notes into a bulleted list. As you work on through your revision, aim to produce briefer and briefer notes which pull together points, ideas and examples from a combination of lessons, handouts etc. The idea, and the aim, is to eventually enable a brief phrase to stand in for a range of detail/points. Mnemonics are also v useful; I can still remember from my History A-Level (quite a few years ago!) 'SLICMA' as a neat summary of complex arguments of causes of the Spanish Civil War (separatists, landowners, industrialists, church, monarchy, army lest ye wondered)!

Monday, April 04, 2011

WestYorks Indie Film Network

These guys are holding their monthly open meeting on Tuesday 5th April - see
WEST YORKSHIRE INDEPENDENT FILM NETWORK hold a monthly networking event at The Roast, 1 Whitehall (riverside), Leeds, LS1 4BN. We are there on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:00pm for filmmakers and anyone who wants to be involved in the film world to come along and network with their peers . Then from 7:30pm we beggin the screenings. For this element of the evening we are open to filmmakers and film lovers alike.