Thursday, December 11, 2014

DISTRIBUTION: Tyrannosaur in France

Brief post to consider a useful example of Indie distribution abroad, other than in the USA. Warp managed to get Tyrannosaur quite widely distributed on DVD (not so much in cinema).
The IMDB distributor list above shows a theatrical distributor for France, but there is no record of any French box office returns on boxofficemojo: lists lower figures, a useful warning that you can't always rely on any one site for accurate information.

I can't find sales figures ( only offers these on this film to subscribers, but does provide such info for some movies), but it seems to have enjoyed reasonable success in France:

Its French distribution included a number of subtitled 'extras'

Thursday, December 04, 2014

DISTRIBUTION: Disney's Alice in Wonderland and release window row

Alice in Wonderland sparked off a huge row between distributors and exhibitors over an attempt to change the traditional release window between cinema and DVD release.
I'll be taking points from the following:

DISTRIBUTION: Warp X's Le Donk + Scor-zay-zee

Use the tag cloud to find more on distribution
KEY POINT: Cinemas continue to insist on an exclusive release window as home cinema would otherwise eat substantially into their prospects, and they have gone as far as threatening to boycott a blockbuster Disney movie when they tried to reduce this window. Frankly, they will care little what an Indie micro-budget production does, and the 'cinema release' was really a marketing stunt by Warp to attract newspaper reviews!
Scroll to the end of the post for a short list of all key points. 
Impressively, Warp secured distribution in several foreign markets, such as Norway. Note how Meadows and his previous movies are highlighted as a key selling point.

Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee (Meadows, 2009) is an interesting counter-example of what we conventionally see. Okay, so this micro-budget Indie (just £48k, it launched Meadows' 'five day film' concept which, at the time of release, several other well-known directors expressed an interest in, though it doesn't really seem to have taken off in the way Dogme 95 - Lars von Trier etc - once did) got limited cinematic release.

All warp trailers are embedded in 1 post tagged distribution!
Lets be clear - the vast bulk of Indie productions simply fail to get any cinematic release; almost all are straight-to-DVD or, in the worst case scenario (as the DVD release window should come before the TV release window, which can itself be split between terrestrial, satellite and streaming) straight-to-TV (maybe made-for-TV).

By the way, Working Title's debut production, My Beautiful Laundrette, started out as a made-for-TV film, but when it got a screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) and the critics raved about it, a swift decision was made to fund a cinematic release, from which it made a modest but significant profit, and WT would grow from this small success (including a US release).

There are no figures for Le Donk's box office, which usually suggests there was no cinematic release. It is not alone in Warp productions in getting a very, very limited cinema release, presumably a premiere and some limited London screenings.

Monday, December 01, 2014

1 in 5 homes with cinema room by 2020?

This previous post looked at NBC-Universal's $35k home rental scheme, very relevant to the theme below...
According to a recent survey, a fifth of Britons aim to have a dedicated cinema room by 2020 ... and 8% already do! The rise of home cinema has long been noted, but this is a step beyond having a large screen TV in the living room, being something closer to the setup seen in The Sopranos, the classic HBO series, where mafia don Tony brings round his cronies to sit in comfort and watch DVDs of such gangster flicks as The Public Enemy.

The rise of cinemas such as Leeds' Everyman, with its large sofa seating and tables for drinks and food (with the food menu going well beyond popcorn, and premium beer/drinks available), indicate one means by which the cinema industry is attempting to fight back against the increasing numbers staying at home for their cinema experience. Everyman's pricing strategy also quite purposefully tries to exclude many of the teens who effectively ruin the cinema experience for adults.

The site I read the home cinema stat on was pushing a new concept, the rise of corner shops and off-licenses as the replacement for dedicated video rental stores, with the demise of Blockbuster the most visible sign of their disappearance from the high street, with pressure from Netflix and other streaming services, piracy and supermarket sales all proving terminal.

The article specifically cites 'automated kiosks' - have any of you ever encountered one of these? Clearly yet another means by which digitisation is opening up further possibilities for distribution.
In 2013 70% of TV sets sold in the UK were classified as big – 26in-32in – and nearly 16% were were “jumbo” – 43in or bigger. This is up 4% from the year before, according to TV Licensing’s annual Telescope report on the nation’s viewing habits.An earlier report found that 8% of Brits expect to have a dedicated cinema room in their homes by 2020.With staying in firmly established as the new going out, and consumers abandoning FOMO, the fear of missing out, in favour of JOMO, the joy of missing out, there’s never been a better time to cash in on the sales opportunity offered by big nights in, and this year OLN is looking at how to host and sell the perfect movie night.As more and more traditional video and DVD rental shops have gone out of business in the face of competition from postal and on- demand services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix – giant Blockbuster went into administration late last year – some off-licences have stepped into the gap, offering customers DVDs for rent or sale.Automated video kiosks such as those offered by Original Video ( have taken off in the US, where they first launched in 2002 and where there are now more than 30,000 units in operation. The model is simple, with new release movies offered for a small hire charge and, according to Original Video, they can make up to £500 a week.Even if you don’t offer DVDs yourself, this is a great time of year to inspire customers to make a big night in of their film evening with an innovative aisle-end or window display – and don’t forget to lay out the snacks, as nibbles such as popcorn, crisps and sweets are a key ingredient.To get you started, we’ve lined up some classic film choices – and suggestions to drink with them.■ Casablanca: Humphrey Bogart’s Rick is a self-confessed drunkard, and in the course of the film plenty of wine, bourbon, brandy and Cognac is consumed. But when you watch Casablanca, why not have a Champagne toast along with Rick and his lover, Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman. They’ll always have Paris.

Hot Fuzz distribution and marketing

Not exactly a bang up to date example, but one I've been looking at for a comparison between the three Cornetto Trilogy WT/WT2 productions (also World's End and Shaun of the Dead).

TheNumbers.Com: Distribution detail and box office data.
'Post and Send': a (p)review focussed on the archetypal rural community setting. 'Hot Fuzz was filmed in historic Wells in Somerset—England’s teeniest metropolis, apparently—that has a heritage dating back to Roman times. With the cathedral and market square, it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as a stand-in for the kind of place that elicits warm and fuzzy nostalgia on sight.'
'' - posters' intertextual references: An impressively thorough post, this dissects the many specific reference points reflected in the poster campaign for Hot Fuzz, clearly showing where the influences came from by putting the HF and existing posters side by side.
'TheWells' - how HF has sparked a tourist boom for the village it was set in!
'DillyMilly' - student blog post: usefully draws together several posters and trailers.
Student Prezi on HF Marketing: Not the best example you'll ever see, but useful e.g. of a Prezi nonetheless, something you should use for at least one Eval response.
MarketingMagazine - agency looks for product placement brands:
Exposure has been set the task of creating awareness below and above the line. Producers Working Title and Universal Pictures are now looking for partners for the movie."The film is a British take on an American cop movie and we are looking for brands that are British and are aimed at the 16- to 24-year-old male market," said Annie Kearney, senior account manager, Exposure. "Snack foods, FMCGs and entertainment brands including Heinz and Blockbusters have the right profile that we are looking for. We want brands that embody the irreverence of the film," she added.
CommonSenseMedia - alternative film ratings for parents: a US site that carries parental and kids' reviews, and generates a specific age rating recommendation from these, and its own editorial ratings
Parents need to know that what at first seems like a British parody of American cop flicks turns into a much bloodier (and funnier) homage to blow-'em-up blockbusters. The gun play and cartoonishly graphic violence rivals that of any Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer production, but at least the bulk of the gore is confined to the last third of the film. Like Shaun of the Dead, which was made by the same director and stars, this movie is full of colorful foul language, but it doesn't have the raunchy nastiness of similar movies. Expect cinema-savvy teens to want to check it out. - releasing interactive Shaun screenplay to market World's End: There are several posts linked through here; another flags up director Wright's use of UGC: 'Wright posted a link to a video that includes scenes from all three of his films on his twitter account today. Youtuber Joel Walden mashed up the different scenes from Wright’s movies into one 2:19 minute video. Hit the jump to see it.  [Read more…]'
OfficeNews - drinks to view Cornetto flicks with...: Something a bit different, a site flagging up the growth of DVD rentals within existing shops (off-licenses, mini-markets etc) as a replacement for the gradually dying video rental store, and suggesting drinks accompaniments for a range of films:
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End may be more associated with Cornettos than alcohol, but they’re all about beer and pubs. We recommend lager with Shaun of the Dead and bitter with The World’s End, with a cranberry juice in between for Hot Fuzz’s abstemious hero, Nick Angel.

Monday, November 17, 2014

GENDER: Women less successful on Kickstarter?

Some useful data here in a survey reporting on the comparative levels of success of male/female Kickstarter appeals; females feature in none/1 of top ten most successful appeals across a range of media categories, and female teams fare significantly less well than male teams. However, the report also notes that females often look for smaller amounts (<$5k) and are just as successful in this limited range; females often look specifically to friend and family circles, potentially limiting the scale/ambition of appeals.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Rom-Com Audience

I've cross-posted this on the rom-com and AS Coursework blogs, so won't post again here, but there is a lot of info and analysis very pertinent to British Cinema in there, with Warp and Working Title prominent in the analysis and examples used.

Read it here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Working Title franchising: new Bridget Jones, About a Boy TV series...

It is abundantly clear when we compare Warp Films With Working Title that the former's typically no-star, low budget (predominately) social realist slate does not lend itself to sequels/prequels/re-imaginings, although This is England is a notable exception, with a possible second film to add to the existing film and two TV series. WT's slate is full of franchises: Elizabeth, Bean, Bridget Jones, Nanny McPhee... its a long list.

...And it is about to get longer! Adapting films for TV is nothing new - the Coen brothers' Fargo is enjoying new life as a US TV series, and as noted above This is England has enjoyed two sequel TV series so far. WTTV is an increasingly important Working Title subsidiary, with big-name directors and stars increasingly viewing TV as at least on a par with cinema, a dramatic reversal of years past. Have a look at Working Title's IMDB entry and you'll find ever more TV entries in there. Amongst these is a new series for - naturally! - NBC in America: About a Boy is now a US TV series.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Richard Dyer's star system

This is a simple but highly useful audience/narrative theory, which also reflects standard marketing thinking (question 1 a potential distributor will ask of a film production: who's the star?). Richard Dyer's (Amazon book list) landmark 1979 book Stars argued that the star system was central to how the media operate, and how we read texts. Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society (his 1986 follow-up) used case studies of Hollywood icons from the golden era, examining 'the ways in which audiences simultaneously construct and consume a particular star's persona' (Wiki). You might see parallels here with much later web 2.0 theorists such as Gauntlett and Gillmor and such declarations as "the former audience" (see this post for associated material on this).

The point here is that your text's narrative extends well beyond the film opening, 4 minute video, or even the wider promotional package.

I thought about this when reading a Film Guardian feature on Tom Cruise and director Christopher Nolan's insistence on diegetic as opposed to CGI stunts:
It goes deeper still though, into the weird contract we draw up with ourselves when we watch film. “Tom Cruise is doing that for real!” we exclaim to ourselves as we see Tom Cruise doing some casual rappelling. “Whoa!” We never truly watch blockbusters as pure narratives, but instead are constantly aware in their place in a wider ecosystem of celebrity, in which Cruise also has divorces and jumps on sofas and twinkles next to fans. We’re in awe of Cruise-as-Hunt rather than Hunt himself. (Tom Cruise, Christopher Nolan, and the new anti-CGI snobbery)
The excellent MediaKnowItAll site has a useful entry on this, considering not just the film angle but also how the music industry inculcates this approach to its modes of operation:
A star is an image not a real person that is constructed (as any other aspect of fiction is) out of a range of materials (eg advertising, magazines etc as well as films [music]).  
Their entry is copied in below, but is best appreciated on their site, where you can also click around and find further useful material.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WOMEN BJD Rene Zellweger - Just a pretty face?

There has been quite a commotion over Rene Zellweger's re-appearance in the media spotlight this past week, specifically surrounding her radically altered facial appearance. This is an actress, lets not forget, who piled on extra pounds to play a 'chubby' Bridget Jones (actually still well below the average size/figure of a British, never mind American, woman of her height, a quite invidious representation).

Steve Rose posts an interesting article which argues (quite briefly!) that, irrespective of gender, an actor's trade is centred on their face; it's their brand he effectively argues, with the close-up a key tool of cinema.

On the other hand ...

“Where did Renee Zellweger’s face go?”

Monday, October 13, 2014

'71: Initial thoughts, review

Went to see '71 at Bradford's National Media Museum on its day of release, October 10th 2014. Alongside about a dozen others in total; a very sparsely attended screening (including one patron slowly consuming a huge tub of frozen yoghurt with a tiny spoon - knitting might be a better option there to keep the hands busy!). I'm told this is fairly common: until The Guardian review comes through, there is often limited awareness of non-mainstream films like this, an interesting reflection of the ABC1 skew of the NMM's staple audience.

As the DVD will be a while (presumably) in coming, I fervently scribbled down notes afterwards, some of which I'll sum up below. You could save yourself the bother, and just watch Mark Kermode's R5 review below ... the be-quiffed master pundit raised some very specific reference points which I'd noted myself, although I think my own take was always going to be somewhat informed by being a Northern Irish viewer of this ostensibly 'Troubles' movie.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Curtisland: animated satire of Richard Curtis' WT rom-coms

NB: whilst animated, this sketch contains some fairly adult humour and sexual references linking into a notorious incident involving Hugh grant, better known recently as a campaigner for stronger press regulation through the pressure group Hacked Off.

Is this a fair representation of Curtis' approach?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Signifiers of 'Britishness'?

The post below links into the lesson, but note I've created MANY ... MANY posts on this topic which are accessible through the archive!!! There are even themed links lists down the side of this blog...

We've started considering what factors go into designating a film as 'British' or not, discovering first of all that there isn't necessarily a definitive answer ... though (as we'll explore later) there are some legal definitions tied into financing (a film's level of Britishness decides whether it is eligible for tax breaks or not).
We looked at some or all of the following; make sure you've got a full, detailed list of factors which go into deciding whether a film is British or not - with examples to back this up. (That approach reflects the way the exam is marked: on Use of Examples; Explanation, Analysis, Argument; Use of Terminology)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
 (Ken Loach, 2006 - approx £5m budget. $23m worldwide box office, £3.2m in UK)
Seventeen co-production companies!!! Not least various European co's; many British Indie films only get made by pre-selling distribution rights (before production) to European markets such as France and Germany. Directors like Ken Loach find it easier to get their films into cinemas in continental Europe (where its a foreign language film don't forget) than their own country! The UK cinema market is utterly dominated by US films - even last year when 'British' films had an exceptional success, they still accounted for only 13% of UK cinema box office in 2011.

(DVD is in Media stock in Library)
Main characters Irish and British;
negative representation of British though - Irish the victims, British the villains;
mainly shot in Ireland (but also Scotland - tax breaks were a key consideration; the issue of state funding for cinema, or tax breaks, is a key one in the relative strength of domestic, as opposed to American imports, cinema);
a co-production, with the UKFC, Irish Film Board, various European co's and small UK Indies among the 17 companies to co-finance the production - see
the director was English.
So: British, Irish (or even just 'European')? There is no definitive answer, but it is interesting that with the exception of The Guardian, UK newspapers were extremely hostile towards the film: although it was historically accurate, it dared to challenge the established narrative that the Irish were violent terrorists and the British innocent victims of these savage people. Noam Chomsky would call this criticism 'flak', one of the 'five filters' he argued made up the 'propaganda model' (read more:

Mickybo & Me
(Terry Loane, 2004 - $5m [approx £3m]. UK box office £172,336!!! No release elsewhere. 1 week's release at Edinburgh International Film Festival + in N.Ireland, peaking at 28 screens [IMDB] [Wiki])
Also in Lib.
An excellent WT2 film that NBC-Universal and its subsidiary StudioCanal decided not to fund for a distribution that would mean expensive prints for cinemas and the cost of advertising and marketing ... despite its success at film festivals and positive critical reception.
Is this what YOU think of when the term 'British cinema' is raised? Why do you think it failed to get a full cinema release?

Factors in Britishness then:
British director;
British setting;
British characters and cast;
Mix of UK (WT2), US (Universal) and European (StudioCanal) funding, with additional finance from film boards in NI and RofI/Eire. See

The problem here was an unwillingness to gamble further funds on a film set in N.Ireland featuring strong NI accents. NI is British as part of the UK, but not what 'we'/you think of when using the term British. 
Consider the narrative of this film: two young boys from the 1970s are obsessed with a film and start to act it out. Now consider the following film...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vloggers + UGC rivalling studios + conglomerates?

Certainly not a new topic this, although I haven't completed adding tags to the entire archive of posts, you'll see that 'UGC' (user-generated content) is a common topic (and I'll have a look to add 'vlogger' where appropriate: video-based bloggers).

Gradually being updated - use the tag clouds!
I blog again on this as its a topic we've been discussing in recent lessons, and I've reflected on in recent posts. As Media students today, the demands on and expectations of you are higher than in the past - with the technology at your fingertips, there is an expectation of at least 'prosumer' levels of quality, ideally there being no clear indication (or anchorage) of your work as student productions at all.
Fragment of a past post on this topic.

The skills you're developing are highly marketable and valuable:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Richard Ayaode autobiography (Warp: Submarine director)

Its not quite an autobio, apparently more of a humour book though framed on his film work...

As I type, he's being interviewed on Stuart Maconie's BBC R6 show (from 1:30 if you want to try it on the iPlayer). He describes it as an affectionate spoof of the Truffaut on Hitchcock book (the great French director interviewed Hitchcock, and the book is a straightforward transcript).

Can't see any reviews, though as its out on October 2nd I'm sure you'll quickly find a fair few on Amazon next week. The only (user) review I could find reckons its funny - but that the joke stretches a wee bit thin. Any insight/views would be welcomed...

YOU/audience are the product: Julian Assange

When we consider audience theory in Media Studies, the degree of flux and changing views on this is quickly evident, and a major theme in itself. Which, if any, of the long-established audience theories continue to hold true in the digital age, the web 2.0 era? Is it enough to write of "the former audience", Dan Gillmor's (2011) striking phrase? David Gauntlett even went as far as to declare the "end of audience studies" (2007, 2011), although Julian McDougall's (2009, in a very readable, student-friendly book) more moderate point that audiences are fragmenting, making it more difficult to meaningfully analyse or discuss/define audiences, is perhaps more useful.

There are those who see the blurring of the audience/producer line as full of democratic promise, not least Gillmor, though Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture (2008) is perhaps the most striking statement of this.
Is Jenkins too utopian, optimistic? [image source]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Warp's £5m+ '71

(click through on to YouTube for the StudioCanalUK page)

I'll blog again on '71, Warp's highest-budget production to date, reportedly (Screen) around £5m ($8.1m), but take note for now that it is officially released on Friday October 10th, with screenings at the National Media Museum in Bradford amongst others:
I'm hoping to attend the 615 Friday screening - keep an eye out for any marketing of this film; if you spot any billboards or cinema stands, take a snap and pass on a picture!

UPDATE: DVD INTERVIEW JANN DEMANGE [Filmmakers' responsibility with representations; his own background/compare to Elizabeth; Film v TV; prioritising the grey or polysemy]

Would we really expect anything less from Warp ... the DVD (out March 9th; cinema release was October 10th 2014) has some useful extras: interviews with the lead, director and screenwriter. The following aren't quite verbatim, but quite close:
We have a real responsibility making films. This was about a really painful period in many people's lives, and we had to keep that thought and not just make choices for audience entertainment.
He raises his background - you could usefully compare this to Shekhar Kapur getting the gig for Elizabeth (Indian, no knowledge of the era!), an instance of WT taking a big commercial risk (that paid off handsomely: a $30m film that made $82m and spawned a sequel/franchise).
I'm not your natural choice for this film: my background is French-Algerian, I grew up in London, I'm not even a WASP. But I wanted to focus on the story of the challenges facing young men, not make a political film. It was very important to me to bring out the shades of grey with all the different players, and I made this clear when negotiating with the producers. I have no links to Belfast, it was the screenplay that drew me to this.
Working with television you have much more time to draw out an epic character arc, whereas in film its a mere snapshot and you have to work to make every moment count.

Rather stumbled upon this, but very useful context, and real micro-level detail:
I started working on the initial packshot for ’71 back in August 2014 and the final artwork files have just been sent. It’s rare for me to spend so long on an individual title (unless the delays are due to production issues!).
The Blu-ray and DVD packaging has gone down a slightly different route to the Steelbook release. Although using the theatrical artwork as its base, we wanted to create something that had a more military feel. The colours were adjusted and a new textures were added to the background, giving it the khaki texture. There’s also a little adjustment to the composition in “’71” as well a colour change. Both the Blu-ray and DVD releases have a cardboard o-ring sleeve, which has an overall matt varnish with spot UV gloss. The Blu-ray has a cut down O-ring, which shows the black Blu-ray case at the top.
Source: Rogue4 Design.
Khaki colourscheme the key to this design

Great quote here, and a useful one to use in an essay:
“The acclaim for Yann Demange’s ’71 comes as no surprise”, said Hugo Heppell, Head of Investments at Screen Yorkshire and Executive Producer on ‘71. “Its selection for Official Competition at the Berlin Film Festival is much deserved recognition for Yann, Angus, Robin and the whole team at Warp. We are immensely proud to have supported Warp over the last ten years and to see it now as the most significant film production company outside London.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

'British' Cinema? Some egs to consider

With the Scottish referendum looming, this question could become ever more complex, but we need to think when using the term British to describe cinema that may be as much American, or more accurately linked with one of the UK nations/regions.

here's a few examples to consider:

Handmade Films, budget £1.1m, box office £0.5m UK, $1.5m US.

Typically unglamorous? Typical production finance issues - only rescued by Beatle George Harrison stepping in when the film was about to be abandoned! London features, though not a Southern setting in the main (albeit, the locals up north are portrayed as eccentric). A 'cult' movie.

Ali G Indahouse (Mark Mylod, 2002)
WT2, £5m. £10m, $0 ($27m)

American stylings and genre, though a satire of each and the UK fascination with US culture - it failed to get a US release nonetheless; few UK Indies ever do. The opening scene in gangland LA proved impossible to get insurance for - it alone swallowed up a good chunk of the budget. The Palace of Westminster is used as a key backdrop/location, although the drum'n'bass that fired up as Ali G drives (following the opening scene and over the opening titles) is likely to leave many non-UK viewers (and many of all ages here unfamiliar with that genre) a tad confused/bewildered!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

DIGITISATION: Kevin Smith, podcast auteur?!

Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks; they've inspired a shoe range!
I'm not sure what traction the name has with today's teens, but for (some of!) my generation, Kevin Smith, a remarkably foul-mouthed film-maker who put together a classic/cult debut film for peanuts (Clerks, $28k!) whilst working full-time in a dead-end job, has made a remarkable claim about his status:
Filmmaking is the only art form where you say, "I wanna express myself. Give me $10m and Ben Affleck." ... But all along what I could do was talk. If podcasts were movies, I'd be up there with Spielberg, dude.
Read a Biskind interview here.
If it was now, I would have seen Slacker and written a blog about it or recorded a podcast. That would have been enough. The entire message of my career is that if you want to do it, you should try. I am a chimp and I built a career out of making films. And I don't even consider myself a film-maker! Oh yeah, and PS: neither do the critics.
For a film-maker who created the iconic/cult characters Jay and Silent Bob, and who has two decades of film-making behind him, that's quite a statement.
In a real sign of the times, he's currently in the UK touring a combination of a 60-min animation and a podcast recording!

Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures, which tracks the rise and fall of the Indies from the 80s to the mid-noughties (including glimpses of WT), frequently features Smith, whose up and down relationship with Miramax and its fierce co-head Harvey Weinstein tells you a lot about how the industry works (or malfunctions!) ... and is a sequel to arguably the best book ever written about cinema, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.

The current (June/July 2014) tour is an indication that film may be undergoing a similar shift to the music industry, in which CDs are increasingly a secondary revenue stream compared to tours and merchandise. As is becoming a widespread music concert practice, there is a VIP option for keen fans:

The mini-tour even has an official sponsor! Screenshot from

I've blogged on similar events on the MusiVidz blog (on the music industry/videos), but can also make a link to the book industry where, once again, there is a decline in sales of physical texts and publishers are looking to author tours as one means of replacing the lost revenue:
the rise of Amazon and the Kindle is transforming the nation's publishing institutions, which are being forced to seek new sources of revenue. As bookshops close, authors are embarking on rock star-style tours; the newly formed mega-publisher Penguin Random House sold 10,000 tickets for a reading tour by Caitlin Moran. The publisher is also turning one of its most famous characters, Peter Rabbit, into a cartoon and is seeking tie-ins with toymakers and chocolatiers.
Some publishers are looking at diversifying into new forms of content, for example by combining books, films and games into a new narrative genre. A new iPad thriller called The Craftsman, launched last year, turns the reader into the main character in a gothic, cinematic chiller.
(from this article on eBooks set to overtake print books by 2018)
You can read the full article below, or click here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

UK Cinema 2013 review - BFI key facts

You can find a wide range of BFI reports here (see screenshot below).

I've been reading through their 2013 Statistical Yearbook report - as its a cool 252 pages long, the following are just a few of the many points you can pick up from a skim or a more leisurely read yourself.

2013 BFI Yearbook - Selected Points
Note: Definition of ‘UK film’
For the purposes of this chapter, a UK film is one which is certified as such by the UK Secretary of
State for Culture, Media and Sport under Schedule 1 of the Films Act 1985, via the Cultural Test, under one of the UK’s bilateral co-production agreements or the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, or a film which has not applied for certification but which is obviously British on the basis of its content, producers, finance and talent. Most UK films in the analysis (including the major studio-backed films) fall into the first group – films officially certified as British.
[p.76; see longer quote at the end]
Only the US and Japan have a larger 'filmed entertainment' market than the UK (valued at £4bn).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Convergence + digitisation

def. of convergence: the concept of the distinctions between once distinct media platforms/institutions collapsing under the influence of new media and the ongoing processes of digitisation. For example, a typical newspaper (print) now offers web content, including podcasts (radio?), video (TV?), blogs etc
To further explore and explain this several additional terms are used; note all opportunities to utilise terminology for your exam! 'Digitisation' is explored below.
NB: I have posted on this topic many times since creating this post some years back!!!

Thats how I'd define 'convergence', an especially important concept for Media Studies and your AS exam, as so many consequences flow from this both in terms of how audiences access and consume/interact with the media and the institutions that produce, distribute and market media products.
(The exam board pick out 4 areas you need to be able to discuss with reference to your case studies - WT v Warp, + a brief comparison of both to the big 6 blockbuster Avatar - production, distribution, marketing + 'exchange' [the point at which an audience buys/consumes, perhaps co-creates, a text])

Here's a vid which further explores the idea

It is a concept which has been discussed for some years now, with its consequences and whether its an entirely good thing seen as up for debate:
Perhaps we will reach a point of consolidation when the pace of technological change slows and the audience catches up, but at the moment most companies with both offline and online enterprises still see the vast majority of their revenues and costs lying with their traditional, offline businesses. Yet they are increasingly aware that this will tip in the opposite direction in the middle distance. So how should the transfer be managed?
... What we will see from media companies are assumptions about the dominant medium, be it print or TV, transferred to the newly converged online world without adequate recognition that the two are completely different entities. (Emily Bell:

Friday, April 18, 2014

4 Weddings Reunion

Listen yourselves here.
Students aren't exactly a prime demographic for BBC Radio 4, so its a fairly safe bet that none of you were listening to the latest episode of The Reunion, a series which brings back together those involved in major cultural, sporting and news events to reflect. This saw the director, producer and several of the cast reunited, along with archive material of Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, the great Barry Norman on Film 94, and so forth.
At the time of writing you can still listen to it yourselves through the iPlayer.
"A fabulous object, says Curtis, as Kenworthy heaves out a huge, leatherbound folder. It's the size and weight of a couple of Britannicas – a shooting schedule filled with miniature detail about the day-to-day demands on cast and crew. The volume, Kenworthy explains, is a relic of pre-computer film scheduling. "Four Weddings was on the cusp of old-style British film-making," Curtis adds. "It was the last movie I worked on that was cut on [original] film stock, not computer. I've always been grateful that it was shot by Mike in such a lively, gritty way. It's a sketch movie, and he directed it as if it were a drama."

A few interesting points from the R4 feature - though this is obviously far from a 'contemporary example' it is still useful to help to grasp how the industry operates, and to get a feel for how student productions do echo some characteristics of major feature film shoots!
  • Given the role the film played in laying the foundation for the phenomenal success of Working Title as the leading UK film production company (discounting the Potter/Bond franchises), its easy to forget how very, very modest the budget was: just $4.5m (about £2.5-3m).
  • Director Newell recalls how this meant even basic reshoots were generally impossible, and most shots had to be done 1st take - student filmmakers actually work under less (financially-directed) pressure than this! Unlike Newell and producer Duncan Kenworthy (his involvement predates WT picking up the film for development; he played the main role in putting together an attractive package, with name stars, tight script and distributor-friendly director attached), you're not considering the cost of overtime for salaried crew, plus catering, travel and accomodation costs and how to cover this from a budget which is already carefully calculated to see you through the entire production!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Anita Elberse (2013) Blockbusters - must-read book?

"Because people are inherently social," the Harvard business professor Anita Elberse points out, "they generally find value in reading the same books and watching the same television shows and movies that others do." What's more, and equally understandably: "People have a taste for winners: if, say, a book is popular and has been widely discussed in the media, consumers have more reason to read it." [from Guardian review]
Scroll down for sample quotes and review snippets, such as Bloomberg's fairly critical view
Use the look inside feature for a preview
I'd recommend at the very least sampling this, a book that basically argues that the tentpole strategy (or blockbuster as she terms it) is vital for any and all modern media/entertainment giants. Her examples take in music, film and other media, but also widen out to incorporate 'entertainment' industries such as football, looking at the examples of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the latter's 'galacticos' strategy.

She very convincingly picks out examples of major conglomerates that have tried more austere, penny-pinching approaches ... and shows, with forensic financial detail, how disastrous this invariably proved.

Interesting that she's not simply referring to production, but also as much about distribution, and the marketing muscle and capacity to make very widely available and prominently placed a given release, Lady Gaga being one such example she dissects.

You can preview some samples by using Amazon's 'look inside' feature, or GoogleBooks (add keywords related to cinema, music or whichever industry you're most interested in to get the most relevant sections), and its for sale as a Kindle book too.

Here's a few snippets from various articles/reviews:
"Because people are inherently social," the Harvard business professor Anita Elberse points out, "they generally find value in reading the same books and watching the same television shows and movies that others do." What's more, and equally understandably: "People have a taste for winners: if, say, a book is popular and has been widely discussed in the media, consumers have more reason to read it." [Guardian review]

Fanbase not Audience the future say YouTube

Various web 2.0 theorists have signified the end of the old analogue/early digital producer-consumer paradigm through such bold statements as "the former audience" ... now one YouTube's top honchos says we should abandon the very term audience, with its links to scheduled programming, and think in fanbase terms instead...
Simon Cowell and Disney are picked out as exemplars of the new more copyright-flexible order, in which UGC is seen as benefitting copyright-holders, not cannibalising their revenue streams.
“An audience tunes in when they're told to, a fanbase chooses when and what to watch,” said Carloss at the MIPTV television industry conference in Cannes. “An audience changes the channel when their show is over. A fanbase shares, it comments, it curates, it creates.”
He also praised Simon Cowell’s You Generation brand, a YouTube-focused global talent show, and Disney for the way it encouraged fans of its film Frozen to post their own cover versions of its songs on YouTube. One by musician Alex Boyé has been watched more than 30m times.
“The studio could have very easily issued copyright claims against this video and any others and taken them down, but they made a different choice: a fan-friendly choice. They chose to let those videos stay,” said Carloss, suggesting that the buzz around Frozen on YouTube contributed to its strong performance at the box office.
“Creators everywhere can make the choice Disney did. Allow fans to pay tribute, and you will see the incredible benefits of their passion.”
A lot of this closely echoes some of the arguments put forward by Anita Elberse (a Harvard economist) in her fascinating (a highly recommended read) book Blockbusters, published in December 2013.

Friday, March 21, 2014

TV-Film CONVERGENCE: Veronica Mars, Game of Thrones

Does convergence offer hope to Indies?
The concept of convergence has been widely discussed for years, but 2014 seems to mark a time when its becoming an indisputable phenomenon. Not only is the average Westerner walking around with a smartphone which combines web, HD camera/video, music/video players ... and telephony, but the line between TV and cinema is definitely blurring.

In Britain we've seen even the Indies at this: Warp Films' This is England has had two sequel series on C4 already - and now Shane Meadows has said that the next installment is more likely to see a return to the cinematic form that kickstarted the franchise.
Talking of kickstarting ... noughties cult classic TV series Veronica Mars has seen a triumphant return ... but this time on the big screen. Talking at the 2013 Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Warp's production chief Mark Herbert was enthusiastic about the potential of the likes of Kickstarter, used already for the All Tomorrow's Parties Warp movie. The success of the ...Mars Kickstarter appeal could spark off many more Indie productions.
The big-screen revival of the cult US TV series about Kristen Bell's titular high school (later college) sleuth secured its return after supporters donated a record-breaking $5.702m (£3.70m) via Kickstarter last year. (Guardian)
At a considerably higher budget level, this week also brings news that the Game of Thrones TV series may see its conclusion rolled out as a series of movies:
Multiple movies set in the Game of Thrones universe could be coming to the big screen, creator George RR Martin has revealed.
Speaking at the New York premiere of season four of the popular fantasy TV epic, author Martin said the series might need the bigger budgets provided to film-makers for its grand finale. He also hinted at the possibility of movies based on the Tales of Dunk and Egg, a trilogy of spin-off novellas set 90 years before the events on Game of Thrones in the mythical land of Westeros.
"It all depends on how long the main series runs," Martin told The Hollywood Reporter. "Do we run for seven years? Do we run for eight? Do we run for 10? The books get bigger and bigger (in scope). It might need a feature to tie things up, something with a feature budget, like $100 million for two hours. Those dragons get real big, you know." (Guardian, emphasis added)
The Kickstarter idea still raises some problematic issues though...
More later, time permitting.

Male Gaze: Stop leering at Scarlett Johansson!

That's the plea from Bronwen Clune, a feminist critic writing in The Guardian, fed up with encountering profiles of female celebrities which linger on their bodies, and describe them in excessive detail. She specifically name-checks the male gaze theory:
We’re all familiar with the concept of the “male gaze”, particularly when it comes to Hollywood film – the lens lingering on the curves of leading ladies’ derrieres (Lane talks of Johansson’s “contours” of reputation) – a scopophilic guilty pleasure. And, let’s face it, women’s bodies are delightful things to look at, one of the reasons media executives conveniently argue that the economics of the industry make it impossible to avoid stereotypes of women.
But when respected male writers profile powerful women, is it wrong that we should expect more than lengthy, voyeuristic wet dreams? In the cases of both Hardy and Johansson, the writers of their profiles are accomplished and well-regarded. Their audiences, a “new intelligentsia”, are likely to congratulate themselves on their progressive values. Their subjects are powerful and sexually subversive women. Yet in both cases the women are reduced to something resembling not much more than titillating, slightly fearsome, but ultimately decorative objects.
She notes how one actress was described as having "nice tits" - something the male writer even went as far as to confirm with her housemate - and goes on to note:
I’m reading a profile of Scarlett Johansson by Anthony Lane where she appears as if “made from champagne”, her laugh “dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was [sic] to play a Martini” and her backside, “barely veiled in peach-colored underwear”. As Slate points out this is not the first time Johansson has inspired “culture writers to do horrible things with words”
Does this chime with your experience? Do you think seemingly respectable highbrow media (as opposed to tabloid press/TV) are just as guilty of needless objectification? Any examples you want to share?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tyrannosaur: archetypal Warp/UK Indie movie?

dir. Paddy Considine [Wiki]
Principal producer: Warp X [Wiki]
Budget: £750k
Box Office: UK £243k, US $22k
Guardian microsite with multiple features, interviews etc

Warp Films trailers and distributors (my guide post)

Its a superbly crafted film (they didn't struggle to find rave reviews to feature on the poster + other promotional materials), typically enough for Warp Films/X, the Sheffield-based UK Indie launched by the ambitious record label Warp, home of dance acts such as Aphex Twin plus Indie rockers Arctic Monkeys.*

Friday, January 31, 2014

This is England posts, collected

I've blogged quite a few times on Meadows and TisEng, so here's a few of those links gathered together to facilitate closer study (in no particular order):
Film4 Reimaginings: TisEng wins - UGC eg; C4 comp based on creating new TisEng material
What are the main issues around 'British' Cinema? From Social Realism to Cultural Imperialism via reindeer jumpers... - an extensive overview of many British cinema issues and egs from WT, Warp and beyond
Shane Meadows – a very British auteur [DB notes] - My notes, including pointers on the note-taking/revision process, from the article reproduced in full in ...
Shane Meadows – a very British auteur 
The next 2 feature embedded Scribd docs which are currently returning error codes - I'll check at some stage:
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006): Case Study 

Something I'll look to update: TisEng sequel?!

Nice illustration of what the auteur concept can really mean, and how a filmmaker's passion for verisimilitude in his representations can have a positive cultural impact: Film student on impact of meeting Meadows

Without grasping this you arguably can't 'get' Meadows' work (or follow his preferred reading?): Social Realism.

Analysis of several movies: Signifiers of 'Britishness'.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Comparing WT's Wild Child with Warp's Submarine

There are links lists for both companies on this blog!!!
Some useful links for each film:

IMDB page (for rating, budget, some box office data, cast etc);
Wiki; (for reviews and ratings);
Trailer (look for it in this playlist);

IMDB page (for rating, budget, some box office data, cast etc);
Wiki; (for reviews and ratings);
Trailer (look for it in this playlist);

  1. NO film 'grossed' (took in from total cinema ticket sales) over £50m in 2013
  2. Only TWO of the top THIRTY UK cinema box office hits of 2013 were British, including Les Miserables which is only marginally 'British'
  3. The rest are American!
  4. The combined cinema takings (box office) of all films released in the UK in 2013 was £1.17bn - its a big business!
  5. Of the current top ten at the UK box office, only THREE have made over £10m since their release
  6. If a film is budgeted over £10m, it almost certainly needs to include factors which will help it appeal to audiences in the US and elsewhere outside of the UK
  7. The 'Gant rule' (which is generally fairly accurate!) states that a US box office hit will make around 10 times as much money as a UK box office hit
  8. You can generally multiply the number of screens by 10 too!
  9. As Disney's $250m mega-flop John Carter showed, there are NO guarantees in the film business, no matter how many stars or how much money you throw at a film - especially if the marketing is as messed up as it was for this film!
  10. However ... as 2008's £10m budget Slumdog Millionaire showed, you can sometimes make serious box office despite picking unpopular genres, unknown cast and unlikely settings!
Surprised to find this...