When's the 201 AS (UK) exam? Exams start on the 16th - the G322 exam: Thursday 19th May, 9am. Yr12 Study Leave begins after ? May (Yr13 from the ?)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

4D breezes in with San Andreas

As inevitable as razor blade manufacturers adding another blade to hype a new product, news of 4D on the horizon.

As with 3D, its not a new idea; there were experiments with this in the 1950s!

I've seen '5D' cinema vans/trailers at a seaside resort in Latvia too (3 years ago).

Will this take off? Eventually, I'm sure it will, but not until costs drop significantly...


Monday, May 25, 2015

CONVERGENCE WEB 2.0 IGSMediaStudies + student YouTube channels

The syllabus asks you to reflect on your own experiences, and the A2 exam requires analysis of all alspects of production work, including its reception. Well, lets take a moment to consider YouTube as part of this. The IGSMediaStudies alone has had over 50,000 views since I set it up 5 years ago, and thats a TINY fraction of the overall views student work has had when you consider that ONE film piece on ONE of several student channels had over a quarter of a million views...

IGSMediaStudies uploads have been viewed worldwide...

This blog itself seems to have picked up an international readership...
Top 10 countries by views as of 25th May 2015

These have been viewed on gadgets as much as on computers...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

CONVERGENCE 4K TV, 4K Blu-Ray, 5K Macs

I'll add further links to the one below when not on my converged smartphone! Hollywood has to keep on its toes as TV tech keeps rising, even if 3D TV has essentially failed, with smartphone and gadget camera specs also continuing to rise, and Macbook/iMac screen resolution hitting 5k, boosting the potential of prosumer tech such as Final Cut Pro X!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

DISTRIBUTION FOUR-WALLING Getting newspaper review still vital?

That's a new term to me: four-walling, the practice of Indie producers renting a cinema primarily in the hopes that their screening will attract a newspaper review.

In the US its not uncommon to do this for a full week's run, though the practice in the UK seems to be for a single screening - kind of a Gant Rule effect I suppose!

Coz Greenop used this approach to great effect with Wandering Rose, the screening leading to a deal with Curzon Cinemas. I think Harry MacQueen did likewise with Hinterland [needs checking]. Remember too Warp using cinema ads trumpeting the cinema release date of Le Donk, which was really a DVD release - that helped get those vital newspaper reviews, much harder for a straight-to-DVD release to achieve.

In this web 2.0 (3.0?) age, can the dinosaur print media really be that important?

Yes ... and no. One of my favourite phrases! As with so much, there are two sides to this...

Look at '71. The National Media Museum box office told me, when I raised with them the very sparse crowd for the opening night screening, on a Friday, that it would pick up dramatically once the Guardian review had been digested.

The no part flows from the same example. The ABC1 Guardian readership may be more likely to pay attention to the paper's film coverage than, say, a tabloid's C2DE readership - that's speculation on my part.

What isn't is the indisputable fact that newspaper readerships are older than the core cinema audience, a trend which is accelerating.

Haven't covered yes and no, there is another angle to this - its not just about any immediate pick up in audience, its the possibility of featuring 'pull-out' phrases from reviews (and thus the publication names) on posters, DVD sleeves, in pitches to distributors, and on CVs when looking to finance and cast future productions.

Its easy to simplify digitisation as a killer of old media, but that's never been the case; the disruptive power of digitisation more often leads to a symbiotic relationship. So, the Guardian's '71 review was arguably secondary in impact to its leading the paper's weekly film vodcast, an example of convergence.

Who knows, someday YOU might be four-walling ... just don't forget to send me a ticket!

'Four-walling': how film-makers pay to see their work on screen http://gu.com/p/496yf

Thursday, May 21, 2015

VERTICAL, HORIZONTAL INTEGRATION an illustration: Warp, Working Title, Marvel, Avatar

Some of NBC-Universal's film subsidiaries

Working Title is part of a vertically integrated conglomerate, NBC-Universal, itself part of a much larger parent company, Comcast. NBC-U turns over an incredible $25bn a year and combines production through such subsidiaries as Working Title, distribution through Focus Features, StudioCanal and Universal International Pictures, as well as exhibition arms ranging from the US TV network NBC to the subscription streaming site Hulu. Horizontal integration and the synergies from this are part of their strategy, with the films fuelling interest in the Universal theme parks for example. Working Title have been part of horizontal integration strategies ever since they expanded into the American market and sold off 67% of their shares to PolyGram (later bought by NBC-U). One of their earliest global hits, 1994’s £3m Four Weddings and a Funeral which grossed an incredible global £150m, had an OST (soundtrack) on Island Records … a subsidiary of PolyGram!

Working Title and Warp - selected box office stats

As I've written on/discussed these elsewhere, I'll simply add the screenshots. You would never try to remember all, but rather pick out a few, looking for one or more of:
  • the total UK box office
  • the total US box office
  • the rough % of world box office the US (or UK) represents
  • the length of run [how many weeks it was in cinemas for] - especially useful looking at Indie films that basically tour the arthouse circuit with a limited number of prints
  • the number of screens
  • if the Gant Rule can be seen with the figures
  • the number of countries it got theatrical distribution in (many WT films get 40+; World's End was notably quite disappointing)
You can find some tallies and notes on this in both the Warp pack and the list of WT films

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


IN THIS POST: This links into several posts on convergence and ownership issues, and explores just how converged a company WT really is ... and the influence of ownership on this. I briefly raise points discussed in detail in previous posts.

Screenshot of the Wiki.

Great academic research, eh?!
This tells us three key things before we consider more recent developments:

Monday, May 18, 2015

2015 exam materials

I'll add all updates here between now and Friday
Starting with an overview of whats expected

More coming below, plus anything new on TV Drama/Representation

PAUL AVATAR CORNETTO TRILOGY audience, marketing, distribution, digitisation

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CONVERGENCE A list of resources

I'm working on a fresh guide on convergence (and the wider issue of digitisation). Instead of putting all the sources I'll use into one over-long post, or adding yet another links list, you can find here, with summaries and some notes, a list of further resources. Convergence is also dealt with in many journal articles and book chapters!!!

When I put together guides I'm inevitably summarising, reducing, a wide range of material; if you want to look deeper, this (and the Library/classroom resources!) is a good starting point.

Rob Carlton (senior OCR examiner) Medi@CHS blog
Rob is a useful source, as someone involved in the syllabus design for OCR, and his school blog has lots of useful links.

Hendry, Steph (2015) "Two Key Concepts: The Relationship Between Audience and Institution", in Media Magazine, April 2015.

The link above requires a login (ask myself or Librarian). Much of the analysis below is my own, but linked to Hendry's points.

Nice example of how large conglomerates integrate seemingly contrasting brands:
According to one definition, brand = product + personality. Knowing the brand means that the audience can feel reassured when they access a product produced by a familiar, wellloved brand. Consider the ‘personalities’ constructed by two very different institutions: Disney and Marvel. Both are associated with blockbuster film, but our expectations of their products may be quite different.
Disney is wholesome, family-friendly (reflected in mainly U, PG and 12 BBFC ratings) whilst Marvel is harder-edged, arguably more masculine too with its sci-fi, superhero focus, with violence a common, even central, feature. They also offer rather hegemonic fare though: largely patriarchal, hetereo-normative, favouring private enterprise, an American hero saving the world ...
Although the two studios each have a distinct brand image that helps audiences frame their expectations of products from each institution, this is in fact a false distinction: in fact, Marvel Studios is owned by Marvel Entertainment – which is owned by The Walt Disney Company.
Pre-convergence, institutions (production companies, distributors etc) largely conceived of the audience as passive (this also nails the shift from 'web 1.0' to web 2.0):
In the past, this relationship was seen as a power relationship, where most of the power was in the hands of the institutions. This model was based on the idea that the audience was passive and received information from powerful institutions. Whilst it is true that in the 20th century audiences had little obvious impact on media institutions, the history of the mass media in the late 20th/ early 21st centuries is a history of technological changes which have altered audience behaviour. As a result, institutions have had to continually change in order to keep the audience interested.
As TV grew to be a rival (in the US; add another decade for the UK!) to cinema by the 1950s, cinema responded with 3D and other gimmicks, while VHS in the 1980s saw the rise of the multiplex, offering something far removed from home cinema, and more recently the return of 3D, IMAX and, ironically, smaller cinemas and those offering relative luxury (and fewer noisy kids) - often licensed to serve alcohol, and with meals, not just popcorn, the new Everyman cinema in Leeds being a prime example - have attempted to unpick this convergence.

Tablets and smartphones, whilst offering up new revenue streams, have posed a huge challenge to the conglomerates, handing a lot of control over to the audience ('consumer'), boosting piracy and the de-valuing of media content, and acclimatising a generation to viewing low-resolution movies and TV on small screens.
As the digital landscape has developed, audiences’ relationships with institutions have continued to change. Audiences now have more freedom to access media products when they choose, rather than when they are told. Mobile technology allows audiences to carry TV programmes, films, music and all that is on offer on the internet on tablets and smartphones. Modern audiences now expect to be able to communicate directly with institutions, and to be able to construct their own media products for themselves. The ability to download and/or stream films and music on demand has led to a change of attitudes regarding media products; contemporary audiences do not see them as having much monetary
value, since they are so widely and freely available.
Another sign of the accelerating nature of convergence is retailers and online distributors themselves becoming producers, with the likes of Amazon, Google/YouTube and Netflix all becoming significant players, using exclsuive content to drive subscriptions and polish their brands.

Cartwright, Lisa (2002) "Film and the digital in visual studies: film studies in the era of convergence", in Journal of Visual Culture
Hardly an easy read, and quite out of date, but useful to get a sense of how long established the term is. The introduction also stresses the role of media deregulation (loosening restrictions on ownership; vertical inetgration was outlawed until fairly recently in the USA), and the economic and political movements behind this (something we study in A2 Media Studies).

If you are considering Film Studies specifically for university, a read through this would be useful to give you a good idea of the density of theory you may encounter.

As the 20th century drew to a close, we were increasingly likely to encounter the cinema through other media – on television, home video, DVD, or the internet. Media and industry convergences of the late 20th century were enacted in the rise of Home Box Office in the late 1970s, the emergence of home video in the 1980s, and the move from digital special effects to digital editing and projection across the last three decades. Web marketing and access to films online accompanied the rise of corporate conglomerates like Disney-Capital Cities-ABC in 1996, synergetic entities vertically integrated across categories as seemingly disparate as entertainment, information, food and nuclear power, and with a formidable global reach. As New Economist editor Frances Cairncross (1997) announced, distance is dead in the free-market world where corporations build brave new markets with the dissolution of the nation-state and the wiring of the Third World.

Convergence of the media raises important issues for those of us in film studies. We  find  the defining object of our field – film – disintegrating into, or integrating with, other media. Of course, media convergence is not a new phenomenon. Film has never been an autonomous medium or industry. And the potential for global corporate expansion may have been brought to new heights, but was not introduced, by the internet. The film industry’s intersections with television, consumer goods (through product tie-ins), the electrical and lighting industries, and even the make-up and fashion industries since the cinema’s inception in the late 19th century have all been well documented. The difference in the convergence frenzy of the late 1980s and 1990s is that this phenomenon reached a fullness, a potential, captured in the word synergy, a corporate buzz-word describing the exponential-growth effect that occurs with the integration of media and products – and corporate holdings – across industries. The actualization of science-fiction fantasies of convergence faced fewer technological limitations and a climate in which, to cite US circumstances, federal checks on vertical integration were effectively sidestepped with the waves of media deregulation since the Reagan years and fulfilled in the global free-market mentality of the Clinton era. At the level of the technical, convergence became a qualitatively different entity when computers could support those elements previously limited to the media technologies of film and television: high-quality image reproduction and real-time movement, with the latter still not brought up to the level of the cinema and television.

Tyron, Chuck (2009) Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence
The link is for Amazon; the quotes below come from the Project Muse site, which is reprinting a journal review of the book (I haven't read it as yet). I particularly like the point about DVDs: the extras have demystified cinema, and encouraged 'prosumer' and even simply amateur film-making/UGC ("we media" as Gillmor termed it) as a result.
Chuck Tryon's Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence provides readers with an analysis of how new types of media have altered the way viewers interpret, access and interact with the medium of film. Tryon defines this "new" media rather broadly. Some have altered the way viewers can access and watch films—websites such as YouTube and portable movie players, for example. Other media, such as the DVD format and online blogs have expanded the level of access and information. Finally, digital technology has dramatically changed the way films are made and produced. These changes, encompassing the creative, distributive and informative processes of the motion picture experience, combine to create the "convergence" to which the author alludes in the title of the book.
Reinventing Cinema addresses each of these diverse media in turn, using a series of (in the author's words, "case studies") to illustrate how each has altered the ways films are made, watched and interpreted. The conclusion the author presents is that the past decade has inaugurated a revolution of sorts, which has democratized the process of how films are made and watched. No longer is the process of making, viewing and owning films restricted to those involved in the creative process or professional media. Now, anyone can buy almost any film, anyone can make a film relatively cheaply and anyone can set up a website where they can comment on and critique films. The days of the remote and mysterious film auteur and elitist film critic are long gone.
Tryon's narrative outlines how this state of affairs has come about. For example, he begins with a discussion of how DVDs have provided the public with new levels of access to information through the supplementary materials they contain. Subsequent chapters then address how digital technology has changed the way films are made and viewed, the proliferation of blogs, and the popularity of media outlets such as YouTube. Taken together, the chapters provide the reader with a strong sense of the ways viewers' interactions with film have evolved on the creative and interpretive levels.
Tryon's book is generally interesting and well argued and it is clear he is an expert on this topic. The book does an excellent job outlining the evolution of the medium of film in the age of digital technology. This topic in turn speaks to wider themes related to the intersection of technology and society. Tryon also provides readers with some of the more troubling aspects of the digital phenomenon. For example, digital technology allows video to be easily altered, a fact which cannot only undermine a film's authenticity, but reality itself (as in the case of Forrest Gump). Perhaps most troubling is that corporate culture threatens to undermine this democratic revolution, as giant media entities can easily co-opt these new media to serve their own ends. This in fact represents the biggest weakness of the book, for Tryon's positive image of the opportunities presented by digital media lead to a somewhat one-sided discussion that shrouds the influence of corporate conglomerates.
This is not to say that Tryon ignores the influence of corporate culture, for it is certainly part of the discussion. However, his overly positive analysis obscures how corporate media entities have used digital media to further their own ends and undermine the democratizing potential of digital technology. This criticism aside, the book is recommended because it makes an important contribution to our understanding of film and how technology continues to alter the way we perceive and interpret our society.


Female gaze?

UPDATE, 2015: Rather than add another post, I'll add to this one which looked at the example of Magic Mike as an exemplar of an emerging female gaze. That was rather limited to the notion of objectifying; I've added more below on an article for Media Magazine by Sean Richardson in which he challenges us to think more carefully about how a female viewer (de)constructs and receives media images. Yes, media and not least cinema remains somewhat patriarchal overall, but it is just too simplistic to view media entirely through the prism of sexist objectification.

The director, Todd Haynes, agreed that same-sex female relationships had been even less well-served by mainstream movie-makers than those between two men. The reason that the likes of Brokeback Mountain and Milk had preceded Carol was, he suspected, “because male audiences will not be excluded [by them]. They are the prime audience Hollywood are marketing films for.” (From a feature on Cate Blanchett, star of Carol)

The Female Gaze: Rethinking Representation
Following quotes are from an article in the always excellent Media Magazine (subscription needed - ask the Librarian or me for login details). Sean Richardson wrote in April 2015 on this topic, starting with a simple statement on the impact of male gaze:
Research suggests that advertising campaigns for a female audience are dominated by heterosexual Caucasian size 0 to 2 models. This is a fact, despite what we might think or want, in a multicultural, complex world. Increasingly, accusations have been made by the likes of Naomi Campbell and Dame Vivienne Westwood that representations of women in advertising are too white and nearly exclusively under size 6.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

WOMEN underrepresented even in crowd scenes

Anything but a fan of Freeman (I'd usually approach her writing with the appetite I'd have for a Marmite cake...), the 80s movie headline drew me into this, an excerpt from what appears to be her autobiography (correction: turns out to be a book on 80s movies).
It turns out to be a very interesting piece, discussing:
Female, teen and tween viewership (yes, uses and gratifications ahoy...), not least of sexual scenes or storylines
How contemporary films appear to punish female teen characters for sexual activity
Studios customary cutting of any counter-hegemonic messages (including, in these examples, abortion)
The role that sponsorship or tie-ins or product placement can have in ensuring conservative messages prevail (ie, reinforcing the studios' conservative instincts, the point above)
A study, and research institute, launched by an iconic actress who began to worry about the messages subliminally sent to her own young children, especially noting how women were given less space and visibility on screen

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

OWNERSHIP, EXAM How ownership impacts range of products available

JAN 2013: What impact does media ownership have upon the range of products available to audiences in the media area you have studied? 



  • Indie v conglomerate/subsidiary
  • Budgets; tentpole dominance (Elberse v long tail)
  • Co-productions norm at every level

WOMEN IN INDUSTRY Tumblr blog reveals film biz sexism

NB: The full article referred to below, and the Tumblr blog it is about, contains some quite frank sexual terms, reflecting the nature of much of the verbal abuse faced by female film-makers.
Quite a racy title, but this has generated a lot of attention:  
Nicole Kassell first heard about the Tumblr blog Shit People Say to Women Directorslast week, when a female film-maker friend she was dining with mentioned it on the assumption she already knew of it. “I did go look at it and proceeded to get very depressed,” says Kassell, director of the films The Woodsman and A Little Bit of Heaven and episodes of TV shows such as Better Call Saul, The Killing and The Following.The site, which launched on 22 April and is causing a storm among film industry insiders, especially women, is a catalog of anonymous stories about the sexist things that happen to women working on film sets. [Shit People Say to Women Directors blog spotlights Hollywood's blatant sexism.]

Use the tags to find more linked content on this topic. There are also further articles, such as this one, which draws together research showing that female directors seem to get inferior distribution deals to their male peers.


Another critic (Jason Wilson) rather irked at the hegemony of superhero tentpoles. If you use the superhero tag in particular you'll find several linked articles analysing the rise of these films and this me-too strategy.

A quick summary follows of key points you can utilise to show your understanding of how (British and global) cinema functions ...

Monday, May 04, 2015

AUDIENCE BBFC 18 rating usually a disaster but not Fifty Shades

I've raised this point in several blog posts, and frequently in lessons, so a short post to emphasize quite an important point. As teens and tweens are the key cinema-going audience, producers and distributors will generally seek to avoid 18-ratings (the US, MPAA, equivalent of R means that the biggest DVD retailer, Wal-Mart, won't even stock it).

There are always exceptions, and Fifty Shades of Grey was one where anything lower would have been distinctly off-putting, given audience expectations of realistic sex scenes:
Whatever happens, Fifty Shades looks absolutely certain to overtake The Wolf of Wall Street (£22.7m lifetime) to become the biggest ever 18-certificate title in this market. This is a movie where the 18 certificate can be considered in no way a hindrance – in fact, audiences would have been rightly suspicious of a Fifty Shades film that won a 15 rating. Usually, film distributors push for the lowest possible rating, but it’s easy to envision Universal asking the question of the UK censor: what exactly do we need to include to secure an 18?
(Charles Gant, Feb 2015)
There are very few 18-rated Working Title films; contrarily, there are very few PG or 12 Warp films. Working Title generally aim for a mass, mainstream market, and thus mostly avoid 18-ratings. They sacrifice realism to do so, something Warp are less willing to do. If WT present an idealised representation of the UK, Warp tend to present a grittier, rougher representation, with the very title of Meadows' This is England arguably a direct riposte to the Notting Hill, Bridget Jones (etc) depiction of a twee middle-class Britain, as viewed by Richard Curtis (and savagely satirised in the Curtisland animation).