Friday, December 09, 2016

MEST2: Film pitch and audience focus group

Your final lessons before Christmas will see you pitching your film idea to the rest of the class in an audience research focus group.

In order to prepare for this focus group, your group needs to develop a detailed film pitch. This is for the complete 30-minute film, not just the three minutes you plan to make for the coursework itself.

Use this MEST2 Film pitch template to make sure your film pitch contains all the information you need.

The MEST2 brief is here if you need to check the topics that you can work from.

Due: exact lesson date confirmed by your coursework teacher. Important note: You will pitch the film to the rest of the class during this lesson.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Ideology and binary opposition

The media's role in setting and reinforcing the dominant values and ideologies within society is a vital aspect of A Level Media Studies. 

The key notes from today's lesson on ideology and binary opposition:


What is an ideology?
An ideology is a world view, a system of values, attitudes and beliefs which an individual, group or society holds to be true or important; these are shared by a culture or society about how that society should function.

Dominant ideologies
Ideologies that are told to us repeatedly by important social institutions such as the government or media are called dominant ideologies.

Dominant ideologies are ideologies or beliefs that we live by in our day-to-day lives and often do not question – they have become 'natural, common sense' things to do. This effectively dissuades people from rebelling against these beliefs, and keeps a sense of stability in society.

Why is ideology important in Media Studies?
Media texts always reflect certain values or ideologies though sometimes we may not be aware of this. When studying a media text you may look for the dominant ideology present and question whose world view is represented and which groups have not been represented.

Levi-Strauss: Binary opposition
Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009) was a French philosopher and one of the most important cultural theorists of the 20th century. 

His theory of binary opposition is important for media students.

Levi-Strauss suggested everyone thinks of the world around them in terms of binary opposites such as up and down, life and death etc. and therefore every culture can be understood in these terms.

Binary opposition in media
Binary opposition is used to create narrative and conflict in media. It is also used to simplify complex situations for easy consumption (e.g. TV news).

Along similar lines, if something is not easily reduced to binary opposites, it is far less likely to receive widespread media coverage.

Binary oppositions can be used to create stereotypes and promote certain ideologies or beliefs.

Blog task: binary oppositions and ideology

1) Watch this clip from BBC Question Time with Russell Brand and Nigel Farage. The BBC deliberately placed the two against each other and the episode resulted in far more people watching and tweeting than usual.

What examples of binary opposition can you suggest from watching this clip?

What ideologies are on display in this clip?

Embed the video into your blog (as above) and answer these two questions in full paragraphs.

Ideology and your own choice of clip

2) Now do the same activity for a clip of your choice. Embed the YouTube video in your blog and answer the questions in detail:

What examples of binary opposition can you suggest from watching your clip?

What ideologies are on display in your clip?

Complete for homework if you don't finish it in the lesson - due next week.

MEST2: Pre-production

Having completed extensive existing product research, institution research and audience research it's now time to move on to pre-production.

This is the absolutely crucial planning phase where you create a script, storyboard, shot list and mise-en-scene planning (cast, props, costumes, locations etc). You should have received some excellent feedback from the class as part of your focus group so now it's time to put that feedback to use. This is a great YouTube video taking you through 15 common mistakes filmmakers make...

This will be very useful for your pre-production - particularly in terms of casting, lighting and locations.

As a group, you need to complete the following:
  1. Project schedule
  2. Script
  3. Storyboard
  4. Shot list
  5. Mise-en-scene: casting details, location scouting with photographs, props, costume and make-up, lighting.
Your project schedule means laying out a week-by-week plan for shooting and editing your film - you may wish to use Microsoft Excel or Word for this.

You'll find guidance for setting out a script by visiting the BBC Writer's Room (click on the Script Library tab) and storyboard sheets are available in DF07 (alternatively you can access an electronic copy of an AQA storyboard sheet here). A three-minute film will require extensive storyboarding - you may wish to share this out between two people.

I advise laying out your shot list simply using Microsoft Word - this is an example of what it should look like. The key with a shot list is to plan lots of extra shots that give you options when editing - particularly a large number of extra close-up and cutaway shots.

The mise-en-scene planning can be formatted as you wish.

Important note: you only put work YOU complete in your coursework folder so make sure the pre-production tasks are shared equally between members of your group.

Due: First drafts of ALL your pre-production documents must be produced for the first double lesson back in January.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

MEST2: BBFC Institution research

Your final piece of institution research requires you to read up on the BBFC to find out what guidelines your film must follow.

Your MEST2 brief clearly states that your film must be suitable for a 15 certificate. Film certification in the UK is the job of the BBFC - the British Board of Film Classification. In planning your film's content and writing the script it's important you are staying within the guidelines for a 15 certificate (or lower).

Complete the following tasks on your blog:

1) Research the BBFC: what is the institution responsible for? How is it funded? What link does it have to government?

2) Read this BBFC guide to how films are rated. Summarise the process in 50 words.

3) Read this BBFC outline of the issues faced when classifying a film. Summarise the debate in 50 words.

4) Read this BBFC section on controversial decisions. Why did The Dark Knight generate a large amount of media coverage regarding its certificate? Do you agree with the 12A certificate The Dark Knight was awarded?

5) What are the guidelines for a 15 certificate?

6) The BBFC website offers an explanation of every classification it makes and detailed case studies on selected titles. Choose one 15-rated film from the BBFC case studies section and summarise the classification the film was given and why. 

Complete this for homework if you don't get it done in the lesson - due next lesson.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

MEST2: Arthouse film institution research

Research the institutions that produce, distribute and exhibit independent arthouse films.

Work through the following tasks:

Production: Independent film studios

1) Look back at the five films you have analysed for your existing product research. Find which studios made them – e.g. Film Four, Studio Canal, BFI, BBC Films etc.
2) What other films do these studios produce? Can you find any any other independent, arthouse or low-budget examples?
3) Do the studios have any notable successes? What is the most successful low-budget or independent film the studio has released?

Distribution: Independent film distributors

1) Research film distribution using this guide from the UK Film Distributors' Association. It's called Launching Film and takes you through the whole process of distributing a movie.
Read the whole step-by-step guide (warning: this is LONG and will take you around an hour)
2) Summarise the 10 steps of film distribution in a list using your own words.

3) Now research the distributors for each of the arthouse films you have analysed for your existing product research. Who distributed each film in the UK?
4) How many cinemas did each film open in?
5) How much money did each film make? Did it make a profit against the budget?
6) Research Curzon Artificial Eye. Who are they and what do they do?
6) Look at the Curzon Artficial Eye YouTube channelWatch three trailers for recent or upcoming independent films and identify something you can learn from each film to use in your own film production.

Exhibition: Arthouse cinemas

Find some London-based arthouse cinemas and research the following:
1) What is the name of the cinema? Where is it?
2) What type of films do they show? What films are on this week? How do their programmes differ from the major cinema chains like Vue? 
3) What type of audience attends this kind of arthouse cinemas? Are there any clues on the website regarding the target audience? How can you tell?

A case study in independent film production: Film London and Microwave Film

1) What is Film London and why does it exist?
2) What is the purpose of Microwave Film?
3) What is the London Calling project for Film London and how does it encourage independent filmmaking?
4) Choose three feature films funded by Microwave Film and embed their trailers in your blog. For each film, explain why it fits the profile for an arthouse or independent film and what target audience the film might attract.
5) Watch these top tips for film production. List three things you've learned from these short videos that you can apply to your MEST2 production work. 

You will be given lesson time for this research but will need to complete a considerable amount of it at home. Due: set by your coursework teacher (12D: Friday 9 December)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Arthouse film screening: United 93

Our arthouse screenings continue today (Wednesday) with United 93 (2006) - 3.05pm in DF07.

This remarkable documentary-style drama from British director Paul Greengrass recreates the events that took place on September 11, 2001 when four planes were hijacked with the intention of flying them into major American landmarks. Three hit their targets in New York and Washington but United 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers attempted to re-take control of the plane.

Shot entirely using handheld camera to emphasise the documentary feel, Paul Greengrass (along with his main Editor Christopher Rouse) has been credited with "re-writing the rules for action editing" with his ultra-realistic style. As Variety magazine states:
"Over the span of 10 years, Greengrass and Rouse have rewritten the rules for action editing, bringing an illusion of spontaneous immediacy to carefully choreographed set pieces.
Certainly, Greengrass’ impact can be detected in films as diverse as “The Hunger Games” (with its jittery handheld lensing and skittish cutting) and “Short Term 12” (which applies restless multi-cam coverage to a low-budget indie drama).
But the director’s immersive eyewitness aesthetic shouldn’t be reduced to so-called “shaky cam” shooting and editing that intensifies the action onscreen with quick cuts and dynamic cross-axis jumps between angles.
As Rouse suggests, these strategies work in service of a new way of telling stories, one that relies just as much on recreating factual events (“United 93,” “Green Zone” and “Captain Phillips”) as it does heightening the impact of Hollywood thrillers (the “Bourne” sequels).
The film also raises interesting questions in terms of the representation of nationality, race and ethnicity (America; Muslims etc.) and fits perfectly with A2 theoretical work we will cover next year in terms of post-9/11 and the media and post-colonial theory.

Enjoy the film!

MIGRAIN Representation: Photoshop collages

Create two Photoshop collages offering the dominant and alternative representations for a certain group or place. 

Think about the usual stereotype for that group and collect words, images and colours that capture that dominant representation. For the alternative, you need words, images and colours that don't fit the usual stereotype.

For example, if you were to create a collage of the dominant representation of women, you would look for feminine colours, jobs that are associated with women and more. For the alternative representation, you'd do the opposite.

You will be using Photoshop for your MEST2 print work so it's important you get to grips with it if you're not confident already. Use YouTube tutorials, Mr Qureshi and other students in the class to help you learn the software.

When you have finished the collages, save them as JPEGs (low quality) and post them to your blog along with an explanation of the task.

If you finish one set of collages in class, consider creating another set on Photoshop while taking on a more complex challenge - perhaps a dominant and alternative representation of an event or place?

Representation: work so far

Before you get to grips with Photoshop, make sure you've completed the initial work on representation - analysing a film or TV clip for the representation of people, places or events. You'll need this for the next steps on representation theory if you haven't done this already.