Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Swede task/prelim: update

Unfortunately, given the weather and subsequent disruption, we've had to sidestep the swedes (though one group did film theirs - well done!).
Our immediate focus then is getting the prelim task shot, edited and uploaded

For anyone who missed the lessons where the pitching was done, a summary follows.
We also did a brief follow-up task:
  • create a new blog post entitled: "The Prelim Task"
  • find and write/copy in the prelim task (or 'exercise') exactly as the exam board describe it (you have this on paper but can also find it in this blog)
  • create 3 new paragraphs, using the 3 technical terms (all aspects of the continuity editing style [aiming to making the editing effectively invisible; not drawing attention to it]) as sub-headings
  • add a definition for each of these terms
  • if you're still not 100% clear on what any of these terms mean, and what that means you have to do, make sure to ask in class!!! (you could also try looking at past blogs)
You must incorporate this prelim task, and every part of what it specifically asks you to do, within your swede (otherwise separately film this prelim), providing specific timings from your finished swede where each aspect of the prelim exercise occurs within your swede so that the examiner (and I!) can quickly and easily confirm this has been done.

We also made note of how this prelim task is linked later on to the Evaluation task: re-read the 7 questions you must answer for the Eval to see what this link is, and why its important you take detailed notes and provide a detailed blog post on the process behind your swede/prelim.

If anyone who hasn't been in wants to arrange a swede with some others listed as absent, get in touch! You could also contact those in an existing group to see if you can work within their idea. Cameras will be available to sign out for Wednesday to Monday, which should provide plentiful time to film your footage - tho' be mindful of the issues raised by the snow (and it getting dark early).

As 2010-11 Swedes Groups                                                            

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Your mission is to carry out the following brief:
Preliminary exercise: Continuity task involving filming and editing a character opening a door, crossing a room and sitting down in a chair opposite another character, with whom she/he then exchanges a couple of lines of dialogue. This task should demonstrate match on action, shot/reverse shot and the 180-degree rule.
Main task: the titles and opening of a new fiction film, to last a maximum of two minutes.
All video and audio material must be original, produced by the candidate(s), with the exception of music or audio effects from a copyright-free source.
The coursework is worth 50% of the AS (same at A2) and the marking (detailed later) is divided into 3 sections:

Your work is marked partially on my observations of your approach and level of organisation, but fundamentally its a DVD and your blog that are marked.

Even before you start shooting (let alone planning) your production, you need to keep this final stage in mind. If you start (b)logging notes on this now it will save you a lot of stress as the final deadline (in May!) approaches. You are tasked with answering these questions (see below for details on how this is marked):

  • In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? 
  • How does your media product represent particular social groups?
  • What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why? 
  • Who would be the audience for your media product? 
  • How did you attract/address your audience? 
  • What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product? 
  • Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?

When I'm marking all this, I've got to write a paragraph for the exam board justifying the marks I've given you. The grid embedded below summarises the criteria I have to follow, and so you're advised to occasionally re-read this and ask yourself where you think you'll fall within the marking scheme!
For each section there are key components of the work which I have to assess as being one of the following:
If you think you're currently at the 'minimal' or 'basic' level for any of these, ask yourself (and me!) what you can do to jump up to at least proficient.
G321 AS CWK Markscheme on 1pg DB

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Mise-en-scene decon task

Partially to get us all thinking about the conventions of film openings, you will be formed into pairs and given one horror film to analyse. Specifically, you will be examining how it has used mise-en-scene to signify (communicate to the audience) aspects of the film's narrative. Information filmmakers provide to the audience by whatever means (sound, dialogue, titles, mise-en-scene etc) is termed exposition.
Each opening will be screened, accompanied by your pair's analysis.
Carefully selected m-en-s + framing signifies a stalker's POV
A key part of the research and planning will be scrutinising a wide range of actual examples of openings within your genre; this doesn't have to be horror but we'll stick with one genre for this exercise - the range of screenings should enable you to decide whether or not you've got the stomach to scrutinise the construction of scenes of gore!
To build on this, you will be working in pairs or more to create a text where you rely on mise-en-scene to communicate to your preferred reading to the audience - this is detailed in a separate post.

Once you have a horror film to analyse, research + make note of the following (using IMDB.com):
  1. Director + year of release
  2. Budget (if available)
  3. Box office takings (US, UK, as available)
  4. Has there been a remake of this film? (note director, year)
  5. Is this part of a film franchise (ie, have there been sequels - if so, how many films in the series to date?)
Once you've explored the basic institutional backdrop to the film (you could also look into the production + distribution company/ies if you wish, ascertain if its an Indie release or from a Hollywood studio, one of the 'Big 6'), its time to turn a more semiotic eye onto the text, especially how meaning has been encoded + communicated to the audience through shot selection and choice of mise-en-scene. Note though that the context can be very significant for the meaning, or reading (Stuart Hall's [preferred/negotiated/oppositional] readings theory). Address the following in your analysis of the opening (these points overlap):
  1. How has the time period been signified? Consider the concept of zeitgeist.
  2. How has the location been signified? (Consider if this is small town, city, rural, suburban etc and what this might mean or signify)
  3. Has social class or status been signified?
  4. Discuss clothing/costume codes, and hair/make-up.
  5. How does mise-en-scene enable us to connote the different characters' likely roles within the narrative? (You could employ Propp and/or Levi-Strauss here)
  6. What can we tell about the (dis-)equilibrium from the mise-en-scene (all the above points form part of this)
  7. What expectation do we have of the film's narrative from this?
  8. How has the genre been signified? (Props, objects?)
  9. Whatever the scenario and genre, how has verisimilitude been achieved?
  10. Do you think this film employs mise-en-scene skilfully ... or perhaps clumsily?
We're not necessarily looking for a PowerPoint on this; if you can communicate your findings quite fluently from memory and some looking up of notes, thats absolutely fine. Write up all your findings in a blog post entitled M-en-S of [Film Title] Opening. Strive to use terminology where you can - eg, if you consider the use of mise-en-scene to be clumsy, lazy or weak, you're taking a negotiated or oppositional reading of the text (Stuart Hall's theory of the 3 levels of reading a text), not following the preferred reading.

    Mise-en-scene practical task


    Mise-en-scene is one of the 4 technical areas you're asked to analyse for the TV drama exam question, and is also of course a key part of your coursework planning. For this exercise we'll be working mainly without sound.

    You're tasked with thinking up an idea for a brief sequence (30-60secs) to open a film - within any genre you like - relying on shot selection and mise-en-scene to communicate your idea to the audience; pitching your idea to the class; whoever can attract a team to shoot their idea then produces the opening with this team on Friday/over the weekend for rapid editing and screening early next week. We will look at several openings in class time.

    If you're unclear on any aspect of this, including the many terms used below, ask in class!!!

    The Terminator spoke just 17 words in the original film
    In essence, this task is simple: plan and shoot material for a 30-60sec sequence which will provide exposition for the audience on various aspects of the narrative. However, you must achieve this with no more than 17 words, without music, and rely primarily on your selection and manipulation of mise-en-scene to achieve this.
    Why 17 words? This is how many words were used by the antagonist in the entirety of one of the most iconic sci-fi/action movies, James Cameron's early breakthrough film, who is now a politician in California. So its actually quite a generous number!
    You will each come up with a pitch, outlining and selling your idea to the class in no more than 30 seconds (you will be timed!), hoping to convince several to sign up to your creative vision in a cut-throat free market of blue-sky thinking...

    Make sure your idea is achievable!!! 

    Your scene should be designed to be part of a film opening; don't worry about not squeezing in all the detail an audience needs to grasp the full narrative; you would most likely need more than the permitted 30-60secs to do this.
    (A 'pitch' is an occasion when film producers briefly summarize their proposal for a film to busy film company executives, in the hope of attracting funding for production and/or distribution. Many small British companies and filmmakers will pre-sell distribution rights to their film to European countries in order to fund production. It is always a sales pitch!)
    Read more on pitching: hubpages.com guide; actor Peter Capaldi; wiki; ehow.com.  

    In the filmed piece you will be aiming to enable your audience to understand and recognise the following aspects of your narrative:
    1. setting: time period (give consideration to zeitgeist)
    2. setting: place/location
    3. character/s: an/protagonist; Proppian archetypes?
    4. (dis-)equilibrium; perhaps some foreshadowing of how the narrative will develop
    5. genre/s (perhaps a hybrid genre, or a sub-genre?)
    6. also: which props/items/details provide verisimilitude?
    When thinking about equilibrium you are also thinking about character/s: what is their situation? Their age? Where do they live? Are they popular (jocks?) or outsiders (nerds?!) for example? Live at home? Single? Have job? Hobbies?! Nursing a broken heart/popular with the ladies/lads? Provide some idea in addition to 'this is the good/bad guy'!

    The hope is that we will have 3 or 4 groups in each class, with filming taking place on Friday/weekend.

    Mise-en-scene incorporates clothing/costume; hair + make-up; objects and props; location in general: house, trees ...
    Think about how John Carpenter uses a detached house to signify a sense of vulnerability and isolation, even in the middle of a nice suburban neighbourhood - the inclusion of trees, and the shadows they cast, is an important factor in selecting this particular house for the opening scene of Halloween (1978). Small details also count: the chair on the porch and the pumpkin lantern; the old-fashioned clock and the candles on the table ... and then there's the boyfriend putting his top back on, visual shorthand for 'sex has just taken place'!
    In Bride of Chucky (Ronny Yu, 1998) we get a range of details denoting police force before we get to see the victim in full (costume and props within this to provide verisimilitude ... plus a police car!). The smaller details you can replicate: labels stating 'evidence' for example. We also pan across a range of objects (eg Jason mask) in the evidence locker which clearly signify slasher, the more supernatural end of slasher, to the audience (provided they have enough familiarity with these films to be able to follow the preferred reading [Stuart Hall's concept], which relies on intertextual references). Then there's the nightime setting, lighting, weather, use of low and dutch angles...

    Last word on pitching...
    Most of you will be familiar with The Apprentice, which seems to feature a bunch of cretins proving how awful they are at business and dealing with human beings. Each week they have to pitch to sell some product ... and thats exactly what you're doing: selling your idea. Here's an example from The Apprentice:

    And here's a satire on pitching - NB: contains some strong language