Monday, 8 October 2012

Blogging on examples of film openings

MeganC evidences research into conventions
Related posts: Evaluation Q1 guide - the first, and longest, Evaluation question (remember, this is 20% of the final mark) requires you to show your knowledge of the conventions (media language) used in film openings;
this post links to a sample post by a past student; ;
this post describes many of the things you should consider;

  • why you need to blog on film opening examples
  • exam links
  • style and layout guide
  • what to look out for/note/discuss
  • illustrating your posts
  • an example of how you might tackle such posts

ChrisL presents some research in an embedded Ppt
  • if you look at the coursework markscheme (and we will apply this to past coursework so you can fully undertand how this works) you will see that you are assessed on research into similar products for Research and Planning (20% of the total coursework mark) and understanding of forms and conventions plus ability to refer to choices made for the Evaluation (also 20% of the total mark)
  • so, if you fail to evidence research into and a firm grasp of the media language associated with the format (film openings and titles) and genre conventions your overall grade will suffer
  • you need to be able to justify the many individual choices you will make with reference to existing examples - why did you select a particular shot type, angle or framing; why did you cast this person; why select that costume; why that edit, etc, etc
  • this is highly creative work, but it is creativity fundamentally underpinned by extensive research (in addition to film openings you will be required to read about the slasher genre, its history, conventions and contemporary standing)
  • our exam board have consistently praised the standard of IGS students' blogs, and we want this (and the high level of achievement) to continue

RobS's link list of openings analysed
  • your learning for both exam sections is highly relevant;
  • the 1st part of the exam requires you to identify and discuss the media language used, applying a wide range of terminology - you will find it much, much easier to succeed in this if you push yourself to apply the terminology picked up from lessons in your blog posts from the outset
    • you are marked on your use of terminology in the exam
  • you are also asked to analyse representations in the exam
  • furthermore, you will need to apply semiotics
  • you should do all three of these when discussing examples of film openings, using the relevant terminology
  • British Cinema is the 2nd part of the exam, and as filmmakers engaged in creating new British Cinema work yourselves every aspect of this is relevant
  • over the last four years many IGS AS Media students have seen their coursework screened at a national film festival, highlighting the realism of your task and challenge - to create work that can make it to a cinema screen
  • its worth re-reading the course summary you got in the 1st week to remind yourself of the topics covered
  • you can also use the terminology guide provided (you will also receive a semiotics guide and guide to representations)
  • I have also given you a summary of these links as a handout
  • plus you have posts like this

RobS' Eval Q1 clearly sets out his learning
  • you are marked on care in presentation for the R+P, plus ability to communicate (which includes use of terminology) and skill in use of ICT for the Eval
  • so, when I stipulate layout and design points it is to help push your grades up
  • you must treat the blog as a production in its own right, and take care to consistently present your posts attractively, with frequent use of multimedia, sub-headings etc
  • you can find a really comprehensive blog presentation guide here
  • you can find further pointers (and more links) to maximising your R+P mark here
Set out key info at the top of the post, changing font, colour + bold - and make title + director name into relevant hyperlinks (eg Wiki, official website, IMDB entry, review)
  • include (on separate lines):
    • film title [if its been remade, add (original; remade in year) as appropriate]
    • director, year of release
    • production company/ies
    • budget (US, UK box office figures, generally to 1 decimal point of a million, eg $10.2m)
    • length of opening sequence (eg 6:15 mins)
  • its worth adding as hyperlinked words: FURTHER USEFUL RESOURCES: trailer; page (68% rating); Wiki (and any other useful vids you may have found on YouTube; Amazon links to books; links to articles about the film or director - including remakes) [rottentomatoes gathers reviews and calculates critics and audience responses - the link is for Taken - just 58% among profressional critics, but 83% from the public's ratings]
SUMMARY: the last thing you'll write, but briefly outline the key points near the top of the post. You can also use this to state whether its an Indie or studio movie (showing you can make sense of the budget, box office and production co info - you might want to refer to screens too) and a hit or a flop. Note if its part of a franchise, and what critical standing it has. Try to highlight media language you find inspirational or useful (that might influence your work). Your own view is relevant - do you think its a good or weak example? Anything unusual or all conventional and generic?
  • if you've found the opening sequence on YouTube then embed it after this
SUB-HEADINGS: Use subheadings (not from the dropdown Normal/subheading etc list, but by changing font, bold, colour + maybe size) for each topic you address.
My suggestions below are not prescriptive, and you're not expected to produce massive posts on every opening you look at, but make your posts user-friendly by setting out in a few words what aspect the bullet points below will address. This makes it easier for you to find points you made as well, critical when it comes to the Evaluation.

I generally avoid centring pics, but will make an exception here. The font size was too small but TomC here showcases wide-ranging knowledge with clear, specific examples from his earlier work on film openings - also boosted with reading (first-rate summary of complex narrative theory to start this), with useful hyperlinks and illustrations. I'd always try to add captions to pics though. Note that the pics were from his own work as well as from existing films. There is also quite a lot of terminology.

SECTIONS/THEMES: If you look on p.22-24 of the coursework guide you'll see I suggest a large number of elements you could consider. You could simplify this to the 4 technical areas you have to consider for your exam, which would help you sharpen your skills for it. Use the handouts with summaries of key terms to help with this. (Don't use numbering in your sub-headings)
  1. cinematography (camera work, shot types, angles, framing, movement)
  2. editing (including transitions, SFX; linear or non-linear; (dis)continuity etc)
  3. sound ((non-)diegetic; use of music [often signifies core target audience + genre - can also be clumsy and overused; say so if you think so]; audio bridge; voiceover etc)
  4. mise-en-scene (includes props, locations, costume, makeup - verisimilitude?)
You also need to analyse representations in your exam. Titles and idents are also an important part of openings. A non-Media student will invariably focus on narrative and give a linear description (this happens, then this happens...). Narrative is useful to note, but be brief, and focus as much on exposition (what and how much/little info is provided for the audience on time period, location, key characters, genre etc; its likely narrative enigma will be employed to some extent). So, narrative/exposition is a useful heading.
Also worth considering:
  • intertextuality (links/references to existing texts)
  • genre conventions observed ... or broken (very useful to note so you can find examples to look back on when designing your own work. you could also note hybridity here, where you see signifiers of 2 or more genres [to help widen audience appeal])
  • how the opening concludes and the main movie resumes (the final shot of your opening is incredibly important, so its worth carefully noting these)
  • particularly useful shots/details - if you see something you think is well done and you might want to take influence from its worth highlighting
Again, I'm not setting out any compulsory sub-heading titles; pick your own, just make them clear and stick to the same wording across all your posts.
If you've already done some posts which focus simply or narrative, or don't clearly set out useful info in a way you will be able to quickly find it in future, edit such posts. Remember, you're marked on blog presentation too. 
You might want to use the following, longer list as a checklist:
  • IDENTS: How long are they typically, how high-tech/complex; how many do we see; where do they appear
  • TITLES: This is a key part of your overall coursework task, so detailed notes are important. Which roles/companies are noted; what specific language is used; do any names/companies appear more than once; what font (serif/sans-serif; colour; case) is used; note the positioning (does this differ between titles) and any animation; any graphic element to the titles; is there a gap between titles or do they continuously appear (eg company names - A Warp Films Production - a gap then individual credits?)
  • OPENING SHOT: always worth noting. Any audio bridge linking it with idents?
  • RUNNING TIME OF OPENING: How long is the self-contained opening sequence? Is it clear where this ends?
  • CLOSING SHOT OF OPENING + TRANSITION TO MAIN BODY OF FILM: Always note the final shot too. Do you get a fade-out or other transition or a straight cut? Are titles used to reinforce a change of location/time immediately after the opening ends?
  • EDITING: any transitions to signify ellipsis; any SFX; continuity editing style or any hallmarks of discontinuity?
  • LENGTH OF TAKES + EDITING PACE: looooong takes or fast-paced editing with short takes? much variation in this? Simply by following one character/keeping referring back to them also suggests to the audience that they are a central character.
  • SHOT VARIETY: ask yourself as you watch these whether you think further shots should be inserted - is there sufficient shot variety? This and the above point are linked. Look for simple things too like two-shots used to signify personal relationships.
  • MISE-EN-SCENE: This links to the above point: what does the mise-en-scene communicate to the audience (providing exposition on location, time period, genre etc)? Is verisimilitude achieved (can you see evidence of costuming, set-dressing, props etc)?
  • SETUPS/SCENES: Each time you leave a room or other part of a location you have to work to setup the next scene: how many setups or scenes are involved?
  • FLASHBACKS/MAJOR ELLIPSIS: Halloween is one of many that opens with events and then gives a title stating x years later so we know we're now in the present.
  • NARRATIVE ENIGMA V EXPOSITION: What do we learn about setting, time period, narrative, characters, genre - and what is intentionally withheld? Do we appear to meet antagonist or protagonist/s? You could also comment here on plot, cliffhangers etc
  • SOUND + MUSIC: Note use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Specifically, how is music used, if at all - is it continuous; are multiple music tracks used; does the volume level rise? Does the music genre seem to hint at the target audience and/or genre?
  • GENRE SIGNIFIERS: Do you see anything which seems to point towards a particular genre?
  • INTERTEXTUALITY: Are there references to existing texts?
  • REPRESENTATIONS: Use of stereotypes, countertypes, a mix of both? When looking at horror openings, be alert for stock characters like scream queens, masked killer, jock, nerd, final girl, ineffective adult/authority figure etc
  • GENRE/BUDGET/ERA SPECIFIC? You'll find that conventions have changed over time and also vary with budget and genre.
  • MEMORABLE ASPECTS: Quite simply, anything you thought was particularly interesting or noteworthy. Especially as you begin to work on horror openings, you should note where you see useful examples of costume, dialogue, editing etc which you may well take direct inspiration from.

    This is covered in detail in a previous post, but the basic points are:
    • MULTImedia
    • ie, plentiful hyperlinks (usually best to make words into links, not to just paste in the URL), relevant images (sized and positioned appropriately - and always add a simple, clear caption; save/upload images, don't copy/paste as often they simply won't show up when someone else looks at your blog), and embedded audio/video where relevant
    • its worth repeating: embedded audio can be useful, and you usually get a fairly small audio player (useful for points on soundtrack for example)
    • you will be creating both podcasts and vodcasts throughout the year, often to summarize your findings on a number of openings or other topics

    I'll try to come back to this and add an exemplar, time permitting.

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