Wednesday, 7 October 2015

TASK: Starting to consider film opening conventions

Your coursework brief is to create the opening 2 mins of a new feature film including titles. Before embarking on any production in Media Studies, you must always thoroughly research and analyse the prevailing codes and conventions (not 'rules') of a given format, then look more closely at those of a specific (sub-)genre once you've settled on a firm production idea.

For the tasks below, you will consider the assessment criteria and how this research fits in, as well as what to consider, before starting to make detailed notes and blog on aspects of one example of a film opening. You will present your findings and take notes on others' findings before summing up your view of what the common conventions are in a series of short vodcasts.

TASK 1: [post] The role of researching conventions in our coursework
Using either your printed copy or an online version, look through the assessment criteria for all three marked sections of your coursework and note in this post any and all elements of this that are linked to researching the conventions of film openings (and film/genre conventions more broadly). Include any relevant Evaluation questions in your list.

TASK 2: [post] What I should look for when blogging on film openings?
We will discuss this in a class, after which you should consolidate your list of things to consider by carefully reading this post.

Ask if unclear about any terms.

TASK 3: [multiple posts] Titles, 1st shot, length of opening
You will each view and analyse ONE film opening, feeding individual findings, including typed detail and plentiful screenshots, into the following posts:

Note how I use numbers in post titles. You will be returning to some themes, issues, aspects repeatedly, and using a numbering system helps you keep track for adding to links lists ... and helps to impress the marker/examiner!
TITLES EG2 [Film Title]

  • As we did with Pretty in Pink, note every title - screenshotting each is a quick means of doing this.
  • Highlight specific screenshots to demonstrate any common features and variations in these (size, colour, position, font, case, animation/transition/FX, diegetic integration, single/multiple credits, any name credited twice [hint: auteur]). Discuss the main font used: is it serif or sans-serif; clearly linked to (connoting) a genre - is this the expected connotation or signifying, maybe even juxtaposing, a different genre; what are your general thoughts on its semiotics? Is the main title font any different (always screenshot this)?
  • Note clearly the timings of these: do they appear continually; from the very start or later (when?); continue right to the end (maybe beyond?) the opening; are the gaps between them equal in timing or variable (is there any pattern to this).
  • Note the specific language used for company names - and specify whether these are production or distribution companies (look them up - and include relevant hyperlinks as part of your post's presentation!).

Adding a short summary at the top of your post will help you when presenting your findings, and when you're looking back at your research.

We've discussed the semiotics of TisEng's opening shot in detail, and that of Pretty in Pink, now do the same for this.

  • Don't twist your analysis to fit the genre, it doesn't always match the genre so neatly!
  • Consider exposition, narrative enigma, (non-)diegetic sound, anchorage/polysemy - sound is relevant as well as mise-en-scene.
  • Is the camera static or moving (does the shot/framing change?).
  • What does this lead into?
  • Looking ahead, you could apply Todorov's narrative model (equilibrium).

At this stage, although I've added more detail below, the minimum you need is (a) the length and (b) how the ending of the opening is denoted; (c) a bullet list of what exposition has been provided - what the audience learns and (d) specifically, which character/s have been introduced (we'll cover how in more detail in another section).

  • Overlapping with other micro-elements you can consider the following (putting you ahead when it comes to follow-on work):
  • How long is the opening sequence? The timing begins from 0:00 on the clip/DVD - it includes any idents.
  • How is the ending of this denoted?
  • What exposition has been provided (type a very pithily/briefly worded bullet list for this, not a paragraph)?
  • Have the pro/antagonists been signified (can you detail how with reference to framing and editing in particular?); Proppian archetypes; binary oppositions; the location; time/era; genre (maybe hybrid?); equilibrium, dis-equilibrium (central conflict)? To what extent has narrative enigma been utilised? Can you spot any intertextuality?

You will present your findings to the class and take notes on others'  findings too. With this range of examples you will be equipped to sum up common conventions on these three specific elements of the conventions of film openings.  three vodcasts which will cover a sizeable chunk of your openings research:
VODCAST1: Titles in film openings
VODCAST2: The semiotics of the opening shot
VODCAST3: Film openings - length and narrative exposition

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