Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Analysing film openings - a short guide

There is a much longer version - it was linked in the top links list which a google bug has wiped, along with all my other 100+ lists across multiple blogs.

When blogging on an opening, set out the key contextual, institutional info using appropriate size, colour, font variation for the most important details, and hyperlinking relevant links:
  • movie name
  • director
  • year of release (typically in 1 line: This is England (Meadows, 2006)
  • main (co-)production company/ies
  • UK, US distributor
  • budget
  • UK, US, world box office
  • ratings on IMDB, rottentomatoes or others
  • length of opening
Once you've completed your analysis, post a summary above your main blog text, but below the institutional info, with a CAPS sub-heading like POSSIBLE POINTS OF INFLUENCE (specific details or techniques that might influence YOUR production). This helps to show you're applying research (a key term in the markscheme).

You will be creating a vodcast on GENERAL CODES + CONVENTIONS OF FILM OPENINGS using 5 detailed examples, though you may want to refer to additional examples (eg look at more examples of opening shots).

Consider the following as key themes to address in a detailed analysis of a film opening. You should highlight specific media terminology in bold pink, helping it to stand out. Apply the exam markscheme to make sure you always clearly evidence a point, often with a screenshot (which you might use in vodcasts and your Evaluation):

One of the two most important shots (along with the final shot before you transition into the main movie) in your own production, so look closely at the choices made.


Discuss how the opening fits in with Todorov's 5-part narrative structure; if narrative enigma is employed (one of Barthes' concepts); if there are clear binary opposites (Levi-Strauss).

Are any characters signified as any of Propp's archetypes (sometimes combining 2 or more)? How? Be specific on the semiotics of the clothing, make-up etc - when producing YOUR film opening you need to evidence careful consideration of and control over this, not simply shooting your cast in the clothes/look they happen to be wearing.
You could fit this point into many of the headings below (editing, narrative etc), but think very carefully about how shot selection, framing, editing and sound all combine to signify any particular character as a probable (central) protagonist (or antagonist). There is often some narrative enigma, but typically we will follow one character through editing.

Costume and make-up is also m-e-s, I'm just separating these to help focus on how visual signifiers communicate more than the script (if done right). Denote (describe, detail) the choices made and discuss WHY these might have been chosen: what are the connotations; what reading might this suggest to the audience? Is verisimilitude achieved?

Its usually best to consider these two things together, though you don't need to try and link every point you want to make. These are 2 of the 4 technical areas you need to analyse in the exam essay on TV Drama (camera work and mise-en-scene are the others; you also have to discuss representations). Think not just about diegetic sound but specifically ambient sound, perhaps exaggerated diegetic sound. Music, non-diegetic or not, is always important to consider - and will be crucial for YOUR film to be convincing. Think about how the music is trying to manipulate the audience's mood, as well as their sympathy or empathy for any characters.

Look closely at how shot variety is achieved - this will be a crucial factor in marking yours. Think about framing and what has been selected and what rejected or not shown (back to mise-en-scene again!). You could use shorthand for shot types/angles to help denote the variety, eg:
ELS into OTS MLS; ECU; M2S; OTS MCU then 5 shot reverse shot sequence before a cutaway ECU of protagonist's hand...
TIP: You can combine screenshots using Photoshop (or simply Word, Publisher or other - and screenshot this in turn to quickly create an embeddable image).

Overlapping with many of the other categories above, so if you think this is clearly covered, then just focus on intertextuality (where meaning is linked to other existing texts). It is important to address genre - often genreS, with hybridity common.

Don't underestimate the detail needed on this!!!
Browse the titles tag on my AS Coursework blog, or just this single post on Pretty in Pink for example.

No comments: