Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Hollywood Film - Avatar

My notes on Avatar;

  • Directed by James Cameron
  • Budgeted $237,000,000
  • Grossed $2.6 billion, the highest grossing film of all time
  • Won many Oscars and Golden Globes
  • Cameron had the vision/idea for Avatar 20 years ago, but had to wait for the technology to catch up with his ideas.
  • Cameron patented a digital camera system called 'fusion digital camera system'
  • A handheld monitor was used to film Avatar 
  • Footage is 70% CGI, including the female lead

  • Cast wore motion capture suits whilst acting out their scenes on a 'performance capture' stage, six times bigger than anything previously used in Hollywood
  • Realism was improved by using a skull cap to capture facial expressions with close camera enhancement
  • Motion capture makes 3D easier. This technique was more closely aligned with the way high end computer games are developed
  • One major advantage was the creation of a virtual monitor. This allowed the director to see motion capture results in real time
  • Cameron developed new techniques
  • Innovative filming rig mimicked the retina of the human eye, which provided the illusion of depth
  • 21.08.09 (my birthday) was officially designated 'Avatar Day' - giving a full 15 minuets of teaser footage at hundreds of sold out cinemas across the planet
  • 21.4.09 - 20th Century fox launched the industries first rich media interactive trailer supporting the DVD. Clicking on points of interest, consumers can access extended clips from the film and in depth information about the world and inhabitants of Pandora.

  • Exhibition in cinemas required a digitally equipped cinema, also with a pair of specialised 3D glasses
  • 3d cinema tickets are more expensive
  • 320 out of 3600 cinemas are digitally equipped in the UK. In the USA 2500 out of 38000 are digitally equipped
  • It costs cinema's a minimum of 80,000 to get into a 3D position

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Working Title and Film4 Exhibition

Lovely Bones and Love Actually Presentation


My notes on distribution in general;
What is distribution?
The stage between production + exhibition which involves all of the deals done to get films shown. Promotion involves paid for 'above the line' advertising - which will be funded as part of the project; trailers, posters, billboards etc. 'Below the line' advertising is unpaid for, e.g interviews, reviews, word of mouth.
Is it all fair?
Big companies control much of the industry, as they control distribution of their own productions. Films are loaned out to cinemas for a finite period.
In the UK film market an increase in the quantity of screens showing films has not lead to an increase in the number of films shown.
Release of a film;

  • Marketability = identifying target audience and devising a strategy
  • Appropriate budget for box office expectation
  • Media partnership - decide who is best to link up with
Planning a release

  • Chosing a genre, age group, director, if your audience is semi literate.
Target audience

  • Focus on target audience - compared to past films
  • Use an element of famble
  • People over the age of 45 generally take 1 week to decide whether to watch a film or not, whereas teenagers are more spontaneous
P+A budgeting

  • Word of mouth - free advertising, can make or break a film.
  • Below the line advertising.
  • Screening programmes
  • Advertising costs, how to use the budget depending on what section it is spent on.

  • Time of the year
  • Weather - rain - more likely to go to the cinema than in the summer
  • Winter - darker earlier
  • TV adverts are more succesful in winter as people are indoors more
Word of mouth

  • Critical depending on movie
  • Screenings feed word of mouth - vital. Works both ways, can spread good or bad feedback.
  • Effects the life expectancy of films.

  • In 2006, 20% of all the DVD sales in the UK were pirate copies
Digital distribution advantages

  • Promises to transform the film industry
  • Making it normality to download films via broadband
  • Advantage- offers identical version of the film
  • Simultaneous global distribution, puts an end to the time gap
2 different views on distribution;
Toby Miller -50% of the money goes on marketing. Hollywood anticipates.
Tony Angellotti - Films are made with audience in mind. Audience decide film choices, stars etc.

Does marketing a film really matter?
Despite bad reviews, lavish marketing ensured pirates of the carabien 2 made over £50 million in the UK box office, 1.5 million copies of the DVD were purchased 10 days after release.
The Dark Knight broke viral records by costing £185 million to make.
The Dark Knight was released on the 20.7.08 and shown in 4336 screens across the UK, contrasting with This Is England which was released on the 29.4.07 and was on just 62 screens.

5 Major distributors dominate the UK film industry;

  1. United International Pictures (Universal are part of this company)
  2. Warner Brothers
  3. Buena Vista
  4. 20th Century Fox
  5. Sony
9/10 films in the UK are viewed as a result of these distributors. Most films are directly linked to Hollywood Production companies, who prioritise Hollywood films for profit. Usually blockbusters are distributed via blanket release (It is shown everywhere) comparing with other films which are considered an 'event'. One of the outcomes of the above distribution arrangement is that half of the films released in the Britain don't reach the whole company.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Film 4 Distribution

Film4 is controlled by Tessa Ross. (picture to the right)
  • Ross secured an increased budget from £8-10m a year to £15m for film4, who make 6 films per year.
  • Set up a low budget studio with the film council and distributors Optimum as well as WarpX (digital production house)
  • Working across TV and film drama also allowes for economics and cross fertilisation
  • Film4 gains a lot of money through advertising.
  • Ross see's film4 as part of a wider creative community with Working Title, the BBC and BBC Films, as well as partnerships with distribution compaines.
  • WarpX are a film4/UK film council joint project with the Sheffield based indie WarpX that finance three low budget films per year. 

Film 4 Production Practices

Film four is an independant British film company, owned by the Channel4 Corporation, which was launced on the 1st of November 1998. The company has recently improved their budget to £15m per year, contrasting to the £8-10m they were on previously. Film4's controller is Tessa Ross, who has an alternative way of thinking which reflects Film4's choice in films.

Film4's style is quirky and experimental. Their philosiphy is to aid directors and actors, and give them their 'big break'. By sticking to the quirky and non-mainstream style of films they cater for a seperate audience, which helps them compete with Hollywood films.

Their biggest success is Slumdog Millionaire, which wasn't expected to gross 25 times it's original budget; raking in a staggering $377910544. Again, it is not your typical film, adressing contraversial issues yet in a different style to Hollywood. 

The Film4 channel is a freeview channel in the U.K and Ireland, which now manily airs Hollywood blockbusters around 2 years after their release, it also broadcasts it's own productions. In August 2007 Channel 4 added the Film4+1 channel, which allows viewers to see the film an hour behind the original broadcasting time. They also added a Film4 on demand service, which allows viewers to watch a selection of Film4 productions anytime. 

The Film4 website ( has an on demand service, information on productions, video clips, reviews, interviews, behind the scenes clips, and competitions. It gives the viewer a wide variety of special features, producers, writers, directors and actors.

Channel Four Television Corporation was set up by the government. It is a publicly owned "not-for-profit" corporation and does not have any shareholders.

Working Title production practices

Working Title;
  • Co-Chair people of working title are Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who have been listed as the most powerful figures in British industry.
  • They only have 42 full time staff, which is split between working title (main company) and low budget WT2.
  • Secret of their success? "The working title philosophy has always been to make films for an audience- by that I mean play in a multiplex. We totally believe in this because we know it is the only hope we have of sustaining the UK film industry"
  • Working Title was founded in 1984
  • 85 films have grossed more than $4 billion worldwide
  • They have won several awards; six academy awards, 26 BAFTA awards, 4 Oscars and prizes at Cannes and Berlin film festivals
  • Impressive catalogues of films from a wide range of genres; Billy Elliott, Johnny English, Love Actually and Shaun of the dead.
  • Their flops have been Wimbledon, Thunderbirds and Captain Corelli.
  • Blockbuster comedies of Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson who deliver punchy period films, political dramas, litery adaptation and family affairs.
  • Working Title launch fresh talent, such as directors Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott)
  • In addition to which it has launched 'Working Title 2' a subsidiary for low budget films with an 'independant' appeal
  • Their most successful genre is RomComs. The companies 'Treasure' is Hugh Grant.
  • Working Title was bought by Polygram, taken over by Universal in 1999. Bevan said "We were now part of a big structure, so we spent much less time on finding the money and much more on developing the scripts"
  • Universal own a 67% stake in the company, many of its recent films are co-productions with Studio Canal.
  • The remaining shares are owned by the companies founders which is the BBC and private investors.
  • Working title is clever and tactical about film projects. In 2004 they made Shaun of the Dead, and Bridget Jones 2, knowing they would financially be OK, because Thunderbirds was a flop the other two supported it.
  • They have to make 1 big blockbuster per year that makes $200-$400m in the box office revenues.
  • Is Working Titles lower budget film brand. Some of their productions are Billy Elliott (2000), Shaun of the dead (2004) and Ali G in da house. WT2 recently released Burn After Reading starring Brad Pitt and George Cloony.
  • A long history between American actors playing leading roles in British films; e.g Rene Zelwegger playing Bridget Jones.
  • The importance of release dates is vital, as it can make or break a films success. e.g films released in winter generally do better as the weather is colder and people spend more time indoors. Christmas films tend to do better if released in the Christmas period (Love Actually) , the same with Romantic films doing better around Valentines day.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Regional Identity

Britain is usually seperated into three regional stereotypes; the north, the south and the 'country people'. These are the stereotypes we associate with Northerners and Country people;
The North Stereotypes

  • Flat cap wearing
  • Pigeon racers
  • Friendly but 'bloody-minded'
  • Stubborn and argumentative
  • Whippet owning
  • Menial Manual (hard) jobs
  • Little education
  • sexist
  • Thick accent
  • Bitter Drinkers
  • Hot Pot
  • Miserable weather
  • Cobbled Streets

Country Stereotypes

  • West Country - scrumpy addled yokels
  • Inbred
  • Stupid
  • Happy 
  • 'Livestock bothering'
  • Farm hand yokel


  • Lord of the manor
  • Hunting toff
  • Slow pace of life
  • Land Rovers
  • Tractors

In this clip these men, especially two of them, fit into the Northern Stereotype.

This clip begins with a close up of a typical pub meal with a pint of beer, this indicates to the audience it is more likely to be a group of men eating the meal, as women aren't typically paired with drinking pints with meals. Immediatley this is a cultural code, highlighting the men involved aren't particually well off. The extreme close up then continues to show another pint, at this point the audience would continue to assume that all of the men are consuming lager. It becomes apparant that there is a class divide as the man with the white beard says 'Managment and Workers', a close up shot is used of the managers, who appear to be well groomed and clean, then of the workers whose appearance is more scruffy. 
The manager continues to talk in what would be a yorkshire accent, he says ' not in this day and age ' which relates back to the 4 Yorkshire men sketch, that life used to be harder and they enjoy boasting about who was the most hard done by.
It is evident that the two 'workers' fall into the Northern stereotype of being sexist when one of the workers say ' can I have some sauce bab, not that you're not saucy enough yourself '.The fact that none of the other men take any notice of the comment made, re-enforces the stereotypical idea that Northern men are sexist.
The conversation continues, with the camera angles being predominantly mid-angle shots, and shot reverse shot creates the idea that we are watching what they are saying from realistic points of view. The worker who made the comment at the waitress asks his colleague if his son  goes to 'that poncy toff academy' which creates an even bigger distinction of classes. This enforces the stereotype of Northeners having little education.
The men then start to make 'gay jokes' towards the manager whose son is called 'Ben Trotter - Bent Rotter', which reflects that the workers have the higher status, as they are walking all over the boss', that they have no inception of the status of the men they are with. 
Throughout there is only diagetic sound used, and no sound added in for effect, this creates social realism which makes the scene more realistic and relatable.
In my opinion, contrasting to society's view on disability/impairments, the steotype of Northern people is more about actions rather than appearance. Their accent is possibly the most recognisable sign of their regional identity, yet these characters conform to a few of the other stereotypes.


The dominant notions of disability are separated into the individual model, and the social model of disability. The individual model states that the disabled individual must conform to overcoming their disability, that they have a responsibility to overcome their disability. This perspective generally aims for the 'normalisation' of disabled people, often through medicalisation of their condition.
The social model is one that is evident in this clip, this deciphers between impairment ( the 'problem) and disability ( the way society views it as a negative). The idea is that the way society doesn't have a way to deal with the impairment, so it then becomes a disability, as the impaired person is given obstacles to overcome due to the negative view on their impairment.
Oliver stated in 1996 'Disability is produced in different forms, and in different proportions, in different cultures'
Society has produced the idea that people who deviate from the social expectation of normality are abnormal, e.g obese people could be classified as abnormal and to a certain extent have a disability. The presumption that a slender body is normal, fat and disabled people share low social status and fat people are blamed for their greed and lack of control over their bodies are all concepts society has generated on the stereotypes of overweight people.

In this clip the impairment of the main character is the severe burns on one side of his face. It is evident that some characters treat him differently due to his burns, and ultimately treat it as a disability. 
The clip begins looking through railings and barbed wire, which implies his burns are trapping him and preventing him to do as he pleases. The opening line of dialogue is 'I want my job back' which appears to be on a building site - this could reflect his want to build his life back together after his accident. We see the burnt side of his face before the healthy side, which reflects how society see's him; they see him as an ugly man with a burnt face rather than a normal human being. This is an enigma code as the audience want to discover how he got the burns. The men at the building site act as if they are wary of his face, which results into them avoiding eye contact and treating him possibly nicer than they normally would have done, this shows their pity towards his face rather than treating him as if his face was fine.
The woman who is getting her shopping out of the taxi is shocked when he helps her pick up her food, this could reflect societies honest view of him, rather than the front that is put on when talking to him; that he isn't aesthetically pleasing to look at and this degrades his status and power. The woman feels as if she has to justify her actions as he walks away, which re-enforces society seeing his face as a disability because if it was someone with a healthy face, no further action would have been taken.
The camera looks as if it is hand-held, as it is shaky and from realistic points of view (no extreme close ups or high angle shots) which again, re-enforces that how the different people behave towards him fits together on how society see's him.
As he is walking down the street the music has a tribal feel to it, that it is quite animalistic, the beat of the drum reflects his anger on how he is treated.
At this point we are only aware that his face is deformed, not that he is missing parts of his right hand. This illustrates how people judge others on a first impression, which is superficial yet this is why impaired people are given obstacles which creates a disability e.g people in wheelchairs, obese people, extremely short/tall people. We see how the 'impaired' individual appears and judge their ability on first impressions.
A slight sound bridge is used as he is walking on the street to the next scene in the recruitment office. The healthy side of his face is shown first, which reflects the sargeants reactin towards him as he see's him no differently to how he'd see someone with a healthy face. The shadow falling on his face in the office looks as if he is behind bars or in a cage, and that society has trapped him.
I think that this character challenges a stereotypical view of a 'disabled' person being pitiable and pathetic, as he acts as a healthy human being. It appears that his body is working, yet it is the appearance of his burnt face which causes people to judge his ability to do things.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Moral panics, Hypodermic Theory and the Passive Audience

This lesson, we focused on the Hypodermic theory and the way it could be related to Moral Panics. The task we had was to create a presentation on xtranormal on an area in the media which has been reported in the sense that they caused public controversy.

Columbine high-school Massacre
The Columbine high-school Massacre's were carried out on the 20th of April 1999, 12 students and a teacher were killed as well as 21 others being injured.It was reported that the video game called 'Doom' influenced the shootings, and that both boys involved we're avid fans of the video game. They were said to have re-created their own more violent levels of the game, they also created a level of school shootings days before the massacre. Another influence could have possibly been from Marylin Manson, whose violent music took most of the blame for the shootings, whilst the game went unrecognised. The game 'Doom' which allows players to pointlessly kill lots of figures was said to have been a 'stress releif' for the murderers who were also said to be manically depressed; yet their obsessive attitude had caused them to be restricted from computers.

Facebook & Social Networking
The general idea of facebook is to socialise, which is not hard with over 400 million accounts worldwide. It has arguably a lack of security as details are exposed to potentially anyone. It is also dangerous to children as stories have been reported of paedophiles using facebook as a weapon to find children. Another example of security was someone advertising a house party on facebook and 21,000 people confirmed they were going, the house was completely ruined.
Another lack of security, is that companies have software where they can check your facebook, look through your photos to see if you're suitable for a job/place at university. The new 'Places' on Facebook could ultimately aid stalkers, as you are telling them exactly where you are at a certain moment in time. It is dangerous for naive people.

Arguably skins could be seen as having a bad influence on people in their late teens. The idea is that after teenagers watch Skins they want to live the same lifestyle e.g sex, drugs, little education. It infers that parents are bad role models and teenagers are easily influenced by a TV series portraying one extreme of teenage life, which is basically unrealistic. However a majority of people who watch Skins simply enjoy watching it for entertainment value, rather than aspiring to be the characters from Skins. A strength of the show addresses serious issues, such as drug abuse, eating disorders, pregnancy etc. yet it is exaggerated for entertainment value.

Man Hunt
The idea of the game is to kill as many people as possible, which would clearly cause controversy as it would be considered immoral. It was brought to attention when a boy from Leicester stabbed his friend to death, it was thought he was influenced by 'man hunt' but it turned out he coincidentally happened to have a copy of the game and had never actually played on it. Ironically the controversy surrounding the game made people want to buy it more, as it was represented to be dangerous. 

Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity has been reported as one of the scariest movies ever made. It has even been reported there has been suicides over the film. The idea that it is based on a true story, and the way it is filmed (handheld camera, no obvious special effects, no non diagetic sound) played the scariest part as the audience feels it could happen to them. Paranormal activity had a lot of bad press, which could have been a publicity stunt as people would then want to see what its about. 

Rap Music
Critics say rap music is corrupting children and young people, suggesting ultimatley that it makes them want to be violent and anti-social towards others. The lyrics could be seen as excessive and un-neccisary, most swear words are cencored in 'clean' versions of songs, yet there is the oppertunity to buy the original version of a song without any cencors. It is represented to send out a message that sex/drugs/violence are acceptable and a normal part of life.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

How the editing creates the narrative and represents the character and his disability in Memento

The style of the editing in Memento reflects Leonard's condition of short term memory loss. The non linear editing gives the impression of the story being told in two different tenses. The fact the parts of the story are parallel yet are from different aspects, contrasts with the typical way of editing. The introduction of the film is split into colour and black and white scenes, the black and white scenes hint that they are flashbacks yet it isn't confirmed, this is an enigma code; the audience want to know what has happened, and why he shot 'Teddy' in the head.
The film opens on an extreme close up of a Polaroid picture of a crime scene; a body and blood all over the wall, it appears to be what you would typically expect a crime scene to look like, this being a cultural shortcut instantly indicates that somebody has been shot. The polaroid has a mans thumb holding the picture. As the credits roll you see the photo being shaken as the image gets lighter, this immediately implies the clip is being played backwards which is a cultural code as you know instantly it is a Polaroid; which you shake to make the image appear. It starts to fade, this links to Leonard having short term memory loss; this is then a symbolic code. The scene continues to run backwards, showing what has happened up to the point of the man being shot. It goes back in slight slow motion, which emphasises how fast it happened when the scene switches to playing forword and the man is shot. The music being played is non-diagetic, it builds tension to the point of the man being shot where the music cuts and you hear the gunshot.

It then goes to an extreme close up of the characters eyes, which illustrates that we are seeing the story through his eyes, this is enforced by him narrating the scene as there is various extreme close-ups, it makes it harder for the audience to focus on the setting. It is then made clear he is in a motel room; the image of him in the motel room again is a cultural code, mainly obvious to the western world, which is the target audience. It is also obvious that it is a flashback as it is in black and white. The mixture of him voicing over the scene, the gray scale filming and the extreme close up indicates something out of the ordinary with this character, that the way he thinks could be in great detail like the clip shows; it makes the audience believe there potentially could be something wrong with him e.g amnesia. This is an enigma code as it creates a story and hooks the audience in, wanting to know more. Linking the two scenes together is the fact that all the clips we've seen are very short which reflects his short term memory, it implied that as the clips are quite intense that he is angry about his short term memory condition.

The narration then continues to Leonard making a payment to the hotel receptionist, it is made clear he 'isn't all there' as he is reminded by the receptionist that they have previously had the conversation. It is noticable that he is also staying in a temporary home, which reflects his amnesia. The character who was shot in the opening sequence then appears at the hotel, which immediatley tells the audience that the film is not showing in chronological order, this is another enigma code; the audience will want to know why they aren't being shown the sequence of events in the correct order. It becomes evident that we are being shown the colour clips in reverse.
The introduction of the film then progresses in the manner of switching from black and white to colour, the impression that it gives is that the colour scenes are being shown in reverse, and the black and white scenes are being shown in chronological order, this gives the audience an an enigma code to ultimatley work out where the two sets of clips will meet. It also gives an insight to Leonard's disability, as we (the audience) are trying to work out his story just as much as he is.