Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Notes from wider reading

Notes on Language of Film

     The Language of Film article refers to film as having its own language. There are a range of techniques the film-maker uses to present a narrative (chain of events that are usually linked) through film. 
The mise en scene is developed in relation to theatre. This is the visual content of what is on screen which to a large extent is how the story is told. The elements covered by mise en scene are setting, props, costume, performance, lighting and colour. 
     The setting provides the space in which all the other elements of mise en scene are situated. The setting sets up expectations for the viewer and instantly produces meanings and signifies certain things. This is especially the case for genre films. Typically, films use both studio sets and location filming, but many films from the Hollywood era were filmed entirely within the studio.
     Props are inanimate objects within the setting. They may remain static or be used by the characters. They could simply be to make the setting more convincing to the viewers as opposed to being used for something in particular. 
     Costume is used to help create an actor's character. However, there can be some overlap between the props and costume. They can place an actor within a particular historical period, indicate social class or lifestyle, and even determine what is possible and what is not.
     There is more than one way to tell a story. A film's form is a result of a multitude of variables which are themselves the result of decisions taken by those involved in the film's production. Decisions are taken as to how the narrative is to be structured and how it will be narrated. The content of each shot requires careful consideration, the result of which is the shots mise en scene. The techniques used to film each shot need much thought in terms of camera movement, angle and shot size. The editing together of shots and the use of sound also play a vital part in the construction of a film's form as they produce, enhance and communicate meanings which are vital to the film's story.

Notes on Creativity and Genre 
in TV Crime Drama

     Nick Lacey explores the creative potential of genre television, and shows how crime drama can still surprise, challenge and innovate. 
     New generic texts are usually constructed to be 'the same but different'. As genre theorist Steve Neale says : 'the repertoire of generic conventions available at any one point in time is always in play rather than simply being replayed... (2000:219)
     It is highly unlikely that the success of the CSI franchise can be wholly attributed to its visual style. If a generic variation is going to appeal to audiences, it is also likely to express the zeitgeist ('spirit of the times'), so a genre text can seem both novel and relevant to its times. However, we cannot simply read society off a TV crime programme. 
     As the market for television programmes has become more global, there has been an increase in co-productions, particularly of expensive drama. An example of an innovative text is 'The Shield' (2002-2008), in which the protagonist Vic Mackey is portrayed as monstrously corrupt. 
Creativity in genre comes from a variety of forms. But possibly the most important aspect is the institutional context; non-mainstream producers are far more likely to embrace difference and give creative talents the autonomy they require than the big networks are. Genres that are not creatively developed will inevitably lose their popularity.

Representations of Law

Representations of Law in 
'The Wire' and 'A Touch of Frost'

They are both set in different countries, 'The Wire' is set in America and 'A Touch of Frost' is set in Britain. This means that the representations of law will be significantly different. The opening scenes of both the clips establish the setting of the drama. There is a build up in 'A Touch of Frost' before the police arrive which keeps the audience in suspense. 

The Wire starts with a very clear idea of crime and law because of the blue lights which reflect on the ground to symbolise the police being present. It automatically make the viewers aware of the police being involved and someone has broken the law. The diegetic sounds of sirens indicate it is a crime scene. As we watch further, we realise there has been a murder. The police alway seem to be present in these clips which tells us that the police are a stereotypical association to the law. The big vans make it look more official and serious as there will be more police officers whereas in the first clip there were only a few taking notes and gathering evidence from the body.

The police officers in this scene are wearing a uniform which implies they have power. These police officers are of a higher status than the boy who has been murdered or the people hovering around in the neighbourhood which we can tell by their clothing of tracksuits and hoodies. This implies they are of a lower class and the stereotype is that they cause trouble. The police clearly have more status than the rest of the community, but the audience are encouraged to
identify with the neighbourhood by putting more emphasis on their situation.
The police are seen in this clip as being very helpful and as good people trying to discover who the murderer is however, in reality people don't respect the police as much as this clip would suggest. Also, the iconography of the police badge and the notebook makes him look very important and gives a more realistic feeling. In this clip there is not one man in control, they all work together as a team however in 'A Touch of Frost' this is entirely different as there is one man in control of calling the other officers to arrest the criminals.
In the other clip however, they present the police as being slightly more aggressive although they appear to be getting more of a result than in the previous clip. They are also wearing the uniform which emphasises their power over the public. All of the police officers appear to be white which would suggest that stereotypically, it is usually white people that deal with the law and it's the black people who commit crimes and get into trouble with the law.

The two men sitting on the steps makes this seem serial as it is hard to imagine two people sitting near a dead body looking so calm and don't appear to be bothered by it at all. The boy who is the victim of a crime appears to be of the same social class as the rest of the neighbourhood which would suggest he was possibly in a gang. People usually feel less sympathy for someone of his status and class as they feel he has brought it upon himself. He is also a different race to that of the police officer which also suggests a major difference between the two. The victims in the other clip are the dogs who are being mistreated which is also against the law under animal cruelty. This makes the audience very sympathetic towards them because they have no rights and they've done nothing wrong to deserve being treated so terribly and for it to be filmed is even worse, as if the public were enjoying it.
The Wire automatically gave a sense of being a police drama whereas the Frost episode started off as a very natural scene although the two men looked like they were up to something illegal with their shifty looks. The law is presented in different ways in each of the extracts.

In 'The Wire', the police and the public appear to be a lot more equal than in the other extract where they are completely separated and there is a significant difference in the way they treat each other. There is an obvious divide between the police officers and the rest of the community which is presented through the complete opposite clothing and their different ethnicities stereotypically show who has the power.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Spooks Exam Question

Discuss the ways in which representation of class and status are constructed through the 4 micro-elements:

Sampson comes across as being evil which is shown to the audience through the camerawork and use of a low angle with the lighting right above him making his eyes look really dark to emphasise his evil image. He claims to be defending the British people by getting rid of other ethnicities. There is a binary opposition (juxtaposition) between Sampson and Spooks as they are presented as being the good people who are there to protect the British people. There is a soundtrack playing at the start which creates the sense of Sampson's evil plans in the opening of the programme. 

The mise-en-scene in the opening sequence shows Sampson's confidence which is portrayed through the use of a mirror in order to watch him talking himself into believing what he is doing is the right thing. He gives this horrible stare into the mirror which automatically conveys his anger. His accent is not that of a typical East Londoner, however it is more of a North London accent as he speaks in a sophisticated manner. He is wearing a suit to show his class as being high and he clearly has authority over the audience when he speaks as they shake his hand as he walks in and they cheer him on because they agree with what he is saying. 

Although Harry is on the opposing side, there are many similarities in the way they are represented here. For example, he is also wearing a suit to represent his authority and his high class job and his accent is also a North London one which conveys a well spoken man who must be well educated too. There is also the way in which he spoke to the two different men on the phone, giving them precise orders which he expects them to follow. Harry is also shown as being of the upper class because of the mise-en-scene which shows the car that he travels in which is being driven by a chauffeur. 

The editing of these scenes use cross-cutting and parallel editing in between the speech of Sampson and the estate where everything Sampson is claiming to be is contradictory to that of what is being shown on the estate. The man who introduces Sampson exclaims that they are being called 'a bunch of extremists' in order to refuse that allegation however, it then cuts to the estate which supports the claim made by the people. When they are running around on the estate there is a handheld camera being used which creates a sense of mayhem whereas when Sampson is giving his speech there is a tripod and steady camera soh

On the estate we can see that there is a lot of chaos being caused and threats of danger to the people living there of different ethnic backgrounds. A white woman marks a cross on the door to make the other gang members aware which flat they need to target because a black woman lives there. Standing around at the same time is a crowd of young teenagers wearing tracksuits, don't seem to be startled by the damage being done to this ladies home. This would suggest that they are used to seeing this sort of thing happen so they aren't bothered by it. Surprisingly, this group of kids consisted of different ethnicities which makes us wonder why they haven't been targeted yet. There is a diegetic sound of the people smashing up the woman's personal belongings from the flat. 

In the spooks institution there are mixed cultures however they are still a minority. There is certainly order in the way they live and there is no interruptions or bad behaviour. There is a hierarchy in this institution which is shown by the eyeline match between Harry and the others as well as Harry standing as opposed to his team sitting down. There is also the fact that Harry is only ever shown in the shot by himself and then as the others speak they will be shown alone to be looking up at Harry. They use high and low angles for this. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Representations of social class - Shameless

1.) Discuss the ways in which the producers construct representations of working class in the opening credits through the 4 micro-elements.

You should select 10 frames minimum to screen grab as examples for your analysis. I expect 700-1000 words.

     The start of the clip has a soundtrack in the background which is quite happy and peaceful to create humour for the audience as this is a comedic programme. Using this happy music is intended to make the audience feel more relaxed as if this isn't really what happens in families like these, or it is but this has been exaggerated for their entertainment.

     The opening scene begins with three jump shots of high rise tenement blocks which represents a council estate. This tells us that the main setting is going to be here as they must be significant to the storyline if the scene opens with images of the flats. These are usually thought of as being dirty, not very well looked after and full of families with no job, taking drugs and alcoholics. In the voice over by Frank Gallagher himself, we learn that he is very happy living on this estate as he refers to it as 'being a good home for us'. 

     The social class being represented is of the working class and I know this because of the 'estate' they live on as well as the many children from different mothers that Frank Gallagher has in order to receive more financial support from benefits. The usual stereotypes associated with the working class in the media is that they are from an uneducated background, live on council estates, have large families, alcoholic father which is also shown in Shameless. The mise-en-scene here shows them all to be wearing very dirty looking or old clothing, possibly have been passed down to one another to save money but also, they wear things like tracksuits which are generally associated with council estate families as they can't afford all the latest fashions. 

Another common stereotype is that people who live on council estates don't have a lot of money however, they can always afford to buy cigarettes and alcohol which then makes them behave aggressively even towards their own children. This was shown in Shameless when their was a close - up of Frank holding his son by the collar and looking as if he is about to hit him. This is not a good representation of the working class however it is very stereotypical. There is a close-up here to show how frightened his son is of him which sums up their whole father son relationship.

The producers have used an image of most of the children together to emphasise the amount of children these working class people have in order to gain more benefits to pay for their drug/alcohol addictions. They can't be a very close family as this is the only image in the scene with most of them together however, Fiona is missing from this one. It usually tends to be all the children look out for each other but the parent does their own thing and shows no parental guidance or love.

Frank has shaved his sons hair because he says that he gets head-lice although to an audience who watches this, it will create an image in their head of him being part of a gang where they all look the same. It could also be presented as they don't have enough money for shampoo etc. Lower class citizens are usually seen by the upper and middle class as being dirty and that could be another reason for the decision to shave his hair off.

The dad, Frank can't be relied on as he is always drunk and seen to be lying on the kitchen floor after not having brought home any butter or other food items to eat with the plain bread. He is clearly an unfit father figure although to the audience, it seems like a joke that a father would be like this so they laugh. This birds eye view shot shows us that he is not a responsible dad and even his children find it difficult to respect him because of his behaviour.

Setting cars on fire are presented as being a party for these lower class citizens as they must have nothing better to do with their time. This is also a stereotypical view on the social class as they like to cause mayhem by having parties etc.

They are typically thought of as thugs which is also shown in this clip when they are throwing things at the car, huddled together as if they are in a gang and being very loud. As the police arrive, we see a clear binary opposition between the police and the residents which also represents the social class and how they are thought of by the other classes.

They appear to love it when the police come to break up their parties because it makes it more exciting for them. Typically, people from council estates try to avoid the police as they are prone to getting into trouble however, this is not the case here. Instead Frank thrives on the fact they have joined them. As the police arrive there is a diegetic sound form the sirens which emphasises the chaos these social class people are creating.

The name of the show can symbolise many different things. One interpretation is that it could be based on Frank's character because he is not ashamed of the things he does and the way he behaves. A long shot has been used here to capture the extent of the damage they have caused as well as the chaos created by the entire estate.

     The overall representation of social class is shown as being very low due to the editing of jump cuts at the opening of the programme to show the council estate and how significant a place like that is in their lives. The mise-en-scene clearly represents them as having very little money as the children are always wearing a tracksuit and they never look clean and neatly presented. There is a soundtrack which coincides with the narration of Frank Gallagher to show his love for his family as he sounds extremely happy with his life even though he doesn't have a lot. There was a panning shot at the beginning to show the extent of their estate which isn't a lot. Frank uses a biblical term and says it's 'no garden of Eden' which shows he is aware it's not a lot but it's enough to make him happy which happens quite a lot in the social class. They are generally happy living in a neighbourhood where they all get on and are like one big family,

Ashes to Ashes Exam Question

1.) Analyse the ways in which representations of gender are constructed in the extract through the usual 4 micro-elements.

At the beginning of the extract, Alex Drake is wearing a suit with her hair tied up for practicality and professionalism. This is a turn around from the usual representations of gender as it is usually the man who is shown to be going to work and wearing suits etc. Alex Drake then begins to drive at a high speed in order to arrive at the crime scene which again isn't the normal representation we expect to see of a woman. As the times change and she wakes up in the 1980's, she appears to be dressed as tat of a prostitute with a tight, short, leather dress which Gene Hunt comments on by saying 'If that skirt was hitched any higher, I'd be able to see what you had for breakfast'. This implies that she is dressed provocatively and in a way that makes men look at her as she is revealing her body. The colour red of her dress and the bright red lipstick symbolise a seductive image. This is a completely different representation of women compared to the opening scene as they are now being presented as flirtatious, going out of their way to make themselves get male attention and the men are presented a respectable by Gene Hunt's comment to her about it and appearing not to be interested enough to stare at her. As the man in the grey suit chases after Alex Drake, they end up in what looks like some sort of closed off area which would normally be where a prostitute would have picked up men in those days. In this scene the man is being confrontational, preventing her from moving away. He treats her like someone with no importance, like she is nothing which would not have happened in the modern day when she was a respected police officer. 

The sound used during this scene was a soundtrack as the car entered what looked like a car park to symbolise the importance of the police officers arrival as they are all men and they are in control. There were sounds from the exhaust of the car as it drove speedily around the corners before stopping which also exaggerated their power as their entrance was so significant that Alex and the man in the grey suit stopped and stared. The soundtrack and the car present the men as being very masculine. Men from the 1980's appear to have the same respect that Alex Drake had in the modern day. 
Alex's shoes make a diegetic sound as she walks or rather is pushed against the wall by the man. This really points out that women are easily pushed around by men as they are in control. As Gene Hunt delivers his lines, he appears to be very macho with his head held high and every word he uses presents him with the utmost authority. Alex Drake's speech when she is telling the man in the grey suit what the officers want shows her intelligence which would not be the normal representation of women who are put int hat position. There were no special effects in this scene whatsoever.

When Alex Drake is looking in the puddle, there is a reflective shot which is there to show her emotions which presents women as being emotional and not afraid to show their feelings. The editing of this extract showed a low angle using the 180 degree rule to emphasise the hierarchy and power men have compared to women. The major reveal of the police officers has a close up on Alex's face when she discovers who they are. This shows her intelligence as a woman which is another representation of gender here seeing as the man in the grey suit needed Alex to explain what the police officers wanted to make him give himself in. This scene uses many different angles to show the degrading view on women dressed as a prostitute with a long shot as well as the knowledge and professionalism of a woman with a low angle. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Ashes to Ashes - Remake

Ashes to Ashes - Remake 

     We worked in a group to recreate the scene from ashes to ashes. I have placed the video in the corner of the video to show the real scene and our version is next to it. Although it is not exact and there are many mistakes, we got a real understanding of how difficult it is to recreate something with all the intricate details, especially without a shot list.

Representations of women in the media - Documentary

Representations of Women

     I have put together a documentary to show the representation of women in the media. This includes a clip from the film 'Legally Blonde' and the fairy advert to convey the stereotypical views of women which are thought of because of their portrayal in the media.