Wednesday, 26 April 2017

MS3 - Production: Sample Evaluation

            Evaluation (750 word)                             

For my production piece I decided to create three television sitcom posters in order to represent American women in an idealistic way. I drew influence from my research project surrounding the popular sitcoms Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City. From my project I found that women are viewed merely for sexual gratification even in today’s apparent modern society. I wanted to illustrate this within my production work.

I viewed existing sitcom posters from the same genre and noted the conventions, themes and styles that I would later adopt in my own work. I found that I had to work closely with the mise-en-scene of each poster as the preferred reading of each visual text was to suggest ‘glamour’ and ‘perfection.’

For my first piece entitled ‘EvenJuicier’ I decided to create an enigma through the image. Only until the audience read the website credentials at the bottom do they know what sitcom the poster is promoting. This would mean that people who were not familiar with the programme or the genre may take an oppositional or negotiated view to the poster, however because of the bold iconography of the image it would immediately make the viewer look, even if they do not appreciate the genre. This I feel this was a successful decision and has been done deliberately to engage the viewer and focus the eye on the image so that the reader decides to look further. The iconography is strong, the red strawberry and lips give connotations of lust and sex, which a female audience will aspire to primarily as the passive male audience appreciates the image. I did this to highlight a point from Laura Mulvey’s theory of the Male Gaze that the camera in film, advertising and in fact any media is male. I used this theory within my research project and found that to engage my female target audience one also has to target the male audience as the camera has taken on the male perspective.

Again on my second poster the image was designed to match the title of the sitcom ‘Sex in the Suburbs’ which was subsequently layered on top of the image. The mise-en-scene was very important, as the image was to speak for itself, my model was dressed in 50’s clothing and her hair and make-up was immaculately done. I wanted to highlight this dated 50’s ideology in a modern society; therefore I chose to shoot my image within a kitchen. This was used in an ironic way to highlight another part of Mulvey’s theory to demonstrate the inequality in women and that these images similar to my own are not shocking but seem almost natural. Implemented within my work I also learnt how to use fragmenting within a shot. By focusing on her face and torso and slightly blurring out the rest of her body, this section of the body was emphasised in a sexual way helping re-enforce the message. Nevertheless I had to edit lighting into my shot because I did not have the means for natural or focused sunlight. I felt this was a negative aspect of my work and would have looked more natural if I was able to use lighting more effectively.

On my third piece I used four females to represent each character of the sitcom. I chose to create a mask on each of my characters, edit them to black and white and highlight each object they were holding in red. This is called equating women with objects, taken from the Male Gaze, and is mirrored in sitcoms such as Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City, where the central characters are placed with objects such as apples and knives to create the lustful, dangerous look. I did this to aim to attract my target audience of 18+ females, and therefore the male audience because of the sexual way it was shot. I had a positive response and successfully created a poster that attracted this demographic, as the audience were able to identify with the women in the poster.

All the characters in the posters are young attractive white females, and the text on each poster is seductive and risky, I feel that somebody from an ethnic background or an older audience may take an oppositional reading due to the narrative representations.

Another downfall to my production work would be that the characters used are not models or actresses therefore my posters may seem a little unrealistic especially when all the actresses are in the 18+ demographic range, therefore portraying the meaning successfully may be lost slightly as housewives, generally speaking, are older. One could argue however that the lack of real models and a lower age demographic could highlight the brutal reality of society’s ideals today, to re-enforce Mulvey’s theory that women have not overcome this patriarchal society but have simply conformed to it at an earlier age.
Nevertheless I felt my strengths shone through within my work, my ability to edit each photo through Photoshop using the spot healing brush to create a flawless look proved very successful. This was common to each piece to heighten the theme of ‘glamour’ and to appeal to the audiences so that they aspired to look like the characters. 

I feel that during the process of creating my production pieces, my original idea of using a laundrette as a background was too ambitious as to create these images successfully it had to look believable, and often poster sets are made to suit the occasion. If I was to create this effectively or to enhance my original posters I would need a better camera as posters like these are enlarged for billboards. I would also need a bigger budget in order to create sets and maximise lighting effects. Therefore by simplifying my ideas I feel I have created three unique posters that look professional, and give cohesion to my research project.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Methods for Analysing Media Representations

While students may have an intuitive sense of how the media represents certain phenomena, they need to learn some particular research techniques for how to analyze these representations. It is often useful to model these different techniques, demonstrating how you use them in analysis of a particular example.

The following are some steps involved in conducting studies, following by specific aspects associated with analysing representations:
  • Select a specific group, topic, issue, or phenomenon, and then discuss different representations of this topic/phenomenon in your texts.
  • Note patterns in these representations in terms of similarities in portrayals/images instances of stereotyping or normalising categories.
  • Note value assumptions in terms of who has power, who solves problems, how problems are solved.

Define the intended audiences for these representations:
  • What messages are conveyed to what audiences?
  • Whose beliefs or values are being reinforced or validated?
  • How are certain products linked to certain representations for certain audiences?

Define what’s missing or left out of the representation:
  • What complexities or differences are not discussed?
  • What is included and what is excluded?

Find alternative or counter-examples (this way you construct an argument)

Consider the potential consequences of stereotyped representations of gender, class, race, or age on people and the way they behave

List descriptions of others or oneself and note instances of stereotyping (how have values been altered)

Note how consumer practices reflect the need to live up to representations (aspirations)

In analysing representations, students can focus on the following aspects:

Images. The images employed that reflect certain positive versus negative value orientations based on cultural codes and archetypal meanings, for example, uses of dark or black colors to portray an urban area as dangerous or threatening (Lacey, 1998). In this semiotic analysis of representation, students are examining how the meaning of images as signifiers (wearing jeans vs. suits) creates certain signified or implied meanings (casualness/formality/dress for success).  (Cullin-Swan, B., & Manning, P. K., “Codes, Chronotypes, and Everyday Objects” )

These codes are culturally constituted. Stuart Hall (1997) cites the example of the meaning of traffic lights—the fact that the signified meanings of red and green are culturally determined based on a code system that indicates that in certain cultures, red means “stop” and green means “go.” The difference between red and green is what signifies the meaning based on the cultural code. To determine how images are representing a social or cultural world, you need to determine the code system underlying the media texts.

Sound/music. Media texts represent social worlds through the uses of sound or music. They may represent certain regions of the world by using music associated with those worlds, for example, Samba or Calypso music to represent South American worlds. These uses of sound or music are often based on audience’s prior knowledge of certain types of music as associated with certain types of experiences or worlds.

Intertextuality. Media representations also depend on audiences’ knowledge of intertextual links between the current texts and other previous texts using the same images, language, sounds, or logos. For example, understanding the Energizer Bunny battery ads, in which the Energizer Bunny suddenly appears at the end of an ad, requires a prior understanding of previous Energizer Bunny ads. Audiences understand the meaning of certain representations because they have knowledge of these intertextual lnks. They enjoy fact that they are “in the know” about the intertextual references being made. In analyzing media representations, you therefore need to determine the intertextual links being employed to previous texts, and how these links are being used to represent a world in a certain manner.

Dan Chandler’s discussion of intertextuality

Gunhild Agger, Aalborg University, Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies

Language. In studying how language is used to represent experience, you are studying how language actually serves to create realities or worlds. The idealized language of advertising is used to create worlds in which flaws or problems are instantly dealt with or solved. The language of sports commentary is used to dramatize the significance of a game to keep viewers watching the game.

In defining these debates, you are also determining how audiences are being positioned to accept certain representations as “normal” or “common sense” constructions of reality. You may then describe how you are being positioned by these debates by asking the question: “What does this text want you to be or think?”

For more click here

Friday, 17 February 2017

'A' Grade Exam Response: Film 'Sin City'/'Fish Tank'

Here is a condensed guide of how to make use of language to approach exam questions (Film)

How typical are your three main texts of their genre?

Another convention of film noir that is evident in 'Sin City' is the constant visual iconography and noir style in the mise-en-scene. When a character appears from the shadows, wearing a trench-coat in the rain it clearly indicates conventions of the film noir genre. The use of rain in 'Sin City's mise-en-scene highlights the dark and gloomy atmosphere of the post-war American society, using pathetic fallacy as away of representing its genre. In this same way the trench-coat Hartigan is wearing also visually references film noir protagonists, making it typical of its genre.

As well as its visual references to film noir 'Sin City' also uses key visual conventions and iconography of the comic-book genre. For example the trench-coat each protagonist wears highlights their status as a comic-book hero, by referencing the long cape of a superhero. This supports the idea that 'Sin City' may be untypical of its genre, as it combines two genres to create irony: a parody of conventions, rather than being truly typical.

'Fish Tank', my third text, is more typical of its social realism genre, and unlike my other films can be defined as more typical. The film deals with real life issues and can easily recognised as typical by its themes and technical stylistics. The scene when Connor, Michael Fassbender's character, 'grooms' and then sleeps with the underage Mia in a council flat highlights a very real and controversial issue in modern day British society. This makes it highly typical of the social realist genre as previous films in the genre, such as Ken Loach's 'My Name Is Joe' have explored similar representations of how alcoholism has affected and impacted upon individuals in British society.

The use of hand held camera and depth of field in the opening sequence, when Mia is followed through the council estate in an extended tracking wide shot, reinforce the visual aesthetics of the social realist style. The style makes it appear more realistic (a typical approach), adding to the impact and sense that these types of events really occur in society: almost as if it was 'documenting' real life. This connection between the chosen style and the context make 'Fish Tank' highly typical of the social realist genre; characters portray real life social problems and the visual style gives it more 'realism': unlike 'Sin City' which is highly stylised and based on a combination (or hybrid) of film noir and comic-book genre conventions.   

Key strengths:
References to the question: Repeated reference to key words in the question show an engagement with the central issues
Use of terminology: Details of stylistic features shows an understanding of how meaning is conveyed
Develops an argument: An argument is supported by reference to key moments & issues in each film

MS4 - Text, Industry & Audience: Fish Tank (Genre/Representation)

Katie Jarvis:

In this interview in Little White Lies Fish Tank actress Katie Jarvis talks about her crazy last 12 months and her hopes for the future.

When Katie Jarvis won the Best British Performance award at Edinburgh this year, she didn’t need to thank God, or her hairdresser or any of the acceptance speech regulars. She needed to thank her boyfriend for being a pain in the arse.

Because if Katie’s boyfriend wasn’t a pain in the arse, they wouldn’t argue so much. And if they didn’t argue so much, she wouldn’t have been mouthing off at him across the platform of Tilbury Town train station in 2008. And if she hadn’t been mouthing off at him across the platform of Tilbury Town train station in 2008, the casting assistant for Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank would never have noticed her. And if the casting assistant for Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank had never noticed her, the landscape of young British actors would look subtly but vitally different. Plucked off the streets of Essex with no acting experience, Katie has seen her face plastered across billboards, her name celebrated in exalted circles and her debut film nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

Fish Tank is the second feature from a writer/director whose hard-bitten debut, Red Road, catapulted her into the front line of young, socially conscious British filmmakers. Fish Tank is a worthy successor, shot entirely on location in Essex, where the urban sprawl of London gives way to the wide open spaces where the Thames meets the sea.

Read the full interview here.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

'Fish Tank': Very Good Student Response

'Fish Tank' is a social realist film targeted at a niche audience; this is a film displaying a realistic portrayal of British society and the physical and mental struggles that some individuals face. The actors used in social realist films are usually unknown actors, for example; Mia was selected to feature in 'Fish Tank' because she was caught rowing with her boyfriend at a train station, the use of unknown actors adds to the realism factor of the text. Typically, films within the social realist genre are gritty, urban dramas about the struggle to survive the daily grind; this is true of this particular film. In this particular film, nearly all of the shots are filmed via a handheld camera; the use of the handheld camera in social realist films expresses the characters feelings and makes it more realistic and believable. Shots also used are tracking shots to show her walking at a very fast pace, almost as if she is running away from her problems. For example when Mia is first shown in the opening scene walking briskly through the estate the camera tracks her in a hand-held shot to reinforce the sense of realism. At this point only the diegetic sounds of the Urban estate can be heard with traffic noises recognised some way in the distance. When Mia throws stones and yells abuse at her friends father her attitude and behaviour reveal the working class conventions of the social realist genre. Her East London ascent and her use of swear words; such as "Tell your old man he's a ****" give a clear indication of her lower class upbringing and  'chavvy' representation; once again regular aspects within the genre.

During one scene Mia is using the hob and a saucepan to boil some water which shows they don’t have a kettle. This also displays the social realist convention of a lack of wealth, which is shown the miss-en-scene of the estate they live; they don’t even close the front door to their property. The horse in the film that Mia tries to free has a significant impact, I believe this is trying to show the fact they are connected in that they are both trapped and facing a struggle, the struggle faced is a convention of this particular genre of film. The lighting in a social realist film is usually natural because it makes the shots more open and doesn’t change the natural effect that the use of staged lighting may destroy. The only time natural lighting isn’t used is when Mia drifts into a fantasy moment and the lighting changes to an orange tint, her breathing also becomes heavier and exaggerated diegetically creating an enigma code as to why she is breathing this way. This enigma code is uncovered when she sleeps with Connor and the heavy breathing is repeated. Issues of representation and particularly Laura Mulvey’s theory of 'the male gaze' are opposed in 'Fish Tank' due to Mia’s female gaze and the way she sees Connor as lustful and the way her scopophillic desires are satisfied. Mia heard her mum having sex with Connor, but also Mia’s younger sister also heard Mia having sex with him, this shows that they are trapped in a cycle of learning behaviour from one another, as they are trapped in such a tightly-knit environment. When the balloon glides away at the end it could be to represent Mia’s freedom and how she has escaped the urban struggle which hopefully moving away with her new boyfriend will eliminate.

Good work Jack

'Fish Tank': It's Relevance to 1950's/1960's British Social Realist Films

In Andrea Arnold’s film, “Fish Tank,” an unsmiling 15-year-old named Mia (Katie Jarvis), who lives in a housing project in Essex, in England, becomes close to the boyfriend of her uncaring mother. The man, an Irish charmer named Connor, played by Michael Fassbender, gives her money and lends her his video camera so that she can tape herself dancing to hip-hop. It soon becomes apparent that the relationship between Mia and Connor is becoming dangerously intimate.

Ms. Arnold shot “Fish Tank” in a raw, nonjudgmental and observational style with plenty of hand-held camerawork. The film, which was in the United States on Friday, is recognizably the work of the same unflinching filmmaker who made “Red Road” (2006) and “Wasp,” which won the 2005 Oscar for best live-action short. The consistent look and the working-class milieu of Ms. Arnold’s films align them with the three British directors most associated with social realism: Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Alan Clarke, who died in 1990.

The difficulties in Britain of raising money to make films prohibits cohesive movements in the national cinema, and like other directors who have worked in a social realist style — including Gary Oldman (the actor, who directed “Nil by Mouth”), Carine Adler (“Under the Skin”), Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher”) and Duane Hopkins (“Better Things”) — Ms. Arnold is something of a lone voice. Her reputation as an auteur could come to rest on whether her films successfully harness her chosen style to express social themes, or whether they are merely anecdotes that look like Mr. Loach’s films.

Ms. Arnold admits to being a fan of Mr. Loach, but is hesitant about making claims for herself as a social realist. “I guess I am,” she allowed during a recent telephone interview. “When people have suggested it, I’ve said, ‘Oh, am I?’ I know it sounds kind of mad, but I just get on and make my films in my own way as best I can. I’m not aware that I’m joining any group. I know that all the people that have made similar films in the past paved the way for me to be able to do it, and I’m obviously influenced by what came before, but I’m not that conscious of it.”


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

'A' Grade Exam Response: Section A - Text (Film)

How typical are your three main texts of their genre?

The three texts chosen are a mixture of genres. Postmodern films in today's society are growing more prominent, two of the three films are hybrids of two or more genres, these two being 'Sin City' and 'District 9'. The third is 'Fish Tank', a purely social realist film.

'Sin City' is a hybrid of film noir, comic book and horror conventions which is not only postmodern but is also typical in its use of genre conventions. 'Sin City' uses classic film noir conventions such as a cynical protagonist in the form of two main characters Hartigan and Marv, rain-soaked streets, low-key lighting and a voice-over narrative. A good example of this cynical protagonist convention is Marv who states that "Hell is waking up every goddam day and not knowing why you're here" in a voice over. This shows how much he despises himself, it also shows a typical film noir genre convention in his character portrayal and the way his thoughts are conveyed. This stems from the theme of paranoia, an aspect of all film noir characters which originates from the 1940's view of society in the wake of World War II and the possibility of a new 'cold war'.

Another example of 'cold war' paranoia can be seen through Bruce Willis's character Hartigan. One scene reflects this mood when Hartigan is shot in the back by his cop 'buddy' Bob, again this displays the typical noir convention of corruption and anxiety present in such classic films as 'Double Indemnity' and 'The Maltese Falcon'. Hartigan's heroic actions are demonstrated in his desire to save the innocent girl Nancy from the corrupt Senator's son, he clearly wishes to stop evil which is dominating the powerful leaders in the city. He cannot depend upon friends and is impelled by his conscience to oppose 'sin' as a moralistic cause which leads to his demise as females tend to do in typical noir narratives.

In terms of mise-en-scene the trench coat Hartigan wears is typical of the noir genre but it also resembles the typical comic-book convention of a 'caped super-hero', making the film somewhat of a hybrid. Applying Propp's character roles within the comic-book genre in 'Sin City' we can see how the cape has been used to represent a superhero, constantly blowing in the wind. However when Marv goes to kill or hurt somebody he removes his trench coat showing he is carrying out a good deed, his character is more complex, more of an anti-hero another typical noir convention.

Noir films typically also contain a femme-fatale and 'Sin City' contains many. Each male character has contact with a female character who could, in some way, be said to resemble this common character; for Hartigan it's Nancy, for Marv it's Wendy and for Dwight it's Shelley & Gail. Wheras Wendy and Shelley are typical femme-fatales, Nancy is also seen as an innocent young girl, displaying how the genre can be made different for a postmodern audience.

'District 9' is also a hybrid genre, mixing typical Sci-Fi conventions with documentary stylistics and narrative structure. Typical Sci-Fi conventions can be seen with the use of advanced technology, aliens, robotics and spaceships. These conventions are mixed though with a documentary style approach to the narrative structure creating a feeling that the events are 'real'. The use of 'faux' stock footage of news reports and interviews with experts and civilians makes the events seem more truthful or realistic. The use of hand-held camera also reinforces this reading as this is a typical cinematic technique of a documentary.

In the opening scenes of 'District 9' we see interviews with various 'expert' witnesses giving us clear exposition to the events which have led up to the alien landings. This is important in developing a realistic documentary approach to the narrative, something that may be seen as new to the typical Sci-Fi conventions of other films such as 'The Fly' or 'Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers'. The interaction between the main character Wikus and the cameraman, when he is unable to remove his microphone from his clothing, is playful in its approach to mixing the realistic and the fictional elements of the film. This is something not typical of the Sci-Fi genre but shows how genres repeat conventions and also make them different by mixing styles.

'Fish Tank' however is not a hybrid, it follows the codes and conventions of the social realist genre very closely. Its kitchen sink style relates to well established generic techniques and themes. It revolves around topical social issues (family dysfunction & underage sex), makes use of hand-held camera and can be viewed as gritty and realistic in terms of its representation of British social life. The mise-en-scene of a working class council estate can be seen in the opening sequence and is typical of the genre. In this scene we can instinctively conclude that this is of the social realist genre as Mia shouts "Tell your old man that I think he's a c*nt". This alone clearly shows her working class upbringing; but the use of long takes, hand-held camera and use of only diegetic urban sounds as she quickly walks through the estate can be seen as typical stylistic conventions of the social realist genre. Her brisk walking continues throughout the film and suggests a character who is going nowhere fast. Original social realist films of the 1960's such as 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' and 'A Taste of Honey' dealt with similar social issues and also contained similar techniques, but they tended to include non-diegetic music to support the action and emotional context to appeal to a mainstream audience. This shows how the genre has developed over time, as all genres do, but 'Fish Tank' has pushed the genre to new depths of realism by attempting to create more realistic representations of social situations. 

The narrative issue of 15 year old Mia's desire for a sexual relationship with Connor, her mother's boyfriend, could also be seen as a controversial topic in today's society to spark debate, a regular consequence of the generic conventions of social realism. 

In conclusion, all three texts are very typical of their genres, using many classic conventions from each different genre. In some cases these may be mixed with other genres to develop a wider audience and create difference for modern audiences.