Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Notes for lesson 24 Jan on application of theory

Have a look at the assessment criteria for a Level 4 essay (24 -30 marks out of 30)

The candidate must provide the following:
  • a clear and systematic account of the stages of production, from researching the brief and targeting an audience to a technical account of decisions and revisions made.
  • There is a detailed and thorough analysis of the finished product in terms of how decisions about form and content have affected meaning, and how the text communicates through its forms and conventions.
  • Where appropriate, explicit reference is made to ideas encountered on the course.
  • The production is placed in the wider context of media institutions and audiences by thorough analysis of the ways in which the text compares with real media output and an evaluation of the relationship of product to audience (including audience feedback)

How is THEORY relevant to these criteria?

Monday, 19 November 2007


Test shoot this weekend!!! You need to really focus now on what you want to get out of this shoot. What are you going to test? What do you need to plan and organise? What do you need to take into account beforehand? What equipment will you need?

Lots to think about! Your lessons and production meetings this week need to focus on 2 things - partly the sequence itself and partly the shoot.

Some excellent group blogging btw, keep it up!

posted by Ms B

Sunday, 28 October 2007

For those of you receiving negative feedback on your blogs . . .

It's a pity about those of you who don't seem to have caught on to the fact that you are being assessed on your blog and how your marks will contribute to the overall total for the project (see previous posting for how this works).

It seems odd to me that anyone would be scoring less than an A at this stage. So if you're stuck on a B or a C (or worse) and are not sure what you should have done by now, I've re-posted the menu of ideas that you could have picked from - see below.

You have a bit of catch up time (a week?)but really you should be moving onto the new stuff - don't neglect this either or it will just get worse. I'll have a look at your blogs again soon - maybe there'll be some more evidence and I can assess you more positively.

here's a list of the kinds of things I should be seeing on your blog - it's up to you to choose. You should be aiming for some range and some depth. There should be plenty of analysis, applied theory and some visual stuff. You need to be showing off what you know and what you've done so far. The really good blogs are showing how their research is inspiring them to come up with really good production ideas too. Why not look at some of them for inspiration??

What to include (for those of you who are playing a game of catch-up):
1. moodboards - visual representations of thriller
2. Useful weblinks
3. Film sites - analyse a favourite
4. Explorations of theory discussed in class - applied to chosen films or scenes
5. Film stills with analysis
6. DVD covers with analysis
7. Short sequences with analysis
8. How to. . . clips - continuity, fx etc
8. Definitions of the genre
9. Research on a particular sub-genre you are interested in
10.Notes from your reading around the genre
11.A record of your thriller screenings
12.Discussion of thrillers that have inspired you
13.Your own thriller related stills
14.Research into a particular director who interests you
15.British film research, particularly UK independent thrillers and thrillers from the past

hope this helps
posted by Ms B

Your blogging - what to do next!

Some amazing blogging seen so far - well done to those of you achieving A standard at this stage or those of you who are very close!! Some great efforts - well done.

The current focus for the blogs (for the next 2 weeks) should be:

1. continuous development of your own ideas for production - locations, actors, ideas for plot, the look of the opening sequence etc

2. analysis of opening sequences from real thrillers as inspiration for your own, don't forget to concentrate on graphics, credits etc - these are SOOOO important

3. analysis of opening sequences from student films (see above set hwk)

4. analysis of moving image sequences - camera and continuity editing

Keep up the good work!
posted by ms b

welcome back!

hey year 12's, hope you're all refreshed and ready to kick off your production work soon! find some inspiration on youtube - go to latymer media, and have a look at the 2005 and 2006 thrillers.

Hwk then - to watch as many as possible, but at least the ones discussed here as a minimum, and blog some of your own responses. Read my comments below to encourage you to focus on the right kinds of things:

group 1's sequence works really well for me in many ways - the one with the 2 men in the car planning a 'hit'.

For example:
*there's some great use of continuity editing, and really interesting camera work. *it's very 'thriller' in lots of ways.
*it's character driven - much easier than something with lots of action to pack in. *it keeps things really simple, 1 location, 2 characters,1 idea for the audience to follow - doesn't try to do too much or go for overkill
*great script, very tight and signifies the roles of the characters and the relationship between them very effectively
*it's plausible (believable) and menacing at the same time
*really well acted and mise-en-scene spot on

Negatives: the group struggled with sound quality, they were limited by the equipment but coped well nonetheless

the other groups in this year faced all sorts of problems, not because they didnt work hard but mainly because they over-complicated and tried to do too much. have a look at them - you'll see what i mean. there's some really great work there - (particularly some great camera work)but not fully sustained perhaps. continuity causes lots of problems mainly because students don't think about it enough in the planning stage. working through your shot by shot sequence in advance and storyboarding the tricky bits is really essential. see what you think anyway.

Also have a look at the 2006 sequences ie the current upper 6th. there are some really simple but effective ones here too. try 2e - very similar idea to the car one that i've just discussed. one location, super continuity work, acting mise-en-scene all effective. you couldn't do this kind of continuity without working it all out in advance, as with the previous one.

also 1c - 1 room, 3 or 4 actors, mise-en-scene including lighting and camera work really atmospheric, although some problems with continuity that had to be disguised with dissolves and some rather stilted dialogue as a result. 4e had many issues with lighting but check out the camera work in this clever domestic thriller. they do a good job of the flashbacks too, but these created all sorts of problems at the time.

the best sequences are really simple, as i have said but still really ambitious. conversation is hard to do well, by the way, but well worth having a go at - especially as we now have the right sound equipment - boom mics etc. we have new portable lights too, which should make a big difference generally.

the most succesful sequences prove to me that it is much better to concentrate your efforts on your development of a continuous sequence than it is to jump around from scene to scene with flashbacks, different locations and actors etc. there's enough to worry about getting your continuity right!!

saying that, there's plenty of other good work from this year group too. 4c's ghostly tale works really well as does 3c's dodgy stepfather idea. the kidnap is effective in 2c's. these all stick to the 'rules' of 1 location, and just a couple of actors. 1e tried a different approach and really go for it with a range of locations and characters all building up to an intriguing meeting.

all in all, i would say that year after year, our students turn out great sequences but focus mainly on thriller genre signifiers, camera work, acting and some elements of mise-en-scene. these are usually done really well. continuity is often an after-thought though, and very few seem to get the lighting right. dialogue is often avoided for being too tricky. the groups seem to fall out endlessly as well (not alway but often enoughg to become a real issue in some groups) and personality gets in the way of performance.

maybe 2007 is the year that all this will change!!!

posted by Ms B

Monday, 8 October 2007

Narrative Theory

4 narrative theorists/theories worth knowing about: Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Todorov, Propp

Claude Levi-Strauss’s Oppositions:
Levi-Strauss (pronounced Lev-ee, and no relation to the Jeans guy), introduced the notion of
binary oppositions as a useful way to consider the production of meaning within narratives.
He argued that all construction of meaning was dependent, to some degree, on these
oppositions. He worked out that elements in a story were paired; for every element in a story identified with one meaning, there was another element which is not that meaning. More specifically, that meaning must be the opposite.

Examples of binary oppositions found in some moving image narratives might be:
good v evil
hero v villain
rich v poor
fear v happiness
male v female
humanity v technology
nature v industrialisation
East v West
dark v light
dirt v cleanliness

You can see binary opposites in individual films and in film genres. Westerns, for example, went through a period in which binary oppositions included Homesteader vs ‘Red Indians’, Christian vs pagan, sheriff v outlaw, wilderness v cultivation and so on.

Roland Barthes action/enigma codes:
Roland Barthes was a semiotics professor in the 1950s and 1960s who got paid to spend all day unravelling little bits of texts and then writing about the process of doing so. Barthes decided that films are made up of narrative codes and in particular

• Action code & enigma code (Answers & questions)

It is helpful to think about Barthes action and enigma codes, as a) they are the two ways Barthes says suspense is created in narrative and b) they’re great to drop into your textual analyses!

The Enigma code refers to those plot elements that raise questions on the part of the reader of a text or the viewer of a film. For example, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Cause and Effect,” we see the Enterprise destroyed in the first five minutes, which leads us to ask the reason for such a traumatic event.

The action code, on the other hand, refers to mere actions – those plot events that simply lead to yet other actions. For example, a gunslinger draws his gun on an adversary and we wonder what the resolution of this action will be. We wait to see if he kills his opponent or is wounded himself. Suspense is thus created by action rather than by a reader’s or a viewer’s wish to have mysteries explained.

Tzvetan Todorov’s narrative structure:
Todorov is a Bulgarian philosopher now living in France. His theory is a relatively simple one
and relates to the way fictional narratives are structured. It goes something like this:

1. The fictional environment begins with a state of equilibrium (everything is as it should be)
2. It then suffers some disruption (disequilibrium)
3. New equilibrium is produced at the end of the narrative

There are five stages the narrative can progress through:
• A state of equilibrium (all is as it should be)
• A disruption of that order by an event
• A recognition that the disorder has occurred
• An attempt to repair the damage of the disruption
• A return or restoration of a NEW equilibrium

Here narrative is not seen as a linear structure but a circular one. The narrative is driven by
attempts to restore the equilibrium. However, the equilibrium attained at the end of the story
is not identical to the initial equilibrium.

Todorov argues that narrative involves a transformation. The characters or the situations are
transformed through the progress of the disruption. The disruption itself usually takes place
outside the normal social framework, outside the ‘normal’ social events.

For example:
• A murder happens and people are terrified
• Someone vanishes and the characters have to solve the mystery

So, remember:
• Narratives don’t need to be linear.
• The progression from initial equilibrium to restoration always involves a transformation.
• The middle period of a narrative can depict actions that transgress everyday habits and
• There can be many disruptions whilst seeking a new equilibrium (horror relies on this

Vladimir Propp‘s Folk tales/ character types:
Vladimir Propp was a Russian academic who He identified eight character roles common to every folk or fairy tale. They were:
1. The villain
2. The hero, or character who seeks something, usually motivated by a lack of something (money, love etc.) The hero doesn’t have to be heroic in the way most people would understand it – heroes can be male or female, brave or cowardly.
3. The donor, who provides an object with some magic property.
4. The helper, who aids the hero
5. The princess, reward for the hero, and object of the villain’s schemes. Again, this is not necessarily a beautiful damsel in distress – the princess can be male!
6. Her father, who rewards the hero.
7. The dispatcher, who sends the hero on his way
8. The false hero.

Propp’s theories become particularly interesting when film-makers break the rules. Audiences may not be particularly conscious of these spheres of action, but they notice when media producers mess around with them. For example, the character we perceive as the hero in Psycho is killed half an hour into the film.

btw - it's all very well knowing about this, but the question is: in what way is it useful to you and what can you do with it??

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Individual blogs

Some really impressive blogging going on, well done! Super research, analysis, ideas and visuals from many of you, particularly:
Emma and

Some great design work and analysis from

Don't forget to check for comments if your name is listed above. Also if you comment on someone else's blog don't forget to identify yourself!

Jake, Zen, Mike, Nick, Liam - you're all up + running with posts and a bit of customising, so moving in the right direction. Lets see some real progress with research, analysis, visuals ands ideas now.

If your name isn't mentioned, you're playing a bit of a catch up game now, so get cracking!!

btw - check out max's youtube video link posted on his blog if you get a minute

posted by ms b