Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Production inspiration - Film poster based upon the comic book genre

Typical comic book film poster conventions:
  • Composition - Close-ups and mid shots/characters in a stance ready for action or a fight, often holding a form of weapon. Blank, or angry facial expressions.
  • Lighting - Dark/low key lighting backgrounds.
  • Iconography - Masks, capes, costumes and weapons.
  • Colour scheme - Yellow, red (blood, violence and passion) and black.
  • Font - Bold fonts, often in a bold colour. Usually with a form of brush splatter around the edges.

A2 Media, television industry - audience homework

Section 1 (formal sentence responses)

1A) Identify the main targeted audience of Mad Men.
Matthew Weiner's American period drama television series, Mad Men, follows the employees at Sterling Cooper advertising agency in 1960's Madison Avenue, New York. The text targets an active niche audience, who are attracted to a specific subject or area; for example, in Mad Men the audience is drawn in by the high production cost, stylised cinematography and acclaimed mise-en-scene.

1B) Identify one way the text has been encoded to appeal to that type of audience.
The text has been encoded to appeal to a niche audience, with one aspect of this being the stereotypical representation of females. The target audience of Mad Men is a middle class male demographic, mainly due to the highbrow nature of the text. A female interpretation of the text may acknowledge that women are successful, independent and strong within the company. Through the narrative and mise-en-scene, the women are physically attractive, successful within their careers and gather a lot of male attention, confirming their status. A female interpretation of the text would be negotiated, as it wavers from a positive and negative reading. Many women would take a negative reading, however some women may take a preferred reading to Mad Men. A feminist view may argue that the negative themes oppress femininity.

1C) Justify how that point/technique/convention would gratify your previously identified type of audience.
The typical stereotype and objectification of women would gratify the programmes active niche audience, as they would probably take a negotiated reading, and/or possibly negative. The way women are shown to be successful at one scene, and then shown to be corrupt and 'weak' in other scenes, would enable an active viewer to question this gender stereotype, and make comparisons between other characters within the narrative, for example, comparing Joan and Megan's struggles without/against men. The viewer may gain gratifications from the uses and gratifications model e.g. gaining an insight into circumstances of other.

1D) Describe a narrative sequence where this point/technique/convention is present.
With reference to the text (series 5, episode 11), Joan sleeps with a businessman in order to secure an advertising contract for the agency, in return for a percentage of the company, and ultimately, money. Don Draper's wife, Megan Draper is an aspiring actress, who is subtly controlled by him. At her audition she is seen as an object for men, as she is told to turn around by a male casting agent, where the 3 men respond by looking at her body, fragmenting her body for the pleasure of men. This proves that the Laura Mulvey male gaze theory (1975) is present in Mad Men, as Megan is wearing a short length dress and is objectified.

Section 2

2) Does Lost target a passive audience? Justify your answer.
The main intended target audience of J.J. Abrams' hit 2004 television series, Lost, is mainstream. Despite the text attracting a large mainstream audience, it has been encoded to be inclusive for both an active and passive audience.
A passive audience would be gratified by Lost, by the use of techniques and conventions such as the score, telling the viewer how to feel at specific moments; the ensemble cast, which allows the audience to relate more with the characters, as a wider minority is represented; the hybrid genre, which attracts a wider audience with a wider variation of interests; and the narrative structure, allowing the audience to not necessarily watch the episodes in order, with an easy to follow plot.
The high usage of enigma codes would attract an active audience, as the viewer must attempt to solve the mysteries shown on screen. The enigma codes can often go for many episodes and even series', with no or little explanation. An active audience would be gratified by this, as they would enjoy decoding the text, and most likely see it as a challenge.

3) Identify how Lost is encoded to gratify a passive audience?
J.J. Abrams' television series, Lost, is encoded to gratify a passive audience, through its constant use of technical and narrative conventions. The text uses aspects such as a score, an ensemble cast, hybrid genres and enigma codes. All of these themes attract a passive audience. Lost has been encoded with these features, to attract a mainstream passive audience, with these viewers being 'spoon fed' the narrative within the text. An example of this is when Sawyer tells Jack he is "a hero", this results in a passive audience hearing this remark made by another character and believing what is being told to them. This is using Vladimir Propp's classic character role theory, telling the audience his role within the group. An active audience would not need this information telling to them, as they would be able to easily decode the text, and identify the 'hero'.

4) Justify one point/technique/convention that would force Mad Men's audience to decode the text actively in order to gain gratifications.
Mad Men has a lack of non-diegetic sound and score, compared to a mainstream text with a passive target audience. This forces the audience to actively decode the text for themselves, without the aid of a score telling/giving clues to the audience about the emotions characters are feeling, or how the audience themselves should ideally react. In some parts of the text, non-diegetic music can be heard, which does partially give the audience clues about the current and upcoming narrative, for example, at the ending of series 5 episode 11 (The Other Woman), the character Peggy Olson is leaving the agency, when The Kinks, 'You Really Got Me' can be heard playing, this gives a sense of the era, as the hit song was released in 1964. This would also show to an active audience that Peggy is moving on to bigger and better things by accepting a new job and leaving the agency.

5) Explain and justify how Peaky Blinders has been encoded to gratify both passive and active audience.
Steven Knight's period drama television series, Peaky Blinders, has been encoded to gratify both an active, and passive audience.
The use of film stars appeals to a passive audience, using people such as Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight Trilogy), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and Helen McCrory (Harry Potter franchise). Using acclaimed actors/actresses attracts an audience, as people will recognise and enjoy the acting. Fans of the stars will also want to watch the programme, to watch their new work.
The high production cost attracts an active niche audience, as they would enjoy the accurate cinematography from the era, in addition to the uses and gratifications that they would receive. The successful channel placing has also contributed towards the attraction of an active niche audience, as BBC2 historically screened programmes focusing on the arts, culture, drama and some comedy. A reputation developed for 'high brow' drama, showing intellectual and cultural shows. The series contains features of a highbrow text but also contains various mainstream conventions. Technical aspects such as the non-diegetic sound, can at times allow the viewer to feel emotions that the creators intended, with reference to the heartbeat/drum rhythm, creating tension. This allows the audience to become more passive. The mise-en-scene and accurate cultural and historical knowledge also attracts the audience. The high production value reflects the era in which it was made, creating a theme of retrophilia, with the viewers enjoying style and history from the past. This attracts a

6) Justify the statement "Lost is encoded to be inclusive".
Lost had been encoded to be inclusive, as both active and passive audiences can be gratified by watching the text.
The use of score, ensemble cast and hybrid genre, are all conventions which would attract a passive audience. E.g. the use of mainstream character roles within an ensemble cast would allow the audience to relate to more of the characters, and some of the problems which the face.
A popular use of enigma codes and mainstream narrative devices, would attract an active audience, as attempting to solve the shows mysteries and enigma codes would appeal to an active viewer. Uses and gratifications would also be received from these conventions, for example; escaping, or being diverted from problems; finding models of behaviour; identifying with already gained values.

7) Why does the use of a score appeal to a more passive audience?
The use of a score basically tells the audience how to feel. This appeals to a more passive audience, as they would be viewing the text and not de-coding. The non-diegetic sound combined with the score helps the audience feel the same emotions as the character within the text at that particular time. For example, a use of loud fast beating drums within the score would give the audience a feeling of nervousness and a sense of action.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Lost: Audience response

Has Lost won any awards?
What are the criticisms of the text?
What have fans produced after watching the text?

Lost has won a total of 57 awards with 251 nominations. Some of the awards won include:
  • Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series
  • J. J. Abrams was awarded an Emmy in September in 2005 for his work as director of "Pilot"
  • Writers Guild of America Awards 2005 for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for a Dramatic Television Series
  • 2005 Producers Guild Award for Best Production
  • 2005 Director's Guild Award for Best Direction of a Dramatic Television Programme
  • Screen Actors Guild Award 2005 for Best Ensemble Cast
  • Golden Globe for Best Television Drama Series in 2006
  • Jorge Garcia and Michelle Rodriguez won ALMA Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a television series in 2006
  • Saturn Award for Best Television Series in 2005 and 2006
  • Terry O'Quinn won a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor in a television series in 2005 and 2006
  • Matthew Fox won Best Lead Actor in the Saturn Awards 2006
  • Lost won consecutive Television Critics Association Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Drama for the 1st and 2nd seasons
  • 2005 and 2006 Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Programme
  • Young Artist Award for Malcolm David Kelley for his performance as Walt in 2006
  • 2005 Entertainment Weekly's Entertainer of the Year
  • 2005 Prism Award for Charlie's drug storyline in the episodes "Pilot", "House of the Rising Sun" and "The Moth"
  • In 2007 Lost was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME"
  • In June 2007 Lost won Best Drama award at the Monte Carlo Television Festival
  • Terry O'Quinn won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in September 2007
  • In 2009 Michael Emerson won the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards
As the series' of the show continued, the show got a lot of criticism. With its audience criticising the lack of information about the characters, in addition to the long drawn out enigma codes, which took multiple episodes and in cases series' to answer.
"After the first season, many viewers of the show began to grow tired of the flashbacks. They were perceived by some to be repetitive and recycling information we were already aware of; flashbacks have gotten less important than they were in the first season, taking away from the on-island story lines. The producers have found new ways to make flashbacks interesting, such as flashbacks of on-island incidents, both before and during the main protagonists time on the island and, from the end of season 3 onwards, flash forwards." - www.lostpedia.wikia.com
"Many complain that Lost moved too slowly and there is a lack of answers in the show. This has turned many people off, even Lost fans over time. Typically, Season Two of Lost has been under fire the most for having little or no action in most episodes. The season three premiere had twenty percent less viewers than the season two premiere, and many critics worried that the producers were just making it up as they went along." - www.lostpedia.wikia.com
"There's been a pervading sense that the creators really don't know what the hell is going on, and they're just as surprised to find out whats happening as the audience is." - Steven Simunic, critic
"ABC's 'Lost' has lost nearly half its live audience - more than 10 million people - from the days it was a sensation." - CNN.com

What have fans produced?
The Lost fan base created an online website, Lostpedia (www.lostpedia.wikia.com). The site allows fans of the show to share and view information and reviews about the show, characters and episodes. In addition to a forum, where an account can be created and fans can talk to each other online, sharing their predictions and views of the show. Photos and videos can also be uploaded and seen/watched, in addition to transcripts from each episode. All of these features have resulted in an online community of Lost fans to gain information, discuss the show and post their views. This could be classed as escapism of the uses and gratifications model, as the fans can divert their attention towards the site.
Here is an extract from the website's 'About us' page: "100 Million Fans Strong and ranked a Top 10 Social Network by Nielsen, Wikia operates the world's largest network of collaboratively published games, entertainment, and lifestyle content on the web. Our knowledgeable and devoted fans created hundreds of wikias every day on a trusted and customisable platform designed to help people share what they know and love".

Identify: Lost

Who is the intended target audience of Lost?
The main intended target audience of the hit 2004 television series Lost is mainstream. The show attracts a large mainstream audience and has been coded to be inclusive for both active and passive audiences. This is shown through genre conventions, and more specifically the narrative, enigma codes and ensemble cast. The shows hybridity counts towards its success as a mainstream text.

The text, in particular the episode that I analysed, series 1, episode 2, "The Pilot" part 2, features two flashbacks, which is part of a non-linear narrative and allows the viewer a deeper insight into the previous events. This narrative allows the audience to watch the episode without watching the previous episode, and still gain an insight into the current plot. This is displayed in scenes 1 and 2 of the episode, as the narrative jumps to a flashback within the first few minutes of the episode. Another common convention of the genre is binary opposition, created by Levi Strauss. This is demonstrated at the beginning of the episode on the beach, when Claire and Shannon are talking. Claire is heavily pregnant and fully clothed, whereas Shannon is fragmented in a bikini, showing of her body. Another example of this is when Kate is bathing in a bikini when she is approached by Sun, who is also fully clothed as she is controlled by her husband, showing different ethnic backgrounds and traditions, approaching a wider target audience.

The episode has a very large use of enigma codes. This keeps the viewers entertained and curious as to what is going to happen next. The enigma codes are usually given to the audience just before an advertisement break, which keeps the audience guessing and tuned into the programme. Throughout the series', the enigma codes are not always answered within the same episode and can be left unanswered for many episodes. Some examples of the enigma codes within this specific episode include the mystery of the handcuffs and the paranoia/questioning of the characters, which is unexplained until the end of the episode. The attack from the Polar Bear on the island is a mystery, as the island is obviously tropical and Polar Bears do not live in the climate. This question is not answered within the episode, in addition to the location. At the end of the episode, the question is asked, "where are we?", which is a question that the audience has probably been asking for the entirety of the episode and the previous episode. Again, the episode ends on an enigma code, as the group of characters attempting to find a signal to send for their rescue, discover a distress signal transmitted from the island 16 years ago, playing on a continuous loop. All of these enigma codes make the audience curious and want to watch the next episode(s). This is another mainstream convention.

Another convention used in the text is the stereotypical character roles. This text conforms to Propp's classic character role theory, as a few of the main characters act certain ways and are actually referred to as specific character roles. For example, Jack is referred to as being a hero by Sawyer. The females seek male approval, for example before the hike when Shannon asks Sayid if she can go on the hike. Her brother intervenes and refuses, but Sayid has the final say, allowing her to join them on their quest. Showing that ultimately, males have all of the power and dominancy. The large ensemble cast allows a wider viewing audience, conforming to more areas of the uses and gratifications theory. This is another mainstream convention, as the audience can relate deeper with the characters and certain scenarios.
All of these narrative themes and conventions prove that Lost is aimed at a mainstream audience.

Lost: Identify, choose and evidence.

Identify: Who is the main target audience?
Choose: Three conventions which will attract or are constructed to attract certain audiences.
Evidence: These conventions with narrative evidence/descriptions.

Lost is an American television series, first aired in 2004, directed by J. J. Abrams. The series attracted a wide mainstream audience, encoded to be inclusive. The enigma codes and narrative themes enable both active and passive audiences to be gratified by it.

  • Hybrid genre
  • Ensemble cast
  • Genre conventions and enigma codes
The genre of the text attracts a wide audience, due to its hybridity combining action adventure, fantasy and science-fiction. This attracts a wider audience, conforming to more areas of the uses and gratifications theory. A larger audience can be reached as fans of the genres will watch the series, as the genres are very popular. People are already familiar with the genres and want to watch what they already know.
The ensemble cast enables the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance and screen time, therefore allowing flexibility for the writers to focus on different characters in different episodes. The audience can usually identify with 1 or more of the narrative issues or different cultural and society groups for example nationality, as the nationalities of the characters include American, English, Korean, Australian and Iraqi.
Through the genre conventions and enigma codes, the audience can be easily identified. The use of frenetic chase scenes and fast pace cuts increasing tension are all conventions of the action genre. An example of this is the scene where the hiking group are being chased by the Polar Bear. All of these conventions are used, creating tension and mystery in addition to creating an enigma code as to why the bear is on a tropical island. The quest for the radio transmitter signal is a convention of the fantasy genre, in addition to the supernatural phenomena of the Polar Bear living on a tropical island. Science fiction genre conventions are present throughout the series, however they are not very apparent within the first few episodes. The narrative explores rationally alternative possibilities, justifying unlikely events with scientific theories.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Film noir conventions in 'Drive'

Character roles:
The character roles fit into the typical conventions of the film noir genre, including femme fatales, cynical protagonists and corrupted characters.
The lead protagonist 'the driver', shows very similar characteristics to the classic noir protagonists. 'The driver' is shown as being lonely with minimal dialogue. Goslings facial expression remains predominantly the same, showing a lack of emotion, giving an impression that he is in an un-stable mental state. In most texts, Noir protagonists are usually mentally or physically damaged, which reflects a trauma from a previous experience. Throughout the film, Gosling's character is not named, and only referred to as 'the driver', which suggests his lack of self value and his only purpose as a criminal get-away driver.
He does not value himself and acts to save the female (Irene). He is willing to sacrifice himself to ensure Irene is safe, proving his selflessness. This is evidenced when he and Irene are in the lift, when confronted by a man planning to kill them, however 'the driver' kills the man to ensure Irene's safety. Classic protagonists usually have a femme fatale they protect, however, they drag them into dangerous situations. These aspects are typical of a classic noir protagonist. The femme fatale character, Blanche, double crosses 'the driver', which creates fears of mis-trust and paranoia.

Narrative themes:
'The driver' is an anti-hero as he has no fatal flaw, and works to protect Irene and her son through acts of violence. Gosling's character has no desire for money or his own well-being, with his main purpose to protect Irene.
Blanche double crosses 'the driver', which creates a sense of paranoia. She informs the villains about the planned robbery, and also reveals their location, which results in her death, showing her naivety and lack of power.

Technical codes:
The beginning of the clip features Irene's face half cast in shadow, showing that she may have a corrupt side, which is a common noir convention. This mimics the 2005 hit film 'Sin City', as in the opening scene a similar lighting technique is shown on 'the assassin'. This is a technical code, in addition to the sinister music creating a binary opposition, as she is re-telling the story of how she met her husband. However, the clip has an eerie feel and tells the viewer that something bad is going to happen soon. This is confirmed when her husband is killed in the pawn shop robbery. This is shown through flashback, which is a very common film noir genre convention. Throughout the scene, low key lighting is used to show the corruptness and paranoia of the characters, in particular the lead protagonist, 'the driver'. After 'the driver' has just killed 2 people, his face is bloody and lit well in high key lighting with darkness around him, he then steps backwards into the shadow, therefore creating low key lighting on his face and body. This is an uncommon feature of a noir protagonist, as it shows his criminality and deceit.

Iconography and mise-en-scene:
The iconography of 'Drive' mimics the noir genre throughout. Many urban environments are used, in addition to a strip club and neon lights, which convey danger. Low key lighting is used to show the two sides to the characters, including 'the driver' and Blanche. The split lighting on their faces show their good side vs their corrupt side. We see this when 'the driver' commits an act of violence, however for a good reason to protect Irene. The split lighting shows the 2 sides to him, showing him as an anti-hero. Venetian blinds are also used, which is a large iconic visual convention used in film noir. Blanche is seen smoking which is another popular genre convention.

Short conclusion:
From just a short scene from the film, it is very apparent that the film contains many classic genre conventions from the film noir genre, although it is not classed as being part of the film noir genre, many conventions create noir themes.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Bechdel Test

"The Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Many contemporary works fail this test of gender bias."

"What is now known as the Bechdel test was introduced in Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled 'The Rule', an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:
  • It has to have at least two women in it
  • Who talk to each other
  • About something besides a man"