Sunday, 8 May 2011

Exam Practice:

Discuss the ways in which media products are produced and distributed to audiences within a media area you have studied:

In the media industry today, there is starting to become a new complex nature of media audiences, whereby audiences are becoming interested in the digital era. The ways in which convergence and social networking have transformed the audience are being considered as ‘audience fragmentation.’ In today’s climate however, media institutions are attempting to provide a ‘360 degree branding’ so that they can release their products and surround audiences with them across the converged media forms. Nowadays, the media world is slowly beginning to change from a ‘value chain’ whereby products are made and distributed to the audiences to ‘social networking’ where producers and audiences are becoming mixed up.

In today’s climate, digital distribution and consumption is starting to allow customers to become producers and become active users of the media. They are able to use software’s such as ‘web 2.0, youtube, myspace, second life’ to make media convergence possible. Clearly, technologies are coming together, which is allowing audiences to access the internet to watch, and download films and trailers. Media executives say that within the next few years’ digital distribution will transform the film industry, making it the norm to access and download films via internet sites. This will become the potential of a new form of ‘blanket release.’ Convergence of media through digital technology creates opportunities for distributing and exhibiting. An example of this is ‘The Dark Knight,’ a fantastic 2008 superhero thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and distributed by Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers had originally created a marketing campaign for ‘The Dark Knight’ including trailers of the Joker as well as promotional websites. However, on 22nd January 2008 shortly after ‘The Dark Knight’ has been filmed, Heath Ledger, one of the main characters from the film playing the role of the Joker, died of a toxic mix of prescription drugs leading to intense attention from the press and audiences. On hearing about the death of Heath Ledger, Warner Brothers decided to change the promotional campaign.

However, on the 7th May 2008 42 Entertainment produced a viral marketing campaign showing the films ‘why so serious’ tagline with a website illustrating the fictional political campaign ‘I believe in Harvey Dent.’ The purpose of the website was to interest the fans and allow them to see exactly what they wanted to see. This was a part of a viral/ARG, as companies decided to post videos and trailers so that it would spread like wild fire across technologies to promote the film and to generate audience’s attention to see whether the film appeals to them. On the other hand, ‘This is England’ created an official website whereby audiences could download trailers as well as selecting links which guided customers to different sites to download/buy the DVD and soundtrack. The use of digital technology is reducing the cost of film making so that the DV can be seen as widening access to the ‘means of production’ for new media.

Televisions which consist of multiple channels offer viewers at home to download and record films to watch at their own pleasure, as well as them being cheap to subscribe too - making visits to the cinema unnecessary. However, cinemas are beginning to re-define themselves promoting a greater leisure experience with the emergence of blockbusters and the expensive marketing that follows. The pleasure of a person’s film experience is determined by the size and quality of the screen. A vast amount of Hollywood films are still being driven by the noise, characters and narrative which audiences desperately want to see. This explains the current rebirth of scenes shot on an IMAX camera for ‘The Dark Knight.’ For instance, Christopher Nolan used an IMAX camera to film certain scenes, including the Jokers first appearance in the film. Nolan shot 4 major sequences in IMAX for its release in IMAX theatres. Nolan decided to use this format for a couple of the quieter scenes as he believed that audiences would find them interesting. This is in contrast with ‘This is England,’ which was shot in a residential area of Nottingham and the opening scene of the film was shot at a secondary school in Derbyshire. On one end of the scale, ‘This is England’ opened in 62 nationwide cinemas to a strong box office. However, thanks to the word of mouth, the film expanded to 150 cinemas in its fourth week. On the other end of the scale, ‘The Dark Knight,’ was screened in numerous IMAX theatres and was given positive reviews and was said to be the second film to earn more than one billion worldwide. As of this year it has become the seventh highest grossing film of all time.

Most blockbuster releases are distributed via a ‘blanket release’ so if an independent film manages to get its film to the cinema it will definitely be competing for attention with one or more Hollywood films. For example, ‘This is England’ was released on the 27th April 2007 and did exceptionally well in the cinemas, considering the fact that the film had been competing against a Hollywood film such as ‘Spiderman 3.’ ‘This is England’ grossed precisely £5,154,493. Another way to advertise a film and get it out there to the audiences is via promotion. Promotion involves paid for ‘above the line’ which is where the film is funded as a part of a project and consists of trailers, posters, billboards and other things that will benefit the film. This relates to merchandising and ‘below the line’ publicity which is not paid for but generates interest in the film such as interviews, magazine articles and reviews. On the 15th May 2008 Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Great Adventure theme parks created and opened ‘The Dark Knight’ rollercoaster which cost $7.5 million to develop and involved being stalked by the Joker. Also produced and sold as a part of the merchandising were toys, games, action figures, board games and a special UNO card game for the film. Sadly, no such merchandising was promoted for ‘This is England.’ However, due to the success of the film, a TV spin off of ‘This is England’ was aired on Channel 4 on September 2010 called ‘This is England 86’ and received fantastic reviews. According to press reports ‘This is England 88’ is set to schedule in December 2011, whilst Christopher Nolan has claimed that there will be a sequel to his film called ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and will be released on the 20th July 2012 and will feature members of the cast from Inception, another successful film for Warner Bros.

Even though producers and distributors play a major role within the media industry for promoting media products, media executives are starting to come to the conclusion that in today’s climate audiences have the greatest power in the media industry because if the audience like a particular “superstar” or like a specific aspect of the narrative of a film then Hollywood and smaller independent companies feel as though they are forced to use and develop exactly what the audience want.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Dark Knight:

The Dark Knight:

Plot synopsis:
Batman raises his stakes in this brand new feature film ‘The Dark Knight. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman’s goal is to destroy the remaining criminal organisations located along the city streets. Their partnership proves effective, however, they soon realise that a reign of chaos has been allowed to run riot by a criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens as ‘The Joker.’

Certification, Director, Location and Box Office (Gross)
The film was rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace. Christopher Nolan directed the film ‘The Dark Knight.’ Previous films which he has directed were ‘Memento (2005), Insomnia (2002), Batman Begins (2005) and Inception (2010). The Dark Knight was mainly filmed in Chicago as well as several other locations in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Christopher Nolan used an IMAX camera to film a number of scenes, including the Jokers first appearance in the movie. The film also had a massive box office success, setting the record for the highest grossing weekend opening in the United States of America with over $158 million and becoming the fourth highest grossing film of all time.

The production companies were Warner Brother Pictures in association with Legendary pictures and as A Syncopy Production. Warner Brothers officially announced commencement of production for the sequel to Batman Begins titled ‘The Dark Knight.’ Christopher Nolan explains how this is the first Batman film without the word ‘Batman’ in its title. After Heath Ledgers death on January 22nd 2008, Production Company Warner Brothers decided to adjust its promotional focus on The Joker, modifying some of its websites originally dedicated to promoting the film by posting a memorial tribute to Heath Ledger on the official films website.

The company which distributed The Dark Knight was also Warner Brother Pictures. The company devoted six months to an anti-piracy strategy which involved tracking down people who had pre released a copy of the film. In both the United States of America and Canada, the film was distributed in 4,366 theatres, breaking the previous record for the highest number of theatres which was held by Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End in 2007. The number of theatres which the film was distributed in was also shown in 94 IMAX theatres, with the film estimated to play on 9,200 screens. What is more, is that the online ticket service sold an vast amount of tickets for approximately 3,000 midnight showings as well as the day time showings for the films opening day. Every IMAX theatre that the film was distributed was also sold out on its opening weekend. Due to the massive box office success, Warner Brother Pictures decided to re-release the film in traditional and IMAX theatres in the United States of America on January 23rd 2009, in order to increase their chance of the film winning an Oscar.

In the United Kingdom the film had combined sales of 513,000 units on its first day of release, of which 21% were Blu-Ray Discs. The film topped the highest number of Blu-Ray Discs sold on its first day of release. However, in the United States of America it also set a sales record for the most DVD sales on its first day, selling 3 million copies on DVD, 600,000 of which were on Blu-Ray Discs.

How is convergence changing the nature of an audience?

How is convergence changing the nature of an audience?
In media convergence means two things, a) technologies coming together, for instance a mobile phone can be used as a camera for still and moving images, as an mp3 player and to access the internet to either download or watch films and b) Where media industries diversify so that they are able to produce and distribute across several media paths, for example a newspaper with an online version and audio podcast and video casts or films coming together with computer games. These particular media industries have formed tactical alliances in order to build up new business models which can profit from the growing consumer prospect for on demand content.

Some industries believe that media convergence is a way of marking the ‘old media’ of print and broadcasting whilst the increase in ‘new media’ is associated with digital publishing. However, many changes associated with digital publishing are the rise in a publishing structure, which allows many distributions of content to be released. Other factors which are related to media convergence are ‘push and pull technologies,’ push technologies describes a style of internet based communication where the request for a transaction is initiated by a publisher. On the other hand, pull technologies is when the request for a transmission of information and content is initiated by either a receiver or client.

Convergence is beginning to the change the nature of an audience due to the fact that there is a change in technology. It is exceptionally important to know the size of your audience and their levels of consumption. For instance, how often they watch television or browse on internet sites to watch videos and films. Statistics claim that 43% of Britain’s are now starting to watch less television as a result of having access to online videos and films which can either be watched online or downloaded. Is has been said that new media platforms are slowly changing the nature of an audience, illustrating that customers and buyers are now becoming part of a group known as “tribes,” where either groups of people or individuals share general interests with one another that bring them closer together. A journalist declared that sooner or later the next phase of social networking and content sites will suddenly emerge into virtual networks. A variety of entertainment companies have both won and lost when betting on new media platforms, they were either small or inexpensive or they were going to pay a huge amount of money for ones which would end up falling apart.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Black Swan - Brand New Film 2011

Black Swan Official Trailer:

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a radiant ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life is devoted to dance. She lives with her mother, a former ballerina who takes control of her life. When director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace one of his own ballerinas for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is clearly his first choice. Unfortunately, Nina has competition as a new dancer; Lily (Mila Kunis) impresses Leroy as well. The production Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both roles; the white swan who is innocent and graceful as well as the black swan who conveys sensuality and danger. Everyone can see that Nina fits the role of the white swan perfectly but Lily is perfect for the role of the black swan. As the two dancers slowly change their rivalry into a perverse friendship, Nina begins to get in contact with her darker side – a carelessness which threatens to destroy her life altogether.

Distributor and tracking the distribution:
Director Darren Aronofsky proposed a detailed outline of the Black Swan to ‘Universal Pictures.’ The studio then decided to start the development of the project in 2007. The project did not come together immediately as Aronofsky had to go on and shoot ‘The Wrestler.’ After finishing ‘The Wrestler’ in 2008, he asked Mark Heyman who had worked alongside him on the film, to begin writing the Black Swan. In June 2009, Universal put the project in turnaround, gaining attention from other studios. Black Swan was originally under development by ‘Protozoa Pictures’ and ‘Overnight Productions,’ who were the latter financing for the film.
There were three separate names linked to the distribution of the Black Swan, these were:
-          French distributor = 20th Century Fox
-          Press agent = Michel Burnstein
-          Foreign Distributor = Fox Searchlight Pictures

The main distributor for the Black Swan was ‘Fox Searchlight Pictures.’ The film was given a specific production budget of $10-12 million, and a vast amount of photography began towards the end of 2009 in New York City.

The motion picture rating was rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.

Box Office:
Black Swan found itself earning competitive box office revenue in many of the cinemas that consisted of most major releases. It was interesting to find out that the film was shot on a 16mm film – a standard one that is usually often used by the independent revolution. Apparently, one scene was even shot on a ‘Canon DSLR,’ a camera which is used for the amateurs who are unable to afford professional tools. The cinematographic process consisted of a digital intermediate (master format) and an HDTV (source format). In its opening weekend the film grossed $1,443,809 in the USA on the 5th December 2010 in 18 screens and £2,762,429 in the UK on the 23rd January 2011 in 356 screens. The film grossed $2.12 million. Black swan which was distributed by ‘Fox Searchlight Pictures,’ also posted the highest screen average over that particular weekend with $10,654. In total it had grossed $6.18 million. Its gross box office is over $100 million as of February 2011.

Black Swan had its world premiere as the opening film at the 67th Venice film festival on the 1st September 2010. Black Swan was one of the seven films which were nominated to be awarded for having the best “homosexual and queer themes.” Black Swan had many screenings and was presented at numerous film festivals. It had a screening at the Telluride film festival on the 5th September 2010 and the 35th Toronto International film festival later on in the month. It was also screened at the New Orleans and Austin film festival and lastly the BFI London film festival. The release date of the Black Swan in the United Kingdom was brought forward a month from February 2011 to the 21st January 2011. According to reports, the film is one of the “most highly anticipated” of late 2010. In the 83rd Academy awards Oscar Nominations 2011, it is no surprise that Black Swan has been nominated on numerous accounts. Black Swan was nominated in the following categories: best picture, best actress in a leading role, best cinematography, best film editing and director.  

To continue promoting the Black Swan, merchandise around the film (ancillary market) was sold. Companies teamed up with the distributor, fox searchlight pictures to give the public the opportunity to win a set of limited Black Swan merchandise. These included teaser posters signed by Natalie Portman, as well as a beautiful Black Swan merchandise set which consisted of a hoody, a jewellery box, a necklace and a perfume atomiser. Other companies produced Black Swan merchandise including t-shirts, hoodies and a computer mouse mat.

The film poster is exceedingly creepy and eerie. As you stare at it, you feel as though you must turn away from it instantly, as if it has some sort of control over you. The level of brightness which is portrayed on the background of the poster represents the blinding power of the spotlight and the overpowering nature of being up front. The actress’s eyes are disturbing and distressing. It's as if her eyes belong to the devil. They look on at people showing signs of hatred and fury. The more you stare into her eyes you feel as though they are being used as weapons to hypnotize you. It is definitely as creepy picture. Additionally, by mentioning respected film festival it is a way of saying, this is a serious, dark, edgy film and that they are hoping to win Oscar, Bafta awards. The film poster clearly shows that this film is only meant to be seen by people who are ages 15+ as it is alarming and unnatural. If this was shown to students younger than 15 it could frighten them emotionally and psychologically.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Business - Understanding Film Making

The Idea:
Sources of information: Number of films based on real life events. True stories can capture the imagination of modern audiences. The stories can be found in newspapers, magazines and so on. Having a good eye for a story is a vital skill for any film maker.
Producers: They look for a great idea for a film, something which will extract the audience. They are often the creative and commercial driving force behind the whole project.
Directors: Directors are involved very early in the development process and if they have an idea for a film they will approach a producer to take the project forward. They are many roles in directing these are, writer-directors, directors and producers.
Writers: Producer, director and writer are the key creative triangle in the film business. The writer clarifies the idea. The plot, the main character turns it into something tangible.
Treatment: It's a description of key events and people in a film. Well written and fits the genre of the film. It should also provide the reader with an idea of what makes the film unique and interesting to watch.
  • One liner = This is a one sentence description of the film.
  • Genre = Helps other people to understand what the style and content of the film are going to be like.
  • Market = It is sometimes known as the target audience this answers vital questions for film makers and finances.
  • People attached = Consists of a list of people attached to the project at this stage plus their credits.
  • Rough Budget = Gives a reader an idea of what the film will cost to take.
  • Brief Synopsis = Expands a little on the one liner, for people who want more detail.
Development Finance:
  1. Pitching the project - development finding is money used to support the writer, producer and director for making a scipt to pitch to the investory.
  2. Production companies - producers approach film companies for development money and the company ask for rights back.
  3. Sale companies, broadcasters and distribution companies ask for selling and viewing rights after giving money.
  4. Public distribution investment they approach small companies.
Script Development:
  1. Writer and producer, produces a synopsis and works closely together.
  2. Step outline - contains short written descriptions of all the scenes that make the script. Each step describes the plot events and significant developments to the characters.
  3. Drafts include actions and events which will be seen and will explain more about what the charatcters say.
  4. Revisions - writes and gets the scrips editors to help them.
  5. Final draft, director, producer and writer all have to improve. The writer recieves a fee.
  6. Sales treatment synopsis designed to sell the film to the financers.
  • Package - Includes final draft, sales treatment and a rough budget - roughly how much funding that could be secured for the script.
  • The cast - To make the project more commercial, well known starts need to be attached to the script. Producers get into contact with the actors through their agents.
  • The Heads of Department includes - Director of photography, production designer and so on.
  • Detailed budget and production schedule - The producer must know how much it will cost to make the film. The production scedule is how long it will take to shoot and when will it be finished.
  • Finance plan and recoupment schedule - The finance plan is how the producer plans to raise finance for the film. Recoupment schedule is an estimate of how the film will end up making money, an example is merchandise, DVD's and so on.
  • The Market is a very competitive business. This is where contacts and powers of persuasion is needed to receive maximum funding. 
  • Investment, private finance, number of private individuals willing to invest in film products. 

  • Once all of the heads of the departments are brought together then the shooting is circulated and the meeting begins.
  • The casting director, producer and director begin to find casts and actors for the film.
  • Storyboards are produced and blue prints are created.
  • Production designers design every aspect of the show.
  • Effect shots are produced.
  • Producer and Product manager makes the legistics of the production.
The Shoot:
  • Contact many teams (5 teams)
  • Chain of command
  • Special effects team
  • Camera team
  • Lighting and sound
  • Cast
  • Many roles in each individual team, to insure movie is well made.
Post Production:
  • Assistant editor creates an assembly of clips, the editor then makes a rough cut.
  • Sound department lays the audio
  • Score written sometimes for a movie or a specific scene. Often the credits and effects are added.
  • Operators adjusts the colour so all the shots look consistent.
  • Sounds are mixed, layered and levelled. They are edited by producers for the finish final cut.
  • The producer has to sell the finished cut to a distributor.
  • The key elements should be showcased in trailers without giving too much away.
  • A sales agent will estimate how well the movie will do.
  • To create success the producer creates a 'buzz' around their movie to boost their awareness.
  • The Marketing Team is a group of people who will market the film to the public.
  • The Audience - the marketing team runs test screenings to see how the film is recieved by the viewers.
  • Advertising - potential audience for the film is targeted using posters, cinema trailers and TV spots.
  • Press and Media Coverage - positive word of mouth, an example TV, newspapers, radio. Getting the product endorsed by a third party.
  • The Internet and New Marketing Models - internet and digital media. Give new opportunities for distributors to market their product in a more targeted and cost efficient ways.
  • Selling the Film to Exhibitors - Distributors negotiate with cinema's to screen the films.
  • Fame helps to sell films because the stars have loyal, fun bases that follows them religiously.
  • Your stars do not need to be famous for the films to be seen, lesser known stars generate huge success as well.
  •  Although British people do not visit the cinema as much as Americans, it is still important for the film to hit the market.
  • In flight entertainment and hotel pay preview channels, these are the first way in which films are sold after their cinema release.
  • The sudden explosion in DVD purchases has transformed the film distribution. Many films that failed abysmally at the box office can recover their costs through DVD sales.
  • The young game industry is seen as a threat to the film industry. In response to this, the film makers are licensed to computer game developers to create products for that film.