Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Written Evaluation

For my media product I had to create and produce a two minute social realism intro, based on a theme and issue chosen by myself. My chosen theme was freedom from abuse vs. marital obligation while my issue centred on domestic violence. To gain knowledge of my chosen genre I researched many social realism films including ‘The Last Resort’, ‘Made In Britain’ ‘Nil By Mouth’ ‘Half Nelson’ and ‘Life Is Sweet’. These films gave me inspiration for my own introduction and made me see why choosing social realism as the genre for my film was a good choice as it would be an easy genre to recreate due to the low budget and naturalism of social realism films.

While analysing my chosen social realism films I observed many technical codes and conventions of the social realism genre that helped create relationships between the micro and macro elements in the texts. For example in ‘Half Nelson’ the opening sequence begins with a close-up shot of the films protagonist Dan Dunne staring blankly into space, this shot then cuts to a wide shot of him sitting on his living room floor with his legs splayed out in front of him. In both of these opening shots there is a slight jittering movement of the handheld camera and this combined with the constant diegetic bleeping of the alarm clock evokes a sense of edginess and uncertainty. In addition to this, the wide frame in the second shot makes his figure appear small and isolated leading the audience to feel his isolation and loneliness; while the dull, sombre lighting is symbolic of his dejected state of mind. The technical elements here explore both the main issue of the film alongside it’s wider themes; with these combining to create a particular representation of the affliction of Dunne’s drug habit and the resulting depression and alienation that he feels. In my own media product I used the same technical code of a wide shot to make the protagonist of my film appear small and fragile, I then combined this shot with an over-the-shoulder mid-shot of my male character which made him fill up the screen and appear boisterous and intimidating compared to the small girl in the back of the frame. This shot also represents his class and status and the power he has over the girl.
In ‘Nil By Mouth’, a film which shares the same themes and issues as my own, the opening sequence relies heavily on the use of digetic sound unlike my own film where the opening sequence is mainly silent with only some digetic sound and dialogue. The lack of digetic sound in my opening is significant as it challenges a convention of the social realism genre while showing how fearful and anxious my protagonist is, particularly around her abuser.

My media product uses various technical elements to develop and challenge forms and conventions of real media products and to place itself into the social realism genre; for example in my intro I have used opening credits as these are a convention of not only social realism films but other feature films also. The use of opening credits adds style and structure to my introduction and helps to successfully develop a convention of the social realism genre.

Throughout my film I also decided to use naturalistic lighting as this is one of the main and most prominent conventions of the social realism genre and would help my film to successfully be recognised as a social realism film as well as help add to the effect of naturalism and verisimilitude that I was trying to achieve. Other social realism films that use naturalistic lighting include ‘Half Nelson’ and the BBC’s ‘Last Resort.’

While researching other social realism films I found that soundtracks were often used in the opening sequence, this soundtrack often represents the protagonist of the film or the film itself. Due to this I decided that my film would have to include a soundtrack as this would help my media product be more recognisable as an introduction and would also help to develop a convention of the social realism genre.

In my intro I have also used a variety of close-up shots of different parts of my protagonist’s face to let the audience know that this character is a victim of abuse. Alongside these shots I have also shown close-ups of a man’s hand making a cup of tea and walking up the stairs as this links with the close-up shots of my protagonist’s face and also makes the audience speculate as to who this character is and how he is possibly connected to the girl, this is achieved by never showing his face. These shots in my introduction use technical codes to help create relationships between micro and macro elements in the text as we begin to realise that those hands are what caused the bruises seen moments ago.

My media product represents particular social groups and key areas of representation, in particular women dealing with domestic violence, through the use of mise-en-scene, sound and camera. One of the main social groups and key areas of representation that is present in my intro is gender and how men are more powerful than women; this is shown through the adoption of an over-the-shoulder shot of my male character combined with the use of a long shot of my female protagonist. This shot represents class and status as it makes the girl appear small and fragile, as she is further back in the frame while the man appears boisterous and intimidating as he fills up the screen, this shot represents his status and power over her which in turn relates to my theme of domestic violence. I feel that my film may not accurately represent my female lead or her abuser as I do not know this through personal experience or through anyone close to me. However I feel I have fairly represented my protagonist and to do this maybe I unfairly represented my male lead by making him the villain as there are many different theories as to the causes of domestic violence, these include psychological theories that consider personality traits and mental characteristics of the offender as well as social theories such as the offender’s environment and family structure. I feel that I have fairly represented my protagonist due to the research I carried out and the statistics I looked at such as the Government Statistics on Domestic Violence (, which was carried out in August 2009, this report informed me that last year the percentage of domestic violence victims who were male was only 23% compared to a staggering 77% of female victims. This gives me hope that I made the right choice in choosing a female victim as this would be something my audience are more likely to relate and sympathise with.

My media product also represents working-class people as the characters in my film come from a working-class background; my intro also represents their regional identity of being from the South-East, mainly due to the accents of the characters themselves.

My media product is a social realism piece and so therefore not every producer or media institution would be interested in distributing my product. The kind of media institution that would distribute my media product would be an institution such as the BBC or FilmFour as these institutions distribute films similar to my own and are British institutions. The BBC would be most likely to distribute my film out of these two institutions as the BBC distributes more hard-hitting dramas such as ‘Last Resort’ while FilmFour distributes more stylised, mainstream films such as ‘This Is England’. The BBC may be more interested in my media product as many of their films are social realism films that are hard-hitting and achieve verisimilitude, both of which my film does; they may also be more interested as they may wish to support a British social realism film made and written by a British writer.

I can also investigate other institutions that may wish to distribute my film by looking at other British films which have dealt specifically with my issue of domestic violence. For example ‘Nil By Mouth’, this film was produced and supported by the SE8 Group an independent production company run by Gary Oldman, the writer and director of ‘Nil By Mouth’, and Douglas Urbanski. This tells me that it may be easier to distribute my media product via a more independent film company such as the SE8 Group.

I found out who my audience would be by conducting a questionnaire that I gave out to several different age groups. This questionnaire allowed me to identify that the audience for my media product would probably be middle-class people in their 30’s and 40’s as this particular social group prefer more hard-hitting, true to real life dramas compared to younger people, especially working-class younger people who prefer more unrealistic, glamorised Hollywood films to escape the pressures of everyday working life. I discovered this by asking the question “Out of these films which have you seen?” and then listing several social realism films; from this 20% of the people asked had seen ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Billy Elliott’ with the next most watched films being ‘Kidulthood’ with 17% and ‘This Is England’ having been watched by 15% of people. I was also able to find out which age and gender were watching these films as I also asked the simple questions “Are you male or female?” and “How old are you?”, from asking these simple questions I was able to deduce who the main audience for my film would be as I was able to look at their age and gender and see what social realism films they had seen and if so what ones. I also asked the question “What do you understand by the term social realism?” as this also enabled me to understand what age had a good idea of the genre and so therefore would be more likely to have watched social realism and also possibly be more inclined to watch it; for this question I got a variety of responses with some people saying “I understand the term social realism to be a genre in which the story and plot are based on true life stories,” to more accurate answers such as “Social realism is based on the problems and issues that we have to deal with in everyday life.” However although my main audience would be middle-class people in their 30’s and 40’s my media product features working-class, younger people in their 20’s so this could persuade them to watch my film. My audience will also be mainly British as my film will only be released in the UK due to the credit crunch and the character’s regional identity of being British. I would like my film to be watched by women, especially women who have been or are in an abusive relationship as they may be able to relate to my film and find some kind of comfort or solace in it. The aim of my media product is also to alert the public to a very real and dangerous issue and to hopefully raise awareness of this subject as well as to provide some kind of comfort with sufferers of domestic violence.

I attracted my audience through the use of camera and also by looking at my audience research and seeing which would be the best way to advertise and also maybe screen my film. I found out what attracted my audience by asking about their tastes and preferences in my audience research; examples of questions I asked which informed me of their tastes and preferences included “What is your first opinion on my chosen topic?”, “How do you feel about the topic in my introduction?” and “What other issues and themes would you like to see within a social realism film and why?” The answers I received back for these questions included “…it is a good topic that should be covered” however it should be covered “…carefully” and “…sensitively” and “I would like to see bullying, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy within a social realism film.” I satisfied these tastes and preferences by going ahead with my chosen topic but handling the issue delicately and incorporating the theme of bullying into my intro, as you see my male character mentally bullying my female protagonist.

I attracted my audience through the technical element of camera by beginning my film with a series of extreme close-up shots of different parts of my protagonists face including a black eye and a bruised lip; in doing this my audience automatically begin to wonder who this character is and what has happened to her, therefore intriguing them and making them want to watch the rest of the film. I know this as I asked my audience “What do you think of the use of close-ups in my intro?” when shown the rough cut of my film; to which they replied with responses such as “They’re effective, they make me want to know more about her and how she got those bruises.” I also showed a series of close-ups of a man’s hands making a cup of tea and then holding onto some banisters as he goes upstairs; the audience never see this man’s face so have no clue what he looks like, this makes them wonder who he is. I chose not to show this character’s face and just show his hands so that the audience subconsciously knows that this must be the girl’s abuser as his hands are what created the bruises we saw moments ago; and so the audience can decide what he looks like for themselves in the beginning of the film. At the end of my two minute introduction both my female and male character are in the same room with the male character mentally abusing my female protagonist; this came as somewhat of a disappointment to some of my audience as they expected more drama such as physical violence; however I didn’t want to make my film too hard-hitting at the beginning as I didn’t want to scare my audience too soon, this also helps make my film true to life as not all domestic abuse is physical violence.

The issue in my film addresses a part of society that is not often discussed or talked about in public and so therefore my intro shows this problem within our society and helps to connect victims of domestic violence and abuse with the public. I discovered this after asking my audience the question “How do you feel towards my protagonist (the female character) and her issue?” to which I received responses such as “I sympathise with her” and “…I am now more aware of her issue and the seriousness of domestic violence.” I also attracted my audience by looking at the audience research I had conducted and noticing that the Internet was becoming a more and more popular place to watch and advertise films. Using the Internet would be a good place to show and advertise my film as many people can access it and it’s much cheaper to advertise and screen than in a cinema or on TV.

Throughout the making of my media product I have been introduced to new technologies and through this have learnt how to use them. I began by learning the basics of the camera such as how to set the white balance and how to turn the zebra setting on and off. By using the white balance I was able to ensure that my film gained the correct light and therefore kept verisimilitude, a key convention of the social realism genre. Another feature of the camera that I learnt was how to set the camera up on a tripod and to make sure that the camera was level.

One of the main new technologies that I learnt while making my film was how to edit using Avid Express Pro; through using Avid I acquired the skills of being able to digitise my footage on to a computer so that I was able to edit and refine my film. On Avid I learnt how to splice and remove sections as well as how to move sections of my film about and through this create meaning and links between the micro elements and the macro meaning of my film. Another technique I learnt was how to add titles to my product either through the use of ‘Title Tool’ or ‘Marquee’.

Throughout the making of my product I also had to create a blog and upload evidence of the planning section of my film and also my film intro itself, therefore I had to acquire the skills to do this as I had never created a blog before and so therefore had no clue as to how I would add pages and new posts. I also had to learn how to embed video into my blog as well as upload my video onto Vimeo so that it could be embedded. This overall process has taught me how to produce a product and then how to distribute it to my audience gaining me knowledge of both institutions and audiences.

Within my media product I encountered a problem where my lighting was different in several shots due to the changing light conditions outside as my film was shot over several days and so therefore light conditions varied. To improve this while adding a stylistic feature to my film I decided to edit the colour of my film by using the Avid Colour Correction tool. I used this tool by using the Hue, Saturation and Luminance (HSL) section to change the brightness of the shot and the curves section to change the colour slightly.

Looking back over my preliminary task and comparing it to my final finished product I can see how much knowledge I’ve gained and the stark difference between my two projects. My main task is the beginning of a full narrative, featuring beginning, middle and end, while the preliminary was just a piece of dialogue detached from any form of narrative story. Throughout the making of my preliminary the direction needed was negligible whereas throughout the production of my main task it was vital for me to direct by using the background of both the story and the characters, ensuring the characters were understood and consequently providing the actors with the right information to act as their characters suggested.

In the preliminary task the variety of shots were limited to mainly close-ups and long shots to ensure that there was enough coverage and that my preliminary passed the 180° rule, while in the main task I had to combine the technical elements of camera, sound, mise-en-scene and editing to create codes within my film that helped to create a macro meaning around the themes and issues and help to evoke the audiences emotional responses.

Within the editorial section of the preliminary task I was merely uploading the video and inserting the clips onto the timeline while using basic cuts to assemble the section of dialogue to highlight the 180° rule; compared to the main task where I was editing to create meaning and effective links between the micro elements and key macro issues within my film. The use of titles in my main task is also one of the main progressions I made from my preliminary task with the titles being used to add style and structure to my film.

Pre-production was one of the main differences that I noticed between my preliminary and main task as there was no pre-production alongside my preliminary except a basic script and technical rehearsal compared to my main task where the pre-production consisted of numerous different pieces of planning including storyboards, a schedule, shot list and actor and location releases. This is a primary example of how my main task is a big progression from my preliminary. Audience research was also conducted throughout the pre-production stage of my main task to ensure that the audience’s tastes and preferences would be satisfied by the media product created. This is a complete difference to my preliminary where no audience research was included as this task was solely to show capability of using camera and editing software and not capability of creating and attracting an audience while creating a macro meaning.

I feel that by having contrasted my preliminary with my final media pro
duct I can see that my editing has improved as my cuts are cleaner and the whole piece flows much smoother, my continuity has also progressed. Unlike my preliminary my introduction uses codes and conventions of the social realism genre effectively and also conveys meaning by the use of shots chosen; the framing of the final product is also much more improved from my preliminary. Overall I feel that my final piece has progressed significantly from my preliminary as it is a more professional piece of media due to the choice of shots and the quality of filming.