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Media Language

Plan:

Sound design – soundbridge of wife speaking on phone as Andy returns home – shows both are happening at the same time. Non diegetic composed score when finger is revealed builds tension and fear in audience

Mise en scene – woman in pyjamas – shows how late she has been waiting for her husband. He is in dark clothes – represents death. Light colour palette of natural setting – symbolic of the peace in his life /serenity of allotment. Blocking – he stands over wife when they argue – he is in control

Editing – the rapid frequency editing of the dog sniffing at the finger builds up pace and tension. Contrasts slow pace at the beginning. Jump cut of finger to woman on phone – different setting – change in pace, hints that it is her finger before events unfold

Camerawork- low angle shot of man – shows his power over his wife. Close up of finger reveals to audience what he’s hiding Semiology is an approach that can be used to understand how media texts make meaning for their audience. Signs are not limited to words – include images, gestures and sounds Denotation – the literal meaning of an object (what can be visually seen – woman in her pyjamas) Connotation – the associations that are made when interpreting a sign (how late she’s been waiting for husband to return)

Essay

Media language explores the ways in which filmmakers deliberately create meaning within their films, which audience members then decode, either consciously or subconsciously. Semiotics explores the signs and symbols that can be decoded from these media languages. My A2 coursework was a 5 minute thriller film about a man who murdered his wife and buried her under his allotment, called Green Fingers.

Sound design is a method in which meaning was encoded into Green Fingers. For example, through the use of non diegetic score throughout the film, different moods are conveyed to the audience. At the beginning of the film, there is a lighthearted and joyful tone to the compiled score. This choice of music is symbolic of happiness and creates a sense of serenity for the audience, perhaps suggesting the relaxing nature of the allotment and the calm felt by the main character. Whilst enjoying the relaxing shots of nature, the audience initially thinks little of it, but on reflection having seen the final scene of the film, it is clear that this relaxed attitude is because he can enjoy his passion without needing to worry about his wife any longer. The peaceful music at the beginning of the film contrasts the tense music when the dog is digging in the soil. Through the increase in volume, the audience feel fear and suspense towards what will be revealed in the soil, thus contrasting the tone of both the score and the action at the start of the film with the climax. The diegetic soundbridge featured when Andy returns home from the allotment creates anticipation for the audience, as the wife is discussing how little Andy is home on the phone as the audience can see him leaving his car and walking towards their home. The soundbridge also creates suspense as it is clear through the wife’s dialogue that she is upset towards his behaviour, thus suggesting that an argument may pursue and hinting towards why there is a finger under the man’s allotment.

 

Mise-en-scene also plays a vital role in encoding meaning into my A2 coursework, as it allows audiences to visually decode what is viewed on screen and to begin to understand the symbolism and meaning of what has been encoded. For example, costume allows the audience to understand the semiology of each outfit choice. When Andy returns home from the allotment his wife is seen wearing pyjamas; this could simply denote the time of night, or with further reading her costume could connote that she has been awaiting for her husband to come home for a long time. The way she is physically sat further enforces her lack of ease, as she does not look as if she is relaxing in her own home and therefore is anxiously anticipating his arrival. The light colour pallette of the natural setting is also symbolic of the lead characters peace in his life or the calm setting of the allotment. When contrasted with the dark costume of Andy, his costume has connotations of death thus symbolising his dark secret buried under the serene allotment.

Through the use of editing, the tension and plot of the short film is driven to create suspense and excitement in the audience. The rapid frequency of editing when the finger is uncovered and Andy shouts at the woman and her dog builds the pace of the film and makes the audience feel on edge. This rapid editing foreshadows the anger at the end of the film, and reveals Andy’s aggressive nature, thus symbolising that he is the reason for the finger in his allotment. By considering semiotics, the audience can denote that the shots in the scene change rapidly, but the connotations of this enforce that Andy’s emotions are becoming more fuelled with anger and therefore fearful of what will follow. This scene is then contrasted with a jump cut of the finger in the soil, to a shot of Andy’s wife sat on the sofa. By featuring long paced shots with a flow frequency, the film conotes the woman’s upset emotion and therefore creates empathy in the audience. The jump cut also suggests that the finger in the soil belongs to the wife, thus foreshadowing the climax of the film which creates suspense for the viewer.

The camerawork in Green Fingers contains a great deal of symbolism to be decoded by audiences. For example, the close up of the finger when it is in the soil conotes its importance to the drive in the plot, and also creates shock in the viewer as it is unexpected for a kind character like Andy to have a body under his allotment. Also, during the argument between Andy and his wife denotes low angled shots of Andy contrasted with high angle shots of his wife. However, this conotes the power in this relationship, suggesting that Andy is the one in control and the more dominant person in the marriage.

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Representation

Representation is the constructed and mediated presentation of people, things, ideas and places. Constructed representation it the way a media text is pieced together, involving the choice of camera angles and certain aspects of editing to depict a character, setting or event in a particular way. Mediation representation is the process that every media text goes through before it reaches an audience; such as a film script being re-written to ensure that each aspect is depicted in the way as desired. Described by Rayner, representation is the process by which the media presents the ‘real world’.

Technical codes explores the constructed representation of a media text. Through utilising camera angles, blocking, lighting and other aspects of camera work an editing, characters can be portrayed in different ways. For example, in my AS coursework ‘Mummy’s Girl’, the mother is typically shown from low angled shots to represent her powerful status over the daughter, shown through high angled shots. The weather setting when the mother is first shown is grey and miserable, thus representing the darkness of what is to be revealed later in the film. Symbolic codes also contribute to the representation within films, however, these can be connotative as cultural and personal associations may affect the symbolism of the representation. They show what is beneath the surface of what is physically shown on screen, perhaps representing aspects of a characters personality or the significance of their actions. For example, in western society, black connotes mourning or depression, and red can represent danger. In Mummy’s Girl, we manipulated the representation of the mother through adding a subtle red filter over the shots of the film; connoting danger to the audience and thus representing the mother as someone to be feared.  Written codes may also influence the representation of a character, such as the use of catchphrases or social buzzwords. In Mummy’s Girl, there is little dialogue. However, the words that are spoken are from the mother towards the daughter. When she first arrives she says “I’m home” and asks if she wants tea. Socially, this would represent the mother as someone who is caring towards their child. However, our film then went on to subvert this representation through the mothers cruel behaviour towards her child.

Stereotypes also help with the representation of a character or setting. Social stereotypes allow the audience to make their own judgements on a character through the way society depicts and receives their stereotype. Lippmann described that stereotypes proclaim, ‘This is what everyone — you, me and us — thinks members of such-and-such a social group are like’, and by utilising these stereotypes a character’s place in society can be made understandable just from the characterisation. For example, a character wearing a jumper with the hood up and their hands in their pockets may represent a criminal to some audience members, and therefore they would not trust the character. In Mummy’s Girl, we adhered to the social stereotypes of a mother and daughter relationship to make the contrast at the end of the film much more shocking. The mother wears casual clothing and speaks with a smile, thus making her seem like a friendly and caring person. When she spoke, it was with love thus representation the stereotype of a caring mother. When the daughter doesn’t respond, the audience presumes that she is representing the rebellious teenager, almost too ‘cool’ to be at home with her parents. However, this stereotype is contradicted when we see her dressed in childish clothing. By following the stereotypes of a young girl, wearing pastel coloured dresses, knee high socks and her hair in pigtails, audiences instantly recognise the representation of a teenage girl in childish clothing. Victims and their kidnappers are also stereotypes explored in Mummy’s Girl. The daughter appears to be submissive and afraid of the mother, a stereotype explored through most victims. Her behaviour rejects the wishes of the kidnapper by refusing to drink the tea, which leads to punishment which is stereotypical of most kidnappers.

The representation of women through the male gaze, considered by Laura Mulvey also explored the representations of females in media texts. Although there are no men featured in Mummy’s Girl, the women in the film are not seen as typically strong and therefore may appeal to male audiences. When we first see the mother, there are shots of her legs as she walks as opposed to her face, thus drawing in the objectification of the female form. This could also be said for the teenager, as she wears a dress which reveals her legs, she also wears makeup thus making her attractive to men. Therefore women in Mummy’s Girl are seen as being stereotypically beautiful. There is a female victim in Mummy’s Girl, thus showing women to be weak in comparison to the strong male. If considering the film through the male gaze, if the victim were male, the film would possibly explore his fight for freedom as opposed to the teenagers submission to the powerful captor. By representing women as fragile and without power, the male gaze allows the male audiences to enjoy films without their masculine ideals being threatened.

Ultimately, representation allows people to understand films with deeper meanings, rather than taking what they are shown on screen at face value.

 

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Audience Theory

Audience theory concerns how and why audiences consume texts, and the effects that the film producers have on the reception of films. There is a social, moral and political objective to measure the power of media technologies to affect how individuals think, feel and act. The other objective, in terms of marketing, is motivated by commercial interests to measure how effective media is for advertising and publicity campaigns. By applying the concept of audience theory to my film, I can consider how my creativity in planning altered how audiences received my film.

Bandura initially created the Hypodermic model to consider the influence that media texts have on the audience. These effects are typically seen as being negative, and that the audiences are passive towards preventing the influences that these texts have on them. The theory can be explored in terms of a needle, that the messages in the media are injected into the audience by the powerful media and the audience cannot resist. This concept was experimented in Frankfurt School by Bandura, and showed 36 boys and 36 girls a piece of footage that presented a clown called Bobo being violently attacked. The children were then led into a room with Bobo dolls inside, where 88% of the children showed violent behaviour towards the dolls. This controversial experiments enforced this hypodermic model, as the children’s behaviour was influenced by what was shown to them in the film. This effects theory is used by politicians and some religious organisations, explaining that certain media texts (such as A Clockwork Orange) caused violent acts (such as rape), and there was political outcry for these texts to be banned. In applying the Hypodermic model to Green Fingers, it could be said that through showing a man who is abusive and unloving to his wife, it may encourage audience members to respond to marital arguments with violence.

However, there are unclear links between violent films and violent imitative behaviour, as some people who do watch the texts are not influenced. Herzog and Bereleson came up with the Uses and Gratifications model, which offers an alternative view to the Hypodermic effects model in the ways that audiences are effected my media effects. They considered that the audience is active in receiving a film, and that they use the text for their own gratification and pleasure. The Uses and Gratifications model contradicts Bandura’s model, as the audience are free to reject, use or play with media meanings. Audiences can use the films for a variety of ways to gratify needs, such as diversion, escapism, information, pleasure and comparing relationships. For example, Green Fingers may be considered as an escape because audiences are able to immerse themselves in the drama and tension of the short film. This theory also suggests that violent images can be useful rather than harmful, and that audiences act out their violent impulses through the consumption of media violence. As in Green Fingers, through experience the violence committed towards Andy’s wife, audiences are less likely to repeat the violent action as their inclination towards it has been sublimated.

Stuart Hall created the Reception Theory, which explores the various meanings that can be understood from a single media text. He considered that texts are encoded with meanings by producers, and are decoded by audiences. This gives a wider audience base pleasure from a single text, because there are so many meanings that can be understood and therefore enjoyed in different ways. Fiske argued that audiences constantly mines television texts for meaning, that it was futile to perceive the text as a stable entity. Hall came up with three different audience readings that relate to the message created by the producer and how it is understood by the audience. Firstly, the dominant reading; the audience decodes the message as the producer wants them to, and the audience agrees with this message. For example, in Green Fingers I wanted to portray the emotional upset and trauma faced by the wife, as her husband is neglectful and uncaring towards her. The dominant reading would be in effect if audiences also saw this from Green Fingers, and empathised with her. Secondly, the negotiated effect is when the audience accepts, rejects or refines elements of the text in light of previously held views. Such as, if the audiences did not believe that a husband always needed to be at home or affectionate towards his wife, the negotiated reading would be applied as the audiences wouldn’t necessarily empathise with the wife. Finally, the oppositional reading. In this case, the dominant reading is recognised, yet it is rejected for cultural, political or ideological reasons. This reading may be applied if Green Fingers was viewed by someone who was part of a patriarchal religion or society. The concept of a woman speaking to her husband in anger would offend people who believed than men had power over women, and therefore would reject the dominant meaning.

Ultimately, audiences can be effected and influences by media texts no matter which theorists concept is applied. However, the audience member is not passively influenced and have the ability to consider and create their own meanings from the texts, which can help to enhance the audience pleasures from the media text.

 

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Narrative Theory

Narrative theory refers to the way events are revealed in a film, rather than the actual plot of the film, and offers a way of organising the events in the story and allows the audience to view the events of a film in a pattern and order that real life occasionally lacks. As described by Alvarado, the construction of narrative involves the “process of selection and organisation which structure and order the material narrated so that it can be invested with significance and meaning”, suggesting that narrative theory allows the audience to develop a deeper meaning to the film, thus making it more enjoyable and interesting for the viewer. Barthes coined the term, ‘the death of the author’, emphasising the importance of symbolism and meaning in films and literature, and that people will continue to make their own assumptions on the meaning of films.

Narrative structures can be linear, open, closed or circular. I believe that my film would be classed as having a circular structure, as the narrative begins at the end of the events and the audience are taken back to when the events began. In my film, we start on the allotment after the murder and are taken back to see the murder unfold. Narrative devices also help drive the narrative theory and can manipulate the sequence that events are revealed. For example, my film features a flashback to the murder; thus providing necessary information about the character’s past and helps the audience to understand the reason behind there being a dead body under the allotment. Close ups of significant objects are also a key narrative device featured in my film. The close up of the finger shows the audience why he is so protective and the close up of the shovel suggests that it will be important to the plot without disclosing why. My film also features an ellipsis, cutting out part of my film to manipulate the narrative and keep the viewers guessing. My film doesn’t show how the man actually got the woman to the allotment and buried her, but this would have made the film much longer and our A2 coursework projects had to be around five minutes.

Barthes discussed 5 codes that a film’s narrative could fit into, to help separate and analyse each films narrative theory: the Hermeneutic code, the Enigma/ Proairetic code, the Semantic code, the symbolic code and the cultural code. First of all, he created the Hermeneutic code. A film where the narrative avoids telling the truth of revealing all of the facts in a film, thus helping to add to the mystery. I feel like my film fits into the Hermeneutic code based on the importance of the flashback, however my film’s narrative does eventually reveal all when we see Andy murder his wife at the end, detracting from the mystery. Next he discussed the Enigma / Proairetic code, the way tension is built up and the audience is left guessing as to what will happen next. I feel like Green Fingers also follows this code, as its aim was to build up the tension and make the audience wonder why Andy is so protective of his allotment. By distinguishing these narrative codes, one is able to create a film with deeper meaning.

Strauss was also a philosopher who spent time analysing narrating theory. He noticed the concept of binary opposition and applied it to the narrative of films. Strauss’ theory is the theory that conflict is based around binary opposite, making these central to the climax of narrative structure. His theory can be applied to Green Fingers when considering that men and women can be seen as binary opposites, and therefore the contrast between genders creates the ultimate climax of my film, the murder scene. Andy, uses his masculine power to control his wife. By considering the use of binary opposites.

When looking at narrative theory, Propp noticed that similar events were repeated throughout native storie. He then broke down these events into a further 31 narrative functions, which always appear in a certain orders. He notices that the plot was driven by the protagonist, but the narrative functions are shared between the main characters of the plot. The main character categories are: the villain, the donor, the dispatcher and the anti hero. Propp’s theory applies to the characters in Green Fingers, as Andy could be seen as the villain because he murdered his wife. Helen could be seen as the donor, as she is effectively the ‘damsel in distress’ looking to escape her unhappy marriage. Less obviously, it could be said that the person on the phone to Helen is the dispatcher, as they are trying to console her through her marital issues. Propp’s theory helps to understand the character’s role within the narrative functions, and how each role develops the story and the audience’s understanding as these are all well known characters in media.

Todorov looked at the narrative state of films, and noticed a recurring formulae in the way that events and tension unfolded throughout the plot. At the beginning, there is equilibrium which is a state of calm that represents the ‘normal life’ in the world of the narrative. The equilibrium in my short film may be the shots of Andy tending to his allotment, making him seem like a typical gardener. Next is the disruption of order; something happens to alter the equilibrium that is seen in the beginning of the film. For my coursework, this would be when the gentleman steps on the allotment and the audience sees a more aggressive side to the main character or when Andy kills his wife. Next is the recognition of disruption, when the protagonist realise what has happened and try to find a solution. It is unclear where this aspect would feed into my film, perhaps if Andy tried to recussitate his wife this may class as recognition. The attempt at resolution follows, where the protagonists devise and try out a plan they believe will resolve the issue. In Green Fingers, although unseen, this would be when Andy buried the body to prevent going to jail for murder. And finally, there’s the new equilibrium, where the problem is solved and equilibrium returns, which is evident in my short film when he covers the finger with soil, suggesting that his problems have been hidden once again.

Ultimately, narrative theory discusses multiple areas within the way a story is presented to an audience. Through using narrative theory, it is clear that there are many complexities in creating an interesting and well told film.

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Genre Theory

Sorry, I didn’t do a plan. I started writing one but it turned into my essay!

Genre is the classification of films and other media texts through their shared characteristics. During the rise of the film industry, genres were created to help production companies quickly produce films, with known archetypes that gave audience pleasures. This meant that there was little time spent on considering plot lines and themes that would attract audiences, as they had already developed a set of codes and conventions they knew would be a success. For example, Western films were very popular in the mid 20th century, and the concept of a Sherriff preventing the town from a threat gave the audience pleasures. From then on, the majority of Western films were based around this concept, with slight variation to prevent the film becoming boring. This concept was suggested by Neale, suggesting that “genres are instances of repetition and difference” and that “difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre”, enforcing that for a genre to survive, certain aspects must differ between films to prevent it’s downfall.

Genre films share similar iconography, they tend to develop similar moods and emotional settings, they share ‘stock characters’, and tend to be shot in similar cinematic styles; however this concept is enhanced more in different genres, such as Film Noir, than others. The film I created for my A2 coursework, Green Fingers, was planned to be a part of the thriller genre. The thriller genre includes a very wide range of films, thus making its codes and conventions more difficult to define as within the thriller genre there are many sub genres, such as the psychological thriller, action thriller, crime thriller and many more. The most common convention for films in this genre is that it creates suspense and a tense emotional setting for the audience. It also features the iconography of violence, tense music and quick cuts. Through featuring these conventions in my short film, I was able to create a film that I knew would be received well by the audience. This concept was considered by Daniel Chandler, who stated that “Conventional definitions of genres tend to be based on the notion that the constitute particular conventions of content  and form  which are shared by the texts which are regarded as belonging to them”. The conventions of my short film share the conventions of other thriller films such as the suspense built in The Silence of the Lambs, or the lack of continuity in Shutter Island; thus being able to group these films into one genre. He also stated that pleasures can be gained by the audience through sharing the experience of genre with others ‘within an interpretive community’, suggesting that the familiarity with genre conventions only enhances the pleasures gained from certain films.

Genre is essential for the marketing and production of a film, as the common conventions of each film ensures that any company can produce a film that features a tried and tested formula and will be able to attract an audience. For example; when researching into Thriller film posters for my A2 coursework, I compared them to posters of rom-coms, horror films and comedy posters to determine the characteristics that set the thriller genre apart from the rest. From my research, I determined that thriller posters featured a dark filter over a photograph of the protagonist, and also a bold font for the title of the film. By adhering to these set standards, I was able to attract an audience who had already determined that they enjoy thriller films, through having watched them and gained pleasures from it’s conventions. As stated by Knight, “satisfaction is guaranteed with genre”, and therefore by following the iconographies set in the genres marketing strategies, I have guaranteed that if a consumer was attracted to view a thriller film from previous posters, they will be attracted to mine.

Altman’s theory enforces the concept that genre was created as a way of institutions attracting audience members. This is known as a pragmatic approach. By combining the conventions of multiple genres, the film institutions are more likely to be able to attract a wider audience; for example, superhero films feature a variety of conventions found in several different genres. Take Spider-Man, this is an action film, featuring his love interest, with sci-fi like monsters combined with the comedy of the protagonist. By combining these conventions, this film will appeal to viewers of action, romance, sci-fi and comedy fans, thus increasing the companies profit. Bordwell enforced this concept by stating that “any theme may appear in any genre”, and thus complicating the rigidity of genre classification. Just because a film shows the majority of codes and conventions of one genre does not mean that it will not appeal to the interests of fans of other genres. Green Fingers follows this idea, as the beginning of my film starts off as if it were a drama film due to the slow paced montage and the calming music and therefore may appeal to fans of the drama genre. However this is then subverted through the mystery of the buried finger, building the suspense found in thriller films.