Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Marketing Superhero Films

Spider-Man (Sam Raimi, 2002)

Daredevil (Mark Steven Johnson, 2003)

Guide to storyboards and website for Superhero exam (Film)

Superhero Posters

Superhero cover for film magazine

Extreme Close up

Close up

2018 Media Exam

Storyboards and website for Serial Drama

Drawing tasks for Serial Drama Exam

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

GCSE Media Exam - Science Fiction Films

GCSE Media – Science Fiction films

Firstly, we have no idea exactly what the exam will contain, but we’ve looked carefully at the preliminary release material and based upon questions from the previous years, we can hazard a few guesses – so, if something else comes up, don’t shoot me! You have, however, done a lot of work on this and you should have plenty of material to work with.
I’m not going over the pre-release material again. We’ve read it in class and you’ve had your own copy for a few weeks.
How do you define science fiction? Films based on scientific possibility/potential, though may seem far-fetched.
The following posts have loads of information to help with the exam.
Make sure you can apply Uses and Gratifications, Narrative Theory and you know how your film can appeal to audience types. Make sure you can refer to existing films when you talk about your own or science fiction conventions - two or three would do.
There are several films that can be accessed on the video server via the school's website.
You’ll get about 22 minutes per question. If you finish early, you’ve done something wrong or missed out something. Try to avoid spending too long on the drawing task.

Narrative Theories and Uses and Gratifications

If you want the big marks, you have to know these theories.

Make sure you understand the basics of Todorov’s narrative theory and you can apply it to your film, but don’t forget the idea that a good film – one that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats, will have several moments of disruption and repair before the final equilibrium. Narrative theory will be on the blog here:

Narrative and character theories (2) from HeworthMedia1

Remember to mention the Enigma Code, whereby the audience is attracted to the film because there’s a problem that needs solving or a quest that needs fulfilling and the audience wants to find out how it ends. Your film can have more than one of these. A successful film will have a series of problems or cliffhangers – like a series of disruptions – how will they be solved?
The narrative of the film is often organised around opposite pairs/conflicts and these can create tension to attract the viewer. This is Levi-Strauss’ binary opposition theory. The basic opposition is good v evil and then hero v villain, but you can take this to all sorts of lengths: man v woman; youth v age; survival v destruction; utopia v dystopia; technological v organic; machinery v human and so on…
Uses and Gratifications – how can you apply this to your film? There’s a powerpoint here, but it should be simple when discussing the appeal of your film to the audience. 1. It’s entertainment. 2. People can discuss it with each other, face to face or on website message boards or across social network sites. 3. Fans of the genre will be able to find typical tropes and conventions; some people may even watch the films to find information in the sense that they want to get ideas about aliens and global warming, though I think if you watch fiction films for this sort of thing, you’re probably in trouble, but there is some informative element, I guess, in that you can take some of what you see as a warning or find out about scientific possibilities. 4. Personal identity – you may well identify or aspire to be like or fantasise you are one of the characters (hey, it happens), but you may be such a fan that you watching sci-fi, reading about it etc, becomes a part of your identity – a way you identify yourself.

Your own film. You may have to provide a cast and justify your choices. Possibly a director too. Remember, it’s a British independent company, so it will not have a vast amount of money and you will be in competition with Hollywood films produced by big studios who have a lot of money at their disposal to both make and promote the film. So, you say that after watching Caradog James’ The Machine (2013) and Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2010), you will be able to create special effects on a low budget in order to give the film a chance at the box office in a genre where fans generally expect to see an event movie.

Science Fiction - a popular genre

Why is the genre popular?
Some of the biggest box-office smashes of all time have been science fiction films - think of the Star Wars film, the Star Trek films, The Terminator franchise

Several reasons why they're popular – many are exciting action movie/sci-fi hybrids (like…?); they attract popular stars (Will Smith, George Clooney, Matt Damon – name their films…) who attract big audiences; they are often action movies with huge set pieces to attract an audience and extensive use of CGI to make things both believable and exciting (examples?);  a typical narrative is the hero’s journey or quest and this offers suspense and enigmas – will he succeed/what will try to stop him/her?
Some of them, like Star Wars and the Star Trek films are franchises and previous films - including their existence on DVD, the games, models, toys, graphic novels, comic books, TV shows - build up huge anticipation for the next instalment.

They sometimes cast light on present day problems such as the dangers of over-reliance on technology or genetic engineering or a class system where the majority of people work to please a rich minority (examples?) but in an entertaining fashion.  This is called REFLECTION THEORY – they reflect contemporary issues – so, Them! (1954) featuring giant ants mutated by radiation, reflects the 1950s fear of radiation and the atomic bomb, whereas Elysium (2013) reflects the fears that wealth and power are controlled by a few people and the rest of us do all the work – you can see this theme has a long history, because it’s there in Metropolis (1927) too – or District 9 (2009) is a parable about racism in South Africa.

The genre contains a mass of possibilities for storylines which can use the conventions or combine them or combine them with those from other genres. E.g. Terminator 2 is about the dangers of futuristic technology that will lead to a dystopian future. It’s also an action movie starring one of the main stars of the genre, Arnold Schwarzenegger. On top of the that, it’s variant on the Western (specifically Shane) where the mysterious hero comes to town and solves the problem by violence but has to move on because there’s no place for him in that newly lawful society – and The Terminator has to destroy himself to stop more trouble in the future, should scientists get hold of the technology used to create him.

Many of them have elements of comedy and romance – think of the romance in Star Wars; there’s romance between the captain and the female scientist in The Thing from Another World; the romance that develops between the scientist and the ex-Navy man in Jurassic World. What about comedy? Jar-Jar Binks in the Star Wars films – or the bickering between R2D2 and C3P0. They don’t have to be expensive to be exciting - look at Attack the Block (2011) - the plot centres on a teenage street gang who have to defend themselves from predatory alien invaders. The age group of the characters helped the film’s appeal to an audience that age. It only cost $8million to make. The average cost of a Hollywood movie is about $50million. Elysium cost $115 million. Your film will have to be reasonably cheap, near the $8million mark.

Conventions of Science Fiction Films

There is always a question on conventions of the genre. You will need to be able to reference other films when you answer this. Over the last few weeks, there have been any number of sci-fi films on TV and we have a selection of the video server that you can access from outside school. You have been reminded several times to watch some.
Let’s say the question gives you FOUR typical science fiction conventions and asks you to write about them. To ensure you get some marks, you’ll need to refer to TWO actual films. Some of these categories will blend with others
Dystopian futureMetropolis (1927), Elysium (2013), Terminator 2 (1991), I Am Legend (2007) – and many more… How is the idea of a Dystopian future used in these films? A little bit of Wikipedia research will soon answer that, even if you haven’t seen the films. Dystopian films are often meant to be a warning against something – class division (Metropolis, Elysium); increasing technologisation of society (Terminator2 – but I’m sure you can think of other examples)
Alien InvasionIndependence Day (1996), The War of the Worlds (1953 and 2005), The Thing From Another World (1951), The Mist (2007). Do the same. Why do the aliens invade? How are they defeated? Talk about a couple of significant points – all these films, for instance show Americans overcoming the alien forces, though The Mist has a tragic ending. Independence Day had Americans from all walks of life united to defeat the invaders; in The Mist, they bicker and quarrel and remain divided so many are killed; even at the end, the ‘hero’ kills his son and the survivors (but doesn’t have the nerve to kill himself, as they had planned), fearing that the aliens are about to get them – but it turns out that the sounds of alien craft they heard were from the army who were in the process of defeating the aliens.
What do these films have in common – big set pieces – think of the battles in Independence Day or the scene where the scientists put the virus on the mothership - and special effects, CGI in the more recent films. Most – The Mist being the exception, seem to extol American ideology in that people pull together to defeat the bad guys.
A lot of alien invasion films depict the aliens as bad guys without much in the way of a motive, like the way Indians were depicted in countless Westerns in the past, but sometimes that isn’t the case. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) shows mankind willing to benefit from alien knowledge and the aliens returning people they had abducted in the past and allowing people from earth on board their ship for further study.
Many alien invasion films of the 1950s symbolise the threat America felt from Russian invasion – in The Thing from Another World, the scientist who wants to befriend the alien is dressed in a fur hat and has a Lenin beard. In The War of the Worlds (1953 version), the people initially approach the Martians to be their friends, but are instantly killed, as if warning people what would happen if you befriended the Russians. As in other genres, not all films were like this. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is a stark warning against arms build-up. When the alien arrives, he is shot by a panicky soldier and a huge robot emerges from the alien craft and disintegrates the army’s vehicles and weapons, but he has come to earth to warn them about the creation of weapons and their use and reminds them that if they don’t join the other planets in peace, earth will be destroyed and left as a burnt out cinder, which, of course, the fear of many people who were against the build-up of nuclear weapons.
Space travel/other planets – way too many and too many variants to mention, but, come on, think of the Star Trek movies, exploring space and trying to create peace amongst warring peoples but not before getting involved in some serious CGI action of their own. Star Wars (1977)? Battles between rebels and various regimes – and we can see this in some of the dystopian films where a rebel force or a rebel group or even just a rebel hero (Elysium) fight the system. More ‘realistic’ space films, like Gravity? Space films that take a different turn of events, like Alien (1979), where the crew of a space cargo ship are diverted to another planet and unknowingly, pick up another life form which escapes onto the ship, grows and terrorises them, picking them off one-by one until only the Last Girl – in this case, Ripley – is left to use her ingenuity to kill it. This is also notable for involving conspiratorial elements, because the company the crew work for forced them to pick the alien (though it’s not made clear why) and one of the crew is a lifelike robot, whose treachery isn’t discovered until later. So… this one ticks off the artificial life/dangers of advanced technology box too.
Again, in these films, you’re looking at big set pieces and mostly CGI, although earlier films relied on more primitive special effects. Forbidden Planet (1953) features a group of Americans who land on a planet occupied by a stranded scientist, Morbius and his daughter. Morbius claims his craft. Morbius has been using the technology of an extinct native race, The Krell, which he discovered in a vast underground complex. He refuses to turn it over to the astronauts, but that night an alien invader (no CGI, but animated by Disney animators on a special contract because the film was made by MGM) attacks their ship. Later, they realise the Krell machinery was built to materialize anything the Krell could imagine and this has affected Morbius who has unwittingly created the monster to keep the earthmen away. Eventually, they start an irreversible reaction in the Krell machine and escape the planet to see it blow up from space – though not before Morbius has perished. A major feature of the film was Robby the robot, created by Morbius using Krell technology – though he’s a good ‘guy’ in the film. He was so popular that he tuned up (under a different name) in other films of the period.
Technology – think of technology gone wrong. The Demon Seed (1977) – Proteus, an advanced artifical intelligence programme, takes over the house of its creator, trapping his wife inside, where he forces her to conceive (don’t ask the details…). Although the programme is destroyed, the resultant child, initially encased in metal, turns out to be a clone of the couple’s existing child but speaks with Proteus’ voice.
Terminator 2 (1991) – in the future, an army of robotic warriors terrorises the remaining human population, so the humans send a good terminator (Schwarzenegger) back in time to protect the future leader of the resistance and his mother while the robots send an evil, more advanced terminator, to kill them. This is the second film in the sequence and in the first, Schwarzenegger played the evil terminator, so, at first, people assume he’s evil here and he dresses all in black and rides a motorbike to add to that feeling; ironically, the real evil terminator initially disguises himself as a policeman. It’s best not to think of the logic of this, but the arm of the terminator (who had also come from the future) in the first film will be used to by the company SkyNet to create artificial intelligence so Schwarzenegger and the rebels – they’re rebels because no-one in authority will believe them – have to destroy the arm – and after destroying the it and the evil terminator, the good terminator has to sacrifice himself to stop his body being used to develop an artificial intelligence that will turn evil.
Environmental disaster/genetic engineering – it was a common theme in 1950s film, reflecting the fear of radioactivity and the atom bomb, that things would mutate and create havoc – hence the giant ants of Them! (1954) or the sea monster awoken from the depths of the sea (Godzilla – a Japanese film (1954)). These are strange films that warn of the dangers of science but often like Them!, use science to defeat them. Same happens in The Thing From Another World, where the soldiers and scientists use science to create an electrical field that destroys the alien, even though the chief scientist is represented as a traitor. Of course, this theme is picked up in films showing the dangers of technologisation.
Look at the Jurassic Park/Lost World films for the dangers of genetic engineering gone wrong. Look at Mimic (1997) – a plague carried by cockroaches is destroyed by Dr Susan Tyler when she uses genetic engineering to create a Judas breed in which the metabolism speeds up so they starve themselves to death, but… this genetic engineering has created a breed that can grow and mimic humans. Susan’s husband manages to destroy the eggs of thousands of the creatures, but the male leader is lured by Susan into the path of an oncoming subway train and is killed.
I Am Legend – do some research…

Representation in Science Fiction Films

Representation – there’s a slideshare on this blog to look at –


 But think – are these people stereotypes (the screaming, attractive, vulnerable female, the evil scientist etc) or is there more than meets the eye? To give an example, Dr Susan Tyler in Mimic manages to be both. She is the counter-stereotype in that she is the intelligent , attractive, young female scientist who stops the plague, but she is also used as the victim in some scenes (the lonely traveller on the subway). At the end, however she is the one who defeats the male head of the Judas insects. The fact it is male, makes her even more of a countertype.

Look at Ripley in Alien. She is extremely attractive and at the end, parades around in underwear to show off her figure, yet she is the lone survivor of the crew. She outlasts all the macho men and she is the one who uses her ingenuity to defeat the alien and send it hurtling into space.

The soldiers and scientists in The Thing From Another World seem like a typical group of American macho men who will defeat the stereotypical evil alien who has not motive but to destroy, but they are an inclusive group, including women who take part in the final destruction of the alien. Even the scientist, who is a stereotype, though more gullible than evil, is welcomed back in the fold after the alien is defeated when he is referred as having sustained wounds in the fight.

What about the casting of Will Smith in several science-fiction films. Once upon a time, this kind of role would have been given to white actors. The two previous versions of I Am Legend featured white actors in that role. He has, along with Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Matt Damon, become an actor associated with the genre.