Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Yr3 Week 8 (Wed 26 Nov- MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Programming)

Today, we continued on from last week on the subject of being a 'Programmer' for film events.

First, we looked at what being a Cinema Programmer entails: Usually the titular venues have a dedicated programmer, and they, in turn. have to have several key requirements. These include Audience Knowledge (Maintaining them and knowing what they seek/crave), Venue Knowledge (all about the logistics of what your venue can offer (where and when)), Economic Realities (self explanatory given what these venues offer) and Sourcing (where to get your films from, usually by means of distributors and sales agents, as well as bearing in mind what's hot on the festival circuit.) Also, working at a 'Multiplex' (Odeon, Cineworld, VUE, generally catering to large productions) vs. a 'PictureHouse/indie cinema' (smaller/niche films that may not play as well to a large audience) can have an impact on all of these choices too.

 However, to add some 'spice' and variety to these method, in recent years something called the 'OurScreen Model' has come up, which I've discussed in past weeks (getting audiences and film fans involved in what gets seen at their local theatres, usually through the aid of a third party website). Of course, a 'spiced up' programme does lead into the next type of Programmer: The Festival kind. For a point of reference, Elhum used her experiences with the Bird's Eye View Festival (also discussed in previous weeks).

Their array of tasks include the Research Brief (Self-explanatory: doing homework on the films that are appropriate for the festival and its themes, as well as cultural and commercial viability), sourcing (Much like above) and working with teams on supporting events and hospitality (creating more of an expansion/extension to the festival and making it more of an 'event'). Another important aspect as well, sort of tying to the last point, is acquiring venues for the festival to take place in (this in turn has a knock-on effect with the rest of the festival, especially concerning the length and popularity of a film selected), and like their Cinema counterparts, knowing the audience whom the festival is aimed at, and programming films accordingly (you wouldn't programme a children's animated short at a festival about surrealism and violence in media).

Her closing advice, should any of us be interested in working at a festival or even submitting, was to know our stuff (information is key, know the rules and specifications of what the festival is) as well as being paramount on the strongest talent and voice out there. Indeed, I agree and would do much the same myself. Speaking from my experience as an online reviewer, I find that a lot of films out there do bleed into one another, and never feel like they have a strong identity of their own. It is critical, even in bad works, to at least have your own voice/style/perspective on filmmaking and how you go about, otherwise, you just blend into the crowd.

Today's site of choice is one which, for once, I am actually familiar with and have visited before: FilmSchoolRejects. FSR, started in 2006 and still going today, are you typical pop culture site: they do reviews of theatrical and home release, they cover breaking news in the film and television, have a podcast called Broken Projector, and do editorials/articles/discussions on a major topic or issue that has come up in the world of creative media.

Honestly, I don't have much to comment on here; they are like many other review sites on the web (IGN, SchmoesKnow, the now defunct, covering a broad host of topics for a dedicated audience of media geeks, or as the site calls them 'Connoisseurs', with something for just about every type of taste and want. This certainly gives them a broad appeal and demographic potential, but given they don't offer much more about their own history or have anything drastically different from other sites, I have not much more to add.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Yr3 Week 7 (Thurs 20 Nov - MDA3200 Film Theory - Political Types)

We returned back to the subject of political cinema this week, opening up with a screening of the Cuban drama Memories of Underdevelopment (1968),a  prime example of what is known as 'Third Cinema', birthed from Latin America in the mid Twentieth Century. In this film, a bourgeois man opts to remain in Cuba as the Castro government takes control, and we follow his observing the changes in the country and how indifferent he is to it, treating those around him with a degree of contempt, such as his supposed 'best friend', and a young working class girl whom he often demeans. Mixed in with this is newsreel footage of actual historical events and people, like the 'Bay Of Pigs Invasion'. This only further magnifies the film's efforts for social commentary, and gives it much more a feeling of being grounded in history, and as a time capsule of the times.
When looking through cinema, there are 'Four' types: 'First' is your big mainstream productions, 'Second' is the European arthouse circuit, 'Third' cinema is the politically-minded ring, and then 'Fourth' is a more recent movement that focuses on the indigenous/aboriginal populus of countries around the Pacific, like Australia and the United States. In the case of today's film, a member of the 'Third', we looked into Marxism, a political ideology that felt society had been forced into a 'Base'with the working classes, and then a 'Superstructure' that dictates everything else (religion, law, education etc.), leading to inequality and manipulation (the irony being that 'enforced equality' was just as controlling when Communism came around and tried to put Marxist ideas into practice). However, Marxism did also lead into a 1920s movement known as 'The Frankfurt School' which birthed what we know today as critical analysis, combining the breakdowns of Marxism and Psychoanalysis to understand the true nature and message of a given work. This is known as 'symptomatic reading', and it's should be all too clear why this applies here.

This of course, leads into film ideology, constantly evolving and changing as interpretations are brought up and then challenged or debated (something which, as this blog has evidenced, I am no stranger to). In this case, this is more to do with the idea of class struggle and division for hegemony, and as yet another example, we watched one of The Guardian's microplays, Britain Is Not Eating, which all about how the higher classes perceive the way the working ones use their money, and them arguing that food banks and benefits are unnecessary.

Then, in the seminar, we discussed more about Memories itself, refreshing ourselves with a brief recap of a sequence set during a visit to the home of author Ernest Hemingway. Here, we noted how there is a contrast of intellects between the main lead and his girlfriend (classist and maybe sexism), how his narration comments and disdains on Cuba and its culture/world view (seeing them as undeveloped and base), and even having a cameo of the book's original author may be self deprecating and slightly meta (reflexivity). As for the structuring, the film doesn't make much use of transition, and instead opts to use 'titles' when moving to a new part of the story, akin to the book. It also regularly sprinkles in flashbacks of the main character's upbringing in 'old' Cuba, and the aforementioned vignettes to add in more context and background to this world and him.

Finally, just for comparison, we saw another Cuban production, Soy Cuba (1974), which is sort of like a Cuban Nashville or Shortcuts, detailing the lives of different people. Our vignette was on a fruit seller's girlfried who sells herself to an American for a night, much to the bewilderment of her boyfriend. This is lighter and more pro-Cuba than Memories, painting Americans in an unsavoury light and showing them as 'corrupting' and 'piggish'. In the end, I feel that I have not much more to add as a conclusion that the above did not already detail.

Yr3 Week 7 (Wed 19 Nov- MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Film Festivals)

Today's seminar with Elhum was centered on film festivals, fitting given how recently we had gone to Riga. The basic stats for this whole business include such facts as there being over 3000 festivals active every year around the world, with 75% started in the last decade, and with the U.S. being the largest market, with 70% of festivals happening there.

Speaking of large, there are what's known as the 'Big 5', the largest festivals and the most influential: Cannes (which happens in May, and is probably the most famous), Toronto (Aug-Sept), Sundance (Jan), Venice (Sept) and Berlin (Feb). These are known as 'A' List festivals, which much like anything else in the media world, means there are the ones that will garner the most attention for you and will ensure a longer lifespan for the film's release with that clout behind it. As for the UK specifically, the main ones are, of course, linked to the big cities: London, Edinburgh, Raindance and East End (over in East London, of course). What also ties these together is there is usually a business sideline to the events as well, in the form of trade shows, where you can network and meet valuable allies to assist in your next production.

Also useful for getting into festivals and making yourself known/being aware of them, are the likes of, which includes an enormous directory of all festivals, British Council - Film which offers registration to events, and WithoutaBox, which speeds up the process of registration on a larger scale by sending your information to festivals for you, and not needing to re-enter it constantly for new events. Also important to bear in mind when doing any of this is your film's genre and background, whereby there exist festivals that cater specially to certain type, like Frightfest does for Horror films, or Bird's Eye View does for female directors.

As for the actual roles when setting up the festival, it follows in a manner akin to most large events: most are pretty self-explanatory (Technician, Marketing Manager, Producer) and then more specific to this are jobs like Programmers (whose job it is to examine the different films and then build the selection), the Programme Manager (who oversees this, as well as managing the fees related to submission) and even the Guest Liason (they look after the special guests and chaperone them around). Some of the pro-tips Elhum offered from hers, and other programmers, include the likes of maintaining good manners with festivals, be very clear and concise with your submissions, do your homework on the festivals to optimize your appropriate exposure. And most key, please put your DVDs in proper cases and not just cheap envelopes!

This was a very detailed seminar, and it was rather interesting just seeing how often and how easily mistakes are made and how they can be rectified. Sometimes, as filmmakers, we often look at these sorts of outlets with a mix of contempt and yet incredibly needy-ness for acceptance, so knocking it out of the park with proper conduct is essential.

Today's organisation of choice was Future Shorts, an entity devoted towards promoting blood new short films from young filmmakers since 2011. The grand prize is known as the Future Shorts Audience Award, where the audience is allowed to vote for whatever is their favourite film, and a global community at that, as the website puts it.

What's more, on top of programming these 'pop-up' festivals and awards, they also offer services to help filmmakers, including distribution help as well as use of their own resources, as they own studios of their own. These services include support/help with sound, graphics and editing.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Yr3 Week 6 - Reading Week (10-14 Nov)

So, Reading came about again, and it was time to get to work on the two major term assignments: First, for MDA3400, I had to do a full proposal for my short script (Little Visitor), which basically played out the same as the pitch, only in written form: what's about, what are its ideas, who is it aimed at, how long will it take, why should it be made etc.), each section lasting between 200-700 words.

The second task was for MDA3200, where I had to write a 1500 word textual analysis of a sequence from a film we had watched in class, breaking down what it could mean/what it's saying, and how/why. My choice was the ending of Ordet, when the wife is resurrected by Johannes, up till this point dismissed by others as a nut who said he was the reborn Christ. I felt that the religious implications of this ending made it ripe for different interpretations I could cover, filling out the 1500 words with ease and of course, detail.

Yr3 Week 5 (Fri 7 Nov - MDA3400 Pitching session - Our Son)

So today was the big one: I had to pitch the short script that I was to work on for the remainder of the year. I already have the presentation here on the blog, so I won't go over it again here (look up 'Our Son pitch'), so instead, this will be kept concise as to the feedback I gained from classmates and Helen, who was moderating:

  • Sadly, the 5-8 mins time limit wasn't kind to me, and I ran out halfway through the presentation. Need to work on being a faster and more concise speaker.
  • While the class admired it for being bold enough to tackle an issue as serious as child illness and the effect it has on parents, some questioned if maybe the subject matter would too relentlessly dour (in retrospect, a film I should've brought up to show that it can be done is Michael Hanneke's Amour (2011), which dealt with the elderly, death and caring for a dying partner).
  • Also, there was the question if it wouldn't be more suited for documentary if I wanted to show what this was like for real parents. While an understandable point, I counter-argued that there are certain lines you can't cross with a documentary (a subject just may be straight up unwilling to discuss) whereas, armed with enough research, you could go those extremes with fiction and not worry about that, only getting to the emotions at the core of the story.
 Subsequently, now that this journal is a while late in being published anyway, Our Son was dropped a few days later in favour of a new, more child-friendly script called 'Little Visitor'. Not because I was scared of a challenge (I still intend to develop Our Son as a full screenplay later on), but because of persona affairs that meant I was no longer as determined to tackle such dour subject matter for my final project, and instead, opt to do something a little brighter, more open and colourful. Sometimes, the darkness isn't quite so appealing....

Yr3 Week 5 (Thurs 6 Nov - MDA3200 Film Theory - Political Cinema)

In today's screening, we watched the 1967 French film by maverick auteur Jean Luc Godard (Filme Socialisme), Weekend. Te film is certainly an odd affair, using the troubled journey of a married couple to visit relatives as a backdrop for an all round assault on French society vat the time: materialism, the bourgeois, intellectuals, social norms, taboos, sex, urban and country life, it all comes under fire in a rather oddball, often amusing way. Instances of which include a long take of several minutes in length as the couple tr to drive through a traffic jam, each time finding the other drivers doing odd things like playing chess, having a picnic, having marital debates etc. or them stumbling across a young couple in the woods who go in the guise of literary figures (Lewis Caroll and Emily Bronte) while spouting wax philosophical, and in return for their thoughts, get beaten and burnt by the couple.

Yes, it's an odd-'un, and one that very much was a product of the times, specifically France of the late 60s: this was a country in turmoil, as we discussed in the seminar. There were youth and student uprising against the government in May of 1968 that sent very firm shockwaves through the rather conservative French society of the time. At the same time, there was a film movement being birthed n the county, what is now known as the French New Wave, a group of film enthusiasts who saw the medium as a legitimate artform and means to communicate messages and ideas. Prominent figures included the likes of Godard. Francois Truffant and Alain Resnois, all famous French filmmakers who would influence the coming film world, with Truffant, in particular, giving birth to the notion of the director as 'auteur'.

After this, we quickly touched on the idea of 'deconstruction' (uncovering the real agenda/views/agencies/themes of a given work) and how that pertained to Weekend (which deconstructs French values of the time, especially the materialistic bourgeois, even if it can get a little on the nose at points and have characters literally spell out the message), and quickly revisited the notion of diegesis (what takes place/what is within the world of the film, which is certainly interesting, given how strange and surreal Weekend gets at points).

Once again, this session was recovering a lot ground from last year with regards to the French New Wave, but still served as a decent refresher and a fun introduction to the works of Godard. The major new information came really from looking further at the political context of the New Wave, which was interesting and perfectly parallels how the New Wave would change cinema, rocking a lot of the old boats and introducing new and more impactful ways to tell stories.