AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
1 | Blackpool Sixth Form
AS Film
Studies
Induction Booklet
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
2 | Blackpool Sixth Form
Welcome to AS level film Studies
A level Film Studies is the st...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
3 | Blackpool Sixth Form
1. Introduction
When we talk about reading a film what we actua...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
4 | Blackpool Sixth Form
2. The opening sequence - getting involved in a film
From the m...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
5 | Blackpool Sixth Form
Most film audiences/spectators are able to recognise these film...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
6 | Blackpool Sixth Form
2) Different camera movements can be used to create a specific ...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
7 | Blackpool Sixth Form
Lighting is an important signifier as it conveys the mood or at...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
8 | Blackpool Sixth Form
Sound
The extra dimension that sound adds to film has been ackn...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
9 | Blackpool Sixth Form
Use of editing
When the filming has been completed, the editing...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
10 | Blackpool Sixth Form
2) Joining the shots/’cutting’
The director has a choice in th...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
11 | Blackpool Sixth Form
Conclusion
By now you should have more of an insight into the ...
AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET
12 | Blackpool Sixth Form
o CASE STUDY: ‘Memento’, Christopher Nolan, 2000
Produced by: ...
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Film studies induction booklet

  1. 1. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 1 | Blackpool Sixth Form AS Film Studies Induction Booklet
  2. 2. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 2 | Blackpool Sixth Form Welcome to AS level film Studies A level Film Studies is the study of everything cinematic. From Silent European cinema to contemporary Hollywood, the course aims to develop our understanding and appreciation of film. We will study a diverse range of films and topics. Film Studies is not just about the films themselves. We will examine movements and trends within the world of film as well as investigating reasons why such changes occur. We will look at film audiences and discuss patterns and spectatorship, as well as the processes of film production. Not just a medium for entertainment, films are political and social platforms which demand our study and reflection in order for us help us make sense of our changing world Over the course of this year we will be covering a range of topics within the context of film. We aim to use a variety of approaches, including film screenings and extract analysis, classroom discussion and note-taking, group based activities and active learning, and also some production work. All of this before we reach the exam period in June where you will be assessed through essay writing. There are a few things you can do to help you through your studies o Keep your work neat and well organised. Booklets will be issued for all topics. o Arrive promptly for all lessons. The nature of the course will require screenings which will be crucial to the lesson. Avoid missing these! o Make sure that you bring a pen and A4 pad for making notes. Worksheet will be used when required but you will be expected to keep your own notes as well. o Keep yourselves up to date with film and cinema. Sight & Sound (available in the library) and Empire/Total Film magazine have lots of info on new films. Also check out imdb.com and guardian.co.uk/film for film info. They will be useful for essay writing. YouTube is also useful for film clips, short films and film marketing. In preparation for your first module, it is important that we prepare ourselves for studying film in an academic matter. The best way to start is to familiarise ourselves with some fundamental aspects to reading films. Over the next few sessions we will look at a range of film texts and consider how film communicates to audiences. This will serve as an introduction to FM1 which will require analytical approaches to film.
  3. 3. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 3 | Blackpool Sixth Form 1. Introduction When we talk about reading a film what we actually mean is looking at the film in great detail to see how it is put together. There are many different elements to consider when undertaking such an activity and it is usual to read an extract from a film rather than the whole film. Reading a film is just like reading a book, except that instead of looking at a written page we are looking at the cinema screen. We can look at text, books or film for a variety of purposes; we can either read a book or watch a film purely for enjoyment, or, we may want to look at it in more depth to see why it actually is that we enjoy it so much. As with any other creative text each person will have an individual response to a film. Whilst you may enjoy say, the unusual camera angles in a film, someone else might find them annoying because they distract from the narrative. A friend may think that a certain facial expression reveals something important about a character; you may see it as meaning something completely different. When we read a film we are interpreting the text as we see it; we are saying why we think the filmmaker made certain choices and what the film means to us. If you read a written text and it has a certain effect on you, for instance it makes you scared, we can look closely at the way the text has been constructed to see how the writer has used the tools at their disposal to create the fear. Reading a film works in exactly the same way except that the tools that are used to create meaning are different. We call these tools film language. o Make a list of elements which you think make up a movie experience
  4. 4. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 4 | Blackpool Sixth Form 2. The opening sequence - getting involved in a film From the moment we first start watching the film we begin to get involved. The first few images of a film (the opening sequence) are very important to us as they give us lots of clues as to what the film will be about. We look at the opening shots of place and time, and put them into context. We look at the actors we are presented with and make assumptions about their characters and roles in the film and their relationship to each other. We look at the title of the film - the way it is worded and the style of the lettering and we try to guess what genre (type) of film it will be. We listen to the sound, which is often predominantly music at this stage, and the tone and beat of this again give us further clues as to how the film will develop. We do all this automatically - at this time we are extremely receptive and actively involved. Without realising it, we have entered into the world of the film and begun to read the signals that have been set up for us; we have begun to decode the film language. Film codes & signals In the spoken or written language that we use, words often have hidden meaning, or a 'signal' behind the literal meaning of the word. For instance, the sun is literally a yellowish ball in the sky, but the word 'signals' to us meanings such as warmth, cheerfulness, life, etc. A teddy bear is a stuffed, brown plaything but it 'signals' comfort and childhood innocence to us. These are known as the denotative (literal) meaning and the connotative (hidden signals and implications) meaning of the word. This results in a sensory impact on the spectator. o EXTRACT: ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Steven Spielberg, 1998. Watch the sequence and make notes on the impact this has on the senses of the spectator. Films use the same signals or coding systems. For instance if we see a picture of a wooden thing with branches on screen, our mind thinks 'tree'. If the tree is a gnarled, large, spiky and leafless image, shot in black and white, we read the signal of disaster, threat, maybe horror. If the tree is drawn in bright crayon colours and is rounded and 'lollipop-like', it signals 'children', 'happy birdies nesting', etc. to us. The codes films use do not only have to be visual. The use of sudden loud music signals 'something dramatic is about to happen – pay attention!' An extreme close-up shot of a person’s face signals 'this character's reaction is very important'. The study of these systems of signs is called semiology. o EXTRACT: ‘Sleepy Hollow’, Tim Burton, 1999. Watch the extract and consider the intentions of the film maker. What mood is created here? How is this achieved?
  5. 5. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 5 | Blackpool Sixth Form Most film audiences/spectators are able to recognise these film codes; even young children are aware of the basics. As students of film you will learn how to analyse this film language in more detail. Your level of interaction will be greater and you will be able to be more specific about what it is that makes a film 'good' or 'bad'. Let’s look at some of the elements which make up a film and through which the signals are sent to us. These are the basic criteria through which we can make judgements about a film. Use of the camera (Cinematography) 1) Different types of shots are used in a combination to give you information about where and when something is happening, the role of a character and his/her reaction, to draw attention to someone or something, or to create an impression or feeling. Look at the storyboard: o Can you make sense of the story or narrative presented here? Can we establish heroes and villains? Genre? Setting?
  6. 6. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 6 | Blackpool Sixth Form 2) Different camera movements can be used to create a specific effect, for example: A character walks into a room and the camera slowly pans across (moves from side to side). We feel as if we are the character looking around. By stopping something, our attention can be focused on this; a feeling of unsteadiness or unease can be created by moving the camera diagonally (rolling). Our brains register that all is not well within this screen world; the camera pulling backwards from a scene (tracking) indicates to the audience that the action that concerns us has now finished. In suspense films the action may start suddenly again at this point, thus surprising or shocking our expectations. o EXTRACT: ‘War of the Worlds’, Steven Spielberg, 2005. Make a note of the camera movements in the extract. How are we encouraged to follow Ray’s (Tom Cruise) point of view? At what point does the camera movement slow down? When does it start up again? Does the movement of the camera reflect his state of mind? 3) Mise-en-Scène. This is a French term meaning ‘what is put into the scene’ or frame. It is the director’s job to decide this and what is put in or left out can make a big difference to the signals we receive and the way we decode them. If a director wants to show that the story takes place in Victorian times, he or she will signal this by the use of period clothes and props. The specific inclusion of a bed and rocking horse will signify a nursery. He may take this one step further and include a window with a storm outside, thus creating atmosphere. He may sit a child on a low stool in the middle of the floor, her toys lined up formally against the walls, thus signalling that she is isolated and repressed by this room and the society she lives in. So the selection of specific objects and images carry broader ideas. Like the words chosen to make up a poem, each item in a frame may be carefully chosen and positioned. The director can draw our attention to an object, a gun, say, by placing it in the foreground, near the camera lens. We then decode that the gun will be important in this scene. o Make a list of props, objects, costumes and sets that you would commonly find in a horror movie. Make a note of their purpose as signifiers, i.e. what do they represent in the film? o Compare your notes with a film extract from a horror movie.
  7. 7. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 7 | Blackpool Sixth Form Lighting is an important signifier as it conveys the mood or atmosphere of the scene which we are observing. In a studio, the lighting is usually from three sources and is set up as follows: a) The key light, as the name suggests, is usually the brightest and most influential. This can be set to high key (e.g. to represent bright daylight) or low key (e.g. to cast shadows for an air of mystery or fear) b) The back light helps counteract the effect of the key light, thus making the figure look more 'rounded'. c) The filler light helps to soften the harsh shadows created by the use of the back and key lights. There may be more than one of these. Deciding not to use this will exaggerate shadow: ideal for horror movies! o EXTRACT: ‘Seven’, 1995 & ‘Sin City’, 2005. Both these films represent the modern city in a particular way. How would you describe the mood created? o Make notes on the use of lighting in the extracts.
  8. 8. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 8 | Blackpool Sixth Form Sound The extra dimension that sound adds to film has been acknowledged since the early days of cinema, when live music in the form of a piano, organ or even a full orchestra accompanied the images on the silent cinema screen. Although the first demonstration of sound on film is meant to have taken place as early as 1911 in the USA, it was only in 1927 that Warner Bros. released the first feature film with a soundtrack – ‘The Jazz Singer’ starring Al Jolson. One of the main reasons for the delay in the implementation of sound technology is that the film companies were unwilling to invest large sums of money into sound equipment when they were making huge profits with silent movies. However, the next commercial sound film ‘Lights of New York’ (1928) was so impressive that it stimulated a rapid and total conversion to sound within the entire film industry. Sound on film today is of course much more sophisticated with a digital synchronised soundtrack combining the elements of dialogue, music and sound effects (SFX). Diegetic & non-diegetic sound The world of the film as we see it on the cinema screen is known as the diegetic world. We can see only a section of this world – the events which the filmmaker has chosen to include in the frame. However, as a modern-day, cinema-going audience we accept that there are things taking place around the edges of what we see on screen. For instance, if a character has gone to make a cup of tea, we accept that they have gone to the kitchen which is part of the ‘film’ house in which they live. However, they are still part of the film world we are watching although they are out of vision. Often, the edges of what we can see on the cinema screen are extended by the use of sound. We might hear a doorbell ring and we acknowledge that there is someone being let into the house even though we can’t see them. Likewise, we might hear the siren of a fire engine and we know that there is a road outside. When we watch a film, the sounds that we hear can be diegetic or non-diegetic. Diegetic sound is sound which is part of the film world we are watching. This can be dialogue, music or sound effects which come from a source within the film world. The music in this instance will be from a source in the film which we acknowledge could actually be producing music, for example, a CD player or jukebox. Diegetic sound can occur either on screen or off screen; in other words we can either see the person or object that is making the sound (on screen) or we don’t (off screen). Non-diegetic sound is sound which we do not recognise as part of the film world such as a voice-over or background music. o EXTRACT1: ‘La Haine’, 1995. What do you think the intentions of the film maker were in using the diegetic sound in this extract? Consider how this works with the imagery. o EXTRACT 2: ‘Platoon’, 1986. What is the message conveyed by the film maker? To what extent is the non-diegetic music a part of this? What role does diegetic sound have here?
  9. 9. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 9 | Blackpool Sixth Form Use of editing When the filming has been completed, the editing process begins. This is a matter of choosing which shots to include, which to put next to which, and what method to use to join the shots together. So how does the audience/spectator interact with the film through the editing? 1) Selecting and ordering the shots The director can create a mood or atmosphere by choosing certain shots in a certain order, to build a picture in our minds. We automatically link what is happening in one shot with what happens in those either side of it, as this is what happens in real life. Thus, if we see a shot of a window followed by a shot of someone in bed, we assume that the person is sleeping in that same room with the window. Some directors have exploited this idea to extremes. Lev Kuleshow, a Russian filmmaker in the 1920s experimented by showing shots of an actor in between shots of different objects – food, a dead woman and a child. The audience interpreted the actor’s expression (although it never changed!) as being hungry, sad and affectionate. This is because our brains try to make continuative sense of what we see. This placing together of images is called montage. Sergei Eisenstein, another Russian filmmaker of the same era, believed that it was more effective if consecutive shots were not obviously linked, as the audience were forced to think and interact more to make the mental jump from shot to shot. Montage can be used effectively in propoganda, where the filmmaker wants the audience to believe in a certain idea or concept and is a common feature in present day advertising and pop videos. o Watch Kuleshow’s experiment on editing. o EXTRACT: ‘Battleship Potempkin’, 1925, Sergei Eisenstein. This show a great example of montage editing. What is the effect here? How did the film maker want to view the military? How is this achieved? o EXTRACT: ‘A Triumph of the Will’, 1935, Leni Riefenstahl. This film became infamous after detailing Adolf Hitler’s Nuremberg Rally in 1934. The film was used as a work of propaganda for the Nazi Party. Worryingly, the choice of shots in this sequence have been used to position the audience towards supporting the party and their political views. What shots have been used and why?
  10. 10. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 10 | Blackpool Sixth Form 2) Joining the shots/’cutting’ The director has a choice in the way he or she can join the shots together. Smooth continuity of events and ‘normality’ for the audience is best achieved by using simple cuts. There are many technical rules to be remembered in order that the actors in consecutive shots are not suddenly looking in a different direction for no apparent reason. The director can also manipulate time and space by, say, having a car leaving one place in one shot and arriving at another in the next. We accept the convention that the ‘journey’ has taken place – we interact by knowing that the film is not real time. o EXTRACT: ‘Star Wars’, George Lucas, 1977. This sequence of shots shows the heroes of the film travelling to their destination. We see very little of their journey. How does the film maker make clear that the character have made their journey? The director can create suspense by using short shots frequently edited with other shots. For example, the murderer breaks into the house, we cut to the victim in the bedroom, and then back to the murderer on the stairs and so on. Shock tactics can be used by jump cuts to a sudden close-up of an expression or object. Expectations can be built up by cutting from one shot to another and back again repeatedly, then suddenly replacing one shot with a totally new one. o EXTRACT: ‘Psycho’, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960. This iconic sequence shows a dramatic build-up of tension and suspense. Using the passage above, briefly outline how the film maker achieves this. What ‘shock tactics’ are employed here? Fade out shots, where the screen fades to black, or dissolve shots, where one image is slowly brought in underneath another one, are used to indicate the end of an event and beginning of a new one. These cause us to interact by giving us time to think about what has happened. A third type of cut is a wipe cut, where one part of the screen moves across the other. This is most often done today using computer graphics (swirls, blocks etc.). o EXTRACT: ‘Ring’, Hideo Nakata, 1998. Why do you think that the decision was made to end the sequence in this way? The director may also choose to slow the film down at certain moments, thus highlighting say, a romantic moment or creating suspense by delaying the action. We, the audience acknowledge that in film language this is a significant part of the film. He or she may also choose to use black and white film for part or all of the film, which we will automatically read as being events in the past. o EXTRACT: ‘Boyz N the Hood’, John Singleton, 1991. This sequence shows a pivotal moment in the film. How is the film maker’s decision to use slow motion justified? What effect might this have on an audience?
  11. 11. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 11 | Blackpool Sixth Form Conclusion By now you should have more of an insight into the language of film and how we interact with it, reading the signals we are given. The criteria we have looked at can be applied to any film and hopefully will help you appreciate why it is that some films are acclaimed even though they may not be huge box office successes. Using examples from texts we have looked at in class, answer the following questions… 1. Define the term film language. 2. What is the difference between denotative and connotative? 3. What is meant by the term sensory impact? 4. Explain the purpose of a storyboard? 5. Give three examples of camera movements and why the might be used. 6. What does the term mise-en-scene mean and why is it so important? 7. What is key light and how might it be used? 8. Using examples, explain the differences between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. 9. What is the order to which shots are assembled during editing important? 10. Explain how a film maker might create the following through editing: o Maintain continuity or ‘normality o Create tension
  12. 12. AS Film Studies INDUCTION BOOKLET 12 | Blackpool Sixth Form o CASE STUDY: ‘Memento’, Christopher Nolan, 2000 Produced by: Newmarket Capitol Group, Team Todd, I Remember Productions, Summit Entertainment. Distributed by: Pathe (in the UK) and Columbia TriStar (in the US) Budget: $5, 000, 000 Box Office: Opening weekend gross: $235, 500 (US) £90, 500 (UK) Total gross: $25, 500, 000 (US) £1, 186, 000 (UK) Watch the opening sequence of ‘Memento’. 1. What unconventional aspects do you think the film has compared to more mainstream Hollywood movies? 2. What methods are used to convey a sense of time and narrative? Use your notes on film language to help you with this. 3. The film was produced by small independent companies. Why would this film not attract the interest of large studios such as Universal or 20 th Century Fox? 4. Look over the table of top ten grossing movies in 2000. What differences can you identify between what we have seen and the movies listed here? Consider how the film is presented (film language), audience expectations, genres, cast/stars etc. Total Gross (US $) Movie 260,031,035 How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) 233,630,478 Cast Away (2000) 215,397,307 Mission: Impossible II (2000) 187,670,866 Gladiator (2000) 182,805,123 What Women Want (2000) 182,618,434 The Perfect Storm (2000) 166,225,040 Meet the Parents (2000) 157,299,717 X-Men (2000) 156,997,084 Scary Movie (2000) 155,370,362 What Lies Beneath (2000)

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