G321: Foundation Portfolio in Media – Andrew Stamatiou
In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge form...
narrative is told from their point of view; and this is exactly what I implemented in my media
Furthermore, I not...
throughout. As a result, my product will de-glamorise the folk-hero nature of antagonism and the
‘gangster’, and it will a...
and LoveFilm have more consumers than Netflix, and they also collect plenty more subscription
payments on a daily basis th...
techniques within it. There are a total of 10 questions, which have been answered by seven males
and three females.
To beg...
remained; including that of being viewed as a threat, having possession of drugs and depicting an
element of authority. Fu...
very proud of. Moreover, I’ve realised how keeping techniques and specific rules conventional would
make the audience both...
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Evaluation - Written

  1. 1. G321: Foundation Portfolio in Media – Andrew Stamatiou In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? In order to facilitate an effective and authentic gangster-orientated product, I conducted in-depth research into the gangster genre. I had explored an extensive range of conventions, themes and symbols which were developed in the course of identifying how gangster films were represented throughout history; since the 1930s until today. Stemming from this, all the way through time (1930- 2013), the gangster genre has encountered experimentation such as varying the scenery or gifting the gangster with a lot more riches and these have helped to employ, develop and perhaps even challenge the original components of the genre. From the earliest gangster films to the most recent, the conventions have remained, however, this doesn’t mean that the genre hasn’t changed; as society has evolved, so have films. The innovative setting for gangster films was usually 1920s Chicago, but the variation of generic conventions has allowed the experimentation, which has also allowed films to be set anywhere in contemporary America and even in the UK; this is where my media product is located with the utilisation of stereotypical cockney ‘gangsters’ (Hugo and Mike). The significance of using a stereotype in a product is so that it enables the audience to respond rapidly to occurrences as they may have experienced it prior to watching the film. Additionally, the three most prevailing themes I used in my media product were those of betrayal, loyalty and fierce ambition, and I also discovered how these could be further established through the use of symbols and motifs; including the law, prison and drugs. Conventions are fundamental to a genre, and if maintained thoroughly enough, the genre can become a huge success; which the gangster genre is. I discovered that a prodigious proportion of gangster films have memorable one-liners, for example, “Say hello to my little friend” from Scarface (1983). They grow to be very iconic to the genre and films are extensively remembered by these quotes as a pleasurable way to summarise the plot. I thought that a memorable quote would be essential for my product (“Don’t worry, we’ll get the bread and honey we rightly deserve”), as this would respectively go hand-in-hand with most, if not every gangster movie ever made. In addition to this, most of the time in a gangster-themed movie there is a ‘rise and fall’ structure to it. This is also referred to as the Todorovian theory, which helps to distribute suspense, tension and closure to the audience. Also, the main character is generally a person who dislikes his low status and desperately wants to obtain a higher one. I also found out that the camera work is imperative to a gangster- themed work as some scenes may be shot with black and white visuals (similarly to my piece ‘Konvicted’) to embody a flashback as most films of the genre do, or even to refer back to the original 1920s Chicago feel from where the genus originated from. Considering this and expectations, the product would appeal to a wider range of audience. With regards to the target audience and their expectations, individuals of around the age of 15 find the gangster genre the most appealing because it shows a desperate way of earning what most of us want at that age; money and security. I have also observed how younger peoples could relate to gangster movies much easier than older people as they are able to find a more valuable moral to them. They could be perceived as an epitome of the ‘American Dream’ whereby the younger people study this material for entertainment (using the Uses and Gratification Theory). Although the gangster is commonly doomed to failure, criminals are sometimes portrayed as the victims of circumstance because the
  2. 2. narrative is told from their point of view; and this is exactly what I implemented in my media product. Furthermore, I noted how the factors of low-key lighting, shadows, enclosed spaces and over- exposed blues and reds emphasise the violent, secretive and lawless lives that the characters lead. For example, the excessive use of black and reds are present in almost every gangster and crime film, whether it’s part of the marketing campaign, titles/opening sequence or in the film. For example, the colour black connotes the dimness and underworld of structured crime that the Mafia epitomise. The ‘underworld’ is where the gangster has to make their living. It is a world that the audience is most often not familiar with; however, it is a world that exists all the same. In my piece, each frame contains an adequate percentage of the colour black; especially the titles whereby it is subjugated with black and white. I also found out that the over-use of the colour red connotes a blood-like colour which gives off an impression of peril and perhaps a notion of death. However, the colour red is not used as much as I would have liked to in my opening sequence; instead it is replaced by altered shades of blue.
These colours are used in my characters’ attires, sets and even the lighting, and the viewers subliminally acknowledge and understand this as being a vital aspect of gangster-orientated films. Films which skilfully use the colours black and red include: Carlito’s Way (1993), Donnie Brasco (1997), Eastern Promises (2007), Little Caesar (1931) and many more. I have also applied further examples of narrative theory to my product. For example, the main character (Hugo), a person who dislikes his low status, desperately wants to obtain a higher one. This could appeal to the audience by injecting a direct effect into their minds using the ‘Hyperdermic Needle Theory’. Also, ‘Binary Oppositions’ is used, by where some characters (Mike) are dissimilar to what they seem as they have different intentions; ‘Appearance vs. Reality’. Regarding this theory, it led me to challenge a common theme of ‘loyalty’ whereby there is meant to be an undying bond; regarding each member of the mob as ‘family’. This doesn’t apply in my opening sequence as Mike neglects Hugo and his family, and leads to the theme of betrayal. However, the main character still gains more supremacy and then uses law-obeying techniques to claim justice; another contradiction of a common gangster-themed convention. How does your media product represent particular social groups? Another key finding that I obtained as part of my research is how it’s mainly the male audience that has been mesmerised by its fictional peers in the gangster genre. The early gangster movies from the 1930s and 1940s instigated the cycle with the following eras adapting the ‘stereotypical’ plots, and it is films such as The Godfather Trilogy, Scarface and Goodfellas (the classics of our time) that the male obsession had fully fledged and urbanised from. Because of this, the use of Propp – 8 Characters Theory would lead to a variety of dissimilar characters having a role in my opening sequence; which would be appreciated by both parties (males and females). On top of this, in the early years of the genre, the gangster figure was appealing primarily to the working class culture; 30% of which were unemployed. The gangster was a character who refused to cooperate with society’s rules and instead confronted ‘the establishment’. This is an example where the theory of Levi-Strauss; Binary Oppositions becomes exploited with the proposal of ‘Superior vs. Inferior’. In my piece, the scandalous lifestyle will be resolute around the youth, unlike the films of the older ages. My product is similar to ‘Kidulthood’; in which it commences with life through a child’s eyes. Also, similarly to the film ‘Scarface: Shame of a Nation’, I had to appease the forces of censorship by including a remorseful and moral tone at the very start of the sequence, and various voice-overs
  3. 3. throughout. As a result, my product will de-glamorise the folk-hero nature of antagonism and the ‘gangster’, and it will also appeal to every gender, class and ethnicity. Moreover, while emotion is frequently shown through facial expressions, occasionally body language helps enhance the interpretation of emotion to the audience and it can also provide a creative alternative to using close ups all the time. Because of this, my piece will provide many scenes where the mise-en-scene is explained through an establishing shot. It is critical that all aspects of a Gangster’s appearance are portrayed to the audience in order to grasp an understanding of his life/current situation. I also incorporated a range of contrasting camera techniques in order to appropriately represent my characters’ age and status. For example, the opening scene includes a number of high-angle shots and daunting non-diegetic sound which portrays the lack of authority Hugo has, while the mood of the scene is being influenced by these effects. Contrariwise, Hugo would be focused on more in the narrative after prison with the assistance of low-angle shots; this suggests the ex-convict is now approaching a pivotal moment in the saga, whereby he is now free and more dominant than before the imprisonment. Also, the use of high-speed and sporadic camera shots and sound in my opening sequence maintains the stereotype of an ordinary gangster film lucratively. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why? In order to distribute my film, I would use PolyGram Filmed Entertainment as my preferred UK distribution company. The corporation sold to Universal Pictures in 1998 and folded in 1999, and their three most thriving films came in speedy succession prior to this. These included Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995) and Fargo (1996), two of which are well- known crime movies which are recognised internationally. Furthermore, I would use Film4 as my preferred TV exhibition institution. Film4 did not originally focus on broadcasting blockbusters, but nowadays the company broadcasts many mainstream Hollywood films. The channel recurrently has themed seasons where a number of films centred on one genre, director or actor are shown. This would be an effective method of promoting my product whereby the stereotypical conventions of my film will become noticeably evident that it is parallel to the other UK gangster-themed films which could also be shown; including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (a Film4 regular) which is one of the most successful British gangster-themed films ever, and it is yet another film to be distributed by PolyGram Pictures in the 20th century. Moreover, they have recently been granted the rights to become ‘free-to-air’, and more adult material is now confined to after the 9pm watershed; which would include my product as it includes frequent use of strong language. Another reason as to why I’d select them as my preferred film distribution company is due to the fact that it remains the only free film channel available on digital terrestrial television. It is easily accessible as it is available on many different programme-viewing platforms, and this would boost its views and further spread its acknowledgement. What is more, I would use ‘above the line’ advertising to formally promote my product. Despite the costs, it will target the common conventional media forms such as television, radio and the internet, and this form of communication will reach a wider audience. Additionally, I would use LoveFilm as my preferred multimedia platform to further distribute my product. The service is available through a lot of the major gadgets in today’s society – including Xbox, Playstation and the Nintendo Wii; and this is vital for my product seeing as though these consoles are popular and well admired within the age bracket of my target audience. It is UK based,
  4. 4. and LoveFilm have more consumers than Netflix, and they also collect plenty more subscription payments on a daily basis than their competitor. With the addition of profound research, I have noticed that gangster-orientated films do not follow a specific model when it comes to releasing the product. However, I would decide to distribute my film within the summer months as it is a prolonged break for teenagers and young adults (the target audience) nationwide, and there would be increased incentive for the teenagers to go to the cinema and watch my product. Who would be the audience for your media product? Profile: Character #1 – Amanda Connor. Aged 24. Degree in History. Favourite Films: Forrest Gump, Goodfellas and Face Off. Hip Hop. Working Class. Married. One Child. Profile: Character #2 – George Savvas. Aged 17. A-Levels (History, Maths, P.E. and Biology). Favourite Films: Scarface, The Godfather Trilogy and Rocky III. R&B. Working Class. Single. My media product will have a 15-rated certificate attached to it. According to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a 15-rated film could include any of the following: strong violence, frequent strong language, portrayals of sexual activity, strong verbal references of a sexual nature, sexual nudity, brief scenes of sexual violence, discriminatory language or behaviour and drug taking. The BBFC supports these aspects of the film (and my sequence) to be revealed. However, I have evaluated the risk of potential harm to vulnerable teenagers and my work does not endorse any sort of extreme behaviour nor does it glamorise any activity which could possibly be copied by the target audience (which is mainly 15+ teenagers and young adults). In my opening sequence, there will be a persistent use of strong language, which would cancel out the possibility of this being a 12-rated film. The criterion for a 12-rated product expects moderate language to be used, alongside infrequent usage of the stronger terms, but my work will comprise frequent use and it will be justified by the context (due to Hugo’s anger stemming from the ‘disloyalty’ which is one of the main themes in the film). What is more, taking into consideration that my work targets the age gap of 15-25, they would take full advantage of the Uses and Gratification Theory by using the conventions of the gangster genre as entertainment, information, education, escapism, identification and possibly social interaction. As touched on before, the colloquialism of a gangster could seem appealing to an individual and they could also adopt it in their daily lives. However, the more realistic aspect of this would be to view a gangster-orientated film for entertainment, as younger people prefer to watch films purely based on these purposes. Whether the vast majority of spectators may be part an active or passive audience, the information they receive from the narrative could be absorbed over a period of time as many gangster films (including ‘The Godfather’) have many things occurring at once, also known as a multi-stranded narrative. The effect this has is that they feel the full impression of the lifestyle of a gangster; that of being very dynamic and complicated. Owed to this, I think that the younger generation would be more fascinated with this concept than the older generation would. How did you attract/address your audience? I conducted a questionnaire based on my opening sequence to gain feedback on its appeal, depiction, conforms to the genre of gangster and crime, and how well I employed a range of
  5. 5. techniques within it. There are a total of 10 questions, which have been answered by seven males and three females. To begin with, each individual who completed my questionnaire was aged between the bracket of 16 and 23. From this, I can illustrate that my product has successfully appealed to the target audience of 15+. One feature in which has made this an accomplishment is the implementation of a ‘stereotypical’ narrative tone which is usually adopted in a gangster-orientated film. This is the emotion that is conveyed through words or the sound used during the film/opening sequence. The tone of the film can vary unlike the mood; which is the decisive overall response to the product. Stemming from this, six interviewees commented on how they ‘liked our film’ and two added that they ‘loved it’; while the final two believed that my piece could’ve been better. On the whole, the multi-stranded narrative seemed to appear emblematic to the genre and the piece itself; and a large percentage of people I asked held to the fact that the alternate use of altered camera angles (like the long shot and over-the-shoulder shot) and the juxtaposed chronology were compelling. I employed a correlative narrative style in which is made apparent in the film Snatch by Guy Ritchie. In this film, the story has a narrator who describes all the events taking place at the time in significant detail. This implies that there is a gratified ending for the narrator, who is fundamentally the antagonist of the film, because he is able to run through the narrative. I used this feature in my piece also to signify how the antagonist in my film, Hugo, returns with a rise to power legally; and this aspect of my film helps to attain a wider audience using the Uses and Gratification Theory. The voice over was used to send across a sense of my character’s subjectivity, and the audience would most likely use this for their ‘entertainment’ or ‘identification’. Moreover, the soundtrack I used in my opening sequence was extensively appreciated by the interviewees; as four people said it was ‘good’ and the other six said it was ‘great’. A soundtrack helps the audience gain a sense of involvement, and the interviewees also commented on how it represents the genre very well and that it went hand in hand with the suspenseful and gripping scenes. Furthermore, I used a ‘sound bridge’ with the aim of stressing that there is a strong connection between the two scenes concerning Mike leaping over a wall while Hugo reaches a dead-end; and this is suggested by the non-diegetic music since the mood is still the same. Sound bridges are one of the most common transitions in the continuity editing style, and it helps to maintain the tendency of the film throughout the opening sequence while also providing a bit of back-story to the film. Within every gangster and crime product, there is a catalytic event that spurs everyone into their spiral towards the climax. For example, in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the first scene is of a man selling stolen jewellery to a group of people. This then leads to a melodramatic police chase, similarly to my product. When asked ‘What is your favourite scene in the film?’ 80% of the interviewees answered with the chase involving Hugo, Mike and the police officers. One person favoured the drug deal whereas another favoured Hugo leaving the prison. As made evident, these are the pivotal events in the opening sequence which set the structure for the rest of the film, and it urges the audience to watch further; using the Enigma Code Theory of pending apprehension and secrecy. What’s more, in Lock Stock, the two men in the opening sequence are wearing very similar, but unconventional attires. This is not traditional for a gangster film, as in most cases formal clothing is observed. This suggests that they are not as associated with gangs and groups, but rather smaller, less serious offences; like Hugo and Mike. Nevertheless, nine people out of the ten I asked all commented on how well the characters are represented in the product. Despite the choice of clothing, this could suggest that every other exterior component of the ‘stereotypical gangster’ has
  6. 6. remained; including that of being viewed as a threat, having possession of drugs and depicting an element of authority. Furthermore, the opening sequence of my product is set in near an estate, initially outside a garage. This is conventional to the gangster film genre, as they are often set in urban, occasionally rundown areas. The mise-en-scene is fundamental here as the audience realise that the gangsters are avoiding any form of interaction with people of the outside world; and that they must be up to no good. The significance of comprising a setting such as abandoned garages is so that the piece can seem more rational and realistic, and the audience can consociate with the characters a lot more simply. Out of the long shot, mid shot, close up, two shot and over the shoulder shot, the majority of the votes (as being the more preferred in my piece) were the long shots and over the shoulder shots. From this, I can evaluate that the audience want to absorb as much of the mise-en-scene as possible, seeing as though these camera angles perform a satisfying task of doing just that. All in all, from the results of my questionnaire, I feel that my opening sequence represented the gangster genre very well. When asked this, all ten people agreed. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product? I used a variety of technologies, software and editing techniques in order to successfully assemble my media product. These included a Canon 600D camera, a tripod, a rode microphone, a boom pole and a camera rig. In addition, the computer software used was also imperative in aid of preparing and editing my final product. These included; Livetype, Final Cut, iPhoto, Cuebase and Garageband, all of which are only obtainable via Apple Mac, laptops and desktop computers. To commence with, although I starred in almost every scene, I had a great deal of time handling the Canon 600D Camera. Nonetheless, I developed a lot of skills such as shooting a few scenes with its Movie Snapshot Mode, which made it easier to capture two, four and eight second segments before stitching them together again; this was continually used for the action scene (the police officers chasing Hugo and Mike). Also, the manual focus and depth of field helped accelerate the process of filming. The HD video functionality made each and every scene appear proficient, which was of huge assistance. This and the experimentation of different camera angles (including the extreme close-up, mid-shot and long-shot) helped me to develop a range of skills which could be practical in future; including the importance on focusing on the gangster’s facial expression since there is typically a multi-stranded narrative present. I had also discovered how a script was essential for the period of planning of my product. This was created on Livetype and it is an unproblematic tool which couldn’t be any more straightforward. Moreover, I imported each scene into Final Cut with the aid of iPhoto, and this versatile software offered a range of editing techniques that I applied to my final product; one being the simplicity of trimming each fragment of footage. This was very effective as it helped my piece run smoothly all throughout. However, the specific technique used which I thought was the most imposing, was the possibility of putting in a visual effect (called ‘Bad TV’). As Hugo (in 10 years) walks out of the prison gates, the effect makes it seem as though the angle is from the point of view of a security camera. This is very effectual as the camera could be seen as a conventional symbol – connoting that even though Hugo feels free, he is still being watched. Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product? I have observed how meticulous and precise each piece of equipment is and how the different techniques applied to my editing have significantly helped me in making a media product which I am
  7. 7. very proud of. Moreover, I’ve realised how keeping techniques and specific rules conventional would make the audience both appreciative and attentive. Initially, the 180degree rule is essential in camera work and if conducted correctly it can become very effective as the technique allows for expansion of the frame into the unseen space off-screen; this is an additional use of the Enigma Code. The preliminary task was centred around this rule and doing it correctly, which I benefitted a great deal out of. During my first attempt at the preliminary task, I broke the rule and therefore had to re-shoot the footage. This error made me realise how simple it is to forget about the 180degree rule whilst shooting, however it would make an enormous difference to the footage; making it seem distorted and the lack of correspondence would be obvious. ‘Crossing the line’ changes the viewers’ perspective so much that it causes disorientation and confusion. Due to this, it is something that I avoided in my product, and should be avoided at all times. Another vital component throughout the process of production is planning and re-shooting footage. Without planning, there is no patent guideline that you can follow and therefore, you will almost certainly endure many more mistakes. I approached each piece of research and planning methodically. What is more, some of the footage I had shot early on in the course had unfortunately deleted from the camera itself. This is one of many unlucky occurrences which could spring up, but mercifully, my group had been aware of contingencies and it didn’t impinge on the final product at all as there was always the option there of re-shooting.