Guide to section a of the exam


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Guide to section a of the exam

  1. 1. A2 Media Studies 2009/10 Study Notes Unit G325 Section A Critical Perspectives in Media Theoretical Evaluation of Production Part 1 Guide to the Exam 1
  2. 2. Section A - Theoretical Evaluation of Production The whole exam paper covers two areas of your media course: Section A - Theoretical Evaluation of Production alongside a study of Postmodern Media as a Contemporary Media Issue in Section B. In Section A, you describe and evaluate your skills development in your own production work and then select your A2 production to evaluate in relation to a media concept (50 marks) In Section B, you demonstrate your understanding of Postmodern Media through a range of texts, institutions, audiences and debates (50 marks) This unit is externally marked in a two hour exam. This booklet prepares you for Section A of the exam. 2
  3. 3. Section A: Theoretical Evaluation of Production (1 hour) The purpose of the exam is to assess your knowledge and understanding of media concepts, contexts and critical debates, through your understanding of one contemporary media issue and your ability to evaluate your own coursework in reflective and theoretical ways. In order for you to be best prepared for the exam, you will prepare for Section A alongside your coursework by keeping a blog that records your creative development. As already mentioned there are two sections to this paper: Section A: Theoretical Evaluation of Production (50 marks) Section B: Contemporary Media Issues (50 marks) The whole examination is two hours long. The exam is marked out of a total of 100, with the questions on your evaluation marked out of 50. Section A requires you to answer two compulsory questions 1 (a) and 1 (b). Question 1 (a) – 30 mins Question 1 (a) requires you to describe and evaluate you skills development over the course of their production work, from Foundation Portfolio to Advanced Portfolio. It asks you to consider the whole of your practical work: • your preliminary task at AS (e.g. the continuity sequence for film) • and your main task (the film opening) • and your main A2 task (the film trailer) • and your A2 ancillary tasks (the film website and film poster). It can also include things you have produced outside the course, such as production work in other subjects like Art or Photography, or even things you've just made for fun, like a video on YouTube - the Mastercard advert perhaps? The focus of your evaluation must be on how YOU have developed as a maker of media products across all your work – your skills development - the question is all about skills and gets you to think about what you have learnt. You'll be asked to focus in particular on one or two from the following list: 1. Digital Technology 2. Creativity 3. Research and planning 4. Post-production 5. Using conventions from real media texts Now four of these should be familiar from work at AS and A2, where you were asked about digital technology, post-production and conventions in your evaluations and you had to undertake research & planning and post-production in order to make your 3
  4. 4. products. The one new thing you might have to consider is creativity - a big one in relation to your work as a whole! How creative do you think you've been? Has a set menu of tasks made it easier to be creative or would you have preferred a free choice on what you could make? Were you pinned down too much by the task, or did it free you up to be creative within the boundaries of the task? Where does creativity come from? And what does creativity mean anyway? These will all help you answer this question if creativity comes up. So how do you go about answering this first question? Three essential tips for question l (a) 1. Plan and prepare before the exam. There is a limit to what can be asked. It can only be a combination of two of the five things in the list, and some combinations are more likely than others (like Digital technology + any other, or Creativity + any other). You'll be asked to consider how your skills have developed across your work, so you should be prepared to talk about everything you have done. You've only got half an hour, which limits how much you can say - so you must make everything count. In advance, identify examples from your work which you can adapt to different questions. 2. Consider the mark scheme. There are 10 marks for explanation, analysis and argument, 10 marks for use of examples and 5 marks for terminology. So even a brilliant piece of argument will only score 10/25 if it isn't supported by examples and doesn't use media terms or language. 3. Evaluate. Think about where you are at the end of the course and what you have learnt in other areas of it. You're not just giving an account of what you did, but you're sitting back and reflecting upon it in the light of all your learning. We will come back to how to approach the question at the end. Question 1 (b) – 30 mins The second question is more specific. For this one you need to take one of your projects (again it could be something you have made outside the course, but it would probably be more sensible to stick with something major that you've discussed in class) and do an analysis of it in relation to one of the major concepts you will have been considering on the course. Again there is a list of concepts, any one of which could come up, so you'll need to be sure that either the project you know you're going to choose to write about can be analysed in relation to any of the concepts or that you have more than one project you could use, depending on which concept comes up. The list is: 1. Genre 2. Narrative 3. Representation 4. Audience 5. Media language 4
  5. 5. In the examination, questions will be set using one of these concepts only. So, for example, if genre comes up and you did the title sequence task at AS, you'll have plenty to discuss, since your film must in someway have made use of the generic conventions of film! Or for your A2 ancillary task it won't simply be a matter of checking off your poster’s features against a list; the question will want you to go a little further and delve a little deeper to consider the importance or significance of genre. Likewise, if the concept is narrative, and you've done a film trailer, you might consider how far a trailer gives a sense of a film's narrative and how much you choose to reveal in yours as part of promoting the film. What you don't want to do is apply some theory like Todorov's to try to prove that your film follows a pattern. The task should be seen as an opportunity really to reflect on how your chosen project actually works as a text- though you might mention Todorov as part of that… Here’s a key thing - you are also encouraged to use ideas which you have encountered in relation to section B of the exam. Our study of postmodernism might cast some light on issues around genre or narrative which you could bring in to your answer – how it’s changing or how it’s no longer relevant. Or you might well be able to use some points about how representation is simulation if the concept which comes up! If audience were to come up, you'd be able to talk both about how you targeted an audience for your product, but also about what response you've actually had from audiences - even down to how many YouTube hits you’re trailer’s had or how many people responded to your Facebook group.. Media language might sound like a difficult one, but actually it's a bit of a catch-all concept: you can consider all the specific technical features of your text, such as camerawork, editing, graphics, titles, page layout, fonts, elements of semiotics, design, structure, codes and conventions, time and space, aesthetics, spoken, written and visual language; to give one specific example, the use of continuity editing in a film sequence. The mark scheme for question 1(b) is organised in the same way as for 1(a), so bear that in mind when considering the balance of your answer. There are 10 marks for explanation, analysis and argument, 10 marks for use of examples and 5 marks for terminology. The key, again, is to be prepared but also to be flexible. It would be a big mistake to pin all your hopes on one particular concept coming up to enable you to use a particular project in your answer. Think seriously about which concepts fit each project and give you the best chance to respond to the exam question. However, the requirement for you to evaluate one of your productions in relation to a concept does not assume that the concept will necessarily always fit easily and in an orthodox way. Thus in some cases you will be describing your productions in terms of them NOT relating straightforwardly to the concept. For example, if you had produced three websites over your two portfolios you might describe ways in which websites cannot be understood easily through applying conventional narrative theory. 5
  6. 6. Exam Questions Here’s an example of the specimen exam question: 1 (a) “Digital technology turns media consumers into media producers”. In your own experience, how has your creativity developed through using digital technology to complete your coursework productions? [25] 1 (b) “Media texts rely on cultural experiences in order for audiences to easily make sense of narratives”. Explain how you used conventional and / or experimental narrative approaches in one of your production pieces. What might this look like in practice? Let's consider what you might do to answer questions on creativity and digital technology for l(a) and narrative for 1(b) (as in the specimen paper). As you’ve done the film opening for AS and the film package for A2, what might you write? Here is a possible structure for the answer to each question. 1(a) In your experience, how has your creativity developed through using digital technology to complete your productions? Introduction Explain the tasks you have done across the A Level, and mention anything made outside the course to which you intend to reference. Main paragraphs Start by writing about the technology you have used, with some reflections on how you got to grips with if initially, and where you went from there. So you might discuss: your editing package, the camera, the blogging site you used, YouTube, Photoshop for A2 print work, and so on. You might make some observations about how easy it is to get used to technology these days, particularly for young people who have access to it outside of an educational setting. Refer specifically to how you used the technology in particular tasks. Now open up the question of creativity: what does it mean to you, and where have your ideas about creativity come from? What do other people say about what creativity might mean? How have the tasks themselves encouraged creativity? Refer to examples from what you have done. Conclusion 6
  7. 7. Finally, try to bring together these strands - technology and creativity - to answer the question. Here you might refer to ways in which the technology has also allowed you to develop other skills - teamwork, organisation, planning, research, negotiation. You might finish by opening up to a wider conclusion - that digital technology has given media consumers the opportunity to become media producers too -particularly via web distribution, and that this, in turn, has allowed creative comment in wider communities such as YouTube. 1(b) Explain how you used conventional and/or experimental narrative approaches in one of your production pieces. For this question you will need to select the piece which will work the best. Let's imagine you picked your trailer. You can make some general points about how trailers work (check your early notes) and that they don't need to tell a story just hint at one, though sometimes they do use narrative sometimes they don’t; then home in on your production to talk about what you decided to do with it. A brief account of the trailer, the producers/stars, and the genre of film would suffice before you get into your analysis. You certainly need to consider the idea of structure and how you chose to organise the trailer if not through a chronological narrative. This would give you the opportunity to consider how far a narrative structure emerges from it: What governs the beginning, middle and end? Is it the images, the graphics, the dialogue, the soundtrack? Or the performance? Or is there a clear story? How have you played with time and space in the trailer (post-modern?)? How will the audience have understood it? There is not a single right answer here, whatever you write will need to be justified and explained with close reference to your production. You will also need to consider, it in relation to other examples that you have seen, to show how you either followed or broken conventions. It is also important to remember that the categories which are not wholly discrete. Genre will overlap with narrative and both will overlap with the concept of the audience, so don't worry about your response spilling over; that's perfectly acceptable. Just keep coming back to what is required in the mark scheme: • explanation, analysis and argument are worth 10 marks per question • examples are worth 10 • use of terminology is worth 5. Make sure you do all of these and you will not go far wrong. Remember, it's your production work you will be writing about, so you should know about it! 7
  8. 8. Exemplar response - January 2010 Paper Now here’s the paper from January 2010: In question 1(a) you need to write about your work for the Foundation Portfolio and Advanced Portfolio units and you may refer to other media production work you have undertaken. 1 (a) Describe how you developed research and planning skills for media production and evaluate how these skills contributed to creative decision making. Refer to a range of examples in your answer to show how these skills developed over time. [25] In question 1(b) you need to choose one of your media productions to write about. 1 (b) Analyse media representation in one of your coursework productions. [25] Chief Examiner’s general comments on how well the students got on… The level of difficulty was appropriate but the majority of candidates were not well prepared to answer all three questions and this was not surprising considering the holistic, synoptic nature of this question paper. There were some notable exceptions but even in the strongest cases, it was difficult for candidates to sustain the required level of theoretical engagement for level 4 marks over the three sections. I expect the average level of response to be markedly higher in June because candidates will have had the full length of their courses from which to select material for section A. Crucially, candidates must be prepared to demonstrate their ability to engage with contemporary theoretical approaches to media, both in relation to ‘real’ media and their own production work. As there is now one examination only, and a part of that is related to coursework, the level of expectation from examiners is higher in relation to theoretical conviction than was the case previously and so a level 4 candidate will need to sustain this conviction over the span of the three responses – theorising their own production processes, analysing their own outcomes using key concepts and discussing a contemporary media issue with the use of a range of theoretical arguments. Time management was an issue for some candidates and in some of the higher marked papers, candidates answered section B first, which may be sound advice as it carries equal marks to section A which consists of two questions, so if candidates run out of time damage is limited by them so doing during an answer that carries 25 marks rather than 50. Chief Examiner’s specific comments on Q 1A 1 (a) Describe how you developed research and planning skills for media production and evaluate how these skills contributed to creative decision making. Refer to a range of examples in your answer to show how these skills developed over time. 8
  9. 9. Stronger answers to 1(a) managed to select a range of relevant examples of creative decision making informed by research and planning. Weaker answers offered a basic story of the process. It is best practice to prepare examples that demonstrate more or less successful decisions as this gives scope for higher levels of critical reflection. Centres are advised to prepare candidates to reflect on processes, logistics and the mechanics of production – research and planning cannot be reduced entirely to looking at real media texts or discussing audience needs. Better answers offered a broader range of pre-production activities and decisions arising with a clear sense of how the more ‘glamorous’ idea of creativity is often a product of serious ‘nuts and bolts’ operational care in the process. Chief Examiner’s specific comments on Q 1B 1 (b) Analyse media representation in one of your coursework productions. 1(b) was generally the weakest area and this appeared to be largely due to the difficulties candidates faced in adapting their material to the concept identified. Representation was, by many, described only in terms of conventions or simply what was produced, as though ‘representing the school in a positive way’ (with regard to a preliminary task) is demonstrative of an A2 level of understanding of a complex idea. What was required (and managed by single figures of respondents in this session) was a robust discussion of how the media product selected can be analysed as representational – candidates can discuss whether or not this is straightforward or more complex but they MUST engage with the theoretical concept either way and reference reading they have undertaken on this area in relation to specific examples from their product. Of more concern was the fact that some candidates appeared to be unfamiliar with the concept of representation entirely. Further problems arose from some candidates referring to more than one production item and from too much overlap with 1(a). There may be some common ground between the two answers – for example, if a part of the research and planning involved a consideration of how representing a social group in one may might alienate potential audience members or even lead to ethical and legal issues, but in some cases genre dominated both answers to the extent that 1(a) was a list of decisions in relation to the observation through research of genre conventions and 1(b) was a similar list of how the product ‘represented the genre’. It appeared that in these cases candidates had entered too early and only had one area of expertise to adapt to whatever the questions required. Centres are advised to prepare candidates to write about all of the concepts. 9
  10. 10. Exemplar response - January 2010 Paper 1 (a) Describe how you developed research and planning skills for media production and evaluate how these skills contributed to creative decision making. Refer to a range of examples in your answer to show how these skills developed over time. For my Foundation Portfolio coursework, I originally found research and planning skills difficult as I unaware as to how much I required these skills. Initially, I felt for my coursework in Foundation Portfolio which was producing a Music Magazine that I would be better off producing the product straight away. However, after setting about planning to do this, I realised that I struggled meeting the specifications of the coursework and that my initial product was not of the quality that I and my Media Studies tutor hoped it would be. Which is why, he told me to redo my product but now paying more attention to the planning and research stage of the production. Doing this enabled me to, too see a number of factors in regards to my production that I had not seen before. For instance, I was enlightened to find my production would be more effective with the use of new media technology such as the internet, and a website called which enables users to set up a blog online. I used this, to set up my own blog regarding my production. This would be helpful, in outlining my plans and progress with my production and the fact that I’m sharing this with the rest of the world enables me to receive feedback from other users which can be implemented on to improve the quality of my product as well as building my creativity. This can be attributed to David Gauntlett’s theory that the introduction of new interactive media (such as online blogs) in the form of web 2.0 can help media users and consumers become more creative. This in turn, helped my creative decision making as I was able to make more informed creative decisions based on the feedback I received from other users such as mu Media Studies who felt that my front cover lacked enough of the conventional features which you might see on a music magazine such as the strap-lines and a barcode. Moreover both my productions gave me the understanding that overall that as a publication software, Adobe Photoshop was much better than Microsoft Publisher. This was a creative decision. I had made after using both pieces of software for both my productions. Prior to my productions, I had only previously used Microsoft Published, but after using Adobe Photoshop and learning about the features and about how to use the product effectively, I was able to add functions such as extensive image manipulation and the use of the transform tools and implement these skills to take and more creative decisions which I otherwise would not have been able to had I not used this program instead of Publisher, or had not developed the skills or understanding of Photoshop to the extent where I could implement when making creative decisions about my product. For instance, my original image on my front cover for my Foundation Portfolio, had a window frame to the side of the model’s head but I was able to through Photoshop remove this through the use of the colouring tools. A narrow range of examples are described and digital technology is privileged over creative outcomes. Research and planning is the broader sense is discussed in a limited manner. 12 5 52 1 (b) Analyse media representation in one of your coursework productions. For my Foundation Portfolio, I decided to create a much magazine which be based and be about ‘UK Grime music.’ I originally decided to do this because having done market research 10
  11. 11. into music magazines distributed in the mass market, I found and felt that there was a gap in the market, and that gap was ‘UK Grime’. The market research I had conducted, was in regard to type of magazines on available in mass markets retailers such as WHSmith and Sainsbury’s. ‘UK Grime’ is a genre of music closely related to Hip-Hop and UK Garage. Moreover, the genre of music tends to be only popular with teenagers and young adults in their twenties. Therefore, I felt that this was the target market to which I needed my product to appeal to in order for it to be deemed successful. In order for me to achieve this, I had to create a product which my target audience could relate to and consider purchasing. Therefore, I needed to create a representation for my product, a representation which my audience would understand and relate to. Taking this into consideration. I was aware that ‘UK Grime’ was very much originated from inner-city urban areas of the UK and therefore was very much like Hop-Hop/Rap music in the US, in that they both had strong connotations with streaat-life and mise-en-scene such as young people who wore hoodies, microphones, Disco Jockey sets, dark clothes with brands such as Nike being commonly worn such as the attire worn by popular Grime artists such as Roll Deep. Moveover, there are other more negative connotations such as inner-city crime. I felt in order to create a successful media product. I had to make sure my magazine brought these connotations too in order for my product to be defined as a Grime magazine and appeal and relate to my target market. For my magazine, I decided to feature one “up and coming” grime artist ‘Grime kid’, similar to the way established magazines such as NME and Rolling Stone feature up and coming artists in order to appear innovative and ‘cutting-edge’. I decided to apply this successful convention to my magazine. And on the front cover, I decided to have a full-length image of him similar to the way other established magazine have done. In order to create the right representation, I created an image where ‘Grime kid’ dressed up in a Nike track suit, with a hood up appeared to be climbing inside a window frame (although its unclear who the window frame belongs to i.e he maybe breaking the law by breaking and entering or simply climbing inside a window.) The idea that my artist maybe breaking the law may bring the connotations of an inner city kid breaking the law which may be appeal or familiar to my target audience similar to the way popular Rap Star 50 Cent is pictured posing with a gun on his front cover. Moreover, the mise-en-scene of the character with his ‘hood up’ acting almost as a signifier to my target audience that this artist is very much a ‘Grime Artist’ and very much has the same attributes / characteristics as other popular Grime Artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Kano who have already been successful and established enough to appeal to my target audience and target market. Moreover, I’ve tried to create a representation like this throughout the magazine such as the interview done in my double-page spread where I my artist uses a dialect similar to that in inner-city London and shared by popular Grime Artists such as Kano, Wiley and Chipmunk. 1b – a description of the product in the main with limited theoretical analysis utilising the concept at stake. Level 2 criteria fit well here. 1b 12 5 5 2 11