Monday, 3 May 2010

How and why do UK institutions produce films?

A lot of work goes into making the films that can be seen in the cinemas of bought on DVD. The production process of a film can be very complex, with so many elements to consider and organise. The distribution of a film can also cause many dilemmas and is a vital process, as proper distribution can make or break a film. The way films are exhibited is also changing, with the rise in downloading threatening to make cinemas obsolete as a medium.
The production of a film refers to all the process and decisions which are involved with the ‘making’ of the film. Obviously a producer of a film plays a major role in the production of a particular film. They are responsible for making the film a business. Often the first process they go through is looking over the script and making sure that it is creative, original and will make a ‘good film.’ The script is also useful for establishing what sort of budget a film will need, what locations and sets will be needed and work out the most efficient ways of filming. Once all this has been established production can go ahead. Every process has its own ‘manager.’ For example, the budget manager breaks down every aspect of the script such as costumes music, effects, make up, how many days the filming will take and travel costs. A location manager will be brought in to break down the script into scenes and consult the director about the ‘look’ of the film. They will then attempt to find real life locations which help to create a realistic verisimilitude. Costume designers are also very important for making the film realistic. The locations manager then needs to contact the owner of any land they want to use, negotiate fees, consult the local authorities and draw up contract. If they cannot find a location they are happy with, the production team needs to consider building a set instead. For this they need a production designer, a set designer, a props manager and a construction team. A production manager oversees this whole process and organises any budget issues, call sheets for all the actors. They also deal with any safety concerns. For example, whilst filming ‘The Boat That Rocked’ it took the production team six months to find a suitable boat, license it and get permission to use it. Eve after that there were safety rules which they had to comply with, such as limited capacity on the boat during bad weather, which sometimes disrupted filming. Whilst all this production work is going on, casting agents and the director will be auditioning actors for the various roles. Every part, no matter how small, is crucial; all the actors must play the part realistically. Whilst some actors may have the talent. They might be unsuitable for the film. Consequently, casting is a ruthless process. Once the production and casting issues have been sorted, filming can commence. All the managers are still needed to fulfill their roles during the filming process. Once a scene is finished, it will be sent to the editor to be cut down into a final version. Scenes can have three or four versions, with different lighting or music, which can greatly affect what cuts are used. The first edit of the film is called an assembly and is often very long. The first edit of ‘The Boat that Rocked’ was five hours long, but was cut down to two hours and six minutes. Once a film is edited to its final version, it is ready to be distributed and a marketing campaign can begin.
Once a film is ready for release (or sometimes a bit beforehand) a marketing campaign can begin. This aims to raise awareness about the film and encourage as many people as possible to go and see it. The most important thing for a studio to keep in mind when marketing a film is who is the target audience and how will they encourage them to go and see the film. Marketing campaigns use many different tools and forms of media to promote their film. Trailers are made to be shown in the cinema, on television and these days are often posted on the internet. The internet is playing an increasingly important role in film marketing, with most films having an official website, often with links to social networking sites. This is a great way to raise awareness and get people talking about a film as social networking sties have become such an important part of our society. However, these techniques are more useful for films targeting a younger demographic as they are more likely to use social networking. Films for children are often marketed now using interactive games on the internet, which is a great way of generating interest and getting people talking about the film. Posters also play a huge role in a marketing campaign and are often one of the first things to be released (teaser posters can be released months in advance, as they contain little information, but enough to generate excitement and interest.)
Once a marketing campaign is complete the film enters the exhibition stage, where it is released into cinemas. Despite the rise in illegal downloading of films, which is resulting in a massive loss of revenue for film companies, cinema going is on the up, due to more multiplexes and new technology such as 3D, which companies can get away with charging more for. However, illegal downloading is a serious issue for film companies, who are trying to stamp out piracy by shutting down known file sharing websites and creating more and more 3D films, which are not only encouraging people back into the cinema but cannot be filmed, therefore pirate copies cannot be made. Cinemas are trying to rebrand the cinema experience, making it more of a night out, by introducing more food and merchandise which also brings in extra revenue for the companies. This is important as the main reason film companies produce films is for money.
Films are originally thought up and produced as an outlet for the writers and directors creativity. However, the sad fact is that a film simply will not get made if it is not considered marketable (i.e. it won’t bring in any money.) Occasionally companies will take a gamble with films and they will sometimes pay off (e.g. Slumdog Millionaire) but generally the main reason production companies back films is if they think they will earn a lot of money.

How and why do UK audiences consume film?

The process of creating a film can be split into four main processes; pre-production, production, distribution and exhibition. In the past the audience of films were only involved in the exhibition stage, as they would watch films in the cinema and later were given the chance to purchase them on videos and even later, DVDs. However new technology has given audience the chance to be involved in the distribution and in some cases even the production of films.
An example of a film where the audience were involved in the production is Faintheart. Faintheart is a 2008 film produced by Vertigo Films. Vertigo Films worked in together with the social networking site MySpace, and offered every user the chance to upload a short film showing off their directing skills, in a competition called MyMovie Mash-Up. The prize was a £1 million budget and the chance to make their own feature film which would be produced and released by Vertigo Films. The winning director was Vito Rocco with his comedy, Faintheart. MySpace then held online casting sessions, giving any user of MySpace the chance to upload a video audition for any of the eight lead or supporting roles in the film. Each role had a MySpace profile where a scene from the script or instructions for an improvisation were available. The site also held a competition for any bands signed up with MySpace, where they could win the chance to have their song on the soundtrack of Faintheart. The film had its own MySpace profile where users could ‘demand’ that the film would be screened in their local area (the film was shown in the Palace Theatre in Westcliff, so obviously an adequate amount of people from the local area ‘demanded’ it.) This campaign gave the audience a chance that they had never been given before; a chance to play a vital role in the production and also the distribution of a film (with the ‘demand’ feature.) This type of project would have only been possible due to new technology and the popularity of social networking sites. This type of campaign for a film is very unique, but it worked successfully and was pitched at the just the right time when MySpace was the most popular social networking site. A similar campaign through MySpace may not work so well these days, as MySpace has fallen out of fashion with Facebook fast becoming the most popular social networking site.
The new ‘demand’ features which any film that has their own MySpace or Facebook profiles can set up is a way in which audiences can get involved with the distribution of films. New technology has allowed audiences to become more involved with this side of film making. The popularity of watching films on the internet has meant that audiences can now actively seek films and download them, both legally and illegally. This new way of watching films is easier and in some cases cheaper so is great for the audience. However, illegal downloading is causes huge problems for the UK film industry, as they are losing revenue. This fact does not bother most viewers, who find the thought of going to the cinema too expensive when they can easily watch a film for free in the comfort of their own home.
Although downloading is on the rise, cinema going is also on the up, thanks to every major town or city having at least one multiplex and also more recently, the arrival of 3D. 3D has been a fantastic investment for cinemas for many reasons; they can afford to charge more for it, it cannot be videoed therefore it cannot be made into a pirate copy and it is encouraging people back into the cinema. People who go to the cinema enjoy the ‘cinema experience’ which cannot be mimicked by home viewing of films. Cinemas represent films as events and going to the cinema as a night out. Some cinemas go the extra mile in terms of turning the experience into an event. The Showcase Cinema in Bluewater shopping centre offers it customers ‘gallery seats.’ These seats entitle costumers to sit in an exclusive area, elevated above the regular cinemagoers and gives them access to food not normally available at the concessions stand. No matter what changes cinemas undergo in the future this experience will always be different from that of home viewing and that alone will encourage some viewers to keep going back.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Vertigo Films

Vertigo films was founded in 2002. It is a UK media company and mainly distributes independent films, giving them vital exposure that they may not have previously had access to.

They produced and distributed had many successful films; their debut film The Football Factory is the biggest selling independent UK DVD with 1.3M units to date. A full list of the films they have released can be seen below;

The Football Factory(2004) Distributor
It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004) Production Company
A Good Woman (2004) Distributor
Pusher II (2004) Distributor
The Business (2005) Production Company
Clean (2005) Distributor
Pusher 3 (2005) Distributor
Stoned (2005) Distributor
Dirty Sanchez: The Movie (2006) Production Company
Shrooms (2006) Distributor
London to Brighton (2006) Distributor
Dogging: A love Story (2007) Production Company
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007) Distributor
WΔZ (2007) Production Company; Distributor—worldwide theatrical
Shotgun Stories (2007) Distributor
Outlaw (2007) Production Company; Distributor
The Escapist (2007) Distributor—UK all media
Sparkle (2007) Distributor
Faintheart (2008)
1 Day (2009)

The genre of the films vary from light hearted comedy to drama to horror. Vertigo films current stated goal is to produce four films and distribute four films per year.

Last year Vertigo films have released the critically acclaimed The Firm (Nick Love) and Bronson (Nicholas Widing Refn), One Day (the UK's first hip hop musical), The Cove (2009 Sundance Audience Award Winner) and Humpday (2009 Sundance Special Jury Prize Winner).

Currently Vergigo films are working on Street Dance, the UK's first street dance and 3D film. It showcases some of the best British talent in dancing including Britain's Got Talent winners George Sampson and Diversity.

In addition to its production and distribution activity, Vertigo also owns The Post Republic a successful state of the art post production company based in Berlin and is a partner in Protagonist Pictures, the international sales company joint venture with Film Four and Ingenious Media.

Vertigo Films has also set up a project in schools, together with the National Film and Television School called Vertigo School Project. The Vertigo School Project will give the opportunity to three teams of students or graduates of the National Film and Television school to make micro budget feature films with a budget of £100,000. The project will give new talent at the school a chance to launch a career.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Will cinema always survive technological change, or is the latest technology a bigger threat because it is at the exhibiton end of the chain?

Piracy is the biggest threat to the film industry, with a 10 per cent increase each year in revenue lost to illegal downloading. With teenagers as young as 12 becoming more and more familiar with websites where streaming and downloading movies for free and easy, people are less likely to go to the cinema or buy a DVD. The rise in the popularity of watching films illegally can be attributed to a number of things; people becoming more and more knowledgable about eh technology, people's impatience to see a particular film or frustration if their local cinema is not showing it and I have observed that a recnet rise in cinema prices has done little to encourage people to go to the cinema to watch films. The warnings that companies issue about piracy and how it is a crime are in my experience very ineffective. Most people believe that the adverts don;t apply to them as they are not the one's filming or distributing the illegal copies,. they are just watching them. Despite the fact that they are still contributing to the loss in profit for the major film companies, the fact that illegally downloading is so common has made people think it's 'less' of a crime. Cinemas are recognising that these warnings are not really enough, therefore they are panning to use the new technology that threatens to ruin them to their advantage. By suing the Internet to distribute films with their consent, film companies plan to eliminate the need for piracy all together. Blanket distribution to all countries at the same time will stop people illegally downloading films because they are not on in their country or even their local cinema. It will also save a lot of money.

I think that the plan for films to become more digitalised and use the Internet to stream films legally will stop piracy to a certain extent. It will eliminate some of the problems that cause popel to watch or download illegal copies in the first place (not showing in their local cinema etc.) I find that this is a problem I come across a lot, that films I want to see are not showing anywhere local and it really frustrates me, so I think that it is a really positive outcome that digitalising films will make distribution easier. Also, as these films will be of higher quality than any pirate copy people are more likely to watch them. I think it may take a while for the idea to really take off however, as it is quite a radical change in the way we watch films. But then again most people are used to watch films illegally on their computer so why not legally? The next generation may well find it as normal as we find watch films illegally online. The only issue I can still see being a problem is cost. If prices to watch these films continues to be as high as it is now, some people will still prefer to watch illegal copies for free.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sherlock Holmes- The Game

1. Why do you think this style of game play has been chosen for this film? How does this tie in with the other messages in the trailer and the poster?

The game is a murder mystery which also requires you to use team work, by playing with one of your facebook friends. The atmosphere of the game is very similar to that of the trailer and uses some of the same features to create a realistic verisimilitude. For example, all the actors are wearing Victorian clothes, the contestants must answer telegrams (as that was the main form of communication t the time) and it is set in London, complete with swirling fog. It also promotes the team work used by Watson and Holmes, by encouraging you to play the game with a Friend.

2. The game operates via the social networking site Facebook. Why do you think this particular site was chosen to host the game?

I think Facebook was chosen to host the the game as it means that the players can play against their friends without being in the same room as them, keeping up with trends such as Xbox Live. I think Facebook was chosen as it is the most popular social networking site (amongst my peers) and also the one most suited for the games interactive element (i.e. using your status updates to ask for evidence/clues etc.)

Explain how the graphics, the gameplay and the overall design fit in to the overall marketing campaign for the film.

The game uses a mixture of animated graphics and real actors. The animation isn't as futuristic looking as some games, as it is still trying to keep in with the Victorian feel of the film. The use of real actors gives the player a glimpse into what the film will be like. However, the graphics are impressive enough to keep people's interest. The style of the game fits in well with the film, it requires the players to think carefully and use their instincts to solve the mystery, unlike your average action game. It promotes the intellectual side of Sherlock Holmes. The game also promotes the teamwork used by Watson & Holmes by encouraging the players to chose a friend to work with. The aim of the game is to solve a mystery, much like the main plot line of the film. By bring out a game which fans can play, it increases interest fro the film. The game will intrigue the players and encourage them to go and watch the film. It all adds to the sense of mystery surrounding the film; what will the updated version of Holmes be like? what mystery will he have to solve? etc.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Sherlock Holmes Questions

1. Consider carefully the repetition of the words ‘legendary’ (used twice) and ‘new’ (used three times) in the synopsis. What do you think might be the filmmakers’ intention in putting together these two seemingly opposing ideas?

By juxtaposing the two terms 'new' and 'legendary' i the synopsis, the filmmakers get the message across that they know what an iconic character Sherlock Holmes is, however in this production they have represented him in a fresh, updated way, so that the character can appeal to a whole new audience. By using the word legendary to balance out the new, it shows that the character won't be so different that he'll be unrecognisable, but fresh and exiting enough to attract new viewers.

2. Can you think of any new film portrayals of legendary figures?

Modern day superhero films for example; Spiderman, Superman, Batman

Robin Hood, new Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton's version of Charlie & the chocolate factory

3. Look back at your ideas on genre from your work on the trailer. Does the synopsis confirm some of your ideas about the genre of the film? How?

The film is represented in it;s advertising to be an action film and the synopsis confirms this. The use of the phrase 'revealing fighting skills as lethal as his legendary intellect' shows that the film contains more adventure and fighting than some of the more traditional representation of Holmes, where he was more inclined to use his intellect to solve a mystery. The synopsis says that Holmes will face 'a deadly plot' which suggests that he will be a in great danger and possibly have to fight his way out of some life threatening situations, elements that are often present in action films. The synopsis also spells it out quite plainly that this film is an 'action- adventure mystery.'

4. Notice the order in which the actors are listed in the synopsis. How do you think this order is decided upon?

The cast in the synopsis are listed as follows; Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong and Kelly Reilly. I think that Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law would have also been listed first, even if they were not massive stars as they are paying the two main characters. They also happen to be the most famous people starring in the film. The rest of the cast I think are ordered in terms of how famous or renown they are.

5.Who do you think might usually read a film synopsis? Where else in the media could you find a synopsis of a film? Have you ever read this section of a film website before? Would you use a synopsis like this to decide whether or not to see a film? Explain your reasons

People who are deciding whether or not to go and see film may read the synopsis, as they sometimes give the reader a clearer view of what the film is about as some trailers are quite ambiguous. Synopsis of films are more commonly found on the back of DVDs, to let buyers know what the film is about. They may also be seen in magazine promotional features about the film. I have never read a film synopsis on a website before, however I think they are a useful tool to decide whether you would go and see a film or not. But, like a lot of trailers, they often make the film look (or in this case sound) better than it is, by picking out the 'best bits.' Having said that. you are less likely to get this in a synopsis, as it is harder to do so. But obviously, as this synopsis is on the film's official, they would be biased to a certain extent. I would probably look at reviews of the film as well, before I chose to see it.

Film poster- my example annotated