Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Revision: Key Concepts

The exam questions are becoming more narrowly focussed on the list of concepts which you were introduced to at the very start. You need to know them; I've highlighted key words. They are:
  • the issues raised by media ownership in contemporary media practice;
  • the importance of cross media convergence and synergy in production, distribution and marketing;
  • the technologies that have been introduced in recent years at the levels of production, distribution, marketing and exchange;
  • the significance of proliferation in hardware and content for institutions and audiences;
  • the importance of technological convergence for institutions and audiences;
  • the issues raised in the targeting of national and local audiences (specifically, British) by international or global institutions;
  • the ways in which your own experiences of media consumption illustrate wider patterns and trends of audience behaviour.
Task: Get 7 sheets of paper, one for each of the concepts listed above. For each one, divide the sheet into three sections: production, distribution and exhibition, and make detailed notes including examples from your case studies. For revision, attempt to memorise these 7 sheets and copy them out from memory. That way it'll be the first thing you can do when you start the exam.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Four Lions (2010, Warp Films)

Directed by Chris Morris

Produced by Mark Herbert and Derrin Schlesinger

Written by: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain
Studio: Warp Films and Film 4 (Wild Bunch for international sales; a division of StudioCanal and therefore a French sales company, who are owned by Vivendi!)

Distributed by: Optimum Releasing (UK)

Release date(s): 23 January 2010 (Sundance Film Festival); 7 May 2010 (UK)

Budget: £2.5 million
Profit: £608,608 from just 115 screens (box office opening weekend figures – this is very high!)

Pre-Production and Funding
The project was originally rejected by both the BBC and Channel 4 as being too controversial. Morris suggested in a mass email, titled "Funding Mentalism", that fans could contribute between £25 and £100 each to the production costs of the film and would appear as extras in return. Funding was secured in October 2008 from Film 4 Productions and Warp Films, with Mark Herbert producing. Filming began in Sheffield in May 2009.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and was short-listed for the festival's World Cinema Narrative prize. Introducing the film's premiere Chris Morris said: “I feel in a weird way that this is a good-hearted film. It's not a hate film, so I would hope that that aspect would come through."
The UK premiere took place at the Bradford International Film Festival on 25th March 2010 and nationwide release is scheduled for 7 May.

About Chris Morris/Four Lions
Certain artists establish such a niche for themselves that they become journalistic shorthand for a certain category. For Chris Morris, the satirist behind The Day Today and Brass Eye, the category is the absurdity of modern media culture

Morris's conclusion, according to the film's producers, Warp Films, is that terrorism is a daft as well as a deadly business. "Even those who have trained and fought jihad report the frequency of farce," the company has said. "At training camps young jihadis argue about honey, cry for their mums, shoot each other's feet off, chase snakes and get thrown out for smoking … Terrorist cells have the same group dynamics as stag parties and five-a-side football teams. There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. Terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about berks." Morris's project, they maintain, "understands jihadis as human beings. And it understands human beings as innately ridiculous."

Web 2.0?
Four Lions’ website contains aspects of sharing links for you to link trailers and the website to social networking sites. It has a live twitter feed streamed across the webpage to encourage interaction and buzz about the site/film. You can download jpgs and pdfs of the posters too, to continue to support a grassroots media support, in local areas. It has interactive software that responds to your ‘click’ – click the four men and they either fire or run for you! (see pic right.)

On the links page, it contains hyperlinks to online multimedia interviews, web content and to the production company websites. On the ‘Where to Watch’ page, if you click a cinema venue, it takes you directly to the booking page of that cinema.

Case Study 3: Warp Films

Warp (and WarpX) is an excellent case study for you because it highlights a lot of the key concepts of film production and contemporary media practice.

Since its birth as a shop and record label in Sheffield in 1989, Warp has become one of the World’s most respected creative organisations. Originally just a record label/shop, Warp Records, Warp have since launched two film production companies – Warp Films and Warp X (for low-budget, digital productions only)

Warp Films was set up with funding from NESTA, the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts. It is based in Sheffield with a further office in London and has 14 full-time staff.

Warp X is a separate company from Warp Films, and was set up to exclusively manage and co-produce films for the Low Budget Feature Scheme tendered by UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund and Film4 in 2005, to revitalise the low-budget sector of the British film industry. Warp X is building on Warp Film’s reputation for combining creative originality with commercial success. Both companies share the same office space and some support staff to make them as resource efficient as possible.

Since then high-profile features have come courtesy of Shane Meadows, whose masterpieces Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England have enjoyed widespread success, the latter winning ‘Best British Film’ at the 2008 BAFTAs.

In 2004, Warp pioneered the sale of unrestricted mp3s via the launch of award-winning download store Bleep.com. Hosting nearly 500 other independent labels, Bleep has sold over 2 million tracks to date. Several of their film productions - mostly documentaries - area available to download royalty free. Why would they do this, when most other production and distributino companies are keen to protect their digital rights from piracy? Plainly, it benefits WarpX to have as many people as possible spreading good word-of-mouth about their products, as a form of viral marketing.

Synergy and Distribution
One of their key financial backers is Optimum Releasing, who are closely involved in the development process and distribute the films theatrically and on DVD in the UK. In April 2008, Australian film distributor Madman Entertainment announced "a collaboration" with Warp Films. Warp and Madman plan to make "at least 2 films together over the next 3 years." Optimum is a small, British-owned distributor operating in an industry dominated by major Hollywood distributors, and this relationship therefore benefits both themselves and Warp Films.

Warp X only make digital films. They say “we make digital films with budgets between £400,000 and 800,000 for theatrical distribution in the UK and internationally. Our films are genre based but with acutely original interpretations that will ensure they stand out in the market place. We do not make character based drama or ultra-cheap versions of mainstream Hollywood studio films.” Digital film-making is a lot cheaper than 35mm.

Targeting British Audiences
Warp X say that they only produce films which qualify as British. Even more specific than that, they would strongly prefer producers to shoot in Yorkshire or some other northern region of England, but "if there is a compelling creative need to shoot elsewhere, then we will put the needs of the film first."

Warp X's joint abjectives as outlined by the UK Film Council and Film4 include:
  • to provide new opportunities to increase participation of groups currently under-represented in the UK film industry such as writers, directors, producers and actors who are disabled, women and/or from black and minority ethnic groups.
  • to encourage filmmakers to explore social issues of disability, cultural/ethnic diversity and social exclusion through the content and range of individual film projects.
  • to create much-needed progression routes into the UK film industry for identified filmmaking talent, who may have experienced some success through their first feature film or through short filmmaking, but who need further infrastructural and other support to make their next film(s) a success.  
My Wrongs #8245–8249 & 117 (Dir: Chris Morris - 2003)
Dead Man's Shoes (Dir: Shane Meadows - 2004)
Rubber Johnny (Dir: Chris Cunningham - 2005)
Scummy Man (Arctic Monkeys short film/music video)
This Is England (Dir: Shane Meadows - 2006)
Grow Your Own (Dir: Richard Laxton - 2007)
Dog Altogether (Dir: Paddy Considine - 2007)
At the Apollo (Arctic Monkeys Dir: Richard Ayoade - 2008)
Le Donk and Scorzayzee (Dir: Shane Meadows- 2009)
Four Lions (Dir: Chris Morris- 2009)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Case Study 2: DNA Films

Company Website: http://www.dnafilms.com/

DNA Films is an independent film production company set up in 1997 by Duncan Kenworthy & Andrew MacDonald. They have produced a relatively small number of films which have been successful both commercially and critically, including:
  • 28 Weeks Later (2007)
  • Sunshine (2007)
  • Notes on a Scandal (2006)
  • The History Boys (2006)
  • The Last King of Scotland (2006)
  • 28 Days Later (2002)

DNA films have a distribution agreement with Fox Searchlight, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox which specialises in independent and British films. This is an example of synergy, where two companies work together for mutual benefit. DNA benefits from Fox Searchlight's access to funds and a worldwide distribution network, while Fox gains cultural and artistic kudos by supporting more 'edgy' productions. They might get lucky with a film which breaks out and becomes a world-wide commercial success, or they may benefit from the long tail effect.

28 Days Later is probably their most successful since it made enough money to spin off into a franchise, with the sequel 28 Weeks Later released in 2007 and 28 Months Later which looks like it's currently languishing in production hell. It is also a brilliant example of many of the concepts which you need to understand.

While 28 Days was distributed through Fox Searchlight, 28 Weeks was distributed through Fox International - this might sound like a trivial difference, but what it shows is that the franchise had, in effect graduated from being a small, risky proposition to a big commercial release.

It has spawned at least one fan film called The Rage (2008). The existence of this is due to the proliferation of digitial film-making technology which is cheap enough and easy enough for amateur film-makers to use. As such it is also an example of user-generated content, which is one of the features of what we call Web2.0. The audience is becoming involved in the production and distribution of their own work via the internet.

View Year 12's Research Presentation on DNA Films:

Have you got any further information to add to this case study? Add it as a Comment below.