Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Yr3 Week 5 (Wed 5 Nov - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Marketing)

Today's seminar was on the topic of Film Marketing, one the biggest and most critical factors in not just the process of releasing a film, but the success/failure ratio of the project, based on well it works. So, how does it?

To start off with, one of the major components of a film's release is known as the EPK (Electronic Press Kit), which in the age of the internet, has become standard procedure: it includes the key written information (synopsis, cast and crew listing listings and the website) as well as the trailer, poster and even little promo clips for the film. Sets the stage, gets out the information and helps to build interest and hype should the materials appeal.The other really famous part of film promotion comes in the form of what Elhum called 'Great Extras'; the premiere/gala events thrown in honour of the film, the marketing blitzkrieg, the in cinema displays and then perhaps the most powerful of all, the viral/social media angle, where a film's popularity ca be made or broken on god word of mouth and the spread of coverage and even 'favorite' moments, much like the various Joker lines from The Dark Knight (Good Evening Commissioner, Why So Serious, Let's Put a Smile on that face) were in 2008.

Next, we touched on perhaps the most quintessential form of marketing; the poster. Sometimes deceptively simple, the job of these sheets, be they the product of photoshop or even the classic painted ones by artists like Drew Struzan (a lot of Amblin productions got his treatment), is to tell a story of their own, to entrance and entice the onlooker into wanting to see the film. Sometimes, this can be very clear, like a poster for an Indiana Jones film teasing all the characters and big action scenes, or even a little mindgame, like the poster of Her, which contrasts the feminine title and colour scheme (pinks and reds) with a picture of a moustached Joaquin Phoenix. It comes down to the combination of colour, the use of critic quotes, and the juxtaposition/placement of symbols and imagery, as demonstrated rather differently by the two examples above.

Of course, all this is well and good, but how does it start? Well, it begins when you call in a 'Campaign Designer', who is exactly what they sound like: you give them a brief (who's the film's audience, the outline, the objectives o the campaign and is there any use/buzz courtesy of the awards circuit) and then they take care of the rest with their own team. One key factor in how they work is decided the general audience: not in terms of traditional demographics (teens, adults, children, families etc.) but in terms of the general circuit. Is it a mainstream film, or one more suited to the arthouse/indie field. The choice yields very different approaches: the mainstream will very much be more of a 'sale', focusing on whatever clout and praise the film has received (stars, quotes, who's involved), while the indie circuit will focus more on a distinctive poster to really show what kind of film it is and what it has to say for itself. The poster in this instance becomes more of a standalone work of art than an advertisement.

Speaking of audience, this leads into the next topic: Positioning. What's your audience, what are your assests, and how do you use them to get to the desired audience. Let's talk a PG13 style action film, the usual kind of big summer release, like Guardians of the Galaxy this past summer. The audience is a broad selection, but primarily youth (anywhere from 9-30 yrs old, accounting both comic book and non-comic fans of Marvel). The assets here are the property the film is based off, the branding of both Marvel and Disney and the use of well known actors like Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt among others, all of which come with their own fanbases. Already, you have a lot of people who will come for those reasons, as well as the use of the internet, having trailers and TV spots loaded with little moments that become 'memes', which will in turn go viral (a racoon firing a machine gun, the use of classic 1970s songs in the trailers, the parodies of iconic movie moments like the 'walking in a straight line' bit. All of these are very powerful weapons at the disposal of the marketers. With the EPK, you define yourself, but with the marketing, you expand and evolve into something bigger: into a part of pop culture.

Honestly, this can be broken down into three easy to remember components: 1) Build an audience, 2) Launch your new project, and 3) Maintain the audience/Sustain. Today's seminar covered a rather sizeable spectrum f concepts, but still opened how even deceptively simple campaigns an have an absurd amount of planning and thought put into them, and frankly, the sheer scale of tools available to film marketers is astounding nowadays. This acted as both a reinforcement of what I already knew (and had discussed before, see my pieces on The Lone Ranger), and an eye opener on some of the inner workings.

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And today's film-related corporation of choice the British Video Association.The BVA is a trade body that represents publishers/rights owners of video entertainment (nowadays, DVDs and Blu-Rays) in the UK. Their clientele include the likes of the big studios (Warners, Lionsgate, Paramount) but also the BFI and smaller companies like Koch Media. They also have strong ties to the likes of The Video Standards Council (VSC), The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Film Distributors Association (FDA) among a number of major media boards in the UK.

As well as serve these companies, they also inform and keep up to date with trends in home releases, having the likes of sales charts for both DVD and Blu-ray, release dates/catalogues, as well as a news section pertaining to major developments in British film on their webpage. They also host an awards ceremony, fittingly titled the BVA Awards, which celebrates achievement sin marketing and retail in the film sector. In 2013 for example, The Best Selling UK 'video', Skyfall, won for Retail Title of The Year, while Universal won for Retail Distributor of the Year.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Our Son pitch (the presentation)

'Our Son' - Screenplay Pitch

1. Introduction:
The form: Our Son is a 30 minute drama short screenplay (to be developed also as a feature script simultaneously).

Theme/subject: The film deals with the realities of being a parent with a terminally ill/disabled child.
This leads into themes such as choice, consequence, guilt and acceptance, which such parents come to grips with on a daily basis.

Synopsis: We follow a day in the life of parents Tony and Clarisse as they care for their young son Ryan, who suffers from 'Metachromatic Leukodystrophy'/MLD, a disease that destroys the coating of nerve endings and impairs all body function . His only means of communication is through a visual personality simulator linked to his mind. As we see the parents trying to cope in this adverse situation, we also learn of how things came to be when Clarisse revisit old footage and photos, and the sad journey that tore this film apart.

Tone/style: despite the light bit of sci-fi with the simulator (drawn on real technology), this is a very down to earth and restrained tale, with little in the way of levity and a strong focus on the human element. Lorenzo's Oil and Awakenings are key influences, the former for the family dynamic, while the latter addresses the issues surrounding a more radical form of medicine/other help for patients, and the duality of its effects.

Target audience: Adult audiences as well as parents to help spread awareness of the disease and enlighten to the kinds of struggles these people face daily.

Where will you send: Script contests like Script Pipeline and Stage 32, opportunities from the BBC Writersroom, and sending it off to agents.

2. Context:
Relation to your previous work: Ninos Robados and Beautiful Madness both deal with hot topics concerning children and both relate to medical establishments. Robados dealt with the abuse of trust and the subsequent loss and guilt wrought on the parents of stolen children, while Madness was a semi autobiographical short documentary on raising a child with medical issues and all the battles and pressures that had to be fought.

Relation to outside world: MLD is a rare disease, so it is not known very well or easy to recognise/distinguish from other debilitating disorders, and the effects it incurs upon families. There is also the debate around experimenting with terminally ill life and the kind of strain that causes on families, especially when the sufferer is young.

3. Research:
Sites on illness: 


Writing aides/influences: Writing the Short Film by Pat Cooper & Ken Dancyger, as well as Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee for the actual writing. Visual inspirations include Lorenzo's Oil, Awakenings and A.I.

4. Methodology:
Process: Following an outline, organising the key components, 
there will be a continuous process of redrafting, based on both class and tutor feedback.

Schedule: As the deadline is April 26, the goal being a new draft of the script every 2-3 weeks (accounting both for personal life and other work assignments).


5. Contingency & Review:
Challenges: To treat the situation and characters with the maximum level of respect and dignity a touchy subject like this one requires.

Addressing these challenges: The research, as well as drawing on personal experience so as not to overdramatize nor undersell the subject.

Points of review: Key points for review would mainly be focused n the reality of how the writing treats the subject how believable the parents are and is there enough of a friction there between them and what they have been lumbered with.

Contingencies: Screenwriting is a constant process of trial, error and experimentation, so even if an element goes wrong, it can be redrafted and retooled (with backup copies saved). Also, tutors are available to consult should there be problems.

Flexibility: Since the deadline is in April, there is plenty of time for rewrites, redrafts and changes to made should a particular part of the script not work/not mesh well.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Yr3 Week 5 (Mon 3 Nov - MDA3400 Screenwriting workshop 1)

Every couple of weeks, we will have a screenwriting workshop/session  with James Charlton, to discuss and debate ideas and concepts for our dissertations scripts and films. To be perfectly blunt, this wasn't an especially eventful first class, given how few of us had material to really offer or display, and the few who did say were still very much in the idea stage. And really, that's about it. I certainly hope, and am very sure, this will become more useful as the course progresses, but right now, not much to report, save for posterity.

Yr3 Week 4 (Thurs 30 Oct - MDA3200 Film Theory - Formalism)

In today's sessions, we looked at Formalism (what type of form does a film take, as expressed through editing, cinematography, tone, style etc.) To begin with, in the lecture we watched Carl Dreyer's (we saw another of his film, the silent drama The Passion of Joan Of Arc, two years ago) religious drama from 1955, Ordet. A strange sort of affair, Ordet deals with issues of faith and belief as we focus in on the lives of a small farmer family in Denmark, and the trials they endure (from a marriage debate with another religious family, to the loss of one of their members and the crises of faith that creates in them). Very slow burn kind of drama, but still intriguing nonetheless (though the rather fantastical ending did leave some scratching their head,s while others just laughed).


Subsequently, after the screening and into the seminar thereafter, we discussed the form of this film; shot in black and white despite being from the 50s, long takes aplenty and even the rather deliberate movement, as well as placement, of the actors on screen. The distinctive lighting mixed with the monochrome and actor placement created scenes which visually, resembled Renaissance artworks, specifically sculptures (some said paintings, but the B&W made the performers look more like statues to me) that you would see around places like the Vatican, crafted by masters like Michelangelo and Raphael. Couple that with the long takes and slow pace which permit the viewer to dwell, and that approach gains a lot more credence. Furthermore, the slowness also allows the viewer to take in the film's sentiments on faith and belief, and really digest them and think about them as they watch the film, rather than jumping from scene to scene and taking in the story much more conventionally.

The notion of film manipulation to create a certain effect is hardly a new or even obscure principle, famously summarised as the Kuleshov Effect. As far back as the early years of more narrative oriented cinema, with the likes of Eisenstein and Battleship Potemkin, the combination of editing and image juxtaposition can create all sorts of effects, even if the objects are not necessarily in the same time or place (a close up on a neutral face can be juxtaposed with a shot of either a funeral or a birthday party, and the subsequent message to the audience about its meaning will change). This is of course known as semiotics, the signs of signs, which is composed of three key elements; the icon (what does it denote), the index (what sort of reference is it) and the symbol (what does it connote).


Of course, such a manipulation does invite the questioning of what is film realism, which Brecht famously challenged in his 'Defamiliarization Effect', arguing that 'realism' was a load of bunkum and that it doesn't invite the audience to be challenged nor engaged by a world/reality beyond or different to our own. 'Lay bare the device'/'Make it strange' as he put it. This then briefly lead into the debate of /continuity editing' vs. 'montage', and how the two are used in film (one is more about psychological reality, emotions and the actual content. The other is more intellectual and places a greater emphasis on how it is presented i.e. the form). In the end, though by this point this isn't exactly telling us as students a whole lot new, it is still important to draw attention to how something is presented, and what that can create on top of whatever story is being told. It certainly serves as a reminder of how important all our planning and the subsequent post production work we do can change how our intentions and ideas come across to an audience when we opt for one style or method over another.

Yr3 Week 4 (Wed 29 Oct - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Simon Best lecture)

Simon Best from the Business School came in today to give a lecture on entrepreneurship, which rather obviously relates to film production and producing given both share that proactive drive for maximizing assets and good business skill. Of course, to help illustrate what is both entrepreneurship and enterprise, he conducted a series of activities, including a picture game (where you had to see behind the image to connect them i.e. pigs and fireworks: salt peter from pig urine helps make gunpowder), a rapid fire questionnaire (What is an entrepreneur (Someone who applies enterprise), what is enterprise (Creativity when solving problems/challenges), are you an entrepreneur (of course, as both business and film require a strong ability to be proactive) and are enterprising (filmmaking is creative by its very nature, so the answer is self evident)) and even a little versus game in order to break down the three key elements of business (Needs, Wants and Demands i.e. a Ferrari vs. a Pegueot 108: both serve the need of transport, the want of an image about ones status, and the demand is in relation to ones finances (the 108 being the cheaper option).
Of course, all this then raised the question of where does entrepreneurship come from? Really, it came from a shift in human behaviour as we moved from being primitive hunter/gatherers to traders as our societies began to evolve and we need to co-operate and trade for the greater good of a group's power and survival. Indeed, there are five key drivers at work when it comes to business; New organizations, new mindsets, new populations, new markets and new technology, each self-explanatory in their role, and each important in order to situate oneself in the ideal position for profit maximization, After all, why make really complicated, high maintenance PCs for the elderly when simpler, cheaper, less demanding models will suit them fine. It's all about understanding the consumer-product relationship.

Naturally though, it's not only about what you sell, but who is selling it; are you self employed (focused more on qualitative growth and rather straightforward content/products) or a business owner (more about quantitative growth and ensuring you are always on top of new tricks and trends in your chosen market to stay relevant)? This is especially important as now, thanks to the digital revolution, we are living in times where the jobs market is ever changing, and the balance of power is shifting and now, there is more room and opportunities for business to start up online without incurring gigantic costs on staff and real estate (apparently, the typical cost of starting up a new company nowadays is only £500).

Of course, all this jargon is well and good, and Best made for a very lively and engaging speaker, but how does this more directly apply to someone like me? Fundamentally, though I may not be out to found a company, the importance of enterprising and entrepreneurship is rather self-evident; if I want to be a filmmaker, I must be pro-active enough to work hard and get myself know out there, while also keeping an eye on the market and see what kinds of films and stories are really big with the public now, as well as where there are potentially new audiences to be cultivated ) as Netflix recently demonstrated so potently). A filmmaker must be that careful balance of artists and businessman f he is to stand a chance in such a gigantic and competitive field. I hope I'm up to the task...

Yr3 Week 3-4 (23-27 Oct - 2Annas Film Festival, Riga, Latvia)

This year, Middlesex University had been invited to attend 2Annas Film Festival in Riga, Latvia. This is an event designed to celebrate young filmmakers, for features, shorts and animation, in the Baltic and Eastern European regions. Several of our students had entered their assignment shorts from last year into the competition, though they were not nominated for any of the categories.

Since not a terrible amount happened between events, save for the mundaneness of sleep, food, sightseeing (Riga is a lovely place with a wonderful 'Old City' section) and of course, late night partying, I'll succinctly list the key events of each day down below:
  • Day 1: After a very early morning flight (6:45am), we arrived in a rather frigid Riga and, after checking in at the lovely Koventa Seta Hotel, we headed to a local academy for talks on film distribution and the sometimes harsh realities of the film festival circuit, courtesy of a German producer. One of his key bits of advice was to really look out for festivals that don't charge fees, as they examine a work more on artistry.
  • Day 2: We attended of our submitted MDX films at the KSuns theatre. However, the subsequent Q'n'A was cut short due to running out of time in our slot, and we vacated over to a local bar (and a rather shabby, rundown one to boot) though the session didn't materialize. A genuine pity, and I have to question why the festival didn't exercise more of its authority and resources to ensure we wouldn't get so rudely interrupted.
  • Day 3: Possibly the most 'distinct' day, we headed over to a lovely picture palace for the 2Annas Award Ceremony. However, once past the initial awe and beauty the ceremony was a complete and utter shambles; unrehearsed, unconfident hosts (also the festival producers mind you), poor technicals (no showreel or powerpoint, they would just jump back to the desktop anytime they needed something), weak judges who made completely generic, uninforming comments about the awarded films and worst of all, they never properly explained the categories or the films who won, so we were left just haphazardly jumping from category to category and watching clips with practically no context or explanation (doubly bad considering how good these films were when we got to see them at a later screening).
  • Day 4: Today, however, we attended a screening of the awarded films, which nearly made up for yesterday's shambles. A mixture of dark little short films, with a seemingly running theme of decay and denial (be it sexual with a castrated farmer, social with the school trying to seem more lively than it really is, or the mundane family and its typical day) and sometimes surrealistic animation (of note being a short film that play Monty Python with a bunch of animals in odd situations) made for a mesmerizing viewing experience, and certainly very different from our own, more straight laced shorts.

And then the last day was mainly spent just lying down in the lovely little teahouse by the river for the final time, before we boarded our RyanAir back to Stanstead. So, after all that, what are my closing thoughts about our little Latvian adventure? In the end, I didn't, and still don't, blame David or the tutors for what happened, as they had been, as I put it, 'suckered in', but just felt the Festival had not been the enriching experience it ought to have been. It was plenty of fun, roaming around and sightseeing with all my friends in the class, but as an educational endeavour, it failed with flying colours. However, that's not to say nothing of substance was gained, as there was the networking party after the awards ceremony. This is obviously good, mainly in the amount of potentially fruitful connections for us and the University, as well as the exposure of us attending such an event. As they say, 'Every shadow must have a light', and the hard work of David and co. should be acknowledged and respected, and not coloured by unforseen left turns that can happen to the best of us. Oh well, at least the food was good....

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Yr3 Week 3 (Wed 22 Oct - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Distribution)

Today's seminar was focused on one of the most critical elements when handling a film post post-post production: finding distributors, who will ensure your film gets into, among many others, theatres/on DVD/on streaming services & V.O.D./into festivals/TV or even for Educational uses. Of course, before that, one needs a Sales Agent, which was touched on last week, whose job it is to seek distributors internationally and make the necessary dealings, which can involve multiple entities as distributors are regionally confined mainly (save for the big Hollywood studios, most are country-specific i.e. Metrodome is British, Studiocanal is European, Toho is Japanese etc.


The model for how business is handled is Filmmaker>Distributor and then either Audiences or Cinemas, so there exists the option for level of directness to your product. However, more important and detailed than that is the actual methodology, broken into four key steps: 1) Acquisition (self explanatory), 2) Strategy (planning the release), 3) Creativity (how will you sell/market the film) and 4) Accountability (reporting to rights holders on how the whole affair turns out). Negotiation is usually in the 70/30, 60/40 realm, in favour to the filmmaker.

Another important element discussed was understanding the market, and playing up to them to ensure the maximum amount of people see your film. To illustrate, we watched both the domestic and international trailers for the Saudi Arabian film Wadja (2013), a story about a young girl who wants a bike. Both endorsed the feel-good, underdog quality of the film, but there were a few interesting differences; the international trailer played more of the novelty aspect, like pointing that this is Saudi Arabia's first film given their strict policy on entertainment, how many festivals and awards it picked up, it was very much designed to make it more of an 'event' film, much like say, The Artist (2011) for being a new silent film. The domestic trailer however, made it more intimate and personal. Sure, you had some critic quotes, but no the high profile pedigree compared to the endorsements of the international trailer, and there was also an emphasis on the proper pronunciation of the film's title, probably to help facilitate word of mouth among friends and relatives.


Indeed, that brings us to another important piece of the puzzle: understanding audience. One of the easy ways to do this is of course, looking at box office figures, which was also mentioned last time through people like Charles Gant or Film Time Machine. Also useful are exit polls, which are directly from the audience, dealing with screen venues and their profits, and can be found through places like the BFI. On a related note to that, now audiences can even have a more direct say in what they see, as now some cinemas offer the ability to have organized screenings for specific films based on audience demand. This can arranged through sites like OurScreen.com. An interesting little tidbit I'd figure Id throw in to further illustrate the audience's level of power in what cinema can do/show.

And well, that was that. This session served more as a reminder/refresher on the nature of distribution and the audience's abilities/importance, and how it is a much bigger field than often given credit for when discussing the entire shebang of filmmaking. This is a much bigger game than just selling it to 'some guy' and then he does the rest, and the importance of strategy and a good sales agent is invaluably to ensure maximum exposure for both the film and you so that you may gain resources/kickbacks for next time and make a name for yourself out there in the proper circles.
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Today's company of choice is CineVue: Essentially a news and review site, CineVue was started back in April 2010, and has devoted itself to highlighting British releases for a larger audience, most recently with musical drama Northern Soul and the new Mike Leigh biopic Mr. Turner, being heavily featured. They are a mix of reviews as well as news on the latest hub-bubs in both the international and the UK film world, including the newest interviews, announcements, film festivals (including Toronto) and competitions.


I can see why a site like this would be important. After all, such an attention to smaller films for a large readerbase of potential viewers and patrons would be invaluable for a first time filmmaker to really get a name, as well as a regular future audience, for him or herself.

Yr3 Week 3 (Mon 20 Oct - MDA3400 Proposal outline)

I'll be frank and say today's lecture was rather pointless, as this is information we could've easily read off of Moodle and honestly, not much discussion on the actual challenges/problems faced by our projects, was created from it so having be a group thing was a tad redundant. Regardless of my complaints however, here is the recap:

Yeah, that sums it up all too nicely (hey, I can crack the odd joke on what is ostensibly a serious work blog, no?)
  • The dissertation proposal will make up 10% of our overall grade, and is due Nov 20.
  • The outline is as follows: Name, Student number, Blog address, 700 word overview (form, themes, synopsis, tone, demographics), 600 word context, 600 word research, 400 on methodology, 200 on challenges, Assessment contract and Bibliography.
Yep, that's about it. Very basic and straightforward, and again, I question why this needed to be a full class as, unlike last week with Helen, this was nowhere near as comprehensive or detailed, and felt more like being read a list. Not a terrible amount to work with, is it?

Yr3 Week 2 (Fri 17 Oct - MDA3400 Ideas Generation workshop)

Today's double session was devoted towards prepping ourselves for our big pitch in week 5, where we present our dissertation project (be it a short film or two, a script or even a critical essay, which rather humorously, no one opted for). Of course, some where still not entirely sure of what they wanted to do, so Helen decided to have a little ideas generation Workshop set up to get the old skull engine firing away again. Most of them are fairly straightforward exercises which I'll list off here:

  • 2p Game: a fun little entree, the aim of the game is to knock the 2 pence off of a person's hand with just your hand and nothing else. What this demonstrated was not only aptitude and dexterity, but also inner flair and showmanship as the numbers go down, and suddenly you begin to clown around as you avoid the other person and become an entertaining watch. Easy to see how this relates to pitching.
  • Q'n'A sheet: straightforward list of questions on how we behave/define ourselves with the creative process. Not much to comment on save for I am a very committed, almost maverick individual, when it comes to projects and I care very deeply about the wellbeing of those around me when I collaborate.
  • Helen brought up the notion of 'Belben's Team analysis', which says there are always certain people in any given team: the Plant (ideas man), the Shaper (the energy), the Monitor Evaluator (very deliberate and accurate), the Implementer (the hard worker), the Co-Ordinator (the boss), the Resources Investigator (the negotiator), the Specialist (the master of their craft) and the Finisher (the maverick who sees something through to the bitter end).
  • Getting into groups of four, we each broke down our ideas for our dissertation into the following categories (form, subject, one sentence summary and keywords) and then shared them. Mine was a feature script (1), dealing with parents who have a terminally ill child (2), who we see fight their harsh reality, and then what they would do for a cure (3), and finally, there is choice, consequence, dehumanisation, hope and acceptance (4).
  • We recapped some of the idea generation techniques we had discussed for the past two years. These covered scenarios like 'No Idea' (engage in passive research, reflect on your past works and what do you feel you need to improve on/practice), the 'Just an Idea' (more active research, brainstorming, immersion in the subject, getting input from others and collaboration) and 'Committed' (the triple Rs - research, represent and refine, S.C.A.M.P.E.R. - substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to other use, eliminate and rearrange, experimentation/tests/protype, outlines).
  • Next, in pairs, we had a face to face chat about our projects and what our aims were with them. I talked to Ruben, who wished to be a producer on three projects, and has a very no-nonsense approach to his work.
  • We then had a class brainstorm for one of the script, discussing how all the possible routes you could go with it, keywords, imagery, tone, influences and the general outline of the story and what it could be/do. After, we split up into pairs once more, to do a smaller version for our our projects.
Phew, that was a lot! Anyway, for the afternoon session, we focused more on the pitch itself. The actual details are on moodle, but this was basically a little pep talk, quickly breaking down the presentation (to be hosted on our blogs), and what some of the issues would be moving forward with our ideas (identify key issues/problems, what is the core, what is the goal and what is the strategy etc.) So, after all this, I can safely say that this won't be an easy one, mainly because of how much there is riding on this project (not just my last piece for Uni, but also a means of presenting myself to the industry). I was fully aware of this beforehand, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit all of this had yet produced some anxieties over the quality of my presentation and how much I need to go over to ensure the tutors and class are satisfied. This is made further complicated by how serious and dour my subject is, so naturally there is going to be a fair bit of blood, sweat and tears involved.

Yr3 Week 2 (Thurs 16 Oct - MDA3200 Film Theory - Auteurs)

Opening with a screening of Hitchcock's immortal thriller/horror hybrid Psycho (1960), today's sessions would be focused on the idea of authorship/auteurs in cinema, and is there really such a thing as one? Certainly, Psycho does bare some 'trademarks' that would befit a Hitchcock production: his fixation on blondes, the story's 'cruelty' towards the main characters and putting them through all sorts of ordeals, the sudden twist that changes the entire drive and nature of the story (from runaway to a murder mystery here), the emphasis on masterful sound to enhance tension and ambience, and of course, the 'maguffin' (here, the stolen money).


'Auteurship' is a concept birthed out of the French New Wave, a cinematic movement in France in the 1950s and 60s. Critic-turned-filmmaker Francois Truffant was one of this notion's most vocal voices, criticizing the stuffy adaptations of popular literature in French cinema at the time, decrying the authority of the 'writer' in these affairs and trying to push for film to be respected as a visual art form, which naturally meant the director would be in more focus. Of course, this blew up a little more aggressively due to a mistranslation of Truffant's 'A Certain Tendency of French Cinema' (1954) by Andrew Cyrus, and so suddenly the 'director' was elevated more to a higher status of regard, and creating this taste culture around them (superiority/inferiority, quality of artistry etc.)

Such a notion gained traction, not just because of high profile names like Hitchcock becoming icons beyond their films, and thus creating a 'name brand' for directors, but the termination of the Hays Production Code in 1960 also signalled a great loosening of past restrictions, allowing filmmakers to explore new avenues of storytelling, both subject and presentation. Thus came the Second Golden Age of Hollywood, where directors were lauded, revered and permitted to do whatever they wanted across the 70s, leading to more hot-topic films that could never have been greenlit before (The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, Godfather, Chinatown, Apocalypse Now).


In the afternoon seminar, we further discussed auteurship, though this honestly amounted to little more than a re-examination of Hitchcock tropes, as mentioned above, through viewing clips from The Birds and one of his earlier offerings, Blackmail (Britain's first sound film, no less). Now then, to wrap this up, I have been fully aware of the debates surrounding authorship in film (frankly, I've been reviewing for five years online, so how could I not?), and it is a very sticky subject where both sides, director and writer, have equal grounds for each. I would go further, but if you want more of my full thoughts on the matter, please check out the video I made as part of my Discusses series on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaoL2b2yBgk