Writing for question 1b)

I like to think of this question as being about moving a couple of steps away from your production work and imagining you are someone else looking at it for the first time. How would you analyse this music video, this magazine or whatever? Imagine you didn't make it but that it is a real media production.

Again the question will specify an area/concept for you to apply. The areas that could come up are:

Audience
Narrative
Genre
Representation
Media Language

For each area there are theories or ideas which your teachers will have introduced you to which you need to know a bit about and then you have to apply those ideas to ONE of your productions and analyse it accordingly. Decide in advance which piece you will write about and make sure that whatever the concept, you can actually do it. Again, here is a bit of a breakdown of what the five concepts might involve.

Audience can refer to how media products target audiences, which audiences actually consume media products, but most interestingly how media audiences actually read or make sense of media products and what they might do with them. There is a lot of interesting material on all this and you should certainly be familiar with some of it.

Genre is all about the ways in which we categorise media texts. Whatever you have made will in some way relate to other examples of the same genre, whether it be in print, audio, video or online. Again a lot of different media critics have written their own 'take' on genre and this would be useful to apply to your work.

Narrative is about how stories are told. Applying different models of narrative structure to your work may reveal unconscious things that you did in the way you have constructed it. Again a familiarity with some of these models or theories will be helpful in the exam.

Media Language is probably the most open one if it comes up, because it allows you to talk about the other areas as well (genre, narrative, audience) as it is about the techniques and conventions of your project, namely your use of the micro elements.

Finally, Representation particularly focuses on the ways in which particular social groups are presented back to us by the media. So in your case how have you portrayed young people or females or males in your work? what messages are implied in what you have constructed and what would particular types of criticism (e.g. feminism) make of it?

So again, how do we write about this in half an hour?

Paragraph 1: Intro: which of your projects are you going to write about? briefly describe it

Paragraph 2: what are some of the key features of the concept you are being asked to apply? maybe outline some of the theories briefly

Paragraph 3: start to apply the concept, making close reference to your production

Paragraph 4: try to show ways in which ideas work in relation to your production and also ways in which those ideas might not apply/could be challenged

Paragraph 5: conclusion

Writing for question 1a)

(This guide is based on work found the wicked media blog by Pete Fraser.)

The main things to note here are that for 1a you can write about ALL of your work across the course (and you can write about anything else you might have made on other courses or in your spare time too!) and for 1b you just write about ONE of your productions. Try not to overlap too much, so that each answer is different.

1a is entirely concerned about SKILLS DEVELOPMENT, but the area that comes up will be quite specific.

Research and planning

Digital technology use

Post-production

Use of real media conventions

Creativity

It is possible that a question might refer to two of these categories, so be prepared to talk about any/all of them!

A few tips on what they mean:
Digital technology refers to hardware, software and online technology, so the cameras, the computers, the packages you used and the programs online that you have worked with. It is worth considering how all this inter-links.
 

Post-production would actually fall under digital technology as well, so if that comes up it would probably represent an expansion of points you'd make in one section of digital technology. It is really about everything you do after constructing the raw materials for your production; so once you have shot your video, what do you do to it in editing.

Research
refers to looking at real media and audiences to inform your thinking about a media production and also how you record all that research; planning refers to all the creative and logistical thinking and all the organisation that goes on in putting the production together so that everything works and again gives you the chance to write about how you kept records of it.

Creativity
is the hardest one in many ways because it involves thinking about what the creative process might mean. Wikipedia describes it as "a mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight." For your projects it might involve considering where ideas came from, how you worked collaboratively to share ideas, how you changed things or even how you used tools like the programs to achieve something imaginative.

Use of real media conventions involves consideration of other texts that you looked at and how skilfully you were able to weave their conventions into your work or ways in which you might have challenged them.

You will notice that most of the above were areas that you covered in the evaluation task at the end of each of your productions. This time, you are putting together ideas from evaluations and standing a bit further back to look across your production work and reflecting on how you developed across the course. You should feel free to acknowledge weaknesses and to reflect upon how you learned from them and how you overcame problems. It is not a place to be defensive about your work but to really reflect on it!

so how would you organise an answer?

paragraph 1 should be an introduction which explains which projects you did. It can be quite short.

paragraph 2 should pick up the skill area and perhaps suggest something about your starting point with it- what skills did you have already and how were these illustrated. use an example.

paragraph 3 should talk through your use of that skill in early projects and what you learned and developed through these. again there should be examples to support all that you say.

paragraph 4 should go on to demonstrate how the skill developed in later projects, again backed by examples, and reflecting back on how this represents moves forward for you from your early position. 

paragraph 5 short conclusion

Remember it's only half an hour and you need to range across all your work!

Past Questions

Jan 2010

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 youranswer to show how these skills developed over time.

June 2010

1 (a) Describe the ways in which your production work was informed by research into real media texts and how your ability to use such research for production developed over time.

Jan 2011

1(a) Describe how you developed your skills in the use of digital technology for mediaproduction and evaluate how these skills contributed to your creative decision making.Refer to a range of examples in your answer to show how these skills developed over time.

 G325 Mark Scheme – for the above question
There is a clear sense of progression and of how examples have been selected, and a range of articulate reflections on technical skills. There is a fluent evaluation of progress made over time.Candidates offer a broad range of specific, relevant and clear examples of digital technology inrelation to creative decisions and outcomes.The use of media terminology and research, planning and production terms is excellent

Audience - Theories

Hypodermic Needle Model
This suggests that the information from a text passes into the mass consciouness of the audience unmediated, ie the experience, intelligence and opinion of an individual are not relevant to the reception of the text. This theory suggests that, as an audience, we are manipulated by the creators of media texts, and that our behaviour and thinking might be easily changed by media-makers. It assumes that the audience are passive.

Blumler & Katz – Uses and Gratifications Theory 
This theory assumes the audience is active rather than passive and it emphasises what the audiences of media texts do with and why approach them initially them rather than what the media does to the audience.  The Uses and Gratifications theory suggests that individuals and social groups use texts in different ways and the audience are no longer viewed as passive receivers.
The identified needs of the audience we later refined as:

Entertainment & Diversion – as a form of escapism

Personal relationships/ social interaction – identification with characters and being able to discuss media texts with others

Personal identity – the ability to compare your life with that of characters and situations presented in media texts

Information/Education – to find out and learn about what is going on in the world

Uses and Gratification and Dependency + Analysis of Funny Games

David Buckingham – The Creative Audience
David Buckingham conducted a number of research studies into audiences. His work demonstrated that young people use the media to help make sense of their experiences, of relating to others and in organising their daily lives.

“The media offer material for experimentation with alternative social identities, if only at the level of fantasy or aspiration’

Buckingham believes it is essential to situate young people’s media use within the context of their other social activities and experiences due to the fact that many young people are using the media as a wallpaper: a wall of noise to fill up ‘down time’ or just to pass the time due to boredom. That many of their interactions with the media are not contrived, commited or concentrated but fleeting, visceral and meaningless.

For Althusser, interpellation works in a manner much like giving a person a name, or calling out to them in the street.  That is, ideologies “address” people and offer them a particular identity which they are encouraged to accept.  However, one is not forced to accept that role through violence.  Because those roles are offered to us everywhere we look, or even assigned to us by culture, they are presented in such a way that we are encouraged to accept them.  This works best when it is an invisible, but consensual process.  It works best when we believe these values are our own, and reflect the most obvious, logical way to live.

Stuart Hall – Reception theory encoding/decoding – see Representation

What was your target audience? What audience response did you want? How did you research your target audience? How do you think you media product would be used? If the hypodermic needle model was realistic would it have influence what you had included in your product?
What audience responses did you get – feedback, youtube comments/views?
Do you believe what Buckingham says about modern consumption as being fleeting and meaningless?
Further reading:

Narrative - Terms and Theories

NARRATIVE
A narrative is a story that is created in a constructed format that describes a sequence of fictional or non-fictional events.

TODOROV’S STRUCTURE OF NARRATIVE
Tzvetan Todorov suggested that conventional narratives are structured in five stages:

A state of equilibrium at the outset.

A disruption of the equilibrium by some action.
A recognition that there has been a disruption.
Dealing with the disruption.
A reinstatement of the equilibrium (usually a altered equilibrium from the one at the start).

LEVIS STRAUSS - BINARY OPPOSITIONS
Not only did Levi-Strauss make excellent jeans, but he also looked at narrative in a looked at narrative structure in terms of binary oppositions. Binary oppositions are sets of opposite values which reveal the structure of media texts. An example would be GOOD and EVIL - we understand the concept of GOOD as being the opposite of EVIL.
It is the establishing of these binary opposites that propels the narrative forward. The narrative can only end when this conflict is resolved.

 


ROLAND BARTHES - FIVE CODES
Roland Barthes (got killed by a laundry truck) argued that every narrative is interwoven with multiple codes. Although we impose temporal and generic structures onto texts, there are in fact marked by the multiple meanings suggested by the five codes.

1. The Hermeneutic Code (HER)
The Hermeneutic Code refers to any element of the story that is not fully explained and hence becomes a mystery to the reader.
The full truth is often avoided, for example in:

Snares: deliberately avoiding the truth.
Equivocations: partial or incomplete answers.
Jammings: openly acknowledge that there is no answer to a problem.

The purpose of the author in this is typically to keep the audience guessing, arresting the enigma, until the final scenes when all is revealed and all loose ends are tied off and closure is achieved.

2. The Proairetic Code (ACT)
The Proairetic Code also builds tension, referring to any other action or event that indicates something else is going to happen, and which hence gets the reader guessing as to what will happen next.

The Hermeneutic and Proairetic Codes work as a pair to develop the story's tensions and keep the reader interested.

3. The Semantic Code (SEM)
This code refers to connotation within the story that gives additional meaning over the basic denotative meaning of the word.
It is by the use of extended meaning that can be applied to words that authors can paint rich pictures with relatively limited text and the way they do this is a common indication of their writing skills.

4. The Symbolic Code (SYM)
This is very similar to the Semantic Code, but acts at a wider level, organizing semantic meanings into broader and deeper sets of meaning.
This is typically done in the use of antithesis, where new meaning arises out of opposing and conflict ideas.

5. The Cultural Code (REF)
This code refers to anything that is founded on some kind of canonical works that cannot be challenged and is assumed to be a foundation for truth.
(Typically this involves either science or religion, although other canons such as magical truths may be used in fantasy stories.)

Using Barthes: if you can get your head around the five codes, great - go for it, however, if it's all a bit much concentrate on the first two. The Hermeneutic and Proairetic codes, should be especially relevant to your Thriller openings.

LANGUAGE TO USE
Diegesis
The internal world created by the story that the characters themselves experience and encounter.

Plot and Story (Bordwell & Thompson)
Story - the set of all events in a narrative both explicit and those inferred.

Plot - the arrangement and presentation of the story in the text.

Narrative Range
Unrestricted – the audience knows more, sees more, hears, more than all the characters.

Restricted – the characters and the audience learn story information at the same time.

Narrative Depth
Objective - the plot confines us to external behavior of its characters.

Subjective – seeing things from the character’s point of view such as when we see images from the character’s mind: dreams, fantasies, memories.

Narrative Time
Diegectic – the passage of time that occurs within the world of the text.

Real time – the time it takes to for the narrative to unfold.

For example Harry Potter is set over a whole academic year at Hogwarts so the diegectic time is 9 months, the real time is 2hrs 30 mins.

The relationship between the real and diegetic time is influenced in the following ways.

Summary – e.g. passage of time shown in a montage of changing seasons

Ellipsis – where intervening time between scenes is cut out

Scene - where a scene is played out in real time

Stretch - where diegetic time is stretched out in real time like in slow motion sequence

Pause - where diegetic time stops as in a voice-over commenting on the action

 

Also have look at this infographic

 

 


FURTHER READING

Media Language

Below is an thorough list of terminology which must be used when talking about the micro-elements, because the Media Language you use was the language of cinema and the moving image (for your openings and music video) which is all to with the combination of camerawork, sound, mise-en-scene and editing.

Other things useful to mention would be how you used signs and codes to create meaning so talk about the denotation and connotation of the images you created.

Media Language has been described as a 'catch all' concept, so feel free to use any of the other theories you've learned for the other sections to help you explain why your project works and how it creates meaning for the audience.

 

Representation - Terms and Theories

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfL09c4cw2I&feature=player_embedded Representation refers to the CONSTRUCTION in any medium (especially the mass media) of aspects of 'reality' such as people, places, objects, events and cultural identities.

Representation is the ability of texts to draw upon features of the world and present them to the viewer, not simply as reflections but more so as constructions. They are versions of reality influenced by culture and people's habitual thought and actions. (O'Shaughnessy & Stadler).

Representation is a process between the production of the representation, the reality that is being represented and how the representation is interpreted by the audience.


Encoding and Decoding (Stuart Hall)
Stuart Hall believes that texts are 'encoded' by the producers to contain certain meanings and representations - these are then 'decoded' by the audience. However the audiences may interpret different meanings than intended by the producer.

Preferred or dominant readings – the audience interprets the text as closely to the way in which the producer of the text intended.

Negotiated readings – the audience may agree with some elements of the text and disagree with others.

Oppositional readings – the user of the text will be in conflict with the text itself due to their culture, beliefs or experiences.

Connotation and Denotation
Producers use signs and codes to encode meanings and representation. These signs and codes have a:
Denotation - the basic description of what is there.
Connotation - the commonly understood emotional or cultural meaning associated with it.

Who or what is being represented?
How is the representation created? (What signs/symbols? How did you use the micro-elements (sound, editing, camerawork, mise-en-scene?)
Why was the representation created in that way - what was the intention?
How else could the representation be interpreted than the way it was intended?

Laura Mulvey - Male Gaze
Mulvey argues that cinema position the audience as male. The camera gazes at the female object on screen often framing the character watching the female.
Traditionally, women in their appearance are coded for a strong visual and erotic impact which implies 'to-be-looked-at-ness'. As we (the audience) gaze at these women they are objectified and controlled.

Do you believe your product positions the audience as male? Does it control and objectify women? Does it represent gender in a more subversive way?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfL09c4cw2I&feature=player_embedded.

Genre - Terms and Theories

Genre theory primarily exists as a way of catergorising texts - grouping them together by identifying similarities and patterns.

How is genre important?
It is a way of organising the huge of amounts of texts that are available.
It can act as a set of audience of expectations.
It creates a relationship between audiences and producers which minimises the risk of financial failure – consider the money put into production and marketing…
It reinforces our ideas and values
It makes clear what ‘works’ artistically allowing for repetition.
It acts as short-hand communication for audiences.
It creates a structural framework that can be adhered to or played with.

Descriptive approach to Film Genre
Genre is established through use of the following genre paradigms (easily identifiable elements)
Iconography
Themes
Narrative
Audience response
Character types/representation
Aesthetic
So how were these elements influenced by the chosen genre of your film opening/music video?

Theorist ideas on genre
'The boundaries between genres are shifting and becoming more permeable' - Nicholas Abercrombie
This quote brings up discussion around the idea that genres are not static, they are constantly evolving due to 1) audience demands and trends, and 2) hybrid films (a mix of two or more genres).
Is your product a hybrid? Does your product reflect contemporary audience demands, rather than sticking to a classic genre type?

Repetition and Variation - Steve Neale
This is idea that audiences want to have some idea what they are going to watch, however, in order to keep things fresh there are times when audiences need to be altered. So in short, filmmakers working within a genre need to walk a line: expand, develop, elaborate on the genre, but keep it under the overall structure of the specific genre umbrella.
What elements of your chosen genre did you keep and what elements did you subvert or change in order to keep your product fresh?

Terms
Hybrid genre - is a text that combines or subverts the conventions existing genres to create a new one.
(Easiest example - Zombie film + Romantic Comedy = rom zom com (Shaun of the Dead))

Sub-genre - a subcategory within a particular genre.
(a film type that fits in with a main genre type (thriller, Horror, western etc), but has also developed its own conventions and audience expectations - (see the myriad different types of Thriller: action, psychological, political etc).