Film as a Language

A2 – Theoretical Evaluation of Coursework

Media Language is an aspect of Section A Question 1b and it is possible it could come up. It’s often seen as the most difficult aspect of this question so I’ve put some things together to help you revise for it.

Firstly, here is a chapter from Graham Turner’s book, Film As Social Practice, all about Film Language: Film Language 1FilmLanguage2 This should be essential reading to understand this concept.

This essay by film director Martin Scorsese is also really useful and he’s included some videos as well.

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Genre Theory Applied to Coursework

Today we are going to start to look at how to apply advanced genre theory to coursework in preparation for the Theoretical Application of Coursework exam (Section A Question 1b)


I have taken the following from the Edusites Media page, so it is really useful! We are going to go through in class and then look at wider reading to help support you. You’ll be having a timed exam question next week.

Analyse Genre in one of your Coursework Productions

“I will be analysing my thriller opening sequence which I filmed and edited as my main task which formed part of my Foundation Portfolio in Media. In class, we studied genre in existing Thrillers such as Psycho, Seven, Man with the Golden Arm, Taken 3 and to learn about genre hybridisation – Skyfall and Escape Plan. This enabled us to fully understand how genre can be applied to our own productions”.

  • Example early analysis – my opening sequence uses an emotive, dramatic range of diegetic and non-diegetic sound to build tension – shouting, helicopters sounds, explosions and a smash of glass. Think about developing Steve Neale’s theory of repetition and difference in your early statements.
  • Do you have close ups of the protagonist (which is not necessarily a convention of the Thriller) but ultimately helps to anchor any underlying dramatic tension and plants narrative enigmas – it is wholly appropriate to link narrative to an essay on genre as narrative elements can be ‘typical’ of the genre.
  • Analyse the non-diegetic soundtrack (important in thrillers) – think about how you establish mood and tone and how audiences become familiar with the mindset of the character/s and his/her/their intentions. Hitchcock’s Psycho takes a similar approach. Link this with John Hartley who suggests that genre is interpreted culturally (by the audience – so link your audience here).
  • Do you use of SFX/violence – common to the genre? If not, link this with possible hybridisation – do you evidence comedy, social realist conventions for example. Narrative action sequences are likely to mix with narrative enigma codes – thrillers often have bigger budgets to attract a wider audience (John Fiske suggests genre “is a convenience for producers and audiences”) in relation to production and distribution.
  • Genre hybridisation (or not) should be a key focus using Henry Jenkins: “Genres should not be understood as rules or restrictions” (pro hybridisation)- “my sequence is arguably a hybrid of a thriller and (for example social realism) with its gritty urban representations and a frustrated, aspirational central protagonist who is trying to escape from a downward spiral”.
  • Does your trailer have a standard, mainstream opening sequence as part of a three-act structure – setting, character and problem introduced? Again, common to the genre withProppian protagonists often introduced early on (hero, false hero, villain).
  • Is your thriller typically British or Americanised? Link this with the thrillers you have studied. Using Hartley again, British thrillers tend to have more obvious, encoded narrative themes e.g. “my film is a culturally British Thriller that would have initially independent distribution and more critical success that some more commercially successful American Thrillers like Escape Plan”.
  • David Buckingham is a useful theorist to end on: “Genre is not simply given by the culture; rather it is in a constant process of negotiation and change” (reflects changing societal norms). Discuss how your film reflects how society has changed (think about the examples your have studied) and how this would be understood by audiences within the framework of the narrative.

Remember, as with all 1b answers your 30-minute essay will need to balance close textual analysis and theory applying relevant media language.


Narrative Theory

Resources for today’s recap on Narrative Theory for prep for the A2 exam Section A Question B

5 Act Structure


Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale


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The Five Codes: click on the presentation link below


Introduction to Critical Thinking

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.08.42The philosophy instructor Geoff Pynn of Northern Illinois University and doctoral students Kelley Schiffman of Yale, Paul Henne of Duke, and several other philosophy and psychology graduates have produced this excellent series of animated philosophy videos which will teach you all about Critical Thinking.

You can watch the introduction right here but check their YouTube channel for the remaining videos.

The Echo Chamber

This is a fascinating concept and one  connected to our role as Media students. It is also something incredibly relevant to our lives, especially recently.

The night of the European Union Referendum I checked my Facebook and various online media sites and then got ready for sleep. It seemed quite clear how the vote was going to go and  many of my friends on Facebook had shared how they voted so I felt pretty confident about the outcome. I went to sleep expecting to wake up still in the European Union.

xE9pKYou all know what happened when we woke up that morning. I picked up my phone and clicked on the news app where it revealed that Britain had voted to leave the European Union. I was flabbergasted. I read on and checked other news sites and they all confirmed the same thing. I felt like I had woken up inside a Kafka novel. Turning on Facebook also revealed that nearly all of my friends had also been as surprised as I was at the result. Everyone, it seemed was absolutely livid.

But how could this be? Everywhere I looked online had revealed a ‘Remain’ outcome and especially my Facebook. I had unexpectedly fallen into the Echo Chamber.

The Echo Chamber is a place where your own ideas, values and beliefs are echoed by all those around you. It is a place where likeminded individuals repeat and often amplify these views so much that opposing views are either drowned out or are never heard. The views are echoed so much and so successfully that you end up convincing yourself that yours is the only view or at least the most valid. From Wikipedia:

Participants in online communities may find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. This can create significant barriers to critical discourse within an online medium. Due to forming friendships and communities with like-minded people, this effect can also occur in real life. The echo chamber effect may also prevent individuals from noticing changes in language and culture involving groups other than their own. Regardless, the echo chamber effect reinforces one’s own present world view, making it seem more correct and more universally accepted than it really is.[5] Another emerging term for this echoing and homogenizing effect on the Internet within social communities is cultural tribalism.[6]

But is this a problem? Surely, it’s a good thing to be surrounded by like-minded people? Perhaps. And perhaps not.

By existing in the Echo Chamber we run the risk of not really knowing what the world is truly like. When I went to bed that night I honestly thought most of the country had the same point of view as me regarding the EU. I was wrong.

This is dangerous because it can lead to limited critical thinking on very serious topics. We need to expose ourselves to opposing ideas, values and beliefs to both understand them and if appropriate, argue against them. But we can only do that if we allow ourselves to exit the Echo Chamber. But if we do we run the risk of listening to views we disagree with, we might get offended, we might get upset. However, we also might have a better understanding of the world around us and that, my dear students, will always be a good thing. Even if we discover truths we consider ugly.

To find out more about the concept of the Echo Chamber and its place in mass media, party politics and culture then head over to David Byrne’s website to read his article.


The Reading List

I have a made a summer ‘reading list’ for you. I am not expecting you to read everything on the list but I do expect you to read at least two of the links I’ve given. I will also be expecting you to write a response to what you have read. If you’re unsure about which ones to read then we can discuss in class.

Here is a list of recommended things you should read to help you with A Level Media Studies and your studies in general. A collection of academia, novels and essays. They are all inspirational and will help you see the world as a more interesting place.

Summer Reading List July – Sept 2016

You should also watch this 57 minute lecture on the Essential Value of a Classic Education by Jeffrey Brenzel