Category Archives: Film Studies

Filmmakers’ “Theories” — Jumping-Off Points

Just to get you started…

Peter Watkins

Watkins established his reputation with two docu-dramas from the 1960s, Culloden and The War Game. Both document events from the past using actors and reconstruction. In asking questions of conventional documentary, Watkins reflects his deep concern with mainstream media, which he has called the ‘monoform’.

Nick Broomfield

Broomfield, like Michael Moore, has developed a participatory, performative mode of documentary filmmaking. Broomfield is an investigative documentarist with a distinctive interview technique which he uses to expose people’s real views. Like Watkins, he keeps the filmmaking presence to a minimum, normally with a crew of no more than three. He describes his films as ‘like a rollercoaster ride. They’re like a diary into the future.’

Michael Moore

Moore, like Broomfield, is a very visible presence in his documentaries, which can thus be described as participatory and performative. His work is highly committed – overtly polemical in taking up a clear point of view, what might be called agit-prop documentary. He justifies his practice in terms of providing ‘balance’ for mainstream media that, in his view, provides false information. Part of Moore’s approach is to use humour, sometimes to lampoon the subject of his work and sometimes to recognise that documentaries need to entertain and hold an audience.

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Snow Business

Seeing as school’s not open, here’s what you can get on with…

Year 9 English

Finish annotating your “Of Mice And Men” extract. Ensure you are ready to write in detail about Steinbeck’s use of language in three separate parts of the extract and are able to link your points to the wider novel.

Year 11 English

Read and annotate “Living Space” in your poetry anthology.

Use GCSE Pod to revise the poems we have already studied and prepare for those we haven’t read yet.

Year 10 Media Studies

Get sketchbooks absolutely up to date, ready for me to collect and check.

Year 11 Media Studies

Complete neat versions of your comedy mind maps.

Watch more episodes of QI and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Check out past papers on my blog.

Year 12 Film Studies

Re-watch the four Buster Keaton shorts on YouTube and continue listing points of similarity.

Work your way through any of the other YouTube playlists on my blog.

Year 13 Media Studies

Listen to the first dozen BBFC podcasts.

The Hunger Games

Time for a bit of filmmaking fun.

Plan, film, edit, and upload a sequence featuring a number of characters leaving an art lesson and racing to be first in the lunchtime canteen queue. The characters will need to successfully avoid obstacles but will be disappointed at the end of their journey.

Interpret that as you will.

This time, you’re going to film as a group and edit as an individual.

Your finished sequence must feature parallel editing, a j-or-l-cut, a hidden cut, a graphic match, a jump cut, and a match cut. If you can manage a celebratory montage, go for it.

Document all stages of the production and embed the finished sequence:
1. The Hunger Games: Introduction And Treatment
– Explain the task.
– Write a concise but accurate treatment.
2.  The Hunger Games: Screenplay
– Write and embed a correctly formatted screenplay.
3.  The Hunger Games: Location Scout And Storyboards
– Take photographs of your locations to make a photographic storyboard.
4.  The Hunger Games: Filming 
– Document production.
5.  The Hunger Games: Editing 
– Document post-production.
6.  The Hunger Games: Finished Film And Evaluation 
– Embed your finished film and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.

House Of Flying Daggers Contextualised

Copy the text below into a new post. Research and answer the questions. Augment your post with whatever you see fit — pictures, videos, stills, or anything else that might be helpful.

  1. Synopsis

  2. When and where do the events in the film take place?

  3. What was the Tang Dynasty?

  4. Why were the rulers deemed corrupt? And why were the rebel armies fighting against them?

  5. What are the key differences between the Flying Daggers and the Tang Dynasty?

  6. Briefly, what was the Cultural Revolution? When and how did it start and end?

  7. How did the Cultural Revolution affect filmmaking in China, and what group of filmmakers emerged as a result of this?

  8. What particular style of filmmaking does this employ? What are the key characteristics of this genre?

  9. What were/are two of the main cultural influences on Chinese filmmakers?

Look at the “context starter questions” on the mind-map below? How many could you answer? Add your answers to the end of this post.

Pan’s Labyrinth Vocalised

Please write five new blog posts.

  1. Pan’s Labyrinth: Cinematography
  2. Pan’s Labyrinth: Sound
  3. Pan’s Labyrinth: Editing
  4. Pan’s Labyrinth: Mise-en-scène
  5. Pan’s Labyrinth: Performance

Each post should contain an embedded SoundCloud player with a five-minute (minimum) discussion of a key element across the five sequences we discussed.

Each post should also contain a (readable) photograph/scan of your handwritten notes.

Please make sure you do this work in sufficient detail. Making the effort now will definitely pay off when it comes to the exam (and the mock in February, for that matter).

Mr Grant has created some image files that you can look at while recording to keep yourself on track. The files are massive, so I can’t post them here, but you can find them on my blog (or here) These files consist of one frame-grab per second for the duration of each sequence.

Have a lovely Christmas!

Pan’s Labyrinth Contextualised

Pan’s Labyrinth

Copy the text below into a new post. Research and answer the questions. Augment your post with whatever you see fit — pictures, videos, stills, or anything else that might be helpful.

  1. Synopsis

    Real world:

    It is 1944 and General Francisco Franco is the fascist ruler of Spain. Captain Vidal and his falangist troops have taken control of a mill in the mountains of Spain. They stockpile food there, giving the civilians barely enough to eat so that they can’t afford to give any supplies to the leftist guerrillas in the woods. Vidal has married Carmen, who bares his child. He sends for her because he wants to be present at the birth of his son. Vidal has little time for Carmen’s young bookish daughter, Ofelia.

    Unbeknownst to Vidal, his housekeeper (Mercedes) has a brother who leads the rebel maquis. She and Doctor Ferriero secretly supply the guerrillas.

    The communist rebels retake the mill shortly after Carmen dies during childbirth. As the falangists are overrun, Ofelia kidnaps the newly born child. Vidal follows her into a nearby labyrinth where he shoots the girl and reclaims the baby. He is confronted at the entrance of the labyrinth by Mercedes and a large group of maquis. Pedro (Mercedes’ brother) shoots Vidal under the right eye and kills him. A weeping Mercedes cradles Ofelia. Ofelia dies.

    Fantasy world:

    Princess Moanna sneaks out from the underworld to become mortal and dies. Her spirit passes through countless humans. The king of the underworld vows to wait for Moanna’s return. A fairy leads Ofelia to a labyrinth where a faun tells her she is a reincarnation of Princess Moanna and that she needs to return to the underworld.

    However, to make sure that her magical spirit is still intact, Ofelia has to successfully perform three tasks — obtain a key from the belly of a giant toad (that is killing a tree where enchanted creatures rest); use the key to retrieve an item from a locked door guarded by a demon (the Pale Man); spill the blood of an innocent into the portal of the underworld.

    The faun instructs her in sorcery. Ofelia is distracted because of her sick mother and fails the second task. Ofelia passes the final test by sacrificing her life instead of her brother’s.

    Princess Moanna returns to the underworld where she rules with “justice and a kind heart”.

  2. When and where do the events in the film take place?

    The period featured, 1944 in Spain, is intriguing to the non-specialist as it is clearly a period where the rumblings from the Spanish Civil War are still being felt despite the war itself having finished in 1939.

  3. Briefly, what was the Spanish Civil War about? When and how did it start and end?

  4. Which of the factions does the Captain represent? Why is he stationed at the mill?

  5. Which of the factions do the people in the mountains represent? Why are they hiding?

  6. Which of the factions do the political and religious elite support? Why?

    A local priest, attending a meal held by the Captain, dismisses the possible pain felt by the rebels on theological grounds. His representation lacks humanity and is clearly a barbed commentary on an out of touch and complicit Catholic church: “God has already saved their souls. What happens to their bodies hardly matters to him.” Del Toro uses the cinematic conceit of a banquet to heighten the corruption of the local middle classes and ruling elite.

    Despite his criticisms of Catholicism as a dogma and institution it is clear that Del Toro admires the spirituality of his native religion — in a later film Crimson Peak, a ghost story, he commented on his belief in ghosts. The scene above is strongly redolent of a stylised heaven with its church-like setting, a rosary window fooded with golden light and a grey bearded father figure flanked by a doe-eyed mother. It is all rather stuffy and formal befitting a royal court perhaps but not a fairy domain. That said it is clearly Ofelia’s (Princess Moanna’s) ‘happy place’ – she has come home to a loving warm family and an adoring people.

  7. Which of the factions do the peasants support? Why?

  8. What role do women play in the two factions?

    The representation of women is evidence of the social problems women faced in this patriarchal and macho era.

  9. How is food an important symbol in the film?

  10. How is poverty an important theme in the film?

  11. How is time an important theme in the film?

  12. How is disobedience an important theme in the film?

  13. How and in what ways does Pan’s Labyrinth draw on fairy tale and fantasy tropes and archetypes?

  14. How is fascism portrayed in the film?

    The negative depiction of Franco’s fascist forces is clearly intended to be extended to the imaginative poverty of fascism in general — in contrast to the more benign and sensitive (although hardly democratic) fairy kingdom. A more realist political representation is that of the guerrillas who are presented as resourceful and determined and egalitarian. Mercedes’ love of children (Ofelia and her baby brother) suggests a tenderness and a celebration of all things childish — indeed, unlike Ofelia’s weak and dismissive mother, Mercedes gives advice on the handling of fauns.

  15. How does Guillermo del Toro employ uterine imagery in the film?

  16. How are maternal instincts presented in the film?

  17. What is the significance of faces and shaving in the film?

  18. What is the significance of flowers in the film?

  19. How does Guillermo del Toro operate a ‘one for them, one for me’ filmmaking policy?

  20. How far is Pan’s Labyrinth representative of Guillermo del Toro’s oeuvre?

    Del Toro as an effective and idiosyncratic fantasy/horror auteur is evidenced in his earlier flms such as Cronos (1993), The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Crimson Peak (2015) as well as in his much more mainstream Hollywood work such as Hellboy (2004) and Pacifc Rim (2013).

  21. How did the critical reception of The Devil’s Backbone influence the production of Pan’s Labyrinth?

  22. Was the film financially successful?

    Released in the UK by Optimum. Premiered at Cannes in May 2006 to great acclaim. Co–produced by a number of Spanish, Mexican and American production companies the $19 million budget is refected in the complex production design, period dressing and relatively large cast. The eventual worldwide box offce of $83.3 million was seen as a triumph.

  23. Why is the year of release of The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth significant?

  24. Why no CGI?

    The key technology used in this film is the animatronics and green screen work as discussed above and its effective creation of a magical-realist production design.

  25. Why did GdT write the DVD subtitles himself?

    Del Toro wrote the subtitles for Pans Labyrinth himself after becoming disillusioned with the translation of The Devil’s Backbone — a film also with the Spanish Civil War as its backdrop and the informal prequel to Pan’s Labyrinth.

Look at the “context starter questions” on the mind-map below? How many could you answer? Add your answers to the end of this post.

Core Study Areas - Contexts Of Film

Kitchen Sink Drink

Time for your first independent Film Studies project.

Plan, film, edit, and upload a sequence featuring two characters in a kitchen, during which a drink is offered and accepted but secretly has something added to it.

Document all stages of the production and embed the finished sequence.

  1. Kitchen Sink Drink: Introduction
    • Explain the task.
    • Research and explain what a “treatment” is.
  2.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Treatment 
    • Write a concise but accurate treatment.
  3.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Screenplay 
    • Write and embed a correctly formatted screenplay.
  4.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Location Scout And Floor Plan 
    • Take photographs of your kitchen and draw a floor plan to aid storyboarding.
  5.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Storyboards 
    • Draw a series of functional storyboards to aid filming.
  6.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Filming 
    • Document production.
  7.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Editing 
    • Document post-production.
  8.  Kitchen Sink Drink: Finished Film And Evaluation 
    • Embed your finished film and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.