Thursday, 13 November 2014

13.11.14 Downton Abbey extract online - Updated with examiner's report

This is a link to the exam extract you were given on DVD in class for your work on representation. You can use this if you prefer or later on after you've returned the DVD.

Examiner's Report: 
General Comments:
The paper itself was well received and offered a plethora of opportunities for candidates to engage with the technical analysis of the extract taken from Downton Abbey. The representation candidates were asked to discuss was social class and status. For question two candidates engaged with a range of media areas whilst discussing the impact on media institutions and audiences of increasing hardware and content. Those candidates that achieved well offered sustained and detailed responses to both questions set. These responses were frequently punctuated with detailed reference to contemporary and relevant examples. On occasion, candidates were fully rewarded for some insightful and academic use of key media concepts pertaining to media representation for question one and to institutional and audience practices for question two. Candidates who did not meet the highest levels often lacked detail in the arguments presented and offered a basic response to the questions set. Where work was minimal, or there emerged issues of time management, candidates struggled to achieve a higher mark level.

Question No. 1
On the whole candidates answered the question well and with reasonable accuracy, though there was some variation in the quality of the answers. The choice of Downton Abbey as the focus of the investigation seemed to have been a popular and engaging choice and it was heartening to see far more integration of terminology in candidate responses. The majority were able to show that there were a variety of class groups represented and that characters' status within the sequence fluctuated according to narrative events. Many candidates tackled the sequence in order, which worked for the strongest candidates who were able to provide a balanced, integrated analysis, covering all the micro-elements. However, lesser achieving candidates struggled to achieve a satisfactory balance with this approach, frequently omitting coverage of editing or lapsing into passages of description or analysis without reference to class and status. These candidates would have been better advised to adopt a more structured approach, basing their analysis around each technical area in turn or focussing upon the working class and aristocracy in turn.

Camera shots, angle and movement – Many candidates dealt with this technical area well especially with regards to the principles of pull focus, framing and camera movement, examples include the tracking shot of Lord Grantham, and some excellent discussion about the composition of the house juxtaposed to the set-up of the kitchen area. This in-depth discussion by many candidates moved away from the usual discussion of low angle/high angle shots which usually dominate these kinds of responses, a sort of ‘spot the camera shot’ approach. This session candidates seemed more prepared and confident to try much more detailed analysis and this was pleasing to see.

Mise en scene – This was one of the strongest areas of response for candidates. Although there was a lot of obvious ‘costume’ analysis between the servants and the ‘master’ of the house, many of the more engaged candidates focused on the choice of attire for Carson and how this subverted the expectation of a worker in the house. Comments were also drawn to performance, as well as the choice of lighting and the differences in set d├ęcor between the two areas of the mansion. Many candidates compared and contrasted the class and status differences between the kitchen quarters and the master’s home to a very good degree. Some candidates are still wedded to deterministic colour analysis, leading to clearly inaccurate analysis, for example, stating that ‘the lady's white dress signifies her purity'; this approach should be discouraged and candidates should be able to understand that analysis is contextual rather than universal in value.

Sound – In this session there were a lot of detailed responses discussing the use of diegetic dialogue, for example the response by Lord Grantham to the deaths of the lower class led to some worthwhile discussion with regards to him breaking the supposed stereotype of the upper classes of not caring as much for the lower classes in society. However, candidates tended to cover dialogue as an element of sound rather than concentrating on the technical use of sound. Some good candidates were able to show how the sequence creates a specific soundscape and linked this to issues of class and status. Most candidates are able to distinguish between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. The sequence offered plenty of relevant examples of soundtrack and ambient sound features connected with class and status.

Editing –This technical area remains an area for development with regards to candidate responses. The more able candidates, however, did make some excellent comments with regards to the use of editing in the scene. The long tracking shots of Lord Grantham ‘motivated’ by his status within the household were excellently dissected by a number of candidates, as was the use of parallel editing between the rich aristocracy and the lower servants. On occasion excellent candidate responses would relate the technical features of editing with examples of how different perspectives are constructed and how the diegesis constructed a hierarchy of meaning. There was the repeated mistake of using ‘jump cuts’ to mark a difference between scenes, which was a common error. On many occasions editing was again marked by its absence or a few lines being sporadically applied with generic use in referring to continuity and seamlessness without application to the issue of representation. Candidates should be encouraged to examine how editing techniques set up perspective within the sequence and encourage the audience to identify with a number of different characters in different environments. Unfortunately, too many candidates simply omitted an analysis of editing in the response. Centres should ensure that candidates are prepared to address editing, at least in relation to pace, perspective and match on action of the extract. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

13.11.14 - Representation of social class - Shameless

Analyse how the producers construct representations of working class in the opening credits

You can watch the episode here

Make sure you address all 4 areas: 
- Camerawork; 
- Mise-en-scene; 
- Sound; 
- Editing. 

You should select 10 frames minimum to screengrab as examples for your analysis. I expect 700-1000 words. 

- What social class is being represented? How do you know?
- What are the usual stereotypes associated with this social class in the media?
- Are these stereotypes used here?
- How are the audience positioned by the producers? Why? (Think particularly about the use of camerawork and editing - as well as soundtrack - to create humour). 
VERY different representation here from what we are used to; usually, this social class is portrayed through realism / gritty representations.
- Screen grab key shots that you think will help you in your analysis.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Independent study - Representation of the Law - Comparison - due in 13.11.14

You will examine and compare the way the "law" is represented in different dramas. Issues of representation to analyse: class/status/authority, gender, race/ethnicity as well as whether the representations are sympathetic, realistic etc... How do the producers position the audience in relation to the detectives / officers?

Start by going through the PPT and watch the opening credits for both shows.

TASK: Write a comparative essay (or produce a detailed Powerpoint or Prezi or any other relevant site/software, perhaps doing a detailed director's commentary voice-over analysing screenshots) analysing the representations of the ‘law’ in the 2 extracts from The Wire and A Touch of Frost.
This should be ready for the next time I see you.

Intro and credits, The Wire, series 1, episode 1.

Frost, Series finale, "If dogs run free".

Finally, make sure you read the article below. The section on The Wire should be very useful in particular:

REMINDER: Post a few notes on your wider reading!!! I need to see that you are doing it and gaining extra knowledge from it.

6.11.14 - Representation of Ethnicity

How does the extract construct representations of ethnicity? Refer to the 4 micro-elements.

6.11.14. Representation of Age - Frost

How does the extract construct representations of age through the 4 micro-elements?

Frost, Series finale, "If dogs run free".