Documentary Storytelling

This lecture was delivered by Dr Claire Henry as part of Massey University‘s support of the Wellington Media Studies teacher cluster. Previously they have hosted workshops on journalism in the smartphone era and teaching script writing. The focus was on the form of Documentary and how this may be translated to students and the specifics challenges they might face in attempting this style of film making.

Introduction to Documentary as a Storytelling Form

Documentary has a fluid narrative approach, where production is an ongoing and dynamic process. Story shaping occurs during pre-production, production and post-production significantly more than narrative features which rely heavily on the pre-production process. Many characteristics of good storytelling in fictional films are shared with documentary including the role of exposition and use of narrative questions to engage a viewer.

Audience and Distribution

Documentary filmmakers need to consider the audience and distribution early – helps maintain focus of the story and give motivation for the production team. Useful to ask:

  • How does their film contribute the wider community?
  • Where will it be screened and to who?
  • What impact can documentaries have and what impact would they like theirs to have?

These considerations affect decisions such as duration and format as well as guide the storytelling process.

Collecting and Sifting for Stories

Look for ways to tell the story through more than just talking heads. A dynamc process of research could include newspaper, internet, family stories, myths and legends etc. Sift to find both an apparent subject, and a deeper subject – something that is a broader issue, something bigger. When presenting this information, ethical questions can be uncovered– how to raise the stakes? How to make the story fit the 3 act structure? Useful resource that explores these ideas is Michael Rabiger’s book, Directing the Documentary.

Narrative Perspective in Documentary220px-nanook_of_the_north

  • POV – single character – Nanook, Basterdy
  • Multiple characters – Up, Capturing the Friedmans
  • Omniscient – The War Game Peter Jenkins – complex far reaching ideas
  • Personal – Stories we tell, Cameraperson (connection to the stylistic trend of a personal voice and presence in the film, technology ubiquity, home videos)

Pre-production: Planning Models and Documents

  • Concept – the ideas (why, what, effect) in 100 words
  • Research – pre-interviews; books, articles, newspapers etc. Other docos, research the form as well as the info
  • Proposal/Treatment – an explanation of the documentary you intend to make – what will be shot and why, and how it will be arranged to make a particular statement
  • Pitch
  • Script
  • Short list
  • Storyboarding

Scripting

  • Some docos scripted in advance
  • A scriptwriter may be call in after a production to write a script from the footage
  • There may be no script and the edit is based on a proposal, treatment, or the director’s vision
  • Pre script vs post script – same format, revised with new info
  • 3 column script – simple/effective (narration, visuals, sound)

Challenges for students

  • Collaboration – newly formed group could collectively write a collaborative contract outlining
    • 1. project statement,
    • 2. group goals,
    • 3. group governance (specific roles ad responsibilities, meeting place and times)
    • 4. conflict and resolution procedures.
  • Technical and logistic issues
  • Unpredictable subject, weather, outcomes… Good project planning and contingency plans required + flexibility and problem solving skills.

Teaching Script Writing

This post originally appeared on Cargill’s Classroom 

This session led by Stuart Hoar was facilitated by Massey University for the Wellington Media teacher cluster. It focused on his experience of teaching script writing to students and what he felt, from his experience, are what young filmmakers need to understand.

Stuart regularly claimed how crucial it is for students to recognise structural paradigms in what they watch. They need to understand narrative paradigms, but not necessarily in order to follow them. This begins with the three act structure which recalls Aristotle’s three essential units of drama (beginning, middle and end).

He had many a point to make about narrative paradigms:

  • It is not a rule bound structure; it is instead grounded in principles.
  • The first draft should always be written without care towards these principles, but the review of this should always be through the lens of the paradigms.
  • The screenplay is written for the reader. The reader decides whether or not it will be made into something that is visual.
  • Tension = drama (dramatic stakes)
  • The audience wants to be engaged. We have dramatic expectations that can be capitalised on. We understand instinctively dramatic narrative; we have unconscious expectations of how this happens.
  • Genre and formula – our expectations get caught up by genre, we want surprise and comfort at the same time.
  • The dramatic structure is about what is happening to the characters and why
  • Act One makes a promise
    • It contains the ordinary world of the drama. By the catalyst, we need a perspective. We need to vicarious relate to the viewpoint. We must recognise that we are with that character.
    • Catalyst – inciting incident – sets something in motion and asks the dramatic question
    • Crossing the threshold – reaching the point of no return. Main character might refuse the dramatic question. But it is embraced by the end of act one. Audience must be engaged by 20 minutes in.
    • Sets the emotional tone, introduces the characters, takes us to the first TP – the point of no return.
    • Releasing the tension after the TP – how do you do this? Who knows. Write your script.
  • Act Two: complicates and escalates the action towards the next turning point
  • Act Three: answers the question.

Recommendations

Task: Use 2001 A Space Odyssey – first 12-15 minutes. The perfect one act structure – Kubrick not associated with Hollywood, but there is still structure. 

  • What is being set up here? Ordinary world?
  • Catalyst? Turning Point?
  • Climax and resolution? What is being paid off?

Oscars 2017 – Thoughts and Predictions

Annual post giving some brief thoughts on the Best Picture nominees at the Oscars. Last year’s thoughts are here

Arrival

Superb concept, brilliantly realised in the most part despite a finale that felt overwhelmed by itself. The ideas that the film explored like nature of language and universal communication spoke deeply about current world tensions.

Fences

A remarkable text that never felt cinematic. Moments of visual storytelling, but it is the performances that shone through the fence metaphor that clouds an otherwise nuanced work.

Should win: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress

Hacksaw Ridge

Familiar ground until those incredible visceral battle scenes recalling Saving Private Ryan. However, have to agree with Alfonso Duralde who recalled Francois Truffaut’s words in their review titled “Mel Gibson Says War Is Hell — Except When It’s Awesome“:

Making an anti-war film is essentially impossible, since to portray something is to ennoble it.

Should win: Best Sound Editing

Hell of High Water

A really enjoyable, thoughtful duel-mismatched-buddy-character-study. Moments of brilliance. Feels like it belongs in the shadow of No Country For Old Men despite actually having an ending. 

Hidden Figures

A effective popcorn film that is uplifting and generally fun to watch, but it suffers from being derivative. The three real-life women on which the film is based are the true winners here.

La La Land

A delicious spectacle that oozes with love for cinema. A lot of the criticism is valid, but the volume of it is undeserved. The musical as a genre has never felt more relevant to contemporary cinema.

Will Win: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Cosutme Design, Best Production Design, Best Score, Best Song, Best Sound Mixing

Lion

The first half was a magical piece of filmmaking. Pure storytelling reliant on the magical performance of Sunny Pawar and beautifully shot rural India. The rest of the film has Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel pretending to be people that I couldn’t be bothered caring about.

Manchester By The Sea

Incredible drama that unfolds with the control of a expert filmmaker. The writing is the real strength here. Structurally the film is a marvel, every scene and moment feels important; it unravels with masterful storytelling and three central performances that are worth all the hype.

Should win: Best Original Screenplay

mv5bnzqxntiyodaxmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzqymda3ote-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Moonlight

In one of my Media Studies classes earlier this year a student raised the idea of films having the power to create empathy. I had just seen this film – which is such a strong example of just that. Moonlight is an evocative character study; letting the audience in on a suffocating world that fights against our desire to answer the age old question: “who am I?” It says something vitally important while pushing the boundaries of cinema.

Will win: Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay

Other Will Wins

Best Foreign Film – The Salesman, Best Animated Film – Zootopia, Best Documentary Feature – O.J.: Made In America, Best Visual Effects – The Jungle Book

[My] Should Wins

Best Film – Moonlight, Best Actor – Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Best Supporting Actress – Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Best Cinematography – Moonlight, Best Foreign Film – Toni Erdmann, Best Visual Effects – Swiss Army Man, Best Sounding Editing – Arrival

The Spice Girls and Cultural Politics

The recent release of the ‘comeback’ single from a trio of the Spice Girls raises questions about the relevance of the cultural politics which the group successful embraced during their most successful years in the late 1990s. The latest song, which is a leak not an official release, captures a familiar brand of identity politics with commentators referring to it as a “Girl Power anthem“. I wrote the essay below in 2006, exploring the idea of the Spice Girls as a popular culture phenomenon and their cultural politics.


6925404431_45273d40a5_bPopular music plays an important social and cultural role; “it provides…role models, [and] expresses social attitudes” (Bodkin 2000, 41). As a case study to argue the intrinsic relationship between popular music and cultural politics, this essay will focus on the Spice Girls and their first album Spice. While the Spice Girls were largely dismissed as artificial, (Leach 2001, 148) closer analysis of their message of ‘Girl Power’ and their accompanying image reveal a group that is culturally political.

Cultural politics is a broad sweeping term that can be used in relation to many conflicts in society. It is a concept which recognises society is made up of different viewpoints and refers to the ways in which co-existence is maintained (Opie 2006). In other words, a system of negotiation between different belief systems must be found for this co-existence to operate. Furthermore, within this system, a dominant – or hegemonic – group usually emergences and this position can be challenged. Sue Abel notes: “hegemony is always a process in struggle, it is never stable. It involves negotiation” (2006). Popular Music provides a medium for this negotiation to take place. Simon Firth agrees. He suggests we use pop songs to create for ourselves a particular sort of self-determination, a particular place in society (1987, 140).

The Spice Girls is one of many examples of bands that could be considered subordinate and therefore compete for equality. The primary and most palpable reason for this consideration is that the group consists of only females. Typically in rock and pop music a woman’s participation is limited to supporting a male performer in the role of a backup singer or groupie, or featuring in their videos and other merchandise (Schilt 2003, 5; Cohen 2001, 232). The Spice Girls, by definition, oppose these widely held stereotypes. In addition, the group is packaged in such a way that they do more than just represent achievement in a male dominated environment; they are constructed to be role models for adulation and to provide “legitimisation for various modes of rites of passage into the world of femininity” (Lemish 2003, 17). It is in this way that the Spice Girls are noticeably political.

The place that the Spice Girls have in history is very significant in relation to the message that they conveyed. They formed in late 1994, but did not break into the spotlight until their debut single, ‘Wannabe,’ in July 1996 (Spice Girls 1997). They followed on from the Riot Grrrl movement, personified by Alanis Morisette, which had its roots in punk. This movement was characterised by a portraying a sense of womanhood that challenged sexism (Schilt 2003, 7). But unlike the Riot Grrrl’s before them, the Spice Girls “were an undeniably commercial product” (Leach 2001, 148). However, to conclude at this point is to understate the significance of the Spice Girls: “they weren’t just another pop group, they were an ideological package” (The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, 209).

The Spice Girls’ ideology is best summarised by their use of the phrase: “Girl Power.” In the Spice Girls book, that was published in 1997 just before the release of their second album, the opening pages claim ‘Girl Power’ to be:

… when…You help a guy with his bag
You and your mates reply to wolf whistles by shouting ‘get your arse out!’
You wear high heels and think on your feet
You know you can do it and nothing’s going to stop you
You don’t wait around for him to call
You stick with your mates and they stick with you
You’re loud and proud even when you’ve broken out in spots
You believe in yourself and control your own life (Spice Girls 1997, 7).

From these statements, ‘Girl Power’ appears to be an expression that connotes independence and self-respect. It is a show of strength and perseverance in the face of stereotypes that expect women to be weak and subordinate. The similarities to feminism are actually articulated in the book: “Feminism has become a dirty word. ‘Girl Power’ is just a nineties way of saying it!” (Spice Girls 1997, 49).

One of the doctrines of ‘Girl Power’ speaks of standing by your friends, an idea that is inherent in the construction of the Spice Girls. The notion of sisterhood is strong in all Spice Girls related texts including their movie, which shows their togetherness through group activity and avoidance of the ‘bitchy’ and jealous female cliché. The book further emphasises the friendship between the five; Melanie C says “We really care about each other and want the best out of each other, so we all look after each other” (Spice Girls 1997, 48). By extension, this sisterhood that the Spice Girls promote is inclusive of the audience that participates in their music. Dafna Lemish says, on this feature of the Spice Girls, “Their music style, forms of performance and body display, as well as celebration of girl talk and female friendship and networking, create a special space for a rebellious female voice” (2003, 19). Therefore ‘Girl Power’ can be taken to be a political message addressing gender inequality.

spice_girls_2008_02_croppedRelated to this is the Spice Girls’ treatment of men, which follows from the feelings of independence articulated by artists like Tina Turner and Madonna. While Madonna was a ‘Material Girl’ and Tina Turner asked ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ the Spice Girls set out new criteria for men to take note of related to the new independent self-respecting woman that the group were promoting. The political aspect to this challenge is evident in the liner notes to their first album. They return the male gaze: “what you looking at boy?” compare themselves with peace activists: “freedom fighters” and make political statements: “spice revolution.”

The Spice Girls’ address of men in their lyrics summarise their attitudes. They set out rules that subvert the stereotypical roles in modern relationships. ‘Say You’ll Be There’ demystifies the nagging demanding woman by having the female say, “there’s no need to say you love me,” instead “all I want from you is the promise that you’ll be there.” And to reinforce the idea of the independent woman they sing, “if you can’t work this equation then I guess I’ll have to show you the door.” Similarly, various other moments in other tracks demand respect and claim a sexual power. In ‘Something Kinda Funny’ the group sings “play my game or get left behind,” in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ they say “giving is good as long as you are getting” and in ‘2 Become 1’ the woman becomes the dominant and the initiator: “I need some love like I never needed love before (wanna make love to ya baby).”

Moreover, the Spice Girls, through how they address sexuality and men, subvert the ‘slut-virgin’ binary. ‘Wannabe,’ the group’s debut single that went to number one and stayed there for seven weeks, articulates many of the group’s attitudes towards sex that subsequent tracks elaborate on. In the song Melanie C sings: “If you want my future, forget my past.” Such an expression contests the stigma attached to losing one’s virginity. While it is socially acceptable for any male to have a sexual history, negative discourse surrounds the non-virgin female. ‘Wannabe’ claims that it is acceptable that girls can have sexual histories too. Similarly ‘Love Thing’ rejects the idea of love, but approves of desire and sex. This song bridges the gap between the ‘slut-virgin’ binary. These statements are consistent with the group’s articulation of ‘Girl Power’ as an expression of feminism.

However, while the idea of sisterhood is established and a challenge to men’s supremacy, the image of femininity within this collective is a celebration of difference. Here is where the political aspect of gender is evident with the Spice Girls’ progressive portrayal of femininity. In popular music “[t]he construction or performance of gender … is influenced by and also influences specific social and cultural contexts” (Cohen 2001, 232). The Spice Girls were constructed as being five different types of the same facet of society. They assumed five unique personalities and adopted pet names: baby, scary, sporty, ginger and posh spice. In doing this they create a definition of womanhood that is diverse and varied. One can be physically active and outgoing like Sporty Spice, wild and loud like Scary Spice or elegant and sophisticated like Posh Spice.

Outlined above is a number of ways in which the Spice Girls can be seen to be a political. However, while critics have accepted their attempts to make feminist statements, they also argued that the promises they make are empty; “there is no encouragement for girls to use music as a form of expressing anger towards a world that marginalises them” (Douglas 1997, H34). Questions are raised like ‘what are they being asked to do when the Spice Girls encourage them to “Do It”?’ However while these criticisms point out these contradictory struggles with ease, (Leach 2001; Lemish 1998; Dibben 1999) they fail to account for the overall image and appeal of the Spice Girls which makes any issue regarding any specific contradiction inconsequential.

The political significance of the Spice Girls is in line with Simon Firth’s analysis of popular music as a means of creating communities. He argues that the experience of popular music is an experience of identity (Firth, 1996, 121). The Spice Girls construct a feminine space and legitimise various modes of femininity, and in doing so create a community with their audience in which their principles are upheld. The space in which they created is a challenge to hegemony. Therefore there is a political element to their message, one which attempts to reconstruct culture through a 90s form of feminism.

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Abel, Sue. “Maori and Tikanga Pakeha Media.” Lecture Presented at Victoria University of Wellington. September 12, 2006.

Bodkin, Sally. “When Humpty Dumpty me the Spice Girls.” In Spring into Music:

Conference and Workshop Papers. Havelock North: Organising Committee of ‘Spring into Music,’ 2000. 41-50.

The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock. Eds. Simon Firth, Will Straw and John Street. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Cohen, Sara. “Popular Music, Gender and Sexuality,” in The Cambridge Companion to

Pop and Rock. Eds. Simon Firth, Will Straw and John Street. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 227-242.

Dibben, Nicola. “Representations of Femininity in Popular Music.” Popular Music. 18.3.1999. 331-355.

Douglas, Susan. “Girls ‘n’ Spice: All Things Nice?” The Nation. 25 August, 1997: H34.

Firth, Simon. “Towards an Aesthetic of popular Music.” in Music and Society: The

Politics of Composition, Performance and Rejection. Ed. R. Leppert and S. McClary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. 133-150.

–. “Music and Identity.” In Questions of Cultural Identity. Ed. S. Hall and P. D. Gay. London: Sage, 1996. 108-127.

Leach, Elizabeth Eva. “Vicars of ‘Wannabe’: Authenticity and the Spice Girls,” in Popular Music, 20.2. 2001. 143-167.

Lemish, Dafna. “‘Spice Girls’ Talk: A Case Study in the Development of Gendered

Identity.” In Millennium Girls: Today’s Girls and Their Cultures. Ed. Sherrie A Inness. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998. 145-67.

–. “Spice World: constructing femininity the popular way” in Popular Music and Society. 26.1. 2003. 17-30.

Opie, Brian. “Introduction to Literature and Cultural Politics.” Lecture Presented at Victoria University of Wellington. February 27, 2006.

Schilt, Kirsten. “‘A little too ironic’: the appropriation and packaging of Riot Grrrl politics by mainstream female musicians,” in Popular Music and Society. 26.1. 2003. 5-16.

Spice Girls. Girl Power! Secanucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, 1997.

Spice World (Bob Spiers, UK, 1997)

Developments in Journalism in the Smartphone Era

This workshop was delivered by Cathy Strong to the Wellington Media Studies teacher cluster. She gave us an overview of some of the issues and ideas that are discussed in her courses on this topic, followed by a practical opportunity to play with some of the tools and technology that are also part of the Massey University Journalism course.

The overarching concept is that journalism is changing due to our constantly shifting economic climate. Traditional journalism is being challenged by a range of issues. Today there is:

  • Less advertising – because media is more spread out; not central hubs for advertisers to bank on.
  • Cheaper equipment – democratisation of the tools required to produce content
  • Fewer staff – for economic reasons
  • More visuals (even for press) – audience wants availability of visuals, data reinforces this

And underpinning all of these factors is the strive for credible news. Smartphones can help with the solution because they are:

  • Cheap equipment with few operators (individual, not a team, single people can shoot their own products)
  • Freelancers are able to produce up to standard work
  • Caution though: they can’t replace professional cameras – despite what apple tells us
  • Sometimes we can get better stories from smartphones because they are always available

A while back Fairfax gave all editors a iPhone and told them to make videos, to visualise the news. There are however limitations to this approach. While citizen journalism is heralded, Cathy argued not to use that term because these citizens are simply not journalists. Journalists seek balance and robustness to their stories.

But fake news is a competitor. Stuff, NZ Herald have been caught out by fake news – several times. No one is immune. One must feel for the young people trying to learn media literacy because there is some malicious intent out there. Further reading:

Mainstream media must show:

  • Credibility
  • Professionalism
  • Entertainment

And to show all three is a challenge, when the alternative is so attractive to the 24/7 news cycle of headlines and clickbait. Amateur videos are being used by mainstream media blurring the lines between credible journalism and unprofessional journalism. How does the industry remain professional in the shadow of Stuff NationiReportCitizenside and NowPublic.

Some strategies we can teacher students to make their iPhone use more professional. Don’t do the following:

  • Vertical shots – cut off horizontal screens
  • Expose for background – main person dark
  • Pan and tilt shots – firehosing
  • Audio without microphone – inbuilt mic not directional
  • Rocking camera – body movement make frame wiggly

Do these things to play with it – but you never see it on professional news. Professional smartphone videos DO:

  • Landscape framing
  • Expose for main subject
  • Microphone for audio
  • Unshaken camera
  • Resist playing with camera action

The final tip was around checking where the light is? Hands out in a ‘V’, check the light on your fists – as a rule of thumb: if you can see it your face will be lit, if you can’t, there’s a shadow.

Standards are changing – of course they are when a news site is set up with $2

Dyer’s ‘Entertainment and Utopia’

In Richard Dyer’s seminal article ‘Entertainment and Utopia’ he argues that audiences consume media products with a clear set of pleasures to draw from that experience.

The notion of entertainment as in some sense utopian – expressing ideals about how human life could be organized and lived – is implicit in what the most widespread assumption about entertainment, namely, that it provides ‘escape.’ Entertainment offers the image of ‘something better’ to set against the realities of day-to-day existence.

The musical is a focal point of his essay that explores this theory. This is a genre that blossomed during the Great Depression due to it’s appealing simplification the complex problems of the time and offers of utopian solutions for the audience. Dyer makes the point that that entertainment does not present “models of utopian worlds” but rather how utopia feels. The musical is a genre based on feeling as the primary convention of the genre is the inclusion of performance (song and dance). This form allows space for the intensification of feeling: songs and musical numbers heighten the sense of emotion felt during that scene and thus intensify the feeling of the moment.

Two of the taken for granted descriptions of entertainment, as ‘escape’ and as ‘wish-fulfillment’, point to its central thrust, namely, utopia. Entertainment offers the image of ‘something better’ to escape into, or something we want deeply that our day-to-day lives don’t provide. Alternatives, hopes wishes – these are the stuff of utopia, the sense that things could be better, that something other than what is can be imagined and may be realised.

Dyer suggests three reasons that reality generates for audiences to consume media:

  1. Social tension
  2. Inadequacy
  3. Absence

The consumption of media provides audiences with utopian solutions. These utopian sensibilities are expressed through a number of means – but it is usually the world of singing and dancing, distinct from the ‘real world’ which presents the social tensions, inadequacies and absences of the time. For backstage musicals like Golddiggers of 1933 or 42nd Street, the song and dance come through rehearsals or performances within the film’s narrative. The ‘real world’ contexts of the films regularly acknowledge the impact of the Great Depression and locate the films clearly within the tensions of the time. The performances are contradictory and express spectacular wealth, excitement and notions of community. The lyrics are representative of utopian sensibilities as well (see below for a further discussion on ‘We’re in the Money’ from Golddiggers of 1933).

dyers-utopian-solutions

This table from Dyer’s article outlines his schematic explanation for why “entertainment works”. The key idea here is by separating out the reasons for audiences accessing entertainment and the Utopian solutions that utopia provides, it shows how “it responds to real needs created by society”.

This clip from Golddiggers of 1933 is representative of Dyer’s schematic approach to the genre. This is a performance within a narrative that makes continual reference to the economic situation, and thus this represents a departure from the ‘real world’ in order to illustrate a Utopian solution for the audience. Ginger Rogers along with the performers sing:

We’re in the money, we’re in the money;
We’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along!
We’re in the money, that sky is sunny,
Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong.

The audience is both a witness to the spectacle, but is also included in the message. The repeated use of inclusive pronouns indicates a desire to create a rapport with the audience, reaffirming the audience’s relationship with entertainment which is responding to “the real needs” of society. Thus the audience feels included in the message through the establishment of the intimacy of the message and creation of the feeling of an inclusive community. This connects to Dyer’s point that entertainment does not present “models of utopian worlds” but rather how utopia feels. This scene is operating to create the feeling of escapism by persuasively celebrating the end of the Depression.

Utopian sensibilities are also evident in the text. The mise-en-scene is filled with symbols of wealth and abundance, a contrary emphasis to the established ‘real world’. These elements are hyper-exaggerated in order to locate the scene among utopian sensibilities and an escapist spectacle of energy and excitement. Dyer’s notion of community (as opposed to the fragmented reality) is represented by the collective presentation of the dance. The large chorus works together to create shapes and forms that are visually striking. Thomas Schatz argued that musical films during the depression offered audiences “utopian visions of potentially well-ordered communities”. The Utopian space of performance, like in Golddiggers of 1933, allows the opportunity for the genre to express it’s utopian sensibilities through choreography as a form of a well-ordered communal activity. 

Dyer’s theory is helpful therefore in understanding how the audience can gain pleasure from utopian presentations of social tensions, inadequacies and absences. The uses and gratification paradigm reinforces this argument as it views audiences as active agents in their search for media that fulfills their needs. This theory could be used to further explore the relationship between audiences and the musical genre.

The Self-Congratulatory Movie Title Drop

test_new_posterThe depths of Netflix took me to watching a little known film ‘Test‘ last night. Capturing San Francisco in the 1980s, an understudy at a contemporary dance company goes through a turbulent time as he navigates the AIDS crisis. The personal focus of this story and the small decisions that gay men had to make during this time is really beautifully portrayed and never over sentimentalised. I found myself heading towards the 7/10 mark, a B+/Achieved with Merit… but then the final line of the film happened. They dropped the movie title.

It was worked into the dialogue in such a self-congratulatory way as if the writer had be spending 90 minutes trying to figure out where it could fit and then once they succeed – boom – credits. It’s an absolutely cringe worthy moment that undercuts everything good that goes before it. It’s as if the filmmakers had capacity for only 94 minutes of mature filmmaking and the film just happened to last 95.

However, after googling, it appears this honour of the self-congratulatory film title drop can be shared. In this supercut you can see well and truly how a number of films have achieved the same glory: a gratuitous and uncomfortable interweaving of their film title into some inane piece of unsophisticated filmmaking. Enjoy.