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In the Beginning There Was

… a Presentation on Film
Over the next few days you’re going to be treated to the
openings of some weird and wonderful movies, as we begin to
unpick the codes and conventions of film openings across
genre boundaries.
Remember, the theory and knowledge gained from our work
so far needs to be reflected in your coursework production.
You will be expected to:
 apply precise denotation of shot types, mise-en-
scene, editing, sound to your own work
 demonstrate semiotic skills by deconstructing your
own work and existing texts
Why use the sleeve of a classic Iron
 define a clear target audience from the outset, and
Maiden single you ask? Well…May
demonstrate how you have shaped your product to fit may seem a long way away (don’t try
this audience (including feedback from small sample to say that too quickly), but deadlines
audiences) have a habit of sneaking up on you,
like, to quote Maiden, ‘the hands that
 research into similar texts, and be able to
convincingly state where your production might fit into the real-world film marketplace,
considering production companies, sources of funding, and distribution, plus
exhibition/exchange outlets (straight-to-DVD maybe?!)
So, no matter how weird some of the film openings you’re about to be exposed to, it is important to
take detailed notes – you can use these examples as part of your evidence of research.
However, lest you grow tired of viewing 80’s classics, and given that the coursework is all about
independent learning, it will soon be your turn to teach your fellow students! Everyone,
individually, will get the chance to screen the opening two(ish) minutes of a contemporary film of
their choice (i.e. released in the noughties) and present a detailed deconstruction of this sample text.
As there can be no repetition from within the class, I’ll take a list of your films of choice – strictly
first come, first served as regards choice of film. You must have (or plan to get) the [Region2]
DVD for screening!!!
Details of what to consider are provided below. You can of course work on a PowerPoint
presentation, and/or arrange to record yourself and your eager, fascinated audience … which would
make a nice addition to the blog you’ll be starting shortly, recording and reflecting on this whole
process on your path to auteur status! Any documents summarising your findings can be added to
the LP.
In the Beginning There Was … a Presentation on Film Openings! Media Studies@ IGS 1
Research for this could take you beyond the web by the way; can you find references to this
film/genre in any books or magazines/periodicals? Have you looked in the library recently to check
out the range available? There are some excellent film periodicals – ask the librarian to help you
The work you do for this, when written up, forms step one of your coursework, and the lessons you
learn; the knowledge and insight you gain, will form the foundations of your movement towards
defining an idea for a new film opening. You should also be taking detailed notes from your
colleagues’ presentation – the knowledge they provide will save you hours of labour!

Points to address in your presentation:
 MEDIA LANGUAGE: precise denotation of shot types, editing, mise-en-scene, sound used
 SEMIOTICS: analysis of the probable preferred reading: look for symbolic meaning in
sound, mise-en-scene etc; how has anchorage been provided (this is where precise
denotation comes in)
 REPRESENTATION & IDEOLOGY: what groups are represented, and what value
judgements are being made? Whose values might this represent – an example of the
dominant ideology, or maybe countertypes subverting this, acting as counter-hegemonic
representations? Are women, for example, being represented as blond, busty sex objects
on screen for male gratification (male gaze theory), or strong, intellectual individuals?
 AUDIENCE: every time you engage with a media text from this point, you should be asking
yourself: who are the target audience/s (plural as cross-over appeal may be built-in to
widen the potential audience). Consider gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status
(ABC1C2DE), sexuality, nationality, regionality etc. This,
in common with all the other points, links back to your
denotation of media language used and semiotic analysis
of this. Make some brief reference to marketing
 INSTITUTION: note the companies behind the production
and distribution of the movie, and comment on these.
Find out the precise budget, and summarise the box
office figures. What movies would you compare this to?
Is it a typical product for the companies involved? Also
refer to reviews – useful for pointers on audience,
narrative and genre too…
 GENRE: be clear and specific on the genre signifiers
found within the opening of your film – though be aware
that openings may actually be intentionally misleading on Is the cover of an early album by 80’s
this front, and of the trend for hybrid genres (the post- electro-gods Depeche Mode really
modern blending of two or more genres). Again, make relevant? It does contain the typically
morose track Two Minute Warning –
comparisons to or links with other films – is this a/typical? and a means of reinforcing the critical
 NARRATIVE: try to apply Todorov, Propp, Levi-Strauss message that you cannot use
copyrighted sound in your
to this (refer back to your handouts if need be – production. So that also rules out
remember, your coursework explicitly builds on what Stan Ridgway’s Two Minutes Till
we’ve done to date). Look ahead in your movie – how Lunch, The Prodigy’s Made In Two
long does it take from the ‘situation’/equilibrium to the central conflict/dis-equilibrium? Can
In the Beginning There Was … a Presentation on Film Openings! Media Studies@ IGS 2
we identify our central protagonist/s or antagonist/s? is there an intentional effort to mislead
in the opening? What about narrative enigma, binary oppositions… Linking back to genre,
is this a/typical of the genre? (You should constantly be drawing parallels between your
own production and existing texts)

In the Beginning There Was … a Presentation on Film Openings! Media Studies@ IGS 3