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Film analysis

3Cs and 3Ss


A key tool used within the Bradford Media Literacy work shown in the previous step is the
3Cs and 3Ss. Developed by the BFI to facilitate film analysis, film is broken down into
simple constituent parts: Camera, Colour and Character, Story, Setting and Sound.
Analysing the individual elements that make up the moving image helps students to
deconstruct and understand film content. In this week of the course we are examining
visual storytelling and mise-en-scne, so we will be looking
at character, colour and setting in the following steps. In Week 2 well explore the use
of sound, and in Weeks 3 and 4 well consider camera and story.
Taken together, character, colour and setting form the mise-en-scne of a film. Mise-en-
scne is a French term, meaning whats put on the screen. This includes facial
expressions, actors body language, costumes, props, lighting, colour and setting.
By examining individual elements of mise-en-scne students can gain a deep
understanding of film texts, which also transfers to the analysis of written texts. Every film
becomes a rich repository for analysis; you literally can freeze frame any shot and study
its content.
If you are using this technique in class, or at home with your children, you may wish to
download our 3Cs and 3Ss prompt card and dice template below. On each side of the dice
is a symbol to represent one of the 3Cs or 3Ss, and your prompt card has a series of
questions that correspond with each one.
After viewing a film or film sequence, everyone can take turns rolling the dice, and asking
questions from the corresponding prompt card. These tools can be used to initiate
discussion on any type of film content. Encourage the students to adapt or add their own
questions as they develop confidence.

Genre
The mise-en-scne of a film helps us to determine its genre (the type of film). Genre
is very important to audiences (and therefore filmmakers) as it helps us to
distinguish the types of films we may like to go to see.
You can tell the genre of a film by examining the mise-en-scne; the filmmaker will
demonstrate the genre by the use of recurring motifs or clichs such as a full moon or a
graveyard within a horror film. A galaxy setting and spacecraft would suggest the sci-fi
genre. Genre is common to film and literary texts and is a great way of introducing
students to textual analysis.
What genre do you think is suggested by the images below?
Creating context
In this step were going to look at setting as an important element of textual
analysis and well use three of the elements from the 3Cs and 3Ss in greater depth;
setting, colour and character.
The choice of location sets expectations for the narrative (storyline) of a film and how
characters may behave. It can identify a mood or situation quickly, particularly important in
short films, and can help the audience to understand the actions and emotional lives of the
characters. The setting provides geographical and historical context for a film or book and
determines where the action will play out.
The first shot in a film is often an establishing shot which is a wide shot, usually used to
show the viewers where the action will take place. This allows us to contextualise the
characters within their location.
There are two types of setting:
Interior, either an actual location such as a house, or on a specially built set in a film
studio.
Exterior, either a film studio on a set made to look as if it is outside, or an actual
location (which may be used exactly as it is found or adapted to look appropriate for
the film).
When examining setting, the time of day in which the scene is taking place, the period in
which it is set and the season are all important elements of the atmosphere created on
screen. As well as the location, it is useful to examine the predominant colour or colours
on screen as they impact both the mood of the scene and our reading of the genre of the
film.
In the next step, 1.9, well look at an activity you can do in you class to analyse the setting
of a film.
Reading images - setting
The two images above are stills taken from Sausage (2014) and Between Us (2004),
clips of which we will watch in a few steps time.
These two stills establish the settings for the films. Take a look at them and see if you can
answer the following questions (with reasoning):
The settings for each of these films are strongly contrasting. Where do you think
each story is set?
How can you tell what time of day the story is taking place?
What mood is created by the setting?
What time in history do you think the stories are set?
Add to the comments below.
For use in class, the images and questions above are column headers in the
downloadable resources available at the bottom of this page. The resources will help you
to collect answers from children working individually, in small groups, or as a class
exercise.

Courtesy of Robert Courtesy of The National


Images - Sausage Grieves (2013). Film and Television
Between Us School (2004)
Reading images - colour
The colours selected for use within a scene and the colour of the film stock itself
can all have a powerful impact on what we read from the film.
Look at these two stills from the film Between Us and Sausage below. What descriptive
language could you draw out in your students writing? Could you add any direct speech or
thought bubbles to each scene? Perhaps even create a short diary entry from the
characters perspective.
Consider the following questions:
What are the predominant colours of the film?
How do the colours make you feel?
What genre or mood of film is indicated by use of the colours featured in the scene?
What do they have in common? Are there any marked differences?
Are similar colours used to convey similar meaning?
Reading images - character
Many of the methods we use for learning about characters within films are equally
applicable to characters within written texts; in both formats we examine character
traits, interpret behaviour, and form expectations of characters responses.

We note that characters appearing in specific settings will behave in particular ways and
predict what they will do, we infer feelings from their facial expressions, and take pleasure
from stories where they surprise us completely.

When we focus on character, we look at the characteristics and behaviour of an individual


that makes them distinct from someone else. We can determine much about a character
from their appearance and where they are positioned in relation to others or their
environment.

Over the next two steps, we will watch clips from two short films, Sausage and Between
Us and start answering simple questions that can be used as a catalyst for further
character work.

Before we start analysing the characters from these two great short films consider the
following questions and leave some thoughts in the comments area:

Have you ever used focused on a character from a film to aid characterisation work
in class? If so who?

Should we always look to analyse human characters? How about animal characters
with human characteristics?

Have you ever come across any interesting characters in films youve watched that
you think would work in your class context?

Who is your all time favourite character from a film and why? What is it about them
that makes them so enthralling?