Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

By

Film Studies – Producers and Audiences Part 1

Producers and Audiences

Subject: Film Studies
Unit Title: Producers & Audiences
Assignment Title: Producers and Audiences Part 1
Genre  – Comedy/Spoof

 


Producers and Audiences

Hot Fuzz (2007)

British Film. Box office takings $23,637,265* & $56,936,509 Worldwide

Sean Of The Dead

Sean Of The Dead

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz was released soon after the successful British Film ‘Shaun of the Dead’ but didn’t match its takings of $30,039,392*. Although using a similar cast was less successful at the American Box office possibly because of  genre, it being a Comedy/Spoof rather than a Comedy/Horror?

One of the unique selling point of this film was the way in which it spoofs American Action Films but is located in a sleepy English Village setting.


The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)
Naked Gun - The Final Insult

Naked Gun - The Final Insult

Hollywood, Box Office Takings $51,132,598*

This sequel the third in a series builds upon the release of the two preceding films and their audience expectations. This sequel still manages to generate more than twice as much income at the American box office than it’s British comparison in this case ‘Hot Fuzz’.

Having a similar cast to the previous films, the same one line gags, the visual gags you come to expect from a film like this and importantly what the target audience expects to see.


The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad (1988)
Naked Gun - from the files of Police Squad

Naked Gun - from the files of Police Squad

Hollywood, Box Office Takings $78,756,177*

The original and first of the Naked Gun series released six years before the ‘The Final Insult’, chosen to help with the comparison in the differences between foreign and domestic productions. Compared with its sequels, it has taken more money at the box office as expected.


*  Box Office figures are for American Domestic cinema


Conclusions

In considering the three example films from a perspective based purely on their production origin and American /Domestic box office takings it appears that foreign produced films fare less well in America than a film produced in America. This does not mean actually produced in America as such, as the Film could have been shot anywhere in the World but it must have a cast and feel of having been produced in America or by an American Studio.

Audiences in the American domestic market may well exclude foreign made films from their considerations’ when deciding which film to watch at the cinema.

Distribution (Exhibition) plays a significant part in the discrepancy between American domestic box office takings with ‘Hot Fuzz’ released to approximately half as many cinemas as ‘The Naked Gun 33 1/3’ and ‘The Naked Gun’


2.0 Changing audience tastes in cinema

Film genres go in and out of fashion and this is also seen in film trends where a successful film release may generate a trend and a number of similar genre films are released to capitalise on this success. This is certainly true in the Comedy/Spoof genre which gained in popularity in the 2000’s with the top four films taking more than $100 Million dollars.


3.0 Discuss the impact of Hollywood on the UK Film Industry

Hollywood’s impact on the UK Film industry has mainly been positive. Hollywood’s direct funding of UK Film productions, or alternatively in the direct employment of British Film crews while filming US productions in UK Film studios.

The biggest negative though is in Exhibition with the majority of cinemas showing Hollywood releases leaving few opportunities for home grown films to be seen outside of specialist cinemas, by this I mean Art House rather than Multiplex.


4.1 Different Sources of Funding available to the UK Film Industry

UK Film Council

UK Film Council

  • UK Film Council – Funding for script development, film production, short films, film export and distribution, cinemas, film education, culture and archives, festivals and audience support schemes. They also fund Skillset, identifying new talent and training of professionals for the film industry. The Premier Fund listed as being run by Sally Caplan has been discontinued and replaced by the ‘Film Fund’

http://www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/funding [Accessed 12/04/2010]

  • National Lottery – Funds Film through the UK Film Council – this is where the majority of funding for the UK Film Council now comes from.
  • Arts Council of England – Previously funded up to 26% of a film the rest sourced privately or from other sources such as overseas and UK public sector but they now no longer fund Film directly passing this onto the UK Film Council although they do still assist with distribution that is helping to get your film seen.
  • Scottish Screen – Another lottery funded organisation helping to assist film makers to produce films, animations and media. Funding is limited geographically to Scottish based production companies and funding limited to £500,000.

4.2 Film Distribution in the UK

Film distribution in Britain certainly favours the Hollywood productions more than any other partly due to the fact that the Hollywood studios own the majority of cinemas. There are a number of small independent cinemas, but too few to counterbalance the control exerted by the Hollywood owned cinema chains. This is unlikely to change without Government intervention which seems unlikely.


4.3 Three Marketing Strategies

 

Film Trailers
IMDb - The Internet Movie Database

IMDb - The Internet Movie Database

Film Trailers are an established way of promoting a Film. They used to only appear at the beginning of the main feature of a film at the cinema or on television either as a commercial or part of a television program for example Film Night or Movie News. These days you can see film trailers on the internet at many sites including YouTube, Apple Movie Trailers and IMDB

Film Posters
Film Advertising on Bus

Film Advertising on Bus

The Movie Posters decorate the auditorium and the entrances to cinemas promoting currently showing films and future releases. They also appear anywhere you would expect to see a poster for example on bill boarding’s, the sides of buses and taxis and bus shelters.

Viral

Viral marketing is gaining in prominence not only because this is essentially a zero or low cost option but also because of its wide reach. Viral marketing mainly occurs on the Internet either on film specific and non film specific websites such as Facebook or as a distributed email. Viral marketing in this context is a form of word of mouth but with a very wide reach.


4.4 The differences between Art House and Multiplex cinemas

Multiplex cinemas tend to concentrate on mainstream films from Hollywood whilst Art House cinema looks at less mainstream examples, these would include subtitled foreign language films. Multiplex’s are also usually out of town/city centre venues although this is beginning to change due to planning regulations. Art Houses also tend to offer addition services and access to facilities such as Café’s, Bars etc. whilst the Multiplex’s concessions’ are usually overpriced and limited to soft drinks and the usual popcorn, packaged sweets and pick & mix sweets plus Movie Posters, T-Shirts etc.

Film Advertising on T-Shirts

Film Advertising on T-Shirts

Art house Cinema is sometimes based in a communal building (Poole’s Lighthouse for example) offering other Arts related activities including Live Performance, Theatre and Musical productions. In some areas buildings are taken over for an evening to show British and less mainstream film, although they do show the odd Hollywood film to rural audiences that do not typically have access to the Cinema – see Moviola website for more details.

The South and West’s Rural Multiplex. http://www.moviola.org/index.html [Accessed 12/04/2010]


5.0 Historical perspective:

Film Marketing

Film marketing was initially limited to Film Posters and Film Trailers at the cinemas plus the usual media available to advertisers including newspaper advertising, radio and TV, and then with the growth of the Internet many new possibilities’ became available to the Film producers to be able to reach their potential audiences. Film trailers soon became one of the most popular searched for keywords on the internet causing the development and the growth of specialist sites to view these Film Trailers, examples being:- IMBD.com, Apple Movie Trailers and YouTube among many others. Marketers then realised they could generate interest in their Films through the power of Viral Marketing utilising the public to promote their products through word of mouth, email etc.

Art House and Multiplex development.
Multiplex Cinema

Multiplex Cinema

Cinemas before the introduction of the Multiplex’s in Milton Keynes 1985 were single screen and were basically well into decline at the time of what was to become a revolution in the cinema experience in the UK. The introduction of the Multiplex led to a reversal in the decline of cinema visitors and prompted many of the single screen cinemas to follow the Multiplex model by subdividing their internal areas to make them multi-screen. The most common way was by converting the stalls into two small screens and keeping the circle as the big screen. Recent changes to planning laws have encouraged the development of Multiplex cinemas in Town and City centres rather than the out of town developments that were previously the norm.

Art House Cinema

Art House Cinema

Art House or Repertory cinemas appeared from the mid 1920’s as a direct consequence of the Film Society to screen what they considered to be important foreign films that were not on general release.

The British Film Institute continues to support the Art House cinema scene. Today these cinemas still tend to screen less mainstream productions declining to compete against the Multiples’ and their predominantly Hollywood produced Films.

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Film Studies – Producers & Audiences Part 2

Producers and Audiences part 2

1.0 You will discuss the “Effects” and “Uses and Gratifications” audience theories in relation to film audiences.

1.1 Effects: This theory is presumed to work on the basis that a user may be influenced to act out or copy what they see in a film. For instance if the film is of a violent subject then the user themselves may act or become more violent. It is argued however that this is not a true theory, remaining unproven to this date although there has been a study conducted back in 1961 involving children at a nursery school and a Bobo Doll. The doll was subjected to verbal and actual aggression by a group of adults and it was noted that the children imitated many of the aggressive moves when they were introduced to the doll.

Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers

One of the most if not the most controversial film to be released in recent years. The film Natural Born Killers has been directly attributed to being responsible for the real deaths of up to eight people. Copycat killers Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson were reported as watching the film continuously over a 24 hour period (and taking drugs) before going out on a shooting spree, killing a businessman Bill Savage and wounding Patsy Byers. The studio Warner Brothers along with Director Oliver Stone became engaged in a court case, defending its position against a lawsuit brought by the shooting victim Byers claiming that they the studio and director shared responsibility for her shooting along with the copycat killers Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson. Surely the taking of drugs is more significant?

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

Oliver Stone a known fan of Stanley Kubrick’s films thought he was wrong to withdraw his film A Clockwork Orange from circulation for similar reasons.

For Example even in recent years acts of violence are still being linked to films and computer games and in the case of “A Clockwork Orange” a recent example can be found in the Independent Newspaper.

“A gang of youths was yesterday found guilty of killing a bar manager during a “happy slapping” spree of random violence which they filmed on a mobile phone.
A teenage girl and three youths killed David Morley, 38, who had survived the Soho nail bomb blast of April 1999. He was savagely beaten to death by the Clockwork Orange-style thugs, the Old Bailey heard.”

Akbar. A. Thursday, 15/12/200. Clockwork Orange’ gang found guilty of killing bar manager. http://www.independent.co.uk [Accessed 12/04/2010]

Imedi TV Spoof News Report

Another recent example of the power of media to effect audiences is the spoof news broadcast by the network Imedi in Georgia (March 2010) reporting on an invasion of Georgia by Russian tanks seemingly advancing towards the capital and also reporting the death of Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili. Using footage taken from an actual invasion by Russian tanks in 2008 the program presented this as a real time event. People panicked causing Telephone networks to collapse and to begin to stockpiling food while others volunteered to fight against the Russians. After it was realised that the broadcast was a fake, crowds mobbed the offices of the broadcaster to display their anger at the broadcaster. Such was the power of the media that other broadcasters interrupted their own programming to show footage from this spoof news broadcast even reaching as far as Russia and being shown on Russian TV channels before they realise they had been had.

Imedi TV Spoof

Imedi TV Spoof

Osborn, A., 2010 Russia invasion spoof report spreads panic in Georgia. Moscow, http://www.telegraph.co.uk [accessed 16/03/2010]

1.2 Uses and gratification theory:

Theorises that people will have their own interpretation for media and what one person takes from a film will be different from what another person seeks to get from a film. In fact a user will seek out what is of interest to them in order to get some form of gratification. In regard to Film the following five headings can be used to describe the typical forms of gratification a user may seek from watching a film.

• Escape: Escapism, a user seeks an escape from reality, visiting the cinema to see a film to lose themselves for a few hours in a films version of reality that is unreality.
• Social Interaction: A film fan may also lose them selves in a film forming a relationship with the actors in a film, which can be potentially dangerous. On a less controversial note they may just use film as a topic of conversation in a social environment, among friends.
• Identify: Users may identify with something in a film, make a lifestyle change for example costume in a film may influence a change in the way they dress or more personal change, hairstyle, holiday choice etc.
• Inform and Educate: Film documentaries inform and educate film goers about the world they live in.
• Entertain: The most obvious, film goers may just be interested in the entertainment value in a film, combined possibly with escapism, they may just be seeking two hours of entertainment.

2.0 You will compare and contrast the connotations of the following:

(a) Film goers
(b) Film enthusiasts
(c) Film fans

• Film goers
Visit the cinema infrequently mainly for entertainment purposes. Can also be part of a social activity with other Film goers?

• Film enthusiast
They are regular cinema visitors, have a serious interest in film, its production, direction and its history. A Film enthusiast enjoys Film as an art form in its own right.

• Film fans
They visit the cinema more frequently and tend to follow a specific genre or genres, for example Westerns, Horror or Science Fiction. They may even be more specific in their interests for example Science Fiction fans may only be interested in a particular series, Star Trek, Alien, Terminator etc. Others may follow a specific actor. In extreme case some fans become obsessive, becoming part of an actor’s life.

3.0 You will research the production details of two films of your own choosing and provide an evaluation of the defining elements of both.

Alien 1979 ***************************Aliens 1986
Director Ridley Scott ***************** James Cameron
Genre Horror, Sci-Fi, **************** Thriller Action, Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi
Budget $11 Million ****************** $18 Million
Gross Revenue $105 Million ********* $131 Million
Location UK, Shepperton Studios ***  UK, Pinewood Studios
Cast (Main Character) Sigourney Weaver Sigourney Weaver
Score/Soundtrack Jerry Goldsmith *** James Horner
Narrative/Screenplay Dan O’Bannon ***James Cameron
Special Effects Brian Johnson *********Robert & Dennis Skotak
CGI Mainly Models and Actors in rubber suits. ***** Mainly Models and Actors in rubber suits.
Production 10 months

Alien Movie Poster

Alien Movie Poster

On face value alone the two films would seem to have many elements in common, both were filmed in the UK, one is the sequel of the other and therefore having sharing common production elements. Both films were made for comparable budgets and achieved comparable returns. For example in narrative where the story is essentially about the same subject and situated in the same location but with one following on from where the other left off. They also share in having the same main character of Sigourney Weaver in the title role.

Aliens Movie Poster

Aliens Movie Poster

But in reality these are two very different films which can be almost certainly attributed to the individual Directors visualisation for their respective films. Ridley Scott’s visualisation for Alien was for a Horror film set in space and David Cameron’s visualisation for the film Aliens was for an action/adventure film also set in space. It is these differences which make the films seem to be very different from each other. They would reach the Sci-Fi fans, the existing audiences that is fans of the Alien franchise films and also attract new audiences and potential fans in the case of Aliens those seeking an Action genre movie rather than a Sci-Fi or Horror movie.

There many other elements seemingly small but separating the two films, distinguishing them from each other. In the first film Alien, there was only the one Alien but 100’s of eggs and in the sequel, Aliens there were presumably one Alien for each one of the colonists taken alive that’s up to 50 Families. In Aliens the Queen was introduced for the first time presumably to answer the question asked by many Fans of the first film Alien of where or from what did the Alien eggs come from.

The robot Ash was unknown to the crew of the Nostromo but in Aliens the robot Bishop was introduced as a member of the crew in the early stages of the film. Ash’s mission was to retrieve the Alien and return it to the company, the crew considered expendable but Bishop had not been similarly programmed and in Aliens actively supported the crew, taking their side with Burke a human taking on the Ash’s role acting on behalf of the company and himself.

4.0 Provide an analysis of data from the case study of two films from different production contexts (This could be films from different countries, or a Hollywood studio and an independent American production).

Gran Torino (2008) ******************* Harry Brown (2009)
Director Clint Eastwood *************** Daniel Barber
Producer Clint Eastwood ************** Mathew Vaughn
Genre Drama Crime, ****************** Drama, Thriller, Urban Western
Budget $33 Million ******************* low budget film £1 Million from BFI
Gross Revenue $365 Million *********** $6.6 Million (Incomplete data to 20/12/2009)
Location USA, Center Line Michigan *** UK, Aylesbury Estate, Walworth London
Cast (Main Character) Clint Eastwood ** Michael Caine
Score/Soundtrack Kyle Eastwood (Clint’s oldest son) *** Martin Phipps
Narrative/Screenplay Nick Schenk ***** Gary Young
Special Effects N/A N/A
CGI N/A N/A
Studio/Production Company Village Roadshow Pictures
Malpaso Productions Marv Partners
UK Film Council

Gran Torino
Gran Torino Movie Poster

Gran Torino Movie Poster

Gran Torino stars Client Eastwood as a retired car worker and ex Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski whose neighbourhood has become run down and taken over by recent immigrants. His next door neighbours, who he dislikes, are Hmong immigrants from Southeast Asia. Although he doesn’t like his next door neighbours or indeed anything about how his life and how his neighbourhood has turned out he finds himself having to defend his Hmong neighbours’ when their son becomes involved with some gang members.

Harry Brown
Harry Brown Movie Poster

Harry Brown Movie Poster

Harry Brown stars Michael Caine as a retired Royal Marine who once served in Northern Ireland. Set within a run down council estate in the Elephant & Castle area of London, the estate which is virtually besieged by gang members, young thugs, criminals and drug pushers, Harry assumes the role of vigilante after his best friend is killed by these thugs. He in effect ends up defending his neighbours on the council estate from these gangs by taking them out one by one as he seeks out his friend’s killers.

Conclusions

Two films, one made and produced in Hollywood with a huge production budget and made for International release and the other a low budget British film produced for the UK market, but both very similar in genre and subject and in many respects screenplay.

The biggest difference between them is probably in the production costs and associated marketing and advertising budget. Gran Torino’s overall budget was a massive £33 Million dollars which when compared with the low budget Harry Brown film it becomes very hard to see where all the extra money has gone in producing the film. It would therefore suggest that the majority of this $33 Million budget has gone on the actual cost of producing this film in the USA. Labour rates, studio and equipment leasing are much higher in the USA compared with the relatively low cost UK.

In regard to salaries, Clint Eastwood’s salary was circa $4 Million while Michael Caine is reported as doing Harry Brown for virtually expenses only. Using this as a template comparing UK and USA salaries it becomes much easier to see where the budget of $33 Million for Gran Torino was spent.

On top of these production costs are the budget for the promotion of the film, in particular the Hollywood films marketing and advertising costs for an International market. Whereas by comparison Harry Brown’s advertising and marketing budget must have been tiny as it received just £ Million from the BFI for the entire cost of producing the film, this compared with Gran Torino’s $33 Million to produce a very similar film. The small marketing and advertising budget meant that Harry Brown marketing and advertising was probably concentrated on the release of the film in its home market that is UK market.

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Film Studies – Spectator Text Relations

Assignment Brief:
1. Choose a film extract from a genre film and draw conclusions about moments when meanings are either generated by the films text or are brought from outside the film text by the spectator (this could be linked to such things as the male gaze, or to audience theory – the interpretive model or reception theory)

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:47:21

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:47:21

DVD – Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:47:21

This scene and others featuring Annette Bening would almost certainly satisfy the male gaze requirement for this film, her characters inclusion in this film appears to tick the box for this. The male audience would be expecting a love interest in this genre of film although this convention has been challenged in some recent Western genre films. The codes and conventions that the audience expects to see in a Western genre film have not been forgotten in this film and in fact feature heavily throughout this film.
There is a strong element of realism which was introduced by another recent Western film of the time “Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven” in which the protagonists are shown as ordinary men rather than the semi-invincible sharp shooters of previous Western films. The environment that is mise-en-scene is also kept to the basics and dirty as it would have been in the 1800’s but remaining true to the conventions expected in a Western genre film.
The audience expects to see certain conventions that are, the cowboys ride horses, wear hats, carry both hand guns and rifles these are all conventions that an audience expects to see when watching a Western genre film and all are included in this sequence and indeed through out this film. In one sequence the cowboys also appear to be able to shoot continuously without reloading, Costner firing continuously with his finger permanently depressed upon the trigger of his six guns as he draws his other hand back repeatedly against the guns hammer. This harks back to earlier Western films for example ‘The Saturday Morning Western’.
The bad guys are all wearing dark clothes and although they wear hats they are not the typical cowboy hat, this all guides the audience reception, in interpreting the films codes, by helping them to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys, which again is another example of the use of conventions in a genre film. The costumes also seem to suggest that this is also about a battle between the old ways of Western life against the new. The bad guys seem to be wearing the clothes of a Banker, Tax Collector or Bureaucrat whilst the cowboys are in traditional costume. There’s also the suggestion that the bad guys are forcing out the good guys, at the same time destroying their way of life. This is another justification for the gunfight and also has the added effect of making it easier for the audience to chose who they will be supporting in the upcoming gunfight.
The director Kevin Costner had total control over the look and feel of this film in which he also starred, he made it look and feel like it was based on actual events and was in fact a historical representation of events that actually occurred in a small Western town rather than a work of pure fiction. The audience is left to make up their own minds as to which is true, a work of fiction or historical fact. It is this which the audience that is the spectator brings with them when watching this film.
2. Analyse the choices that filmmakers make in creating meaning in the chosen extract (editing: use of sound, music; lighting and cinematography; performance and choosing a specific take)

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:19

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:19

DVD – Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:19

In the ten minute sequence chosen most of which is set in the open street of a typical 1800’s Western town and so the entire sequence is shot using natural lighting, although this almost certainly would have been augmented by artificial lighting but essentially the main light sources are light from the sun and in interior scenes the light seems to come only through the windows. But in some of the scene the actors are positioned in front of the windows and so they would have been in silhouette, the sun in front of them and so there must have been some artificial lighting directed from the cameras viewpoint to counteract this.

The sound is represented very naturally keeping to the theme that this could be historical record of actual events rather than a purely fictional work. In the gunfight scene for example there are only the sounds of the protagonists as they conduct the gunfight; the sounds of the guns being fired and the sounds made by the horses tied up at the rails. Low level music is introduced at one point in this sequence to instil the scene with menace for the audience when one of the main protagonists confronts a young girl who has appeared in an opened door just as he falls to the floor heavily wounded, offering him the opportunity of an escape route. Music is used again to suggest menace when Annette Bening is taken hostage which reaches a climax when Costner shoots her kidnapper. But essentially the music throughout the entire sequence is limited to key point and is played at a low volume level so as not to intrude into the actual sounds made by the characters and other natural elements during the gunfight itself.

3. Using the same extract from a genre film evaluate how it sets up expectations in the audience (how the response is based upon the knowledge of genre conventions from previous experience) and how the extract uses either key formal (miss-en-scene, cinematography, lighting, editing) or narrative elements.

DVD – Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:00

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:00

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:00

In this scene, taken from the beginning of the sequence chosen from the film Open Range – DVD chapter 18 and 19, the audience expects to see a gun fight between the two opposing factions. With the two factions facing each other in the classic stand off position with guns ready, walking towards each other closing the distance between them in preparation to shoot. The audience is presented with all the right conventions, the expected miss-en-scene of the towns’ wooden structures with their elaborate fronts and the very basic structures behind. In this particular film it did look as if the towns’ construction had been conceived to be more like a film set rather than a true representation of a Western town as it looked very much as it had just been built. This could have been intentional though for if this was meant to be consumed by the audience as a historical representation of facts then the buildings had to have been recently built. This idea is further explored during the gunfight as the protagonists circle each other they walk past building material stacked ready for constructing new buildings and also in one shot there are incomplete buildings with just their frameworks completed, again instilling into the audience this is a frontier town just in the process of becoming established. Other typical and expected conventions for a Western genre film include a group of horses tied up outside the saloon, the water troughs and wide (wide enough for the cows to be herded through) muddy unpaved street.
From the viewpoint of the cinematographer we see the wide open landscapes that always feature in Western films, the open plains; the sparsely populated expanse, uninterrupted views of blue open skies, a line of trees with the mountains in the distance. All these elements have been mobilised and can be clearly be interpreted by the expectant audience, there are no ambiguous elements here; every thing in this scene is generated intrinsically by the film.
DVD – Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:30

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:30

DVD - Open Range: Chapter 18. time 01:38:30

The whole cinematography of the Western plains and the miss-en-scene of the imminent gunfight. All these elements of cinematography are encapsulated by this close up of Costner framed by all the elements of the Western scene as he prepares to engage the other faction in a gunfight.

The editing of this sequence plays a key role in setting the scene as the camera angle switches from a number of viewpoints centralised around the positions of the gunfighters as they face each other. The camera tracking the protagonists as they pursue each other around the town with the camera switching position between pursuer and the pursued.

From a narrative sense this is a Western genre film true to the expectations of the audience, for they expect to see a gunfight where the bad guys are both fought and beaten by the good guys who are outnumbered three to one. From this viewpoint the audience will not be disappointed, the good guys win the day and the bad guys are defeated.

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Film Studies – Analysis of Narrative and Genre Elements

Film Studies

  • Access to Media
  • Film Studies: Textual Analysis
  • Tutor: Brendan Kedie
  • Assignment: Analysis of Narrative and Genre Elements
  • Film: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (released October 1974)
  • Analysis by Ian Hunt
  • 15 minute extract taken from the DVD of the film starting from 24 minutes into the running time of the Film.

The Film synopsis

A gang of four criminals hijack a New York subway train demanding a $1 million dollar ransom for the lives of the 17 passengers and the trains conductor. The ransom which must be paid within 1 hour (ticking clock) or they start killing the passengers one for every minute after the hour has expired. The key question and the central Enigma of the Film is how are they expecting to get away with the crime/ransom. They are underground in a subway train that can only travel either forward or backwards, it is surrounded by The New York City Police including snipers with nowhere for the train to go without it being monitored and all the surface exits covered.

Firstly looking at Genre of the film it is a Crime Drama/Thriller. The film follows the standard three acts that are; The Set-up, The Confrontation and the Resolution. The setup follows the progress of the four criminals as they separately board the subway train as it travels through the Bronx subway system.

There are the usual conventions for a crime film firstly identifying the criminals who have hijacked the train these include the wearing of a disguise and the use of code names to hide their real identities (possibly the first use of substituting colours for names to identify the criminals? this has been used since in for example the film ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and is now most probably an accepted convention for crime dramas). The four main protagonists are also all wearing similar clothing, overcoats and hats (bad guys wear hats) and they all have moustaches (bad guys again) and all are wearing large thick rimmed glasses to further disguise their faces. American criminals are generally also shown to be armed (iconography) and in this case they are all armed with hand guns, machine guns or both. The New York police are wearing the blue uniforms of the period and all are armed in very much the same way as the criminals with hand and machine guns. Also the non uniformed police are dressed much the same as the criminals with long overcoats and hats.

The Film was made in the period it represents that is the 1970’s and on location in New York (Bronx) and therefore it is a good snapshot of the era it represents. For instance the locations are typical of New York streets the characters both the criminals and the police and the (think 70’s cop dramas e.g. Kojak, Dirty Harry) costumes and its reflection on general American society of the time. For instance everyone thought at the time that the streets of New York are filled with Gangsters and Criminals.

Main Character Development (Character Arc) & Narrative Linkages

Mr Blue – Played by Robert Shaw (A Villain)

  • British Military and an Ex Mercenary.
  • Leader of the criminal gang.
  • Main contact with Authorities.
  • Background is not typical of the normal criminal or gangster.
  • Confirms his position as leader by killing the conductor just to make this point.
  • Commits Suicide rather than go to jail, which is another form of resolution but again not the typical characterisation of a criminal.

Lt Garber – Played by Walter Mattheau (The Hero)

  • New York Transit Police Lieutenant.
  • Is made Chief Negotiator when his Captain calls in to discuss the crime. His role therefore grows into the man in charge.
  • Solves the enigma of how they expect to get away with the crime by introducing the idea that the criminals have found a way around the dead mans switch on the subway train.
  • Captures Mr Blue and provides Resolution in the 2nd Act.
  • Catches the missing gang member Mr Green and recovers the ransom – the final resolution of the film in the 3rd Act.

Mr Green – Played by Martin Balsam (A Villain and Helper)

  • Ex Subway Train Motorman key to the success or failure of the crime and in turn the story
  • Is trusted by Mr Blue.
  • Has a bad cold which becomes important to the resolution of the film when he sneezes and give himself away when interviewed by Lt Garber.

Mr Grey – Played by Hector Elizondo (A Villain)

  • Rebellious does not accept authority.
  • Suspected of being psychotic.
  • Ex Mafia.
  • He is a typical gangster character of the time.
  • Kills because he enjoys it.
  • Is not trusted by Mr Blue.
  • Forces by his rebellious attitude to push Mr Blue into killing the train’s conductor so as to bring him back into line, confirming his leadership.
  • Fails to learn not too disobey Mr Blues orders and is therefore killed by Mr Blue after he disobeys those orders once too often.

Mr Brown – Played by Earl Hindeman (A Villain)

  • A team player trusted by Mr Blue.
  • Has a speech impediment that was not further developed in the film.
  • Is shot and killed by the undercover policeman which then in turn causes the death of Mr Blue as he delays his escape to seek out the policeman leading to his capture by Lt Garber when he discovers that there is no death penalty in the New York State and so commits suicide rather than go to jail.

The film sequence begins with the radio conversation between Mr Blue played by Robert Shaw as he radios the train master to say that he has hijacked the Pelham 123 subway train. The hijacker as well as making the ransom demand describes the members of his gang as being four heavily armed and ruthless criminals without any scruples. He says they will have no hesitation in carrying out their threat to kill a hostage for every minute that the payment of the ransom is delayed. Mr Blue then sets the clock ticking by stating that the hour starts from two thirteen and that the money must be in their hands by three thirteen.

The enigma here is why have they hijacked a Subway train which seems impossible place from which to get away with the crime, this is emphasised by the incredulous initial response made by the Station Master to this statement.

The second main character is then introduced, Lieutenant Zachary Garber of the New York Transit Police played by Walter Matthau who takes over the negotiations for the release of the hostages.

Mr Blue the leader of the gang who is identified later in the film as a former member of the British Military and an Ex Mercenary set the character plot describing his fellow gang members and their characters to Mr Green played by Martin Balsam. He states who he trusts and who he doesn’t, singling out Mr Grey played by Hector Elizondo as being untrustworthy and possibly psychotic citing his expulsion from the Mafia as an example. This becomes apparent later in the sequence when Mr Grey kills the unarmed Transit Authority Supervisor as he approaches the train.

The hostages appear to be a cross section of American society, there are the stereotypes, whose characters in the end credits are not listed under their names but as:- The Maid, The Mother, The Homosexual, The Secretary, The Delivery Boy, The Salesman, The Hooker, The Old Man, The Older Son, The Spanish Woman, The Alcoholic, The Pimp, Coed #1, The Younger Son, Coed #2, The Hippie, The W.A.S.P. (white Anglo-Saxon protestant)? Possibly a means of further involving the audience in the film as they identify with one of the hostages.

There’s a small sub plot in the film which comes to a conclusion in this sequence where a group of Japanese visitors being shown around the Transit Authorities offices by Lieutenant Zachary Garber. Zachary assumed they could not understand English but at least one of them does in fact speak English very well. To the embarrassment of Zachary as he has been making disparaging and insulting remarks while showing them around which he thought they could not understand to quote one example ‘ would you take these monkeys up to thirteen ’.

At the end of this sequence the Mr Green (The Motorman) played by Martin Balsam sneezes and Zachary absolves him by saying Gezunt Height. This becomes key to the final resolution of the film when the character sneezes again at the very end of Police interrogation by Zachary and Rico. In this final scene they are trying to identify the final member of the gang who seemed to get away. It seemed to be a simple idea to insert this into the film at an early stage (The Plant) and then reintroduce it at the end as the final resolution, a good example of cause and effect, he sneezes and he goes to jail.

A new sub plot is introduced, the Mayor who is Jewish and ill with the flu is brought into the story as he authorises the payment of the ransom. As the despised Mayor who is reluctant to pay the ransom he is reminded that he is guaranteed the vote of the 18 hostages if he secures their release. The character played by Lee Wallace resembles the Mayor of the time Edward Irving  Koch or Ed Koch as he was commonly known which may have added to the feeling of a true story at the time of the films release.

There is the enigma of how they are to get the delivery of the ransom to the train on time. Zachary calls the train to get more time to deliver the ransom but Mr Blue just reminds him of the time he has remaining, this ticking clock helps to set the pace of the film moving the action forward each time as Mr Blue repeats back to him the time he has. It is this ticking clock (problematic) the running down of the hour which dictates the pace of the film and helps with audience involvement as they also feel the clock running down. The films sequences from the scenes showing the ransom being counted quickly, the problematic of the police car crashing in its high speed dash though the streets of New York, rushing to deliver the ransom on time.

As Zachary realises that the criminals have no way of knowing where the ransom is as they are below ground he gets agreement from Mr Blue to modify the ransom delivery to the subway station rather than at the train within the hour, his relief is palpable when Mr Blue agrees to this change. This seemingly solves the enigma of what should be the impossible task of being able pay a ransom of $1 Million dollars in just 1 hour.

The enigma of how the gang expected to get away with the crime is resolved from the audience perspective when the Motorman (Mr Green) attaches a device to circumvent the dead mans lever which prevents a subway train from moving unless a driver has a hand continuously on this lever. Lt Garber solves this enigma himself during a car chase scene as they follow the runaway train, reversing the car and going back to where the train stopped for a short time which in turn leads to an resolution when he captures Mr Blue in the subway tunnel.

The circumvention of the dead man switch also leads them to believe that only a trained subway train driver could do this and so they begin a process of interviewing all dismissed subway drivers to try and identify the missing member of the gang (Mr Green) and the missing money. This in turn leads to the final resolution of the film when he is identified as the final gang member in the last scene of the film from his sneezing.

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Film Studies – Fight Club

Fight Club

Slide 1: Titles ‘Fight Club’
PowerPoint Presentation Slide Notes – Fight Club
Title: Welcome to Jack and Tyler’s Mind
Film: Fight Club
Sequence: 00:34:32 to 00:44:21 (Fight Club DVD released in 2000)
Film Studies Assignment –  Analyse a 10 minute sequence of a film of your choice.

 


Slide 2
Fight Club Screenshot 34:32 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 34:32 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club – The sequence that I have chosen to analyse encompass Chapters 14 & 15 from the year 2000 DVD of the film Fight Club directed by David Fincher who also directed Alien3, Se7en etc. The two main characters are:- Jack also known as the Narrator is played by Edward Norton and the second main character Tyler Durden is played by Brad Pitt. I will confine my analysis to camera angles, lighting and mise en scene and how the director uses these to distinguish between Jacks mind state i.e. whether we are seeing the world through Jack or Tyler’s eyes. So I’m not going to analyse the inherent references to masculinity, sexuality and references to pornography that exist throughout the film.

Fight Club Screenshot 34:59 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 34:59 Special Edition DVD

Setting the plot i.e. the exposition Jack works for an automobile company a job he obviously hates, Jacks’ only aim is to be the owner of everything in an IKEA catalogue. He is unable to sleep and he spends his waking life travelling on behalf of his company across the US by plane to investigate crashes/deaths caused by defects in the automobiles manufactured by his employer.


Slide 3

 

Fight Club Screenshot 35:14 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 35:14 Special Edition DVD

The chance meeting on a plane introduces us to Tyler Durden, who is in fact Jacks alto ego. Jack is a schizophrenic and his alto ego Tyler Durden we presume has control of Jacks body during the night or whenever he cannot sleep.

Synopsis of Sequence

 

This sequence also introduces the audience to the different worlds that Tyler Durden and Jack inhabit. It also introduces the audience to the initial formation of Fight Club, its development and as it grows into becoming an organised and violent institution. We will see the differences between Jacks two personalities, Jack the conformist and Tyler the anarchist.

Fight Club Screenshot 35:28 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 35:28 Special Edition DVD

The opening scene of this ten minute sequence begins with the camera at a high angle looking down in wide shot following Jack and Tyler as they walk down a dark and wet street towards Tyler’s house, this is  where Jack is to stay following the destruction of his own apartment in a gas explosion. (Which we later learn he did himself in his Tyler persona)


Slide 4

 

Fight Club Screenshot 35:23 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 35:23 Special Edition DVD

This is our first introduction to Tyler’s World the dark side of Jacks existence, as mentioned previously Tyler has control of Jacks body when night falls/sleep escapes him. The lighting and camera angles have many elements of Film Noir, its dark, the streets are wet and there are shadows with many areas remaining unlit. It’s a menacing environment, threatening with a suggestion of violence and therefore preparing the audience for the violence that is to come.

Fight Club Screenshot 36:04 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 36:04 Special Edition DVD

With the camera in wide shot we are introduced to the interior of Tyler’s house, which continues this dark Noir type theme, its run down, the plumbing and electricity have problems and the roof leaks. It’s here that the character of Tyler is further explored, where he’s shown to be the polar opposite of Jacks environment. Totally removed from Jacks Ikea catalogued environment, which is ordered and conformist. Tyler wants to destroy the corporate world, tear down the world of the consumer with its Ikea catalogues.


Slide 5

 

Fight Club Screenshot 36:34 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 36:34 Special Edition DVD

This change of environment, the change in mise en scene further emphasises the differences between Tyler and Jack. Jacks apartment was well lighted, ordered, and uncluttered looking just as if it had come straight from the Ikea catalogue. Tyler’s environment is the opposite, it’s poorly lighted, cluttered and dirty and the property is obviously in need of major repairs, in fact it’s most probably a condemned building that Tyler has taken over.

Fight Club Screenshot 36:46 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 36:46 Special Edition DVD

In the next scene, shot in wide angle is of the street fight between Jack and Tyler in a car park outside a bar, which is witnessed by two men who themselves exude menace and potential violence as they come out of the bar. We are back in Tyler’s dark world full of menace and violence and it’s here in this scene that the idea of Fight Club is introduced.


Slide 6

 

Fight Club Screenshot 37:20 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 37:20 Special Edition DVD

The director then cuts to a scene showing Jack and his boss in the men’s toilet at work, we notice how the lighting changes again, its daylight but colourised with blue which in later scenes is described as a cornflower blue (a reference is made to Jacks bosses tie as being cornflower blue) this is how the director (Editor?) has chosen to distinguish and therefore create this theme separating Jacks world from Tyler’s world of darkness, menace and violence.

Fight Club Screenshot 37:24 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 37:24 Special Edition DVD

Fincher then cuts back again to Tyler’s world, this time to a fight scene shot once again in the bars car park, there are more spectators and they are willing to participate in a fight, to become part of Tyler’s vision for Fight Club. The cameras low angle shot and the lighting from above adds to the audiences feeling of the darkness and the menace of the scene as the violent fight scene is shot.


Slide 7

 

Fight Club Screenshot 38:02 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 38:02 Special Edition DVD

The next scene camera in wide shot continues the theme of the chaos and the anarchy of Tyler’s world as we see the main characters practising their golf swing in a dilapidated and run down area where they are now living.

In a poorly lighted cluttered interior scene, shot in close up, Jacks madness is further explored as we see him reading journals by torchlight, which also seems to be written by some o ne also called Jack (No coincidence). We the audience would interpret the author as being himself although Jack disassociates himself from writing them, so he obviously has no memory of writing these journals and cannot recognise himself as being the protagonist in these journals.

Fight Club Screenshot 39:48 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 39:48 Special Edition DVD

As the director cuts back to Jacks world (cornflower blue) we see Jack in a meeting at work, it’s now obvious that Tyler’s personality is leaking through into Jacks world as he reveals his bloodied teeth to his colleagues at the meeting.

For the first time in this scene the menace and violence of Tyler’s world is brought into Jacks. The audience is left with the impression that Tyler’s personality is gradually taking over.


Slide 8

 

Fight Club Screenshot 40:07 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 40:07 Special Edition DVD

Cutting back again to Tyler’s world, Fight Club membership has grown and is now more organised as the audience POV follows the camera movements (stedicam) which tracks Tyler and Jack as they go inside the bar to greet their fellow members. The bar scene is darkly lighted and feels menacing as Fight Club members acknowledge each other in preparation for this evenings fights.

Tyler lays out the rules of Fight Club to its members in the dark basement/cellar of the bar as the camera moves around the room revealing the faces and postures of the members, which all adds to the menace of the scene and is a prelude to the violence to come.

Fight Club Screenshot 40:18 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 40:18 Special Edition DVD

It’s yet another example of the difference between Jacks and Tyler’s individual personalities, Jack is reserved and is generally seen as a participant in these scenes whereas Tyler is an extrovert and takes the lead in these situations.


Slide 9

 

Fight Club Screenshot 40:38 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 40:38 Special Edition DVD

Jacks narration in this sequence identifies individuals that he knows from work, who are generally similar to himself, reserved and unassuming at work but becoming something much more when they fight, to quote ‘becomes a god for 10 minutes’.

The director at the end of this fight scene cuts back to Jacks world where he is shown at work in a typical office environment as he sees the fighter from the previous night pushing a mail trolley through the office. They acknowledge each other but do not speak; they share a secret, the world of Tyler’s Fight Club. The scene is lighted once again in this cornflower blue so that the audience can identify that we are in Jacks world again.

Fight Club Screenshot 41:07 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 41:07 Special Edition DVD

The director cuts back to another fight scene this time involving Tyler, he’s surrounded by members of Fight Club who encourage their chosen fighters to excel, the dark lighting adds again to the menace, blood lust of the fighters and their supporters as the camera follows the action around the room. The scene ends with a close up of Jack who smiles his approval as Tyler wins his fight.


Slide 10

 

Fight Club Screenshot 42:10 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 42:10 Special Edition DVD

In the next scene, with the camera at a low angle again, the roles are reversed with Jack fighting to the encouragement of his fellow members of Fight Club, as Jack loses his fight the director shoots a close-up of Jacks face as he lies face down on the floor ending the scene.

Fight Club Screenshot 42:23 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 42:23 Special Edition DVD

In this ten minute sequence the director has introduced the audience to the core details of Fight Club; he has also set the theme for both Jack and Tyler’s worlds which in turn represent Jacks state of mind. For instance when he’s Jack the mise en scene is generally brightly lighted with this cornflower blue colourised effect and the mise en scene is usually of an office environment lighted by fluorescents. However when he’s in his Tyler persona the world is in direct contrast Jacks, it’s dark, full of menace and violence. The scene is usually of a dark and wet street or a cluttered interior or exterior of a dilapidated building.


Slide 11

 

Fight Club Screenshot 42:29 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 42:29 Special Edition DVD

In general, depending on which world we are in Jacks or Tyler’s, the camera angles and type of shot also changes to match, for instance in the fight scenes they tend to be shot at low or high angle to establish dominance of one fighter over another, rarely is the camera at eye level in these scenes. In contrast when we are in Jacks world, eye level camera angles dominate.
This sets a template for the rest of the film, the recurring image of Dark versus Light as we switch between Tyler’s and Jacks worlds.

Fight Club Screenshot 43:12 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 43:12 Special Edition DVD

The audience is also drawn into Jacks state of mind which changes from being an introvert whose only excitement in his life was his next purchase from Ikea, to being more of an extrovert, therefore  becoming more like Tyler Durden the anarchist and entering his more exciting life of violence and rebellion against everything corporate or  establishment.


Slide 12

 

Fight Club Screenshot 44:02 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 44:02 Special Edition DVD

This change in character and mind set is most obvious in the scenes where Jacks world and mindset has elements of Tyler’s. For example when we see Jacks injuries from the fights and Jacks general deterioration in personal appearance.

Fight Club Screenshot 44:21 Special Edition DVD

Fight Club Screenshot 44:21 Special Edition DVD

When for example we see him at work, his shirts have become dirty and un-ironed, the tie has not been tightened and it’s not straight, he is becoming more dishevelled, less conformist as the film progresses and becoming in turn more like his schizophrenic persona Tyler Durden.

 

 

 

 

 

 


(Number of Words 2032 including titles)

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Film Studies – Alien Movie Film Studies assignment

Alien Movie Film Studies

Film Studies
Access CJC3FH001A: 2009 to 2010 – Group 2
Course Tutor: Brendan Kedie

  • Analysis of the film ALIEN by Ridley Scott
  • All screen shots are from 1979 Theatrical Version DVD
  • Analysis by Ian Hunt
  • Alien Movie Film Studies

Chapter 19 1:08:00 to 1:08:14


Alien Movie Slide 1

Alien Movie Slide 1

  • The opening sequence starts with a brightly lighted scene, showing  an expansive and white modern space. A safe and clean area? but the flashing amber hazard warning light gives clues to a dangerous situation. This is in fact an airlock which in space is not generally known as a safe space.

    Alien Movie Slide 2

    Alien Movie Slide 2

  • The shot then zooms out revealing a much more confined space as the airlock internal hatch is brought down closing the opening scene off. The scene now is much more claustrophobic and considerably more darkly lighted.
  • The background music is even and subdued but with an underlying pulse which simulates a heartbeat as you would hear it from say a Hospital heart monitoring device.

Chapter 19 1:08:47 & 1:09:45


Alien Movie Slide 3

Alien Movie Slide 3

  • Scene becomes much more claustrophobic and even more darkly lighted. There’s just room for Dallas to crawl through the air duct. You can just make out the track for the camera. The opening shot shows Dallas at the bottom of a long crawlspace and then in the next shot the camera is positioned much closer it then tracks back a little. Camera then remains fixed in position as Dallas crawls towards it.

    Alien Movie Slide 4

    Alien Movie Slide 4

  • Most of the light appears to come from the handheld light and the flame.
  • The shot finishes with a close up of Dallas.
  • Sound track still subdued but the handheld motion detector takes up the heartbeat sound adding to the suspense which everyone knows will lead to a climax of some sort. Or another.

Chapter 19 1:09:55 & 1:10:04


Alien Movie Slide 5

Alien Movie Slide 5

  • Close up of Ripley as Dallas requests that the hatches are closed behind him which means his escape will be cut off – no going back which adds to the suspense and that Dallas is heading towards his Doom.

    Alien Movie Slide 6

    Alien Movie Slide 6

  • Hatch closes with a scraping sound effect adding to the sense of danger. Also because of the way the hatch closes that is it irises closed going from a large opening to a rapidly smaller opening this adds to the feeling that the environment is  getting tighter becoming a very enclosed space and therefore an even more claustrophobic space than before.
  • Shot remains darkly lighted mainly from secondary sources or reflections.
  • Sound continues as before with this underlying heartbeat monitor type sound remaining at an even pace

Chapter 19 1:10:52 & 1:12:11


Alien Movie Slide 7

Alien Movie Slide 7

  • Dallas has room to almost stand up but the shot is still lighted very darkly. The only light source seems to be the flame gun and reflections from the walls of the ventilation shaft as the handheld light is placed on the floor, so it still feels very claustrophobic.

    Alien Movie Slide 8

    Alien Movie Slide 8

  • Sound begins to build as the heart beat sound increases in speed. This adds to the suspense and the feeling of imminent danger.
  • The dialogue becomes frantic between the others which adds to the feeling of closing danger and to the suspense as they lose track of the alien. Although Dallas appears fairly calm?
  • Heart rate sound increases again in frequency, the danger must be getting closer building the suspense.

Chapter 19 1:12:27 & 1:12:45


Alien Movie Slide 9

Alien Movie Slide 9

  • As the dialogue becomes even more frantic there is a close up shot of Ash lighted by the light coming from the window in the air lock showing an impassive face. This is in stark contrast to all the others who are hot/sweating and emotional. This reveals that he/it feels no emotion as the danger to Dallas increases.

    Alien Movie Slide 10

    Alien Movie Slide 10

  • Finally as Dallas incorrectly guesses which way the Alien is coming he turns around just as the Alien appears from the darkness as simultaneously the music and the heart beat sound also reach a climax.
  • The final shot of a blank screen and static informs the audience Dallas has met his end by the hands (teeth) of the Alien
  • Game over
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