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.