With Natalie Portman’s recent snub at the Golden Globes about the “all-male nominees” for best director, it’s once again highlighted the significant gender inequality in the film industry. Whether or not you agree with her approach, recent statistics have shown that in 2017, women only made up 18% of the roles behind-the-scenes of filmmaking with 88% of the studied films having no female directors and 96% without female Directors of Photography. Commonly females in the film industry will take on producer role as this was found to be the highest result of the study at 24% but the really shocking realisation is that this has not changed in the last 20 years. This is a repeated study and the findings in 1998 were eerily similar back then at 17% but why is this so?
The stereotypes are still at large, it seems more than ever, with women not being seen as strong enough for boom mics, electricians or working grip, and this limits the backstage options. Women’s roles in film tend to be limited to the Indie or low-budget films with female directors feeling that they can’t get into the “white men’s club” or be trusted with bigger budgets, making it harder for them to create box office hits frequently and rarely earning the fair recognition for their talents.
Missing Technical Experience
Women in the film industry also find that their careers are limited in ways that mens’ are not, for example gaining experience with adverts or music videos is a common occurrence in a man’s filmmaking career, but these opportunities are not often afforded to women. Not to mention that a female director has not won a Golden Globe since Barbara Streisand did in 1984 for Yentl… over 34 years ago!
That being said, this year has seen a rise of talent to be recognized, including British actor and director, Alice Lowe who managed to create her first feature film “Prevenge” while also seven months pregnant. However, her filmmaking experience was overshadowed by the pressure to prove her commitment by telling an “emotional” story because that is what’s expected of women. Men are also more likely to be hired to direct franchises as well as being first in line for action films, although Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, has recently proven a superhero movie with heart can break the box office. Kathryn Bigelow also won best director at the Academy Awards for The Hurt Locker so it’s never all doom and gloom.
It’s Everyone’s Fault
While it is easy to place the blame squarely on the men’s shoulders, this isn’t fair either, with societal issues highlighting day-to-day sexism from both genders. When a female director makes a film, for example, they are more likely to hire female writers and staff than with men, meaning there are 68% more opportunities for women when women are in charge on set. Recent political events in the US, for example, have also fuelled a step back for gender equality and as women have less powerful roles in business as well, it’s not surprising that this is reflected in the money driven film industry, which after all, is a business. Until women are taken more seriously in the workplace, they won’t be allowed the same recognition and authority in the filmmaking industry.
It’s hard to see an upside to the gender inequality plaguing the film industry currently but with the recent campaigns of celebrities and influencers speaking out and banding together, actresses seeking similar wages to close the pay gap and joining forces, there’s still hope for budding female filmmakers behind the scenes looking to break out.
You’ve got a killer idea for a movie or you have the script to hand, but how do you make this a reality without a secret stash of cash? It can be difficult for student filmmakers without the industry contacts to find funding for their first projects. How films are financed varies greatly depending on the niche, demographic and initial ideas for the film. With this in mind, we are offering some insight on how to fund your film from a variety of different sources, to turn your concept into a reality.
- Government Funding
When asking how films are financed, the first point of contact is to look to your government for currently available programs, grants and incentives. Although these are highly competitive, with a thorough business plan and an excellent idea you can apply to Europe’s MEDIA programmes in line with their regulations and policies. In British filmmaking there are also specific UK government funds that you can apply for which encourage British filmmaking each year, that are provided by the BFI.
Crowdfunding is growing in popularity with films being entirely crowdfunded if their subjects are popular or they can be used to show viability and be picked up by studios (or other financers) who want to see the project go ahead. It works by offering people to donate smaller, manageable amounts into your project and in return you have different tiers of reward system for incentive.
One of the best examples of successful crowdfunding is the Veronica Mars movie that came after the cancellation of the TV show, rose in popularity and ended up being completely funded (all $5.7million) by fans. Now, even bigger studios are using partial crowdfunding to help get interest and numbers up, the downside is there is a lot of competition so you need to stand out.
- Soundtrack Financing
Focus on the music by using well-known artists and fantastic original soundtracks to promote the movie, raise its profile and secure funding that way. Music artists have their own labels and followers which will jump on the bandwagon to see their favourites perform (particularly if they have a cameo as well.) The downside is that it can steer the project in different directions than you may had envisaged and your fans will be music, rather than film orientated, meaning you’ll need to appease them as well.
Although filmmakers try to avoid this financing option because it usually means working with a lower budget, or getting themselves in debt, self-financing is still viable and leads to many personal or powerful films that make an impact. The downside with self-funded projects is you don’t have the quality control of other parties involved to tell you whether the script is good enough or not because there is no developmental stage and this can be riskier.
It’s important to remember that regardless of the type of funding you choose, you need to be clear and confident in your project, message and business plan. How do you expect anyone to finance or back your film if you’re uncertain about what you are doing? So make sure you’re first convinced yourself that it’s worth it.
Everyone has their favourite classic Christmas movie whether it’s Elf, Home Alone or something more traditional like It’s a wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. For budding screenwriters and filmmakers, holiday movies can be the perfect script writing opportunity because budgets can be kept fairly low without compromising on quality. This, in part is because it’s about the underlying message and festive feel that holiday movies emote rather than big expensive car chases or explosions (although you could add these too.) With many platforms such as Lifetime or Hallmark in the US commissioning their original Christmas movies to draw in their audiences and keep them coming back during the festive season, we wonder why this is and what’s the appeal?
Generally, holiday movies work by tittering (the word is teetering) the audience on the edge between love-driven and fear-driven frames of mind, so we have a look at the winning ingredients that you can develop into seasonal teaching exercises that tend to drive a Christmas classic movie into success:
1. Family Values
Most families will watch classic Christmas movies together but, especially in recent times, families come in all shapes and sizes which means you need to be more widely relatable. Choose a family archetype and explore all the dynamics of this, for example the impact of divorced parents, widowed parents and families or even orphaned children. Using different family values will help you relate to the audience and strike a nerve with many.
2. The Cliché
While it might make the screenwriter yawn, a cliché is a must in a Christmas movie and helps to keep it light-hearted cinema that we all know and love. Whether it’s the stroppy teenager or the weird guy at the corner (who always turns out to be the big FC – Father Christmas? Not sure if everyone would get ‘the Big FC’ especially as he’s also known as Santa Claus…) an audience enjoys the familiar and often the clichés are what makes it the most memorable.
3. Christmas Feeling
Décor and atmosphere can make or break a Christmas movie. If you aren’t setting your Christmas movie during the festival season or featuring some sort of snow, tree, fairy lights or tinsel, you’re doing something wrong! Although contested, Die Hard, Trading Places and Lethal Weapon are still considered Christmas movies to some because they are set around Christmas time and have the traditional “good over evil triumphing” themes.
4. Appealing Childhood
For adults, the appeal of Christmas movies is being able to relive the magic of Christmas, whether that’s the feeling of family traditions that are passed down or undertones of nostalgia that appear in the story. Include magical elements like folklore and phrases that adults will have been told as children when telling the story to transport them back to that frame of mind.
5. The Big Bad
Overcoming obvious conflict is key, it doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery or blindside the audience. In a Christmas movie, you are highlighting the “big bad” of the story and going on a journey to watch the characters overcome this, sometimes it goes off without a hitch and sometimes it doesn’t but audiences need to know who to root for. This could be tangible like Kevin protecting the house from burglars in Home Alone or Scrooge overcoming himself and changing for the better in A Christmas Carol. Either way the bad guy is obvious.
A Christmas movie can be an excellent project for screenwriters to sink into during the festive season and as you can see, they take a bit more consideration and planning than you might initially realise. For more seasonal inspiration, try these training exercises with your learners!
As Brian Tyler says, “your best work is only your best work, if works with the film”. Filmmaking is a collaborative creative process and the end goal can only be achieved when everyone works together. The creative process never stops, and for Brian, a project never finishes, it simply comes to an end when they run out of time. This is a lesson for us all; Brian is constantly building on what he has and striving to improve his pieces of music. For him, the work that goes out to the public is just a “snapshot” of the idea at the point he ran out of time. Don’t be afraid to change things as you go along as a director, don’t be afraid to allow your work to evolve. A piece of music can catch you off guard, and a piece that was meant to be drumming along in the background, can soon become the title music for the opening sequence. Allow your creativity to run free.
We know a musical score can make a film, but the film also makes the musical score. The film leads the way and influences composers work. As with any creative, they go through a process, just like if you’re directing a film or designing a set. Beginning by coming up with the central themes of the music he’s setting out to write, Brian normally starts at the piano. He maps out the themes of the piece he’s going to create; taking influence from the film. Brian discusses the relevance of knowing about the filmmaking process (take a look at our article on the 3 phases of filmmaking). Filmmaking tips and techniques are not just for the camera man. The more you know about the filming process, camera angles, lighting and editing, the easier it is to capture the essence of the film in the music.
As a director, if you’re asking someone to create a piece of music for your film – you need to involve them in your creative process and allow them to be part of your vision. Leaving them in the dark isn’t going to help them shed light on your film with a beautiful musical score. One of our top filmmaking tips for students has got to be to communicate. Communicating with the team around you will make your vision many times easier to achieve.
The director is the main man (or woman), and every director is going to enjoy different types of music. A film composer has to understand the different genres because all the filmmaking tips in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t know their genres. But equally, remember that your favourite piece of music might not be the best piece of music for your film. A composer needs to be central to the creative process and understand the director’s wants and needs, before they can really engage with the piece of music they’re creating. As a director, think about what a composer might need to know. Every composer will be different, just like every director will be different. You need to become a collaborative force, so together you can create something meaningful. With the right team around you, turning your filmmaking dreams into a reality is one step closer. Give this article about turning filmmaking dreams into reality a read to see what else goes into it.
To see Brian Tyler describing and explaining the above philosphy and approaches in his own words, check out this micro-documentary.
Winter’s making its move. There was FROST on the ground yesterday morning… Frost! To help counter darkening and cooling days and nights, let’s remember that the cinema and sofa are 2 great places to spend more time over the winter.
Tim Dirk’s Filmsite.org offers us an inspired list of some of the funniest film quotes from the last 50 years. Here’s a selection to wet your appetite for more:
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”
Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”
– “Is there someone else up there we could talk to?”
– “No, now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
“What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”
Animal House (1978)
“…My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi…”
The Jerk (1979)
“Surely you can’t be serious.”
– “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
“They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”
The Blues Brothers (1980)
“Thank you for a memorable afternoon. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.”
“Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?”
– “These go to eleven.”
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
“Ned, I would love to stand here and talk with you – but I’m not going to.”
Groundhog Day (1993)
“…Nobody calls me Lebowski. You got the wrong guy. I’m the Dude, man.”
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Check out the rest (with a few potentially not-safe-for-school entries, be warned!) on filmsite.org – and let’s embrace the season with catching up on and rewatching some old favorites to help us laugh our way through to Spring!
Occasionally, we’re invited to challenge how we think about film narrative structures, and might just never think about plot and character interaction the same way again. Cult website XKCD manage this with aplomb – and manage to make us laugh out loud while they’re at it.
Great filmmakers have great stories to tell, which they demonstrate repeatedly for our pleasure. Let’s not forget that storytelling exists in a myriad of formats though, starting with the oral tradition and the written word, long before we cracked how to project images of light against the wall of a darkened room.
Its inevitable then that the great storytellers in film also have a thing or two to share with us in just words. Here are a few of our favorites…
Panic, dread, fear and anguish. 4 emotions that cinema chain owners, studios and everyone along the distribution process in Hollywood are all currently feeling.
Remember last year, when an idea was running around of a home movie service that would allow people to watch new cinema releases from the comfort of their coach? Screening Room it was called – as if Netflix hadn’t done enough damage already.
In March of this year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings even made headlines for making the claim that the movie chains hadn’t innovated in 30 years, stating the only advantage of them is “well, the popcorn tastes better, but that’s about it.”
While most people think Netflix is some huge company disrupting the whole distribution industry – this is only half-true. If we take a step back then we see it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Netflix seems to have merely affected the way that films and, more generally, content, reaches its audience audiences.
That is fantastic for big TV and film producers, but doesn’t mean much for independent filmmakers, yet. In fact, most indie films sold to these new digital distribution channels went to Amazon rather than Netflix; for example, Kenneth Lonergan’s harrowing Manchester by the Sea and Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight. You can really see the touch of veteran indie film producer, Ted Hope, who is now helming Amazon Studios.
If we consider this within a different context, music for example, most of us now take for granted that we’re going to listen to music on Spotify or Apple Music. If we really want to buy music, we’ll go on iTunes and buy digital files as opposed to physical CDs or vinyl. This is a drastic shift, and one which has caused a surge in independent music. A small band that you love can now record its music in their garage and upload it for the world to listen, all done from their laptop. It’s easy to forget how radical that notion was even 20 years ago: really revolutionising an entire established industry and opening it up to smaller players.
The film industry is also going through profound changes, and cinemas will have to adapt to survive. Netflix is just a traditional company, nothing incredible, but they sure know how to make the most of the new wave of digital technologies. It’s just like the 2008 financial crisis: you can look at it as a phenomenon in and of itself, or you can look at it as a ripple in a bigger, wider undercurrent. But how will this wave affect us, the independent filmmakers? Will we eventually have the same channels indie music has, and just upload our movies (and actually make money from them)?
Netflix and Amazon haven’t figured this out yet. They haven’t worked out how to make production as simple as it could be, or as DIY as independent filmmakers are used to. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom, because that’s actually where the power of independent filmmakers lie: you can shoot how you like, improve your work, put it out on social media and, if you have enough following, you can reach enough people to get noticed – the only missing piece is making it a real business model.
Hollywood, digital distribution channels, and independent filmmakers: how these 3 puzzle pieces will eventually fit together is yet to be seen. However we predict that Hollywood will adapt to appease the likes of Netflix and Amazon, whilst indie filmmakers will (hopefully) hop on great new channels to distribute themselves.
The cinema industry has changed drastically in the last 10 years, as it has struggled with decreasing ticket sales. Like all entertainment formats, it will need to continue to adapt as it enters an uncertain future. However cinemas around the world are finding new ways to attract customers off their sofas, with Netflix and online pirating, and into their cinemas. Here are a few of the innovative ways they’re doing it:
- Virtual Reality
With Oculus Rift and other hyper-realistic virtual reality headsets now developed, cinemas are making use of the new technology to attract audiences. With promises of total immersion and a viewing experience unlike any other, it is easy to understand the attraction.
There is still a long way to go for virtual reality to become mainstream, with headsets costing hundreds of pounds and a severe lack of especially designed content. However, new ground is being made on both these fronts, for example Oscar-winning director of Birdman and The Revenant, Alejandro G. Iñárritu recently produced a VR project called “Carne y Arena” and exhibited it at the Cannes Film Festival.
- Dolby Cinema
There are now 72 advanced Dolby Cinema theaters in the United States, complete with laser projection and an advanced 360-degree ring of speakers wrapped around the audience. This offers audiences a viewing (and hearing!) experience beyond what is possible at home, hence attracting paying customers. The technology first attracted attention with the film Gravity. Imagine seeing that film on a huge 3D screen, within an immerse soundscape created by 30+ individually programmed speakers – it’s simply something unrivalled by home audio-visual set-ups.
- Food and Booze
As mentioned before, movie theatres are searching to create new and exciting experiences, more than just films, which will draw audiences from far and wide to their box office. Many cinemas now offer a perfect date night package, a film, food and wine!
“We’re competing with your home,” says Hamid Hashemi, CEO of Florida-based iPic Entertainment, and many more cinemas are following suit, offering food and boozy nights to seemlessly blend with the onscreen main attraction.
- Video Game Tournaments
Some theatres are even using their screens to host video game tournaments. “That’s the dream of every theater,” MediaMation CEO Daniel Jamele said. “It gives them an alternate source of income, which is what they need.”
That is just the kind of thought that will save many movie theatres from going into bankruptcy, by increasing their box office sales by finding multiple uses for theatres with giant screens
Of course anyone who has studied general relativity would know that the 4th dimension is actually time. Although by that definition all films are 4D, as they travel and change over time. But cinemas could never sell that, so 4D to them means moving seats and other senses.
Although it is still mostly reserved to theme parks, more and more 4D cinema experiences are popping up around the world. For example, South Korean company CJ 4Dplex Co has created 4DX, designed to make people feel as if they’re part of the action. Whilst a Torrance-based company called MediaMation makes its own competing version of 4DX, the motion-seat technology, called MX4D.
2017’s annual gathering of the great and good of the UK’s Film and Media education community at BFI Southbank on 29-30 June was another example of the BFI using their unique position in the UK’s Film to be able to attract some of the biggest names in the industry, to present and discuss some of the most pressing and relevant topics being grappled with today.
Despite its popularity, one of the few bugbears that delegates in previous years have simply had to put up with is the fact that in order to be able to pack 40 amazing workshops and presentations into only 2 short days, the organisers have to program FIVE streams of presentions to happen simultaneously. You do the maths: that means that the very BEST any one delegate is going to be able to see is only 20% of the conference, MAX!
Until this year…. when the BFI invited film and media VLE Quickclass to partner with them and Bournemouth University to create a Catchup service exclusively for the conference’s delegates! This special team then filmed, edited, compressed and uploaded 26 of the 40 sessions during the conference to the Quickclass platform, where they’ll be available for 3 months. Conference delegates just need to log in on the Quickclass Filmmaking apps or at members.quickclass.net and navigate to Reference Films to catchup with the talks they missed or even rewatch the sessions they really loved and learnt the most from.
The gargantuan effort that the Bournemouth students, MondoTV and Quickclass put into production seemed appropriate at a Film Education conference, and hopefully the added value to the conference will allow much more of the wisdom to reach the conference delegates than would ever have been possible in the past!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how a secure App-based VLE can be used in all sorts unexpected scenarios to enhance the learning around film and media education!