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!
How we watch is changing
This isn’t necessarily to do with smartphone filmmaking, but smartphone film-watching. Even just a decade ago, it was relatively rare- and quite expensive indeed- to buy a ‘smartphone’ that could access and play video through the internet. It was around ten years ago that the first iPhone was released, and although it was popular, it was simply one among many phones rather than the hegemonic beast it is today.
Today, though, the ease with which we can watch movies on smartphones is changing how we consume not just film, but all media. Whereas before, we might get our news at ten o’clock from the BBC or ITV, now we find things out on the go through news apps. Similarly, sites like Netflix have changed how we watch film: it’s completely ordinary to see people on the way to work watching films or TV through either Netflix, iTunes or Hulu.
This is partly down to the fact that Wi-Fi has become far more common on trains, buses and at cafés. It’s also because data plans are cheaper and data can be downloaded faster through a 4G mobile connection. Ten years ago, it was practically infeasible to watch films of real length on smartphones without constant buffering and poor quality, but today we can watch TV and film in high resolution wherever we go (except through train tunnels; they still haven’t figured that one out).
How we film is changing
It’s not just how we consume media that’s changed, it’s how we create media, film included. If you take a quick peek around YouTube, you might get an idea of the general quality of smartphone filmmaking: shaky and unstable, poor quality audio and strange aspect ratios abound. But here’s a few smartphone filmmaking tips that take into account the way that cinema is changing for the better:
- Camera equipment for smartphones is making films shot on iPhones and Android actually look good. Tripods and stands, 35mm lenses and even editing software apps mean that you can shoot a professional film just with your phone. The first film shot on an iPhone, for instance, was called Night Fishing– a half an hour short shot through a 35mm lens. A more recent film called Tangerine used an anamorphic lens to achieve the wide-angle look of professional films, but was still captured with an iPhone 5.
- You don’t have to stick to traditional filmmaking. A recent film, STARVECROW, was billed as the world’s first ‘selfie movie’. But it wasn’t just a gimmick; it was part of the story, which was supposed to highlight the topics of surveillance, self-surveillance, narcissism and voyeurism. It was tapered down from over 70 hours of semi-scripted and improvised footage into an 85 minute feature film, which is really worth a watch.
What is cinema if not those moments of career defining brilliance delivered by actors at the top of their game, inspiring delight in audiences worldwide? Well… its still cinema, but without the Icing, the Cherry, the Sparkle that keeps us coming back for more.
To celebrate some of the best cinematic lines in history, here are a few of our favourites – see if you and your students can match the quote to the character/actor who delivered the line with such aplomb.
Answers at the very bottom.
- “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”.
- “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
- “We’ll always have Paris.”
- “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
- “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. ”
- “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
- “Try not. Do—or do not. There is no try.”
- “As my plastic surgeon always said, if you gotta go, go with a smile.”
- “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
- “I ate his liver with some favs beans and a nice chianti.”
- “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really really ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out that that is.”
- “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”
- “These go to 11.”
- “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”
- “The Dude abides.”
- “All those moments will be lost int time, like tears.. in.. rain. Time to die.”
a) Bill Murry as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day
b) Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
c) Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption
d) Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner
e) Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part II
f) Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future
g) Chistopher Guest as Nigel Tufnell in This is Spinal Tap
h) Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander
i) Anthony Hopkins as Dr Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs
j) Frank Oz as Yoda in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
k) Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman
l) Kathleen Turner as Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit
m) Oliver Hardy as Ollie in Sons of the Desert
n) Jeff Bridges as the Dude in The Big Lebowski
o) Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca
p) Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley in Dr Strangelove
1f, 2b, 3o, 4c, 5e, 6l, 7j, 8k, 9p, 10i, 11h, 12a, 13g, 14m, 15n, 16d
Film is a gruelling business that requires a lot of energy, passion and time, so it is only fair that you’re compensated for all you put into your job. It might not surprise you to learn that some are rewarded more than others for the energy they put into their work. Here’s a look at the top five highest paying positions in the film industry.
1 – Producer
As the producer, it’s probable you’re behind the scenes for the entirety of a film’s production: helping finance the film, shoot it and ensure its distribution. Not only do producers know how to spot great talent, they also have the business savvy to ensure that everything runs smoothly, helping everyone on the production stay sane.
The average annual salary of a film producer clocks in at a whopping $109,000! That’s over $50 an hour and the average Los Angeles producer can even make $66 an hour! Of course, producers’ salaries rely on the film’s budget. So although Scott Rudin made $2.5 million on Fast & Furious 7, very few producers will receive that hefty a pay check.
2 – Director
If you’re interested in a career in film, directing has probably crossed your mind. Dictating the artistic vision of a film, the director is core to ensuring words in the script make it to the big screen. On average, directors earn about $106,000 a year thanks to the vision and creativity they bring to each project. Like producers, a director’s salary is dependant on the film’s production budget. Low-budget feature directors earn about $7,608 a week while big budget and blockbuster film directors can rake in over $12,000 dollars on a Friday! Christopher Nolan for example earned an incredible $20 million for directing Interstellar.
3 – Screenwriter
As crucial as a director is, a film is nothing without a script! Screenwriters are entrusted with being able to bring a story and characters to life, and, although many screenwriters don’t see the majority of their work produced, they are paid handsomely when their creativity is a success.
Screenwriters make an average of $78,860 a year, earning over $37 an hour. While some directors like Quentin Tarantino direct their own screenplays, many screenwriters put their scripts into the agile hands of other directors which can win them big bucks! Joe Eszterhas earned $3 million for penning Basic Instinct. A handsome reward, right?.
4 – Editor
Responsible for piecing together the final film, editors are crucial to making a film screen ready. We’ve discussed before how film editors aren’t always the most employed professionals in film, but when they are, they are paid handsomely for it.
Editors can make an average of $66,690 a year, with the top 10% of editors raking in over $100,000. Freelance editors can also make $61,270 a year while the bottom 10% of film editors make $26,350 a year. Still not too shoddy.
5 – Actor
Unquestionably the most public figure of a movie, actors not only help bring a director and screenwriter’s vision to life, but are largely responsible for how much box office business a film will attract. Actors however aren’t always paid the most, and it isn’t uncommon to hear of an actor doing a film ‘for love.’ It’s therefore difficult to come up with a precise salary range for actors, but we’ve done our best.
The average annual salary of a SAG accredited actor is $5,000, meaning they’re earning under London living wage. However, SAG has a whopping 100,000 members, so defining just how many of them are working consistently is difficult to ascertain. If a SAG actor is hired for a film, they are guaranteed to earn no less than $782 a day thanks to union legisation. Many actors earn less than that, but with experience, passion, and luck maybe you’ll be raking in the $75 million Robert Downey Jr. earned for Iron Man 3 (though I wouldn’t turn down Barkhad Abdi’s $65,000 Captain Philips pay check either.)
Filmmaking is an art, and although many get massive payouts for the work they do, most in the industry do it to pursue their creative dream. Although you may know of a handful of names, the stars are just the lucky 1% in a business supported by armies of artists trying to tell the world their story.
Most university students today have grown up in a multimedia society unparalleled in the past. Thanks to the internet and the tools it’s offered, both in terms of entertainment and education, the traditional styles of lecturing and educating students no longer offer the impact they once did. Students are easily distracted and distant in lessons, and pedagogy will have to evolve to create new frameworks in which students are able to connect with their lessons and subjects. Jessie Daniels at the City University of New York found the use of documentaries the perfect tool to boost her students’ engagement.
Documentary’s digital renaissance
Documentary filmmaking is going through it’s own renaissance. The rise of digital filmmaking and crowdfunding aiding many documentarians’ productions. Because of the breadth of this genre, Daniels believes that documentaries are the perfect digital tool to incorporate into the classroom. In her lessons, Daniels has seen an increase in student engagement and critical thinking thanks to the introduction of a multimedia form they are familiar with.
The internet has provided a home for documentaries, whether through online subscription services like Netflix, via independent filmmakers on YouTube or through mainstream media sites like the BBC. The ease of access that is now available to documentaries only helps the genre envelop itself into popular culture and become a constant in the lives of many current and future students. For decades, scholars and educators have used popular culture to base a framework and present examples to their classes. Their students’ ready grasp of current events and the world around them helps cement concepts in which a larger academic sphere can be tethered. Documentaries are that next frontier.
Revolutionising the classroom
Daniels believes the best way to incorporate documentaries into a curriculum is by using them as a supplementary resource. By combining documentaries with academic studies and texts, Daniels is able to offer students a visual representation of the theoretical framework behind her lessons. By using worksheets and giving her students a basic and fundamental grasp of filmmaking and digital media, Daniels can have engaged class discussions in which the students, having not only read the same materials but also having seen the same experience on screen, are able to exchange an informed and free flow of ideas.
Daniels also uses worksheets to increase the student’s critical media skills, allowing them to conceptualise the entire process that would go into a documentary after viewing the final product. When used alongside traditional pedagogical venues, documentaries can only help to increase student engagement in the classroom.
With the breadth and variety of documentaries today, particularly in genre, it is fair to assume that every educator can find a documentary that will help engage their students and further develop their critical skills. By applying documentary films as a supplementary resource in the classroom, teachers and professors like Daniels inspire increased student engagement thanks to their dedication to connecting with and understanding their students’ educational needs.
Short films are often undervalued and overlooked within the film industry. Sure, they can represent the first shaky steps of a filmmaker but they can also show the magnitude and versatility the medium has to offer. Short films can play a huge hand in launching careers, much like they launched film as a whole back when the Lumiere brothers screened their first creations. Many of today’s most acclaimed directors first dug their nails into film through shorts and a few found those efforts lead directly to some hugely successful feature films.
1 – Whiplash
Despite having worked in Hollywood before, in 2014 Damien Chazelle was relatively unknown. His film Whiplash turned out to be a critical and commercial success, winning three Academy Awards. Three years later, Chazelle has a Best Director Oscar under his belt for La La Land, the most nominated film in Golden Globes history.
Whiplash was the film that launched Chazelle on to everyone’s radar but the journey to making the film was rocky. Despite having connections in the industry, Chazelle found difficulty gaining the right financial support to produce his breakthrough film. It was then that Chazelle decided to take a scene from his screenplay and produce it, entering it into short film competitions and presenting it to producers for financial backing. The short ended up winning Sundance’s Jury Award for Best Short Film in 2013 and the rest is history.
2 – The Babadook (Monster)
Although Australian director Jennifer Kent had experience in the film industry, she normally found herself in front of the camera. After being particularly struck by Dancer in the Dark, Kent took a chance and wrote to Lars von Trier asking to shadow him during the production of Dogville. Her experience with von Trier inspired her to make her own short film, Monster: a black and white supernatural horror film that would later find wide critical acclaim as The Babadook.
Although not a direct adaptation, Monster served as the conceptual brainchild for Kent’s debut feature, helping raise $30,000 for additional sets on Kickstarter.
3 – Saw (Saw 0.5)
Whether a fan of the franchise or not, one can not deny that the Saw films revolutionised the horror genre. In an attempt to find producers, Australian director James Wan filmed a scene from what would be the first film showing the intricacies and depth behind the life-and-death game so central to the franchise’s narrative. Wan used the short, cleverly titled Saw 0.5, to pitch the films to Lionsgate. Almost a decade and a half later Wan’s short has spun into a seven-part film franchise with one of the most dedicated cult followings.
Although there are many short films that have either been adapted for a feature or given inspiration to a big screen film, the three listed here show the importance short films serve in the film industry. A beautiful tool for helping students grasp filmmaking’s basics, short films are also an incredible medium for inciting inspiration and passion into all filmmakers with eyes on bigger prizes.
Many view the film industry as a global marketplace with a plethora of opportunities for international films to cross borders and become successes. It may therefore come as a surprise to some that the majority of box office income for British* films is domestic**!
*this article will mainly cover UK films that are produced independently in Britain.
**UK territory is viewed as England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Where do British films earn money?
Based on a BFI analysis of ComScore data, it becomes clear that the majority of films with a budget under £5 million earned over half their global box office income from within the UK. One of the factors for why these films earn more money domestically than abroad could be because of their limited budget, allowing for lesser distribution worldwide. You may think that this is only a small percentage of UK-produced films but in reality, 95.8% of British films produced between 2008 and 2013 cost under £5 million, with a hefty 47% registering a budget under £150 thousand.
How much global box office goes to UK films?
Independent UK films collected only 1.2% of the global box office in 2016, a significant drop when compared to a high of 3.2% in 2014. However, it is important to note that UK cinema is a tale of two worlds: those produced independently, and those which are studio-backed. Due to the recent boom of American/British co-productions, it isn’t surprising that a weighty 15.2% of global revenue goes to these films. Films like 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which grossed $812.5 million worldwide, are filmed in the UK (often with primarily British casts) but backed by large US studios and therefore have a wider reach in terms of box office success.
Which countries love British cinema?
While independent British films are highly successful in New Zealand, capturing almost 5% of the country’s box office income, they perform badly in certain Asian territories, particularly China, Japan and South Korea.
Which British films export well?
With the conflicting statistics of British film’s success overseas, it’s easy to wonder which UK films do perform successfully overseas. In 2016, the best performing independent British films included The Danish Girl and Florence Foster Jenkins. Besides these films, which received critical and commercial acclaim both at home and abroad, is it possible to view a larger trend of British films that find commercial success outside the UK?
In 2012, David Steele published a paper entitled ‘International Territory Review’ which looked at the global market for UK films. Among his findings, Steele discovered a pattern and formula for UK films which achieve commercial success once exported:
- Biopics of internationally recognised British figures (The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady)
- Medium budget films with A-List stars (Nanny McPhee, Johnny English)
- British films with a cultural or national connection to the country in question (Senna, Jean Charles)
- British films with story content of universal appeal (Slumdog Millionaire, Life)