Filmmakers are subject to a very real and scary threat because their cameras do not include encryption. Having un-encrypted media seized is such a key threat that action is being taken by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. They have asked leading camera brands to release cameras with built-in encryption to protect their media. The only secure method that filmmakers and photojournalists have to protect their media is to load their work onto a computer with password-protected files. Being able to consistently load and protect work in the middle of filming isn’t always viable.
Filmmakers working with sensitive or private material live in fear of their media being confiscated. The seizure of cameras and film happens so often “that we could not realistically track all [the] incidents,” says Freedom of the Press Foundations activism director Courtney Radsch. Filmmakers and photojournalists often risk their lives to get groundbreaking footage of information and events. Frequently, there are people in direct opposition who do not want sensitive information to be released. Criminals, local police, or intelligence agents can seize memory cards or cameras, leaving the filmmaker empty handed and sometimes in danger. Filmmaker Andrew Berends was forced to swallow his SIM card to prevent police from identifying his informants in his documentation of the conflict in the Niger Delta. Many filmmakers and photojournalists have gone to extremes to protect their media, none of which would be necessary with encrypted cameras.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is taking action by appealing to leading camera brands such as Canon, Fuji, and Nikon, to come out with encrypted still photo and video cameras. They have written a letter explaining the necessity and 150 filmmakers and photojournalists have signed it. Some of the signees include Academy Award nominees such as Laura Poitras and Joshua Oppenheimer.
Smartphones such as the iPhone come standard with encryption, so it’s easy to see how the next step will be adding this feature to cameras but some technical kinks are still being ironed out. Cameras will need more powerful processors and the issue of physical limitations of buttons to type in passwords will need to be addressed. While no encrypted cameras exist on the market as of yet, this move would be a much needed security feature for filmmakers and photojournalists alike.
Steven Soderbergh, director of such films as Contagion, Erin Brockovich, and the Ocean’s Trilogy, has a unique take on how much information the audience should be given, and how much they shouldn’t. Soderbergh ignores the classic tropes of filmmaking and strives to present information to the audience in new and exciting ways.
Audiences are getting better at picking up on minute details and inferring outcomes. However, many filmmakers still feel they should lay all of the information out for you. This often makes things drab and predictable for the audience, to be told or shown things that they already know. Soderbergh takes a new approach.
While he strives to show everything in a new unique way, he also cuts out any spoon-feeding. Declan Taaffe from Writing With The Camera uses the example of a character walking into an office and speaking with a character. These shots are so common they are ingrained into our mind. Establishing shot of office building > wide shot of room > over-the-shoulder > close up on face. The dialogue follows the same tropes, with the character behind the desk giving introduction as to who they are followed by the newcomer proposing a question or terms. These little details and shots are effective – we know who everyone is and what they want. However, Soderbergh thinks giving all of this information is unnecessary. Instead, as shown in a similar bank scene in Ocean’s 11, he sets the camera in one spot and that’s it. Character states their business. Done. Soderbergh ignores all of the classic film techniques and shows just what he needs to show to keep the movie going.
As Soderbergh puts it, he tries to “be more adventurous and release information in a way that’s less traditional.” And less traditional he is. Known for cutting out establishing shots, removing unneeded dialogue, and splicing between important scenes with no filler in-between, Soderbergh still manages to showcase what’s most important in a film: the story.
In his efforts to give audiences character and scene information in new ways, Soderbergh has racked up both extremely positive (Behind The Candelabra, 2013) and negative reviews (The Good German, 2006). Bending the traditional way that stories are told doesn’t always work out, and sometimes the audience is looking for just a bit more information to be displayed. Soderbergh’s successes are extraordinary though, showing the necessity to take a risk and break the barriers of traditional storytelling.
Alongside rumours of a white Christmas, there isn’t a better event than the John Lewis Christmas advert to signal that the festive season is among us. The retail giant has cast a black family for the first time, who star in an imagined Christmas morning where Buster the dog beats a young girl to her Christmas present: a great big trampoline.
The £1m advert, featuring a cast of CGI animals, and a very white Christmas, has been tackled by the the satirists over at The Poke. They responded by editing the advert to have a different and realistically grim ending. John Lewis have said that, following last year’s Man on the Moon advert, they were shifting away from “sadvertising.” Perhaps this parody is a karmic response.
All film and media teachers know which of their students are serious about building the qualifications towards a career in the visual arts, including film, TV, radio, advertising and increasingly online production. They’re the ones who show true passion for your subject and the most creativity in producing their own nascent films for projects and accreditation. They’re media literate beyond their years and with an encouraging nudge here and there, have a shot at leaving their mark on the UK’s future mediascape.
Giving these students the boosts and encouragement they need is so easily backed by a workable knowledge of the industries they’ll have the biggest chance of channelling their talents into for fulfilling careers. So what do these industries look like and what are their prospects for the future?
The UK’s film industry has had a bountiful decade and counting largely thanks to the UK Tax Credit system introduced in 2006 which effectively subsidises productions to the tune of 20% of budget. This has allowed not only more affordable domestic productions, but also for foreign (mostly Hollywood) projects to base much of their production in the UK.
On the ground, this has meant while the industry segments working in Distribution and Exhibition amount to around 25,000 employees nationwide and is relatively stable, the number in Production has rocketed from also around 25,000 a decade ago to around 60,000 today. This growth has been almost entirely from inward investment from foreign productions taking advantage of not only a tax sweeteners but at the same time in recognition that the quality of creative work produced in the UK are consistently high.
In addition to the rosy view in film, TV production has grown 50% since 2006 with production revenues exceeding £3billion a year. In total, the estimated number of UK jobs in film, TV, radio and photography in 2015 was 231,000. These figures indicate an industry currently enjoying something of a golden era, but with threats looming on the horizon from the newcomer on the block: digital media. Audience migration from the more traditional media outlets of cinema, TV, newspapers and radio to a web-enabled fully-fragmented digital mediascape through our smartphones and tablets pose a massive disruption to our ‘big screen’ audiences of yesteryear.
The important things to convey to your students is that although evolving quickly, the UK’s media industries have thrived with an influx of foreign investment and productions, and this has lead to a golden age for the creative industries even as audiences migrate to smaller screens. The UK’s creative industries should continue to thrive and hopefully provide abundant outlets of opportunity for your most ambitious and creative students.