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Constructing Meaning In Film

10/2013 Term 1 - Film Studies

Suke Driver

on 2 August 2014

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Transcript of Constructing Meaning In Film

Constructing Meaning in Film
is a catorgorisation tool within the arts - a short-cut to
defining, though repetitions and conventions, what we
might expect from work created in terms of tone and content. In film-making, defining the genre helps to assess who your audience are (i.e rom-com, probably women) and assists the audience when choosing a film to watch - although what we choose is not soley based on its genre (which director or subject/event will also be considered). Genres change and adapt with the zeitgeist (societal, technological etc).
Creating credible characters with depth who are skillfully portrayed in the acted/animated performance not only bring a film to life but give it the humanness to which an audience can relate and buy into the story. Who are they? Do you know them inside out, their conscious/subconscious
? How do they express themselves, the language they use, how they relate to others, what drives them, what are they hiding etc?
Circumstances don't make a person, they reveal them'...
can we create to

reveal them?
Lighting is instrumental in setting the tone and mood of any given scene. Not only a practical consideration, it adds gravitas to the production/story and can even define
Film Noir for instance uses a low-key black-and-white visual style which emphasises light and shade. Dogme 95 is where only natural or available light is used). Lighting can be the subtle nuances which draw the viewer in on sensory and subconscious levels, and can create such drama capable of shaking us to the bone! Whichever way, the use of creative/realistic lighting will deepen the experience of what we are watching.
Overseen by the director, and in close partnership with
the production designer, 'mise-en-scene' refers to everything which appears before the camera and the design and arrangement of the image it frames. In representing an idea through imagery one chooses
to highlight certain elements and play down others. Often we infer meaning through two objects relationship with each other. Is one depicted as larger? More central? Better lit?
How much space is there surrounding the objects? The varying elements
(i.e. location, sets, props, costume, composition, actors)
contribute to how the films vision is expressed and also to
and intended
emotional response
from the audience.
Though the real drama of a film is underneath what is being said and done, the words spoken, the interactions and relationships formed (as well as body language) are how the viewer sees the characters express themselves - a realistic dialogue which expertly fits the character means we really get to know them and perhaps pre-empt what they may do next. Of course, the script also provides
verbal clues
which help drive the film. Also included in the script is the movements, actions and expressions the actors will make.
The narrative should aim to grab the audiences attention by the first ten minutes; inspiring interest, alerting them to what the film will be about
and giving them a sense of what kind of film they have let themselves in for.
Camera Angle
In film, information comes by way of
clues, dialogue, sound, props, camera angle
and helps guide (or misguide) and hook the viewer though and to the story.
For instance ... A couple are having an argument at home, a siren is heard in the background - is it a portent of how this argument will end up or just there to denote they live in a city?
Examples , references
are also ways in which information can support the
There are a conventional set of shot sizes (i.e. close-up, extreme-wide) and the use of a particular angle can speak volumes in creating levels of dramatic intensity, character relationships and viewer proximity to the subject... so too the different methods of holding camera (i.e. hand-held). Qualities and tones to the overall production, such as gritty, socially realistic or sophisticated say, can be supported by particular angles and methods of shooting. Camera angles/methods can, and do, force the viewer through different levels of engagement. How settings, characters or whole films are shot can define a directors style approach to the production or generally (

"All stories should have a beginning, a middle and an
end, but not necessarily in that order." Jean Luc-Godard
Ideas and Inspiration
come from
Personal Experience
Worldwide current & historical events
Human interest stories
Number 48's trial - The Prisoner
Though not a film, the whole style of The Prisoner is an extraordinarily creative example of mise-en-scene. The location (Port Meirion) - a kaliedescope of colourful random buildings completely juxtaposing the political, philosophical and social satire of the narrative leading it to become one of the most iconic tv series in the history of British TV

The key to character is DESIRE
constructs ;
Narrative Themes
*Man against Man
*Man against nature
*Man against Society
*Man against Machine
*Circular Structure
Narrative begins at the end
(often with the climax) taking
the audience on a journey where
they arrive back where they started
Narrative Structures
*Open Structure -
the Audience are
left to wonder what
happens next and to
make sense of it themselves
*Closed structure -
Definite ending, clear conclusion
for the audience
*Linear Structure -
beginning, middle and end
The Exposition (Show don't tell),

namely the facts, the clues, the history, the society
and setting for example, is a big part of narrative and
guides the screenplay towards what it doesn't need to
say or mention. Following one of the structures above,
the narrative will then move the action along
plot points /causality,
changing tone and characters
circumstances along the way.
Whether the film is based in 'reality' or fantasy, people will always find, or try to find, how what they are watching is relevant to them in some way - consciously or unconsciously
(Audience theory).
Creating a storyline which ultimately has aspects of humanity
(i.e. goals, struggles, motivations
) at it's core therefore, will tend to be meaningful and engaging.
size perspective
Epic proportions
Synchronous sounds
contribute to the realism of film and also help to create a particular atmosphere
effects are not matched with a visible source of the sound on screen. Such sounds are included so as to provide an appropriate emotional nuance, and they may also add to the realism of the film
Background music

is used to add emotion and rhythm to a film. Usually not meant to be noticeable, it often provides a tone or an emotional attitude toward the story and/or the characters epicted. In addition, background music often foreshadows a change in mood.

In Betty Blue, the two protagonists play a piano duet (the music of which is the featured background music), during the wake for a friend’s mother. It is a particularly poignant scene, as the music seems also to encapsulate, like no words can, their loving, passionate, yet ultimately, harrowing union.

Sound - music, fx, environmental, atmospheric are essential parts of a production. Depending on how it's used, sound can create suspense and emotion (i.e. fear, sadness, excitement), define an era or setting and generally support the narrative.
Movies are essentially about entertainment
Movies are documents of their time and place
Movies are artistic forms of self-expression
Movies typically follow a narrative - they tell stories about characters going through experiences.
If the central ingredient in creating a movie is

then it is up to the
to fully realise that character,; their story, their
, their circumstances and how they deal with them, their actions, how they express themselves...
Then they need the
context and environment
in which to operate - creating a plausible world, whether based in reality or surreality, depends on the finer details of
consistency, continuity, comparison and mise-en-scene.
Creative use of technical equipment (
Camera ,lights, audio
) create the
which underlies all
creating and

enhancing the
visual /emotional drama
for the viewer.... hooking them in on
different levels of consciousness.
Nuts in May by Mike Leigh
Dir: Almodavar on set
On the set of Breathless by J-L Godard
Original soundtrack
by TowerBlocker
aka me
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