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AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film       The Hollywood Film Industry




AS Film Studies




FM2: British &
Amer...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film            The Hollywood Film Industry
The American Film Industry
The film in...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                         The Hollywood Film Industry
Hollywood
As early as the...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                 The Hollywood Film Industry
Association of America (MPDAA); t...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                           The Hollywood Film Industry
entertainment that coul...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                         The Hollywood Film Industry
cities en masse – in addi...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film             The Hollywood Film Industry
studio, distribution division, and su...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film       The Hollywood Film Industry




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AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film           The Hollywood Film Industry

The New Hollywood system
In contempora...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film          The Hollywood Film Industry

Producers
   • In the face of industry ...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film         The Hollywood Film Industry



Stars in the New Hollywood




   •   ...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film             The Hollywood Film Industry



Distribution
It can be argued that...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film          The Hollywood Film Industry
As we have discussed, large media conglo...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film           The Hollywood Film Industry
Corporate support for Blu-ray

Blu-ray ...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film           The Hollywood Film Industry
Adaptability of the film industry

Perh...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film          The Hollywood Film Industry
In the face of continued competition fro...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                      The Hollywood Film Industry
The main thing to take on bo...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                        The Hollywood Film Industry
The film industry says tha...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film                       The Hollywood Film Industry
computer, it can be burnt t...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film           The Hollywood Film Industry
   7. What conclusions can be drawn abo...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film          The Hollywood Film Industry
PRODUCTION
There are three phases to the...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film             The Hollywood Film Industry
Distribution
This involves making sur...
AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film           The Hollywood Film Industry
   •   Choose one fo the following film...
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Hollywood film industry

  1. 1. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry AS Film Studies FM2: British & American Cinema: The Hollywood Film Industry 1
  2. 2. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry The American Film Industry The film industry is one of global proportions. Production, film distribution and exhibition reach around the world and continue to adapt to varying political, economic and technological changes. Hollywood however continues to be a dominant factor in our film viewing experiences. Even if we choose not to watch Hollywood movies, the chances are that we will encounter Hollywood marketing through accessing other media (trailers on TV, internet, videogame tie-ins), walking through town (posters), listening to radio (film adverts, ‘exclusive’ interviews/promotions), listening to music (‘official’ soundtracks), catching the bus (advertising hoardings), eating breakfast cereal (free toys/promotions inside), going to bed (‘Spiderman’ pyjamas) etc. Considering that Hollywood remains a suburb of Los Angeles, California, its reach and saturation remains global and unavoidable. Our own experiences will play an important role in this study: the magazines and newspapers we read, our conversations with friends and family, the DVDs we buy and films we watch and download. These experiences confirm the presence of the film industry as a worldwide commercial fact. • Aside from Hollywood, what other film industries are you aware of? • How do you consume film? Where do you watch them? Who with? • List as many cinemas as you can within five or six miles. What sorts of films are available? How may screens? Do you know how much the tickets are? How do they advertise? 2
  3. 3. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Hollywood As early as the 1910’s the US film industry began to shift its base from the East coast to what was essentially a place in the Californian Desert on the edge of Los Angeles. Since this time Hollywood has famously been built around studios: well financed big name companies in the business of making films and making money from films. • What do you think was so attractive about building film studios in such a remote location? What could they achieve? • Watch the trailers for Casablanca (1942) and Citizen Kane (1941). How might these be seen as typical Hollywood movies? What parallels can we draw with those produced today? History Origins In the United States, the first exhibitions of films for large audiences typically followed the intermissions in vaudeville shows. Entrepreneurs began travelling to exhibit their films, bringing to the world the first forays into dramatic film-making. The first huge success of American cinema, as well as the largest experimental achievement to this point, was The Great Train Robbery, directed by Edwin S. Porter. In the earliest days of the American film industry, New York was the epicenter of film-making. The Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, built during the silent film era, was used by the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields. Chelsea, Manhattan was also frequently used. Mary Pickford, an Academy Award winning actress, shot some of her early films in this area. Rise of Hollywood In early 1910, director D.W. Griffith was sent by the Biograph Company to the west coast with his acting. They started filming on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles. This place was called "Hollywood". Griffith then filmed the first movie ever shot in Hollywood. In 1913 many movie-makers headed west to avoid the fees imposed by Thomas Edison, who owned patents on the movie-making process. In Los Angeles, California, the studios and Hollywood grew. Before World War I, movies were made in several U.S. cities, but filmmakers gravitated to southern California as the industry developed. They were attracted by the mild climate and reliable sunlight, which made it possible to film movies outdoors year-round, and by the varied scenery that was available. There are several starting points for American cinema, but it was Griffith's Birth of a Nation that pioneered the filming vocabulary that still dominates celluloid to this day. At motion pictures' height of popularity in the mid-1940s, the studios were cranking out a total of about 400 movies a year, seen by an audience of 90 million Americans per week. Sound also became widely used in Hollywood in the late 1920s, after The Jazz Singer was successfully released as a talkie in 1927. In 1922, US politician Will H. Hays left politics and formed the movie studio boss organization known as the Motion Pictures Distributors 3
  4. 4. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Association of America (MPDAA); the organization became the Motion Picture Association of America after Hays retired in 1945. Golden Age of Hollywood During the so-called ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’, which lasted from the end of the silent era in American cinema in the late 1920s to the 1950s, movies were issued from the Hollywood studios like the cars rolling off Henry Ford's assembly lines; the start of the Golden Age was arguably when The Jazz Singer was released in 1927 and increased box-office profits for films as sound was introduced to feature films. Most Hollywood pictures adhered closely to a formula—Western, slapstick comedy, musical, animated cartoon, biopic (biographical picture) —and the same creative teams often worked on films made by the same studio. After The Jazz Singer was released in 1927, Warner Bros. gained huge success and was able to acquire their own string of movie theatres; MGM had also owned a string of theatres since forming in 1924, know through Loews Theatres, and the Fox film Corporation owned the Fox Theatre strings as well. RKO also bought its own theatres. Paramount, bought a number of theatres in the late 1920s as well. It was possible to guess which studio made which film, largely because of the actors who appeared in it; MGM, for example, claimed it had contracted "more stars than there are in heaven." Each studio had its own style and characteristic touches which made it possible to know this - a trait that does not exist today. Yet each movie was a little different, and, unlike the craftsmen who made cars, many of the people who made movies were artists. Movie-making was still a business, however, and motion picture companies made money by operating under the studio system. The major studios kept thousands of people on salary— actors, producers, directors, writers, stunt men, craftpersons, and technicians. And they owned hundreds of theatres in cities and towns across the nation, theatres that showed their films and that were always in need of fresh material. In 1930, MPDDA President Will Hays also founded the Hays (Production) Code, which followed censorship guidelines and went into effect after government threats of censorship expanded by 1930. However the code was never enforced until 1934, after the new Catholic Church organization The Legion of Decency- appalled by Mae West's very successful sexual appearances in She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel - threatened a boycott of motion pictures if it didn't go into effect, and those that didn't obtain a seal of approval from the Production Code Administration had to pay a $25,000.00 fine and could not profit in the theatres, as the MPDDA owned every theatre in the country through the Big Five studios. Throughout the 1930s, as well as most of the golden age, MGM dominated the film screen and had the top stars in Hollywood, and was also credited for creating the Hollywood star system altogether; stars included "King of Hollywood" Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly. Decline of the studio system The studio system and the Golden Age of Hollywood succumbed to two forces in the late 1940s: • a federal action that separated the production of films from their exhibition; and • Changing leisure patterns and social activity, notably the advent of television and exodus of families from the cities into the suburbs. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the major studios ownership of theatres and film distribution (vertical integration) was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. "Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony.” Detail from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 As a result, the studios began to release actors and technical staff from their contracts with the studios. This changed the nature of film making by the major Hollywood studios, as each could have an entirely different cast and creative team. This resulted in the gradual loss of the characteristics which made MGM, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, RKO, and Fox films immediately identifiable. Also, the number of movies being produced annually dropped as the average budget soared, marking a major change in strategy for the industry. Studios now aimed to produce 4
  5. 5. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry entertainment that could not be offered by television: spectacular, larger-than-life productions. Studios also began to sell portions of their theatrical film libraries to other companies to sell to television. By 1949, all major film studios had given up ownership of their theatres. Television and Hollywood Television was also instrumental in the decline of Hollywood's Golden Age as it broke the movie industry's position in American entertainment. Despite this, the film industry was also able to gain some leverage for future films as long time government censorship faded in the 1950s. After the Paramount anti-trust case ended, Hollywood movie studios no longer owned theatres, and thus made it so foreign films could be released in American theatres without censorship. By 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had replaced the Hays Code-which was now greatly violated after the government threat of censorship that justified the origin of the code had ended- with the film rating system. The MPAA The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) formed in 1922. Originally the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) (pre - 1942 and 1946 - 1948), it is a non-profit business and trade association based in the United States, which was formed to advance the business interests of movie studios. MPAA members include the major Hollywood studios: o The Walt Disney Company; o Sony Pictures; o Paramount Pictures (Viacom); o 20th Century Fox (News Corporation); o Universal Studios (NBC Universal); o Warner Bros (Time Warner). The MPAA administers the voluntary film rating system. As part of its campaign to stop copyright infringement the MPAA is fighting to stop the sharing of copyrighted works via peer- to-peer file-sharing networks. The MPAA's anti-piracy campaign has gained much publicity and criticism. The 'New Hollywood' and Post-classical cinema 'Post-classical cinema' is a term used to describe the changing methods of storytelling in the New Hollywood. It has been argued that new approaches to drama and characterization played upon audience expectations acquired in the classical period: chronology may be scrambled, storylines may feature "twist endings", and lines between the antagonist and protagonist may be blurred. The roots of post-classical storytelling may be seen in film noir, in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and in Hitchcock's storyline-shattering Psycho. 'New Hollywood' is a term used to describe the emergence of a new generation of film school- trained directors who had absorbed the techniques developed in Europe in the 1960s; The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde marked the beginning of American cinema rebounding as well, as a new generation of films would afterwards gain success at the box offices as well. Filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Brian de Palma, Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin and Steven Spielberg came to produce fare that paid homage to the history of film, and developed upon existing genres and techniques. In the early 1970s, their films were often both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. While the early New Hollywood films like Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider had been relatively low-budget affairs with amoral heroes and increased sexuality and violence, the enormous success enjoyed by Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas with The Godfather, Jaws, and Star Wars, respectively helped to give rise to the modern "blockbuster", and induced studios to focus ever more heavily on trying to produce enormous hits. The increasing indulgence of these young directors didn’t help. Often, they’d go over schedule, and over budget, thus bankrupting themselves or the studio. Suburban exodus While suburbs had originated far earlier; the suburban population in North America exploded after World War II. Returning veterans wishing to start a settled life moved en masse to the suburbs. Levittown developed as a major prototype of mass-produced housing. At the same time, African Americans were rapidly moving north for better jobs and educational opportunities than were available to them in the segregated South. Their arrival in Northern 5
  6. 6. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry cities en masse – in addition to race riots in several large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia – further stimulated white suburban migration. In the U.S., 1950 was the first year that more people lived in suburbs than elsewhere. In the U.S, the development of the skyscraper and the sharp inflation of downtown real estate prices also led to downtowns being more fully dedicated to businesses, thus pushing residents outside the city centre. For the Hollywood film industry, this led to the cinemas of North America failing into decline as many were in city centres and not the suburbs. This would be addressed later with the rise of suburban ‘multiplex’ cinemas. • Summarise the rise and subsequent demise of the ‘golden age’ of Hollywood by selecting six significant events 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. The Studio System The studio system was a means of film production and distribution dominant in Hollywood from the early 1920s through the early 1950s. The term studio system refers to the practice of large motion picture studios • producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under often long-term contract and • Pursuing vertical integration through ownership or effective control of distributors and movie theatres, guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking techniques. This business model is also known as vertical integration which meant ownership and control of production, distribution and exhibition. One of the techniques used to support the studio system was block booking, a system of selling multiple films to a theatre as a unit. Such a unit—five films was the standard practice for most of the 1940s—typically included only one particularly attractive film, the rest a mix of A-budget pictures of dubious quality and B movies A 1948 Supreme Court ruling against those distribution and exhibition practices hastened the end of the studio system. In 1954, the last of the operational links between a major production studio and theatres chain was broken and the era of the studio system was officially over. The period stretching from the introduction of sound to the court ruling and the beginning of the studio break-ups, 1930–1950, is commonly known as the Golden Age of Hollywood. During the Golden Age, eight companies comprised the so-called major studios that promulgated the Hollywood studio system. Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production 6
  7. 7. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry studio, distribution division, and substantial theatre chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel The Big Five: • Fox (later 20th Century-Fox), • Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: MGM), • Paramount Pictures, • RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), • Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theatre circuits. The eighth of the Golden Age majors, United Artists, owned a few theatres and had access to two production facilities owned by members of its controlling partnership group, but it functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films. • Who benefits and who loses out during this period of the studio system? Explain why. RKO went out of business in 1955: a victim of the rise of TV in America. Warner on the other hand has gone from strength to strength. In 1989 they merged with Turner Broadcasting and then with internet giant AOL in 2000. The are now one of the largest entertainment conglomerates. 20th Century Fox are a similar example and are currently owned by News Corp., again one of the worlds largest media companies. • Look over News Corporations media ownership. What are the implications for film marketing? Should we have any concerns? 7
  8. 8. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry 8
  9. 9. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry The New Hollywood system In contemporary Hollywood there is what is known as a ‘package unit’ system at work: • Studio space is rented and personnel hired for the duration of the one project. • Individual producers now have to put together a one-off package of finance, personnel, equipment and studio time for each film being made. • The studios no longer have to be concerned with keeping busy what was effectively a factory-full of workers permanently on their payroll; instead arrangements can be made to film each one-off movie wherever is most convenient around the world, perhaps in places where union laws might be less stringent and rates of pay considerably lower. The main Hollywood companies were driven over to this system in an effort to cut expenditure in the 1950’s in order to survive the decline of cinema-going as a leisure activity. Actors and directors • In ‘old Hollywood’ they were under strict contracts with studios • They worked on one film until it was finished and then ‘assigned’ another. • In the ‘new Hollywood’ they have agents to cut deals for them. • Some directors and actors have arguably more power than the studios • Can you think of any examples of directors and stars in Hollywood today that could be described as ‘powerful figures’? What evidence is there of their power? What is their relationship with the audience? 9
  10. 10. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Producers • In the face of industry decline in the 1950’s, studios became more flexible towards independent producers enabling them to pick and choose projects. • Look at a recent film and find out: o Who produced it? o What other films have they produced or been involved in? o What kind of films do they seem to favour? Genre? Budget? Budgets ‘Old Hollywood’ offered two kinds of movies: A-movies (big budget) and B- movies (low budget). These would often be shown as a ‘double-bill’ in cinemas, the logic being that the B-movies offered good percentage profits in terms of box office and as such act as a ‘buffer’ for the more expensive and therefore more risky A-movie. • Watch two trailers from this period, one A-movie and one B-movie. Can you tell the difference? Are they presented in a different way? Using the trailer analysis, what would you say the modern equivalent of the B- movie is? Are they still popular? How are they marketed? Provide examples. 10
  11. 11. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Stars in the New Hollywood • Clive Owen is a British Actor but has established himself as a Hollywood actor. What is so typical about him as a star? Does he meet our expectations of a ‘star’? Looking at the marketing for some of his recent films (above) has he become typecast? What does he bring to Hollywood films that perhaps American actors don’t? 11
  12. 12. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Distribution It can be argued that film distribution is the most powerful part of the film industry. Even a badly made film can be made ‘desirable’ through mass marketing and targeting certain audiences and demographics. Film exhibition is only the end result of film distribution: who will want to see a film they know nothing about? In Britain at any one time more than 90% of screens are showing American films. • Look over the top ten movies currently on release. Who distributed them? Which distributor is the most successful? Independent production companies and Hollywood Many film makers in Hollywood have been able to set up their own production companies. Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino for example have both set up their own production companies. Significantly however, independent companies still rely on the major Hollywood studios to distribute their films. The main distributors are: Paramount Warners (Time-Warner-AOL) Universal (Matsushita) 20th Century Fox (News Corporation) Disney & Columbia Pictures (Sony) Hollywood and new technologies Throughout the 20th Century, the film industry has faced a number of threats, most notably from television. What did could cinema offer though that TV could not? • How did it compete with video, DVD and ‘home cinema’? 12
  13. 13. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry As we have discussed, large media conglomerates now own many major film studios resulting in a form of business called synergy. Synergy: Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect. • In terms of the Hollywood film industry, what does this mean? Film as a commercial product If you look at any DVD case you own, you will notice that a studio, for example Universal or Warner’s, owns the material on the DVD. Warnings come before the movie starts reminding you that you cannot hold public showings, copy the material, lend to others etc. Of cause many of us do this or may have doe in the past but this is in breach of the law. This then raises the question of what we really ‘own’ when we buy a DVD. • What other forms can movies take aside from VHS and DVD? What are the benefits to the studios? Are there any downsides for the studios? 13
  14. 14. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Corporate support for Blu-ray Blu-ray Disc gained a large amount of support in the corporate world, with companies such as Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Panasonic supporting it. Blu-ray Disc was first developed by Sony Corporation in 2002 as a next generation data and video storage format alternative to DVD. In a recent interview with GameSpot, Sir Howard Stringer CEO of Sony had this to say: "It's an expensive way of showing Universal discs. The three biggest box-office winners of this year were, in order: Sony, Disney, and Fox. Those are the three Blu-ray players. When you consider that those three successful studios will be delivering last year's successful box office in home video this year, then that's an enormous advantage. The fourth is Warner, and they release in both formats, so it doesn't hurt. If you are going to be buying discs, you are going to be buying an awful lot of Blu-ray discs going forward— if you want Pirates of the Caribbean or James Bond or Da Vinci Code or Spider-Man. Universal is the only one with HD DVD. I don't feel terribly intimidated." In 2008, Warner Brother’s said that they would only release movies in Blu-ray format. This was instrumental in ending HD DVD part in the ‘format war’. Sony’s Playstation 3 comes with an integrated Blu-ray player making it a valuable tool in getting Blu-ray players into living rooms across the world in the guise of a games console. The convergent nature of the machine gives Sony a financial advantage by using the PS3 as a platform to promote its library of movie titles. • Look over the Powerpoint presentation on Blu-ray and discuss the implications for the film industry. 14
  15. 15. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Adaptability of the film industry Perhaps the key to understanding the success of Hollywood over the past 100 years is to recognise the way in which it has always demonstrated an incredible ability to adapt to changing business circumstances. At heart the mainstream American film industry has recognised that what it is offering the public is a product, and that its success depends upon adapting that product to a constantly changing market. Hollywood has continually managed to find ways to embrace new technologies. On the Waterfront (1954), an early film staring Marlon Brando, was made during the period when the American film industry was facing perhaps its major challenge. It needed to reorganise itself in the face of competition from the then stunning new technology of TV. Studios were beginning to use independent producers; they would finance a one-off project for one of these producers and then distribute the resulting films. This meant that they no longer had the ongoing week-in, week-out expense of staffing and running production facilities. The package of business arrangements (cast and crew to be signed up and paid for a given period, clearance for filming at various locations to be obtained, studio space to be booked for filming on set, editing facilities to be lined up) necessary to complete the On the Waterfront project was organised by independent producer Sam Spiegel, who then released the finished product through Columbia. It was a relatively low-budget movie being made for just $800,000 on a tight 35 day shoot but it grossed $9.5 million at the box-office when it was first released. • Research The Full Monty (1997). Which production companies were involved? Who distributed the movie? What was the budget? How much did this movie make? 15
  16. 16. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry In the face of continued competition from TV and changing leisure patterns, the industry continued to lose ground during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the Mid 1970’s all this changed however with the release of Star Wars (1977) which took more than $46 million during its first week. This was achieved by coming up with a strong initial concept, marketing the film at the same moment to more cinemas than was usual at the time. The film became the first to gross more than $400 million at the US box office and effectively changed marketing practices and release strategies for the industry. What is the appeal of this film from the marketing alone? What does it offer to it audience? 16
  17. 17. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry The main thing to take on board is the fact that despite difficult times, in general Hollywood has been able to continually reinvent itself by seeing film as a creative product that has to respond to a changing marketplace and take advantage of new opportunities offered by new technologies. At each moment in its history when the industry has faced the need to reorganise in the face of new competition, the effort has always been to reorganise in as effective a way as possible in order to continue to make money. • What current problems might the industry be seeing right now? How might it overcome them? Is there any evidence of them doing this? Pirate-sharing films throttle Hollywood The film studios are powerless against a new breed of pirate sharing films online even before they are released The Sunday Times, January 25, 2009 Matthew Bingham and Alex Pell Fancy watching the latest Hollywood film in the comfort of your own home tonight, free of charge? The Wrestler, perhaps, or Slumdog Millionaire — or even Revolutionary Road, the Kate Winslet drama due out on Friday.All you need is a home computer and an internet link. Illegal downloading of films started as a trickle with the arrival of broadband but has suddenly turned into a flood. About 6% of the 15m or more consumer broadband users in Britain freely admit to downloading illegally posted films at least once a month. A Hollywood blockbuster film is typically downloaded 2m-3m times worldwide in the month of its official release, according to Envisional, a Cambridge-based internet monitoring firm that acts for several Hollywood studios. Illegally posted films even have a top 100 chart on The Pirate Bay, a website that offers links to pirated films. The reasons for the sudden surge are intriguing. The first is that technology for downloading has become better and cheaper — computers with vast storage capacity and drives that will burn DVDs; high-speed internet connections. Equally to blame, though, is a band of dedicated and fearless internet pirates who get their hands on copies of films, sometimes even before they are in cinemas, and make them available through filesharing websites. These uploaders even brand the pirated titles with their signatures as a mark of quality and proof of their audacity. The films they post on the web are not the grainy versions filmed in cinemas with shaky camcorders and marred by the occasional member of the audience walking in front of the camera, but can be DVD-quality versions, sometimes even in high definition, the new crystal- clear format. 17
  18. 18. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry The film industry says that the growth of these sites is a threat to its very existence — piracy of all forms is estimated to have cost the film industry £486m in the UK in 2007, the most recent figure available. The practice deprives writers, artists and producers of a fair reward for their work. In December a group of more than 100 of Britain’s best-known producers, directors and writers, including Sir Alan Parker, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Curtis and Stephen Daldry, wrote to The Times demanding action — but there seems little the authorities can do about it. Like home taping in the 1980s, which caught on with the arrival of the compact cassette recorder and survived attempts by the music industry to stop it (remember the “home taping is killing music” campaign?), film downloading has defied efforts by the industry to stamp it out. “We are aware of the increasing seriousness of the problem and are giving it a high priority,” says Eddy Leviten of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact), which represents the audiovisual industry on copyright matters. “Shutting down servers and services can be a complex business, not helped by the cross-border nature of the internet.” So who are the pirates and why do they go to such lengths to upload films? Over the past three years, a character calling himself aXXo — assuming it is a man — has built a reputation as the best in the business by consistently posting good-quality copies of the latest films (often before their official release), carefully compressed so that they fit neatly onto single CDs. In a recent survey, one in three movies shared online was attributed to him. Little is known about aXXo but a recent interview did appear on a blog about filesharing. He remained tight-lipped about how he obtained his material but did explain why he had illegally posted at least 1,000 films online in the past three years. “If I see a great film,” he said, “I believe everyone has the right to be entertained by it.” This hippie ideal seems to be at the core of the pirating community. Britain’s leading uploader is KingBen666, who runs a website where filesharers post music, video and software and swap tips. When we contacted him he declined to speak but did refer us to another of the site’s uploaders, known as Geno. Aged 19 and based in the Midlands, Geno was willing to talk about his motives. “I don’t make any money and I don’t condone profiting from this kind of thing,” Geno said. “The keyword is ‘sharing’. I do it for people who don’t always have the means to pay full prices. Compared to all the money the film industry makes, what we do is a drop in the ocean.” He was scornful of the anti-copying security used by the business. “It seems no matter how much companies are willing to spend on protection, clever and talented people out there are going to be able to defeat it,” he said. Downloading films via these sites couldn’t be easier, though it is illegal to possess copies or distribute them (see panel). To demonstrate, and with the knowledge of Fact, we went to filesharing sites featuring five of the films that won this year’s Golden Globes awards: The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (the latest Woody Allen), The Reader and Revolutionary Road. We also downloaded a couple of recent action films, Quantum of Solace, the most recent Bond film, and Iron Man. Once the right free software had been installed from the internet, it was simply a matter of clicking on the film and choosing where on the computer to store it. Because the files are large — 700MB is typical — they can take hours to download. Once the film is on the 18
  19. 19. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry computer, it can be burnt to a DVD or streamed wirelessly to a TV via a video-receiver gadget such as a PS3 or Xbox. The picture quality is limited mainly by the size of file you download — even the lowest-quality films were almost as good as a Freeview digital broadcast. The fact that all the films were of such high quality raises the question of where they came from. The filesharers we spoke to refused to elaborate but on the versions of The Wrestler and Slumdog Millionaire that we downloaded a clue was visible in the form of a caption that flashed up on the screen at the start. It read: “Property of Fox. May not be copied, transferred or sold.” Many pirated films, it seems, are leaked by disgruntled film studio employees and DVD factory workers. More often, though, the films have been pirated from pre-release DVDs distributed by the studios themselves. Contrary to popular belief, the red-carpet film premiere is not the first time most people in the industry see a movie. Studios routinely send out so-called screeners to critics, awards judges and others well in advance of a film’s official release, and these screener discs often make their way online. Unfortunately, then, the studios, in their eagerness to impress the cognoscenti before a film opens, may be unwittingly aiding the pirates. Perhaps they need to step up their security. If they don’t, and attempts to enforce the law do not improve, things could soon be a whole lot worse. A new breed of pirate site streams blockbusters to ordinary web browsers — no fancy software or waiting for downloads. At the moment, watching a streamed film is a patchy experience with frequent interruptions. Soon, though, as connection speeds grow faster, seeing a pirated film will be as instant and easy as turning on the TV, and that could mean an unhappy ending for the motion picture industry. • Read through the article above and answer the following questions 1. How many people freely admit to downloading movies illegally each month? 2. How many times is a typical Hollywood movie downloaded in the month of its release? 3. Why has there been a sudden ‘surge’ of downloading? 4. How much did it cost the film industry in the UK in 2007? 5. Explain what the process of ‘sharing’ means in the pirating community. 6. What can be done with the film once a file has been downloaded? 19
  20. 20. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry 7. What conclusions can be drawn about the future of the film industry if this continues? Try to provide positive and negative outcomes. • Bring in a DVD cover that you find interesting or eye-catching o How does it attract attention? o What words or names are used? Why? How prominent are they and why? Discuss fonts used and colour. o What image has been chosen? What meaning do you think we are supposed to take away from this? Can you break the image down into component parts and discuss them separately? • Analyse some film trailers and answer the following questions: o Which studio made the film? What expectations do we have? o What expectations does it fulfil? • Go out I small groups with a camera and take as many pictures as you can find of film marketing. The process of making a film The three key components of making a film are: • PRODUCTION (make it) • DISTRIBUTION (advertise it) • EXHIBITION (show it) In the grand scale of the ‘global’ film industry and Hollywood’s multi million dollar budgets, it is easy to lose sight of this simple process and acknowledge that these three elements are all equally important. • Imagine you are making a film here in school. How would you go about addressing each of these stages? 20
  21. 21. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry PRODUCTION There are three phases to the production 1. Pre-production: idea development, script writing, funds are raised, contracts are signed 2. Production (the ‘shoot’): images and sound are recorded on film or using digital technologies. 3. Post-production: images and sounds are edited together. After the film has been competed, some important questions need to be answered. • Congratulations! A large Hollywood distributor has now snapped up the school film we discussed earlier. Lets discuss our options with advantages and disadvantages: o In what countries is it to be shown? o Should there be a global release date? o Should some countries receive the film before others? o Which cinema chains should be used? o How should this initial release be built upon in order to maximise the potential audience? How quickly should we move on to a DVD release? o How long should it be before it is shown on satellite, cable and terrestrial? 21
  22. 22. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry Distribution This involves making sure a release pattern is put into place that will enable the product to reach the widest and largest audience possible. Of course, film distributors may be small firms specialising in certain types of film or multinational corporations with global networks of offices, and the product they deal with and markets they focus on will vary enormously. However the distributor essentially: • Acquires the rights to the film • Decides the number of prints to be made and released to exhibitors • Negotiates a release date for the prints • Arranges the delivery of prints to cinemas • Provides trailers and publicity material for exhibitors • Puts together a package of advertising and publicity to promote the film • Negotiates related promotional and/or merchandising deals. Marketing and advertising This may be seen as three distinct areas: advertising, publicity and promotional deals worked out with other companies. Within an overall marketing budget possibilities within each of these areas will be considered in terms of the likely return on ticket sales weighed against cost. The big plus in favour of publicity is that it is essentially free. Consider the BBC’s Friday Night with Jonathan Ross show which regularly features Hollywood actors promoting their new film. In turn, this is of course welcomed by the TV company as the appeal of a Hollywood star will bring in audiences. Advertising on the other hand has to be paid for and popular newspapers and magazines will be costly, hence the reason why only big budget movies reach the larger publications. The same applies to ad breaks in TV shows. Trailers are a traditional way of advertising upcoming movies. This though has seen changes with some movies building anticipation with a series of trailers sometimes months before the release date. ‘Teasers’ may just feature a few seconds of footage. Posters can be used in a similar way, some avoiding the title in favour of an iconic image associated with a franchise or an abstract image. These ‘teasers’ will later become the ‘main poster’ to coincide with the release date. A third poster featuring critics (favourable) responses may also be used. Promotions Special concessionary deals may be offered to sectors of the public believed most likely to be interested in the film being promoted; competitions connected to the film may be set up in magazines or newspapers, or on food packaging likely to be picked up by the target audience.; and merchandise related to the film in some way may be given away or offered at special rates. In each case the effort is to raise awareness of the forthcoming film among potential consumers within the target audience. 22
  23. 23. AS Film Studies: FM2 British & American Film The Hollywood Film Industry • Choose one fo the following films: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bridesmaids, The Hangover 2. Identify the target demographic and what other interests they might have. o What concessionary deals might appeal to this audience? o What competitions might help to promote this film to its target audience? o How would you use merchandising to promote this film? Exhibition Cinema exhibition has always tended to be controlled by a relatively small number of companies, and often the major studios responsible for making films will have considerable stakes in some of these companies that are not responsible for showing their products. If small independent exhibitors want to screen less well-known films they need to know their local film-going market well, since they will be working without the back-up of the major marketing campaigns that accompany big studio productions. But of course exhibition no longer refers simply to showing films at the cinema. We can now see films on terrestrial TV, satellite and cable (including pay-per-view), on video, DVD or Blu-ray, high definition home cinema set-ups, via the internet and download services, even mobile phones and i-Pods. Essay questions o To what extent are Hollywood films simply ‘products’ made to make a profit? o How important is marketing in influencing people to watch films both at the cinema and on DVD? o How are billboard posters and poster-style advertisements in newspapers and magazines used to create audiences for films? 23
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