Anthology, Episodic, Mini-Series, Serial (Part One)

Many say that TV is the better form of storytelling nowadays, as opposed to film. TV allows you the opportunity to deeply develop your characters, navigate complex storylines and tell a story in almost real time. However there are downfalls to the medium and there are with all things. Putting reality TV to the side and focussing on fictional dramas, this next series of posts will discuss the upsides and downsides of the scripted series as well as looking at all forms and models of it.
In this part I’m going to be talking about the Anthology series, in a nutshell the anthology is a series based around one theme or idea that tells different stories with different characters every season, essentially rebooting every 10 episodes or so. One of the most popular examples of this would be the Ryan Murphy’s two FX series ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘American Crime Story’. Murphy is well known for having modernised the anthology series by both; using the same actors across seasons and connecting his separate stories with small details and easter eggs. By using the anthology series template Murphy has been able to tell the stories he wants to tell without over extending the stay of the characters and wearing out their stories to the point where the show becomes pedestrian and loses its reason for existing (which is a topic that will be covered in the next post).
Anthology series even allow for viewers to skip certain seasons if they hear that a particular season is subpar, seeing as the viewing experience will be virtually inaffected and no important details will be missed by skipping a season (although the desired outcome is that every season is great and worth watching).
Ultimately the anthology series is very unique way of telling one overall thematic story but breaking it down to smaller sub-stories and creating a variety of different viewing experiences within the same show.

How Ryan Murphy Pioneered the Anthology Series. (2018). Vulture. Retrieved 18 February 2018, from http://www.vulture.com/2016/02/ryan-murphy-pioneered-the-anthology-series.html

Lynch, J., & Lynch, J. (2018). Ryan Murphy Invented Anthology TV, Then Made Us Wonder How We Lived Without It. Adweek.com. Retrieved 18 February 2018, from http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/ryan-murphy-invented-anthology-tv-then-made-us-wonder-how-we-lived-without-it/

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En Garde

Seeing as the avant garde style of cinema is not my forte nor my preference I researched the types of modern, more mainstream films that take inspiration from art cinema to further my appreciation of the style. A film that came up often was ‘Inception’ and how Christopher Nolan drew inspiration from Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Oddessy’. It also spoke of Kubrick as a mainstream director who dabbled in the avant garde by making ‘2001’.

The famous quote “The good borrow, the great steal” is never more opitimized in terms of filmmaking when talking about Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino learned his filmmaking skills as a self-proclaimed “student of cinema” and often steals and recreates shots from art cinema and contemporizes them in his own special Tarantino way.

There are also examples of great contemporary directors who dabble in independent cinema or art films. A big favourite of mine being Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. After making two beloved comic book films in ‘Blade II’ and ‘Hellboy’, the filmmaker wanted to tell a more personal story and did such by making a period film about a time in history often forgotten in which the characters are Spanish speaking.

The definition of Art Cinema is up in the air, so I chose to view it as anything outside the mainstream and although I may not appreciate experimental films as much, I do take great interest in independent and passion project type cinema.

8 Scenes Quentin Tarantino Stole From Other Movies. (2017, April 29). Retrieved from https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/8-scenes-quentin-tarantino-stole-from-other-movies.html/?a=viewall

Score: Cinema (1) – Computer (0)

I definitely prefer going to the cinema to view a film (uni student budget being a semi-frequent obstacle in that regard). I feel that when I watch a film later on home release or on a streaming platform such as Netflix that I expect less from it and therefore don’t give it the respect it may or may not deserve. When I go see a film in the theatre I am giving it my undivided attention (aside from shovelling popcorn into my face and trying to find the straw to my drink in the dark while keeping my eyes on the screen), however when I watch a film on my laptop or on Blu-ray I know I have the option to pause and go do something else for 5 minutes or sometimes even pausing it until the next day. This leads to a fragmented experience when viewing the film and in turn it leaves less of an impression on me.
When it comes to film techniques that draw me in I have to say that I am a score junkie. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite it’s flaws, however, there is one thing that lets me down when I go see the latest Marvel films and that is that there is no distinctive and memorable score to them (a big exception being Alan Silvestri’s Avengers score, among others). When a film is good, a memorable score can propel it into greatness for me. Another technique that I love are long lingering shots that give the actors in the film an opportunity to show their talent in an unending moment. An example that springs to mind is 2016’s Manchester By The Sea, a film that is filled with moments allowing Casey Affleck (specifically) to shine, a film that is all the better for this particular technique because it is harrowingly beautiful in those moments.

I don’t even dream of regular sheep

Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner is wrought with philosophical questions, social commentary and subtext. Scott’s guess at the state of the world in 2019 from his 1982 perspective isn’t totally accurate of what it appears 2019 will actually look like but the direction the world is headed is very much on course with it. The mere fact that there are off world colonies full of people fleeing the smoggy, dirty world that we’ve made for ourselves proves it because we, in this day are trying to send people to other planets and colonize them. This is subtext in the way that the film does not make a big deal of it, but acknowledges the state of the world as if it is normal and should be treated as such.

The big questions and ideas, though, come from the human/replicant dynamic, the plot of the film being that replicants who are used as slaves become self aware and revolt against their masters and simply seek a life akin to that of a regular human, a wish that the humans regard with an apathetic nature. The humans mock and belittle the replicants and even throw racial slurs their way such as “skin job”. This is quite clearly a retelling of sorts of the days of slavery in the 1800s and earlier.

However, the film also tells the story of men seeking their god to ask the age old question; why?. Not only do the replicants seek to be treated equal, but also to extend their life-span, something that we as people are actively trying to do. The film also poses the question that maybe we might be better than our makers, in the film in Roy Batty’s final moments of life, he choses to save Deckard rather than let him die, and accept his death with grace, something that God is seemingly incapable of.

Quiet, Please.

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker technology can be used to just to up the spectacle of the film without adding any texture or depth. The argument can be made that, yes, in a way the advancement of technology in film has made it easier for film makers to be lazy and lean on the effects to tell their story, for example, Michael Bay’s Transformers films. However there is a flip side to that coin, a director such as Christopher Nolan proves, especially with his last two films (2014’s Interstellar and 2017’s Dunkirk)and of course all his previous work, that he can properly use film technology to completely immerse the audience in the film whether he’s making you feel as if you’re in the silent vacuum of space or terrified as a boots on the ground soldier in WWII.

The kind of stories I’d like to tell if I had the chance to be a film maker who was allowed to do anything would probably be more quiet storytelling. I enjoy seeing the broad visual scope on screen but for me I like characters and dialogue and stillness, technology would not factor into it as much as your average blockbuster. Writer Taylor Sheridan’s last two films (2016’s Hell or High Water and 2017’s Wind River) are good examples of the type of stories I’d like to tell, minimal technological involvement aside from the obvious cameras and etc., and more about people trying to get by and sometimes causing a little trouble.

Applaud The Screen

There are many ways to take a film in now with various streaming platforms, home releases etc. but nothing beats going to the theatre for me. Other unruly patrons aside, in the world we live in today where attention spans are shrinking its far more engaging to sit in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers and share a cinematic experience for two hours. Some of the best movie-going experiences I’ve had are in good comedies and good horrors because they both illicit strong reactions and you share them as a community of sorts. Because I am such an avid fan of the film community I follow film news and find out every bit of information about the movie and seen all the trailers before it is released which is good at times but more recently I’ve found that experiences where I steer clear of the information and essentially go in blind are a whole different type of exciting. Most recently with this year’s Get Out, I didn’t watch any trailers, read any plot summaries or anything, I knew who the director and cast were and that’s it and I had an amazing time. Then again, a lot can be said for fan experience films like Marvel or Star Wars where the news and marketing campaigns leading up to the release is part of the fun and the overall experience of the film. In the end, no matter if it’s an indie film or studio blockbuster, the movie theatre is where I want to see it because nothing beats sharing the experience of something new with people you don’t know, but you know they came to see it for the same reasons as you.

I Wasn’t Even Supposed To Be Here Today

In looking at Indie Marketing Techniques I found myself thinking back on Income and Art which led me back to the hustle. Obviously there are avenues such as film festivals and such but there are two great styles of marketing that I love, the first being viral marketing. Viral marketing can be somewhat gimmicky if left in lesser hands but there are many examples of great viral marketing campaigns. These campaigns bring the audience in to the film, they involve them months and months before the film is even in theaters, one famous example of this is 1999’s The Blair Witch Project.

This film had the advantage of somewhat kicking off a new, unexplored genre of horror film making (that being the found-footage genre) but it didn’t fail to fool audiences with the lead up to the film and the film itself. Through the use of a simple website and sprinkling of a campfire like legend of the blair witch, the film had many people believing that this was real, thus adding to the frightening nature of the film and being one of the most memorable marketing campaigns of all time. There are several other examples of great viral marketing, most recently with 2016’s Deadpool, the film and character’s self-aware nature led to a hilarious slew of trailers and real world clips that no one could stay away from that film.

However reading about marketing got me thinking about the hustle and the famous story of how Steven Spielberg faked it til he made it and got himself an office at the Universal lot despite actually not working there. The story goes that he was invited to a friend’s set one day and the next day came back, the guard recognized him from the day before and let him through the gate and he continued to do this for months gradually finding an empty office and filling it with his writing equipment and strolling the lot gaining inspirations from watching other directors work in their films. The authenticity of this story is in question despite coming from the master’s mouth himself but it’s the idea of this story that I love. The pure desire to be around films that much that he hustled his way into a studio lot for months is the kind of drive that inspires me to work harder and push my own brand no matter what. Whether or not the story is true it shows the kind of perseverance and insanity it takes to become recognized in the film industry and I hope I have the testicular fortitude to take it to such lengths if ever I get the chance.