Tuesday, June 13, 2017

GCSE Media Studies PPE preparation: TV Drama

Your PPE Media Studies exam is on Tuesday 27 June at 8.30am in the Lecture Theatre.

The preliminary material that gives you the brief you need to follow in the exam is available here. You will also be given a printed copy in class.

You MUST complete the following research and planning tasks before the exam on Tuesday 27 June.


Waterloo Road

1) Watch the whole of Waterloo Road - Season 1, Episode 1:

2) Read this Waterloo Road Wikipedia entry and write down the number of seasons and episodes broadcast and the channels they have appeared on. 

3) How does Waterloo Road meet the key conventions of TV Drama?

4) Write down three storylines (or narratives) from Waterloo Road - note which season the storyline appeared in. They can be from the first episode above or from another season if you wish.

5) Why might audiences have enjoyed Waterloo Road?

Doctor Who

1) Watch these extracts from the classic Doctor Who episode 'Blink':

2) Read the opening of this Wikipedia entry for Doctor Who and make notes on why the show is so popular.

3) Now read this Wikipedia entry for the episode above - 'Blink'. Why is 'Blink' considered to be one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever?

3) List the key conventions of TV Drama that you can find in Doctor Who.

4) Write down three storylines (or narratives) from Doctor Who - note which season the storyline appeared in. They can be from the earlier episodes (such as 'Blink' above) or from the most recent series if you wish.

5) What audience pleasures are provided by Doctor Who?


1) Brainstorm ideas for a new TV Drama for a 15-24 audience demographic. Plan out the following:
  1. Title
  2. Tagline - how will you sell the drama to an audience?
  3. Setting(s)
  4. Main characters and why audiences will like/dislike them
  5. At least three of the narratives or storylines - at least one should cover the series arc (a narrative that continues across the whole series).
  6. Potential TV channels and timings to broadcast your new TV drama
  7. Your TV drama's USP - unique selling point
  8. Your show's detailed target audience (demographics and similar shows they might watch). Remember: the age group specified by the preliminary brief is 15-24.
  9. Three reasons your TV drama will appeal to that target audience 

2) Storyboard a trailer (length: 30 seconds) for your new TV Drama. Use this AQA storyboard sheet if you don't pick up a paper copy in class.

3) Come up with a variety of ways to promote your new TV Drama to your target audience. Plan out the following:
  • Official website for the TV drama that allows audiences to meet the characters and find out more about the storylines
  • Ideas to feature your drama on social media e.g. hashtag, video content etc.
  • Any other creative or unusual ways to promote your new TV drama to the audience
4) Write a three-paragraph answer for why your new TV drama will be successful in the incredibly competitive marketplace of modern television.

All tasks MUST be completed before Tuesday 27 June. Complete them on your GCSE Media blog.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

TV Drama: Key conventions and NCIS

The most important aspect of Media Language that you need to learn is the key conventions of TV Drama.

In order to analyse existing TV dramas and create your own, it's vital you understand the components that make up a TV drama. A lot of the work we completed for Assignment 2 on film genre and conventions will help you here.

Key conventions of TV Drama

  • Multiple characters played by an ensemble cast (often each character with their own storyline)
  • Specific technical codes e.g. realistic lighting and editing for social dramas
  • Use of stereotypical characters to introduce lifestyle and motivation quickly
  • Narrative formula that is followed in every episode e.g. Casualty (3 Strand); Homeland (multi-strand narrative)
  • Common use of flashback, point of view shots, dialogue and voice over, enigma and action codes

A good way to analyse TV Drama is to use NCIS - exactly what we used for film genre in Assignment 2:

N = narrative (storyline)
C = character (people/character types)
I = iconography (what we can see)
S = setting (where it takes place)

These four aspects will provide enough evidence to identify the subgenre of TV Drama (or a hybrid of genres if the TV drama fits more than one category).

TV Drama subgenre

One of the key details TV broadcasters use to market a TV Drama is subgenre.

Remember, a film or TV genre is made up of a repertoire of elements. That repertoire could include particular iconography, lighting, sound, or actors associated with the genre. This list of features is known as a ‘repertoire’ because any given TV Drama within a subgenre may not use all of the possible elements, but it will use some.

Blog task / Homework

Your blog task today is to analyse this short clip from the BBC1 TV Drama Waterloo Road:

Answer the following questions on your blog:

Narrative: What does the clip suggest about this particular storyline for Waterloo Road? What do you expect to happen? How might the new character impact on existing storylines?

Character: What school-based stereotypes can you recognise in the clip? How does the clip introduce the new characters in the show?

Iconography: What elements of the clip help to quickly introduce the school subgenre of TV Drama?

Setting: How does the clip quickly introduce the school setting?

Example: The Night Manager (BBC1)

The trailer for The Night Manager cleverly introduces several narrative strands. There is the main series arc introduced with the government agents trying to bring down the villain, Richard Roper. However, within this overall narrative there are clearly many other stories including romantic relationships, a boy being kidnapped, the main character going undercover with Roper and a war in a foreign country. At one point, a character actually lists some of the narrative strands: "Murder, theft..." while an American agent emphasises the threat to the main characters: "Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?" It is clear to the audience that there is an overarching good v evil storyline but plenty of other narrative strands in each individual episode. These are all classic conventions of TV Drama.

The characters are typical of a TV Drama in the subgenre of a spy thriller and largely follow Propp's theory of character types. The villain, Richard Roper, is established in the very first shot with ominous music accompanying a shadowy close-up: "War is a spectator sport." The trailer then goes on to introduce other key characters - the hero, who is going undercover to bring down Roper, the intelligence officer who is running the operation, a love interest (Propp's 'heroine') for both the hero and villain and various other minor characters.

There is plenty of iconography of the spy drama genre - and at points the trailer almost feels like a James Bond movie. The props include guns, private jets and yachts to quickly introduce the money and power of the villain Richard Roper. Costumes such as sharp suits reinforce this. Alongside the costume and props, glamorous international locations feature throughout - snowy mountains, island villas or war-torn cities. All of these are typical of the spy subgenre for TV Drama and offer the audience excitement and action.

Some locations are designed to be familiar to the audience - the office of the British intelligence officer is a good example of this. However, the main settings are international and glamorous - hotels, yachts, island villas and war-torn foreign countries. This promises the audience a variety of vicarious pleasures as they get to travel the world with the main characters as they find out if the hero succeeds in his mission. These settings may remind audiences of action or thriller films such as James Bond, Taken or Fast and Furious that feature exotic, international locations. 

Anything you don't finish in the lesson is homework.

Due: Tuesday

GCSE Media exam topic: TV Drama

Our 2018 GCSE Media exam topic is TV Drama - and your first experience of this exam will be in your Summer PPE at the end of June.

We now have the date for your PPE: Tuesday 27 June 8.30am.

The key information provided by AQA for the TV Drama topic is as follows:
"Serial television drama has entertained audiences of all ages for many years and it remains a popular feature of television programming and schedules.
In the UK, Downton Abbey consistently drew some of the biggest weekly viewing figures in recent years and, with the advent of Netflix and platforms such as Sky Box Sets, audiences have access to a wider range of serial television drama than ever before. Even online TV channel BBC3 are committed to producing one drama a year within their usual programming, for example, Thirteen. 
Serial television drama is defined as any television drama that is organised into a series of episodes – as opposed to one-off dramas. Serial television drama can contain any number of episodes, but typically contains around 3–12. If a show proves to be popular with audiences, further series or seasons will be commissioned. Season finales often feature a cliffhanger that can only be resolved in the premiere of the next season. Serial television dramas typically have story arcs that span a series and a continuing plot that unfolds in an episodic nature."

GCSE Media exam: know your enemy!
  • Pre-release briefing material issued 3-4 weeks before the exam.
  • Exam will involve responding to this brief on series of creative tasks.
  • Notes cannot be taken into exam.
  • Time: 90mins
  • Four Tasks: Equally weighted – 15 marks each (maximum mark /60)
  • Spend equal amount of time on each – 20 mins

Task 1: Case study task
This task will test your knowledge of TV Drama and involve writing in detail about TWO TV dramas that you have researched in class and at home.

Task 2: Pitch task
This will involve pitching your new idea for a TV drama in response to the preliminary brief.

Task 3: Creative task
This will involve designing some kind of media product for your new TV drama - for example a website homepage or the storyboard of the opening scene of your drama.

Task 4: Audience or Marketing task
This could test any aspect of the brief but usually involves audience pleasures (why the target audience would enjoy your new TV drama) or how you would use new technology to promote your TV drama to the audience.

Important note: you CANNOT just turn up to the GCSE Media exam and hope to wing it on the day - the students you are up against will have done up to a MONTH of preparation in response to the preliminary brief. The positive side is that if you complete all the preparation tasks you already know you will have a brilliant exam!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Assignment 2: Analytical Task

To complete Assignment 2, you need to write a 1,200 word essay analysing the film poster and trailer for the film you chose to study throughout this unit.

The original case study research task you completed back in January is here.

This Assignment 2 essay guidance might help you structure your essay but you don't need to stick to it exactly - original and effective responses will be awarded top marks. 

One of the most important aspects of good academic essay writing is topic sentences. Make sure that you start each section with a simple topic sentence that clearly introduces what the following paragraph will address. For example:
The Taken trailer clearly and effectively establishes the narrative of the film to the audience. Applying Todorov's theory of narrative structure, the equilibrium is established in the opening 20 seconds... 
In an academic essay, good topic sentences are used instead of subheadings for each section. The only exception to this is the final section analysing your own production work. You need to keep this section separate from the main essay.

Work completed so far

The work we have done over the last month evaluating our production work, analysing representation and applying narrative theories can all be used in this essay. In fact, you may well find you've written around half the essay already.

Copy the work over from your blog posts into Microsoft Word - making sure that you are using topic sentences as outlined above.

Essay deadlines

You will have lesson time to work on this and the essay must be written in school under teacher supervision.

Your teacher will give you individual targets for each lesson you work on this to ensure you reach the 1,200 words required.

Year 9 Narrative Theory work - blog post

Our work on narrative theory gives us an excellent opportunity to show understanding and application of media theorists in the Assignment 2 analytical task. This is the next part of your essay :)

1. Start a new blog post and call it 'Narrative Theory' (or do it in Microsoft Word, save it to your Media shared drive and upload once finished)

2. Re-watch the trailer for your film (Moana, Hunger Games, Precious) with your book in your hand. Make notes on Todorov, Propp and Barthes and how they apply to YOUR case study film. Examples below. You need to say a little bit about what the theory is and then apply it eg

Todorov stated that all narratives start off with an Equilibrium and then a disruption (Disequilibrium) where everything changes and then ends with a New Equilibrium where calm is restored. 
In my case study Hunger Games, I can apply this theory because, at the start there is an Equilibrium when Katniss lives in a society where the young people from various districts are sent off to fight in the annual Hunger Games. The Disequilibrium occurs when her sister is chosen and she volunteers to go in her place. This means she has to learn fighting skills and become skilled enough to survive. The New Equilibrium will come when she is successful in her mission. 

Do the same for Propp and Barthes. Come and see me if you are struggling to apply the theories but have a go first!

3. Make sure all your work on Representation is up to date and posted on your blog.

Extension - Go back to your own film poster and trailer (storyboard) for Assignment 2 and add theory to analysis of your own work.

The key notes from today's lesson:

Narrative definition: (Noun) A spoken or written account of connected events; a story

Todorov: equilibrium
Tzvetan Todorov is a Franco-Bulgarian philosopher. He suggests that all narratives follow a three part structure.

They begin with equilibrium, where everything is balanced, progress as something comes along to disrupt that equilibrium, and finally reach a resolution, when a new equilibrium is restored.

Equilibrium > Disequilibrium > New equilibrium

This can be applied to almost all film narratives.

Propp: character types
Vladimir Propp was a Soviet scholar who analyzed the basic plot components of Russian folk tales to identify their narrative elements.

His theory states that there are only a certain number of characters, who crop up in most narratives.

Protagonist (or Hero) 
Leads the narrative, is usually looking for something (a quest) or trying to solve something (a mystery).

Antagonist (or Villain) 
Gets in the protagonist's way; rival or enemy.

Usually some sort of ‘prize’ or reward for the hero. (Note: if your hero is female, your heroine can be male)

An authority figure who offers a reward to the hero for completing their quest. That reward might be a prince or a princess or a new job or promotion.

Helps the hero - often acts as a sidekick

Gives the hero something - a clue, a talisman, a special power - which helps them complete their quest

Teaches and guides the hero

Barthes: enigma and action codes
Roland Barthes was a French literary theorist.

Barthes' Enigma Code is a theory that suggests a text (whether that be television, film, a poster etc) portrays a mystery to draw an audience in, pose questions and, as such, become intrigued in the piece. 

For instance, a murder mystery will often not reveal the identity of the murderer until the end of the story, which poses the question "Who is the murderer?"

Barthes' Action Code relates to tension: any action or event that suggests something else may happen – and therefore keep the audience engaged. A good example would be a gun being drawn - the audience know a dramatic scene will follow.

Action codes work alongside enigma codes to engage and maintain the interest of the audience.

In a film trailer, they are used to intrigue the audience and make them want to pay to see the whole film. This is a crucial aspect of film marketing.

Ms Hill cover work: Tuesday 2 May

Ms Hill is still not well - she sends her apologies.

You got some great work done last week and today we need to continue our preparation for the Assignment 2 Analytical Task. Last week, you were worked on media theories and representation.

The first thing you need to do is finish those paragraphs: THREE for media theory and TWO for representation (on two different aspects e.g. gender and race/ethnicity). 

The narrative theory notes are here if you need to refer to them and the narrative theory blog task is here.

The representation notes and example are here. Here are some representation questions to help you.

It seems that some of you haven't written an evaluation of your Assignment 2 production work (film poster and storyboard trailer). The evaluation task is here so make sure this is completed too.

If you have any questions, let Mr Halsey, Ms Quinn or Ms Fowler know.

Good luck! 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ms Hill cover work: Tuesday 25 April

Ms Hill will not be in Media today - she sends her apologies.

You need to continue the work you've been doing towards the Assignment 2 Analytical Task. Last week, you were introduced to media theories and representation.

Today, we're going to re-focus on the three narrative theories and develop extended paragraphs that we can use in our essay later this term. 

The narrative theory notes are here if you need to refer to them and the narrative theory blog task is here.

If you have any questions, let Mr Halsey, Ms Quinn or Ms Fowler know.

Good luck!