How has media enhancements effected the class divisions of social realism and their creators?
I would like thank my tutor Julius Ayodeji for the guidance he has given me for this document. Also I would like to thank the other members within the tutor group as they helped me produce this document by suggesting some relevant ideas.
This document explores the question “How has media enhancements effected the class divisions of social realism and their creators?” by using qualitative and secondary research methods to gather my evidence on the subject. The document explores social realism across five decades, examining what equipment was available at the time and analysing the significance of this equipment towards effecting class divisions within social realism. Specifically, it covers enhancements such as the Hi 8 format, Mini DV digital format, the Oakely Red one industry standard digital video camera and web based video sites such as youtube and blog tv. Using the information about the new enhancements, the document examines how this effects the social class divisions by looking at some key creators at the time of these enhancements. The document mainly focuses on Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows and Paul Abbott. The document discusses the development of the social class of the creators of social realism and defines how media enhancements have influenced these changes.
Moreover, it continues to discuss the success of Ken Loach and Shane Meadows, the findings seemed to be Ken Loach over powers Shane Meadows on box office results, however, Shane Meadows has a better outcome in the rewards aspect.
To conclude, the evidence discovered suggests that media enhancements have effected the class divisions of social realism and their creators, allowing the working class to create their own material. However, the genre is still over powered by the original middle class creators. In addition, future media enhancements look promising to eliminate any class division in social realism, mass film and broadcast television, as technology will be so advanced and cheap, allowing anyone to create their high quality work.
List of illustrations 5
Chapter One – Introduction and context 6
Chapter Two – Research Method 7
Chapter Three – Survey of literature and works 8
Chapter four – Discussion 13
Chapter five – Conclusion 15
List of illustrations
Figure 1 Peter Wintonick http://farm1.static.flickr.com/104/285595107_08ed81b3f4.jpg?v=0 Page 8
Figure 2 Robert Drew http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/D/htmlD/drewrobert/drewrobertIMAGE/drewrobert.jpg Page 8
Figure 3 Ken Loach http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/film/ken_loach_cannes2006.jpg Page 8
Figure 4 Mike Leigh http://www.filmreference.com/images/sjff_02_img0742.jpg Page 9
Figure 5 Hi-8 http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51S3GGWR38L._SL500_AA280_.jpg Page 9
Figure 6 Mini DV http://www.videovaultne.com/images/miniDV_full.jpg Page 10
Figure 7 Shane Meadows http://www.virginmedia.com/images/shanemeadows400.jpg Page 10
Figure 8 Paul Abbott http://cache.gettyimages.com/xc/52071317.jpg?v=1&c=ViewImages&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF19390335F8FA9CA92A6B001D4F373B266BA8BC3F87336C851A1 Page 11
Figure 9 Youtube http://matcmadison.edu/cetl/resources/archive/images/youtube_logo.jpg Page 11
Figure 10 premiere Pro http://www.manifest-tech.com/images/links/vid_gallery_scr/adobe_premiere_pro20_scr.jpg Page 11
Figure 11 Blogtv logo http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/ac/Blogtv_logo_small.png/225px-Blogtv_logo_small.png Page 11
Figure 12 Oakley red one http://cache.gizmodo.com/assets/resources/2006/10/red_camera.jpg Page 12
Figure 13 The wind that shakes the barley http://www.thewildgeese.com/pages/images/corkhill.jpg Page 13
Figure 14 This is enlgand http://lookingatfilm.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/this-is-england.jpg Page 14
Chapter One – Introduction and context
This document explores how enhancements within media possibly has changed the face of social realism and their creators. This document looks at how the accessibility of technology has potentially affected the social class within different aspects in social realism, such as the topic of social realism itself, for example who is being represented and how they are being represented. Also the social class of the creator of social realistic work
What is social realism?
“Social Realism, also known as Socio-Realism, is an artistic movement, expressed in the visual and other realist arts, which depicts working class activities.”
Social realism within film was a massive movement in many countries. Peter Wintonick in 2006 stated in his film “Cinema verite” that their were many movements such as neo-realism in Italy, the French new wave and Cinema verite in France and Free cinema in Great Britain.
Moreover, this document explores who and where the key creators within these movements came from, what topic they directed and examine the significance of the technology available at the time.
In addition, this document continues to look at key creators throughout the years and compare the findings to the equipment available. Possibly finding a change in their social class or a change of topic within their work. This will continue to the present key social realism creators and touch on accessibility for future creators to break through.
Chapter Two – Research Method
To produce the document, I will use an assortment of research methods to compile the information required to explore the chosen question.
The main research method used will be secondary research.
“Secondary research occurs when a project requires a summary or collection of existing data. As opposed to data collected directly from respondents or "research subjects" for the express purposes of a project, (often called "empirical" or "primary research"), secondary sources already exist.”
(Asian market research, 2003)
Most of the secondary research sources I have accumulated are a majority of books and websites. However I have also retrieved information from journals, newspaper articles and digital video discs.
As I want my information to be accurate, I am undertaking another research method known as qualitative research.
“Qualitative research is used to help us understand how people feel and why they feel as they do. It is concerned with collecting in-depth information asking questions such as why do you say that?”
(Market research world 2008)
To ensure my information is precise, I will only use information from safe, respectable and practitioner based sources.
Chapter Three – Survey of literature and works
Social realism movements developed through the decades in different countries, and in direct parallel, film equipment became more sophisticated. In Wintonick’s documentary called “Cinema Verite, defining the moment” Wintonick (2006) claims that “In the 1950’s and 60’s, filming is getting easier due to the camera’s becoming portable and the sound becoming synchronised with the image, making it more accessible”.
However, the cameras might be more sophisticated and the sound might be synchronised, this does not mean that it was cheap. In the film “Cinema Verite, defining the moment”, Robert Drew (2006), a famous Canadian social realism director states that he produced a camera in the 1960’s which cost his sponsors “1 million dollars” to create, the camera was portable, had synchronised sound and used 16mm film.
Therefore, In the 1960’s, media enhancements were functional but not cheap. The significance of this technology being created towards attacking any change of social divisions is irrelevant as the equipment were too expensive for any of the working class to afford, therefore, limiting any change of the creators of social realism classes. For example Ken Loach.
Ken loach was a very educated man and was middle class, however representing the lower and working class in his works such as “Kes” (1969).
“he attended grammar school in Nuneaton and after two years of National Service studied Law at Oxford University, where he was President of the Dramatic Society”
(Screen Online, 2008)
In addition, the topics of his films are very working/lower class based, for example, a lonely boy adopting a kestrel (Kes, 1969), a Scottish teen trying to cope with drug problems and poverty (Sweet Sixteen, 2002), homelessness (Cathy come home, 1966) and miners strikes (Which side are you on, 1984).
“Working Class - People doing heavy manual work, usually for low wages, such as farm labourers, miners, builders and factory workers”
(Victorian West Sussex, 2008)
Moreover, Mike Leigh, who is another famous Social realist director covered similar subjects, however, he was also well educated.
“Mike Leigh was born in Salford on 20 February 1943, the son of a doctor, and was educated at Salford Grammar School before gaining a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1960”
(Screen Online, 2008)
Surely these directors must have based their assumptions on stereotypes of a working class family and how they live their life as they did not experience a working class upbringing. If that is the case, how can the genre be classed as realism, when the “reality” depicted in the film is based on assumptions, therefore diluting the truth.
Moreover, throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, even though equipment was enhancing, the social class of the creator was still middle class, representing a working/lower class.
However, In the 1990’s, the Hi 8 filming format became massively popular because it was really cheap to buy a Hi 8 camera and tape. Jelling (2008) states that “Hi-8 has a better image quality than 8mm due to the fact that it has a resolution of about 400 lines while the resolution of 8 mm is of about 140 lines”. As the Hi 8 format was cheap it was more accessible to a different class of creators.
In addition, after Hi 8 was released, a new digital format was released known as mini DV. Jelling (2008) continues to state that “After Hi-8 tapes, digital technologies brought mini DV tapes which came allowing consumers to enjoy of a 520 lines resolution. This way, since the appearance of digital formats, Hi-8 and its successor 8mm became less popular due to the lower resolution quality they offer“.
Moreover, the Mini DV format was cheap and accessible to the masses, enabling the working class to represent their self, therefore, possibly breaking the boundary of misrepresentation in Social realistic film .
As Mini DV became popular, it gave working class people, such as Shane Meadows a chance to illustrate his experience living in working class environment onto film.
Britmovie (2008) explains Shane Meadows was “Raised in Nottingham England, Shane Meadows dropped out of school as a teenager. After some odd jobs and a shot at studying acting and photography, Meadows volunteered at an art centre and learned the craft of film-making. He borrowed a camcorder and taught himself a technique of making short films with his friends as actors”
Kermonde on the BBC culture show (2008) explains that “Shane Meadows funded his earlier short films with his dole money” and continues to explain that Meadows “shot his first feature film TwentyFourSeven (1997) on Mini-DV”.
The breakthrough of a working class man creating social realistic work was not a fluke. The trend of other working class creators breaking through continues.
Paul Abbott is another example, Abbott had an unfortunate upbringing with both of his parents abandoning the family when he was only eleven. Cooke (2008) explains that Abbott was “Born in Burnley, Lancashire in 1960, Paul Abbott grew up in a crowded working-class household, the ninth of ten children. After his mother abandoned the family when he was nine, to be followed by his father two years later, the children were left to fend for themselves, with the eldest daughter assuming the maternal role”.
Paul Abbott is the writer of social realist channel four drama “Shameless” (2004), Shameless is based around Abbott’s experiences as young boy, therefore possibly the subject of social realism is becoming more accurately represented?
Moreover, due to technology becoming cheaper, creating a film is not just an industry based force. With internet web sites enabling users to upload their own footage, could this mean that social class divisions within social realism and their creators is changing?
YouTube is a massive platform for the general public to distribute their footage between other users. Digital Ethnography (2008) explains that there is approximately “78.3 million videos on YouTube”, and “200,000 videos are uploaded per day”. “80.3% of the videos are Unambiguously User-Generated (amateur)” and only “14.7% of the videos are professional”.
In addition, editing software has become cheap, if not free. Therefore amateur users can add a professional feel to their footage. With Microsoft windows, you obtain video editing software called “Movie maker”. With Macintosh they provide something similar on their machines called “iMovie”. Also, users can buy other professional software such as “Adobe Premiere Pro” or “Final cut pro”, which both retail to around £600 each.
Also, there are websites which enable anyone with a web cam or video camera to broadcast footage, live to an audience over the internet. The best example for this is www.blogtv.com. Blog television was an instant success. Google (2008) explains that “Blog TV recorded more than 411,000 unique users in the first month, more than one million daily broadcast views within two months, and conversion rates at 2.6%”. Claude Galipeau (2008), who is the Senior vice president of digital media alliance Atlantis states that “those figures are usually only achieved by an established brand and not by a new brand offering a new concept”.
Moreover, education for the masses is becoming more accessible. The government are giving students grants if their household do not earn very much, students can be entitled to £2,835 per academic year, therefore helping the working class further their education. Also with the massive increase of interest about film, the UK universities boost their filming degrees. Brown (2000) “points out that more universities than ever before were offering media or film degrees; from 166 courses in 1990 to over 280 in 1988”.
However, media enhancements are not all accessible to the masses, Oakley have released a video camera with such a high spec, it is competing with big industry high quality cameras. Gizmondo (2006) explains that “Typical high-end HD camcorders have 2.1M pixel sensors and record with 3:1:1 colour sub sampled video at up to 30fps. The Red one delivers 11.4M pixels at up to 60fps and record RAW, or 2x over-sampled HD in 4:4:4 or 4:2:2”. With this kind of spec, companies were expecting the price tag to be a very expensive. Gizmondo continues to explain that “On an Apple forum thread about the price of pro cameras just a few months ago, someone was guessing the RED would go for about $250k, but the RED site is saying $17,500”.
Moreover, with technology like the red one, surely, due to the existing trend of enhancements, within the next 10 years, we could possibly see even more drastic enhancements, possibly making an industry standard camera cheap enough so the working class people can purchase one and produce their own high quality social realist pieces of work.
Chapter four – Discussion
The effects of media enhancements are inevitable; cameras becoming cheaper, people becoming more technically minded and aspirations from the working class are increasing. The working class are finally doing it for themselves. However, are the working class making any impression on the film industry or do the original big shots in social realism like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh still hold a massive presence over the whole social realism genre?
Ken Loach has been in the filming industry since 1966 and has produced over a hundred pieces of work. His experience in film as well as social realism is immense. He is currently directing a drama based around Eric Cantona’s life. His latest piece of social realism was released in 2006, the film was called “The wind that shakes the barley”, the film is a sympathetic look at twentieth century Ireland and how two brothers cope with being torn apart due to an anti-British rebellion. At the box office the film did well, in the UK alone it has earned a gross of £1,248,724.13 and overseas it has earned a gross amount of £14,324,194.11. Ken Loach is still a very successful social realistic director, even though he is middle class, representing the working class.
In comparison, Shane Meadows, another famous social realism director. Meadows’ experience cannot compare to Ken Loach’s, as Shane has only directed 10 films. However, Meadows is from a working class family and has been in the film industry for around 12 years. He has just released his latest film “Somers town”. However, Meadows released his own social realism film in the same year as Ken Loach’s “The wind that shakes the barley”. That film was “This is England”. “This is England” was in the cinemas for seventeen week, which was the same duration as “The wind that shakes the barley”, however, it did nowhere near as well. In the UK, “This is England” made a gross amount of £224,010.66 and overseas it made a gross amount of £5,263,879.47. This is just over a third of Ken Loach’s film profit.
In addition, Loach’s “The wind that shakes the barley” won 5 awards and had 18 nominations, Meadows’ “This is England” on the other hand won 7 awards and had 14 nominations, awards including best British film from the BAFTA’s, best British independent film from the British independent film awards and the Best director award from the Newport international film festival. So, how can you judge the success? Loach’s film was distributed to many more countries, therefore made more money. However, “This is England” seemed to gather award after award. Loach has accumulated a massive fan base over the years, Meadows is more of a cult director breaking into the mainstream.
Maybe this is the beginning of change, the accessibility of film cameras is helping this change of class divisions in social realism. It is giving the working class a chance to produce their own work. Work which possibly represents the working class more accurately. I believe that people like Shane Meadows and Paul Abbott will continue to strive, creating a fan basis like Loach and Leigh. More importantly, these working class creators will inspire other working class people to create material themselves, and with the technology becoming cheaper and more refined, it is easier for the working class to purchase this equipment and express their own experiences.
Therefore, the next generation of film makers could be working class and if that is the case, we could see the whole face of social realism and how it is represented change. Creating a mass new wave of creators and ideas, not only just in social realism, but in mass film and broadcast television itself. Constructing a new revolution amongst media and its existing practitioners. Possibly eliminating any class divisions within the genre.
Chapter five – Conclusion
Using a vast amount of resources, I have defined where the genre of social realism originated from, with this as a catalyst I discovered that social realism was representing a working class, however, this representation was based on assumptions and stereotypes that the middle class had. The genre was dominated by the middle class
However, over five decades technology started to become more sophisticated, and with the new technology becoming more efficient, prices of the equipment started to fall. Therefore giving the working class a chance to create their own work. Also with addition of education becoming more available to anyone, the working class started to compete with the middle class giants within the genre.
I believe that the genre has been changed, and the social class divisions are changing. I also believe that the changes have come due to media enhancements. The introduction of the Hi-8 and mini DV formats seemed to be the catalyst of change as creating digital video is a lot cheaper compared 16mm film, also, the digital format can be distributed cheaply as well, via the internet of a DVD. However, even with these enhancements, I still believe there is a clear divide between classes within the genre. It seems to me that the economic side of things is heavily controlled by the middle class.
Moreover, with the release of the Oakley red one, media enhancements seemed to be improving still, therefore, I believe in the future quality of cameras will continue to increase and become more distinguished but the prices will remain low. This will enable the working class creators close the gap between the middle class creators, in theory, eliminating any kind of social class division.
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