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NQ Higher Media Studies Media Analysis (Non-fiction)

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1 NQ Higher Media Studies Media Analysis (Non-fiction)
an inconvenient truth NQ Higher Media Studies Media Analysis (Non-fiction)

2 Key Aspects of Media Studies
TEXT CATEGORIES medium, purpose, form, genre, style, tone LANGUAGE technical and cultural codes, anchorage NARRATIVE narrative structure and narrative codes REPRESENTATIONS selection, portrayal, ideological discourses decode encode INSTITUTION internal controls external controls AUDIENCE target audience differential decoding TECHNOLOGY CAPITAL MEANING select affect SOCIETY individual, social, cultural, economic, political events and ideologies TIME

3 Explanation of Concept Map
The concept map tries to show how the key aspects of media studies are integrated. The map shows that the media are involved in a twin circuit of meaning and capital. In SQA Media Studies arrangements there are seven key aspects: Categories, Language, Narrative, Representation, Audience, Institution and Technology. The map has an eighth key aspect – Society. The concept map tries to express the following: Media institutions, working under internal and external constraints, select aspects of society for representation. Media producers encode meanings in texts for target audiences through categories such as genre, through technical and cultural codes, narrative and representation. How audiences decode texts depends on the individual and social differences of audience members. How they react has more or less influence on society. Technologies of production, distribution and reception are central to these processes. The arrow of time through the centre indicates that this circuit of meaning is a continuous, dynamic process.

4 an inconvenient truth Timeline
2000: After election defeat former Democrat Vice President Al Gore starts giving his ‘slide show’ again May 2004: Producer and climate change activist Laurie David sees Al Gore give a short version of his presentation ago at the premiere of disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” Early spring 2005: Lawrence Bender and Davis Guggenheim see Gore presentation Spring 2005: David, Bender and Guggenheim approach Al Gore Summer 2005: Jeff Skoll of Participant Productions agrees to filming with $1m budget July 2005: start shooting and taping Gore interviews (at his home Tennessee home, Nashville office, touring the USA and China) 29 August 2005: shooting in New Orleans cancelled because of Hurricane Katrina End September 2005: two days of shooting Gore’s presentation October 2005: editing and scoring starts and rough cut is ready in January January 2005: rough cut premiered at Sundance independent film festival in Utah; Paramount Classics pick the film up for distribution 20 May 2006: final cut shown at Cannes film festival with new end-titles and Melissa Etheridge song 24 May 2006: released in USA 21 November 2006: DVD released in USA 25 February 2007: An Inconvenient Truth wins Oscars for Academy Awards for best documentary and best song

5 Categories: Medium 1 ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was conceived as a film to be experienced collectively in the cinema. In the USA films are rated by MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America, The film is also distributed via DVD (which includes a ‘making of’ documentary, an update from Al Gore and Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need To Wake Up” music video) TV screenings Spin-off products include: Two books by Al Gore (one for adults and one for children) “I Need To Wake Up” song download by Melissa Etheridge ( Soundtrack album by Michael Brook (

6 Categories: Medium 2 The film also has a web presence at (which had downloads, news, blogs, sections on the science, educational materials). The film also features on Gore’s website with news of his campaigning activities including Live Earth ( The distributor Paramount Classics worked with Technorati ( to market the film to film-buff bloggers (Technorati tracks blogs in near real-time and allows people to track what is being said). Engagement with bloggers created a buzz around the film and allowed virtual communities to strengthen their engagement with the film. This is an example of viral marketing in which the audience does some of the promotion. The Internet Movie Database ( has a useful source of information and links on the film. Wikipedia ( ) also has useful links. Note Wikipedia information is sometimes wrong and you should check critical information against other sources.

7 Categories: Purpose Media texts can have a variety of purposes: entertainment, information, education, artistic expression, persuasion, propaganda, profit, … Q. Which of these purposes do you think motivated the makers of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’? Use evidence from the film to justify each of your answers. Q. Of these purposes which one do you think was most important? Use evidence from the text to justify your answer.

8 Categories: Form Typical documentary forms are: Feature documentaries
Documentary series One-off TV documentary Short documentary Q. What is the form of the text? Justify your answer.

9 Categories: Documentary
The Scot John Grierson ( ) is regarded as the founder of the documentary movement in Britain in Canada. Grierson defined documentary as “the creative treatment of actuality”. Q. What is meant by actuality? Q. Think of the phrase ‘creative treatment’. List ways in which documentary makers can treat real events in a creative manner. Q. Is it possible to capture the ‘real’ world on film? Q. Do you think it is ethical to stage real events in a documentary?

10 Categories: Genre One way of categorising documentaries is by the degree of creative treatment of recorded material. Three subgenres are: realist documentary: imposing minimal treatment on recorded material i.e. ‘fly-on-the-wall’ formalist documentary: imposing a particular narrative structure on recorded material i.e. ‘fly-in-the-soup’ subjective documentary: which express the filmmaker’s personal vision. Any one documentary can mix these techniques. Q. In recent years there has been an explosion of ‘reality television’. What is meant by this term? What different kinds of reality television have you seen on television? Q. What kind of documentary is ‘An Inconvenient Truth’?

11 Categories: Documentary Conventions
Most documentaries have different look and sound from fiction films. Q. What is the conventional look of documentary? In other words, how does the documentary look connote realism? Q. How does sound connote realism? Q. Do you think ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is a typical documentary. Why? Q. Does it use any techniques which are similar to fiction films?

12 Categories: Tone A documentary (like any film) can have different tones: serious, light-hearted, optimistic, pessimistic, celebratory, condemnatory, resigned, critical, uncritical, ironic, … Q. Identify different tones in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. What are the purposes of these different tones? Identify how these tones achieved are achieved through images, sound and voice.

13 Language: Technical Codes
You should already know how to describe shots in terms of camera distance, camera angle, camera movement and lighting. You should be able to analyse how shots are edited by describing the transitions and whether or not continuity editing is used. Q. Analyse a sequence in terms of technical codes. Why have these codes been used? Q. What visual and audio material has been used to construct the vignettes? Q. What visual and audio material has been used to construct the lecture segments? Q. In the vignettes we learn about Al Gore’s past. What technical codes are used to connote the past?

14 Language: Cultural Codes
The film wishes to persuade us of the authority of the evidence over climate change and the need to tackle it immediately. Q. What cultural codes are used to connote authority?

15 Language: Anchorage Images or sounds on their own may have many different possible meanings i.e. they are polysemic Anchorage refers to the ways that image and sound are combined to reduce the polysemy of each on their own. The meaning is pinned down or ‘anchored’ by the combination of sound and image. Q. Analyse the opening sequence to show how images and sound/music construct meaning and mood. Q. Repeat this for some other sequences.

16 Language: Image Analysis
Director Davis Guggenheim’s favourite shot which occurs in the last sequence of the film when Al Gore appears silhouetted by an satellite image of Hurricane Katrina. Q. What do you think Guggenheim was trying to say to the audience with this image?

17 Narrative: Segmentation
Study the transcript and the diagram of the narrative segmentation. You will see that he narrative of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ alternates between vignettes about Al Gore and lecture segments. Why do you think Guggenheim has used this structure? Q. Would it have been a better idea just to film the lecture?

18 Narrative: Narrative Structure 1
In ‘Film Art: an Introduction’, American film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson identify four types of narrative structure in documentary: Story-telling: stories about people, events, places, … Categorical: conveying information by ‘chunking’ it into various categories. Rhetorical: presenting an argument to persuade the audience to adopt an opinion on an issue and perhaps to act on that opinion. A typical structure for rhetorical form is: introduction to the problem – discussion of the facts – what to do about the problem – summary epilogue. Associational: suggesting links between images that might not have any obvious connection.

19 Narrative: Narrative Structure 2
Any one documentary can show one or several of these structures. ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ has aspects of all four. Q. What stories does ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ tell? Q. How does it categorise the information it seeks to convey? Q. Study the lecture segments in the narrative segmentation. Does it conform to the typical structure of rhetorical form? Summarise the structure of the argument in the film. Work out the time given to each stage of the argument. Q. The film juxtaposes biographical and reflective vignettes with lecture segments. Choose some of these juxtaposed sequences and analyse what links are being suggested by the film.

20 Narrative: Rhetorical Narrative
Typical features of rhetorical narrative are that it: Presents a reasoned argument Appeals to the emotions Addresses the audience directly e.g. to camera or by voiceover Uses repeated motifs to emphasise its argument e.g. recurring images, sounds, phrases Suppresses, mocks or criticises contrary opinions Encourages the audience to act. Q. Identify how ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ uses each of these features to advance its argument.

21 Narrative: Argumentation Schemes
When we construct arguments about issues we use a number of typical ways of arguing (argumentation schemes). The fact that a scheme is used does not mean the argument is valid. Examples of argumentation schemes are: Problem-solving: “If X is a problem, then do Y” Numbers: “If number X is too large/small, then do Y to reduce/increase X” Authority: “As expert X says …” History: “History teaches us that …” Illustration: “As the situation in X shows …” Comparison: “If X can do A then so can Y.” Identify different argumentation schemes in which Al Gore uses in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Q. Do you think that these arguments are valid? Justify your answers,

22 Narrative: Narrative Codes
One can analyse narrative in terms of overall structure. However narrative can also be analysed in terms of narrative codes which work moment-by-moment in a text. One of the most important is the enigmatic code. Focusing on the enigmatic code lets us view a film as a sequence of questions and answers. The film poses enigmas (questions) which engage the viewer’s attention and these questions may, or may not be, resolved (answered) by the end of the film. Q. What are major enigmas are posed in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’? Are these enigmas resolved by the end of the film?

23 Representation 1 Documentaries are not ‘a window on the world’. Rather they select particular aspects of the world and portray these in particular ways which reflect the beliefs and values of the organisations which make the film and of the audiences who watch. The film was made primarily for an American audience so it uses narrative structuring familiar to American audience from fiction feature films.

24 Representation 2 In American mainstream fiction films we are usually invited to identify with one special individual who is driven by individual psychological forces rather than collective social forces. Such films often use a narrative structure which Joseph Campbell has called the hero’s journey. In this a hero(ine) undergoes tests and struggles before achieving his/her goals. Joseph Campbell said we all have to undertake a hero’s journey to find fulfilment in our own lives and that can be done by ‘following our bliss’. In other words, to be truly happy we must find what really motivates us. Q. How has director Davis Guggenheim used these fictional techniques to structure the film? Q. Another aspect of American ideology is its ‘can-do spirit’. How does the film reflect this spirit?

25 Representation 3 Films draw on various ideological discourses to represent nature: Conservationism: nature as a resource to be managed and developed for use and profit Preservationism: preservation of nature for spiritual and aesthetic contemplation Mainstream environmentalism: environmental problems as technically soluble within the existing state and corporate system Radical environmentalism: mainstream environmentalism merely perpetuates the cause of ecological damage; we need a more radical political solution in which changes the relations between people, the state, corporations and nature. Q. Which of these discourses are expressed in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’?

26 Audience: Target Audience
Q. ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is aimed primarily at a US market. What evidence is there for this in the film? Q. What might put people off going to see the film? Q. What steps have been made in the film to broaden its appeal?

27 Audience: Mode of Address
The film uses various modes of address: Direct address to the audience with Al Gore’s voiceover and his lecture presentation Uses ‘popular media’ human interest approach by appealing to our emotions Uses ‘quality media’ approach by the use of rational argument. Q. Identify sequences in the film which make an emotional appeal. Q. Identify sequences in the film which use rational argument.

28 Audience: Differential Decoding
Different audiences have different reactions to the same film because of age, gender, social class, ethnic group, lifestyle, politics, religion, values, taste, education and so on. Q. Use the web to find out different reactions to the form and style ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Comments can be found at Q. Use the web to find critiques of the science in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. What criteria do you think should be used to evaluate the credibility of such claims? Q. What do you think about Gore’s argument? Why?

29 Institution: Production Company 1
‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was co-produced Lawrence Bender Productions. Bender produced the Quentin Tarantino films ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Kill Bill 1 and 2’. He was a fund-raiser for Democrat John Kerry who stood against George Bush in He has helped to launch a US online campaign for energy efficient lighting. It is obvious why Bender would be interested in producing a film about Al Gore on climate change. In the making of the film the only control Al Gore had was over the content of the lecture.

30 Institution: Production Company 2
‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was co-produced by Participant Productions. Research the company by visiting their website ( ). Locate their mission statement. In what ways does ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ reflect the aims of Participant Productions? Q. Film productions often involve conflict between producers providing funds and the creative personnel actually making the film. Listen to the producers’ commentary on the DVD and assess whether the production of the film was characterised by conflict or unity.

31 Institution: Market Context
Documentary features very popular in recent years: ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ (budget $6m est., US gross $119m), ‘March of the Penguins’ (budget $8m est., US gross $77m) ‘Bowling for Columbine’ (budget $4m, US gross $21m) Often feature alternative viewpoints which receive little coverage in mainstream news Has encouraged companies to finance production and distribute documentaries An Inconvenient Truth cost just over $1m and grossed $24m in the USA and to date around $50m worldwide)

32 Institution: Distribution
The film was distributed by Paramount Classics, now a division of Paramount Vantage ( They specialise in distributing films to the art house rather than the multiplex circuit. Paramount is part of the global media conglomerate Viacom ( Paramount Classics were persuaded by the producers to release the film in summer 2006 rather than the autumn when documentaries tend to perform better at the box office Paramount Classics used viral marketing as well as traditional promotional techniques Taglines used were “By far the most terrifying film you will ever see.” and “We’re all on thin ice.”

33 Institution: Promotion 1
Q. Analyse the poster as follows: Draw a table with two columns headed denotation and connotation. In the denotation column describe the images and text (title and taglines). In the connotation column write down the connotations of each element. Write down the overall meaning of the poster by completing this sentence “See this film and …”

34 Institution: Promotion 2
Q. Repeat the previous exercise for this poster. Which of the two posters has greater appeal to mainstream audiences? Q. Why do you think penguins are used in the poster when they do not feature in the film?

35 Institution: Ratings The film’s US rating by MPAA was PG for mild thematic elements. Q. What parts of the film might the MPAA ratings board thought of as being unsuitable for children?

36 Technology There was a small budget of $1m
Some of the shooting was done without a crew, Davis Guggenheim simply used digital video cameras The producers were determined that the climate change issue was so urgent that the film had to be made quickly The disruption of shooting by Hurricane Katrina only increased their determination The film was shot with many different formats of film, digital video and animation These had to be converted to the same digital format HDCAM SR on order to edit sequences and produce the digital intermediate version of the film Efilm who were responsible for conforming and colour correction were involved at the start and informed filmmakers, editors and the labs at Cut+Run of their requirements; this reduced technical delays and hence kept the production on-time and on-budget

37 Technology: Stages in Production
Shooting footage, recording audio interviews, collecting archive and other material Cut+Run labs convert film and digital video in various formats into HDCAM SR format Guggenheim and several editors edit sequences using Avid digital editing software At Efilm sequences conformed and film is scored and titled to produce rough cut in digital intermediate form Rough cut screened at Sundance Due to criticisms of lack of attention to solutions new end-title sequence by yU+co added Final cut conformed at Efilm and converted to film by Deluxe The process has been summarised in the post-production workflow diagram which you should now study.

38 Technological Context
Q. Davis Guggenheim used prosumer digital video cameras to shoot Gore at work or travelling. What are the advantages of this for such shots? Q. The film only took 6 months to make. What advantages does digital editing have over traditional film editing?

39 Society Use the Internet to gather evidence about how the film has been received as well as its individual and social impact. Q. Do you think that ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ has influenced how people see and act on climate change?

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