THE SCENARIO

Netflix is looking for a new teen drama, specifically aimed at teens of both genders aged from 13-16. You need to plan, pitch and produce your show. It should be 3-5 minutes long and it can either be a whole drama or the opening scenes of a longer piece. Production teams can have up to three members. After the success of Stranger Things, they are open to a hybrid genre piece which also encodes audience appeal for adults, but this is not necessary.

DESK RESEARCH

You need to learn what the conventions of the teen drama are. Let's use 'Freaks and Geeks' as an example. Watch the first few minutes (and spot the future famous people...). What tells us that this is a teen drama?

 

Think about:

Characters/ representations

Locations

Plotlines

Narratives

Themes

Audience profile and appeal

 

CASE STUDY

Stranger Things, first screened in July 2016, is a very successful show by any standard - reviews, viewing figures, awards and nominations. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it well, so we should probably try to learn from them. First step is to watch the first episode. Off you go.

Watched it? Good. There are three extracts from the first episode of the show here. Watch them, and using what you have learned about GENRE, identify the genre codes being used. Buscombe's theory might be a useful starting point, but you will want to look beyond that also.

PRE-PRODUCTION

There is a fourth extract (starting at 7.25) which details the introduction of an important secondary character, Jim Hopper. Watch it, then be prepared to identify ways in which his character is established and developed. 

Next, remind yourself of what you know about NARRATIVE. How many plotlines are being introduced? Where is the enigma? Where is the binary opposition? Are stereotypes or archetypes being employed? Are there both blocked and continuous narratives?

Finally, let's try to figure out why Stranger Things worked so well. Remember all the learning about 

Audiences? Can you define the audiences for this show - age, gender, demographics, psychographics? Can you apply uses and gratifications to figure out why so many disparate groups liked it?

You choose your grade when you plan the project. Pre-production is not only assessed (see below), it is absolutely the difference between outstanding and abysmal work! So, recap on advice about how to prepare and execute your plan at the pre-production page. More advanced templates and options available here.

PRODUCTION

There is, as we know, a certain way to behave on a film set which tends to guarantee that footage will be usable. Get your actors rehearsed and your crew briefed; check all equipment works and that you know how to use it. Charge everything, including spare batteries, have a look at the weather forecast (do we need a plan B?) and get out there! Make sure EVERYONE is contributing positively.

POST PRODUCTION

Watch this student-made example. What is the editor doing to improve the film?

You are targeting an audience of mainstreamers at least in part, so the majority of your editing should be continuity style, in keeping with the Institutional Mode of Representation. However, there are plenty of opportunities to adopt a more formalist style with split screens, effects, montages, graphics and so on. Make sure your team is giving you the footage you need!

ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION

MORE STUDENT WORK

What does an Distinction piece look and feel like? See the film above, or the example here.

THE EVALUATION

Your evaluation should explain your thinking through the planning and making stages. It should be a maximum of 800 words long. There should be a lot of visual evidence to support your points. You are only talking about YOUR work now, not your group's. Use "I" not 'We". Here is a suggested outline:

INTRODUCTION:

 

  • Genre and name of your film.

  • Size of your group.

  • What your particular responsibilities were.

CRITERION A: PLANNING AND PRE-PRODUCTION:

 

  • What research did you do?

  • What did you learn from it? How did you use this in your film? (Distinction Tip: An example might be to show a close-up to introduce a character from Freaks and Geeks or similar, then show a similar shot from your own film.)

  • What pre-production did you do? Show us some of it. You need a few frames of a storyboard, for example, not the whole thing. (Distinction Tip: Show us your script notes or storyboard or shotlist, then show us the frames of the film which correspond.)

  • THE KEY QUESTION: How well did you do in planning and pre-production? What could you improve?

CRITERION B: PRODUCTION

  • How many shoots? Where did you go?

  • What equipment did you use? Why?

  • What was your particular role? Can you evidence that? (Distinction tip: If you say you set up lights, for example, show us a photo of those lights.)

  • What problems and challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

  • How useful was your pre-production?

  • THE KEY QUESTION: How well did you do in production? What could you improve?

CRITERION C: POST-PRODUCTION

  • What was your particular role? Can you evidence that? (Distinction tip: If you say you levelled the sound, for example, show us the screengrab of your work.)

  • What problems and challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

  • THE KEY QUESTION: How well did you do in post-production? What could you improve?

CONCLUSION: 

  • Assess your film. How good is it? How likely is it to appeal to an audience? (Your audience theory - uses and gratifications - will be useful in explaining this.)

  • How did you perform overall? BE SPECIFIC - did you research well? Was your pre-production good and useful? Was your time management good all the way through the project? Did you seek advice? Were you a supportive and useful group member? What needs to improve for next time?

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