GCSE Media Studies Essay Sample
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- Category: assignment
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GCSE Media Studies Essay Sample
In this essay I will be looking at the main codes and conventions of television documentaries and explaining the effect they have on the presentation of the subject matter. As part of the essay I will be analysing a documentary, which I am familiar with and I will, to support it, compare the codes and conventions of a TV documentary to those of another genre. I will also discuss genres and generic hybrids. I will give a general overview of how TV documentaries communicate with their audience. The word “genre” is originally from France and means type or category.
All genres are different in their own ways however they all have similar codes and conventions. Genres are helpful to both the viewer and the producer but mainly the producer as it helps them determine what to base the programme on and when to broadcast it depending on the content. Genres are mainly used in films, TV programmes and music. Genres are a recipe the programmes tend to follow depending on the codes and conventions however sometimes programmes love to depart from these features and rules in order to add more flavour and suspense to their production.
Generic hybrids are a combination of two or more genres into one programme. The use of hybrids is increasing as they attract a larger audience much to the producer’s pleasure. The audience enjoy watching hybrids as it adds more twists and turns to the story and makes it more interesting. A producer’s worst nightmare is their audience getting bored and changing the channel but this could quite possibly be the case if the audience don’t find a programme interesting enough.
Hybrids are used more and more now and a typical example of one is “Ready, Steady, Cook! which is a combination of a cookery programme and a game show and therefore, it attracts both audiences by combining two genres. Codes and conventions are the key features and rules that determine a programmes’ genre, and they play a vital part in all aspects of the programme. The code includes dress; speech or music that makes sense once they are arranged using the correct conventions. All genres have differences, however, certain codes and conventions apply to all genres and therefore some genres appear to be similar in some ways.
Codes and conventions help us find our way around a text and understand it better. When we are watching a programme and we sense similarity we are often pleasured and if we predict what will happen next and we are correct then we are pleasured even more. When the audience can relate to a programme the content becomes more transparent to them and therefore more meaningful. The dictionary definition of a documentary is factual film or TV programme: a film or TV programme presenting facts and information, especially about a political, historical, or social issue.
Documentaries are different to soaps etc. because they reflect real-life events; and are consequently based on different codes and conventions. When we watch a soap the lighting, props, characters and script are all previously planned and are fictional. Although documentaries are previously planned and the scripts are written for the narrator, the characters and storylines are not fictional, they are real. Everything they say and tell us is real, or at least portrayed as real.
In fictional programmes the focus is on a certain situation for example and everything is based in or around that place and this is the main focus of the narrative. However, in a documentary there is a main subject and the whole programme is based around this and the facts are presented to the audience. A soap usually has a selected cast to suit the characters and the narrative needs but in a documentary there are no particular casting choices, unless it’s a reconstruction, everyone related to the topic is part of the cast regardless of age, colour or personality or sex.
Whilst recording a soap the directors and producers choose the lighting to suit the scene. In documentaries, especially wildlife ones, this is not an option because they have to show the footage live, no matter what the weather conditions are like in order to increase the sense of reality. Documentaries are mainly set in natural surroundings, in soaps even the natural settings are planned; this is another difference between the two genres. The documentary I analysed was “The Life of 2pac. ” This was the story of a black-American rapper who had a rough time growing up and was eventually shot dead at 25.
The basic subject matter was his life and the events that brought about his death and I feel the documentary portrayed this very well. The documentary was mainly narrated however it did have short clips of 2pac’s associates giving first accounts of his life. The narrator was a middle-aged American man and he consequently sounded convincing. Although I could not see the narrator I know this due to his accent and voice tone. He also sounded convincing and did not stutter in his speech. In this documentary there’s live footage from 2pac’s life, a few clips from his music videos and some clips from his time growing up.
However, it is quite possible that these may not be original because we can’t be sure that it was 2pac that was being filmed. This is because we have no evidence that 2pac looked as the footage in the documentary shows him. Interviews with his family, friends, colleagues, associates, fans and foes are all featured in the documentary and they all give their personal opinions of the rapper. Many of the interviewees claim 2pac was a man with a strong heart and someone who would give all he had for those he loved whereas some claimed he was heartless and looked for trouble and was addicted to drugs and his death was, unfortunately, inevitable.
Throughout the documentary we are shown footage of where 2pac lived and grew up with a narrator describing his upbringing. Most of the shots used are establishing shots to show the surroundings so we can get a better feel for the area and the camera is focused at an eye level so we can see everything as though we were actually there. There is fast editing at the beginning to set the pace and style of the documentary and give us a snippet of what the programme will be about and what it will contain.
There is a song from 2pac, a rather dramatic one, in the background while this fast editing and short clips are shown; this gives a suspenseful feeling and builds up excitement. We get the feeling that most of the things said in the documentary are true because so many people have similar opinions. At one point in the documentary we hear a close friend of 2pac’s speaking about 2pac and his death, the camera starts off far but starts zooming in as the speaker gets more and more emotional, the camera moves closer to show the emotion.
2pac was known as a thug in America but when we find out that he has a family of his own we stop to think that maybe not all thugs are as bad as the media portrays or are the thugs breaking the stereotypes by being caring. When the audience are taken back to 2pac’s home we see everyone wearing general clothes, nothing is special or expensive and this gives us the sense of poverty, which the rapper claims his life was full of until he started selling drugs and making records.
The documentary has a very dramatic end to it; we see a newsreel of the car 2pac got shot in surrounded by police cars on the quiet streets of Las Vegas on a dark autumn night. The documentary finishes with his song, “Breathing. ” This gives a huge dramatic feel because in this song 2pac claims to be the “last one breathing” and this led to the speculation that he was still alive, which contradicts a key part of the documentary. I feel this documentary was aimed at a specific audience because of its content and subject matter.
Not everyone is fond of rap music and especially the explicit content in 2pac’s song so the programme may not have appealed to them in the slightest if rap is not their type of music. This documentary would only appeal to a select number of females because of its explicit nature and lack of female cast; the only female interviewees were his mother and ex-wife, no female friends or colleagues. Most of the people in the documentary were black and this could possibly give the wrong message to other races about his life. This could lead people to believe that he may have been racist and his murder may have had race relations.
This documentary was put together after the death of 2pac so there are no interviews of him that give us a clear representation of his character so the only evidence presented are other people’s views of him. When 2pac was alive he was a thug and gangster but after his death people started seeing the other side to him which showed love and compassion for people and saw him as a legend because of the quality and depth of his music, which was not realised until after this death which is ironic because if he were alive he would have loved to have been perceived in this light.
When I make my own documentary I will thoroughly research the subject matter and collect as many facts about it as I can. I will have a middle-aged educated man to be my narrator as this will make it more convincing and the audience will believe it and I will include some key characters in my cast who I feel will suit the role the best and present my information the way I’d like it to be presented. One thing I will be certain not to do is go astray from the topic and make sure I stay focused on the topic and produce all the necessary facts.
One of the most important aspects of my programme will be the reaction people have to my production and how it makes them think about the topic. A possible subject matter could be the greenhouse effect. I could say what it is, why it is raising cause for concern and have a scientific conclusion to bring my production to an end. The main aim of a documentary is to inform and entertain the audience about the topic but a TV documentary is exciting and entertaining compared to reading the same information in a book.
This is because we enjoy watching things; as Neil Postman once said, “We live in a visual world. ” I have learnt that documentaries have very different codes and conventions to other genre. Documentaries are there to inform the audience but different producers have different ways of portraying that information. Different documentaries are aimed at different age groups depending on the subject matter and different groups of people in general depending on the topic. Documentaries are the most enjoyable and entertaining way of educating and informing the audience.