Tuesday, 24 May 2011

How to prepare for question 1b

In Sunday’s post, I listed all questions which have been set in previous sessions:

Analyse media representation in one of your coursework productions.
Analyse one of your coursework productions in relation to genre
Apply theories of narrative to one of your coursework productions.

You will notice that each of these questions is quite short and fits a common formula. You can be assured that the same thing will apply this summer. You will be asked to apply ONE concept to one of your productions. This is a quite different task from question 1a, where you write about all of your work and your skills, as this one involves some reference to theory and only the one piece of work, as well as asking you to step back from it and think about it almost as if someone else had made it- what is known as ‘critical distance’.

There are five possible concepts which can come up

Media Language

If you look through those questions above, you will see that the first three have all already come up, but don’t be fooled into thinking that means that it must be one of the other two this time- exams don’t always work that predictably! It would be far too risky just to bank on that happening and not prepare for the others! In any case, preparing for them all will help you understand things better and there are areas of overlap which you can use across the concepts.

So, how do you get started preparing and revising this stuff? First of all, you need to decide which project you would be most confident analysing in the exam. I believe that any of the five can be applied to moving image work, so if you did a film opening at AS, a music video, short film or trailer at A2, that would be the safest choice. Print work is more tricky to write about in relation to narrative, but the other four areas would all work well for it, so it is up to you, but to be honest, I’d prepare in advance of the exam as you don’t want to be deciding what to use during your precious half hour! What you certainly need is a copy of the project itself to look at as part of your revision, to remind yourself in detail of how it works.


If you take a video you have made for your coursework, you will almost certainly have people in it. If the topic is representation, then your task is to look at how those representations work in your video. You could apply some of the ideas used in the AS TV Drama exam here- how does your video construct a representation of gender, ethnicity or age for example? You need also to refer to some critics who have written about representation or theories of media representation and attempt to apply those (or argue with them). So who could you use? Interesting writers on representation and identity include Richard Dyer, Angela McRobbie and David Gauntlett. See what they say...


If you’ve made a music magazine at AS level, an analysis of the magazine would need to set it in relation to the forms and conventions shown in such magazines, particularly for specific types of music. But it would not simply comprise a list of those conventions. There are a whole host of theories of genre and writers with different approaches. Some of it could be used to inform your writing about your production piece. Some you could try are: Altman, Grant and Neale- all are cited in the wikipedia page here


A film opening or trailer will be ideal for this, as they both depend upon ideas about narrative in order to function. An opening must set up some of the issues that the rest of the film’s narrative will deal with, but must not give too much away, since it is only an opening and you would want the audience to carry on watching! Likewise a trailer must draw upon some elements of the film’s imaginary complete narrative in order to entice the viewer to watch it, again without giving too much away. If you made a short film, you will have been capturing a complete narrative, which gives you something complete to analyse. If you did a music video, the chances are that it was more performance based, maybe interspersed with some fragments of narrative. In all these cases, there is enough about narrative in the product to make it worth analysis. The chances are you have been introduced to a number of theories about narrative, but just in case, here’s a link to a PDF by Andrea Joyce, which summarises four of them, including Propp and Todorov.


Every media product has to have an audience, otherwise in both a business sense and probably an artistic sense too it would be judged a failure. In your projects, you will undoubtedly have been looking at the idea of a target audience- who you are aiming it at and why; you should also have taken feedback from a real audience in some way at the end of the project for your digital evaluation, which involves finding out how the audience really ‘read’ what you had made. You were also asked at AS to consider how your product addressed your audience- what was it about it that particularly worked to ‘speak’ to them? All this is effectively linked to audience theory which you then need to reference and apply. Here are some links to some starting points for theories:

general intro

presentation on reception theory

Media Language

A lot of people have assumed this is going to be the most difficult concept to apply, but I don’t think it need be. If you think back to the AS TV Drama exam, when you had to look at the technical codes and how they operate, that was an exercise in applying media language analysis, so for the A2 exam if this one comes up, I’d see it as pretty similar. For moving image, the language of film and television is defined by how camera, editing, sound and mise-en-scene create meaning. Likewise an analysis of print work would involve looking at how fonts, layout, combinations of text and image as well as the actual words chosen creates meaning. Useful theory here might be Roland Barthes on semiotics- denotation and connotation and for moving image work Bordwell and Thompson

So what do you do in the exam?

You need to state which project you are using and briefly describe it
You then need to analyse it using whichever concept appears in the question, making reference to relevant theory throughout
Keep being specific in your use of examples from the project

Here is a link to a good answer to q1a and 1b from the January session.

Tomorrow we will start to look at the section B topics, with Contemporary media regulation