Summary-Review of Chapter 1 of The Film Experience/ Encountering Film: From Preproduction to Exhibition
FILM IN FOCUS: Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1979) is a realist depiction of the everyday challenges faced by a working-class father in the impoverished Watts district of Los Angeles. The dance between Stan (Henry G. Sanders) and his wife (Kaycee Moore) enacts the strains on their relationship.
After watching the clip from Killer of Sheep, consider the questions below. Then submit your response.
Killer of Sheep was not widely distributed until all the music rights were cleared thirty years after it was finished. Describe the effects of Dinah Washington singing Clyde Otis’s "This Bitter Earth" in this scene.
The production values make it clear that this is a low-budget film. How does the scene make meaning from its limited means?

FORM IN ACTION: Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, 2009) builds on audience familiarity with Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book and curiosity about its adaptation to a feature-length film. In this clip Max has journeyed to the land of the wild things and found that he hasn’t escaped the challenges of everyday life.
After watching the clip from Where the Wild Things Are, consider the questions below. Then submit your response.
What themes are present in the clip? What does the scene say about Jonze’s interpretation of the book? What pictorial choices characterize this adaptation and establish its mood and point of view?
Watch "trailer 1" for Where the Wild Things Are on IMDb or iTunes ( How does the trailer use music to give it continuity and to indicate the film’s sensibility? Does the trailer seem aimed at a child audience? Watch "trailer 2." How is the child’s perspective highlighted in this trailer? Does the trailer portray the land of the wild things as preferable to life at home?

VIEWING CUE: Man of Steel

Zack Snyder’s retelling of the myth of Superman, Man of Steel (2013), combines familiar icons with fresh effects. In the clip from a climactic battle scene, General Zod appears invincible.
After watching the clip from Man of Steel, consider the questions below. Then submit your response.
How is attention drawn to Superman and the star who plays him? Does the scene attempt to transcend action film clichés?
Look at "trailer 1" for Man of Steel on IMDb or another source and explain how the scene you’ve watched fits into the story that the trailer tells. What elements besides action elements seem important to the trailer? Do those appear in the battle scene?

FILM IN FOCUS: Citizen Kane

Towards the conclusion of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941), Kane and his wife, Susan Alexander, have isolated themselves in the palatial Xanadu, surrounded by magnificent spaces and cut off from the world.
After watching the clip from Citizen Kane, consider the questions below. Then submit your response.
Focusing on this sequence, consider how its details and actions might be seen (and perhaps understood) differently in different exhibition contexts, such as on a large screen versus a computer monitor. Which details might look similar across different exhibitions? Which might look different?
How might the exhibition history of Citizen Kane inflect or alter how this sequence is perceived? How might audiences in 1941 have understood it differently than audiences today?

FILM IN FOCUS: The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project (Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, 1999) is an influential, low-budget example of what would become known as transmedia storytelling, with the story told in the film also framed and supplemented by online marketing, a comic book, and other media.
After watching the clip from The Blair Witch Project, consider the questions below. Then submit your response.
In this clip, how is the emblem of the film’s marketing campaign—the stick figure—introduced to the filmmakers within the film in a manner that underscores the different levels of narration?
How does the film’s use of low-budget amateur formats attempt to authenticate its marketing story and its claims to novelty?


Much goes into making a film before viewers experience it. The varied filmmaking practices are artistic and commercial, but also social and cultural. Understanding the production, distribution, promotion, and exhibition processes deepens our appreciation of the labor and art of filmmaking, and illuminates the influence of society and culture on filmmaking.
Where and when we see a movie shapes our response, enjoyment, and understanding as much as do the form and content of the film itself. The film experience encompasses rapidly expanding viewing technologies (from HDTV to movies viewed on computers, smartphones, and iPads), changing social environments (from IMAX to home theaters), and multiple cultural activities designed to promote interest in individual films (reading about films, directors, and stars, or consuming video games or special DVD editions connected to a film franchise).

Production: How Films Are Made

Film production describes the different stages—from the financing and scripting of a film to its final edit and, fittingly, the addition of production credits—that contribute to the construction of a movie. Film production is generally broken down further into three stages: preproduction, production, and postproduction. However, these stages often tend to overlap and blend into one another, especially in the age of digital filmmaking.
Preproduction describes the various efforts that occur before the actual filming of a movie begins—this includes financing, screenwriting, casting, location scouting, story-boarding, designing costumes, set building, and so forth. Key preproduction personnel include screenwriters, producers, casting directors, agents, art directors, set designers, and costume designers.
Production typically refers to the weeks or months spent actually shooting film on sets or location. Key personnel for this stage include the director, cinematographer, actors, sound mixers, stunt coordinators, camera operators, grips, electricians, carpenters, make-up artists, caterers, and dozens of other on-set assistants and crew members. Postproduction refers to processes that occur primarily after—but often also simultaneously with—principal photography and production, editing, sound mixing, and special effects like computer-generated imagery (CGI). Most Hollywood movies rely on hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals working in various capacities; even smaller “independent” films rely on multiple dozens of individuals. As Orson Welles once said, to create art “[a] poet needs a pen, a painter a brush, and a filmmaker an army.”

Distribution: What We Can See

Distribution is the practice and means through which movies are placed in venues where audiences can see them, such as theaters, video stores, online, or on television and cable networks. A distributor is a company that acquires the rights to a movie from the filmmakers or producers and then makes the film available to public audiences by renting or selling the film to theaters or other exhibition outlets.
Feature films are longer films, usually between 90 and 120 minutes, which are the primary attraction for audiences. Our experience of a movie—its length, its choice of stars (over unknown actors, for example), its subject matter, and even its title—is partly determined by decisions made about distribution even before the film becomes available to viewers. Features might be premiered in a variety of ways: in a saturated booking to as many locations as possible (including international) simultaneously, in a wide release to a couple of hundred theaters; in a limited release to only a handful of screens in select major cities; or through platforming, where the film is released in gradually widening markets.
Movies are typically distributed with target consumers, or a demographic, in mind (for example, teenage males, females in their twenties and thirties, or urban African American audiences). Determining the release strategy based on the film’s target audience can help increase its chances for success.
Distributors also use a variety of other channels known as ancillary markets. These ancillary markets include network television, satellite and cable programming (including “On-Demand” services), DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and online downloads via service providers such as iTunes and Netflix. There is usually a lag time between a film’s theatrical release and its release in ancillary markets. Some films, however, are distributed directly to home video or cable television. Noncommercial films, like activist documentaries, artist films, and alternative media, may choose non-theatrical or educational distributors instead of commercial distributors.
Distribution timing refers to when a film is released for public viewing, with summer and the December holidays being the most important time for generating revenue. After a first release, some movies have a second release, usually at smaller theaters, a few weeks or months after their initial release.

Marketing and Promotion: What We Want to See

Film marketing involves identifying an audience in order to best bring a movie to the attention of viewers so that they will want to watch it. Promotion refers to the specific ways a movie can be made into an object that audiences will want to see.
The most common marketing and promotional strategy involves having one or two well-known actors serve as spokespeople or advertising vehicles for a film. Other promotional strategies include using tie-ins, emphasizing the realism of a film (promising a true-to-life story), or focusing on the technical innovation in the film’s special effects.
Older films in current release, independent films, and foreign-language films typically have less access to commercial marketing and promotion strategies. They typically rely on cultural promotion and social media have afforded new opportunities to spread the word to specialized audiences.
Advertising is a central form of promotion that uses such means as television, billboards, theatrical trailers, print ads and banners on Web sites to bring a film to the attention of a potential audience.
Media convergence, or the coordinating and merging of media outlets such as print, television, and the Internet, is often used today to form a coherent advertising strategy that reaches multiple platforms. For example, a viewer might find and play an online game set in the film’s fictional world on the film’s Web site, read a print ad, and watch an online promotion with the film’s stars all before attending the movie in a theater. One aspect of media convergence is viral marketing, any process of advertising that relies on existing social networks such as word of mouth, Internet links, or networks organized by sites like Facebook or Twitter to spread the word about a new release.
High-concept promotion uses a short phrase that sums up a film by highlighting its main marketable features through its stars, genre, or other identifiable connections. Especially from the 1930s into the 1960s, main-attraction films with well-known stars and big budgets were referred to as a pictures, while B pictures played prior to the main attraction and had lower budgets, featured lower-tier actors, and often displayed less cinematic sophistication. Today, the term blockbuster usually indicates big budgets, action scenes, big movie stars, and special effects, while the term art film generally indicates a slower-paced narrative and a more visually and intellectually challenging film.
Rating systems provide viewers with guidelines for movies (usually based on their violent or sexual content) and are also an important form of advertising.
Word of mouth and fan engagement – like fanzines, Internet blogs, fan fiction, and chat rooms – are the primary ways that information about, and enthusiasm for, a movie is exchanged and spread among potential viewers.

Movie Exhibition: The Where, When, and How of Movie Experiences

Film exhibition encompasses the where and when we watch movies, as well as the technological format through which we see the movie. Like production, distribution, and promotion, exhibition contexts and practices can support or alter the intended aims and meanings of a movie.
In the early twentieth century, movies were short (usually under twenty minutes in length) and viewed in vaudeville houses, storefront nickelodeons, or in carnival environments. The 1920s saw the introduction of large movie palaces, such as Radio City Music Hall, and in the 1950s, suburban sprawl—and the invention of television—led to the rise of drive-in theaters and 3-D and wide-screen processes, which were developed to entice audiences and differentiate the movie-going experience from the experience of watching television at home. By the late twentieth century, large multiplex theaters and home viewing on VCR and later DVD and Blu-ray players became the dominant means of watching movies. More recently, portable devices have become portals for watching movies, and home theater systems have also evolved, with better sound systems and streaming video through gaming consoles and Internet connections.
Where and how we watch movies greatly affects our experience. The social activity of watching a movie in a theater differs greatly from the much more independent activity of watching a movie on an iPad using headphones; a blockbuster action flick is more stimulating when viewed on a giant IMAX screen than on a standard television.
Movie culture has commonly emphasized film exhibition as leisure time, and movies themselves are usually thought of in terms of entertainment and play value. Film exhibition, however, can also be considered as productive time during which movies can be used to gain information, material advantage, or knowledge.
1. Contrast the role of producers during the heyday of the Hollywood studio system to their role in contemporary independent filmmaking since the 1990s.

2. What is the role of a film distributor and what effect does this role have on film spectatorship?

3. How did D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) impact the Hollywood film industry in relation to the transition to feature films?

4. How might different release strategies affect an audience’s reception of a film?