‘That’s Entertainment’: Making Meaning in Films

The cinema has become, perhaps after television, the most popular form of visual entertainment in the modern world. Every night, millions of people sit down to watch either a film on TV, a film on video, or else a film on the silver screen, at the cinema.

Cinemagoers walk away from film theatres satisfied with what they have seen, or disappointed, with some taking a sort of neutral view of the film’s quality. All, however, have been in communication with the messages put forward by the film.

Unlike printed text, which uses the word, or music, which utilizes sound, the medium of film uses several different ‘tracks’ to reach its audience. These are image, music, dialogue, noise, and written material.

These five are mixed by the film’s producers to form a ‘language’, though this is not the language of the word, the sentence or the text, but the language of the sign. All five are projected out to the audience, and each of the five constitutes a sign, a signifier, for something else. The language of film is the language of semiotics, the language of the sign.

The term ‘signifier’ is used to denote the physical form of the sign. In a film, this could be a smile, a red traffic signal, dramatic music, a shout, or the words of a letter someone is reading. Each signifies something, represents something else.

A smile might signify happiness, joy or love, but it might also signify a triumph of some sort for the person smiling. Everyone knows that a red traffic light means ‘STOP’.

Dramatic music could mean that something important is about to happen. A shout usually signifies danger or pain of some sort, but that might depend on the context in which the shout is heard. Finally, the words of a letter someone is reading on screen use the semantics of language, English, French, or Arabic, for example, in ways that we are familiar with. The word ‘dog’, for example, in the English language, represents the canine species so familiar to pet lovers, and that despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing ‘dog-like’ in the letters of the word D-O-G. The word is also a signifier.

These examples of signifiers and the things they signify, the signified, using real items, the referents, point to several important features of the language of the sign. For the signifiers to represent something to on an audience, they must be sufficiently universal to be fully and quickly understood by everyone watching. A green light that stops the traffic would puzzle everyone.

However, it is worth noting that film makers can use these ‘universals’ to some effect. If a person who has just lost a race smiles into the camera rather than frowns, the audience may be alerted to the fact that something out of the ordinary is happening; that the person intended losing the race, for a reason that might become apparent later in the film. In a letter, the word ‘DOG’ might turn out to be code for ‘SPY’, for example, and this points to yet another facet of the sign, that the context in which it appears helps determines its meaning.

A shout heard at a local football match might mean only that a goal has been scored, in a battle, that someone has been mortally injured. Within different contexts, however, a universality must apply. If it does not, that particular use of the signifier would appear either inappropriate, or misleading.

Finding meaning from apparently meaningless events is a very human trait, and the effect discovered by Lev Kuleshov in the 1920s in the former Soviet Union, and after whom it is named, is that two shots shown in quick succession in a film, one after the other, are not interpreted separately in the viewer’s mind. They are interpreted as being causally related. A + B = C, in which A and B are the two shots, and C is a new value that is not originally included in the two shots.

So, for example, if the first shot is of one showing bombs dropping from a plane, and the second shows a village in flames, the audience will assume that the bombs hit the village and destroyed it.

This accords with that peculiar characteristic of humans; their quest for meaning in otherwise meaningless items. This has its equivalent in language too. Two sentences that appear one after the other will invariably be treated as being causally connected, even though there may be nothing to suggest that.
A: The bombs fell from the plane.
B: The village was completely destroyed..
C: It would be assumed here that the village was destroyed by the same bombs that dropped from the plane. What works on film sometimes works with language too.

In today’s films, this is used to great effect, and is reminiscent of film director, Alfred Hitchcock’s advice to would be film-makers; “Don’t tell, show.” This seems to suggest that the five ‘tracks’ of film language are more powerful when used together than merely the spoken word on film. Even Shakespeare commented that, ‘the eye is more learned than the ear,’ suggesting that we do indeed learn more from being shown than being told.

In the well known series of James Bond films, for instance, the utter ruthlessness of the villain, be he a megalomaniac or a drugs baron, is depicted not so much by words about him, but rather by scenes showing an unsuspecting former confidant of his coming to a grizzly end in a tank full of piranhas or something equally distasteful and spectacular.

That he is devious in the extreme is shown in the early sequences by the friendly and urbane hospitality he shows to the hero of the hour -007.

The scenes in which he shows his true colours, come as no surprise to an audience expecting some exotic, high-tech form of brutality from Bond’s adversary.

Those of us who have seen all those films know exactly what to expect and are never disappointed. In a sense, the ‘language’ of the film extends a communication to us over several films, and to that extent, James Bond films may be said to be formulaic and predictable. Giving the public what they want, however, works at the box office; sequels sell.

In terms of what the audience bring to the film-theatre, I suppose by far the most important is expectation, the anticipation that what they are about to see on film is the same as what they expect. Trailers, adverts and the almost innate knowledge of the modern cinemagoer regarding the stars as well as the producers coalesce to ensure that all the industry’s blockbusters make money.

More unconsciously, audiences bring what has been called the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ to the performance and while this is more in evidence and more necessary for audiences watching live performances on stage, it is still a vital part of an audience’s participation in the cinema. Some film theorists point to the fact that a three-dimensional image, with depth and field, is projected onto a two-dimensional screen and yet still perceived as being three-dimensional, as evidence that an audience is willing to suspend some of their disbelief. The technology of the film industry giants is so extraordinary though as to render this statement quite meaningless.

In the film ‘The Lord of the Rings’ for example, the appearance of enormous mammoths in the midst of thousands of fearsome looking orcs does not really require much suspension of disbelief; everyone watching this wonderful film is well aware that such creatures do not exist anywhere on the planet. Where disbelief must be suspended initially is in entering Tolkien’s world of dragons, dwarfs and hobbits. The total universe of Middle Earth is more subtly projected. An inability to be fully engrossed in this world may interfere with any enjoyment gained from watching the film, or may prevent that person from seeing the film in the first place.

Art is not nature, art holds a mirror up to nature, or so we are told, but it is the holding and in the choosing what part of nature is mirrored that makes film so fascinating and meaningful. The people watching the film in the splendid isolation of the darkened cinema enjoy a form of entertainment in which this one-way communication operates, only bringing to the scene what they can: their participation in the culture in which they dwell, and their wish to know that they are not alone in this world.

It is this identification with the characters in the film that hinders their critical appraisal of it. Bertolt Brecht knew it and took steps to avoid it, but Hollywood revels in it. More identification with the leading character/s sells more tickets. Leave the critical theorizing to Media-studies courses at university. ‘Not a dry eye in the house’ is what every successful film director aims for.

Suspense, letting the audience know something that the person on screen does not know, is one of the many devices used by skillful directors. The screams heard when the woman is stabbed in the shower in the Hitchcock classic; ‘Psycho’ were probably nothing to do with the amount of pain being inflicted by the knife. Audiences cannot really imagine that. The screams were caused by the shock of the situation; the extreme levels of identification with the victim, the feeling of the powerlessness of either the victim on-screen, or the audience off, unable to stop the attack.
Why then do people go willingly to see a film they know, even hope, will terrify them?

They are experiencing something out of their total range of experience, and doing it in comfort too. They are alone, even in a packed cinema. Cinema is not a community event, it is an individualized one. In the cinema, the audience is held enthralled, in a way that is rarely possible watching the TV or a video on TV. The film on the big screen cannot be stopped. The drama unfolds with or without your presence, and few people leave in the middle of a film. That’s entertainment!

Film School Opportunities – Find Your Favorite Job in the Film Industry

The film industry offers an almost infinite list of job opportunities – this is regardless if you are looking for reputable Minneapolis film schools or are wishing to learn more about the movie industry. Do you love to write? Talented scriptwriters are always required in filmmaking. Would you also want to be part of a film crew? Worry no more as you’ll always find a place that will suit you – cooking, operating a camera equipment, monitoring sound boards or studying lighting effects. If you’re more of the business-minded individual, you will always have jobs that will suit your interest – advertisers, marketers, accountants. There are still more jobs in filming, acting, and direction…the list never ends.

Despite this wide selection of opportunities, people may still struggle, unsure of how to enter the film production industry. Indeed, it’s almost always difficult to break into a new area where you have little experience on. It’s a good thing that a number of programs that will help aspiring filmmakers find their niche are available. One is filmmaking.net, which is specifically made to provide resources just for such interested people, providing helpful internet links, articles on current filmmaking opportunities, a directory of other organizations and schools oriented around film, and gear and software needed for amateur forays in the filmmaking industry. Another wonderful option is the Entertainment Career Connection whose subset, Film Connection, links aspiring filmmakers and industry professionals through effective mentoring programs. This way, the mentor can pass along valuable information while giving a broader look at how the real world of film and filmmaking proceeds.

Educational Options in Minneapolis

There are several Minneapolis film schools, based within the area and offering training in many of the technical areas of film production, for those who prefer a classical approach. One of the most famous is MCAD, or the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Aside from offering media, art and graphic design courses, MCAD also provides classes on filmmaking and technologies used in various types of film elements. There’s also a less conventional school called Brainco (an affiliate of MCAD), where a more film-oriented program schedule on directing, shooting and film writing classes are carried out.

If you’re looking for a mentor-based type of training, see what you can find out about ScreenLabs, a non-profit Minneapolis program that links those interested in having film careers with writers, directors and producers at a series of workshops designed to give tips and how-to knowledge. Be sure to check in with local colleges and film studios, since they’ll often have hands-on knowledge of film in Minneapolis, and be able to point the way for more information about other Minneapolis film schools options and what you can do to land in your dream job in film production.

Colocation Results on Film Industry

The importance of colocation on the film and entertainment industry is quite apparent for it gives it more visibility and increases its overall output to viewers. It also expands servers of small scale entertainment businesses by bringing them to a stronger and wider bandwidth making it easy to control the many aspects of the IT infrastructure demanded by the popular industry. These include, making studios more accessible online by virtue of the stronger Internet connectivity. The other effect is the saving of time and power required to produce programs because of the little manpower requirements brought about by this technology.

Some of the most important results of the technology on the film industry are that it maintains the power all the time and this reduces the effects of losing copies of programs undergoing filming. Michigan colocation through its web hosting utilizes extra power sources to make sure that even when there is power outage the server keeps running on. This minimizes the loss of data which usually happens when abrupt blackout occurs. This backup is essential for an entertainer who relies on their servers to display their shows on the screen that needs to be on, all the time.

On another facet, using Michigan colocation incorporates the right environment for the functioning of the equipment. If the work is being done at home, the computer is given backup on both the power and connection aspects. The building too, if it is a theater for example, also gains a refreshing background with the air conditioning that is done inside the room. This is very essential to compromise on the overheating that might happen to heavy duty electronic gear. This can act as a good environment for not only the proper utility of the equipment but as a conducive background for the audience in a film theater.

On top of that, colocation ensures that there is effective and dynamic communication. This is very essential in the film industry where many people such as directors, talents and producers need to communicate regularly from disparate locations. On a normal situation this may block some communication channels, but with this technology, the telecommunication devices give a wide bandwidth to the frequencies used by such a company thus allowing fast transmission and feedback of information. The use of Ethernet communication on the other hand as given by the service provider, makes it possible to connect cities in near fiber optic proportions, which is convenient for arranging events simultaneously without having to go to the locale itself.

This also facilitates the lowering of costs that may be used for troubleshooting computer problems and paying a regular bill for Internet connection. All this is provided by the service provider who not only gives the essential electronic equipment, but also offers other service on top. These may include keeping the equipment safe and secure in a natural environment.