Despite the sensitive nature of the subject the media has never exactly shied away from the portrayal of mental illness. With 1 in 4 people supposedly experiencing some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime it makes sense not to ignore the existence of the condition but is it fair to create any sort of stigma around such a complicated and easily misunderstood ailment?
BBC Three recently produced a ‘It’s a Mad world’ series of programmes giving a supposedly honest insight to the life of a crazy. Of course though, only the most extreme and for the most of the population un-relatable cases were shown, which poses lots of questions. What did the BBC actually intend to achieve from this series? With programming such as ‘Don’t call me crazy.’ amongst the contradictory named season the BBC introduced the elephant to the room. Or did it put the elephant in a tutu for our entertainment?
The BBC themselves simply state that the purpose of the season is to ‘..look at a range of mental health issues affecting young people in Britain today.’ But why? The channel’s target audience includes those in the 16–34 year old age group, and has the purpose of providing “innovative” content to younger audiences. Why is talking about mental health so ‘innovative’ though?
The media in the past has been slated for ‘freakshowing’ and highlighting mental illness as something of fascination but where exactly is the line between positive awareness building and exploitation?
With World mental health day on the 10th October, I have been thinking about the mass media’s role in shaping, perpetuating, and reducing the stigma of mental illness and how this has changed.
The one that flew over the cuckoos nest (1975) was praised for getting this balance right, with it’s over the top truths still allowing for a surprisingly not so awkward kind of funny as you might have expected from the media previously, it became a real eye opener for the discussion of mental health within the media.
The american film follows a ‘sane’ troublemaker in the world of a highly controlled mental asylum where it becomes obvious they are all the same just as much as they are different.
The media does seem to be taking some positive steps to highlight the prevalence of mental health issues. Such as http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs/ouch/ run by the BBC for disabled viewers and the premieres of shows such as attention grippingly named I’m spazticus which isn’t afraid to laugh at disability. It might make some people feel awkward to bring this to light but with the numbers of mental health illnesses between us rocketing why shouldn’t we have a sense of humour about it? Or is the area just too sensitive?
Whilst society and thus the media are becoming less afraid to talk about disability, mental health is still seen by many as something a great deal more complex. Mental health although prevalent with hidden pains can also have physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, shaking, uncontrollable movements and unexplainable aches and pains to name a few. So why is the media afraid to discuss the existence of disability as such but willing to laugh in the face of our mental health?
“The media can be used to foster more positive community attitudes and behaviours towards people with mental disorders. (Mental health,New Understanding, New Hope).”
I believe it is about time media producers accept these cumulative changes as a part of our society. To laugh with but not at.
BBC. (2013). It’s a mad world season. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01b3s86/features/programmes. Last accessed 15th Sep 2013.
Klin A, Lemish D. (2008). Mental disorders stigma in the media: review of studies on production, content, and influences.. USA: PubMed. p1.
World Health Organisation. (2001). Promoting mental health. In: Haden,A. and Campinini,B Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. 2nd ed. France: WHO. P98-103.
Aside Posted on
“Everyone uses language,
Artists play with language,
Great artists reinvent it.”
Media courses don’t exactly have the best reputation and boy don’t we know it. My class peers and I were recently branded as studying a ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ by Conservative Sunday Times for studying a degree which is apparently ‘‘little more than a state-funded, three-year equivalent of pub chat’ that is symptomatic of ‘a dumbed down educational world’.
David Blunkett, back a Labour Education Minister confidently announced a distain that too many youngsters were taking ‘narrow’ courses like media studies with an intention of finding future employment ‘instead of studying broader, more intellectually rewarding courses such as history.’ Chris Smith his ministerial colleague, was openly dismissive about the intellectual rigour of media studies degrees, while the Arts minister, Mark Fisher, lamented that media students ‘were being trained for jobs that did not exist.’ In 1997 the labour government opted in to consider ways of capping the rising number of students doing media and communication courses at both college and university.
How little did they know.
Many of the bold statements that have been made are by people who have been proven entirely naive to the content of these stories. When questioned Andrew Marr was asked at a Goldsmiths student forum to give two examples of bad academic media studies books published in the last five years that justified his low opinion of the academic field. Needless to say there was a long pause. as Andrew Marr tried to recall a title. The media has also been slated in the media as being ahistoric by biographer Brenda knoxx yet media history is part of the core curriculum of most media studies courses.
For the record all the films we watch in lectures, and yes we do occasionally, the media itself is only the starting point for what we do. To watch a film analytically and to explore it contextually in terms of its political, economical, cultural, social relativity is very different to just watching a film.
As a media production rather than a media studies student, for me the study of other films is inspiring. Fortunately for our careers worth and despite common misconception I have never studied a module called Hollyoaks in my time at university yet.
Recent lectures in ‘Placing your media production in context’ have really made me think about what the media means to me more than ever. Yes it is possible to just watch a film to absorb it with no deep level of understanding but my degree allows me to use the media to illuminate particular aspects of society that I would not normally take an active interest in with a deeper level of analysis that I am learning.
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss other people.”
A picture is much more than its physical form and to someone studying in the media sector we can take a great deal more information from it from the way of thinking that we obtain from constantly being questioned. Perhaps Blunkett could take a lesson in this, unlike drunk talk we do not make a point from the things we see, hear or feel without being able to back it up, argue it from multiple sides and innovate new ideas. The media is undoubtedly one of the fast moving subjects to study, yes it is a competitive industry but because of the scale of the market there is a great variety in opportunities and allows freedom of independence in many of its pathways.
With cinematography It’s not where you put the camera it’s where you put the audience. It’s only when you start watching and producing films with this in mind that you see why the course is not just watching films and how these analytical skills are useful in every career.
When media production began, films and television were an entertaining gimmick ; ‘Photographs of people talking.’ – Alfred Hitchcock
Media today is a miracle in itself. Whether people like it or not we are surrounded by it in our lives and through learning to understand, recreate it and reinterpret it we can create new ideas. What is human development without new ideas?
Despite the headline ‘Media Studies? Do Yourself a Favour – Forget it’. We shall not.
The use of DSLR’s for filming has opened up a world of opportunities for indie filmmakers ,with major companies such as Canon and Nikon now giving those who don’t quite own caravan sized cameras like this one the chance to create cinematic quality films with greater ease.
Using a DSLR (Digital single lens reflex) camera has vastly become common practice within the world of film and of course has its obvious advantages. Dslr’s come in a wider price range to suit different pockets to suit those who are interested in filmmaking as a hobby and upwards where as quality dedicated film camera tend to start at an industry cost only. Another obvious appeal of using a DSLR for filming is the size and weight of the machine. My friends 20D body only weighing in at a skinny 685g on the bathroom scales! In terms of lugging around your filming equipment inconspicuously and without breaking your back in the long run this is an obvious win.
So whats the catch? There’s quite a few actually. DSLR’s might not weigh as much as a typical film camera but this means it is more difficult to stabilise handheld. Whilst a tripod can fix this it is not always possible to use one. For example on a recent shoot in Birmingham town centre we were asked to not use my tripod for copyright reasons. Big bummer. Unless you have completely still hands then they aren’t the easiest things to shoot steadily on alone straight away. This is worth thinking about if shooting in a busy venue such as a gig that says no to tripods and you are quite likely to get bumped into. But then again at least with a smaller camera you are less likely to cause disruption or block the stage.
And DSLR’s aren’t so much cheaper when you think about the lenses. Whilst the body of the camera may be more affordable than a camera built specifically for filming the upkeep of lenses can really bump this up. In extreme cases such as the Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG Telephoto Zoom Lens – Canon Fit lenses can cost up to £20,000 anyway.
Another pricey thing to think about with using these cameras for films is also the shocking inbuilt mic that comes with it. The audio that is recorded automatically of DSLR’s is no more than a gimmick. Unless you are shooting purely silent films or films about what the inside of your camera sounds like than you’re going to need to fork out for an external mic or sound mixer to cut it.
Now for the technical stuff. Canon and Nikon only allow you to shoot continuously for 29 minutes and 59 seconds at a time to avoid being taxed as a camcorder; stopping and starting is easy enough but if you are hoping to film an uninterrupted long time-lapse or longer exposure in a documentary for example then this is something to consider when weighing up between the two. On a fully charged DSLR battery, temperature depending (preferably using the viewfinder rather than live view) you can film for about 1 hour 40 minutes on average. This isn’t bad considering the price but if again if stopping to change the battery and the cost of potentially a few batteries to get you through one days work isn’t convenient then this can be a real down fall in favour of a more costly Cinematic camera.
Ultimately the pros and cons of using a DSLR over a camera specifically for filming depends on the purpose of which you intend to use it. In scenarios such as documentary filmmaking, a DSLR can be a cheaper alternative as you do not need to worry about switching battery packs and recording time between typically shorter clips to achieve techniques such as an equally competitive quality short depth of field and a huge sensor of about 1.6x crop abilities for a fifth of the price of earlier alternatives .
Despite all its short comings having an alternative compensation such as using an external mic to make up for the terrible internal one DSLR camera’s are still essentially designed for photographers and cinematic techniques are thus harder to achieve and normally require add ons to overcome this e.g multiple lenses, filters, stabilising rigs to shoot hand-held effectively. For this reason it is understandable why people still choose to hand out way above the price out for shooting more technical cinema. They may be considered more difficult to operate by some but in turns of technical specification the difference in comparison to the difference in price is relatively slim.
I set my camera up and was playing with what I saw within my own personality that I could portray in a minute when I received some bad news. My minute portrait is about picking yourself up to perform when you are at your lowest point.
I wished to reflect the ‘performer’ quality within myself, both literally on stage and in my everyday life. The mirror being a protective shield between me and the audience and the make up a cover up to hide my face and negativity behind. My decision to rewind the footage as it was filmed is to emphasise that this is often a loop in our lives ; despite this low in my life when other people have expectations of me I can still put on a face to ‘perform’ to the best of my ability.
Overall I was happy with the final footage. After 3 takes of putting on make up and putting my hair up to ruin it again the message of trying again became more meaningful to me each time and so I was able to think of different ways to portray this feeling within the portrait. Following my research I thought in great detail as to how I could express this emotion even without my face just like in the portraits of Keith Proctor.
I wrapped my fairylights around the mirror to, for the most part create an impression of a professional dressing table but also so that the lighting could blend in and distract away from the details of my face.
It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are. – Paul Caponigro
If I was to do this project again I would play around with the lighting to make it as dramatic but clearer. Although it may be something somewhat different to what you might expect from a portrait I feel the busyness and the narrative reflects ‘me’ well.
Although I intentionally shot the footage as portrait to emphasise the length of the mirror I think shooting it landscape may have looked technically better.
To get thinking about my own individual cinematic style I was set a research task over the summer to find out about the techniques of a cinematographer or film maker that inspired me. As I wish to create films specifically for children I chose to undertake research into Walt Disney. Despite his work being that of a classic I learnt that there was so much more to his filming that I hadn’t previously thought about.
The main thing I learnt from this project is the popularity of rotoscoping. This is something I would definitely like to look into.
260MC Creative Brief One – The Long Portrait/Cinemagraph – Where is the audience? How much are they allowed to see?
As inspired by my research into Walt Disney I have been thinking about different ways that layering can be used to capture an idea in greater detail.
As I mentioned in my presentation I am particularly interested in the merging of two different mediums to create something entirely unique. Exhibited at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery quirky installation ‘Man and his Sheep‘ by Ana Maria Pacheco, 1943 encouraged me to think about what these mediums could be.
Created with traditional materials for its time such as wood, paint but also real human teeth gives a fascinating yet creepy malicious edge to the artefact. No matter where you stand at least one Man reaches out in its macabre realism to you , connects the audience and the persona with its wide eyes. As if it feels intruded on.
This reminded me of the combination of real live action with fictional animation which is now prominent in children’s programming; The wood although human shape is seemingly intentionally abstract to juxtapose with the overt realism of the human teeth. To see it within a darker context fascinated me. Although I wish to specialise in children’s media this module has helped to realise how the metafictional quality of breaking the fourth wall can be used to deal with deeper emotion with greater impact then what it is being expressed alone. In this piece is seems who the audience is, where they are and how they project onto it their own emotion themselves is what the piece itself for the most part is.
Whilst this piece from the Birmingham museum engages directly with its audience as if breaking the fourth wall at all angles, a piece from Castle Galleries in Birmingham compelled my attention; Also having a similar powerful unnerving effect that makes you feel that your relationship with the person becomes your interpretation but using the opposite technique.
The pack by Alexander Mills awoke feelings of depression for me, I feel this piece is reflective of community spirit within the lower classes and the choice to hide their faces is both a cold yet unifying choice. It is there clothes and social class that keeps coalesce. A portrait does not necessarily need a face to reveal a persons identity.
Another art practitioner whose work is currently being exhibited at Castle Galleries and who’s work is both analogous and yet dissimilar to the work of Alexander Mills is Keith Proctor, also from Birmingham.
The use of children and even a teddy bear in his portraits adds a playful and more youthful mood to his art than ‘The Rat pack.’ In this instance although their faces our covered rather than a mournful association it allows its viewer to imprint themselves on the person. In an almost nostalgic way.
Cloning characters can create a sense of power and unity, whilst a single character in a portrait can create feelings of loneliness.
My research within this module has also allowed me to think about how the level of closeness gaged between a subject and its viewer can also create an impact. Whether that be staring directly down the camera to make an audience member more able to engage with a character or a character hiding it’s face to make the audience feel voyeuristic I now know how and why the effect that this technique within my cinemagraph can impact an audience.
The context of the subject is important but where the camera allows the audience to be is just as subjective to interpretation too and even without hiding anything obviously what lighting encourages to direct the audiences attention to.
“Someone said to me, early on in film school….If you can photograph the human face you can photograph anything, because that is the most difficult and most interesting thing to photograph. If you can light and photograph the human face to bring out what’s within that human face you can do anything.”
– Roger Cinematographer
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. Wrinkles are the proof of a million smiles. So what better place for me to discover how and what details of a face can signify more than its physical form than the National Portrait Gallery of London.
A particular artist whose work is currently exhibiting at the gallery and that inspired me is Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970). The attention to detail of her painting speak volumes that allow us to engage with yesteryear characters and even comment on social context in a single picture.
After researching Knight’s work outside of London, I put together a gallery of several of her portraits that I feel have the most semiotic dimensions to them. Even without taking facial expressions into consideration her portraits offer plentiful routes for interpretation about personality, origin and emotions.
I am starting to see how expressions alone can tell a story. Now knowing that a single picture can have so much potency I look forward to using silent expressions as a powerful tool in my 1 minute portrait and other works of all genre to create.
Laura Knight’s static portraits have given me some intellectual nourishment into the various ways that I can express character within art mediums and also what may inspire me in the development of my own cinematic style. For my one minute cinemagraph I can now consider the importance of body language, clothing and lighting (in a similar way to brush strokes) to reveal my true self in 60 seconds without sound but in greater detail.