Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Compare representations of ‘the law’ in “The Wire” and “Frost”

The Wire is a TV drama set in America and this extract is taken from episode one, season one. Frost is a British crime drama and this extract is taken from the final episode in the final series. The very fact that the programmes are set in two different countries means that there is already two different representations of the law.

The Wire is established as a police drama straight away with the first scene being that of a blue light being reflected in a puddle on the pavement and because of the diegetic sounds of the sirens and police radio, which instantly indicate that this is a crime scene. The credits also tell us that this is a crime drama as the show a variety of images which we would associate with the police. The panning shot of the body which follows only confirms this and also reveals the injuries that the man has suffered. We cut back to a shot of the man nearer the end of the extract but we are now looking at this shot in a different way because we now have a whole new lot of information which has filled in some of the gaps that we had when we originally saw the victims body. The shots of the children sitting on the wall suggest a lot about the neighbourhood that this show is set in. The children do not seem necessarily fazed by what has happened suggesting that they are use to seeing this but because the children are black we can assume that the drama revolves around a tough African-American community and the mid shot which follows of the police man confirms that this show is set in Baltimore. By setting this in a inner city area you are perhaps playing to the stereotypes that this is the place where crime is most common.

Following the initial establishing of the scene we then here the first piece of dialogue between a police officer and witness. The police man is a well dressed white man, whilst the witness is a casually dressed black man, showing the divide between the police and the people who are actually involved in the crimes and those who solve them. It could be suggested however that the policeman does go someway to try and bridge this gap by brining humour to his nickname, this along with the two-shot camera technique which has been used to show the two males interaction, suggests that in law the police men have to try to get to the bottom of the crime but they also need to build up a relationship with the community to get information as they this community are loyal and are anxious of the police, indicated by the close up shot of the detective in the background and the witness who is out of focus and then via-versa, reinforced by the witness telling the police officer “ain’t going to no court”. The police officer does mange to build a relationship with the witness as the witness does confide in him about how Snot-Boogie didn’t have to get killed because of what happened. The witness talks about how Snot had to “play” because “this is America”, suggesting that that the criminal world in America has its own set of rules and it’s own way of life. The exchange between police officer and witness is edited together in a slow paced way, which creates a feeling of calm, something you would not expect to find at a police scene. The editing of this scene also shows a side of the law that is sympathetic as it is not hectic so does not through the witness in to chaos over what he has just witnessed but instead clams him and the audience down, giving the piece a slow paced narrative. You could also get a sense that because the witness seems to know the victim well, as he refers to him informally as ‘Snot-Boogie’, he has grown up in this area of crime and it has become part of his life. The colloquial way in which he talks also shows that even if he doesn’t come from this area in particular he comes from a background very much like this.

The opening of Frost is similar to The Wire in many ways as this again does not stay with fast paced action but instead it is taken at a slower speed. It is also similar in that they both beginning with evidence of a crime taking place but in Frost the crime is not as sinister as it appears to be someone hotwiring a car, however this scene turns into being fairly comedic as it is an older man who cannot start the car and has to ask to be given a push. This slows the narrative down and is not something that you would expect from a police drama, where you might be expecting to see a car chase. There is also a comedic element, something that is hinted at in The Wire but not really over riding in the opening, because it would appear that there is nothing wrong with the calm, judging by the man tapping on the steering wheel and with his foot on the break. This could suggest that the law is not always as serious as you would expect, particularly those in England compared to the USA. Like The Wire there is also the use of police walkie-talkies to suggest that this is a police series, reinforced by the emergence of the police men from the van. This is when the editing in Frost does however speed up in the opening, something that doesn’t happen in The Wire, when all the police officers emerge from the van to arrests the two men who had been giving it a push. This simple arrest suggests that the police officers in Frost are not dealing with such smart and serious criminals as they are in The Wire. The use of non-diegetic sound, deep but fast, heightens the tension and anxiety, along with the hand held camera used as the police officers enter the building as the audience are allowed to experience what the police officers experience. Once the men have broken into the building we learn the nature of the operation, illegal dog fighting. This highlights the difference between law in America and Britain because of the types of issues they are dealing with.

The opening scene of both Frost and The Wire establish the social setting where the drama is set. In Frost this social setting is similar in that although it is also working class there does not seem presence of violence initially and instead is just police officers trying to drive through football fans.

The hierarchy of police officers is also something that is present in The Wire and Frost. In The Wire it established by the fact he wears his own clothes and is in charge of talking to the victims and in Frost this is also the case and his importance is also shown by the police cars all going on his command.

Law is presented in very different ways in The Wire and Frost. The Wire shows a police officers compassion and bond with the witness whilst Frost is very much about the police officers and criminals being two very different groups of people.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Crime/Police drama exam question

Ashes to Ashes

This extract is from the police drama series Ashes to Ashes. The series is set in the 1980's with the main character, Alex Drake being from the present day and is trapped in 1983, trying to get back to 2010.

The opening shot of the scene starts with a shot of the ceiling and then pans down to reveal the police office. Although Gene Hunt is informing them of their next important case the officers seem to have a very casual attitude to their job, highlighted by them casually sitting on desks, instead of holding their meeting in a more formal environment and manner. Their unconventional approaches to their jobs are also clear because of the messy desks and smart/casual clothes that they are wearing.

The mise-en-scene makes it easy to identify that this series is set in the 1980s because the decor of the office is fairly representative of the era and the characters clothes make it easy to establish what era this police drama series is set in. References to Margret Thatcher and her members of parliament also reveal that this show is set in 1983.

To clear up any doubt that this series is a police drama, there are close up shots of different suspects and photographs of evidence that they will need to be able to solve the crime. These shot’s help clear the viewer to learn more about the crime and the people that Hunt is talking about. Whilst Gean Hunt is explaining to his officers the case that they are investigating we see mid shots of some of the main officers, which reveal their reaction to what they are being told.

When Jim Keats enters the room it is clear that the rest of the officers do not like him. A close up shot of Ray Carling’s face shows that he is disappointed to learn that Keats is not yet leaving and the station are making him stay an extra week. Not only is it obvious that Keats is seen as an outcast by the other police officers because of their urgency for him to leave but his clothing also shows that he is different from them, as he has turned up to work in a suit, meaning his appearance is very different to the other officers. It is in this scene that there is an element of comedy introduced as the other officers have prepared a party with food and drinks to celebrate that he is leaving. The way that Gene talks to Keats also shows that the two men are different kinds of police officers. Keats is more formal and answers to authority, whilst Gene Hunt has more of a moral conscious and for him the most important thing is to discover who committed the crime regardless of weather or not the authority want him to or not.

The establishing shot of the burning building shows the audience for the first time the problem that Gene Hunt has been talking about. This is the first instance when the audience get to see any action, which adds to the excitement of a police or crime show. As Gene and his team arrive at the polling station there is a long tracking shot which follows the car entering the site and the officers getting out of the car. Because this shot follows them all fairly quickly it shows the sense of urgency the characters feel about getting to the scene of the crime. Keats is already at the scene of the crime, which again highlights that the other characters do not want to interact with him. This scene also shows that Gene Hunt is an unconventional police officer as he is sending his officers to look around the polling station whilst there is still a fire going to be put out.

A two shot between Ray and Jim, with Jim in the foreground, shows that Keats is trying to cause a rift between the group as he encourages ray to disobey the orders of Gene. For a viewer that has watched that is familiar with the show, this could possibly create anger towards Keats as we know how close the bond between Gene and his officers is. Ray chooses not to listen to Jim on this occasion but because the camera is positioned close to Ray we can see a look on his face that what Jim has said has clearly affected him.

Once the officers have gone off to look around the building Ray hears the screaming of a woman, there is a shot of the door, which indicates that the noise is coming from inside the room and then a close up of Ray reveals that he has the intention of going into the room to save the woman. As Alex Drake tries to talk him out of going into the burning room, close up shots of Carling and the door, along with diegetic sound, build tension and show that Ray wants to go into the room to save her. As he runs into the room the shot lingers on the door and DCI Carling runs into the room and is eventually disappears in the flames. The camera zooms into the door and the room but because we cannot see Ray the audience panic.

When Drake is standing outside the building trying to get someone to help her get Ray out it cuts to the title sequence where Drake tells the story of how this woman from 2010 has ended up in 1983. There is the same opening titles from every one of the episodes and all of them explain why Alex thinks she has been sent back to the 1980s. Following this there is a soundtrack and images of shots which introduced all of the characters and actors in the show. These series of close up and mid shots reveal what the characters are like, for example Gene Hunt’s shots show that he can be forceful and moody, which as the show progresses we learn he is.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Skins Exam practice.

This clip is taken from the opening of Skins, a TV drama based around a group of teenagers attending sixth from. This clip is taken from Series One, Episode One and introduces us to the main character Tony.

This extract goes some way to reveal that Tony is like many teenage boys. The close up shot of his eye’s, which zoom out to reveal that he’s bedcover is of a naked man and woman and the fact Tony has set his alarm so that he can get up in time to watch the woman across the street get changed suggest that like many teenage boy’s Tony is interested in sex and women. His typical teenage behaviour is also shown by the fact he is conscious of his weight and body appearance, highlighted by the fact the first thing he does when he gets up in the morning is exercise. The mise-en-scene of Tony’s room is in contrast to what we would expect to see stereotypically of a young boy’s room as it is tidy, indicated by the draw he opens which shows the neatly folded shirts. We would expect it to be much like the room that we see at the end of the extract, when he rings his friend, where an establishing shot shows that his room is a mess and a close up shot shows that his friend has left his phone on a dirty plate next to his bed and is not yet up for school yet, unlike Tony. The posters on his wall reveal that Tony is into old movies, which is contrast to the more modern rock music that he plays as he is distracting his dad from his sister. Also when Tony is sitting on the toilet he is reading a hard book suggesting that he is an intelligent boy.

Whilst Tony is getting ready, we cut to a fixed shot of his sister walking along the street on her way home from a party. This shot does not only reveal that his sister is like a stereotypical teenage girl because she likes to go out to a party, wearing lots of make up and short skirts but it also reveals that the siblings live in a fairly wealthy area as all of the houses are reasonably sized and the people who live in the houses take pride in them. The girl tries to get the attention of her brother from the street below but her brother is too distracted by the woman changing in the house opposite that he cannot see her, which is reflected by the non-diegetic music playing which has a trance vibe to it. Once she has gained his attention a number of shots of the close up’s of the pair looking at each other suggest that this is a regular occurrence as they do no need to exchange dialogue but understand what each other is saying by communicating non-verbally.

To distract his parent’s whilst his sister enters the house Tony turns up the music on his stereo really loud, meaning the non-diegetic music stops and diegetic music begins. This triggers his father to start shouting at his son from another room, to which a close up shot of Tony making a gesture to his sister telling her it is ok to enter the house, although he doesn’t know where his father is but her knows that he will enter his room to moan at him, therefore leaving way for his sister to enter the house without her parents knowing she had even left.

The divide between parent and children is clear by the fact his children seem to be of the opinion that their father is a fool, not only because they are able to distract him from realising that his daughter has been out all night but also by the close up to reveal their dad’s bum as he bends down to pick up something from under the kitchen sink later on in the extract, which shows that both the children think there dad is a joke.

When he’s dad does eventually come into his room Tony tells him that he cannot turn the music off, which causes his father to grow even more annoyed at his son and the close up’s of his face reveal the fathers anger. Throughout the scene Tony continues to annoy his father, especially when a camera shot reveals Tony sitting on the toilet reading a book whilst his father is waiting to get into the bathroom. Tony leaves the bathroom through the window and then climbs down the drain on the outside of the house and enters the house through the front door, whilst his father is still screaming at him to get out of the toilet. The father and son’s attitudes are in complete dissimilarity to one another as the son is calm and composed whilst his father is anxious and angry.

His sister, Effy, enters the house whilst Tony is still being shouted at by his father to turn his music down. This suggests that the children see there father as a fool as they know that they can trick him into believing that Effy was at home all last night. The mise-en-scene of Effy’s bedroom shows that her parents perceive her to be an innocent girl, indicated by the pink bed sheets and patterns on the wall, whilst in fact she is far from innocent. The perception that her parents have of Effy is very different from the reality that her brother knows more about, showed by the mid shot, revealing he is grinning, as he sits down for breakfast at the table with his sister who is now dressed in her conservative school uniform, with no make up and her hair tied in a plait, a contrast to the character that we had early seen who was wearing lots of make up, more risqué clothing and her hair wild and unbrushed. This transformation also takes place when Tony is being shouted at by his father to turn the music down. There is a series of close up shots of both the dad’s face and Effy getting changed, showing that not only is she well practiced at getting changed fast because she has been in this situation many times before but because she is rushing to get changed before her father finds out that she has been out all night.

The tracking shot that follows Tony leaving his house and walking to college show him interacting with his friends for the first time instead of his family. The different people that he is ringing on his mobile reveal the sort o crowd that Tony hangs around with.

Shameless exam practice.

Shameless exam question

This clip is taken from the comedy drama series, Shameless. The show begins with a monologue from the main character Frank Gallagher, who is introducing the other characters in the show. His speech enables us to learn about the characters personality and the role that each one of them plays with in the family and the community. This is accompanied with shots of all the characters, which build upon what Frank has already told us. There are both close up’s and mid shots of the characters. The close ups allow us to learn about the children’s temperaments and attitudes as they reveal their facial expressions and for most of the children, with the exception of the oldest daughter, most of them seem to be angry, violent or hyperactive. The mid shots reveal more about their personalities because they reveal more about their role in the family. These shots also help establish that all the children are individuals who have their own personality. The opening shots and monologue, which is diegetic sound, allows us to learn that Frank and his children have a relationship where the roles are reversed as it is the children who have to look after Frank as he is often drunk and not the other way round. A bird eye view shot of Frank lying on the kitchen floor shows this and it also shows that his children are scarred of him as they run away when hw wakes up. In the same shot we see a loaf of bread fall to the floor, which adds an element of comedy to the scene. These opening scenes and monologue also indicate lot about Frank’s situation as we learn that he is a single parent as his wife has left him, who likes to party and we learn that no matter how good of a father we judge Frank to be he loves his children. The monologue is played alongside a piece of diegetic music which continues until the first scene.

The mies-en-scene of the Arial shot when the children are running from the house, suggests that not only are there young children living in the house because of the children’s bikes, which are in the right hand corner of the scene but the campervan at the top of the screen again suggests that they are working class as it is battered, possibly because they cannot afford to fix the van and it also suggests that they do not have money because it is possible that the van is used for holidays. The fact they have a yard also suggests that they live on a urban estate because they there is no grass for the children to play, only concrete and because it is only a small area.

The opening shot is an Arial shot of the Chatsworth estate, the housing estate where all the drama is set. This helps establish the setting and hints at some of the issues that may be addressed in the TV show as we know it is set on a council estate and will therefore deal with issues that effect working class people. The Ariel shots are followed by a number of shots which zoom in on things on the estate such as the children’s play areas and windows on the block of flats. These also mean we learn about the social setting that our characters find themselves in.

When the brother discovers that his brother is gay his shock is evident through the quick editing of the shots of the photographs that he discovers. These shots create a sense of urgency and panic, which the brother is feeling as he discovers he’s brother is gay. The brothers surprise can represent the idea that young working class men are not and do not come out as being gay.

At Karen’s house, Lip has to remove his shoes before he enters. This shows that Karen’s mum has OCD and does not leave the house and doesn’t like outside dirt entering the house. The plastic bag that her mother hands him and the mies-en-scene of the house is clean and is in contrast to the Gallagher’s house, which is unorganised and messy, mainly because of the amount of people living there.

Monday, 29 March 2010