Empire and Nationhood

The sources used by Mary Ann Heiss in Empire and Nationhood are successful in providing credible background for her statements regarding British and American sentiments during the Iranian Oil dispute. The lack of sources from Iran means that it is a largely a two, instead of three sided account of the events. She creates a detailed picture of the negotiations from a western viewpoint using largely the correspondences of Great Britain and the United States while the viewpoint of the Iranians is pieced together from secondary sources and public announcements. The cultural bias of the western representatives is commented on, so although there is a record of Iranian negotiations, they are biased and often indignant descriptions by diplomats.
The overview of the Anglo-Iranian Oil crisis draws on many secondary works and a few books or articles written by people involved or living in Iran at the time. The secondary works are for the most part written by western historians whose titles do not suggest an evenly balanced perspective. For example the official history of the British Petroleum Company is cited a few times and many of the books are primarily concerned with the cold war. Iran was certainly important in the cold war but focusing on it might tend to show the perspectives of those fighting the war rather than that of Iran, which was a chess piece in the games being played between the US and the USSR.
The sources that contribute to the descriptions of the strained relations leading up to the rise of the nationalization movement and the rise of Mossadeq are a mix of British and American correspondences and books concerning the rise of Mossadeq and the political situation in Iran before him. This chapter, “too little too late” shows the greatest balance between eastern and western sources used. The difference is that the sources from the Middle Eastern perspective are written long after the events took place while correspondence on the part of the western diplomats give a more accurate sense of the feeling at the time. Authors whose names indicate Middle Eastern heritage are significant because they are referenced sparingly once Mossadeq is prime minister. This may have something to do with the secrecy Mossadeq afforded himself once in office. Also, the remainder of the book is largely an account of the negotiations between Mossadeq and representatives of England and the US. This means that presently we can look at the negotiations because there is a record of the internal consultations on the western end but we do not know the full extent of the pressure and constraints put on Mossadeq by political entities and public opinion. A dispatch from the state department to someone involved with debating Mossadeq on a key point shows the reasoning behind the American position while the reasoning behind the Iranian posture can only be guessed at.
Another reason for the one sidedness of the documentation is that for the most part, it was a Prime Minister talking to a diplomat who is already biased against the PM. Mossadeq had the power to make concessions so the political motivations behind his actions have to be derived from the situation in Iran. We have such a good record of the western motivations because American and British agents were constantly conferring with each other and their respective governments. It is unlikely that Mossadeq communicated with his advisors in writing and probably kept the details of his situation secret.
An important factor with regard to documentation that is not discussed in the book is the fact the Tehran at this time was chock full of spies. Channels of communication are never one hundred percent secure so information that was considered sensitive would be unlikely to be sent by telegraph for example. The author demonstrates the general fears of the US with regard to soviet interactions in Iran, but the specific threats, real or perceived, are not revealed. The author mentions documents relating to the MI-6 and CIA inspired coup that are withheld but only touches upon why the US thought the USSR would automatically take power in Iran if the economy were to fail. There is certainly logic behind the containment policy in Iran but because there is little mention of popular Iranian sentiment regarding communism aside from the actions of the Tudeh party, the policy seems to stem mainly from American paranoia.
The only primary sources that voice the position of Iran are the Correspondences between his/her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Persian government, and related documents (concerning the oil Industry in Persia, February 1951 to September 1951) (Concerning the joint Anglo-American proposal for a settlement of the oil dispute, August 1952 to October 1952) The problem with these sources is that they were most likely documents that could be made public and were, if it suited a political aim. Most of the negotiations were done without the public knowledge or proposals were made informally at first with the reaction often eliminating the need to present them formally. What we can see in these formal documents are the last ditch efforts by Briton to save face by standing behind proposals they knew would be rejected.
It is clear that the United States was integral in the dispute between the Iranian Government, the AIOC and the British Government but the records taken from the national Archives verses the ones taken from the Public Record Office show that the available American records are more concise and therefore less accurate. The documents from the Public Record Office in England include minutes, memorandums and other immediate sources. These kinds of sources, if unaltered, are likely to be the most accurate and the most revealing. The record of the Secretary of Defense should in contrast be far less revealing and is certainly not cited as frequently as the Foreign Office correspondence. These American sources are not likely to contain information that could be considered inflammatory. That is to say that the United States would not be likely to make information public that could add to the hatred of the US by Iran.
The author does a satisfactory job of filling in the blanks created by the lack of Iranian primary sources. She gives a reasonable assessment of the political situation in Iran based on western perceptions that were probably fairly accurate because of the strategic concerns in Iran. The memoirs of Mossadeq may have helped to explain some of the pressures he faced in Iran but even a person’s memory of their own actions cannot be trusted as fact. While the author does not attempt to analyze individual Iranian sentiment for lack of material, it would seems possible to find a primary source written by an Iranian who was not Mossadeq or the Shah. She does a good job showing the shift from British to American domination of the Iranian oil as well as their reactions to the nationalist movement.

Review Bibiography

International History Review v. 21 no. 4 (Dec. 1999). Mejcher, Helmut, reviewerhttp://metaquest.bc.edu:4000/sfx_local?sid=HWW:ACIT&genre=article&pid=%3Can%3E199901501686015%3C%2Fan%3E&aulast=Amuzegar&aufirst=Jahangir&issn=0026-3141&title=The+Middle+East+Journal&stitle=Middle+East+J&atitle=Empire+and+nationhood+(Book+Review)&volume=53&issue=1&spage=138&epage=140&date=1999&ssn=winter—There was an error with the Factiva server when I tried to print this review before class but I had read it with the paper.
Diplomatic History v. 23 no. 3 (Summ 1999). Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs, reviewer. http://www.blackwellsynergy.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=0145-2096&date=1999&volume=23&issue=3&spage=559

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Censorship on TV

Programming is what attracts audiences to television but advertising is the primary means of revenue generation for most networks and stations.  In a situation when 1) specific broadcast programming is attacked for containing too much “skin and sin” by traditional family values groups, 2) advertisers are inundated with thousands of email, letters and telephone calls to stop buying commercial time by concerned family group followers and 3) some advertisers withdraw, is this a triumph for the television audience, a chilling effect on broadcast TV creativity, or a step towards censorship and bland programming?   Assume each of these perspectives and cite evidence from previous program histories to explicate how these electronic media issues evolved, were resolved and continue to coexist.

 

Mackenzie

Liz

Adrienne

Monica  

I. History/Background

 

A) Concerns started early in broadcasting– government reluctant to censor outright, First Amendment concerns – different audiences have different tastes

  • What tends to happen is self-censorship – occurs to varying degrees depending on the decade, political climate
  • Always tension between family values groups, advertisers and content creators
  • All have to coexist within the framework of television production business model

 

B) Early TV – sponsors basically created the shows, would edit content as they saw fit

  • Form of self-censorship: writers of programs would stop writing controversial material, or material that could be seen as defiling advertiser’s products
    • Thunder on Sycamore St. – change black neighbor to criminal (seen as less controversial)
  • Television code: 1952 – NAB sets internal standards to follow
  • Red Channels/Red Scare: blacklisting becomes common practice within the industry – advertisers don’t want suspected Communists in shows they sponsor, so producers start blacklisting actors 
    • Jean Muir fired from The Aldrich Family  – General Foods backs out until she’s gone
  • Having a chilling effect on content, some members of audience see it as triumph (McCarthy). It is a form of censorship, and lead to blander programming

 

C) 1960s through today – advent of shared sponsorship in late 60s – no one sponsor has as much control anymore, but similar issues of appropriate content persist, technology evolves as ways to mitigate, changing audience due to popularity of cable and importance of demographics continues to change climate

l  Minow’s “vast wasteland” speech attacks TV content as too violent and full of ads – leads to dozens of bland programs – Beverly Hillbillies, Gomer Pyle

l  National Federation for Decency organized fundamentalist churches and others to protest  “unwholesome shows” like ABC’s Soap – politically sensitive, controversial material not welcome on TV – several sponsors pull out

l  Parents Television Council founded in 1995 to protect children from sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. The group advises actions such as letters to sponsors and FCC complaints.

l  V-chip – mandated in all new sets after ’96 – way for parents to be censors for their children rather than government setting standards for what’s appropriate

  TV ratings system – to guide concerned groups about content appropriate for age groups – parents can become censors rather than the network

l  Growth of cable leads to bolder programming and sometimes to stricter measures of decency.

  “Keeping advertisers happy despite scheduling three of the most boundary-crossing shows on TV — “The Shield,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Rescue Me” — has become something of an art for FX. Cabler pulls in robust ad dollars — $271 million in 2006, according to Kagan Research.” (Variety, 2006)

l  Awards shows – 3 second delay now in place, not entirely “live” broadcast for fears of indecent content

 

II. Fact or Fiction?

 

A) Creativity

”The biggest problem with how much sex there is on TV now isn’t whether it’s offensive,” says Norman Lear, one of the people who broke television’s sexual taboos in the 1970’s to raise social consciousness. ”It’s that most of the sex on TV today just isn’t funny. It’s stupid and boring.”

               IN FACT = the Kaiser-Children Now study concedes that out of 451 depictions of ”sexual behavior” in the family hour, only 15 involved sexual intercourse.

 

ABC’s steamy intro Monday Night Football in November of 2004, featuring a naked Nicollette Sheridan jumping into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, drew complaints from viewers and the NFL.

               IN FACT = ABC’s switchboards were not swamped by shocked viewers on Monday night. A spokesman for ABC Sports told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he hadn’t received a single phone call or e-mail in the immediate aftermath of the broadcast.

B) Exaggerating Numbers

There’s another, more insidious game being played as well. The F.C.C. and the family values crusaders alike are cooking their numbers.

 

               The first empirical evidence was provided this month by Jeff Jarvis, a former TV Guide critic turned blogger. He had the ingenious idea of filing a Freedom of Information Act request to see the actual viewer complaints that drove the F.C.C. to threaten Fox and its affiliates with the largest indecency fine to date – $1.2 million for the sins of a now-defunct reality program called “Married by America.” Though the F.C.C. had cited 159 public complaints in its legal case against Fox, the documents obtained by Mr. Jarvis showed that there were actually only 90 complaints, written by 23 individuals. Of those 23, all but 2 were identical repetitions of a form letter posted by the Parents Television Council. In other words, the total of actual, discrete complaints about “Married by America” was 3.

C) Exaggerating “Pull”

Such letter-writing factories as the American Family Association’s OneMillionMoms.com also exaggerate their clout in intimidating advertisers.

 

               They brag, for instance, that the retail chain Lowe’s dropped its commercials on “Desperate Housewives” in response to their protests. But Lowe’s was not an advertiser on the show; the advertiser who actually bought the commercial was Whirlpool, which plugged Lowe’s as a retail outlet for its products under a co-branding arrangement.

               Another advertiser that the family-values mafia takes credit for chasing away, Tyson Foods, had only bought in for one episode of “Desperate Housewives” in the first place. It had long since been replaced by such Fortune 500 advertisers as Ford and McDonald’s, each clamoring to pay three times as much for a 30-second spot ($450,000) as those early advertisers who bought time before the show had its debut and became an instant smash.

 

III. Specific Show Examples

 

l  NBC’s Saturday Night Live – March 1989 – Advertisers pull out after pressure from Christian group

1.      Ralston Purina Co. confirmed that it had dropped plans to run about $$1 million in ads on the program starting in April because it felt one of the shows “crossed over the line of good taste.”

2.      General Mills Inc. said it had canceled an undisclosed number of ads on the show after reviewing the other episode.

l  Fox’s Married…with Children – March 1989 – one woman, Terry Rakolta, from Michigan writes numerous letters to have show pulled.

1.      Several advertisers, including Procter & Gamble Inc., McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola USA, cancelled or curbed their advertisements on the show.

l  ABC’s thirtysomething – In November 1989, when ABC’s “thirtysomething” broadcast an episode showing two gay men in bed talking, advertiser defections cost the network $1 million. Fearing additional financial loss, the network did not repeat the installment during summer reruns.

l  NYPD Blue – September 1993 – show’s premiere episode was not aired in 50 markets due to conservative groups targeting it for its language, violence and nudity. At ABC’s request, Steven Bochco trimmed 15 seconds from a love scene. Parents’ groups – declared the show indecent by community standards.

 

l  ABC’s Roseanne – episode where she kisses a woman in a gay bar (aired on March 1, 1994)

1.      “We have some advertisers who won’t go near it, but plenty who will say there is a price that it is worth,” said Grey Advertising senior VP Jon Mandel.

2.      Rev. Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Assn., which has waged an ongoing campaign against “NYPD Blue,” said, “Lesbians kissing will cost them in ad revenue.”

3.      The show ran with an advisory. (In response to the network’s plan to include an advisory, “Roseanne” exec producer Tom Arnold said in a statement that the show will be delivered to the network as shot. “No editing will be done,” Arnold said.)

 

l  CBS’s The Ellen Show – Ellen’s “coming out episode” April 30, 1997 – three major sponsors pull ads. Only one affiliate in Birmingham, AL decided not to air the episode at all.

1.      Wendy’s – spokesperson Denny Lench says: “The story content no longer fits our advertising guidelines, which are primarily to avoid controversial subjects,” Lynch says. “Story lines that could be controversial or cutting-edge, we would definitely avoid.”

2.      J.C. Penney

3.      Chrysler

4.      Companies that ignored the pressure from some conservative groups not to advertise included Warner Brothers and Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, consumer product companies like Bayer and Warner-Lambert, and apparel retailers like the Gap and the Burlington Coat Factory.

 

l  CBS’s Family Law – August 13, 2001 – episode thought to have been pulled because of gun violence.

2.      Writers Guild of America president John Wells said the decision to pull episodes from the “Family Law” rerun schedule “because one advertiser [Procter & Gamble] objected to the content (was) a serious threat to the creative rights of all artists in our industry.”

3.      CBS subsequently issued a statement denying that the programming decision was forced by the sponsor, Procter & Gamble.

“If you only plan to repeat a few episodes of a series,” said the network, “it is common business sense to rebroadcast the episodes that have the most sales potential. CBS does not program its network based on directives from advertisers, and in fact neither Procter & Gamble nor its agency asked for or suggested these changes.”

Eventually CBS gave Wells what he wanted. It issued a statement in response to Wells: “We are as mindful of the rights of artists as is the Writers Guild. The episode of ‘Family Law’ in question will air on Monday, September 10.”

l  Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” on the Super Bowl Halftime Show: “That exposed nipple shield emboldened the parents groups and religious orgs to ramp up the pressure, galvanizing the FCC to start cracking down on TV shows denounced by self-styled guardians of moral decency.” (Variety)

1.      The incident from Super Bowl XXXVIII led to severe fines. FCC fines levied on CBS: $550,000, Cost to NFL (in sponsor refunds): $10 million
more than 500,000 American complaints

l  Survivor: Cook Island – August 2006 – GM was the show’s top advertiser for 12 seasons but it severed ties with the reality show, claiming the show no longer fit into GM’s business objectives. (This was the season that the contestants were separated by race.)

1.      The show quickly merged tribes into multicultural groups early in the season, but lost out on the potential $12.8 million GM would’ve spent on advertising, as well as Home Depot, Campbell Soup and Coca-Cola North America.

l  Showtime’s Californication – September 2007

1.      Religious groups called for a boycott of the program by sponsors as it depicts explicit sex scenes, language, drug use and lewd behavior by its star David Duchovny.

l  BET’s Hot Ghetto Mess – July 2007 – critics claim the show puts black stereotypes on display.

1.      State Farm Insurance Cos. and Home Depot asked BET to drop their ads from the series debuting July 25.

 

III. Today – and beyond

 

               Screening of episodes for ad executives to calm jitters.

o   For instance, CBS screened the first episode of Kid Nation for advertising executives after growing concern about its content.

               NBC’s recent promise – returning the 8pm-9pm slot to “family hour” starting in fall of 2008. Will other networks follow suit?

               The bottom line is that if a show is hot—in ratings, critical acclaim and stars—then it can get away with more.

               Issues over sponsor’s concerns, content creators’ concerns and special interest/traditional family groups still persist and will continue to persist.

 

 

Further Reading/Article Examples:

 

1) Type in ‘Advocacy Groups and Television Advertisers’ into Search Bar in the proQuest search:

 

Advocacy Groups and Television Advertisers

Hill, Ronald Paul; Beaver, Andrea L.

Journal of Advertising; 1991; 20, 1; ABI/INFORM Global

pg. 18

 

2) Type in ‘Terry Rakolta’ into Search Bar in proQuest and numerous articles regarding “Married… With Children,” “Temptation Island,” etc., will come up—all containing information on what happened and the situation of “sexy and sin” on TV.

 

3)http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE3D61F3AF933A05755C0A96F958260

TV NOTES; ‘Family Guy’ Loses Sponsors

 

4) http://www.mediacoalition.org/reports/wildmon.html

The Rev. Donald E. Wildmon’s Crusade for Censorship, 1977-1992


By Christopher M. Finan and Anne F. Castro

 

5) Complaints over America’s Next Top Model: http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/publications/release/2008/0408.asp

 

6) Parents’ Television Council’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign: http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/advertisers/campaign.asp

 

7) Advertisers pull from BET series: http://www.backstage.com/bso/news_reviews/multimedia/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003609482

 

8) Advertisers pull out of Californication: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10475815

 

9) Ellen comes out on show: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE3DD1031F933A05757C0A961958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

 

10) MSNBC pulls Imus in the Morning: http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/TV/04/11/imus.rutgers/index.html

 

11) Controversial content boosts ratings on ABC: http://media.www.dailytrojan.com/media/storage/paper679/news/2004/10/26/Opinions/Controversial.Content.Helping.To.Boost.Abc.Ratings-780724.shtml

 

12) PBS concerned over profanity used in Ken Burns’ War: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/08/26/MNCARP3OJ.DTL

 

 

 

 

Documentary Film Distribution

The media landscape has certainly changed in the last few years. A dramatic example of this is the way non-fiction films are distributed. Ten years ago there were only a few places where independent producers might sell their documentaries. Today there are many more outlets. What are these new opportunities? Describe at least three case studies of non-fiction films that have profited from these new avenues of distribution.

Changes in the media landscape in the past decade or so have vastly increased opportunities for independent documentary filmmakers to secure distribution. The ever-growing number of film festivals and markets have widened the playing field for those seeking the traditional distribution model, while the Internet and grass roots marketing have made the potential for successful self-distribution a reality.
For many years film festivals have played an essential role in the distribution of independent films and more specifically documentary films. It is with the help of these festivals that audiences are exposed to more documentary films. Film festivals in the past have been successful in introducing and distributing foreign films but it wasn’t until the past few years that documentaries have become some of the most talked about and successful films.
A film festival is an established venue that organizes screening and prizes. The festivals main objective is to introduce movies of a certain kind to an audience. Attendees include, but our not limited to, distribution executives, critics, journalists and the general public. With distribution of a film being critical to its success, film festivals have proved to be a great resource for up and coming filmmakers. With specific calls for entries, low entry fees, rules, and publicized results, festivals are a hotbed for independent filmmakers seeking distribution and provide an environment ripe with opportunities. A win of any kind at a festival gives filmmakers the stamp of approval and bragging rights that sometimes lead to wide distribution of the film.
While the world’s first major film festival was held in Venice in 1932, the Edinburgh International Film Festival in Scotland was established in 1947 and is the longest continually running film festival in the world. Other notable festivals are Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca and Toronto.
Toronto is internationally renowned for the Toronto International Film Festival. After beginning in 1976, it is now the major North American film festival and the most widely attended worldwide, while Toronto’s Hot Docs is the leading North American documentary film festival. The largest festival, in terms of the number of features shown, is the Seattle International Film Festival, screening 270 features, and approximately 150 short films.”
During festivals, territorial deal making occurs which offers the potential for more distribution opportunities. If a film is hot, a bidding war will most likely ensue, increasing the demand for the film and filmmaker. Independent distributors who are looking to acquire certain films for their home territory are anxious to buy.
Distributors use film festivals as an opportunity to acquire films, mostly through negative pickup deals, to announce deals to the press and industry and to enter into partnerships, all of which would benefit a documentary film if picked up. Theatrical distributors range from divisions of large studios like Miramax, Fox Searchlight and Paramount classics to stand-alone companies like Newmarket, Strand and Lions Gate.
One of the most recent success stories resulting from a film festival was Taxi to the Dark Side, directed by Alex Gibney of Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room. The controversial film tells the story of a taxi driver who dies in custody after being tortured by the American military. The film also examines U.S. torture policy. Although there have been a slew of war docs that have already come out in the past 3 to 4 years, Taxi to the Dark Side has had relative success.
Taxi to the Dark Side won big at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. According to a New York Times article, 34 films that premiered in 2007 received distribution, which was roughly twice as many as the year before. After the win at Tribeca, the movie received theatrical and video distribution from Think Films. After its theatrical success, the film was nominated and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature during the 2007 Academy Awards. The film did run into a road block when, after purchasing the television distribution rights, Discovery Communications’ Investigation Discovery channel decided it was going to postpone airing in it on television. Some have speculated that this was due to the fact that the Presidential election is approaching. However, with the Oscar win and critical acclaim, HBO Network stepped in and purchased the television distribution rights.
In addition, Taxi to the Dark Side is part of the Why Democracy? series. The series consists of ten documentary films from around the world questioning and examining contemporary democracy. The Why Democracy? series, which took almost four years to make, was launched in November 2004 at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. The series was sold to over 40 broadcasters. As part of the series Taxi to the Dark Side was broadcast in no less than 35 different countries around the world in October of 2007.
As film festivals and distributors continue to provide opportunities for documentary films, and if the audience’s interest and consumption continues to increase, documentary films will maintain a prominent place in the film market and arena. David Straus and Joe Neulight created Withoutabox.com in 2000 to aid filmmakers in applying for film festivals. Instead of filling out multiple applications, all filmmakers need to do is fill out one online form, upload their film’s press kit, and they are then able to submit their work to hundreds of film festivals. Since their company acquired Film Finders and Rightsline, Withoutabox.com now makes it even easier for independent filmmakers to find a distributor or self-distribute. By adding the benefits of Film Finders, the site helps buyers and sellers identify films, where they are playing, and which rights are obtainable. With the features of Rightsline, Straus and Neulight have created an “eBay for films,” by giving independent filmmakers the ability to direct buyers who might want to help promote or distribute their film to their particular sites, as well as helping create a financial transaction between the two parties.
One independent documentary has definitely found success with Withoutabox.com: The Tribe. Independent filmmakers, Chris Mais and Tiffany Shlain created, according to the film’s site “An unorthodox, unauthorized history of the Jewish people and the Barbie doll.” They used Withoutabox to secure placement for the documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, at which it received the 2006 Indiewire’s Sundance Critic’s Choice award.
They now use the site’s services to promote upcoming screenings of their film, as well as use the new “Audience” feature, which facilitates a relationship between filmmakers and their fan bases. This feature is used on The Tribe’s own Web site, under its “Share Thoughts” page, where users, be they the press, film professors, Jewish educators, or fans, can rate and review the documentary. Also on the page is a link directing users to “The Tribe Curriculum,” the documentary’s own wiki-style page. The page is where educators, community leaders, and the general public can contribute and share thoughts and ideas about The Tribe with people across the world. With all of these features, independent documentary filmmakers, like Mais and Shlain, can have their films widely penetrate the distribution market, as well as have audiences be involved with their films just as much as their big-budget counterparts.
One documentary filmmaker in particular is known for having been among the first producers to harness the power of the Internet as a distribution tool. Robert Greenwald is a pioneer when it comes to do-it-yourself distribution. In 2003 he promoted his film, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, through his own Web site and through left-wing political outlets such as AlterNet, The Nation Institute, and Moveon.org. He managed to sell 100,000 copies through streaming video online. The film was then picked up for DVD distribution by the Disinformation Company and sold over 120,000 DVDs. By June of 2004, Greenwald had secured cable TV and theatrical distribution deals through the Sundance Channel and Cinema Libre respectively. The film grossed over $80,000 within the first two weeks of limited release, according to Variety, which is impressive considering that theatrical release was not even part of Greenwald’s initial distribution plan.
His goal for his politically-charged documentaries is to get the word out by any means necessary, which is why he once again employed grass-roots marketing to self-distribute Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism in 2004. The film criticizes the Fox News Channel for biased, right-leaning reporting, and Greenwald started out with regional screenings for members of the media. The film was also shown throughout the country at 3,000 house screening parties facilitated by Moveon.org, which had over 2 million members at the time. According to Variety, the organization also placed a full-page ad in the New York Times to promote the film that declared, “The Communists had Pravda (a newspaper run by the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union). Republicans have Fox.”
The Disinformation Company quickly picked up Outfoxed for DVD release and it became number one on Amazon.com’s bestseller list within one week of its release on July 13th, surpassing pre-orders for the widescreen DVD of The Star Wars Trilogy and The Passion of the Christ. Within three weeks, over 100,000 units had been sold. This success led to a theatrical distribution deal with Cinema Libre, which released Outfoxed on August 13th in five theaters in Los Angeles and New York, resulting in over $78,000 in ticket sales that weekend. The film’s theatrical release generated a total gross of $405,900 and is Cinema Libre’s highest-grossing film to date.
Documentaries, by their very nature, usually appeal to a very specific audience and are therefore particularly suited for non-theatrical distribution strategies. Robert Greenwald set himself apart by finding innovative ways to reach his target audience through partnerships with grass-roots organizations that support the message his films promote. Moveon.org would not even have been a potential partner just over a decade ago, since it was not founded until September of 1998, but now the existence of this organization and others like it, as well as outlets such as Netflix, Withoutabox, film festivals such as Tribeca and markets such as MipDoc, have provided distribution options that were previously unheard of. The sky is the limit for independent documentary filmmakers seeking the exposure they need and deserve.

-Contributed by Nadine, Charla, and Billy-

Screenplay Structure

8.  Screenwriter William Goldman, a two-time Academy Award winner, has long preached that “screenplays are structure.” What is he talking about? 

A) If he’s referring to a particular story-telling model, describe that in detail.

B) If there are multiple models, what are the most influential ones and how do they differ?

C) And how has story structure evolved through the centuries?

Use examples from the 2008 Oscar nominees to illustrate your points.

 

When William Goldman says that “screenplays are structure” he is talking about how a story is actually put together.  A story may have excellent dialogue, and loveable characters, but if the structure is not fully developed then you may as well forget it. The structure of any story focuses on how beat by beat and scene by scene it is ultimately laid out.  A story can use any type of story-telling model, but focusing on the structure or the foundation of the story is vital. Goldman believes that screenwriting is a lot like carpentry.  If you put together some wood, nails, and glue to build a bookcase, you better have established a sound foundation.  If not, you have might have created something really beautiful, but it won’t work as a bookcase.  As a screenwriter you must first decide what the proper structure should be for the particular screenplay you are writing. To do this you have to know the spine.

Goldman believes that it is absolutely crucial to know the spine of your story above anything else.  A spine can be rather simple such as “boy meets girl, loses girl, finds her again,” or something much more complex.  That spine is then developed further, taking a broad idea and digging deeper into the story scene by scene. After finding exactly what the spine of your story is, a writer must protect it at all costs.  It is easy to lose focus of what is really important in a story when you’re 80 pages in.  Goldman insists that strictly sticking to the ultimate spine of a story will drive that script to success. Without a well-developed spine, a screenplay is pretty much doomed.

-Contributed by Mackenzie G.-

 

 

 

 

Part B

The most influential story structure models include Aristotle’s Three Acts, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Field’s Paradigm, and Daniels’ Sequence.

 

The basic “Three Act” model of a screenplay starts with establishing the setting and characters (Beginning).  At the end of this first act, the introduction of a problem (or inciting incident) makes the story progress to the rising action (The middle or “Second Act”).  During this part of the story, the protagonist attempts to solve the conflict created by the inciting incident.  The second act ends with a climax in which the tension of the rising action reaches its greatest intensity.  Here, the protagonist either wins or loses against the problems he/she faces.  The third act, or denoumenet, is spent showing what has happened to the characters since the climax and ties up all the story’s remaining loose ends.  Though it is part of a larger trilogy of films, The Bourne Ultimatum follows this basic structure.  The inciting incident in the story is when Jason Bourne finds himself tracked by the CIA again after attempting to gain knowledge of a top-secret operation he was once a part of.  The climax arrives when Bourne confronts the members of the CIA he once served under as part of the operation.  Finally, the denoumenet shows Bourne surviving the encounter and escaping.

 

Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey involves a more complicated story structure.  Studying many ancient myths, Campbell constructed the idea of a universal “monomyth” with several common structural features.  The monomyth starts with a “Call to Adventure” – an event that entices the hero to leave all that is familiar to them.  In the film “Across the Universe,” this happens when Jude leaves for the United States in search of his biological father.  The hero then encounters a “Road of Trials” – a series of challenges to which the hero either defeats or succumbs.  For example, Jude’s relationship with Lucy weakens throughout the story.  He later attempts to save her from policemen at an anti-war protest gone violent only to get arrested and deported back to England – separated from her.  The hero’s victory or failure of navigating the Road of Trials leaves him/her with a “boon” or vital new knowledge about the world, leaving the hero a stronger and wiser person than he/she was before the “Call to Adventure.”  Finally, the hero returns to the life they left behind with this new boon.  The hero then has the chance to apply this new boon to the original world from the beginning of the story.  This happens when Jude legally moves to the States and reconciles with Lucy.

 

The Paradigm – as developed by Syd Field – took Aristotle’s Three Acts and divided the middle into two sub-acts – Act 2a and Act 2b.  In addition, it introduced the concept of plot points – important moments that occur around the same time in almost all good screenplays.  These include the opening image at the start of the screenplay (an image believed to sum up the film in one shot) and “pinches” (Scenes occurring halfway through Acts 2a and 2b designed to remind the viewer of the story’s main conflicts).  No Country for Old Men has a great opening image of the desert in Texas, setting the grim, desolate, isolated tone that the story takes.  Two “pinches” that occur in Act 2a and Act 2b also remind us that the hero – Llewelyn Moss – is constantly being pursued by the ruthless antagonist – Anton Chigurh.  The first “pinch” occurs when Chigurh nearly catches up to Moss at a motel.  The second “pinch” comes when Chigurh attempts to call Carson Wells only to find Chigurh on the other end of the line, threatening the life of his wife.

 

Frank Daniel’s Sequence Structure is based off of early film reels only having 10 minutes of film on them.  This limiting factor influenced a style of screenplay structure that still holds up to this very day.  Each 10 minute “sequence” of film was effectively a miniature version of a movie with its own three act structure.  Sequences 1-2 can then come together to form the film’s overaching beginning, 3-6 become the middle, and 7-8 are the end.  In the film adaption of Sweeney Todd, one of the two sequences at the start of the film tells its own self-contained story.  A corrupt judge lusts after Todd’s wife, trumps up false charges against him, rapes his wife, then “adopts” the child.  Though a tragic story, it has its own beginning, middle, and end.

-Contributed by Nick R.-

Part C

 Philosopher Aristotle had his own views on story-telling and story structure, which he exercised in his poems.  He believed that stories should explore choices and moral decisions.  “The development of a fable should arise out of the fable itself, and not depend on machinery.”  He believed that characters are not as important as the story.  One thing that he did think about the protagonist is that he should be flawed.  “In a proper tragedy, the protagonist recognizes that his own error has caused his downfall.”  He was big on writing the plot believing that that characters follow the actions.

                Lagos Egri( 1888-1967), author of “The Art of Dramatic Writing”,  had a different perspective.  He preached that characters were the driving force behind a good story.   He believed that stories were based on human psychology.  “You must have a premise- a premise that which will lead you unmistakably to the goal your play hopes to reach…The premise should be a conviction of your own, so that you may prove it wholeheartedly.”  He thought it was important to focus on character transitions.: define goals, values, and a plan.  Egri believed that actions followed character decisions.

                These two had differing views and Hollywood has seen both.  The only similarity was that the story always had a three-act structure: 1st Act , 2nd, and 3rd Act which were previously described.  Early films were were silent.  The audience did not get a chance to learn the characters on a deep level.  As a result the stories were centered on the plot and actions.  The story structure was very basic.  Once the “silents” became the “talkies”,  plots could no longer be simplistic.  Actors had to talk, which meant that the characters needed to appeal to the audience.   Authors such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and John Steinbeck were drafted by the studios to write screenplays.    In most novels, the reader gets connected to the book characters and studio execs knew that these authors could translate that to the screen.  This was the beginning of character driven plots. 

                For the most part, story structure in Hollywood has remained faithful to the 3-Act structure.  However, there are small differences  in the story nowadays.  Loglines for story’s are not even the same.  Most stories have a one-sentence logline, which tells what the story is about.  However, in 1937, screenwriter Francis Marion was quoted, “If you cannot state the gist of a play in three lines, it lacks backbone.”  Nowadays three lines is considered to be too long.

                Plots and characters are no longer simplistic.  The characters and the plots are now much more dynamic and interesting than those in earlier days.  There is still some debate over if plot-driven is better than character driven.  For the most part, current screenwriters use both the plot and the characters to drive the story.

-Contributed by Ashleigh-

The Allegory of the cave by Plato

We are but shadows and dust floating in interconnectivity, divided by individual conciousness, and confused by the social order.

 

[Socrates:]  And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: –Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

[Glaucon:]  I see.

 

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.

Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?

Very true.

And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?

No question, he replied.

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, — will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?

Far truer.

And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?

True, he said.

And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he ‘s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.

Not all in a moment, he said.

He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?

Certainly.

Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.

Certainly.

He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?

Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?

Certainly, he would.

And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,

Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?

 

Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.

Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?

To be sure, he said.

And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

No question, he said.

This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

Cable TV vs Telephone Companies

The questions

5. In the coming years Cable TV will face very real competition from the telephone companies for customers. Give the competitive advantages of each industry and the efforts both have made in Congress and at the FCC to deal with perceived inequities in the competitive landscape.

Comprehensive Examination Question #5
Andrea P. Fuller

I. Cable Industry

A. Competitive Advantages

1. Due to the competition from satellite companies and more recent the telephone companies (mainly AT&T and Verizon Communications), cable companies (Comcast and Time Warner Cable-the two dominant companies) have to increase their services offered to their customers.
a. According to statistics, 90% of US cable systems currently offer HD video services as of January 2008 (Anonymous, In-Stat: Increased Competition Pushes US Cable Operators to Continue Investing, Business Wire, Jan 2, 2008)

2. Cable companies have limited competitive advantages due to their competing companies offering the same services. As a result, many cable companies are exploring offering improved services to keep customers.
a. Conversion of analog to digital (If customers have cable, on analog television, they don’t have to worry about the conversion from analog to digital on February 2009).
b. Increasing spectrum that increases the capacity of the networks
c. Capacity sharing through switched digital video
d. Node splitting, which improves
e. MPEG-4 provides capacity sharing (Anonymous, US Cable-New Strategies for a Competitive World, Business Wire, April 10, 2008)

3. Cable companies are now offering bundles to customers which includes cable, internet, and land-line phones

4. Cable is targeting small and medium business in offering commercial phone services (voice and data services)
a. Comcast is investing $3 billion over the next five years
b. Time Warner Cable is investing $6-7.5 billion for commercial phone

5. Time Warner plans to cut prices of telephone services 10-15% (Jon Hemingway, New Front in Cable-Teleco War: B2B, Broadcasting and Cable, October 1, 2007)

B. FCC/Congress vs. Cable Companies.

1. 70/70 rule
a. Under the Communications Act of 1984-which gives the FCC power to regulate cable companies when they feel they are too big.
b. FCC must use the 70/70 Test: cable must pass through 70% of households, and 70% of those households must be subscribed to a cable services.
c. State Representatives including Marsh Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) a bill to challenge the 70/70 Test.
a. Bill call for stripping FCC powers to reregulate the cable industry
b. Bill getting support from NCTA, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition ad America for Tax Reform (John Eggerton, Blackburn’s 70/70 Bill a Reality, Broadcasting and Cable, December 6, 2007).

2. November 2007: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin introduced a 30% percent cap on cable companies prevent large companies such as Comcast and Time Warner from growing or making acquisitions after its conclusion that cable
a. States that no company can own no more than 30% in a market
b. FCC goal of rule is to promote “diversity of information sources”
c. Cap opens cable market to independent programmers and telephone companies (Stephen Labaton, FCC Planning Rules to Open Cable Market, New York Times, November 10, 2007)
d. In 2001, the FCC tried to establish a cap for cable companies, but it was struck down by the US Court of Appeal on First Amendment grounds. (John Eggerton, FCC Releases 30% Cable-Subscriber Cap Order, Broadcasting and Cable, February 11, 2008).
e. In March 2008, Comcast sued the FCC over the 30% cap
i. Company is at 27% of 30% cap
ii. Claims that the FCC has no evidence for a horizontal cap especially with numerous competitions among other cable companies, independent programmers, phone and satellite companies.
iii. Comcast also accuses the FCC of playing favorites with telephone companies (John Eggerton, Comcast Sues FCC over 30% Cap, Broadcasting and Cable, March 13, 2008).

3. FCC End Cable Deals for Apartments
a. October 2008: FCC ban cable deals/contracts giving cable companies the right to provide services to apartments
b. AT&T and Verizon benefit the most after lobbying for the new rules.
c. Can lower cable prices
a. Keven Martin, chair of FCC: cable prices risen 93% within the last decade.
b. New competition = lower prices (Stephen Labaton, FCC Set to End Sole Cable Deals for Apartments, The New York Times, October 29, 2007).

4. States creating laws creating franchises for telephone companies
a. Cable companies filing lawsuits claiming that cable will lose revenue, damage of reputation, and unfair competition (John Eggerton, Telecos Celebrate Franchise Wins, Broadcasting and Cable, September 29, 2006).

II. Telephone Companies

A. Competitive Advantages
1. 2006: FCC passed a reform video franchised legislative reform that made it easier for telephone companies to get into video through national franchising (John Eggerton, House Passes Video Franchise Reform, Broadcasting and Cable, June 8, 2006).

2. AT&T and Verizon offer new technology that has advantage over cable
a. Both companies have IPTV services
a. Unlimited number of channels
b. 2-way interactive services (Anonymous, US Cable-New Strategies for a Competitive World, Business Wire, April 10, 2008)
c. AT&T offers U-Verse in limited areas
i. Features includes 300+ channels, high-speed internet, phone services, DVR specialties, streaming live video from cell phone to tv, and games
ii. Criticism: U-Verse only targets affluent and avoid minority, low-income (Rick Barrett, AT&T U-Verse access debated: City’s low-income areas often lack cable alternative, McClatchy-Tribune Business News, December 11, 2007).
d. Verizon offers FiOS TV

3. Incentives
a. Verizon conducts Retention-Marketing
a. Provide incentives for their current customers for not switching to another cable company.
i. FCC refuse to intervene after cable companies pressured them to stop stating Verizon is violating law (John Eggerton, FCC Won’t Stop Verizon Communications’ Retention-Marketing Effort, Broadcasting and Cable, April 1, 2008 )
ii. Also offer incentives for new customers
1. Offered 19-inch HD TVs, camcorders and camcorders in December 2007
a. Cable companies only relied, promotional prices and good services (Toni Whitt, Cable war could be proving ground; Analysts watch Verizon’s use of incentives in effort to entice local consumers, Sarasota Herald Tribune, December 20, 2007)
b. Offering bundles (phone, cable, internet)

4. States are recognizing phone companies as video providers, and granting them licenses to compete with cable companies

B. FCC/Congress vs. Telephone Companies
1. One problem that telephone companies may endure is still being recognized by states as video service providers such as in November 2007 it was reported that AT&T spent $11.2 million lobbying for a franchise bill in TN.
a. Most money spent on public persuasion, and advertising between October 1, 2006 to September 2007.
b. Cable companies are claiming AT&T is trying to get an unfair advantage and cable will continue to fight (Andy Sher, AT&T, cable fight nears $11 million, McClatchy-Tribune Business News, November 20, 2008).

2. FCC bans phone deals for apartments
a. Unfair competitive advantage
b. Hurts consumers
a. Prevents residents from purchasing bundled services

Children, Obesity, and the Media

Questions

#7

I.                   Obesity

a.       What contributes to childhood obesity

                                                              i.      Media influence on eating habits

1.      Product Placement

2.      Commercials (Preoperational Stage- not being able to tell the difference between a commercial and the program; don’t understand the advertiser’s intent)

3.      Endorsements (e.g. Spongebob cereal)

                                                            ii.      Eating between meals, convenience meals

                                                          iii.      Sedentary lifestyle (being lazy)

                                                          iv.      Genetics

                                                            v.      Parenting methods

II.                Findings Based On Existing Legislation

a.       Bumpers- “After these messages…”

b.      Limits on commercial times- 10.5 min/hr (wknd) and 12 min/hr (wkdy)

c.       A character from a program cannot advertise their product (e.g. Spongebob cereal) during their program(i.e. in-program host selling).

d.      Cannot advertise websites if they encourage children to buy products.

III.             Solutions to Parents

a.       After educating yourself, educate children about healthy foods.

b.      Practice healthy eating habits as a family at a dining table, and buy healthy foods

c.       Set time limits on television viewing.

d.      Discourage eating while watching television.

e.       Encourage physical activities.

IV.             Assurances to Policymakers

a.       Keeping advertisers in mind, regulate “junk food” advertising on children’s television; regulations based on time of day- less in the afternoon when pre-school aged children are home.

b.      Balance out good/bad food advertisements. Have more outside activity advertisements.

c.       We can’t actually regulate the amount of television a person watches – that’s up to the parents to do

V.                Violence

a.       Definitions

                                                              i.      Cartoon- unrealistic- no consequences

                                                            ii.      Realistic- real consequences

b. Cartoon violence has less consequences so it’s more effective

VI.             Causes of Aggressive Behavior

a.       Media violence (all inclusive- video games, television, comics, etc.)

b.      Genetics

c.       Parental guidance/upbringing

d.      Education

e.       Socioeconomic status

f.       Religion

VII.          Regulations

a.       There are currently no regulations that focus specifically on violence.

b.      The V-Chip and the ratings systems (e.g. Y7, MA) collectively include violence in something they monitor; however, it is a bi-product of monitoring sex on television.

VIII.       Parental Solutions

a.       Educate children about violence and its effects

b.      Regulate viewing of violence w/o relying solely on the V-Chip and ratings system.

c.       Discourage violence in the home and elsewhere.

IX.             Assuring Policymakers

a.       V-Chip in all televisions (it was not implemented in televisions that were smaller than 13in)

b.      Internet television must be regulated

c.       Air PSA’s for non-violence by cartoon characters to increase effectiveness

d.      Television on other platforms should include ratings

e.       Have the FCC request the production companies of every television show submit a list of what types of violence is typical on their shows.

                                                              i.      The lists will go on a website that is regularly updated.

                                                            ii.      PSA’s and listings on “parental discretion advised” screens will promote the list and its website, informing parents of its existence

X.                Sound Bite for the next news cycle:

“With the joint efforts of our nation’s parents, advertisers, broadcasters, and cable companies, we will increase awareness of obesity and aggression caused by television through education and cooperative regulation.”

 

 

-Contributed by Brian, Kelly, Alex C., and Hakan-

looks like the marshmallow man had kids

looks like the marshmallow man had kids