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 Film Narrative    



Area of Study 1 Narrative and ideology

Narratives are fundamental to the relationship between the media and its audiences. Ideologies in society frame the nature, form and structure of narratives. Audiences and the media together frame the nature, form and development of discourses in society through the construction, distribution, reception and consumption of narratives that implicitly or explicitly comment on, re ect on, develop, reject or ignore ideologies.

Media narratives are the product of creative and institutional practices that represent ideas through media codes and conventions. The use of media codes and conventions influences audience engagement, consumption and reading of narratives. Other influential factors include the social, cultural, ideological and institutional contexts relating to the period of time and location in which the media narrative was produced, the purpose of the media narrative, the genre, style, content, particulars of distribution and consumption and reception.

Students examine ctional and non- ctional narratives in the form of lm and/or television and/or radio and/or audio product (that may be broadcast or streamed) and/or photographic and/or print products. For the purposes of this area of study, the media product selected for study will comprise of one of the following:

  • at least two feature length film products of one hour or more in length or the equivalent length in television, streamed, radio or audio products

  • two photographic series of at least six images each

  • two print productions of at least 15 pages each.

    Fictional and/or non- fictional narratives may be studied. At least one media product must have been released in the five years prior to the commencement of the year of study.

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse how narratives are constructed and distributed, and how they engage, are consumed and are read by the intended audience and present day audiences

For the Narrative Unit students will learn about the nature of codes and conventions  in film narrative . There are a number of written tasks

for you to complete in  the Narrative Unit 


1 A critics review of a film of your choice.  

2 Analyse story and production of a short Australian film:  

3.Identify  genre by analsing a student short film

4.View  2 feature length narratives and respond to film analysis questions

5 Complete Trivia Quizes


Student film analysis's will be assessed  by your teacher . At the end of the  Unit students will then sit for the  written Narrative and Ideology SAC  which constitutes  10% of the years assessment

Media narrative

Media narratives share the characteristics of spoken or written word narratives: they function to entertain, educate, inform and develop the culture of the society in which they are produced.


Most people have been immersed in storytelling from early childhood. Parents tell stories to develop their children’s language skills, and educate and entertain them. The stories that parents tell their children are more than the characters and the plots — on a deeper level they are about beliefs, values and ideologies. Narratives often reaffirm broad societal beliefs such as ‘Crime doesn’t pay’ or ‘Good will triumph over evil’. They often contain warnings about how people should or should not behave, pointing out the consequences of going against societal morals and beliefs.

Most of our media narratives are created by and distributed to audiences by mainstream media institutions, which broadly reflect the values and beliefs of the society in which the narratives are made. In Australia, 61 per cent of funding for television drama in 2015–2016 came from the Australian lm and television industry, with less than1 per cent coming from private investors. This is indicative of the nature of media narratives—they are mostly told by large media organisations whose motives are pro t-driven as much as artistic. In the main, media narratives produced by mainstream institutions like television networks and major lm production companies will tend to support the beliefs of the society in which they exist. From time to time however media narratives will challenge the beliefs of their own society and prompt debate and social change.


The context in which a narrative is viewed can affect the way the audience understand, experience and respond to a film. The Australian lm Animal Kingdom (2010) tells the fictional story of a Melbourne criminal family who murder two young policemen in a quiet suburban street in an act of retribution. The lm won the World Cinema Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Most residents of Melbourne in 1988 remember the cold- blooded ambush murders of two young police constables checking an abandoned car in Walsh Street, South Yarra. Although Animal Kingdom is fiction, viewing the lm evokes memories of the media narratives from the 1988 real-life crime and criminals involved in it .


While modern Film goers see the same fictional narrative as those who experienced the news narratives in Melbourne at the time, the reception context and therefore the viewing experience is very different. While the younger audience reacts to the characters in the film, an older Melbourne audience recalls the criminals that they saw on their televisions and in their courts. Although not a documentary, the film becomes a retelling and reinterpretation of history to some members of the Melbourne audience.

Similar  localised  films  such as Chopper   and the TV franchise series- Underbelly  also provide example of the different reception context between  those in the community that witnessed events  interpreted in the series and those who  didnt   and  therefore respond to the  characters / acting  and drama of the series




Audience members’ response to a film in terms of enjoyment or disappointment is often dependent on their expectations of it. If a film is marketed as a terrifying horror it will satisfy the audience if it is scary and disappoint them


if it is not. Teenage girls often choose horror movies as entertainment for sleepovers. Perhaps they choose horror to experience the shared response of fright while sitting safely with their friends. If this is so, the scarier the film is the better the experience will be. Conversely, if the film
is not scary it will be received in a different way. While it may not provide fright, it might still provide the group with entertainment. The expected horror lm might provide comic entertainment as the group mocks the lm and laugh at it together.


Audiences sometimes respond to a lm on a personal level because of who they are and the experiences they have had. Often an audience member will identify strongly with a character or storyline because they have had a similar life experience. A father struggling with his career might identify most closely with the character of Richard in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), while his teenage son might more closely identify with Dwayne, a teenage boy experiencing the anxieties and frustrations of adolescence. In Marathon Man (1976), John Schlesinger uses the audience’s experience of having a dentist drill into their teeth to his advantage by setting a torture scene in a dental chair. As Laurence Olivier brings the drill toward the screaming mouth of Dustin Hoffman the audience is horrified by their own fear of the experience.


Another factor affecting audience response is the medium through which the lm is experienced. The physical experience of viewing may a ect the way in which an audience member receives a lm. The experience of

viewing a film on a phone will differ significantly from viewing it in a darkened cinema. The size of the screen and the limitations of the phone’s speakers may not allow the viewer to fully experience elements of the mise en scène, including depth of field, colour and sound mixing. A lm viewed in a classroom may evoke expectations of study and homework, while viewing a lm with friends at a cinema might evoke feelings of enjoyment and entertainment.


Modern lm audiences understand the codes and conventions of the lm genre. These understandings
affect their understanding and response to film narratives. Audiences understand that science fiction is set in the future and can therefore believe that in Blade Runner (1984) police cars can y, and actress Sean Young is believable as a replicant or robot version of a human. Genre understanding can also encourage audiences to explore themes or relate to a text closely. In The Truman Show (1998) director Peter Weir questions the ethics of the television reality television genre and explores the themes of identity, belonging and freedom.

Familiarity with a genre also allows the audience to enjoy satire aimed at that genre. Knowledge of James Bond Films adds to the audience’s enjoyment of the Bond satire Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). Mike Myers created Austin Powers by modelling the character Dr Evil  on the Bond villains Ernst Stavro Blofeld  Humour in the satire genre draws on the audience’s knowledge of other lm genres and their texts. This referencing of other texts is often referred to as ‘intertextuality’.



The first audience to experience onscreen film did so in 1895 with a screening by Auguste and Louis Lumière. The Lumière brother’s first film was entitled Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895). Predictably, the action consisted of workers leaving the Lumière factory. This was typical of early filmmaking. The audience’s fascination came from being able to see moving images on screen. Film subjects at this time included rivers, waterfalls, ski slopes, animals, early motor cars, boats and trains. In The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895), the Lumière brothers placed a camera next to a railway track and audiences thrilled as the train came closer and closer. In 1898, English filmmaker George Albert Smith mounted the front of a moving train to lm a ‘phantom ride’. While such films provided excitement for audiences, ‘thrill’ cinema soon gave way to narrative.

Just as filmmaking was once new, so too was film-viewing. Most audiences were not experienced filmgoers and those that were had been viewing events rather than stories. In 1903, Edwin S. Porter made the narrative lm The Life of an American Fireman (1903). This film illustrates how filmmakers learnt to use editing to tell stories to the audience—it is an early example of how editing helps the audience understand what is happening in the story.

The film begins with split screen showing a remain on one side and a mother putting her daughter to bed on the other. This is an early example of ‘parallel editing’. Then there is a shot of a re alarm being activated, followed by a shot of firemen leaping into action and jumping down a re pole. Shots of the re crews traveling to the re provide the action and excitement.

Suddenly, there is a cut to the bedroom of the mother who was seen earlier putting the baby to bed. She screams out of the window for help and soon a reman bursts in and rescues her and her daughter.

Interestingly, the same action was shown taking place from outside the building. Perhaps Porter thought that audiences would be confused by cross-cutting the interior and exterior shots together. A later version of the lm does indeed feature a more modern cross-cutting style.

Ref Heinemann  Media 


Story Elements: Conventions


Plot and Story


We shall consider narrative to be a chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space. A narrative is thus what we usually call story

Story elements:


Opening Sequences

How are the settings, characters and situations introduced?What expectations and possibilities are established?What themes and issues are introduced?



Why are characters established and developed in the way that they are?Look at what they do, what they say, what others say about them, and their placement within the frame, their visual representation, their makeup and costuming. Look also at the relationships between characters, the role or function of the characters in the narrative, type and range of characters, and similarities and differences between characters.



How does the setting relate to the narrative? In other words why has the filmmaker chosen a particular background or set for a particular scene? Are any props significant? Look also at the historical period of the film where this is relevant e.g. Casablanca.

Multiple Story lines


Examine the central or main story line and the concurrent story lines i.e. sub plots. What themes and issues are explored?Look at the ways in which story lines comment upon, contract or interrelate with other story lines in the text.


Structure of time Look at the way film manipulates time. How are the events ordered? For instance are the events continuous or is there use of flashback or flash forward?


Cause and Effect What motivates the characters? What events to the motivations cause? If there are natural and supernatural causes what are their consequences?


Point of View from which the Narrative is presented From what point of view is the narrative presented? Do we see it through one character’s eye or more than one character? Why and what are the effects of this on the narrative and the audience?


Closure or Closing Sequence Look at the extent to which conflicts, motivations, and issues are resolved or unresolved. Do the closing sequences and the opening sequences relate to each other? How, why and to what extent?

Production elements: Codes



Film is a visual medium so examine how the following techniques contribute to the narrative: Angle and movement of shotDistance of shots i.e. close up, mid shots, long shots etc.Lenses used and focusing techniques e.g. soft focus, depth of field or deep focus, e.g. telephoto lens, normal lens, wide angle lens, etc.Type of film stock used e.g. colour, black and white, specialised film stock, etc.Filters used.


The scripted and directed performance of an actor. When writing about the contribution that acting makes to a narrative, ensure that you make specific reference to the way movement, gesture, facial expression and tone of voice all contribute to the narrative, character and audience engagement.

Mise en scene

From French - it means "Setting the stage". In film it refers to everything that’s put in the frame.  Mise en scene incorporates the Setting, character position and movement in the frame   Make up, Costume, props and colour.  Mise en scene also refers to the composition of shots and the arrangement of elements within the frame. 

Lighting Is the lighting natural and realistic or expressive in order to set a mood? Why and how effective is it? Are any lighting effects used for example to emphasise an object, a character or an action? Actor How does the actor’s performance contribute to characterisation? Does the actor bring associations from outside the narrative film to the character?


Editing How do the placement, timing and rhythm of the editing effect the mood of a scene? How do the shots relate to each other visually and aurally-image to image, sound-to-sound, image to sound?


Sound Look at the music, sound effects and the way the dialogue is recorded. How does the soundtrack relate to the story lines, themes and issues of the film? Examine the use of Diegetic and non diegetic sound , Sound effects and character dialogue  


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