Set in a dreary and intolerant 1987, “Blinded by the Light” (2019) tells the story of Javed Khan who is inspired by the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen to discover his own voice and follow his dreams of becoming a writer. If you are preparing for the AQA A-Level Media Studies exam, you need to demonstrate your understanding of media industries by focusing on the production, distribution and marketing of the film.
Production and Finance
Developed initially by Bend It Networks, “Blinded by the Light” is very typical of a low-budget release. The production company is headed by the director Gurinder Chadha OBE and the screenwriter Paul Mayeda Berges. They aim to deliver “moving, inspiring and commercial” films to a global audience and “invite them to see the world from a new perspective”, especially from those “characters who are normally on the margins”. “Blinded by the Light” certainly meets that ambition.
At a time of such political and social instability in the world, this film provides us with a vital reminder of our shared humanity and the transformative power of music on both a personal and global scale.Gurinda Chadha
Films are incredibly expensive and risky so production costs are often spread across various companies, reducing the financial impact if the text fails to complete or reach an audience. The institutions can also combine their industry resources and expertise.
Working from London, Ingenious Media is “one of the largest independent investors in the UK’s creative sector” with an impressive record in financing critically and commercially successful films. Put simply, they secure the loans and provide the money.
The next partner in this co-production is Levantine Films. Based in America, they are an independent motion picture company which develops, produces, and finances projects. They aim to deliver “character-driven, socially relevant and commercially viable” projects. Cornerstone “provide the vital link between creative vision and global commercial success” and Rakija Films are also credited as producers.
This co-production of films and other media texts is known as media synergy.
Of course, the production involves lots of other companies who provide casting services, visual effects, costume design, video equipment, makeup, sound recording and even catering. In order to recreate the look of the 1980s, Dream Cars supplied the vintage vehicles you see on the screen. Rob Brydon probably supplied his own shell suit though.
Finally, Blinded by the Light was developed with the support of the BFI Film Fund. They use money from the National Lottery to support UK companies develop, produce and complete film productions. For instance, if you have wrapped up filming, the BFI can help you launch your project at major film festivals around the world.
The Festival Circuit and Distribution
“Blinded by the Light” premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival – an important event on the movie industry calendar because it gives independent filmmakers from around the world the opportunity to showcase their work to film critics and, most importantly, the distributors. New Line Cinema acquired US distribution rights while the UK rights were bought by Entertainment One. This article from Deadline has lots of great information about the auction. It should be noted New Line Cinema is owned by the huge conglomerate, Warner Bros. Pictures, who delivered the theatrical release of the film to parts of Europe and South America.
Gurinder Chadha then took her film to the Seattle International Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Feature Film, and won the Paul Mazursky Award at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. Early screening events with the cast and crew also helped to raise the profile of the film in key markets.
Trailers have always been used to promote the latest releases in cinemas, but social media platforms offer filmmakers a fantastic chance to promote their work to a larger audience. For instance, you can still watch various versions on YouTube:
Although you are not studying representation, notice how the producers are able to signify a sense of time with the use of denim clothing, the Converse shoes and the iconic cassette player. This might appeal to the audience’s nostalgia for the trends that defined the 1980s.
In terms of marketing, the quotation “the feel-good film of the year” comes from The New York Post. This signals the quality of the film to audience because it is a trustworthy source. It is worth reading their full review online. The poster also appeals to fans of the director’s previous success “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002). Of course, the music of Bruce Springsteen will grab the attention of his followers.
There are many reasons why audiences might choose to watch a particular film in the cinema: famous actors can “open” a production because we are always eager to see our favourite performers on the big screen; directors, especially those who are considered auteurs, will attract a devoted following; and big-budget blockbusters use incredible special effects to appeal to our senses..
By contrast, independent films rely on critics and reviews to create interest. Reviews posters are used to emphasise the quality of the text – look at how many appear in this poster. The language is persuasive: “feel-good”, “crowd-pleasing” and “beautiful music”. – we are “guaranteed” to enjoy this five-star production.
Studios used to make money from the sale of videos and DVDs. While that revenue stream continues to shrink because of the popularity of digital streaming and VOD, you can watch “Blinded by the Light” on Amazon Prime for a small fee. It is also available to rent on Apple TV, Google Play and other platforms. If you are in America and subscribe to HBO, the film is included as part of your package.
The film industry can be very lucrative, but there are plenty of risks. David Hesmondhalgh (2018) argued cultural industry companies devised a variety of strategies to overcome the “perceived difficulties in making profits”. The term formatting refers the ways these institutions try to increase their chances of success.
For example, the feel-good comedy is seen as a financially reliable genre because they target a mass audience. Appealing to all ages and gender, action-adventure and superhero films are also considered to be four-quadrant productions.
Major studios can afford famous actors and directors to improve the marketability of their films. Hesmondhalgh called this star power. Notice how “Blinded by the Light” emphasises its use of Bruce Springsteen’s music. It should be no surprise to learn advertisements for the film appeared at the start of his music videos on YouTube. The film also plays on the director’s previous success, “Bend It Like Beckham”.
Another formatting technique is the series. The Marvel Cinematic Universe epitomises this concept of serialisation. Being part of a franchise almost guarantees success compared to the riskier stand-alone texts. That is why the big screen is full of sequels, prequels, spin-offs, alternate timelines and reboots. As Bill Ryan (1992) argued, formatting as an attempt to “confront the uncertainties of the cultural marketplace” through some “form of creative control”.
- To what extent does Blinded by the Light typify the production and distribution of low-mid budget films?
- With reference to the Close Study Product, explore the importance of the film festival circuit in the distribution of independent productions.
- Explore why the circulation of Blinded by the Light reflects the shifting patterns of audience consumption.
- How relevant is David Hesmondhalgh’s concept of formatting in understanding the success of Blinded by the Light?
- “A movie’s success is dependent upon the producer’s ability to exploit traditional and new marketing techniques”. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
- Why are independent film productions important for the UK economy? Refer to your Close Study Product to support your answer.