Film Word of the Week: Nickelodeon

By Kierston Drier

Anyone born after the 1980’s is likely to conjure up the classic warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia at hearing the word “Nickelodeon”. The image likely involves Saturday morning cartoons, flannel feet pajamas, and sugar-crusted cereal. But the history and origin of this family-friendly word trails back long before the TV network used it to brand their franchise. Believe it or not, the word Nickelodeon travels back to the 1880’s, and, diving even deeper, into Ancient Greece. Surprised? Don’t be. Today on Film word of the Week we will break this down.

 

Nickelodeon can trace its base root word “odeon”  from  “Melodeon” which means ‘Music hall.” The root of that word can be linked to the Greek work “Oideion”  which loosely means “building for musical performances.” This is likely based on the ritual practice of community-wide attendance at theatrical performances. A practice that was viewed by the Greek civilization of as a form of society-wide catharsis. Centuries later, when the jukebox was in its’ infancy, the word “Nickelodeon” would come into existence in relation to it, as the machine would offer a round of songs for a nickel.

 

When the development of commercial cinema led to the creation of theatre houses, admission prices were low to attract the masses, averaging around five cents. This low admission price, coupled with the long-running variety of short cinema reels and often serialized pieces, led to high popularity among the growing middle class. The word “Nickelodeon” began being associated with the movie theatre, and the jukebox became…well, the jukebox.

 

In 1979, when Parent Company Warner Cable was an opportunity in creating commercial-free children’ programming under the name, to give them an edge over competitors, they launched the channel, as the first ever all children’s network. Although it struggled at first and failed to gain widespread excitement, after some rebranding the channel would take off. In the mid-1980’s Nickelodeon went from a day-time children’s’ programming channel to a 24-hour channel when it launched “Nick-at-Nite” and later, created an educational preschool programming section called “Nick Jr.” From Pinwheel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nickelodeon has had notable success as the first children’s programming channel.

 

While Nickelodeon may have shaped many-a-childhood, the origins of this film word stretch out all the way back to Ancient Greece. Who’d have thought? Just one more cocktail fact to throw around at your next film-related party.

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Film Word Of The Week: Best Boy

 

By Kierston Drier

Have you ever watched credits at the end of the film and been perplexed by the acknowledgement of the “Best Boy”? You’re not alone. Occasionally even people in the industry have the think for a few moments before the title and the associated job link up.

 

A Best Boy is a position held in the actual production of the film or television piece. Unlike Post or administrative-based production work (which tend to take place in offices and involve the planning, coordinating or finalizing the product) production work often takes place at ground zero- on the floor or location where the film is being shot.

 

The Best Boy is a member of the Lighting, Electric or Camera department. These are incredibly important departments and are critical to creating the ‘movie magic’ that makes everything on screen looks so highly polished and beautiful. The Best Boy position is essentially the chief or senior assistant to the Gaffer or Key Grip. While the heads of work with any of the aforementioned departments work with creatives to carry out the specific look of the scene they are shooting, the Best Boy must manage and maintain all the equipment, gear, scheduling and other managerial needs of that department. The best boy is, by and large, the second-in-command, and often swings between the needs to the camera, electrics and/or lighting teams. All teams are necessary in capturing the scene, and the teams must work closely together with sound communication in order to get the desired shot.

 

In essence, the Best Boy of these technical production departments lends themselves to their team in regards to all on-the-floor needs and requirements for the days’ work. They may coordinate with the Bests’ on other departments to ensure all departments have what they need for the days’ scenes.  

 

It is unclear exactly where the term “Best Boy” came from. It has been thought to come from the pre-union film days, from the concept of sending the “best boy” from your department to another department to assist with department-specific needs. Unable to lend the key of the department to assist, the team would send their most trained, highly skilled worker, that they could afford to lose for short term assistant. This morphed into the “best boy” a highly-skilled position that often swings between departments understanding the needs of both.

 

Best Boys are skilled and highly revered jobs, they can take years of training and working to be accomplished enough to be a Best. It should be noted that they are many “Best Girls” and the position is sometimes referred to as simply the “best”. So next time you are watching a movie and something wonders allowed what a “best” is in the credits- you might be able to enlighten them.

 

REFERENCES

Imbd.com

Wikipedia (basic referral only)

 

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Film Word Of The Week: Cheater-cut

Cheater-cut.jpgby Kierston Drier

If you have ever tuned in to your favorite serialized show airing on Prime-Time, you have seen a cheater cut. You may not have heard the term, but the chances are high you’ve relied on it if you’ve ever missed an episode, in the era before you could download it.

 

A Cheater-cut is the small series of shots that break down the basic plot points in the previous episode, and often air just before the episode about to come up. It is, metaphorically, an information booster-shot, so that you’ll be able to generally keep up with what is going on in the current episode, if you missed last weeks’.

 

Orphan Black, is one of many shows that employs Cheater’s Cuts, the introductory footage that will recap the previous episode. Cheater Cuts can also serve other purposes- they can shine a spotlight on essential plot points, or even create red-herrings. In serialized dramas boasting multiple plots, Cheater Cuts’ are helpful, simply in helping jog the memory of a viewer, who is watching the episodes a week apart. Think of a Cheater Cut as reading the chapter summary at the back of a textbook, right before you have to take the test- except the test is your favorite TV show- and the summary is master editing.

 

Cheater Cuts’ are far more common in serialized drama. In serialized drama, the narrative carries over all season long, and more times than not, the entire series. As such, what happened in the previous episode will directly effect what will be happening in the current episode. However, we do see Cheater Cut’s in comedy. Far more rare, they usually occur in a special circumstance, like a season finale, where the comic story fails to wrap up at the end of the episode, and ends of a nail-biting cliff hanger…only to return next week for a sweet and heartwarming resolution. In this cases, cheater cuts’ often make a noticeable appearance, usually opening with something like “Last time on…”  whereas the opening of a serialized cheater cut would likely be more subtle.

 

Cheater Cuts are very effective and often crucial to the story. They allow the audience to get a refresher on the arch and be ready to jump directly into the action from frame one. The eliminate the need for expositional dialogue and allow the piece to continue its’ flow with an unbroken fluidity. So the next time you miss your favorite episode of a Sunday night drama, thank an editor- a Cheater Cut may save you next week.

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Film Word Of The Week: Archetype

Archetype1.jpgby Kierston Drier

We have an anecdote to start off today’s Word of the Week. In a grade 11 high school english class, this columnist asked what the difference was between an Archetype and a Stereotype- and it stumped the English teacher. Eventually, the teacher explained that an Archetype has a positive connotation and that Stereotype had a negative one- and while that is an arguable point, it isn’t exactly accurate. So today, we aim to clear these definitions up. And yes, through the lense of film and television.

 

An Archetype, a term coined by Carl Jung, student of the infamous Freud (of the “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”) describes a figure-type of trope that recurs throughout history in various cultures. The definition becomes increasingly dense when examined through the lense of psychology, philosophy, cultural politics and literature, but suffice to say it relates to the concept that all humans, (regardless of their era, culture or walk of life) share similar collectives fears and aspirations (such as being afraid of the unknown, or needing a singular hero for their community) and that those concepts get revisited as explored again, and again…and again.

 

And Archetype, as defined by the Merriam-webster dictionary, is described as “…The original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies of,” or “A perfect example”

 

In film and cinema, we will take a look at some classic examples. The 1997 film, Titanic, has an archetypal love story in Jack and Rose- two star-crossed lovers that are unable to be together by some inescapable force of nature (ex. Their social class… or a sinking boat in the middle of an ocean). The concept of these two lovers-that-can-never-be is found over and over again in stories branching across geographic locations, time periods and various media- from books, plays, songs, for time in memorium. (Ex. Romeo and Juliet, Inez and Pedro).

 

Or the trope of the Trickster, a mischievous character, often with morally ambiguous undertones and some supernatural qualities, that creates conflict within a narrative. Think Bart Simpson (The Simpsons), Stewie Griffin (Family guy), Louise Belcher (Bob’s Burgers), or Jim (The Office).

 

Why do these Archetypes keep coming up in our collective media? Well, for starters, because they work. They tap into some little-understood level of our social consciousness. In a large sense, Archetypes are free of social judgements. That is not the same with Stereotypes.

 

A Stereotype, by definition, is “To repeat without variation” or to “give something a fixed form.” To open that definition up a bit more, it means to take elements from the individual and apply it to the general. Ex- This this man loves sports, so ALL men must love sports. Many men may like sports, but certainly not all of them.

 

There are numerous examples of Stereotypes in film and television and they can quickly become concerning. But let’s talk about when a stereotype can be used effectively.

 

  1. When you want to convey information very quickly.

Ex. A guy who hates sports walks through a stadium FULL of sports fans. The sports fans here will likely be presented as stereotypical sports fans. This is used to pull focus to our main character. In a day-to-day situation you may not be able to tell if a person is a sports fan, but in the context of a stadium, (a room full of people likely dressed in team-colors and wearing facepaint) will hammer-home that “fish-out-water” focus on the main character not being a sports fan.

 

From a writing perspective it is astute to tread carefully when working with stereotypes, as they often distil an entire group down to an (often) incorrect essence.  It is prudent to avoid contributing to a cliche or negative stereotype as they can be ineffective, inaccurate and often offensive.

 

  1. Inversion of the Stereotype, for comedic purposes.This concept plays off the establishment of an expectation and then subverts it, for the sake of comedy.

 

An example is Cerie on 30 Rock. Her character is set up as a stunningly beautiful and relaxed assistant to Liz Lemon, and who frequently wears revealing clothing at her job. Cerie will occasionally make extremely intelligent comments, often about mathematics or physics, shocking the room. The comedy here comes from the expectation that the beautiful assistant may not be intellectual, but she is. The stereotype is broken, and comedy ensues. Without the additional break, the character would be a flat stereotype, but with the inclusion, she becomes a fuller, more well-rounded character.

 

Let’s pull back into this writer’s’ grade 11 english class and refocus. What exactly are Archetypes and Stereotypes? How are they different?

 

Archetype- Is a concept that recurs in human consciousness. In media, often a general character than can inhabit many forms, (the trickster/prankster, the wise elder, the underdog hero) They can be flawed, rich, well-rounded and deep. The essence of the character may be familiar, but as individual characters, they are unique.

 

Stereotypeis a reduction, or gross over-simplification of reality. It often distills the depth and diversity of a community down into one tired cliche. Humor can be derived from satirizing it, or pointing out its’ flaws in a subverted way.

 

So for all those going into high school this september, take a note on these two- you may even impress you english teacher.

 

RESOURCES

Merriam-webster.com (Definiton of Archetype and Stereotype)

 

Dictionary.com (Definition of Archetype and Stereotype)

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