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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10875/133

Title: Towards a Multimodal Model for the Teaching and Production of Narrative Film
Authors: Hughes, Angela Ungoed
Keywords: narrative film
teaching tools
systemic-functional semantics
Issue Date:  25
Publisher: University of Pavia
Citation: HUGHES, A. 2006. Towards a Multimodal Model for the Teaching and Production of Narrative Film. TICOM: The Third International Conference on Multimodality. Strand 7: Visual Arts, Films etc. University of Pavia, Italy, 25-27 May 2006.
Abstract: This paper identifies eight modes at work in narrative film: camera, lighting, speech, ambient sound, action, music, editing and narrative. These modes are explained, and then integrated in a multimodal systemic-functional semiotic model which, it is argued, both facilitates the analysis of narrative film and would empower the production of narrative film. Michael O’Toole’s adaptations for use in the visual arts of Michael Halliday’s systemic-functional semiotic model of English grammar are here themselves adapted so as to identify three functions of narrative film: the representational, which refers to the ideational content of a film, the interpersonal, which refers to the way that film can embody its maker’s ideological stance as well as position the viewer in terms of mood and attitude towards the narrative displayed, and the constructional, which functions to realise the other two. All three functions involve a process of selection and combination from the range, or systems, of available semiotic choices. These functions operate simultaneously in film, but for the purposes of teaching and understanding they may be studied as discrete processes at various levels of analysis, the levels together forming what Halliday termed a rank scale. The paper proposes three levels within a rank scale suitable for the analysis of film: shot, the smallest unit; scene, comprising a series of shots; and film, comprising a series of scenes displayed as an entity in itself. The two-dimensional matrix which is formed when the three functions are arranged along a horizontal axis and the three levels of the rank scale are arranged along a vertical axis, becomes the space in which available systems or clines of semiotic options may be articulated for each identified mode. In this way the meaning potential of narrative film is mapped out in a systematic and accessible way, highlighting the richness and complexities of the semiotic choices available when discussing or indeed making narrative film. Each of the eight modes through which narrative film may be displayed is allocated a two-dimensional matrix as described above, and the paper illustrates the arrangement of these eight matrices stacked one above the other to form a three-dimensional matrix, a visual metaphor representing not only the complexities of choices inherent in both the interpretation and production of narrative film, but also the multimodal matrix makes evident common semiotic principles present in all eight modes, through the use of a comparative terminology. The presentation of the paper includes a demonstration of the 3-D matrix as a teaching tool in interactive DVD format, and a discussion of the testing of the teaching tool with the cooperation of a group of undergraduate design and media students. Interim results from the teaching exercise indicate that students’ abilities to analyse and discuss the structures and meanings of narrative film is positively enhanced. The paper concludes with a proposal for the next stage in the research: the application of the model in the teaching of the production of narrative film at undergraduate level and beyond.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10875/133
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