Your guide to cinema & film

What is film?

Since moving pictures were first put together from a series of still photographs to settle a bet – whether a horse raised all its hooves off the ground, or not, when running – people have been fascinated by the illusion cinematography. Motion pictures, or films, have developed from early studies into movements to a distinct art form in its own right. Today, the main formats for films are digital although some film-makers still like to use the old analogue cameras that so many brilliant and pioneering films were made on. They can touch us, entertain us, educate us and provide great shared moments as well as intimate ones. Like other story-telling art forms, such as literature, films are likely to be around so long as people have things to say about the human condition.

 Are films just entertainment?

 To many people, downloading a film to watch at home at the end of the day or heading to their local cinema is purely for entertainment. However, films can be so much more than the sort of tales that tend to be the mainstay of Hollywood. In recent decades, more and more fine artists use film and video techniques for their installations. Documentary film-making is widely regarded as something of an art form in its own right with many important issues reaching a wider audience because of the dedication of people who make them. Sure, films need to be entertaining to an extent to capture our attention, but that does not mean they cannot be deep and thought-provoking in the process.

What are the best films ever?

Deciding what the best films ever made are is a matter of personal choice. In the early days of cinema, Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein in Soviet Russia is widely regarded as a masterpiece. Many people consider Citizen Kane, made by Orson Welles, to be the best Hollywood movie ever although The Godfather, adapted from a novel in 1972, is another favourite. According to Time Out magazine, Sholay, directed by Ramesh Sippy, is the best Bollywood film to have ever been produced.

How does film production work?

Film production varies as much as the films themselves. In the big-budget movie world, a writer usually needs to find a producer who will take their project on. This means seeking funding from a production company, or studio, in many cases. That said, some extremely low-budget films have been made by individuals who have gone on to win critical acclaim and make plenty of returns at the box office. Once a budget has been set, a director is usually hired, and the cast is put together before a crew is assembled and shooting can start.

Are film festivals still relevant?

Film festivals still have the ability to generate public interest, so they are still relevant. However, film festivals tend to be more and more specialist in their nature, catering for certain genres and niches. It is a good way for new film-makers to find an audience they might otherwise miss out on.

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Theatre is a performance that involves live-action. It can range from a one-person show to a cast of thousands. In many cases, theatrical performances are carried out in purpose-built entertainment houses, known as theatres. However, theatre can also take place on the street, within communities and even within family homes. Acting is a big part of the tradition but other elements, such as music, set design, choreography, lighting, direction and costume making all play their part, too. Theatre is distinct from other forms of dramatic entertainment, such as TV and cinema, insofar as it is conducted in person in front of a live audience. That said, some live theatrical performances are now streamed over the internet to homes and cinemas, which means the distinctions are becoming blurred.
Any body of text is really a form of literature. If you collected all your old shopping lists, then you could consider this to be literary to some, small extent, for instance. More commonly, however, the term literature refers to the written word as an art form. As such, certain texts tend to be excluded in this tighter definition. Instruction manuals, phone books and newspapers tend not to be considered to have much literary value. Therefore, novels, poetry anthologies and even biographies are more often thought of as genuine literature. In some cases, notable non-fiction works count as literature, too, such as history books. That said, the main literary works that are best-known around the world are normally works of fiction.
There are various definitions of music. Eastern and Western musical traditions are very different from one another, and it is hard to define a genre like jazz with the same meaning as, say, military music. That said, most musicologists accept that there are three essential aspects to music. These are rhythm, pitch, and harmony. On top of this, you could easily add other common elements such as timbre, the way a particular sound is perceived. To some people, music also has a visual element, and you can literally dance rather than simply move to its sound. From ancient times, both voices and musical instruments have been used to produce music and, these days, it is a folk art form as well as being a multi-billion dollar global industry.
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