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Friday, 11 December 2015

Review: ClickBait


Solent TV's latest project, ClickBait, READ MORE HERE....

Solent TV have a fantastic creative concept in that they exist to produce film and TV making opportunities for the students of Southampton University. It is precisely this sort of forward thinking that will mean the British Film Industry has a ready supply of new and relevant talent. To give students opportunities to practise what they've learnt in the classroom is an amazing vision and one that I whole heartily champion. Typically, students haven't had their vision and creative passion dulled by the cynicism of the world and their film making is often edgy and challenging. It has long been my belief that film making should be about diversity and pushing the envelope and if that means that sometimes the end product is uncomfortable or raw then so be it. I strongly recommend that you have look for yourself at the Solent TV website as there is much to impress and this isn't the last you've heard about them, especially from me!

Emily Grace from Click Bait

Clickbait focuses on the subjects of Cyber Bullying, Web Fame and Manipulation. Benjamin Sutton, Clickbait's producer, has opted to utilise the web TV series format and the story is told over four 16 minute episodes with each episode centres on a particular person. Each episode has a different director and therefore a slightly different style or vision, however the over arching themes do have consistency throughout the series. Clickbait tells the story of Emily Grace, a teenager who releases a horrendously trite music video. The media furore that erupts as this video goes viral, exposes Emily to a vicious tidal wave of abuse with a ruthless A and R company capitalising on the negative reaction. As Emily goes from Internet sensation to a object of public ridicule, Clickbait attempts to demonstrate the dangers that are all to prevalent in our media driven and fame hungry world. 

There is a lot to impress here and Benjamin Sutton's casting for all the key characters is faultless and, for the most part, their performances are believable. As you would expect with actors who are learning their craft, some of the delivery and dialogue feels a little acted and there isn't the natural feel that you could expect with a more experienced cast. Some of the performances are outstanding including Hannah Jones, as bewildered Emily Grace, and an entirely believable turn by Sara Dee, as Emily's naive and trusting mother. Claire Lichie's portrayal of the amoral A and R agent, Kerry Bishop, is skin crawling but also entirely believable. The issues that Clickbait attempts to highlight are massive and we all know that cyber bullying is an issue that has led to suicide. I was concerned on reading the press release that, if not handled sensitively, to deal with this issues in a comedic or satirical manner could lead to accusations of making light of the subject matter. Fortunately, on watching all four episodes there is nothing comedic or satirical about Clickbait but this uncovers another issue. If a film or project is not fairly and accurately represented then it stands a very high chance of missing its target audience and failing. To sell Clickbait as a dark comedy or  satire, as it was billed on the press release, is simply not accurate and ,although I believe there was some debate about this in the production office, in my view, it was genred incorrectly. 


Clickbait's running time is just under 49 minutes and this brings me to the main issue with the series. The subjects of Cyber Bullying and manipulation of the naive for financial gain are huge and whilst the serious effects are hinted at, Clickbait suffers from the problem of trying to do too much in a short period of time. The episode running times are as little as 10 minutes with the longest clocking in at 17 minutes and, as a result, I got the impression that the powerful message being conveyed could have been proclaimed louder with more time allotted. I would have liked to see the results of the abuse Emily was forced to endure, it  shatters lives and destroys people! The effects on Emily's family and, in particular, her mum would have been devastating. It is true that these are elements that are touched on and they do provide much to think about, but by extending the running time to an hour these strong themes may have been dealt with on a deeper level. 

The decision to produce Clickbait as a TV series was taken so that the project connected easily with the student target audience. Whilst I can appreciate why this was done there is a negative effect in that the powerful message that the series wants to convey loses some of its punch. No matter how well a series is made there is some inevitable disjointedness and with the running time for each episode being under 20 minutes there is a feeling that the show only really scratches the surface in its exploration. Clickbait has at its heart a fantastic concept and it is very clear what the production team were attempting to achieve. Whilst it would be unfair of me to say  that it doesn't achieve these aims (the issues of Cyber bullying are highlighted and unscrupulous media organisations are shown for who they are) I would have to say that Clickbait is hit and miss. Clickbait would serve as a fantastic opening salvo in any debate surrounding the real issues of cyber bullying but it fails to deliver the knock out punch. Had the project been conceived as a slightly longer film these issues would have been poignantly and indelibly highlighted. I am passionately for any campaign or project which seeks to reduce cyber bullying so I feel it is a shame that a powerful concept has been dulled slightly by the delivery method.

You can watch Clickbait by clicking on the link here and Solent TV's other work is viewable at www.solenttv.co.uk or on their You Tube channel at http://www.youtube.com/solentdottv

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