Public Information Films - Sample Essay

Public Information Films (PIF’s) are a series of government commissioned short films shown on television. These films advise the public in a multitude of situations. One of the most famous series of PIF’s is “Charley Says” which sends out a stark message in a darkly comedic way. In 1973 there was a Charley Says which told children not to play with matches. The director appeals to children by using an animation, in the animation there are 2 central characters, a child and an anthropomorphised cat. In the opening shot, the child and cats are playing with blocks.

This is significant as children can relate to the child, they like animals and would like a talking cat as a friend, and they like to play with blocks. Then there is a close up of the matches, which shows the audience what the subject matter is. The cat then reacts to the matches and as a friend to the child he warns him never to play with matches. The closing scene is the children repeating the message to not to play with matches, Repetition is also used in children’s comedy, PIF “Road Safety, Starring Ken Dodd”. This PIF uses a well known figure to convey the message.

This mode of persuasion is called ethos. Ethos means to endorse something using a celebrity or well known person. In the PIF Ken Dodd plays different roles and shows the audience examples of how to cross roads as well as how not to cross the road. He over exaggerates in each of the roles he plays and presents it in a comedic fashion. The closing shot is of a zoom on Ken Dodd’s face. This emphasises his face and he repeats the message to the audience. “Blood Donors with Ernie Wise and Glenda Jackson” is a comedic PIF which uses Ethos to persuade the audience.

Glenda Jackson plays the role of an everyday person who is reluctant to give blood. She represents the audience’s attitude that this PIF is aimed at. This is a good technique because the audience can relate to her. Glenda at first is reluctant to give blood and is terrified and anxious. Her sense of terror is portrayed in a comical way so as the audience won’t be terrified at any point in the PIF. After her initial terror there are many close ups of happy nurses all smiling. There is a shot of Ernie and Glenda sharing a joke during the donation of blood.

This sends out a message that the whole process of giving blood is a pleasant one. After the blood donation Glenda is full of energy, which dispels any misconception that giving blood makes you weak. The penultimate shot is an enticement of biscuits and tea. The closing shot is a bold statement Give Blood. In stark contrast “Protect and Survive” portrays a sense of terror. The opening shot is of the much feared mushroom cloud which is often associated with nuclear bombs. The second shot is of bold white letters on a red background which makes it stand out.

During the PIF, there is a voiceover, which is an example of non-diagetic sound. There is a lot of repetition used so as the audience will remember the message. During the film, the voiceover instructs the audience what to do and how to react. There are pictures, which accompany the warning alarm, so as it is easily remembered. This is a good technique as it engages more senses and people will be much more likely to remember. The film uses pathos as a mode of persuasion this means it appeals to people’s emotions.

This film contains information that will not help you if a nuclear bomb was to strike but it boosts the morale of people. Another PIF which uses pathos to convey the message is “Rabies Outbreak”. This PIF was released at the height of fear of a rabies attack. The establishing shot is a low angle shot of a black dog which makes the dog seem threatening and big. The dog being black is also significant, because black is often associated with evil and bad things. There is a shot of the setting and then a horrified woman suggesting the dog’s point of view in a point-of-view-shot.

The voiceover, which is an example of diagetic sound, asks a rhetorical question “can you imagined being frightened of every friendly dog you may see? ” This question automatically makes the audience think and drags them into the PIF. This question plays on our emotions which is an example of using pathos in a PIF. There are then a series of close ups on warning signs and there are zooms which put emphasis on the warning signs. The voice over asks many rhetorical questions. This is a good technique used as it engages the audience into the PIF more, by making them think about what is being said.

This PIF uses pathos; it plays on the audiences emotions a lot. It makes you not want to think about the consequences and makes you feel sad for the dog, it seems that he will be killed but you could have done something to prevent it from being killed. A seriously presented PIF aimed at children is “Don’t Talk to Strangers”. The director uses animation which appeals to children. The child is the main character which keeps the interest of the young children audience. The film shows by example.

It has a zoom on the child’s face when he refuses to go with the stranger despite him offering the child an enticement. This is good technique as it emphasises the fact that the child refused the strangers advances. The PIF uses a friendly mother like voiceover. Though strict it is comforting and kind to children and is therefore more likely to be remembered and children are much more likely to listen to the advice. To conclude directors use a various range of techniques to convey their message. They suit different techniques to the audience and the more serious they would like the film to presented.