The Black Market : an application of the sound system model to independent filmmaking

Osborne, Freddie (2015) The Black Market : an application of the sound system model to independent filmmaking. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The Black Market research project takes an existing underground model from Black British popular culture, namely, the sound system, and transposes it to a filmmaking context to see if it is possible to achieve mainstream distribution, build an audience, and earn a living from filmmaking in a commercial sense using classical filmmaking techniques and a home grown, underground approach to making and disseminating films. The project was developed along two strands: an independent comedy series Mandem on the Wall, and the creation of a documentary archive examining the origins, development and current state of sound system culture, which evolved into the feature documentary Carnival Through the Eyes of Gladdy Wax. This thesis places this work within the context of the history of Black British filmmaking and my own personal trajectory and experience of the sound systems culture and its influence on my filmmaking. Historically, the representation of Black British culture in film and television has been controlled by commissioning editors at broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4, and public funders, such as the British film Institute (BFI). Reflecting on the past struggles of Black British filmmakers with these institutions to get their voices heard, this project adopted a ‘for us by us’ (FUBU) approach as an alternative tactic, creating our own opportunities outside the traditional commissioning process, using the ad-supported, free-to-view YouTube platform to take Black youth culture to the mass market and build a loyal audience online. The methodology used in the production of the online comedy series is built on the audio-visual model of the sound system culture, this model is applied to a visual-audio platform like YouTube and generating cultural and social capital by building a hard-to-reach young black audience. This soon attracted the attention of the traditional gatekeepers, like Universal and Channel 4, and public institutions, like the Tate and the Home Office. However, having broken through into the mainstream, what are the subsequent implications for the Black market model?

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