A Dreamer Walking

The Frame – Restriction’s Power

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 20, 2017

blog exampleSo often I find what students of film think they need in order to make a good film are more resources. If only I could have the new GH5 camera to shoot slow motion. If only I had a drone to create scale. If only I had the after effects program to perfect my shot. Naively, we tend to believe more resources will allow us to make a better movie. Yet, in many ways I have found they do the exact opposite.

To understand where I am coming from you need to realize who my heroes of cinema are. Charlie Chaplin, Ingmar Bergman, and Akira Kurosawa are all filmmakers I aspire to. They created films even at the time of conception were considered far less technically advanced than the other films of their time. Yet, today they stand heads and shoulders over their peers. Chaplin’s lack of sound, Bergman’s square aspect ratio, and Kurosawa’s black and white pictures are not signs of weakness in their storytelling, but rather strength.

We forget the essence of cinema is found in restraint. Throughout it’s history we have needed to deal with the unrelenting constraints of the frame. And yet, it is in this very restraint we find an endless number of possibilities. The frame is what creates the possibility for the vast majority of language we have developed for cinema today. Without the frame there would be no shot. The shot represents the filmmakers canvas.  We need those four edges to go from a wide to a close-up. The difference between a character who resides on the edges of the frame compared to the middle is extremely significant. The frame allows us to focus the eye through blocking all but the most important aspects of the story, out.

Now there is a movement coming. VR (virtual reality) breaks from the “restraints” of the frame and allows the audience to look anywhere they please. This is not a post trying to bash on this new technology. Even Chaplin, Bergman, and Kurosawa started to explore the power of sound, widening the frame, and color. Infact, some of their greatest masterpieces came from these newer cinematic resources. Yet, understanding the value of their perceived limitations is what helped launch their storytelling into another stratosphere. These were artists who if they were not provided with a paint brush, they would bask in the joy of being able to use their hands.

Less resources force us to value the tools one has. I can say this is extremely true for my current career. I have never owned a camera, lead a large crew, or owned any complex editing/effects software. However, I do not consider myself or the people who work with me any less capable of creating great art.

The resources we have at our disposal will all be inadequate soon. Luckily nobody cares about the chisel Michelangelo used when carving David or the pen Shakespeare wrote with for Romeo and Juliet.  When we have unlimited resources we are allowed to avoid looking into ourselves; we can hide our shallowness behind bells and whistles. However, the greatest measurement of an artist’s worth will always be time and it is the soul of one’s art time will reveal.


Visiual Education

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 2, 2011

I watched a brilliant ten minute interview of Martin Scorsese talking about the importance of visual literacy. In the video Martin expresses the importance of being literate in the techniques and history of film. I personally agree with Martin Scorsese.

Could it be that film is just as important of a subject to learn as math and English? The more I think about it the more I believe that film should be just as important as any other topic in school. We live in a age where film is a huge part of our lives. Whether it is through a TV set, cell phone, computer, or at a movie theater, the visual medium of film impacts us.

Not only are we exposed to film where ever we go, we also have more access to the tools to create film then we ever had before. The majority of youth already do express themselves through visual means. The internet literally has hundreds of millions of videos created by youth not yet out of high school, some even in middle school.  Seeing how huge film has become for our society it is sad to see how ignorant most of us are on the literacy of the medium. I am not saying we should all be forced to be filmmakers, but I think it is crucial that we know the literacy of film like we know the literacy of reading and writing. Very few seem to know how the camera is used to express an idea or point of view. Because we are so illiterate in the language of film, we often let the medium take advantage of us.

The lenses, the angles, the cutting, and the subtitle types of sound in a film, all impact the audience mostly in subconscious ways. At one point, when we went to movies, many of the theaters would put in one or two frames of a food product they were selling. One or two frames does not give us time to consciously see what is being show to us. However, subconsciously we the audience are effected by those images and many would get up to go buy their product. Luckily that tactic is against the law now, but there are many more ways for film to abuse an audiences mind. Just the difference between a high angle and a low angle in film is extreme. When we look up on someone we see them as a higher power. Looking down on someone is way to belittle the person. Film can distort shapes and color, to get a curtain emotion out of an audience. Sound can be used to get inside someones head. A filmmaker literally can use film as a weapon to abuse us and make us feel and even act a curtain way. World War II is a great example of the power of film. The German film Triumph of the Will is considered one of the most powerful films of all time because of the influence it had on the German people in trusting Hitler and his Nazi party.

There are many films that are made by amateur filmmakers that express violence and abuse in extremely unhealthy ways. There have been numerous films posted on the internet that express many misconceptions  about minority races and people with different sexual orientations. There have been cases of individuals killing themselves because of videos going public that represented them in a negative or unpopular light. Visual media is a powerful tool that is often misused by youth because no one has taught them how to use it or what kind of power it really has.

If we started to teach just as much through visual means as we do through verbal linguistic means, we would see more students succeed in school. As a student in middles school and high school, I often was frustrated at the very lopsided concentration my teachers and councilors gave to verbal linguistic learning. There really was no film classes at my school and the art classes felt like a joke. Grades for art class had nothing to do with the artists skill, just whether or not you completed all the requirements. For subjects like math and science we were graded on what we knew and how well we  could express what we knew on a written test. Thus, in math and science where I did not test well and my “skill” level was not very good, my grade suffered. However, with art I concentrated more on developing my skill then getting all the requirements done, and my grades suffered again.

The image is just as powerful as the letter. It is completely unfair to have one side be judged based on how good you are and the other judged on whether you can complete the bare minimum. It is also ridiculous that our resources are so lob sided. There are still many schools that don’t offer film classes. The reason why so many watch movies is because the visual medium speaks to them. Film is a powerful tool that can influence us in many ways. We can literally see how a professional perfects his craft through film, we can experience history through film, and we can be manipulated and abused through film. Everything depends on how we treat the medium and whether or not we give it the recognition it deserves.