A Dreamer Walking

The Essence of Cinema

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 27, 2016

Nothing disguises meaninglessness more than a pretty picture.

This is actually a quote from yours truly. I just think this type of thing looks more legit when you put it up in stylized quotes.

In the past I have suggested we live in the most resourceful age of filmmaking in history. The kind of technology we have at our disposal is phenomenal. Where just 30 years ago a film student like me would go wild if he had a few minutes worth of film stock to use, today we have crystal clear digital cameras, easy to use editing programs and special effect technology, along with all sorts of other gizmos and gadgets to make our Youtube or Vimeo videos look that much smoother.

As you might assume from the quote however, I don’t consider all this stuff a good thing. In fact, in many cases I find our new obsessions with the newest technology to be unhealthy. More times than not I run into fellow film students who feel it’s the type of camera they use that makes their work worth viewing. Instead of talking to me about the story they are trying to tell or themes they are trying to explore they simply show me their footage and exclaim, “Can you believe how beautiful this looks in 4K RESOLUSION!!!” And sadly, more times than not I can’t help but look at that 4K footage and feel an overwhelming sense of emptiness.

The cause of the emptiness you may ask… An utter lack of individualism. But what should I expect?! Any type of individualism was knocked out of most of us at a very early age.

The cardinal sin of the education system is the absence of independence. School’s most impactful lesson is conformity. The environment we are taught in, the subjects highlighted, and the testing system used to measure our intelligence are all oriented around our society’s demand we stand in line and function with a set of well established rules.

Since most of us didn’t grow up giving value to individualism, we needed to create value in other places. One of the easiest places to manufacture a sense of value is in the polish of a product. Most of my professors and peers advocate for the clean image. We are taught how to hold the camera, the proper way to light a scene, and what makes for the strongest composition. In no way am I suggesting these things are not important to know. I spent the last several years studying the rules of cinema and looking into the reasons why the great filmmakers of the past, like Kurosawa and Bergman, chose to shoot their films the way they did.

But here is the difference between filmmakers like Bergman and Kurosawa, and the vast majority of student filmmakers out there; the masters of cinema learned the rules in order to break them. They did not find value in the picture itself, but rather they were interested in what the picture had to say. And often times it was through going against the traditional rules of cinema where the great filmmakers were able to say something unique. As much as the system we live in works tirelessly to have the majority in society toe the line, from the beginning of time it has been the rule breakers who change the world the most.

I have found a clean high definition image is one of the greatest enemies to a rule breaker. We are no more capable of breaking the rules of cinema today as we were 30 to 100 years ago. The only change is a development of technology. And technology has its dangers. As I said at the beginning of this piece, “Nothing disguises meaninglessness more than a pretty picture”. We are more capable of creating a “pretty picture” today then ever before.

I consider my papers on this blog to be a constant exploration the essence of cinema. And I am sorry if the title of the post mislead you into thinking I would somehow be able to tell you what cinema’s essence was. The point here is to tell you what cinema’s essence is not. The power of cinema can not be measured based on the type of camera you use. We must understand the value of an art is not measured by its paintbrush. What matters is the person holding the brush and whether he or she has something to say.

 

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.