Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 107: Just because you can.....

I’ve been listening to a podcast of English comedian, Stephen Fry, speaking at the 2009 iTunes Music Festival in London, on the subject of new media technology and copyright.

New media technology moves so fast that I can barely keep a-pace with the language and jargon, let alone the technology itself. Why, only in the last week or so, I’ve come to learn that there are now such things in our world as a “webisode” (an episode of something episodic on the web), a "mobisode” (episode [of something else] this time especially made for a mobile phone) and ”webinars” (seminars on the web). I’m sure that these are just the tip of the new technologies iceberg and that my ignorance of these three terms probably gives away just how little I know.

In the aforementioned Podcast, Stephen Fry believes that the medium or technology will always be at the service of the talent (meaning the creativity that the media is being used for), which soothes my aching concern that the it industry will inherit the earth, arts-and-all. He intimates that we shouldn’t be worried about an erosion of artistic standards just beacuse everything now is so inmmediate and so readily available to all and sundry to use; an artistic gun in every hand. Is he right? Several particular instances come to mind that make me wonder.

Photography. I listened to an eminent scholar and teacher of photography on and old technology - the radio (medium wave) - the other night who, whilst embracing all that is offered by the digital revolution, is also worried about the promiscuous snapping of the digital photographer. His argument was that, pre-digital, a photographer would have to think more, practice patience, wait for the right moment, concern him or herself with framing and lighting to a significantly greater degree than they do now. In short, the subtext of what he was saying was that you didn’t used to be able to just point and snap and snap and snap and snap and end up with thousands of images; he was arguing for the more discerning photographer who didn’t have the facility of photo shop either, for that post-production wizardry.

So much more home photography is now posing or masquerading as photographic art. With retail outlets offering to enlarge photographs to enormous sizes, many homes have acres of wallspace, filled with shots taken by the person who lives there and I wonder? Again, with the magic of computer software, mediocre images can be enhanced with colour, cropping and any number of enhancements to transform an average picture into wall decoration talking point. Am I being unkind?

Even I’ve sort of joined in. The picture accompanying this article is one that I took on my mobile-phone-before-last, of my Godson’s brother, Oskar. I had it blown up and printed on a modest canvas for his parents, two Christmases ago. I will add that I haven’t done anything electronic or artificial to the shot; how you see it now is exactly how I took it, no artificiality or photographic botox. I went further and recently entered it into the Doug Moran Prize, a photographic portrait competition here in Sydney.

I will add this caveat though. Whilst I think that the picture I took of Oskar is pretty good (I’m
happy with it and how it captures him), I could not do this at will, again and again and again like a photographic craftsman can. A sometime bloggee of this site - Andy Baker - a highly
respected professional photographer (that's his b&w shot of Nicole Kidman), can do that; in fact when Oskar was but an infant, Andy took a picture of him for the cover of the Weekend Australian Magazine, because that was Andy’s professional remit at the time, he was paid money to do that. See, he can do that at will, I can’t. I may have got one lucky break with my shot of Oskar (that’s if you think the picture has merit) but it may take me another thousand point and clicks to pull it off again. I’m not saying that luck or fortune no longer plays a part in Andy’s work - I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I think he’d be the first to tell me that all photographers need a a little of that shady lady on their side - but isn’t luck “opportunity and preparation” coming together...have I said that here before?

Just because someone can shoot a clip of a cat on a mat chasing it’s tail round in circles and posts it up on Youtube, doesn’t make it a short film. Just because I’m blogging doesn’t make me a writer of journalistic quality.

I’m guessing that Michelangelo Buonarroti could have had a good crack at the roof of the Sistine Chapel with crayons or magic markers (I’m probably showing my ignorance now and expect visual arts friends to take me to task on this), just as great cinematographers can shoot on tape, 35mm, Super 16mm or digital?

Day #107 Tip: Master a process that works for you at your beck and call
The process of Index Cards to Step Outline (over three months), then Step Outline to Treatment (two more months) and finally, Treatment to Screenplay (at least another month) is taxing and thorough. There are plenty of other ways to write a screenplay and you are most welcome to them; if they work for you, then I am, literally and honestly, very happy for you.

Lance Armstrong famously said that “it’s not about the bike” in the title of his autobiography and for me it’s not about the (index) cards or the outl;ine or treatment, it’s about the process of building and refing story, right now that's teasing one line of an outline into a half-page or more of a Treatment.

Here’s a famous moment (from my imaginary 40-60 Index Cards of Casablanca): Ilsa sees Rick in the cafe. Of it’s own, that moment that story event could mean little, if you haven’t seen the film, it avails you nothing. If, on the other hand, you’ve seen Casablanca and know everything that’s gone before, then you might need hosing off the floor at this point. My example is a pretty dodgy one, in actual fact; because of the story that’s been told up to that point, very little else need be written on that card and in the treatment. That’s not strictly true; the writer may want to add plenty about the detail of this outstanding moment in an outstanding film where very little happens but things happen of cataclysmic consequence in the telling of the tale.

Luck and the roll of the creative dice can only work for so long, the house always wins in the end and lady luck will eventually walk out on you. And as for technology...a good production can lift an average script, but an average production won't kill a great script.

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