Sunday, October 08, 2006

The finality of everything non-digital

I don't know if you know this about me, but I am a film school graduate. At the time I entered my school's program, they were just switching from physical 16mm film editing to digital Mac G4/final cut editing. Students who came before I were spluttering with outrage, and in a way you can't blame them. Our experience would end up being entirely different from theirs- and in their opinion, much less worthwhile. I'll explain why.

When you take film, put it in the camera, and shoot movie onto it, you're taking part in a complicated chemical process that can be completely ruined if you slip up at any time. Oops I left this lever up- no image. Oops I read the light meter wrong- no image. Oops I installed the film wrong- ruined image. etc. etc. For my older classmates, the next step in the filmmaking process was just as infuriating. You get your film back from the lab, and there it is just wound up on a spool. You can't just look at it whenever you feel like. You can't gaze at it hanging in front of you and have a bang-up impression of how many seconds of film you're looking at. Then you must make decisions about how you're going to cut it up. This is literal. You are going to cut your film up and tape it back to together with some expensive scotch tape that doesn't ever seem to hold up well enough to justify the price of it (yeah yeah so it doesn't catch on fire in projectors...whatever). So you cut it up, you tape it back together, you feel pretty crappy about the fact that you didn't get this shot that you wanted, or this shot didn't turn out, or the end of this shot was ruined and you had to cut it shorter than you'd like to... You hand it it (I'm not even going to talk about the hell that is the soundtrack) and it's a finished product ready to be stamped "crappy" or "not that crappy" in front of the whole class.

Then all of the sudden a year later, a bunch of punk-ass freshmen wander in off the street all full of 'ideas' with 'previous film experience' (i.e. a blossoming carreer on youtube) and they shoot their film and they make their mistakes and blunders just as you might have but THEN...they whip out their digi-cam and fudge a quick fix. They sit in the lab on their fancy computers with their expensive headphones and re-use the same shots over and over (something you can't do without a lot of time and more money in the film-only case). They cut their assignments together in six minutes flat and then spend hours just noodling around with their techno soundtracks and excruciatingly long credit sequences. And are their films any better because of this convenience?

Good question. I know that the film-only kids are only complaining because they are jealous (they can't seriously be that concerned with the eduction of their eventual competitors). They say they want us to have suffered as they did- but they hold out that this suffering was superior education and that we learn nothing. Sorry, more bullshit. In actuality, the kids who were going to make good work made good work, and the kids who were going to half-ass it didn't fool anyone before or after the technology shift. There might be a case where somebody had the tech advantage, and that somehow helped them fall into a great movie even though their prior planning and effort didn't seem like it would amount to much. But c'mon- you can't blame technology- that's just good karma.

So next time you're jealous of a bunch of young punks getting the easy way out, stop blubbering and go rescue a kitten out of a tree or something. The only thing that really makes good things come easily is luck. Otherwise you just have to work, work, work.

This is way to long to be considered a good blog post, but whatever. I thought about all of this because I bought some mulit-colored note cards to help me map out scripts and stories (I have problems sequencing events). I felt stupid buying them (poor widdle twees) because i have a computer and you can movie ideas around on your computer any time you feel like it. BUT the computer gives me way too much of a chance to delete ideas entirely. I can tell myself I shouldn't and save everything a million different ways- but in the end I will impetuously scrap it all and as quick as you can type "qwerty"- it's gone forever. Paper is helpful when you're a little manic with your opinions of your own ideas. You can even save crumples. I would suggest it to anyone who's in a rut. Go out and kill you some trees.

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