Riffing on the NMC Web Convergence Conference themes and cross-currents -check out this forty second interview with Francis Ford Coppola from Hearts of Darkness. In this clip he might be seen as “predicting” the creative power of social sites like YouTube.
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Stanley Kubrick used to watch The Godfather once a year.
Coppola makes a crucial distinction between professionalism in the sense of “certification” and true genius a la Mozart. The democratizaion of access doesn’t mean everyone will be Mozart. It means that fewer Mozarts will go to waste….
And you never know where that next Mozart is coming from.
Gardner – astonishing! Jim and I were talking about exactly this idea. And what a great way to express it using the Mozart analogy. There is this notion that YouTube et al will have this negative affect of flooding us with garbage. On the contrary, it will give people who didn’t have a voice, the outlet that is needed.
I particularly like the idea that the possibility for putting a camera in many, many more hands re-frames the professionalism of film -making it somehow closer to an art form. A radically different way to think about sites like YouTube, rather than the mantra that such sites denigrate the “art of film” -perhaps the outlines of such an art form have yet to be fully defined? Or, maybe it is about to change because of the changing nature of access? Will Mozart still be understood as a singular genius? Are we framed by a radically different set of contexts? I don’t know, but I’m not sure these new forms of media will simply reproduce traditional ideas of genius.
I’m the one who posted that clip to Youtube. I like the way you think– it’s very much the same reaction I had when I first saw the interview. By opening the means of production and exhibition to the greatest possible number, our historical concept of “brilliance” will undergo a major redefinition. Certainly the Youtube phenomenon has already demonstrated a veritable renaissance of mass exposition of creativity, transcending economic, political, and cultural divides.
Here at UCLA’s film school (boy, does that sound like an advertisement… but it’s where I attend and happens to be Coppola’s alma mater) we’re currently engaged in a new digital media project called REMAP, exploring ways to employ new media in a democratic, progressive fashion. The head honcho and my thesis advisor, Fabian Wagminster, recently orchestrated an experiment wherein several hundred tenants of L.A.’s poorest housing block were loaned digital cameras to photograph their lives from their own perspectives. The wealth and beauty of the collected images is something fabulous to behold, even given the short time frame and limited breadth of the experiment. Imagine if thousands or millions were so enabled, and given unlimited time to explore and refine their creative approach? I think we’d find there are far more masterful artists out there than the systems of yore would suggest. Isn’t that worth the extra white noise?
I’ve been meaning to respond to you for a while now, because all of what you say hits closer to home than you ever could have possibly known. I went to UCLA during the early to mid nineties and my girlfriend at the time was actually a film student who worked with Fabian Wagmeister. I knew him tangentially through this association and was pretty impressed with the way he ran his film class. In fact, there seemed to be two different approaches at the film school during this period. Fabian encouraged his students not to use dialogue, thereby forcing them to concentrate more precisely on the power of the filmic images and the art of montage. This approach often made for more experimental, impressionistic pieces that forced the students to narrate their vision cinematically. The other class was allowed to use dialogue and the films, some of which were quite good, all seemed to rely quite heavily on the text for meaning -arguably the most familiar element of the art form for a young film student at the time. I liked his approach and his politics, and I am glad to hear that he is still at UCLA doing his thing.
In fact, I recently was talking with a group of people about my vicarious experience of the UCLA film school, and I have often wondered how they are dealing with the digital revolution that puts the technologies that were so cutting edge in 1994 (if they even existed) in just about everyone’s hands today. Coppola seemed to have seen this possibility quite clearly. I remember the tremendous time, energy, and money it took a whole group of students to make their 6-10 minute films, which today might be done for next to nothing and “developed” and edited on a laptop.
I have heard some of the fanfare surrounding Kevin Smith’s film class (is it called “Sucks A Lot”?) at UCLA which seems like an ill-conceived marketing gimmick -god knows we don’t need another bnnch of cronies telling us what’s cool. And by the way, when did he make anything that was even half-way watchable? Chasing Amy came out while I was at UCLA and I saw it in Westwood and I thought it was an absolute bore, I mean this guy is responsible for unleashing Ben Affleck on the general public for the last ten years… but I digress.
To hear that Fabian is actually using the digital revolution at UCLA to engage the community in an awareness of class consciousness (which is often by extension racially and ethnically inflected) and economic inequality in Los Angeles -makes me feel a bit better. How come there was no national press release for this program? 🙂 Using the tools at our disposal to access often under-represented perspectives, as you suggest, is both powerful and important. Can I ask you where this collection is? is it online somewhere? Are you using social sites to share the images? How are the students involved in the framing of the material? Figures i would hear about Kevin Smith prancing around with a “student crew” and know nothing about the revolutionary notion of using the technology at hand to present the visions of a whole group of America’s disenfranchised. Very cool!
So sorry it’s been an eon since my last reply to you. The life of a student, as I’m sure you know.
The gallery to the photo project is here, per your request. I meant to get it to you a lot sooner as well, but as I’m sure you know, Fabian’s a little hard to track down when you really need him.
These were shot by the young residents of the William Mead housing community, among the poorest in LA. My friend Josephine Yang, who also went on to win Best Undergraduate Film in this past year’s festival of student work, headed up the project. Since REMAP’s involvement, the Mead community has gotten organised and is working hard to fight the city’s attempts to shut them out or down.
About Kevin Smith… no comment, haha. He’s definitely not what I worked so hard to get in for, though.
Also, here’s one good thing about taking so long to get back to you: in the interim of our last exchange, I happened to meet Francis Coppola and had a chance to ask his thoughts on the very subject we’ve been discussing. He smiled sagely and reminded me that American Zoetrope has had Youtube-like and Myspace-like features for well over a decade now: he and his people have always believed in opening up the venue to the greatest number. I actually know some screenwriters from past classes who met with success submitting their scripts to Zoetrope’s website, so nice to know the man and the dream are still united.