Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finding the "missing" talent in a technology-rich present

Filmmaker David Schmüdde wrote at Beyond The Frame about director Peter Webber’s latest post for Webber discussed film and technology in his entry, The Newest New Wave; he lamented that in spite of the quantity and quality of technology available today, new filmmaking genius has not emerged:

“…there is a limit to what can be expected from this democratisation of the means of film production. The most important commodity in all of this is not in fact the technology but the talent.”
Director Aaron Stewart-Ahn’s recent comments informed Webber’s post:

"...we don’t see films as brave, funny, entertaining, ambitious or unashamedly intellectual as the ones they [Godard, Coutard] made together....Nowadays there seems to be an overall diminution of ambition, an unfortunate limiting of horizons."
Is this true? It may be more accurate to say we’re prevented from seeing clearly the heirs of Godard/Coutard:
1) The US is now a culture of amateurs. Anybody with a digital camera/videocam, camera phone, tablet with camera--but without any additional training--is a potential creator of video for publication/distribution. Much of what appears in public online video repositories is produced by the untrained but highly motivated user. It may not look like the product of seasoned creators.
2) Education in the US places a premium on analysis (and not storytelling) in preparation for the workplace, not on analysis for the creation of better art. However, analysis is taught, and it may yield content that looks very different from Godard/Coutard's generation. What narrative emerges will also look very different.
3) Venues for sharing/publication/distribution like YouTube and Vimeo receive and warehouse so much content that it's unfathomable how even the existing film industry could drink from this firehouse and find satiation. There's just so much content that it swamps whatever is really good; how do we find the needle in the haystack?
4) Success breeds contempt; The Blair Witch Project neutralized the indie creator space for quite some time. Commercially-funded cinema has mimicked independent film to the point of discouragement (see Cloverfield [2008] for the use of cinéma vérité complete with jump cuts as an example, applied in a sci-fi/fantasy production). The product of blowback against earlier real and faux indie efforts may look quite different as it rebels against past success.