I've run across this quote often, but tonight, I felt the need to really spend time with it. It's such a simple idea, but incredibly profound. That's what makes it such an effective message. Who owns the future, as Jaron Lanier asks critically? I do.
Any time I write directly about film as a 20th century media living in a 21st century world, people get upset. My feeling is that the emotion is tied to a sort of existential anxiety about identity and career, coupled with nostalgia for something we hold dear. I get it.
I love cinema. It’s one of my most beloved passions. But, massive changes are upon us, both on the business end, and even more harrowing, the loss of cultural influence of a media that has absolutely dominated the 20th century. But, if we are to keep this thing moving forward, we all have a responsibility to create a clear vision of the road ahead. This is not a community effort, which would be impossible, but an individual one which demands honesty, projection and ACTION.
What this means is that a) the content has to change b) the delivery of said content (don’t be hurt by the use of that word) has to change c) the form of said content has to evolve d) all of the above. Does this mean VR, does this mean 4D, or the end of the movie star and lower budgets, or does this mean something else all together.
I often hear people complaining about the lack of interesting movies being made. The classic, “they don’t make em like they used to” phrase. Bullshit. If they did “make em like they used too”, we would collectively be bored out of our fucking minds, because we would still be stuck getting sequel 300 of ON THE WATERFRONT (and I love that damn movie). Second, and more important, a ton of fantastic movies are made every damn year. This is without question. There is no lack in storytelling. That is the easiest and laziest fallback to a more complicated challenge. One that I hear time and time again. You cannot make this argument without context.
The real problem is an existential one. A question of supply and demand, and of a now, classical art that is too frightened of the future and too in love with its past to break through the noise. What does this mean? Without experimentation, and I mean real gritty experimentation we cannot know exactly, but, if we continue along the same path, this thing we all love so much will go the way of OPERA. And when it does, the good ol days is all we got.
People often point to studies done years ago about how the cinema is as strong as ever. This is misguided, because again, supply has increased, demand has decreased, while ticket prices have increased. It’s a shadow show. The decline of the American people going to the movies over the years has fallen drastically, while at the same time, the growth of media has increased tremendously. This is why Hollywood bets on the tentpole comic book franchises, those giant movies with endless sequels and stories cultivated years ago. That is where they have a true competitive advantage for now. Scale above all else.
But if you aren’t aware of Moore’s Law and exponential growth, its a good time to use wikipedia because those massive CGI movies are not far off to being replicated at home, with but a few talented people. We are already seeing that stuff being reproduced by small teams and sometimes individually on Youtube. We are not on stable grounds, and nothing, not even the most beloved, is safe.
Build the future, and bet on your vision. Cherish LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but please, don’t remake it.
article originally posted on Medium
I truly admire Alan Watt's, the self described "entertainer". He was truly more than just an entertainer, but his speaking voice and deliver had much to do with his success in communicating ideas. He put you in a trance (i left out ZEN here, it was too easy).
If your not familiar with the man (and you sure as hell should be you rascal) you can find many of his lectures on youtube (in which people put his lectures over some new-agey images which you can disregard) or in audiobook form (this is one of my favorites). I recommend listening to him more than reading his books. It's his delivery + the ideas that make it all worthwhile.
In Peter Thiels wonderful book, ZERO TO ONE, he describes a counterintuitive point about entrepreneurship and economics, one that vastly differentiates itself from the mainstream point of view.
In it, he makes the case for monopolies. Although, a caveat is in place to describe a certain type of monopoly different than the industrial age style of say, STANDARD OIL. The good types of monopolies he describes are ones like GOOGLE, or PAYPAL. Companies that created a whole new category, and are the best at what they do.
His point is that competition is bad, or more apply, misunderstood. Google hasn't had any competition in what it's best at, "search" for many years.
This point can be applied to other endeavors aside from business. On a personal level, competition often works against our goals. It places us in a situation where we cannot think creatively because we are striving for incremental advantages of doing things that are already visible.
But when you stop looking at your work as competition, new ideas can appear because those borders are loosened. You create new categories, when you go from 0 to 1.
It's an interesting idea to contemplate.
In Peter Thiel world, technology and innovation is our savior, with an emphasis on financial rewards. A possible counterpoint to some of his idea's is Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality, who describes the tech monopolies as the possible end of the middle class in his book, WHO OWNS THE FUTURE.
Both have interesting books to look into.
Whether you like it or not, JAMES FRANCO is the character of the future. He is constant, consistent & working in PRESENT TENSE. Franco is the stream. And that stream is not going away because the stream demands stuff now.
Gone are the days where you could sit and toil on a concept for years, or turn a MALICK and show up 15 years later. Gone are the days where you could do or be ONE THING (however, if you love that one thing, more power too you). Because the world is turning so fast, if you don't pivot when you are required too, the media you are on top of will turn into OPERA, and then you'll be bitter. And pivoting becomes increasingly difficult as time goes by. It's as skill you must learn to survive.
Franco and his cohorts are also the few characters around who are almost completely immune to criticism. This is not unprecedented. Woody Allan has already mastered that art, by the only effective method. By not giving a shit and immediately moving to something else. The new school just does it faster.
In a world where media is completely ubiquitous and a million paths of communication exist, dealing with a bad review is akin to wiping your mouth after eating a bowl of spaghetti. Who gives a shit. And if you do, well, you're fucked.
The distinction of movies as art, commerce or technology is not an easy one to make, once you extinguish the emotional commitment to one or a combination of the others. The filmic language is probably easier to differentiate itself from photography, whose had a historically more contentious relationship with itself as art work (see here for just a glimpse and one sided take on the subject) . Films just have more moving parts.
But the other argument to make is that most filmmaking, most of the time in it's largest scale is really closer to being a commodity than it is an art. Hollywood churns out a product, a seemingly efficient one, although still messy that resembles a factory process. Now, we all know that this is not true in the same way you produce a cereal product, but, it's main goals is too redo whats worked as sound business practice. However, we all know that repeating a historic process doesn't guarantee a future. And that is precisely where we are now.
My biggest question on the matter of the filmic language is whether or not the form itself demands a need for universality. The means of production and execution have historically been massive. One Hollywood blockbuster could get at at least 100 hundred startups up and running. But that's not the point. To make the money back, you basically need not offend a large group of people, but at the same time, give them a very mediocre experience that's worked in the past. That's top down, middle of the road commoditization. That's what you get at the grocery store. And since, at that huge level of production costs, Hollywood thrives as a monopoly, minimizing risk is the top priority. But, as we all know, a monopoly who doesn't innovate, implodes eventually.
The real issue is whether movies in the way they are created and marketed could continue to sustain itself in the longer run in a world where media elsewhere keeps downsizing and splitting of into smaller, but more dedicated niches. Even in entrepreneurship, the shift is too micro.
But micro was historically never intended for narrative movies, which had for years depended on a large segment of a population, mildly agreeing with it's storytelling because of habit, to recoup the large costs of production. Of course, Hollywood also created some(a large percentage) of the most memorable movies in the history of the media.
I believe for now, that the move to niche is only possible, if niches for these new stories exist. And even if they do, is it economically viable for creators to keep producing, or, are we not doing the work necessary, to create another language with similar tools? Or do need to spend the energy on new tools and platforms?
Because supply is everywhere you look. The other part of the equation is undoubtably lessening.
This would have been the absolute pinnacle of web dominance for a music act if it took place in 2006, but just short of a decade later, it's a cute footnote, and a stark reminder that absolutely NOTHING LAST'S FOREVER.
So, you might currently be having the worst days of your life, but if you stick it out, make some changes and proceed with action, it can all change. That also dictates the scary, but real fact that the reverse is also just as true.
And who knows, maybe even MYSPACE, under the best circumstances & leadership, could flip that website around to it's glory days again. Anything is possible. I mean, did you just see the updated PILLARS OF CREATION photo. Seriously, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Make plans, and just as vital, roll with those waves.
"In my opinion, though, it's more important that someone learn to make music, draw, photograph, write, or create in any form, regardless of the quality, than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol, or Bill Shakespeare..."
David Byrne writes the above quote in the fantastic thought piece, HOW MUSIC WORKS. Here, he talks about the need of amateurs to keep the arts vibrant, and more importantly, to bond a self healing glue for societies, with an emphasis on the disadvantaged.
At a certain point in the American industrialized education system, we abandoned the active creative arts, for art history.
The powers that be thought it more wise (and certainly less expensive) to teach an understanding of mostly Western Classical Art, than to let children create. Funding for arts programs plummeted all through the country in the last decade.
But the creative act itself is the most vital. Art history and criticism is more the perpetuation of an elitist system created to worship monuments, over intuition.
Now, don't get me wrong, I've worshipped some of those masters works myself, but I would advocate for less worship, and more encouragement to the youth, who are seeking ways to figure out problems.
One of the best vehicles human beings "created" for problem solving, is art. And the evidence is clear that problem solving skills is an extremely desirable trait in industry now. So, if you want to give a gift to a child and an advantage, a nice pat on the back and a Beat Machine can go a long way.
For several years, after college, I was on a regime of "one book" at a time. In those days, it was mostly classical literature or a book on film/writing craft.
I was in the habit of reading before bed, or occasionally, in the afternoon when I had some free time, over coffee.
I'd often wonder how we collectively (students) went through several books at the same time in college, and the answer now, so obvious, was because of necessity.
Jump to about two years ago, when I had a sudden revelation that my reading frequency had dipped to an all time low, and was consumed with a year of MOBY DICK (the year before, WAR AND PEACE). One book, a whole year.
At this time, I came to a reading breakpoint (yes, this is not so dramatic). Rather I can wallow in the dead poetics society, or, get the fuck out of this habit, and open the mind to new ideas.
I picked up a non-fiction business book. Something I had never done in my life. Why? I was pulled in that direction but that's another story.
But since then, I upped my reading to an average of around 40-50 books per year in the last few. I understand that this is below some overachievers, but the mean of the average American Adult's book count, according to this 2013 PEW study is 12. With a median at a paltry 5 (still more than my MOBY DICK year).
So, what's my method? It's all in a system based on formats, and multiple books at the same time.
For short non-fiction, I use ebooks. For things on the more motivational front, audiobooks is my preferred format. For tougher, more esoteric material, a good ol fashion analog book. For longer non-fiction, or any books on craft or technique or where you need to write information down, analog. For fiction, again, analog mostly, unless it's the size of a novella or shorter, and then it would be read in the ebook format.
So, I read a hardcover in the AM, listen to an audiobook in the car and on a jog. On an afternoon break, or at night, I'm on the Ipad with an ebook. I average about 3 books simultaneously, and can push to a max of 4.
Personally for me, at this moment, I could not read 3 books at the same time in the same format. This switch in format is both contextual, and tacit, and lets my brain welcome new content throughout the day.
One last thing: I love owning books. While I've come to love ebooks and find them superior on many levels especially for it's ease in annotation, I find myself having to buy the analog version as well if I really enjoyed the work, just to make this situation feel real. This is a problem financially.
A NEW YEAR comes, and with that a faux clean plate. But just before the dial switch, we were all inundated by a seemingly never ending orgy of "best of" lists.
Chalked with hyperbole and irreverence; blogs, twitter, magazines and online media outlets who endow themselves with "tastemaker" monikers espoused the loves of the year.
Most of these lists where "best of" lists, and not the more truthful, "favorites" list. A big difference in meaning.
Now, a best of list of athletes is probably measurable. And so is a host of other things in which quantifying makes sense. But in the arts, the only true purpose these lists holds is consumerism or elitism.
Because, "best" is nonsensical in arts. Unless you specify it, and in that specification, it is quantifiable it is meaningless.
If best meant theatrical sales, than you have a measure. If best is "rotten tomatoes" ratings, then you have a measure.
If best is personal, than its favorite. And that's what it all comes down to. Of course, none of us has the time to view 30,000 productions, so, we watch the most accessible or ones that have been picked out.
Best in the arts does serve a purpose. Award shows, to bring in more business. Or, helping individual careers to obtain more opportunities because of a certain popularity that comes with providing more value than the average. That's it. Nothing more. You cannot quantify the ephemeral, until you actually can.
Is it important to add a parentheses to the year? Wrapping it up in time, as if the next day starts something completely unconnected to the string that follows. Perhaps.
It is true that the shadow is nothing but ephemeral. But so is every new day. The same opportunity to pick your battered body of the ground exist immediately, as it does in a new year. it's only a concept, and a concept is only good with massive action behind it.
So get going; flip this damn world upside down!
Coming from an acting background, I personally despise ADR. Sometimes, like today, it is a necessary evil. However, with that said, the audio specialist's who make it work are amazing at what they do, and at what they can endure.
On Hollywood films, ADR is par for the course. But, something is always lost in the translation. The level of disconnect from the initial scripted (or not) words, to the performance, to the sterile soundproof booth is the grandest of artifice. I cringe whenever I find myself in that situation.
However, my experience tells me that it's never as bad as it is when you hear it, raw, out of the monitors at the sound studio.
I recently picked up footage from a shoot we did over a year ago. We had some hiccups immediately during post, mostly because the world we were going to build in the box was a bit too complicated and time consuming without a larger team. This was an in-house production, so we aimed high, but the cost analysis did not add up. A little after that realization we actually continued forward with some progress, but life got busy and other important priorities took over.
Now, this happens now and again. Personally, I just move forward without the burden of the past. If the ship is moving, why hit the brakes?
However, deep down, I'm often bothered by projects left to burn in their own ashes. Mostly because other people put in the time.
This is different than long term projects that are continuous and take time because of aesthetics, strategies or just out of necessities. I'm specifically talking about projects abandoned. Nine times out of ten, these are just scripts, treatments or half baked ideas that get pushed aside for newer scripts; but every once in awhile, its actually raw footage being tossed. You took the time to write something, got people together, and you shot the damn thing, and without any hesitation, you just threw it away.
But here is where everything gets tricky. We are in the throes of "content world" now. Everything counts. The golden goose, and the piles of trash. They all have utility, serving the purpose of fulfilling the highs and lows of our culture. The stream of life is not historical. The origin story is now. Do you have enough material to feed this voracious monster?
With that in mind, I just salvaged some visuals locked away in harddrive hell. Conceptually, the idea has changed, I'll be honest. But, the adjustment actually makes more sense now, since it's more in line with a certain creative process I'm dealing with, NOW.
Here is a still from the upcoming MIRS TAKE AWAY visual. The record is two years old and the footage, recently rescued from the depths of a harddrive in Burbank California, is over a year old. Who the fuck would know if I didn't say anything anyways.
This last few days I've been on one of my periodic pop culture rendezvous, where I survey a specific landscape that I feel my touch slipping away from.
This round happened to be hip-hop, it's new culture and the first wave of OG's reflecting on where the form has gone. Just a footnote before I get labeled; my youth was spent listening to rap and hip-hop and my roots are that of B-Boy. My crew, OSB used to battle at malls, schools, clubs and anywhere else little dudes could roam the streets and engage in rhythmic warfare. Violence hardly ever broke out, but occasionally a dance battle would turn into an actual battle.
This was during the second wave of breakdancing. I experienced the first wave as well, but I was too little to understand the culture. From spreading out cardboards to keeping PLEDGE in my backpack for lubricating linoleum, this was one of my true teenage passion. I'll provide visual evidence at the end. But alas, i grew out of favor with hip-hop, mostly as a result of new hobby's and experiences. Still however, I am a fan to this day.
One particular note of interest in my recent cultural prowling was promo videos featuring the new kids on the block in hip hop. This being the social media age, the youngsters are all savvy of the technology of promotion. You don't need to fork over big bucks of your advance to do elaborate music videos or smart campaigns, because in essence, you are doing it all the time. Always on twitter, always on instagram, and tumblr, the homies have some form of capture device on them at all times.
It's not hard to come by a 5d, or a Red Scarlett, or a slew of semi-professional camera's these days (and hell, what is professional anyways anymore). Everybody, including your momma has them. And shit, on a 1080 screen, an iphone is good to go. So, everybody is shooting something all the time. Now you just package that extra footage into "promo's" that end up going on youtube as a way to diversify.
The flow of content is a stream. And to not participate is death to an up and comer. In fact, it's death to everybody except a very select few who've managed to keep those giant, top down, middle of America careers of yesteryear.
One thing that struck me odd about these promos is that the subject of the piece often, if not incessantly, would be looking down at their phones. This was a very common thread. It's jarring watching videos of somebody who spends an inordinate amount of time looking down at their phones. They're not even fully present through the prism of something that is trying to capture them in the present. And this becomes self reflexive. You ask, "do I do that, because, it looks really dumb". In fact, you might. I know I'm guilty at times.
Further, the subjects would often use their phones to capture another fleeting moment through a picture (instagram) or video. Always looking at a screen, or through a screen. Contextualizing everything through pixel.s
Now, granted I was looking mostly at Hip Hop promos because that's where pop culture is now. I don't think there are 17 year old rock and roll kids getting 6 million dollar 360 deals. And they too probably spend time staring into the abyss of electronics. It's an age thing. It's a culture thing. But, my guess is that there is more to this story.
Which brings me to my theory that our phones, through technology serve some strange psychological need to stare at moving things through light, while desperately trying to hoard moments, and store them away; basically trying to capture a life that's always slipping away, ungraspable.
There is no doubt that our second life in digitalism will be our preferable choice in a very near future. It's an extremely effective opioid, creating the distance from the dirt and grime of reality. You can break up a relationship without direct conflict. You can insult someone without consequence; you can be a sexist, a misogynistic creep, all without even a cold stare from the other end. However, it comes with many consequences. Chief among them, loneliness and detachment. That might not sound so bad, but when added up, the results are terrifying.
And with all that talk; here is some breakdancing in a living room, featuring your's truly and some ol school homies.
Two or three times a year I am burdened by insomnia. Actually, I'm not quite sure I can call it that because in my most natural state, I am of the species of animal that thrives in the night. But, adulthood makes that a difficult condition.
All through my teens and college years I had a habit of staying awake almost right before the sun came through the horizon. I always schedule my classes at UCLA to occur afternoon, and when I couldn't, those classes were hardly attended. I learned to pass classes with technique instead of attendance.
In high school, my senior year marine biology class attendance was under 20 days total that semester, because of the unbearable 8am start time. Most of those days where quiz or test days. The teacher whom I won't name lead the class with a round of applause everyday I would show up (terrible social reinforcement). At the time, I thought it was funny what I was able to get away with, but I can't imagine how any of this was helpful instruction. To my benefit, I did receive an A in class with the usage of my survival "technique". This was also when I figured out that the educational system that I was receiving in the public schools was a sham. This gut feeling, even though I continued through a similar system for many years afterwards, persisted.
As a first generation immigrant, schooling was a necessity, not a choice. It is almost impossible to describe what this feels like, but I can assure you, other immigrants of certain cultures understand this very well.