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My Experiences Leading me to be an UX Filmmaker

As both a filmmaker and as an UX Designer, I want to bring you an immersive experience to my story. To do this I have recently joined the Springboard UX Training Course to get a more formal education in UX Design and hope to join the Toptal UX designers community to gain more exposure to innovative design projects and gain more experience working in UX Design.

Screenshot of the healthcare job board HospitalJobsOnline.com

Screenshot of the healthcare job board HospitalJobsOnline.com

Even though less formal, I have a lot of UX experience already. One of my first experiences was at the age of 16, about the time the internet was starting. I was a formative member of a start-up and became very interested in user experience. I was part of a team designing one of the first online job boards and through company goals, trial and error, technological limitations, and feedback, we created the most popular job board for healthcare, HospitalJobsOnline.com. I had to think about things like: if I’m looking for a job, where would I go once I found the website? Thus, the term, “Job Seeker” was coined. We used it to direct the user on how to apply for a job. A month later, Monster.com was also using the term.

I went on to getting a B.A. in Film and Digital Media and was interested in bringing video to the internet. Shortly after graduating from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2001, YouTube came out and something called “internet radio” was happening. I decided to enroll in Directing classes at Vancouver Film school to network and get more hands-on film set experience, and I went back to working for the job board. This time at the job board, the focus was keeping users on the job board. Content was needed. Thus, Nurse Tallk Radio was born.

As a young producer, I was using my directing skills for not a visual medium, but for nurse themed podcasts. My focus became researching health and wellness trends, lining up guests and hosts, giving leads for sponsors to our sales team, sending out questionnaires, fielding calls, editing shows, composing music, and interviewing a variety of interesting people on my show. I produced shows featuring Hollywood nurses, healthcare directors, educators, and healthcare military personal from all over the country. The early recordings took place in my basement studio through the five phone lines piped in through my wall and interfaced through two Telos Ones controlled by a switch board I wired myself, a mixer and recorded on my Apple computer. The internet was so slow back then, I would drive to the nearest Starbucks with my computer and upload the shows that I edited to the internet.

Screenshot of the LensWork website.

Screenshot of the LensWork website.

With podcasting experience, I moved on to working for LensWork Publishing. When I started at LensWork, they were primarily a black-and-white photography magazine with a very clunky website. My first tasks were to edit the daily podcasts, redesign the website and introduce a new product: LensWork Extended. The podcasts and website were tasks I was all too familiar with, but LensWork Extended was another beast all together. I was both designer of LensWork Extended and tech support. This was a great experience with UX as if someone had a problem using our product, they would call me. I’d help them and change the design when I could. Some changes were technical bugs, but when it came down to it I tried to accommodate a variety of user experiences.

From the set of Sounds of Freedom

From the set of Sounds of Freedom

Filmmaking on the back burner boiled over and resulted in me taking some time off and creating the series Sounds of Freedom.

After taking 3 years off and spending a lot of money, I started at Skagit Publishing as a graphic designer in advertising and quickly moved to be part of the digital media department which makes up the Skagit Connext team. I do a variety of tasks from programmatic advertising to layout for publications, but overall, we design websites. Hopefully by gaining more formal education through Springboard in UX Design and working as a freelancer on UX projects, I’ll be able to bring more to our design wheelhouse at Skagit Connext.

Screenshot of the SkagitConnext.com website.

Screenshot of the SkagitConnext.com website.

With my passion for filmmaking and with this UX focus, I believe it has all lead me on the right path to be an user experience filmmaker. What is a UX Filmmaker? Check out future blog posts to find out and as my journey with UX continues. And look for changes to this website soon as I plan on marketing the debut of Sounds of Freedom soon!

 

 

 

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ARTIST HOLLY CHADWICK AS THEORIST

Courtesy of Indiewire 

Courtesy of Indiewire 

From attending the Women and Film Festival in Port Townsend, WA this last weekend, I was struck with the Saturday evening showing of Cameraperson. Cameraperson reminded me of Man with a Movie Camera, but it's poetic memoir structure made me think more of my own film theory behind how I want to make movies. It's dense, but if you can wade through it, below is my own film theory as an artist. Thank you to the Film Festival in Port Townsend for two days of inspiration for me to carry through on my project Sounds of Freedom, whose subject matter must be told and told in a manner that best compliments the story.

I, as a new media creator of today, look to avant-garde filmmakers of the silent era to perfect my technique. By exploring Dziga Vertov’s new electric man at Jean Epstein’s pure cinema in the methodology behind my own work, I hope to articulate a new narrative utilizing experimental media technologies. And in Nicolas Bourriaud’s altermodern vein, as an nomadic wandering artist across the digital media-scape, I strive to promote suprahuman status, in opposition to N. Katherine Hayles’ posthuman. This is where perhaps a new global understanding based on Edward Said’s concept of “coexistance” can evolve (Said).

According to Cate Watson it “does not seem at all exaggerated to view humans as narrative animals... the tellers and interpreters of narrative” (Watson 4). With new technologies, narrative is being deconstructed and its importance reduced to simple mathematical algorithms to make sense of a digitized world. Therefore, as “narrative animals,” humans endlessly click a mouse button to make sense out of the digitized world in their own way, or become computer programmers or multimedia authors, the creators of mathematical algorithms, to weave a narrative through the digitized media world. I as a media creator, struggle to develop new narrative in this click and skim Internet culture.

 

Over the centuries, as technology has developed, so has narrative. As technology has developed, people’s perspectives change resulting in the narrative progressing from the epic, to gospel, to the romance, to the essay (Meadows 24). With another shift in technology, and the dawn of the database run Internet age, we seem to be obsessed with information gathering that our technology allows. In this age of information, when will a new age of narrative begin? Are our computer games doomed to be the retelling of the same epic novel over and over again? Don’t we still have a universal need for the narrative to make meaning out of our world...this new digital world? Are there no new myths? It is scary to think that the modern myths of today are Hollywood blockbuster movies and epic computer games. Or as Peter Sloterdijk would point out, we continue to tell the same stories of “fast-burn culture” with its action packed archetypal explosions (Bourriaud 6). When these types of stories no longer sate the current audience, what will replace them?

I am looking for the new modern myth, the new narrative, in this age of information, but as an artist working in the realm of digital media, I am torn between the two worlds of the digital database, and the linear narrative. To colorfully illustrate the division of the two worlds, boisterous advocates for new media might claim with disdain that since the advent of sync-sound in the cinema, over time, narrative has become a preset structure enforced by the dinosauric Hollywood industry machine that churns out formulative narrative movies. By following a commercialized skeleton of Aristotle’s narrative model, scores of celluloid images illuminate a limited singular vision of the world. Hollywood filmmakers make meaning out of the world by creating dramatic narratives in which beginning complications precisely climax three fourths of the way into the story, erupt, and are wrapped up by a brief dénouement. Databases may have their own structure, but they are not set to one constraining linear form. When humans want to interact with databases, is Hollywood’s machinelike rendering of the world comparatively that cold? With a push of a button, mathematical algorithms manipulate the digitized database’s information packets of zeros and ones.

 

My argument is that neither form is that cold when the media artist, in their methodology, has taken into account the unique view of her audience and has established an appropriate relationship. I as an artist strive to do this.

 

How to do this though? From the perspective that new media is currently the avant-garde art form, I look to avant-garde filmmaking practices of the past in attempt to rediscover their techniques that were lost with the advent of sync-sound and the over powering of the Hollywood narrative. For my projects, I ask similar questions that Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov and French filmmaker Jean Epstein asked. Then, I render my results not only with the technology of the seeing, a camera, but with the technology of memory: a hard drive for media storage, a computer, image manipulation software, and the Internet for database structure and delivery.

 

The questions I must ask are, should new media artists follow the assumption that new media acts “merely as an instrument to convey actions, a machine to recite stories” (Porte 385)? Maybe, new media is destined to follow preceding established literary and theatrical narrative forms, which is what Epstein questioned. For example, should new media be a medium to retell the great plays of Shakespeare as Epstein asked of film? Or, should new media only be progressive, push the avant-garde, or serve as political propaganda for some political agenda as proposed of film by Vertov in the 1929 with his Man With a Movie Camera? Should new media be purified and in an artistically poetic and abstract way create a level beyond the literary narrative and into that of the “realistic documentary” or, the supernatural realm of “psychological expression” as Epstein explored in 1928 with The Fall of the House of Usher? I look to how Epstein and Vertov explored this great debate (The Great Debates).

 

Both filmmakers of this era, explored cinema as avant-garde art forms. Even though their personal film theories behind their films conflicted, mechanical documenting vs. psychological expression, as practicing filmmakers, both had very similar techniques. While trying to abandon old codes of narrative and perfect his techniques, Vertov managed to construct a spectator, the “perfect electric man” (Vertov 8) to interpret and narrate his documentary footage. Vertov’s technique has been described by modern theorists as using “cinematic narrators” to dictate the narrative (Chatman 8). Using these same cinematic narrators, such as superimposition, close-ups, slow-motion, and rapid succession, having a similar concept of the apparatus as Vertov’s kino-eye, but by using the lens to look at different subject matter, that of psychological reality adapted from short stories, such as The Fall of the House of Usher, Epstein manages to purify his cinema. Epstein and Vertov find a new way to narrate avant-garde cinema. Epstein and Vertov have succeeded in solving the debate of the purpose of cinema in the 1920s, insofar that at the least, both filmmakers do create a level beyond the literary narrative. And at the most, the importance of such techniques in the 21st century arises when the digital form threatens “old film’s” standard form and when once again, the function of cinema in the form of new media can be debated. It is here, I as an artist explore this debate. I plan to at least create a level beyond the literary narrative.

 

In doing so, I recognize the Nielsen ratings. “Fifty six seconds is the average time an American spends looking at a Web page” (Carr). It seems that to get a sense of meaning, to hold their attention, people are, for example, not willing to sit and figure all the different order of images out, or are willing to click and interact too strenuously through a database of scattered information to find some overall meaning. Is it true then that human’s are imperfect and can never be Vertov’s perfect electric man to totally be immersed in his constructed narrative? Otherwise, if it wasn’t for human’s laziness, clearly if Vertov’s and Epstein’s techniques were to merge when narrating a variety of subjects, from that of fictional adaptations, psychological, to documentary, it seems Epstein’s pure cinema and the techniques of avant-garde narrative have been perfected.

 

As Vertov, I too must rely on the imperfections of human perception. “Data may be perceived second hand by an audience” (Chatman 138), but Seymour Chatman suggests that the audience’s perception and reconstruction of this world is interactive with the narrative. To a degree, as theorist Marcel Duchamp described, “the spectator makes the picture.”(Judovitz 187) similar to how Vertov’s electric man creates the picture. Audiences must be willing to create their own narrative meanings as well as interpolate those provided by the cinematic narrative. Similar to how audiences are willing to suspend their disbelief, for my work, I am relying on the audience to be willing to create their own narrative meaning using my own unique cinematic narrators and cues.

 

My intention is not to abandon the cinema in favor of digital technology, or to exactly follow the ideas represented in Vertov’s and Epstein’s manifestoes. I don’t regard anything not revolving around a psychological narrative as “purely material, purely mechanical” nor, declare “the mechanical period of the cinema is over” (For a New Avant-Garde 351). Indeed, I embrace the cinema, for human’s perception has been molded by cinematic narration cues. I plan on relying on this. For example when the music of the sound track becomes spooky, people know they are supposed to feel creepy, the situation is creepy, or about to be creepy, or a character is represented as creepy. I do not agree with the political views of Vertov and try to “create a man perfect than Adam..” nor declare, “I am kino-eye” with my movie camera, which he calls the kino-eye and is “more perfect than the human eye (Vertov 2) and claim to transform the “bungling citizen to the perfect electric man” (WE 8). I recognize human’s limitations of perception and rely on and embrace them. I want to design a user interface with human cognitive habits in mind. I do follow Vertov’s example and try to construct for my spectator a perfect view of the world not through my camera alone, but through computer interface design, artistic drawing skills, composing music, special effects editing, directing actors, and videography considertions. As an artist, I am not reduced to pressing a button (The Senses 244) as I would be if I just blindly took photographs. I do try to “make the viewer see in the manner best suited to my presentation” (Vertov 3). I also realize the importance of the audience’s relationship with a character in a story and attempt to follow Epstein’s model for the act of seeing, described as “to idealize, abstract and extract, read and select, transform” (The Senses 244). I want my camera lens and computer to see in the same way and have the psychic ability to see what cannot be seen and represent human senses. I follow Epstein’s declarations in so far that, “The cinema must henceforth be called: the photography of the delusions of the heart” (For a New Avant-Garde 351). With this declaration, Epstein chose the subject of his films, psychological man, a prime target for a delusional heart, and to photograph him using such techniques as slow motion, the close-up, and superimposition. I choose such a character to photograph in the same way. Torn between database and narrative, in an attempt to bridge these two media-scapes, as an artist, by integrating traditional film practice with this technology, I strive to appeal to the senses as well as to follow Vertov’s database form to create my own hyper link cinema.

 

My methods follow my methodology. One way I do this is metaphorically and functionally by the interface I chose for my audience to interact with my hyper link movie. For example, the first movie I made with this methodology was called Ask Her. Upon entering the world of this movie, the audience is presented with refrigerator poetry magnets. By manipulating them, images are seen either on a whole window or a broken window. If a window represents cinema, the technology of seeing, then the whole window must be one way of seeing what happened in my movie. But if the window is broken, then the broken shards and the scenes playing on each shard represents memories in the mind’s eye of my main character, Frank. The main character, being a sappy romantic, has a habit of piecing together his fantasies using the poetry magnets. Five scenes about the character Frank are already pieced together, and can be viewed as a video in the whole window, by clicking on his pre-made poetry. Making sense out of what really happened to the main character; to differentiate his fantasies from fact, is the key. The user has to deconstruct each phrase in the poetry and recreate new phrases to see new renderings of images, which displays in the broken window interface. For example, the user is presented with a pre-made sentence in which some words are colored. The user can click on the colored words and see images in the broken mirror. By using the clues seen, the user reconstructs new sentences with new colored words. Together, the colored word’s corresponding images play in the shattered mirror to create a collidescope of meaning. Via this broken window interface, the audience can navigate the movie and see the world from Frank’s inner point of view as well as access his memories seen in reflections, whether real or imagined. Together, with the whole images, they not only form a character study of Frank’s reality, inner thoughts, and dreams, but it gives the audience an opportunity to weave a narrative through the information presented to make their own sense out of it.

 

In this age of the posthuman, that Hayles describes in her essay, Boundary Disputes: Homeostasis, Reflexivity, and the Foundation of Cybernetics, pessimist Hans Moravec suggests, that humans will soon become obsolete (Moravec 1-5). I try to have a more hopeful view and as instead of being posthuman, I strive to be suprahuman. Think of the suprahuman as the transcending human, the human that has experienced nirvana, as Taylor described in her Stroke of Insight talk. Living in symbiosis with the computer and utilizing its technologies, I strive to share a bond with fellow humans, in order to understand multiple perceptions of the physical world we share (Hayles 15). With my type of artwork, I prefer to augment each other’s human intelligence and experiences. I’m interested in perception of the viewer and the vision of the media creator. Exploring multiple points of view to bring better understanding, the guise and truths of illusions, is the goal of my work. I want to do work that will explore and attempt to blur the lines between the roles of viewer and media creator.

 

As an artist literally on an island and whose island perspective makes me a part of Bourriaud’s global archipelago, I plan to work locally and think globally. One potential project of interest would be modeled after my project Ask Her and based on the legends of Whidbey Island. It would encourage community feedback and participation and hopefully allow for multiple perceptions of the community within the population of Whidbey Island. Using the Internet as a vehicle for distribution, I’d also be taking the ficiontalized stories of Whidbey Islanders to a global level. Through user interaction, I’d hope to create a level beyond the literary narrative. And similar to Vertov’s perfect electric man at Epstein’s pure cinema, have my own suprahuman at the altermodern cinema.

 

Works Cited

Abel, Richard. "The Great Debates." French Theory and Criticism, 1907-1039.Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

--"For a New Avant-Garde." French Theory and Criticism, 1907-1039. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

-- "The Senses." French Theory and Criticism, 1907-1039. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Bourriaud, Nicolas. "Altermodern." 2009. Online. Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Internet. 25 Jun. 2010. Available http://courses.ecuad.ca/file.php?file=%2F588%2FAltermodern.pdf

Carr, Nicholas. “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” The Wall Street Journal. 5 Jun. 2010: W2.

Chatman, Seymour. Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Hayles, N Katherine. “Boundary Disputes: Homeostasis, Reflexivity, and the Foundations of Cybernetics.” Configurations, 2.3 (1994): 441-467. Project Muse. John Hopkins University. ECU Lib. Vancouver. Web. 9 Jun. 2010.

Judovitz, Dalia. "Rendez-vous with Marcel Duchamp: Given." Dada/Surrealism. University of Iowa, 1987.

La Chute de la Maison Usher. Dir. Jean Epstein. Perf. Jean Debucourt, Marguerite Gance, Charles Lamy, Fournex-Goffard and Luc Dartagnan. Videocassettte. 1928.

Meadows, Mark Stephen. Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative. Indiana: New Riders, 2002.

Moravec, Hans. Mind Children. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Porte, Pierre. "Pure Cinema." French Film Theory and Criticism: AHistory/Anthology, 1907-1939. Vol. 1. Ed. Richard Abel. Princeton: Princeton University Press,1988.

Said, Edward. “Preface to Orientalism.” Al-Ahram: Weekly On-Line.(2003) Web. 25 Jun. 2010. Available http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/650/op11.htm.

Taylor, Jill Bolte. Talk. “Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight.” TED. MaWeb. 9Jun. 2010. http://www.ted.com/talk/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html.

Vertov, Dziga. "The Council of Three." The Writings of Dziga Vertov. Ed. Annette Michelson. Trans. Kevin O-Brien. Berkely: University of California Press, 1989.

-- "WE: Variant of a Manifesto." The Writings of Dziga Vertov. Ed. Annette Michelson. Trans. Kevin O-Brien. Berkely: University of California Press, 1989.

Watson, Cate. “Narratives of Practice and the Construction of Identity in Teaching.” Teachers and Teaching Theory and Practice. 12:5 (2006) p. 509-526. Online. Internet. 25 Jun. 2010. Available http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a749198163.

 

 

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Exploring Interactive Poetics

There is a problem that “we no longer have the ability to take in and interpret the mass of information presented to us” (Rokeby 133). Nielsen ratings reveal that “56 seconds is the average time an American spends looking at a Web page” (Carr W2). That’s not much time to spend on a webpage to really understand it. At the point of interaction on a webpage, there is too much information that the viewer is overwhelmed and doesn’t read an entire article. Viewers skim web pages in an “F” pattern. They read across the top, down the left and a bit in the middle to really only take in the headlines and photos. It seems that any poetics of interface on a webpage have failed viewers if they want to dive deeper into the meaning behind the text.


Is it possible to have proper poetics of interactivity in this age of informational overload? Hopefully it is possible, because we have a need for narrative. According to seminal studies such as Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative, it “does not seem at all exaggerated to view humans as narrative animals... the tellers and interpreters of narrative” (Ricoeur 26). We have an inherent need to create a narrative that will make meaning out of the informational flux of the digital world.


Therefore, viewers are “desperate for filters. Viewers welcome anything that will simplify their media-amplified reality” (Rokeby 133). Whether these filters or interfaces are good or not is debatable, but people take in digital information through a variety of ways, from surfing a favorite website, to reading a novel on a Kindle, to watching an iTunes movie. The way people
access information has changed so much that it has made how people view movies, for instance, more numerous and accessible. Overwhelmed with the amount of information available, people may even be overwhelmed with the amount of movies to watch, and so people seek Netflix or TiVo to guide their tastes, to sate their frustrations.


Along side this frustration, art in the form of storytelling has suffered as well. It seems that new media, reliant on digital technology and the non-linear database structure is in conflict with the linear narrative. How can storytelling, survive in the world of new media where limited attention spans and the click and skim culture of database structure over power good storytelling? By taking a look at how three specific forms of storytelling engage the audience, I hope to discover the art of the poetics of interface. When I as a media artist take into account the unique view of my audience and have established an appropriate relationship, I am taking into account the poetics of interface. This is important for the success of a work.


To discuss the poetics of interface, I will use the framework of the implied author, the cinematic narrator, and the audience discussed in the chapter entitled “The Cinematic Narrator” from Seymour Chatman’s book Coming to Terms.


Though I will not discuss my own work, I will explore storytelling techniques in the three filters of new media, narrative, and visual anthropology that will help develop my own interactive poetics for my storytelling project. By taking a look at the narrative film Twenty Bucks, the interactive film Late Fragment, and how documentary Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time handle storytelling, I hope to call to attention the interactive poetics the creators use for these varying works.


First, it is important to explore the device that Chatman describes as the narrator, or more specifically the cinematic narrator. It is an often misunderstood term when thinking of interactive poetics. Unless it’s a recorded human voice over, due to familiar Hollywood conventions, “in watching films, we [the audience] are seldom aware of being told something by an entity resembling a human being… narration is better understood as the organization of a set of cues for the construction of a story” (Chatman 126). When Chatman writes of a narrator, he doesn’t mean a telling monologue, but of a point of view from which the story is shown. Films are “always presented – mostly and often exclusively shown, but sometimes partially told by a narrator or
narrators. The overall agent that does the showing [he] would call the ‘cinematic narrator’” (Chatman 133). This cinematic narrator need not be human, but a composite of “a large and complex variety of communicating devices” (Chatman 134). If you take an example from Chatman’s diagram, (Chatman 135) a cinematic narrator could be the type of editing used in postproduction. Chatman’s diagram of types of cinematic narrators.


Whether the work’s images are straight cut, have fades, are intercut with other images, or have jump cuts, all of these types of editing somewhat skew the point of view of how the story is shown. Something intercut could create juxtapositions with images and whole story lines themselves. If jump cut, something serious could be constructed as funny. Audience members know the cinematic codes and interact by making their own interpretations. The composite of all the cinematic narrators, from lighting to music, “is achieved by the semiotic processing performed by the audience” (Chatman 135). This is how the poetics of interactivity for the audience work in regards to the cinematic narrator.


Even though the cinematic narrator need not be human, that doesn’t mean there isn’t the warmth of a human touch. Chatman writes on that it’s not exactly the audience that constructs the story, but the implied author. Chatman defines that the function of the “implied author is to invent the
narrative, both discourse and story” (Chatman 130). This person is usually called the filmmaker, director, auteur, or creator of the film. By means of semiotic processing, the audience reconstructs (not constructs) what the implied author of the film constructed by balancing the cinematic narratives (Chatman 135). The implied author, having a vision of the world, attempts to
construct his own world by balancing cinematic narratives with a human touch.

“Data may be perceived second hand by an audience,”(Chatman 138) but Chatman suggests that the audience’s perception and reconstruction of this world is interactive with the narrative. To a degree, as artist and theorist Marcel Duchamp described, “the spectator makes the picture” (qtv.in Judovitz 187). And there, at this point of interaction with the audience, we have the
balancing act of interface poetics the implied author must consider. The degree the audience interacts to “make the picture” varies with how ambiguous the implied author’s balancing act is.

For example, in the linear fictional movie Twenty Bucks, 1993, the connections between the characters are obviously contrived by the implied author’s placement of the twenty-dollar
bill all the characters come in contact with. It is transparent to the audience that the twenty-dollar bill is a clever plot device, but the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief that the bill could come into contact with so many people in such a short amount of time to enjoy the story.


According to Brenda Laurel’s book Computers as Theatre, for viewers to become engaged in a movie, they must have a willing suspension of disbelief, a concept introduced by the early 19th century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is the state of mind that we must attain in order to enjoy a representation of an action. Coleridge believed that “any idiot could see that a play on stage [or in this case flickering images on a wall or displayed on a monitor] was not real life” (Laurel 113). She goes on to write that, “pretending that the action is real affords us the thrill of fear; knowing that the action is pretend saves us from the pain of fear” (Laurel 113).


According to Laurel, if people are willing to overlook the contrived plot device in Twenty Bucks, people will be easily engaged in the film. However, people may not be easily be engaged in a film where more effort must be exerted to enjoy a film. How much effort is a viewer willing to exert to watch a film? What if it is a new media work where more effort is required just to unravel the story? Let’s take a look at ways new media can tear down these barriers so the audience is more willing to interact.


Itsuo Sakane, the Japanese journalist and curator, suggests that “interactive art is simply art that involves the participation of the viewer” (Rokeby 134). Therefore, it would seem that the cinema is truly an interactive art form because the viewer is in some degree participating in how to perceive the cinematic narratives. Compared to Chatman though, David Rokeby stresses that “interactive art works (in new media) do more to actively blur the line between the artist (Chatman’s implied author) and the audience. The audience becomes creator in a medium invented by the artist”(Rokeby 143). That medium would be the database. Motion picture production companies are starting to address the audience’s need to become more immersed in the story by creating multimedia movies. For instance, the interactive film Late Fragment, 2008, on DVD addresses immersion.


For the audience to become creator, the interactive artist (implied author) may “have acted in anticipation of the spectator’s interpretations by combining elements into the world so that their significance is transformed by the shifting perceptions of the viewer”(Rokeby 135). In database form, the interactive artist can play with a variety of structures to do this. Instead of just having a single serial path of a narrative and the cinematic narratives that a filmmaker might use, the interactive artist can chose a highly interconnected network to structure information. The interactive artist of Late Fragment structures it to keep the narrative in mind, but the curiosity and needs of the audience are remembered as well. The interactive artist puts into the hands of
the viewer the freedom to “make his or her own path through the possibilities presented”(Rokeby 140). And so, the viewer becomes an artist himself.

The degree to which the viewer becomes a controlling artist varies. Such technologies as video games give the player a strong sense of power, but the player can’t for instance fly off the predestined flight simulator course. The player can’t navigate into territory not already programmed or invented. And so, the original creator of the work gives only an illusion of power to the player. “Interaction is about encounter rather than control” (Rokeby 148). Where as the implied author balances cinematic narratives, interactive artists balance control and surprise to suit their “interactive aesthetic” (Rokeby 150). Instead of using a degree of ambiguousness as an implied author would to enable the viewer to interact and discover the true meaning of the world, the interactive artists sets forth controls whose limits allow the player to discover
the interactive artist’s vision.


For example, in the interactive film Late Fragment, the interactive artist of this work is overt in trying to give a lot of control of the movie directly to the audience. At least having the perception of power is what the interactive artist would like the audience to feel. Before entering the world of Late Fragment the audience is given instructions on how to interact with the film. One of the characters instructs to simply push “enter” on the remote control if the viewer wants to follow a particular character they are seeing on the screen. Viewers can discover more about the character by pushing “enter” and the movie will follow that character’s story line. If another character interests viewers as the plot unfolds, they should push “enter” when they see that new character, and the plot will follow that character.


The first few shots of the movie always show a woman shaking like a leaf. With the slow pulling back of the camera, there is a shaking arm outstretched. With more pulling back of the camera, the arm is attached to a shaking pistol, which is pointing at the woman’s sleeping boyfriend. The
camera studies the woman’s trembling features: her eyes, her lips. There is a gun shot and the camera studies her reflective silver broach where viewers can see her shot boyfriend struggling for breath. As soon as the full camera shot of the boyfriend spitting up blood was revealed, I click “enter” and a series of flashback camera shots are shown of the boyfriend having a fabulous time with this loving girlfriend. I immediately wanted to know how did it get to the point in their relationship that she wanted to shoot him?


If viewers don’t push “enter,” the plot continues and scenes sometimes start looping. By pushing “enter” every time I saw a new character on the screen, the movie, to me, seemed disjointed a bit in immediate connectedness to action, but revealing in back story. It did make me want to know more about what was going to happen, or what did happen to these characters. After pushing “enter” on what looked like every character, I got to a scene in the movie, where all the characters were together and a lot of important information was revealed about the relationship between all of them. The disjointed feeling was solved and I found out that all these characters in the movie are either victims or victimizers of violent acts and are coming together in a therapy session in a prison to talk about their stories without being judged. In Late Fragment the soundtrack, a thin chain of pictures seen after pushing “enter” and their subtle implied relations due to what is edited by the audience are the only cinematic narratives that pull the implied author’s vision of the world together. Since there is a limited balance of cinematic narratives and they are sometimes ambiguous, the audience has to participate more to figure out the meaning of the world presented. This interactive film is not as structured with a typical Aristotelian plot line or as filled with cinematic narratives as a Hollywood film might be. The more information the implied
author codes into cinematic convention, the audience doesn’t have to interact as much to understand the meaning of the world presented.

In contrast to the fictional plot line of Twenty Bucks or Late Fragment where we have to suspend our disbelief, Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time, 2002, handles interactive poetics quite differently. The audience has to interact with the movie insofar, that they have to pay attention. The slow pace of the film and the quiet way Goldsworthy goes about the landscape to create his art can be quite a lot to get used to compare to that of a Hollywood action film that demands an audience’s attention.

Several reviewers on IMDb.com, an Internet movie database where viewers can comment on movies, commented that they found the movie boring. One commenter wrote, “I admit that for the first twenty minutes or so of this film I wasn't entirely sure I was going to sit through the whole thing. Like many other people, I found it pretty boring, and I wasn't entirely looking
forward to an hour and a half of watching this guy bite icicles and stick them together” (“Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time (2001) - IMDb user reviews”). In Rivers and Tides, you have to obviously give your attention willingly. The most overt thing that grabs your attention is the grand cinematography of the breathtaking landscape as we see Goldsworthy’s lone figure working with a precarious art piece.


Viewers feel suspense in the movie. They feel Goldsworthy’s race against time as the tide comes in to cover his work area and sculpture he tries to complete. Viewers feel suspense as the temperature rises as the sun comes up to melt his ice sculpture. But filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer chooses with his cinematic narrators to keep the pace of the film the same throughout. Viewers don’t feel the suspense due to an increase in the editing pace, or the
speed at which the camera moves across the landscape. Those things remain slowly and deliberately the same.


There is Riedelsheimer’s deliberate choice to keep Goldsworthy’s narration telling the viewer that he is feeling the pressure of the natural elements. As the camera intently watches him, viewers see Goldsworthy’s frustration as he starts over on a rock sculpture on the beach for the fourth
time. His last attempt at the sculpture is a success. Viewers watch him put the last few stones on top to finish his sculpture, and then step back to admire it only moments before the sea swallows it. As he watches his sculpture disappear under the waves, Goldsworthy comments, “I feel I am down there with it.” This is more telling than any fancy editing or camera work Riedelsheimer could have done with cinematic narrators.


This movie is about watching Goldsworthy work and listening to him talk about his work. If people have no interest in Goldsworthy as an artist, this film may be painful to watch. But this movie is not intended for that audience. It is intended for the interested and Riedelsheimer wanted to simply share a feeling the artist had about his art in the landscape, rather than the movie being some sort of informational documentary about the artist. Rivers and Tides is
successful insofar that an interested audience will find a wealth of profound commentary by Goldsworthy and be able to take what they want from it.

Success of a work depends on the success of interactive poetics. Success depends on the relationship with the audience which the interactive artist or implied author balances and anticipates. The implied author of the cinema creates a relationship with the audience insofar that the audience picks up the cues that give meaning to the implied author’s world. In order for the audience members, with their own visions, to cue in on implied authors’ own vision of the world, implied authors must construct their medium to present their world clear enough, yet ambiguous enough to encourage interactivity. In new media, interactive artists create relationships with unfinished works. Perhaps, in the future the audience’s satisfaction with their relationship will determine the completeness of the piece. Still, the interactive artists, having a vision of their
own worlds, leave structure interfaces that act as the controlling auteur's fingerprints would. Strategically leaving fingerprints, the implied author/interactive artist allows the viewer to have a relationship with a humanistic world different than a world a viewer would imagine himself or that would be coldly constructed by a Hollywood plot device, new media algorithm, or by surfing the shallows of Internet web pages.


Works Cited


Carr, Nicholas. “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” The Wall Street Journal.
      5 Jun. 2010: W2.
Chatman, Seymour. Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and
      Film. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Judovitz, Dalia. "Rendez-vous with Marcel Duchamp: Given." Dada/Surrealism.
      University of Iowa, 1987.
Late Fragment. Dir. Daryl Cloran, Anita Doron, and Mathieu Guez. Perf. Jeffrey
      Parazzo, Kim Coates, Lauren Lee Smith, et al. Canadian Film Center,
      2008.
Laurel Brenda. Computers as Theatre. Menlo Park: Addison-Wesley Publishing
      Company, 1993.
Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative. Trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David
      Pellauer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
“Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time (2001) - IMDb user
      reviews.” Web. 4 Aug. 2010.
Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time. Dir. Thomas
      Riedelsheimer. Docurama, 2002.
Rokeby, David. “Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive
      Media.” Critical Issues in Electronic Media. Ed. Simon Penny. Albany:
      State University of New York Press, 1995. 133-158.
Twenty Bucks. Dir. Keva Rosenfeld. Perf. Linda Hunt, Brendan Fraser,
       Elisabeth Shue, and David Rasche. Sony Pictures, 1993.

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The Inspiration for Sounds of Freedom

This video Returning a Sound, by Puerto Rico-based conceptual artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla was filmed in the Puerto Rican isle of Vieques. After the closure of the U.S. base in 2003, the artists attached a trumpet to the exhaust of a moped and drove round the island capturing its triumphant "reveille."

Though I am not an activist, this piece influenced my thinking about jet noise: the sound of freedom. Having lived on an island, home to a U.S. military base all my life, and being a trumpet player middle through high school, I can appreciate the creativity of Returning a Sound. When I saw this piece, for the first time I thought about what our iconic sound of freedom meant to other people, in other countries, without our same freedoms. I was blown away of the horrific implications. That was over 10 years ago.

I have seen angry letters to the editor in the newspaper and protests on the side of Highway 20 out side of Coupeville near the Navy's Out Lying Field. The sound of freedom has divided people on our own island. As a filmmaker,  I am about community building. Instead of protesting the sound of freedom, in turn, Returning a Sound, made me think to tune my ear to appreciate all the other "sounds of freedom" there are including: dogs barking, wind chimes, music, the sails of a sailboat, moped exhaust and trumpets included. These sounds can both be appreciated and despised depending on a person's perspective.

It is my hope with my series Sounds of Freedom, where I profile a sound and its evolving meaning of freedom to a character every episode, that people will appreciate all the various celebrations of freedom and life that the military protects for us as Americans.

For example, in the pilot episode in Sounds of Freedom, I profile Don, the newspaper delivery man's sound. It's the sound of the thump of a newspaper on a door as he delivers the news to residents.

My Sounds of Freedom is not about the sound of freedom. Jet noise only serves as the back drop to a story of coming home. It is about sounds of life. With the culmination of episodes into a symphony of sounds, I'm "returning sounds" by celebrating the music of life.

This is my patriotism as an American.

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Trying to Find Joy in Illusions

All audiences should find "visual pleasure" at the movies. Thanks to achievements by female actors and directors there are so many strong female roles and players now in 2016. It's certainly a favorable trend away from the 80s and 90s when I was dreaming to be a filmmaker as a child and teen when my early TV role models were Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher, and then Dana Scully. In 1999 I wrote this essay in hopes of one day playing with illusions and to truly see not illusions, but what I call a magical realism reflected back to me on the screen. Now on a path to seeing my dreams realized, this essay gives insight into why now for Sounds of Freedom, I find it important to have strong female characters. 
Photo from the UCLA Film and Television Archive

Julie Dash’s 1982 short film, Illusions, challenges the authority of Hollywood convention. As feminist theorist, Laura Mulvey, wrote, “there is no way in which we can produce an alternative [to convention] out of the blue, but we can begin to make a break by examining patriarchy with the tools it provides” (Mulvey 199). According to this feminist outlook, Dash superficially reconstructs classic Hollywood convention by emphasizing the dilemma the main female character, Mignon Dupree, faces while proscribing to a classic protagonist role that a male, or person of authority would follow. In select establishing character shots by her use of costuming and shot composition Dash explores the extent of Mignon’s authority as a white woman. Then, at the climax of the film when Mignon’s secret race is revealed, Dash explores the illusion of Mignon’s authority using mirrors. In turn, Hollywood’s authority in the film is portrayed as an illusion resulting in Dash’s audience struggling to find some sort of joy in this deception.

Usually, “the male protagonist is free to command the stage, a stage of spatial illusion in which he articulates the look and creates the action” (Mulvey 204). It is evident that Dash plays with the protagonist’s costuming to express the look of authority. I will first establish this authority before examining Mulvey’s compositional manipulation of the stage. In an establishing shot Dash portrays the lieutenant as an authority figure by dressing him in a uniform. Because the male protagonist wears a costume of command, typically women would dress similar to the cute and frilly secretary, who is seated below the lieutenant. This is found not to be the case as another secretary exclaims, “My don’t you look smashing!” Instead of this comment being directed to the lieutenant, it is for Mignon. Having been off camera, Mignon makes her grand entrance wearing a power suit. By dressing Mignon in a power suit, Dash immediately gives both Mignon and the lieutenant authority roles to emphasize that a woman is also being placed in a classic Hollywood protagonist role.

When Mignon and the lieutenant are framed together, compositionally Mignon rivals the male’s protagonist role and, for the beginning of the film, undermines his authority. The placement of the lieutenant in the foreground seated on the secretary’s desk and Mignon towering over her own stereotypical secretary in the background establishes that Mignon’s authority rivals that of the lieutenant. As the protagonist, the lieutenant’s freedom to command the stage should be unlimited, but it is compromised when he has a confrontation with Mignon. The lieutenant asks Mignon out and attempts to back her against the wall to intimidate her. Instead of being a submissive female that immediately swoons over this man uniform’s invading presence, Mignon maintains her authority by shrugging him off, keeps her professionalism in check, and even slaps him when he won’t leave her alone. The lieutenant, an archetypal figure for all classic male protagonists, doesn’t know how to respond to this new protagonist female. “I’ve never met a woman quite like you,” he says. Dash reveals the spatial illusion of the stage and the confused lieutenant leaves the stage that he no longer commands.

As the story progresses, the audience finds out that Mignon is “the one woman in all of Hollywood that can make executive decisions.” Despite this title of authority, her boss refuses her story ideas. In one scene Mignon confides in the black singer Esther Teeter. “I came into this world of moving shadows and I made this work for me, but I made what work? There isn’t anything here for me. There is no joy in the seduction of images,” she states. While explaining this, the camera focuses on Mignon and Esther as substantial people, but as Mignon makes her revelation, the camera slowly dollies back to reveal Mignon and Esther as simply being shadowy images framed by the walls of the studio. These are the very walls in which these two talented woman are trying to scale to make their voices be heard. In Mignon’s final confrontation with the lieutenant, scaling these walls seems even more daunting because inter-cut with Mignon’s dilemma, the lieutenant does some snooping and finds out that fair skinned Mignon is not a white woman, but a black woman.

Contrary to their establishing scene, when the lieutenant confronts Mignon about this lie, Dash reveals Mignon’s dominant authority to be an illusion. In one shot the lieutenant sits in a commanding position at the desk while only an illusion of Mignon is shown in the mirror on the wall behind the desk. Previously, costuming had created authority, but here Mignon’s image of having white skin color holds only superficial authority.  Unfortunately, Mignon’s authority is only an image as represented by the mirror. “Now I’ve become an illusion, just like the stories made here,” says Mignon.

There is an assumption that classical Hollywood cinema has become so attuned to all audience’s needs for escapism that Hollywood successfully seduces all audiences into a world of illusion without then even knowing it. To film theorists such as Mulvey, audiences mustn’t assume, but begin to realize the deception of illusions. Perhaps the guarantee of satisfaction from illusion holds up best for the target audience of teenage males, but for the rest of the audience, especially that of women and of women of minority groups, the main characters reconstructed in Illusions say it best. “There is no joy in moving images,” no joy in relating to women who have bit parts as “musical props… comic relief,” no joy in being expected to “pretend that’s me up there in a satin gown.” Dash’s film, full of frustrations, may not provide joy, but certainly takes a more active role in examining conventions in an attempt so that one day, all audiences can find Mulvey’s visual pleasure at the movies.

Works Cited

Illusions. Dir. Julie Dash. Per. Rosane Katon, Lonette McKee. 1982.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Visual and Other Pleasures.

        Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. 

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Why I'm a Filmmaker

As a filmmaker, I’m interested in community building. On an impressionable trip to Tijuana, Mexico at the age of 16 to build houses, I had seen satellite dishes jutting out of almost every corrugated shanty roof. I had wondered how the illusion of television was making an impression in these impoverished peoples lives. Then years later at the University of California at Santa Cruz, I had a professor who happened to grow up in the same Tijuana shantytown. From a film he made, I learned his impression of the United States from satellite TV. Due to this coincidence, I became interested in perception of the viewer and the vision of the media creator. I’m interested in exploring multiple points of view to bring better understanding of the guise and truths of illusions.

 

Previously I had explored this concept with layered screens and multiple characters in Ask Her (2001) a movie about articulation. After Ask Her, in Seeking Solace (2012) I utilized a split screen convention and something I call vertical poetics. The poetics of my film deviated from the Aristotelian horizontal plot to explore a more vertical plotline. This approach is modeled after the vertical poetics of Maya Deren in Meshes of an Afternoon. Seeking Solace morphed into a larger serial project, Sounds of Freedom. With Sounds of Freedom, I weave a horizontal story along with surreal scenes that explore my characters’ traumas using vertical poetics.

Sounds of Freedom uses vertical poetics along with sound.
To Julia and Charlie, the main characters in the Sounds of Freedom, sound can take these soldiers back to the battlefield. Sounds celebrating freedom and life sprinkle each episode.
I lead in with a character from the series and a sound that gives or means freedom to them. On exit of the episode, I play with how this sound has developed in terms of the meaning of freedom as events in the episode develop. For instance, in the pilot episode, to Don the newspaper delivery man, the sound of newspapers hitting front doors is his sound of freedom. By the end of the episode, the sound of newspapers hitting front doors is silenced due his car overheating. In the next episode this problem is resolved and a new sound is explored.

It is my intent to bring veteran’s issues to the forefront to encourage community support and start a dialogue about issues that affect us all.

 

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Wally Lane

I'm currently working with Mentor Wally Lane to polish the the final script for Sounds of Freedom.

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