I have started exploring video as per our weekly announcement for week 10 and once again I feel like I am in a new country learning a foreign language with no time to learn it well – I have to eat so I order using the few words I have managed to learn since my arrival. 

These initial reflections are the few words I have managed to learn since arriving to movie-land only a week ago. I outline here how I approached my learning to get me to the point of producing my first movie remix.

I started with the 180 degrees technique. it took a few viewing as my spatial awareness is a bit sucky so I find it hard to manipulate space in my psychogeography. Still, I think I think i understand that ‘the camera is the viewer in the scene’ and that they only see what I show them so I have to orient them unless I want to dis-orient them.

I loved Ken burns On Story and particularly how he ‘gets’ that life is about managing polarities, that light implies dark, that truth implies lies, that good implies evil and how he looks for the shadow side in all his historical heroes. That he tells us that a good story is one that juxtaposes contradiction – I may fight for all men being equal whilst I ‘own’ slaves and do not free them in my lifetime as seems to have been the case for Jefferson. 

Several readings/viewing talked about how story is manipulation, and we had that theme emerge at the start of this course too. Some people try to turn this fact into a positive thing and others just see it as a description of action – we manipulate sound, scene cutting, evidence in order to tell a narrative biased by our own unconscious beliefs and passions. I am put in mind of Jonathan Worth’s idea of the Gravity of Storyteller – we carry a huge responsibility in the stories we chose to tell and the intentions we hold (not all of these conscious and most often contradictory) in the telling. 

Burns says his interest is always in complicating things! I would love that as an epitaph for my tombstone. I have lived a life of complication whilst seeking simplification. A good story he tells is one that offers up challenges to our preconceptions. This is a good recipe for learning and for developing as adults too – it is only in the friction between what we take as given and what reality offers up that we have the choice to look at our patterns. I found him inspirational and loved his conclusion that story serves a unique function in letting us know that ‘it is alright’; that all humans are just a bundle of contradictions desperately seeking to be rational. In talking about the Jackie Robinson issue he sums up a developmental truth of old. What to do if you are a racist in this situation?

You can quit baseball altogether, you can change teams or you can change 

Every time we encounter  a challenge to our preconceptions we have that same choice. I am moved by how experience can sum up years of academic writing about adult development. Humans have a choice to quit what challenges their view, to find contexts that reinforce them or to change those views in light of new information. 

I then moved to something the weekly announcement said was better than gold: Ebert on reading movies. Forgive my ignorance but I did not know who he was and I have never ‘read’ a movie. So I had to get with the programme. Like scales falling off my eyes or  like mum’s cataract operation! I really could spend the rest of my life catching up on reading all  the movies I have not read! So many links with my own work in cognitive psychology, but he found all the structuring metaphors through observation. In my work I make the distinction between the content and the structure of say language. Reading a movie is a great way to learn how to look beyond content to the structure of human communication. And so much more fun than reading dry academic research on cognitive linguistics. 

I learnt about the art of editing as cutting in order to create and emotional reaction by connecting two shots together. I wanted to become an editor, it all seems so much fun and absorbing. I heard somebody say that writers have words and editors have frames. Wow! I can spend days just unpacking that and linking to my own work. The most useful film I saw was the Cutting Edge. I got tired of searching for parts of it on you tube and found the whole thing on Vimeo. This was helpful and an inspiring listen.

But I kept going back to THAT paragraph by Ebert and started to look for tutorial on shot types, techniques as I needed the basics before I could do my assignments. I found so many and even one that looked at a scene of the movie I had chosen. I just could not understand what all the abbreviations meant. So I had to backtrack even more. There are many Slideshare decks that show you each shot type with examples – so I went through many of those until I had the basics. It seemed that I needed to also commit the patterns for reading movies to memory and that paragraph seemed the key nugget. So, I created a little movie to help me learnt the elements of reading a movie.

This helped me get the scene analysis done and I did the video with no sound first and then the audio without video. I published with commenting facilities to see if other ‘DS016ers’ might add to what i did to get external voices to check my own understanding.

I watched my chosen scene so many times and yes, the magic paragraph was helpful to read it. The audio work we have done in the past weeks was also helpful in reading the audio of the scene. My post on exploring a great movie scene was fun to research and write. I am now set with the tools of the trade for movie weeks coming up and have done some basic editing I hope to improve in the next few weeks.