Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the system is winning

It's the first day for filming Cold War movie trailers and the students in US History have story boards, cameras, remote control cars, and duct tape. The message about creative camera work survived a full day.

The group over by the window didn't bring an ingenious dolly, and one of the students has a deep-seeded antipathy for duct tape. They've gathered props from their homes, but one proves debilitating; a road-block, a production stopper. There are four sheets of paper and on each sheet, a typed list of black-listed names, carefully numbered, courier-fonted and sized for the myopic. The students can not agree on the use of these sheets in their video.

This list is important. They tell me this. I suggest that the list 'should be used as a transitional object to advance the trailer and build tension'.

One student passionately and passive-agressively believes that using the list more than once in the trailer will confuse the viewer and distort the historical time line of events. Now, you might agree with her, but to hear her, to watch her walk away from her group, was to witness 'the literal' mindset taking over 'the storyteller'.

Eventually, her group agreed with her. They're not alone.

Across the room, a group is prepping to shoot a scene for their trailer about the Cuban Missile Crisis. They have their next shot all mapped out. The camera starts behind a person. We only see the back of his sport coat. Slowly, the camera rises directly above this person's head to reveal a map hanging on the wall. He's looking directly at Cuba. But the group wonders, 'how will the audience know?'

Their solution is to tape four red arrows around Cuba and write 'Cuba' on each. I ask them if their is another way to convey that the person is looking at Cuba without using the arrows. It's obvious that they're all thinking, thinking about an arrow-less world, but equally obvious is the fact that they need arrows. It's the only way they say.

And I realize that students love arrows and lists.

They're not ready for abstraction and undulation. We've hammered them with so much exposition that narrative, regardless of the medium, doesn't stand a chance.


Anonymous said...

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Ken Rodoff said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Additionally, I'm glad that you've been able to find some enjoyment here.

I enjoy blogging, even though it sometimes weighs over me like an anvil. I'm always thinking about what to post, when to post, will my thoughts transfer over meaningfully?

Again, thanks.