Taking some to watch the movie “The Sound Of Music” is always a good way to fall back to infancy and to take a walk back in time through childhood. As you watch the opening scene with Maria running through the green hills, it is hard not to admire the art direction, cinematography and everything else that was put into making that film. The movie was released in 1965. Over 50 years ago. A lifetime, so to speak, and yet has the texture of a very contemporary film.
I bet, it must have been difficult, with the technology that they had to do some of the technical work. Take the opening scene for example; it was shot from a helicopter. And the helicopter had to be far away enough so as not to ruffle the tall grass through which Maria was running. Imagine the cost of renting the helicopter and how long it must have taken to get that one single shot.
Today you can do that with a $1000 drone, shooting in 4k quality, and at close range.
How is then that with this leap in technology we are not always capable of producing work of art that is half as good? Has tech actually sucked our creative juices?
I am a big film consumer and I have learned not to be patient with films that do not hold certain qualities. I tend to expect a certain standard from a Hollywood movie. I lower my expectation bar a little bit when I watch Cameroonian movies. The reason I do this is that I do not expect them to be as good as American movies. Their industry is at least 150 years ahead of ours. In any case, I personally expect a certain bare minimum.
From a purely technological point of view, Cameroonians have the tools and a select skill set to be able to do good. In a certain way, they are doing so. It remains very perfectible, however. And it is usually with the writing and creative direction that there are BIG issues. The amount of ‘deus ex machina‘ scenarios in our movies is quite troubling.
A lot of this trouble can be imputed directly to technology. And this can be explained in the 3 short points below.
the philosopher, wrote that “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” In today’s world, these problems are worse. Because even when we want to be quiet, between WhatsApp messages, other notifications and our obnoxious desire to show the world how well we are doing in life on social media, it is very difficult to be quiet and to have quiet.
Most of the great inventions of our time, theories, works of art and others were all imagined and conceived when the originators were having a quiet time, meditating, taking a quiet walk perhaps, and/or reflecting deeply. Isaac Newton and the apple is a story we all know about. Today we hardly do that. Our lives move from one distraction to the next, mostly on our phones. Very hardly do we take our an hour of our day to reflect and let our imagination run around. For that reason, an essential part of the creative process is lost to distractions that hampers the final product.
And so when confronted with creating art, we rush the process and take out a vital piece of the foundation itself. Reflection is a burden and such a bore. We do not really try to look at all the edges to give the process a smooth sail. After all, who has time for that? And it shows afterward on the art itself. There are many holes in the plot and so many things do not seem to make sense.
2. THE UBIQUITY OF TECHNOLOGY
has led to the dissolving of quality. By ubiquity, I mean that it is now widely available and for cheap, and anybody with the right purse can buy a camera and a laptop, take a few pictures and poof! They are suddenly filmmakers and photographers. Very few actually pick up a book or go online to study the elements of film-making and photography. That is why we have as many production houses today as we have movies.
Any Tambe, Arrey or Ebot with some small change to finance a movie now calls himself a producer. Think of the number of bloggers out there that cannot write a single paragraph with correct grammar and punctuation.
The physical piece of tech sometimes becomes a barrier to understanding the other non-physical & physical components that that is required to make art out of that tool. Someone once said, “a blogger in a Cameroon is an unemployed guy with an internet connection.” As cynical as that sounds, it’s hard not to reject the contours of that. People often equate having the tools to being able to do the job.
3.THE LOVE FOR AESTHETICS.
We live in an increasingly plastic world, where people now have more affinity for what looks good, over what is functional/makes sense. The most attractive Instagram accounts have more following than the ones that will otherwise tell you something more important.
Technology sometimes gives us the ability to push the boundaries of aesthetics. Think of photo filters or just simply, 4K image quality. More and more people in the creative industry rely solely on the quality that technology provides and are happy with that.
They often do not look at art direction and other elements of art that can complement this visual, like storytelling. It’s why you see people complaining under music videos on YouTube that the director didn’t follow the story in the song.
In its own funny way, that also translates to real-life moments when people spend more time and effort promoting the red carpet event than in thinking how the movies will be sold and distributed after it must have premiered. Tambe, Arrey, and Ebot are more contented with the glamour of having blogs call them producers than they are in the business of the film itself.
Antoine de St Exupery said “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
How we can take the flaws that technology has put on our creative processes? I think that if we can focus on these we can at the very least begin to go to a point where we can look at art and creative processes via a different-tinted lens. And that will be all to our benefit.
Photo by Shawn Fields on Unsplash