Saturday, October 04, 2008

Great TV Shows influencing video journalism

Every major rule of TV is broken here, starting from the first 20 secs. This is a classic, two different franchised shows are meeting at the seams. Homicide and Law and Order and looks who's the felon.

Virginia Heffernan,The Medium columnist for The New York Times Magazines has had on her blogroll for the last year.

Thanks Virginia.

Her latest post: "In This Week’s Magazine: Character Issues" is about TV dramas post- The Sopranos that are so cinema-size in their scope that you almost need a Hollywood star to carry the project.

TV is no longer the poorer screen of cinema, with a slew of ground breaking shows in the 90s.

It allowed me to reflect on how US dramas have affected my work and I'm sure you could come up with your own show paradigm.

So I left a comment on her site, seen here below but failed to flesh it out and pay dues to others.

"Probably amongst a bevy of video journalists on this side of the pond, the most influential drama piece to make cross my tele was “Homicide - Life on the Street”.

What the trio of Attanasio, director Levinson and writer-director Tom Fontana conjured was an aestheticism to grime.

In film study it evokes the UK’s free cinema movement of the 1940s and 50s.

The writing was natural, the characters laden with personal issues looked like they’d just rolled out of bed, and the shooting, the shooting…..

Well, handheld, up close and personal, with audacious povs and tagging.

It was so anti nicey, re: Crockett and Tubs…. Ah those memories, that I’d often imagine Baltimore’s real supers pleading with the show’s team to ease up because of a real drop in recruits.

The video journalism movement, at least from some VJs, sweeping through newspapers owes a lot to Homicide.

The quality of the show, its DNA, threads through quite a few shows now I think e.g. The Wire, Shield, and yes I might add even the Sopranos.

Docu-drama packaged as drama at its best"

The show however owes a great deal to Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon

David, a Baltimore Sun reporter hung out with the city's homicide unit for a year and from his pieces emerged the characters of the show. Simon served as a creative consultant on the show

There there was Stephen Bocho's Hill Street Blues "Russian two-step" camera work.

However Homicide went a step further using high speed grain super 16mm stock, as opposed to 35mm, and hired a documentary maker Wayne Ewing, behind projects as DOP.

What happens next is breath-taking - a total disregard for any television rule, that any lecturer, producer, or exec carved in the tablet of film making.

Where MTV shows and pop videos did this for effect, Homicide had the camera narrative carrying the dialogue, and vice versa.

There was a tension between the two that presciently today has come to be referred to as "Bourne".

For Homicide, there were jump cuts, shot repetitions, and the blocking and tag [ I'll illustrate this in a future post] was like ballet.

The 180 degree rule did not exist. Let me say that again. There was NO 180 degree rule.

Recently, another documentary maker has pushed even harder at this format. Yep you're ahead of me: Paul Greengrass.

Watch: Bloody Sunday, United 93, then Bourne.

Often when it works you don't need rules, the medium becomes a creative canvas, but you need to know the rules inside out to start with, then as the child spoon bender said to Neo, to bend the spoon, imagine there is no spoon.

To bend the rules.....

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