Thursday, May 22, 2014

From wars to music videos, a 21st century style of news making - videojournalism-as-cinema. linear and spatial new media mobile films

Last month I was invited to meet a band: Thabo and the Real Deal, who via their work and manager Kienda Hoji, have been talked about as one of the most exciting bands in 2014.

The background to meeting the 4-piece Huddersfield group was they'd been asked to come to London to play a set to industry insiders. Only 100 tickets were issued inside a venue that could take 800. 

Their manager, Kienda Hoji, wanted to know if I would like to hang out with them. I'd previously seen their track World War Free and was utterly mesmerised. So I said yes, but had no idea what I would film or where, so everything in the video above emerges from incidences that need to be pulled together quickly to form a narrative.

Thabo and the Real Deal's supporters include Naughty boy behind the hit La La La ft Sam Smith, Professor Green, who their lead singer Thabo has recently collaborated with, and actor Idris Elba  (Luther) - another collaboration. 

Telling a story about a band or artist often involves the ubiquitous music video. Its inbuilt logic acts to reinforce the bands intended branding: how they see themselves, or want to be viewed.

Miley Cyrus Wrecking ball, bookending twerking, is everything James Dean did to stick two fingers up at suburbia in the 50s - a brand legend was born. Madonna has successfully done this too. The music video serves an important function between artistry, commerce, the fanbase and identity and is often a fictionalised story.

MTV and various music outlets will regularly feature news on a band; nothing new here. News offers the audience facts and representations of the musicians,  however, it fails as a pieces of visual artistry to offer some of the tangible effects you might get from a documentary. 

That is because while a doc maker follows the band, they get themselves into privileged areas and see/ hear things news maker miss, unless its caught by the world's citizens journos.

The music industry has a rich history of documentary making on musicians. Some of my favourites e.g. Maysles Gimme Shelter (1970) featuring the Rolling Stones and Madonna's Truth or Dare (1991). 

Hanging out with Albert Maysles behind the epic doc Gimme Shelter (1970)

However, though we've come to accept the elasticity and mutability of the documentary form in the 21st century, in that the form called documentary is now so listless that anything can be called a doc, there are still identifiable tropes.

  • It's recognisable by its Cinéma vérité feel.
  • The films authorship is muted to often reflect the subject.
  • The making and posting occurs over a period of time e.g. 1 month - a year.

Somewhere on the peripheries of these two established forms: documentary and news making is one of several new factual art forms. One of them is called: videojournalism-as-cinema.

From Wars to Music Video
Discussing conflict and digital with Christiana Amanpour at the Front Line Club

It is a form that is as malleable for covering wars as it is music videos and is as much about the subject matter being produced as the artist behind the lens.

Unlike docs, it has a quicker turnover and is what I call a 'visual plenitude'.  It has many styles and hybridises the music video genre between news-docs and music videos, yet paradoxically it has a unique line of identity and origin. It is corporeal, sonic (sound is crucial as an assault on the senses) and it is haptic.

The videojournalism-as-cinema form is a style that I have had the pleasure of demonstrating at SXSW, the International Journalism Festival and speaking at Apple.

Showing a video made on Moby playing in France, at Apple store, London

Among many news socially engineered terms describing 21st Century media, a feat that took 6 years travelling across the world, videojournalism-as-cinema is featured in my PhD thesis. Inside and  over 100,000 pages I provide evidence of how it works, where it came from and what it does and how it wraps around discursive new media forms e.g. websites, mobile etc.

I won't bore your here. However, what I would say is the videojournalism-as-cinema is as much a philosophy as a form that provides a cinema experience imbricating news and docs. It is highly decorative and shares authorship; it is much my film as it is about the subjects. It can be subjective but adheres to the principles of 'truth telling'.

Here below is one of the UK's most innovative film scholars, Mark Cousins,  talking briefly about what he thinks it is.

Given the appetite for fan bases to know more about their idols, the form offers more than news and docs in meeting audiences demands. 

It's also tied to a social media ideology of creating bespoke sites to reflect the videojournalism-as-cinema form and thus populates the indentity of subjects. Below is one of my films and sites for 8 Days.

I'll be speaking more about this at the British Film Industry event, examining the future of news. One thing to bare in mind, videojournalism-as-cinema is implicitly driven by the audience and unlike videojournalism which connotes a certain news form, it is paradigmatic of the way we consume media in the 21st century.

David Dunkley Gyimah is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster and videojournalist. He is an industry presenter on new media forms and has consulted for several brands e.g. BBC, Press Association etc. He is next talking at the BFI event on next generation TV.