Friday, June 06, 2014

True Video Life : a millennium factual film language

We are fond of neologism in the Video-film world e.g. the Narrative Clip, Mobile film making, Videoblog. 

Often they are tied to specific technologies such as the iPhone  and help the innovative or/and commercially minded sell an idea. If you're lucky, you might even have a film style named after you, guaranteeing you immortality e.g. the Burns effect.

Many film scholars and film makers, such as Brian Winston, author several books on film, will tell you much of what we see today can be traced to the pioneers of the 1960s, 1930s and 1900s. 

Take the Russian film maker Dziga Vertov. In his early 20s in the Soviet Union, he found a job as an editor of news material. In the ensuing years, Vertov devised a way to film people unawares.   It was called Zhin Vrasplokh.

By flash mobbing his subjects or concealing his camera, he could film people without the perennial accusation that the moment people know you are filming them, they change their behaviour.

Today, this technique emerges as the narrative clip. Vertov however constructed stories out of his honed style.

My own neologism today is True Video Life. It emerges from several sources.

  • Cahier du cinema - French film makers and scholar's attempt to start a new 'true' film dialogue in the 1960s.
  • True Detective and True Blood - for their successful attempts to fold multiple plots into a narrative.
  • Videojournalism - from our modern penchant to validate all that we see with video in a sort of Truman existence.

True Video Life is a way to tell bold passionate stories underpinned by deep engagement with film, whilst trying to inspire the audience.  Its followed with a new site revolutionising  These aren't easy asks to accomplish.  

But the last couple of years of filmmaking, talking on the circuit and doing a doctorate study on film has proved very useful. True Video Life, is not a process.

The process that makes this form work likes in an innovative film schema called videojournalism-as-cinema.

In film's stylistic characteristics, it's the innovative production of factual material, but stems from collapsing multiple film styles.

Arguably, we could say we already do that. Yes, but often we're constrained by what we don't know from the Masters of film communications.

We're told of rules and laws, which at most may guide us, but if we know why these rules were made, you'll find many of them antiquated.

Imagine if you could take the innovative technologies of motor manufacturing to produce a car fit for the 21st century. That's how I see True Video Life. But unlike the 20th century, there isn't just one model car, but many to suit the appropriate circumstance.

Here's a though, literally. Could you tell a news story in which rather than the subjects speak, you decipher their thoughts and bod language to tell the story? This may be a more extreme form, but it opens up the possibilities of building on film's grammar.

Which by the way, exists not because it has a fixed language, but because clever filmmakers have done something that resonates with viewers and hence becomes part of video/ film's lexicon.

In the coming weeks I'll expand more on the emergent styles. The next post looks at the the relationship between the size of camera and intimacy and poses the question.

What's so profoundly different in film style for the iPhone?