The Magic of Art Creates the Future

Artists are magicians, in the sense that art is emotionally affective and it plants the seeds of ideas in people’s minds.  It has the power to influence and transform society.  Art can be thought of as magical because it is transformative.  A few sounds and images can change everything.  In this sense, it’s like magic because it can spell-bind, enthral and enchant.  It can put people into a trance-like state.  People can be literally changed by the music and art they view and hear.

Repetitive beats have the effect, and often the intent, of making it easier for you to follow orders and “march in step” to another’s agenda.  It creates compliance by synchronising your biology to the mind of a controller, the person driving the beat.  Mind and body are not separate; they are intimately, inextricably conjoined.  This imprinting and enchaining literally changes neural pathways in people’s brains.  Your brain is physically different to how it was before.  Once you have seen in a new way, it is no longer possible to not see in that way ever again.  Ideas establish permanent turning points, in our minds.  Art manipulates the senses.  Artists are the authors of that manipulation.

Colours also affect the levels of serotonin and melatonin produced in your body.  They can make you more suggestible.  This is why rock concerts have light shows, historically.  It’s easier to implant ideas if you are in a semi-hypnotic state, driven by bright, flashing lights and a repetitive beat, played at an extreme volume, which literally changes your heart rate.  Little separates a rock show from a political rally, in truth.  People are assembled in the dark silence, and then they witness a blindingly, dazzlingly bright, overwhelmingly loud show.  This technique is as old as theatre.  If the artist chooses to deliver a message, you are primed to more or less helplessly receive and internalise it.

Art is powerful.  It changes people’s mind, indelibly.

The worst of humanity, our tyrants and dictators, have pressed art into the service of programming a whole population to accept ideas of their making.  Stalin’s social realism is an example of this.  They know it works.  You can get human beings, en masse, to participate in and endorse the most insane of beliefs and actions, if you prime them for the thoughts far enough in advance, through stories, music, drama, theatre, art, television programmes, films, etc.  To participate in something terrible, people are routinely first terrorised.  Predictive programming is a known technique of mass mind control.

Some think that art reflects the zeitgeist – the spirit of the times – and to some degree, perhaps, it does.  On the other hand, there can be little doubt that it also influences and shapes culture.  It brings the zeitgeist into being and to life.  The 60s happened in the 70s, where I grew up, far from Carnaby St and Laurel Canyon.  It is unlikely that the peace and love culture would have happened in conservative, reactionary Australia, were it not for the art of artists like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Beatles being imported, but there was a time lag.  Our summer of love was in a different year.  Punk did exactly the same thing again in the late 70s.

Knowing that art has the power to create the future, it places a heavy burden on artists to not create art that brings into being a dystopian future, where humanity is enslaved and oppressed.  Some artists may be pressed into the service of “ecofascism”, for example, where the central idea is that man is the enemy of nature, when in truth man is a part of nature and has as much right to exist as the flowers, trees, rocks and animals.  Transhuman man-machine and superman myths are similarly attempts to denigrate and degrade humanity, in the guise of making man more powerful.  Dominion over nature is an absurd impossibility, because we’re intimately connected to nature.  You cannot be at war with it, without destroying both yourself and it at one and the same time.  Some ideas, which the powerful wish to bring to fruition in the future, through the magical influence of art, are undoubtedly bad ideas.  Being rich and powerful doesn’t make them smart.

Powerful and violent people may threaten artists with harm or obscurity, unless they deliver their philosophy to the masses, through their art.  Artists are on the front line of the struggle between ideas and ideals.  They must remain true to their fellow men, to humanity and life as a whole, rather than servants to strange ideas of how the future ought to be according to people that wish to own it all, materially, and to command the efforts of every other human being, for their own gain.

Sometimes the spell is broken and the magic wears thin.  With open eyes, newly-awake, humans can take stock of the reality of the situation and assess what they and their fellow men have just been influenced into witnessing, thinking or participating in, either as active agents or passive, acquiescent observers.  It is a shocking moment, the sudden realisation.  It can come as an unwelcome, disquieting, upset, when the truth is finally discernible.  Some immediately deny it, so painful is the realisation.  Others are unwilling or unable to even imagine that they have been duped and manipulated, let alone accept it.

Artists need to recognise and accept that they wield a tremendously powerful set of influencing tools, which have almost magical impacts on spectators.  They need to use their powers responsibly and for the benefit of humanity, not for its degradation.


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What’s the Real Goal?

You see this all the time. Projects with a high degree of creative content are started.  The artists, makers and producers agree with the sponsors and managers that they will bring the project in, on time and on budget.  Everybody agrees that the project is hard, worthwhile and will make an important difference, along several dimensions.  Everybody equally acknowledges it’s a risky project.  People have high hopes for the outcome.

Somewhere along the way, the project encounters a difficulty that nobody anticipated.  Sometimes it’s the kind of difficulty nobody could anticipate.  At other times, it just turns out to be harder than expected.  This is when things go wrong.

Suddenly, people start elevating budgetary concerns to the highest priority.  Let’s cut some corners.  Let’s burn out our creatives, by intimidating them into working in a Quixotic and futile push to get it done, using donated time.  Why don’t we micromanage everyone?  Perhaps more frequent status reports will solve it.  Let’s dilute the project into something that is no longer worthwhile, or important.  Let’s forget about making a difference.

What was the real goal?  Was it to spend the budget and then stop?  Was it to do something less than worthwhile, so that the bank balance stays intact?  Did we lie, when we said that the main thing was to do something extraordinary?  Why the loss of courage?  Were you really only in on this project to look good and are you prepared to bail-out and sabotage the project, if you don’t?  Did you really accept the risk and have a contingency plan and fund to mitigate it?  Was your commitment to the importance and quality of the project a sham?

If you don’t have a way of meeting extreme contingencies, budget-wise, when you commence an important project, then don’t do it all.  It wastes the talent of the artists, makers and producers.  They could have been doing something else worthwhile, for somebody that had deep enough pockets to withstand changes in course.  There is nothing more wasteful and tragic than spending the whole budget, but delivering something half-baked, or worse, not delivering anything useful at all.

Finishing matters, but so does what you finish.  If your budgetary constraints destroy or emasculate what it is that gets finished, so that it loses its quality, its ability to make a difference and its worthwhile importance, then you have committed the worst sin of all.  You’ve broken what you set out to make, spent all the money, wasted everybody’s time and talents, and achieved nothing worth doing.  It’s a species of quitting too soon.

Project sponsors:  before you take on a project of significance, make sure you can pay for the journey, if it has to take the longer road.  If you can’t, don’t even start.  Creators:  don’t work for people that can’t pay their way through the obstacles.  Managers:  your first loyalty is to the integrity of the project.  You aren’t here to make yourself look good or to do whatever it takes to spend up to the budget, but not a penny more.  Your job is to deliver something worthwhile.

Focus on the real goal, which is doing hard work that makes a difference.  Deliver work that matters.


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Misrepresentational Art

Many of our most beloved cultural artefacts are, in fact, fakes and counterfeits.  I don’t mean that they are forgeries.  Forgeries are copies.  These are original works of art, presented as having been created for a given (usually well-publicised) reason or purpose, but actually, they came into existence as a functional part or stepping stone in another plan.  They are trying to change the state of the ideas of the spectator, but not in the way they superficially claim.

These artworks exist because they were funded and created to intentionally implant ideas, to further a hidden agenda, but without drawing attention to the fact.

We have “Representational” art, which strives to portray real life in a realistic way, “Non-representational” art, such as expressionist and abstract art, which attempts to convey ideas and emotions, but not realistic images of readily-recognisable real-world entities, and we also have “Misrepresentational” art, which conceals its true purpose and pretends to carry another set of meanings to the hidden meanings.

Misrepresentational art asserts itself to be and to mean one thing, whereas it conceals a different subtext entirely, quite deliberately.  Its purpose is manipulation – usually mass manipulation.  In order to manipulate effectively, it cannot reveal its true nature and real purpose.  It must also rise to prominence and popularity.  This is usually engineered by those that wish to deliver a concealed agenda via the artwork.  They need plenty of money and connections to do so.  This gives you a clue as to who is behind such covert misrepresentation and what their purpose in doing so might be.

Misrepresentational art exists to delude you, misdirect you and misinform you.  It is a tool of bamboozlement.  Deception is its goal.

Artists who make Misrepresentational art, who may ordinarily have been people of high integrity, either do so unwittingly, or because the choice they were offered, at some fork in their career road, was to make the fakes and keep quiet about it, or be consigned to penury and obscurity.  People with enough money and connections to bring a work of art to popular prominence can equally well use their money and connections to ensure an artist is never heard of again.

Now that you are aware of the existence of Misrepresentational art, see if you can spot examples of your own.  Are the lyrics on that record really saying what the artist truly believes?  Does the image you are looking at exist in order to make you think in a particular way or uphold a particular point of view?  Does that film portray life and what it should be like, according to the Director’s real beliefs and feelings, or is it trying to get you to accept something unacceptable, like the portrayal, in your everyday life?

Scratch beneath the surface of many of our most beloved cultural artefacts and the background stories of the artists who made them and you will undoubtedly discover that things are, indeed, not as they seemed to be.  What these artworks tell you is what you are supposed to see and hear.  What they endorse is what you are required to accept.  When a cluster of artefacts all promote the same ideal, you can be sure you are being distracted from considering a different ideal.

If you want to discover which art is Misrepresentational, look at the negative spaces.  When an artist learns to draw, he is encouraged to not draw the figures and objects, but instead to draw the shapes of the spaces around them.  This is what is meant by “negative space”.  Consider the ideas and portrayals that never appear in books, music, the media, film and television.  What can you never (or only rarely) find a book about?  Which alternative ideas are never given the oxygen of prominence, in popular culture?  What isn’t being discussed or acknowledged?  What are some ideas that people with money and connections would never want a mass of people to unite around?  What are you being shown in their stead?

Misrepresentational art is everywhere.  You only have to open your eyes and look for it.  Most of it is hidden in plain sight.

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What They Want You To Think – The Problem of Corporate Patronage

A good friend of mine was watching some re-runs of Lassie programmes from the 1954 to 1959 series.  It is nostalgically thought of as a time of innocence.  We remember that period of time through rose-tinted glasses and recall how trusting most people were.  I will share my friend, Janet’s words:

“Very interesting… the bad guy arrives wanting to buy Grandpa’s old water well so they can pump the water to the city, and clean it and sell it to the people. Grandpa not happy. Discusses with daughter. Grandpa says,” I dunno. I don’t think we should mess with nature like that. And why would we sell water when we’ve always had our water for free?” His daughter tells grandpa he should get with the times, after all, “times change and look how things like those chemical fertilizers have helped our crops.” EEEK. I bet the frickin’ chemical companies sponsored Lassie. No wonder people were so accepting of chemical crap. I wanted to yell at her, “Ya, great, hey? Look past 1990 at how many people have illnesses, diseases, allergies…” And another interesting tv moment: Packing up from fishing, Timmy threw his garbage off to the side and headed home. I’ve told my kids that I was sure we used to just throw our garbage out the car windows. But why not, they did it on Lassie!”

This sort of “forward programming” was a way of conditioning whole populations to accept corporate controlled changes to their real world.  By discussing the subject matter, with a particular slant, in some seemingly innocuous piece of entertainment, ideas were planted in our minds and a particular way of reacting to them suggested.  The mechanism by which these ideas were incorporated in these television productions is firstly by hiring artists to create these works that had internalised the same viewpoint.  They would write the dialogue, film and edit the story this way because they got the jobs because they already thought this way.  It was already part of their world view and value systems.  Dissenting voices and critical thinkers simply didn’t get jobs making Lassie.

The second method of influence was by ownership, sponsorship and advertising.  The money and power came from people with an agenda and a world view that was, unsurprisingly, pro-corporate and consequently, if you proposed a programme that had a message that was antithetical to the corporate line, it simply wouldn’t get made.  If some piece of unacceptable dissent crept into some existing production, there were repercussions and people would find themselves shut out of future work or otherwise sanctioned in such a way that it hurt their careers.  It wasn’t exactly black listing – more like grey listing.  Television isn’t called programming for nothing.

This deliberate programming extends to what we call the News.  We think of it as an objective, eyewitness account of events, as they unfold, by dispassionate, unbiased, disinterested and above all else, trustworthy reporters.  We’re supposed to.  That’s how it is sold to us.  If we think that, we’re more prepared to accept what is told to us by the news as unarguable fact.  However, it’s nothing of the sort.  The words you hear, the images you see and the analysis that is given is a carefully stage-managed confection, created by editors and producers.  It is a sham reality, presented as actual reality.  Behind the news, are decisions about what not to say, what not to show and whose voices to ignore.  Facts are selectively chosen to support a particular viewpoint.  What you see and hear on the news is rarely an accurate representation of what actually happened.  In fact, the news is frequently used to deliberately distort your perception of events, so that you believe a lie, which advantages corporate interests.  The staggering thing about the technology of news production and news presentation is how big a lie can now be presented, utterly convincingly, to all but the most critical of thinkers, to whom the cracks in the shiny presentation sometimes are evident.

The books that get written are usually down to what the authors choose to write.  However, the books that get the support of publishers, have marketing money spent on them and which are widely reviewed in the media are usually those stories that are “on message”, or which serve some corporate-friendly agenda.  Science fiction has been particularly useful in introducing ideas that initially sound far-fetched and abhorrent, yet eventually become part of everyday life.  Fanciful books like “Ebola” have come to pass.  George Orwell’s “1984”, writing as he was about blanket surveillance, is now our reality.  Orwell, no doubt, thought he was writing a book to forewarn humanity and hence, stave off a horrible future he could perceive was a genuine threat.  It got the support of publishers because it prepared a population for passive acceptance of what the book warned us about.  We didn’t stop it, we just got used to the idea.

If you look at the lyrical content in most popular music, they deliver messages of degradation, in the main.  What this says is that the corporations that put their money behind making certain music popular support this message.  The music they choose to support is music whose lyrics are themed around the degradation and self-destructive behaviours of young people.  Why do you suppose they might choose that lyrical content over other more uplifting themes?  Is a song like “Happy” promoted to edify and encourage you, in your daily life, or is the darker interpretation what is being promoted – that you should be mindlessly happy, even in the face of unacceptable conditions, instead of rising up and changing things?

While there are songs of revolution and rising up, in popular music, there are far more suggesting the futility of mass action, which encourage youth, the most physically powerful and strong group in our society, to hate themselves and engage in self-loathing and self-destruction, or to disappear into a fug of drug-fuelled impotence.  It’s all very convenient for those wanting to maintain their position and status, when you think about it.  Was the hippy movement in popular culture to spread peace and love, or to emasculate genuine change and dissent?  Are we fed manufactured revolutions that really change nothing, in order to prevent the outbreak of genuine revolutions and movements for positive change?

All is not how it seems.  If we take our culture and media at face value, we miss the hidden agendas which funded it.  We are, in fact, manipulated almost constantly, by somebody, somehow, for profit or gain.  It’s not obvious to us, at first glance, because it isn’t supposed to be.  It’s supposed to be passed off as entertainment and joyful insouciance.

The worst part of this manipulation is that it does genuine harm.  We live significantly degraded lives, in despoiled and depleted environments, because companies get their way and we are programmed to passively accept it.  Perhaps even worse than that is artists are complicit in the manipulation.  We are, as artists, the tools of message delivery.  It is our seductive melodies, clever lyrics, well made films and so on that are the vehicles delivering ideas to people that corporations want to deliver.  We are the programmers that programme the people, according to somebody else’s agenda.

Some artists agree with the corporate agenda whole heartedly.  In this case, either they have been well programmed, in their childhood, by the media propaganda that saturated their childhoods, or they don’t think very deeply, or they have the same dastardly desires as the corporate sponsors of art have.  In all three cases, they can only operate by turning a blind eye to the harm and destruction caused, just as their sponsoring corporations do.  They can claim that the bad things that come to pass in the world are not of their making, that they bear no responsibility for it and that it’s nothing to do with them, but their denial is false and disingenuous.  Each one took the money and didn’t care what happened to the rest of the population and their environment.

All of this could be very different if the corporate agenda was less destructive and much more benign, by design.  Corporations and their controlling minds could, in fact, choose to behave themselves, responsibly.  Artists could, if truth be told, choose to only support messages of peace and love, change and revolution, exclusively, even if that meant they could no longer work for opulent riches.  Nobody does, of course.  Because of greed and wilful ignorance.

This week, U2 shifted half a billion units of their latest album release by the simple expedient of selling all those copies to Apple and Apple giving the album away to users of iTunes, as a promotional gift.  The purpose was to sell new iPhones and iWatches.  These are devices that have technologies designed to provide even more of your personal data to anonymous servers in some foreign or far-flung data centre, which is routinely and comprehensively surveilled by the NSA.  The NSA will now know your heart rate, in real time.  They can tell when you’re scared.

In effect, what U2 did is support an industry that wants to know more about you, all the time, without you being aware of what is done with that information, for what nefarious purposes, by persons unknown to you.  Bono had the gall to say that this method of releasing the album was not, in fact, giving music away for free, because “music is a sacrament”.  Well, he took his money and turned his “sacrament” over to the worship and service of a corporate agenda, which has the distinct and obvious potential of making life worse for everyone, even as they naively giggle and delight in being able to measure their fitness on a little wristwatch.  Those caught up in the Apple religion don’t even perceive it as a lessening of their privacy and hence their freedom of thought and movement, but that’s what it can turn out to be.  There is no reason to believe that it won’t.

Artists need to start taking responsibility for the harm that the patronage they accept causes to others.  Some patronage comes with distinct strings attached, which an aware and awake artist can easily see at the outset.  Artists should exercise some discretion, restraint and moral decency in choosing whose money to accept.  They should carefully control what purposes their art will be pressed into, because in the wrong hands and context, it can be used to programme the rest of humanity to accept certain harmful ideas.  The money that supports our work needs to be carefully considered.  Why is this patron paying me?  What is he using my art to say and to achieve?  We’re not just pure, starving artists willing to do anything at all for money, are we?

Stop greedily selling out to the people in the world that would, if permitted, enslave and degrade us all.  It’s not worth it.  The consequences will also be on our own heads.


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Polishing Away the Struggle

Music production tools are incredible.  Today, you can clean up bad notes, correct timing and pitch errors, sweeten the sound and make everything polished, homogenous and perfect.  Music producers that make music this way do so in order to make the music appear to have been made by musicians of such a high calibre, that flawless music just poured forth from them effortlessly.  It’s to give the impression of superior song-writing, musicianship and levels of performance unattainable by ordinary mortals.  The producer is trying to make the musicians seem God-like.

Of course, as listeners, that’s what we’re supposed to think and it’s all an illusion.  The human beings that made the music struggled as much as anybody else to write the song in the first place, to actually play their parts correctly, to sing in tune and in time and to make a sound that was pleasing, rather than irritating.  Over-production can suck the life out of a good song and leave it sterile and remote, like some kind of ancient artefact that you can only handle with white gloves, preserved and displayed in a climate-controlled glass case.  Not only that, everybody has the same music production tools, now, so all musicians can appear to be Gods.  Where’s the differentiation?

Interestingly, Neil Finn, who has been making music for over forty years, claimed that he liked music that didn’t polish away the struggle.  He asserted that there is beauty in the audible evidence of the artist wrestling with bringing the music to an audience.

“Embrace the struggle”, he said.  “There’s an element of it every time you make a record.  There’s a default setting.  It’s a trade-off between knowing you’re cosmically insignificant and knowing this is the most important thing and the world needs to hear it.  Some days you feel like you don’t have a musical bone in your body.  When you get a good idea pop out of hours of struggle, it feels so worth it.  It feels worth chasing it to the ends of the earth.”

If that means the struggle to put the right words to the right melody, to play the right notes or to deliver an emotion-laden performance should be preserved, during the music production process, then so be it.  Neil is suggesting that music producers shouldn’t be so quick to remove it.

In perfecting each and every note in a music production, something of a song’s humanity is lost and the artist is distanced from his audience.  If what the song is trying to convey is intimacy and relevance to a listener, then distance is not what you want.

Giorgio Moroder, when he was producing Blondie’s hit single, “Atomic”, insisted that the band play the song until they could give a decent, coherent, exciting performance of it.  They rehearsed it, as a band, for days.  Only then did he press “record”.  The energy and confidence captured, by recording the song in that way, produced a feeling that is still evident when you play it back today.  The sound is fresh and vibrant.  It’s what makes it attractive to our ears and memorable.

To achieve the vocal performance in “Oh! Darling”, Paul McCartney would come into the studio, once a day and attempt a single, end-to-end take of the lead vocal part.  If he didn’t feel he’d nailed it that day, he would walk away and try again the next day.  He was committed to capturing an emotional performance of quality and with the feel he was looking for, rather than belabouring it, accepting the limitations of his vocal cords on a particular day or attempting to fix it in the mix.  What he didn’t want to release was a half-baked or emasculated version of the vocal performance.

In modern music production, this dedication to capturing the humanity and struggle has gone missing in action.  It might be time to bring it back.

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What’s Wrong With Documentaries?

Lately, there has been a trend to try to make complex subjects palatable and easy to digest, by making video documentaries about them.  They come in all grades of production values, from a single web cam “piece to camera” recording, made in somebody’s bedroom in a single take, with ambient lighting and sound, all the way up to slick, high-end, polished productions that have been professionally edited, post produced and graded.  These documentaries frequently show up on YouTube or for sale as DVDs.  Sometimes they are screened in limited screening sessions in various towns and cities.  They usually cover extremely useful and worthwhile ideas.  The whole “TED talks” phenomenon, for example, places valuable lectures, by thought leaders, in video format, on line, for personal consumption, at a staggering rate.

The idea behind making a documentary is that a picture paints a thousand words, so video is a very compact, high-density, high-impact means of delivering a narrative.  The information seems to reach the parts of the audience’s brain that other storytelling methods can’t reach as easily.  They don’t call television schedules “programming” for nothing. 

The idea that audiovisual presentation is the most efficient and effective means of conveying information to mass audiences would be true, except for a few fatal flaws in the argument.

The first problem is that there are just too many of them.  Nobody can watch them all, even if they are good, they contain information of genuine importance and interest to an audience and have a compelling story to tell.  Life is just too short.  Only a small fraction of your online time puts you in circumstances where you can sit back and watch an audiovisual presentation, passively, without annoying somebody or being interrupted. 

Mostly, you need the ability to do something else, multi-tasking style, while the audio continues, flipping back to the visuals only when you want to see what’s going on.  Ideally, you want to be able to easily skip back a few seconds, to dig back in.  In most browsers, going back is hit and miss and skipping to another browser tab to do other work or read other things stops video (and hence audio) playback, momentarily.

The second problem with worthy video documentaries is that they are just too damned long.  You can’t easily skip over sections, skim or speed read them, like you can with text (e.g. a book or a blog).  On mobile devices, where usage is metered, restricted and overages exceedingly expensive, long documentaries can break the bank. 

Indexing into most video documentaries is poor or non-existent, especially on YouTube (but the situation is admittedly slightly better with DVDs).  You cannot easily pick up from where you left off, last time you were watching, or jump to the information you are most interested in, based on chapter headings and synopses.  Your options are to watch it all again from the beginning or try to guess where to place the playback pointer.

Online video players are notoriously flaky.  Your viewing experience is frequently interrupted by buffering, non-dismissible ads for products you don’t want, or already have, which you’ve seen a thousand times before, playback freezes, unexpected page reloads and video player resets, caused by touching “share” icons or some such, which lose your place in the video stream, network interruptions, Wi-Fi blips and so on.


Most video is published without a transcript, so search engines struggle to locate a video that has relevance to a search you might conduct and worse, to index into a video to the place (or places) where your specific search terms are mentioned in the narrative.  There is no way to search for video that has <some textual description of visible stuff> in it, or even to search for video frames that look a bit like this picture.  You can’t even reliably search by who appears on screen, who made the film or who else was involved in its making.  It’s as if IMDB doesn’t exist, for video documentaries, or keep index points in the video stream for where various people appear on screen (hint: it doesn’t).

Documentary makers aim for the lowest common denominator always, speaking down to most people, in order to maximise their appeal to the largest audience.  In fact, that editorial tactic fails.  As you gain people with less ability to follow a more complex narrative, you lose those that are bored rigid by an overly simplistic one.  If you happen to be a viewer who is faster on the uptake or already up-to-speed (partially) with the preamble or issues presented, then the Noddy-style explanations are a big time waster and turn off.  Such a kindergarten-level treatment can waste a lot of your scarce time and attention, as a viewer.

So many documentaries use up time needlessly to make it to the required broadcast length, with endless shots of people driving from one place to another, establishing shots and so on.  They spin the narrative out, pacing it slowly, using “gee whizz, and then we discovered…” styles of narrative, or false cliff-hangers, to increase tension, because there really isn’t all that much to say.  It could be said more succinctly (and effectively, in my view).  When a video maker pretends that the exposé of the information is a journey that you’re being taken on in real time, that’s a complete editorial fiction.  No you aren’t.  The video maker already knows the outcome.  He’s just spinning you along.  Why tease the audience like this with a made up fiction that it’s some grand voyage of knowledge and discovery?  As a film maker, state your argument clearly and succinctly.  Is it really productive and conducive to having your message communicated memorably, if you deliberately waste the viewers’ time?  I don’t think so.

Documentary makers ought to start using non-linear, interactive media, so that an abridged or summarised narrative can be drilled down into, to get more detail, optionally.  If you need it, it should be there for you, but if not, you should be able to skip it without losing the overall thread of the narrative.  This is a big challenge for directors, editors and script writers.  You need to create the fast track and also the version where detours are taken.  Computer game makers manage it.

There should always be a brief summary video, that makes the main points in a very few minutes, a longer narrative, which allows you to skip over all the deeper details (for those that already know them), or simplistic explanations (for those that are new to the subject matter) and a version which lets you meander down one piece of detail or another, if you so wish.  The default, long-form video, where every last frame of the narrative and all the detailed supporting material pans out linearly, in real time would, I wager, become the least watched version, if the alternative version were available, yet it is the only thing offered, today.  Documentary makers effectively say to their audiences, “watch the whole damned thing, end-to-end, or leave it entirely”.

Video is a good means of storytelling (a potentially brilliant one, actually), but we need to provide viewers with the means of cutting to the chase, getting the gestalt of the message quickly, in synopsis form and allowing them to do the equivalent of speed reading and skimming, so that they can get the gist of the message, without watching each and every frame of the video.  Video editors need to consider audience information absorption pace and avoid time-wasting. 

As film makers, we must all do much better.  There is important information to convey.  It’s too important to have people ignore it, because we made it too difficult for them to watch.


Incidentally, this is my 600th post.  You guys keep reading them!  Thank you, for that.

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Knowing When to Change

There are two pieces of folk wisdom that run in direct opposition to one another.  The first one holds that most unsuccessful people simply gave up just a little too soon.  The other is that if you keep doing what you’re doing, the same way and expect a different outcome, you’re not quite sane.

If you’re an artist, you’re on an uphill climb to make a living at it.  There is no doubt about it.  Everyone will tell you this.  Part of you knows that if you give up too soon, in your artistic work, you may be quitting just before your big break arrives.  Another part of you knows that the big break may never arrive, unless you change what you are doing.  A third part of you is aware that the opportunity to stick with it is influenced by other considerations and you may run out of the ability to keep at it, even if you want to.

What’s an artist to do?  I don’t actually know.  It seems Micawberish to imagine that you simply need to keep making art and wait and see what happens, yet every story of artistic success has this theme in common: they were struggling and then one day, things turned around, often forever.

Nobody can tell you when you should pack it all in, when you should make changes and when you should stay the course a little longer.  Most people can’t figure that out for themselves either, because there is too little information to go on.  As your resources dwindle, you might have no choice but to abandon the project and try to succeed at something else.  That’s going to be an uphill climb too.  Don’t kid yourself. 

Finding a way to eke out a little more time to continue to develop your art might be the better answer.  Dividing your time between your artistic practice and a day job that buys you the time to continue also divides your attention, focus and energy.  The fatigue alone can sabotage your artistic productivity and the quality of the work you make.

Whatever the right answer turns out to be, you won’t know, while you’re in the thick of it and it can be terrifying.  For my part, I think all you can do is work as hard as you can, try to make your finest work and try to find a way to stick with it for as long as humanly possible.  Meanwhile, don’t abandon having an actual life, keeping body and soul in good health and maintaining your most important relationships.  Success that costs you those things isn’t worth having.  Changing too soon or too frequently sends you back to base camp, on each successive mountain climb.  Maybe the thing that needs to guide you most is what feels right, while you’re doing it.

When it comes down to it, there is a lot of chance involved and a lot of luck.  All you can do is to try to be ready and prepared, if luck strikes.  Good luck.

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