Wednesday, October 31, 2007

but i thought . . .

it's interesting when you read something by/about a colleague('s work) when you thought you sort of had that colleague figured out (to the extent, . . . ).

recently, i read a review of a colleague's talk in which he "said" (calling it into question because i can't know what the summary denies or leaves out or edits and because i imagine my colleague saying something more expansive . . . ) that not only will film not replace writing but that good filmmaking calls for more and better writing. um. okay. the review suggests that without conventional moves appropriate to film, students' work may not be "valid and effective," (not "to be considered valid and effective," but "to be . . . ").

this surprises me. because sure, writing and rhetorical validity (obviously, our mutual concerns in institutional higher ed). but good filmmaking and writing? . . . (first, filmmaking is/as writing, filmwriting, or film-composition). well, we have a much larger scene to consider when making claims about rhetorical validity. i mean, right . . . filmmaking and writing can be mutually beneficial (good writing aids good filmmaking and vice versa; thus, filmmaking as writing). and, agreed: i have argued elsewhere that filmmaking (even very raw or maybe especially novice film-composition) can encourage better writing both in the moment/process and upon reflection.

BUT, i want to say that new media technologies enable us to make films. at all. to have a go. and to capture images that give us pleasure and to use them as we see fit. responsibility? sure. but responsibility to what has been, exclusively? surely not. so what then determines the state of being "rhetorically valid"? this is the crucial problem. because, when/if we imagine that we can so determine "rhetorically valid" as a state of a film's being, then we perhaps (?) reject a variety of film discourses and practices that honor films privileging radical ambiguity and ambivalence regarding conventional structure and "meaning." and then, when we imagine that we can know and name and evaluate "rhetorically valid" films, we once again deny rhetoric its (fuller/est) potential and create scenarios for overdetermined meaning(s) . . . in, . . . what?, our efforts to "manage" the genre? to generate FTE? to make polished films that will help our students' in their careerist efforts? to control our students' sense of ethical obligation to certain kinds of cinematic meaning? none of these potential moves seem completely wrongheaded, but it seems a shame to argue exlusively in terms of how film and writing are bound up in static conventions (that they are caught up in existing and evolving webs of discourse, sure). and i'm not saying that this is what my colleague or even his reviewer has argued . . .

. . . it's just that i keep hearing people frame up film in Composition in this way, via a sort of "safe" route, when really, this safe mode that we are able to control via our experience in rhetorical traditions (re: print culture)? it sort of rejects a lot of good film discourse and practice (especially indie practice, which finds potential and possibility in new media technologies and wants -- from my perspective anyhow -- shooting footage and editing as writing . . .).

and in praise of less than "ideally" determined film "invention" work that (has to?) happen(s) before one picks up a camera? oboy. speaking from my experience and based upon what i have heard hundreds of filmmakers say about independent filmmaking, some of my (our?) best justications for things that eventually appear on the screen in a final cut have come well after the fact, when viewing a final cut, possibly along with an audience. that is, i will have kept a shot in because, um, i liked it, it moved me, it seemed somehow pithy or provocative or interesting . . . but i had -- early on -- no clear, rhetorically structured and overdetermined claims that i could make about the shot.

once, i was watching my first documentary film, proposition 1984, with an audience, and it occurred to me that this one shot was "brilliant" (ha!) or, more appropriately, a "lucky accident," or, maybe most appropriately (given that i had no "justification" when "writing" it) a Warholian verison of "art" as "what you can get away with." the shot pictures a student wearing a band t-shirt that says "RANCID" and beneath it (presumably a cd or track title) "indestructible" . . . and it occurred to me (during the screening) that the shot images doublethink/doublespeak. Malcolm Gladwell will argue that surely i placed the shot in the film from my experience as a rhetor, unaware of my rhetorically "valid" move but operating subconcsiously via years of rhetorical training. maybe so.

either way, what happens when i script everything out before i pick up a camera/instead of simply picking up a camera and shooting that cool image and editing it into the final cut simply because i like it? it seems possible that i (may) miss out on a simple kind of "magic," and there is something so sad about that.

oh yeah, and we could argue that students don't possess sophisticated rhetorical training, so don't attempt to argue that your lucky accident can be mimicked or reproduced by your students. but come on. we know that they do, in fact, possess this very creative potential. maybe not overwhelmingly so (or maybe so, maybe even more so because of the ways in which students often resist the disambiguating forces of structured education) but maybe not in ways that align with our visions of "ideal" print texts. but so maybe they don't have our rhetorical training . . .

. . .but they know. sort of like i've said before, i'm just saying.


Kafkaz said...

I don't think of scripting or storyboarding and the "found poetry" groove as at all mutually exclusive. Happy accidents happen even in fixed forms. A poet who works with sestinas or sonnets certainly isn't likely to find her creativity or spontaneity curtailed by those things. Just so, it seems, with film. The walkabout sort of experience can yield great things, but that's just one approach to composition. Sometimes, if you begin with a vision, that actually opens up some possibilities, because it causes you to hone your senses around some controlling idea. (Would I even notice how jarring oranges on a red plate look if I weren't thinking about anger, for instance? Maybe not!)

Guess I think you have an both/and here!

(Sneeze, cough, I have a bad, bad cold. Please pass the vitamin C.)

bonnie lenore kyburz said...

i'm saying something similar. but what i'm *hearing* from certain areas of Comp is that we have to justify working in film via rhetorical strategies that have normalized themselves within our work, especially in FYC. i'm just not at all comfortable with this move, even though i understand it. so, i'm marking my discomfort but not setting up a dichotomy (i think).

feel better ;)

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