Humans are limited to their own senses to experience our existence — we can only see what our own eyes behold and can only describe what we view through language – ultimately a very limited way of sharing life.
Desperate for a better way to connect with one another humans created art. Art – in any form – is a way of taking what is inside and sharing it when words fail. Any song, poem, book, painting, film, photograph, or dance is one person opening themselves up to the world and allowing other to see whats inside of their heart, brain, body and soul. Whenever you are moved by a work of art, it is because you see yourself in it. You recognize the emotions the artist is conveying – because you have felt the same way. You connect to that person. Some people feel that connection strongly to jazz, or ballet or abstract painting – I feel it to film.
Film is such an incredible medium because it can encompass all of the other art forms. Film is a moving image captured for eternity, and we are able to return to a specific slice of history whenever we like. We can remember how a film made us feel the first time we saw it, or marvel at how that same film seems to change when you see it years later. Film can be mere escapism or fantasy, it can be truthful or damning or experimental. It can be used to capture a specific moment in time, or – in the case of Apted’s UP series, a lifetime. To me, it is the best expression of humanity available. Filmmakers are brave souls, who are willing to reveal their true selves to the world. And, just like every artist before them, they are trying to connect. They want to show the audience THEIR world – and they can be as varied as the worlds of David Lynch to Jean-Luc Godard, of Quentin Tarantino to Baz Luhrmann.
Often times, the best part of glimpsing into another person’s world is to witness their vulnerability and their fallibility. To see mistakes. Films come alive when the unexpected happens – when the singer messes up a lyric or yells in excitement, or when an actor improvises a line that feels right in that moment. Something that couldn’t have been planned. I’m coming to realize as I get older just how beautiful imperfection is. There is a charm to things that are perfect, but to me wear and decay and the imprint left behind by man is far more dazzling.
One of my favorite things about film – and i’m talking about physical film now – is that it is imperfect. It is created by humans, which means mistakes will be made. The print will get scratched, it will get caught in a projector and broken, it will get dusty and old and faded. And to me, THAT is what makes film so enthralling and sublime. Watching a movie, I can see its history and all of the people’s hands that this particular print has gone through. I like knowing that it has been physically shipped around the world, that different projectionists have touched it, that it has gone through hundreds of projectors. And I love that I can see that up on the screen.
I watched the documentary Sound City yesterday, and one of the things that struck me about the film was how similar Dave Grohls’ argument about the importance of analog music is to the one I am trying to make about analog film in Out of Print. He is a huge advocate for analog recording because it forces musicians to be in the same room at the same time, and have to actually play together. This sounds silly of course, but it is something essential to music that we are quickly losing. When you can record digitally and layer tracks infinitely, it is possible to record an entire album without the band ever being in the building at the same time. Listen to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to give it up” – what makes it an amazing song is that you can hear that he is having a party in the studio and is feeding off of the energy of everyone else in the room – It just takes the song to an entirely different level – we connect with it. It sounds like everyone in the studio that day was having a great time and we want to be a part of it.
I feel like film is the exact same way – not only did everyone have to be in the same room to create the film, but you need to share the experience of watching it with an audience as well because it will change the energy of the film entirely. Have you ever had a movie that you loved as a child and watched on VHS constantly, and then had the opportunity to see it projected on film in a theater? I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that it seemed like an entirely different film. People will laugh at jokes you never got, and particular moments will stand out to you in a way that they never did before. The movie didn’t change, but the environment you watch it in will change your perception of it completely. I’m not a spiritual person, but the energy I can feel when I am in a packed theater with a crowd who is overflowing with excitement to see a film? That is an extraordinary and sacred feeling.
I am in no way a technophobe. I celebrate the advancement of technology for many reasons. My point is that I just can’t understand why if humans looking want to feel connection and unity with other humans, why do we continue to distance ourselves from that goal? The funny thing is that as much as humans desire true connections with other humans, we keep inventing technology that takes us further and further away from it. Human interaction is essential to existence. Why, then, are we allowing everything that is human about art to be taken away? Music created entirely through a computer, with vocals run through auto tune so that they are essentially digital and sound nothing like an actual person’s voice. CGI is fantastic, but lacks the physical presence that practical effects have. Digital films may be crisp and pristine, but also feel cold and detached. I have no idea what the future will look like anymore. In just the last decade, I feel that the transition from community to individuality has already begun to change mankind. I feel the lack of consideration for others and the loss of interest in public art forms is the tip of the iceberg – where it goes in the next fifty years is anyone’s guess.