What Can Be Done in Mediums

Essay by
Cole Webber

Attempting any medium profoundly deepens my appreciation for it. You get a sense through experimenting, through trying to see what you can do, and finding what you cannot, of the real skill, task, the potentials of each thing. I feel now that too many people rush into one medium, the obvious one being film, which is really a combination of all of the mediums. Myself being one of those people originally. I had the idea with all of these Think Worlds tasks, and even with my initial plan to write a short story a week, which I set out upon two years ago, to basically familiarize myself with the facets of storytelling. Because, even that word, storytelling, is taken far too often to be far too self contained. Marketing is just storytelling. Branding is just marketing. I feel that this has made me an immeasurably better public speaker just through intuitively grasping (and struggling with) these things for a few years. 

As you embed yourself in the mindset of, “I am going to tell a story a week,” Not a good one, mind you, you begin to have ideas for stories all the time. I have now at least three or four story ideas a week. I write them all down, and I write out the one I am the most excited about. I am starting to fall in love though with a lot of them; I feel like my ideas are getting better and better (though so far my absolute favourite are from my first two months of story writing at all, which shows the beauty of ignorance). This is another benefit of the Think Worlds plan: I can pass off many of these to be collaborations with others, since I don’t really have the time to write and polish three or four stories a week, when, for instance, I am also going with my inventing. 

Being familiar with different mediums, you get a sense of where these different stories should be told. I used to have the mindset that film is the best medium. I would still probably agree with that statement overall, but it is not the best medium for everything. In a story, for instance, you can have all these wonderful internal monologues and noticings of a character, which would only seem stilted if they tried to be delivered in a film. Film could capture the noticings, but not the past revisitations without flashbacks, which are now rarely executed tastefully, or in a sense of losing oneself in the memory of the moment. Losing a sense of reality, which is what I think they are very good for. In film there is always a sense of distance from the character as compared to writing, because it is being held up for you, not something that you can inhabit, sink behind the eyes of, imagine. This is part of why I realize I like Kubrick’s films more and more. People criticize them as being detached, but this is what film does, so it is playing to the medium’s strengths. In writing you can inhabit a character, in film you can identify with one if it is done well, but you always are still looking at them, observing them. 

The goal is to become experienced enough with something to know the real and ready possibilities, as well as the out-there inventable ones (and therefore relative cost of money or time for a finishable project) without getting into habit, since repetition of a subset within anything blinds you to the full possibilities. [I am very inspired by a prolific female filmmaker of the French New Wave who has said, and continues to say, that she has never watched a film. Very good: you don’t need to watch one to make one. And, perhaps it makes you better at making them like yourself.] Usually, the nature of work and specialization over the last century has made it so that people, even within fields, identify their specialty, what they can do well, and do it over and over. And this inhibits their sights and experimentation. Animation is itself a subset of filmmaking. And within this, you have many different ways of going about it, and most animators today are totally focused within whatever their subset is: 2D vector, 2D drawing, 3D — these are the basics. But there are other ways, are new potential ways being thought of all the time. Take the possibilities of slit scan photography, for instance, which still have not been really all the way explored. For iPhones now there is just on application available for slit-scan emulation, which I have been playing around with. Perhaps knowing what you can do, in the usual safe sense of how people take it, is less important to ask yourself than: what can be done?

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