Celluloid Smudges

You know you’re a film buff living in a film town when you can watch an indie film and your experience with the storytelling is diminished because you’re distracted by all the fingerprints of independent films.

You’re watching the drama, but in your mind, you’re backtracking and imagining all the location decisions, the directorial compromises, the just-get-it-dones, the editorial chops for time, and all the bylaws you have to comply with just to get accepted into the indie film festival circuit. The story is good, but you can see where it was altered just to fit some extra-fictional benchmark, like keeping within budget, time, or location. Y’know?

I find the same thing with many independent movies I see — especially those produced in the 90’s at the height of indie films. I’ve seen it in “Julian Po”, in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, in “Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael”, and tonight in “The Tao of Steve”. Having gone through a miniature semester in movie production back in college, that’s just enough to bring my attention to the pre-production, principal photography, and post-production phases of an indie film. I’m more aware and cognizant of what choices are involved in telling a story cinematically, especially when money and time are major concerns and short-cut choices have to be made. The film gets more terse, more quaint, more…twee. The big-ticket box office blockbusters don’t have that problem, and that’s unfortunate.

I just want to get back to the naiveté of watching movies as stories, but somehow, I don’t think that’s possible. Perhaps it’s true: what is seen cannot be unseen.

Follow Sprite

In college, I played “Hexxen” on my friends’ computers (“Hexxen” was technologically between “Doom” and “Duke Nukem 3D”). But, instead of playing the game to win, I would end up wandering around the world and following the various environmental elements, such as the random autumn leaf blowing around, until that graphical sprite no longer existed.

It gave me a stronger sense of space, and in so doing I managed to keep a virtual leaf alive and blowing around much longer than its programmed lifespan allowed. This was somehow more interesting to me than the actual goal of the level.

In essence, my intervention meant that much more to that leaf than it did to my own gameplay. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.