Simon, the new auteur — Tales of the i-Doc 2016 symposium
Unpacking conference highlights can be a bit like making a film — where to start? The key note speakers? The breathtaking ideas ( e.g. 1979 Revolution, below)?
The coffee table discussions? The you?
The yous are thanked, but rarely discussed at length in the professional context of conference wrap ups. We respectfully pay homage to our exemplaries, surrounding them post-talk for more insight. We catch them outside, as they make their way to the bar, for even more pearls of wisdom?
You, meanwhile self-effacing, grateful for the experience slinker in and out of one seminar after another. A nod here and there to other yous, note-taking of generous proportions, perhaps even the odd epiphany and before you know it, it’s closing remarks. We’re all yous at moments in a conference
This is for you, embodied, back to the film analogy, in that one character. His name is Simon. Remember him. Simon is the new auteur.
I met Simon delivering my talk, The Thirty: Looking back to look forward’. He was in my line of sight in cinema 2. I asked if there were any students in the house. Cautiously, Simon looked around before acknowledging. Quite right too. Next thing you know, if you’re unlucky, you’ll have the host asking you to become their assistant as they perform some odd feat.
Simon became my assistant as I performed an odd feat.
I asked him to start filming me, as I began to rant, firstly in English and then in Twi ( Ashanti) Ghanaian language. He did, moving from the side to face on. Experiment over. And the point?
We’ll come back to that in the moment. But here’s another experiment. Watch this one-plus-minute montage and see if you can associate the clips with modern aspects of journalism. I’ll start you off with a few answers at the bottom of the post. No cheating!
After my i-Doc2016 talk
Later at the bar, we had such an engaging chat. Simon (YouTube Channel) is gathering material for his MA thesis on i-Docs. We were joined by Sandra Gaudenzi, one of the conference conveners, whom he’d been previously arranging to meet. That worked! He’d travelled from Vienna to the conference. Nothing extraordinary, perhaps? Yes! When I consider I’m here like several others, expenses paid by my faculty. He’s just off-loaded a small fortune. It’s the euro-pound conversion that hurts.
We spoke cinema, Micheal Haneke, and other European filmmakers. Sandra connected Simon with others.
We filmed as he road tested my mobile gimble (steady cam) used to make the film below. Simon showed off his camera, with its ISO, 60,000 plus (geekdom!) LOL.
We met with other filmmakers from Bristol through G-man, a respected Bristolian (a writer, curator and mentor to young talent).
This young man’s quiet confidence, his sense of curiosity reminded me of people I knew from the Thirty — the title of my talk.
The Thirty were a group who became a movement in the 1990s and they operated in a way that strikes at the heart of artistic practice. They meddled with journalism discourse, working practices and structure. They pioneered videojournalism. Their crowning moment, 20 years on, we’ve only now figured, is that they were using cinema tropes in journalism. All journalism is predicated on cinema, but this was something else and many of the Thirty today are award winners, holding BAFTA, OBEs, or Oscar nominated.
Everything I now do, or have done from examples in this one-minute-plus montage below is based on the Thirty. From Obama’s 100 Days to diving in Gallipoli with Turkish forces to locate WWI ships and our 2001 i-doc finalist film, The Family.
Back to the beginning
At the point where Simon was filming me in my session, his hippocampus, small part of the brain involved with emotion, was picking a fight with regions of his brain involved in rational thought.
How could he film this in an impressionistic way that conveyed meaning from not just the content, but use of camera, mis en scene and where possible use of different lenses?
Simon was spontaneous. He assumed a position and filming technique that has worked for him. Now let’s imagine, I was acting in a fictional film and Simon wanted to direct a scene with me ranting. How would he then film it? How could he convey the emotional impact of that scene. That’s cinema journalism.
The problem is a scene forms and can decompose quickly. How can you the cinema journalism figure out what to do sans of corse rehearsals. Even when I was speaking a language he did not understand, my gestures, symbolised something that would have provided clues.
Simon got it! A study of past masters provides us with a framework to deliver compelling material in whatever form. I asked during my session, if anyone had seen the remarkable video comparing Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant with Tarkovsky’s oeuvre. A solo hand shot up. It was Simon. I’m banking on Simon doing something extraordinary — the new auteur.
Thanks to the i-docs team and others for the hospitality and amazing braining over the last tree days :)
Answer to video. Each film picks out aspects of modern journalism. The use of Go pros, drones, non-linear, mysticism, memory and flashbacks, playfulness, point-of-view ( google glass). And my point to this is that in Cinema Journalism, you used whatever device or trope to help you tell the overall story. Delineating these methods into strict regimes in the 21st century makes much sense commercially, but creatively they shouldn’t be separated.
Trailer for my I-docs talk
You can follow David’s work on www.viewmagazine.tv and @viewmagazine David’s PhD from UCD covers videojournalism and cinema journalism. He lectures at the University of Westminster in docs, journalism and coding/design/and entrepreneurial ventures online. He’s the recipient of a number of international awards.