There are no rules, other than to push back at conventions —Filmmaking of the 21st century

Hail Hugo Blick’s #BackEarthRising. The next time some editor even hints at you at some "rule of thirds" show them this. In this scene from his acclaimed television series, he disses any sense of a so called rule. The scene plays out to visually and aesthetically unsettle the viewer, before restoring balance.

Turn left or right at any high street and another media expert can be found exhibiting their wares. There are rules to the game, they’ll tell you. Follow them stringently to succeed. Perhaps they’re playing at being cautious. So called rules were designed for cognition on a general scale. Best to drive a conventional car before you attempt to sit in a F1.

Filmmaking, fictional and factual as in cinema journalism, is as much about the edit and direction. On our MA digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB, we’re framing the girders of cinema journalism. I draw an analogy. Around the world making a stew invariably involves frying onions in oil and then added tomatoes. After that depending on what spices you add, the stew can take on cultural flavours. Hence we’re learning the stew of cinema journalism. A tweak here or there after can render a film an essay, social media film, or tradition news package. In advance cinema journalism the nirvana is elliptical and programmatic filmmaking.

Here’s where we could go in elliptical.

Elliptical filmmaking

Elliptical filmmaking in which a director seeks to hide Easter eggs in the film isn’t new. It’s the classic whodunnit e.g The Penguin Pool Murder (1932), but made prominent in neo-noirs of the nineties e.g. Reservoir Dogs (1992). These were more overtly allusive and more playful in their intertextual references than the films in the eighties according to Richard Martin in Mean Streets and Raging Bulls: the legacy of film noir in American contemporary cinema.

Then Crash (2004) literally burst onto the scene. It was the first Oscar winner from a genre that nominally would be considered independent art cinema adopting a circularity, which would spring “aha” moments, initially disguised in the mise en scène.

Not unlike Vantage Point (2008), which played through its scenes in a Rashamon effect, the idea that was vocalised famously by Quentin Tarantino was the desire for audiences to “chase his movie”. You left the movie house still trying to figure out how you were duped as in the Crying Game (1992).

Spoiler alert! It’s not what you think and Inception (2010). Did he succeed? Otherwise in commercial advertising take the Guinness advert featuring disabled basketball players which bears an uncanny resemblance to the theme in Mother Dairy Chillz

The playfulness, structure of films such as: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Traffic (2000) and Babel (2006) underscore a complex relationship between a skilled director, the money people and the audience. Therein lies an elasticity of structure. Too loose and you lose your way. To obvious and it’s a dead giveaway. This shouldn’t be tried by the meek. In Denis Villeneuve’s (2016) Arrival — the film looks to the future as the past. It started of one way before Villeneuve was convinced of a new structure.

Classical Hollywood cinema organises narrative logic around spatial and temporal sequences of ’cause and effect’. The scenes are perceived to occur in a logical cognitive manner labelled drama sequences. Crash’s disjointed, multi-perspective, fragmentary, non-linear form undermined this.

The Oscar award would provoke thoughts whether aleatory circular style and disjunctive narrative had come of age. James Harkin called these ‘new genre’ of films cyber-realism. Martin’s categorisation suggested cyber-realism was nothing new. In film there rarely is.

In Cyburbia: The Dangerous Idea That’s Changing How We Live and Who We Are Harkin cites how films such as Pulp Fiction (1994), 21 Grams by Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro Iñárritu characterised by their multi-perspective, fragmentary, non-linear form can be attributed to a trend that suggests audiences of the Internet age are more visually and narratively in tune with postmodern styles. True? Hard to qualify.

Harkin references these as cyber-realism because of their inherent puzzle; their loop, which brings the audience back to an earlier fixed point in the film; and their multiplicity of viewpoints and the tie that pulls it all together.

This is the platform my MA student Farhana draws attention to in knowledge building, pointing to BBDO’s Evan Ad. It’s the ambition of every director to outdo their peers. BBDO design theirs with its many neo-noir influences. The gotcha is more the design than the edit, but it still required this purposefulness of elasticity.

After the Tahrir Square uprising in 2011, following a five year period consulting in Egypt I made a film that tested comprehension. When showed at a theatre house in Tunisia, an English paper would call it “confusing and at the same time Felliniesque”.

But I leave the last word for the moment to Rob Chiu, a good friend coming in next week, whose passion for experimenting and delivering always leaves me in awe.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah filming in Cairo and training journalists

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Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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