Why as a tech-creative you need to get a grip with the 1920s
Wars loomed; politics was a mess and tech e.g. phones were blazing a trail such that entrepreneurs thought they’d never had it so good — almost anything was possible.
Audiences were being bombarded with new platforms. New styles of music with frenetic drum beats were wowing audiences. Literature too was metamorphising. Its fresh facade was non-linear personalised texts about its subjects represented from a multiple of angles ( the biog rather than the blog). Meanwhile, poetry e.g. Imagism was quite literally cutting-edge.
Film too was at it. New styles were emerging; some the audience understood, others seemed a little quirky that that they soon tired. An example of this is a man contemplating looks out of the frame. The director then cuts to an image representing what the man sees.
Does all this sound familiar? If obviously yes. Small wonder that in his book Film and Theory Academic Robert Stam says, in a paragraph towards the end that the new millennium is like the 1900s to the 1920s.
It’s the 1920s all over again — the jazz times when Rhapsody in Blues makes us feel we’re in the black, and the red.
The image at the top of the page is of the visionary Pathé brothers with their film device — the solo camera. Below is one of several new platforms from independent companies that gave the viewer a unique point of view — the YouTube of its era, the Kinetoscope
Pathé enveloped a series of companies working in the burgeoning film industry. Their dexterity and innovation meant they made fictional films such as the Horse that bolted (1907) - a film which was one of the first to play with parallel editing.
Pathé also created the newsreel. Strikingly, they called their newsreels as well as their fictional films ‘cinema’. Yes, the very same techniques used in fictional films were being adopted for news.
Today, a long line of scholars and perhaps you associate ‘cinema’ only with Hollywood’s 1910 ‘smash-and-grab’ definition. I was musing over all of this in a brief moment during a meeting at the Arts Council, when asked how I showed my voice.
You see, I think journalism in this new era has lost its way, or I should say a strand of journalism called videojournalism and we’d do well to look for ideas amongst cinema and Art.
And that’s the problem isn’t it? We’re tied down by rules, often good and necessary for their time which would shape them as conventions. But a convention’s shelf-life is tenuous. It can be propped up to continue to make money, but at some point the audience loses interest. It happened during the 1920s and continually repeats itself.
It’s happening now, and many of the symptoms for change today can be found in that creative behemoth of a period, when the telephone was coming on stream and the airwaves were beginning to be transformed.
It’s worth looking at the 1920s, and if you do, you’ll come across something else. Technology is assistive. It has fad qualities. It comes and goes. The message, of what you have to say and how you say it in different cultures is the primer. The mechanics as I’ve said before can be secondary.
It’s less about the imposition of ideas under the old order, but the search for new ones — just as they did in the 1920s. Now can we have our cinema back, please?