Please welcome to the blog contributor Chelsea Caumont. You can find out more about her at the About page.
With so many ways to express our first amendment rights available to us today — blogs and websites, self-published books, videos and music — it’s no surprise that the majority of what’s out there (and by “there” I mean the internet because that’s all that matters) is crap. When you want your voice heard nowadays, you don’t take the time to run your thoughts by a speechwriter; when you have an idea, it’s now or never, and for most people, it’s usually more now than never.
Inhabitants of the Twitterverse, Facebook friends and stalkers, you are guilty of this as well, succumbing to Facebook’s prying inquiry, “What’s on your mind?” or Twitter’s casual “What’s happening?” But I am not here to point fingers; I am just here to point out the fact that this boundless worldwide web that we so stubbornly fill with our prized, personal expressions at the drop of every hat or the click of any finger is probably more true to life than we humans have ever been.
Enter Radiohead. Scratch that. Enter Radiohead fans with flip cameras. From the days of the Lumiere brothers, people have been trying to capture life on film with the same richness of reality that you get from actually living life. Like a sculptor with clay, filmmakers and documentarians have taken raw footage and manipulated it, placed it, cut it, pasted it, swapped it, squeezed it and smashed it, all trying to capture a slice of life like a mosquito in amber. Then, over 100 years later, a bunch of kids with cheap cameras stopped trying.
These homo sapiens may not have reinvented the wheel, but they have surely taken a quick glance at it and scoffed, “Dude, it’s not that hard.” Their class on modern documentary filmmaking would be structured the following way:
Lesson 1. How to buy a flip camera on eBay super cheap
Lesson 2. How to operate a flip camera (weekend intensive)
Lesson 3. How to post video footage on the internet
Lesson 4. How to go viral (with special guest speakers Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa guy, and Chris Crocker)
Our generation may be lazy, but they might also be onto something. Instead of feeding people interpretations, layering on metaphors and themes, and overcomplicating life as we know it, we can simply give people life … as we know it. Recording a Radiohead concert that you attended in Prague during your Eurotrip to self-realization and bringing it home to show your friends may not be “just like being there,” but it is certainly leaps and bounds closer to the experience of standing in a sweaty crowd of screaming (and possibly rolling) fans at a Radiohead concert itself than, say, a documentary about Radiohead.
And this isn’t the first time people have taken the esoteric world of documentary filmmaking into their own hands. “Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!” is a 2006 Beastie Boys concert at Madison Square Garden filmed by 50 random audience members because, according to the film trailer, “only the pure of heart can seize the moment and forge dreams into realities.” If your dream is to see a Beastie Boys concert (as I can imagine it would be), this film is just that. Raw footage with the bare minimum of editing can get you pretty close to the true experience without all the heartstring-tugging, mind-warping and through-provoking that is common among over-seasoned documentaries.
Maybe this shying away from romanticism, impressionism, modernism and the abstract will bring us back to what really matters (and I’m not talking realism). Instead of admiring the presentation of the food on our plate, oohing and aahing at the delicate garnish that, for some reason, we’re not supposed to eat even though it’s food, we take a big bite and savor it, let the juices drip down our chin and don’t pause to wipe our mouths. Consuming raw or undercooked life experiences may increase the risk of personal reflection and individual interpretation. Now, the question is, what will you feed your children?