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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Media Makes Us Less Social

As a media artist (nice loose term for doing more than just film), I am told to really utilize social networking as it will connect me with "my audience." Go out there and add as many facebook friends as I can, even if I don't know them. Tweet daily, and constantly update my profiles in LinkedIn, pay the 17 dollars a month to have a presence on IMDB, blog constantly, put all of my videos on YouTube and Vimeo...it's enough to qualify as a full-time job.
I honestly don't care about Facebook and really many of the other social network outlets that exist.  I have some 160 "friends" or something like that on Facebook. I only add people whom I know or have known in some capacity.  I'm not one of those Facebook vampires that adds someone who is a cousin of someone who I met briefly at some club. I don't drool watching my friend number increment, but seeing how some have 1000 friends, I know that there are those who value the numbers game on Facebook.  In all honestly, I rarely read anyone's profile. There are probably only fifteen people out of that nearly 200 whom I have not blocked their news posts because I just can't handle all the stimulus of people posting their favorite videos of dancing dogs and cats, their baby pictures of either themselves or their own children, or just talking about some witty anecdote that requires me to do more research than I am willing to give time to.

I can guarantee you others have blocked my news feeds as well. Do we all really need hundreds and hundreds of friends? Facebook is like a photo album that talks, an address book that won't shut up. Why do I bother to even have a profile, you ask?  Because I do understand the power of promotion through the beast FB is.  And honestly, it's sometimes pretty damn cool to get an add request from an old high school classmate I was sure I'd never hear from again.

Now Twitter. Ok. I appreciate the fact that it forces one to be brief in their message, but I honestly cannot keep up with all the tweets, and seriously doubt anyone reads or cares about my tweets.

Vimeo? YouTube? I recently heard a talk by someone on the team of YouTube. Her focus was on copyright infringement but she gave some startling quote about how many hours of content are uploaded hourly. I wish I could give you those numbers but I can't remember them. But let's just say it was honestly mind boggling.

The point I am trying to make is that people feel the birth of social media and the ability of the internet to connect us to people we've lost track of actually brings us closer. I think they are dead wrong.  I still believe in the strength of real human-to-human contact (not a one night stand, a conversation). There is a lot more to communication when we are face-to-face with people that is beyond just the words we speak.  There is body language, the energy of the life in the eyes, and yes...for those looking to pick up a temporary or long term mate, there is a chemical thing going on as well with the scents we give off.  This is why our internet selves will never suffice for the flesh and blood selves.  There are things our brains are doing as we assess the physical person before us.  On the internet, on our numerous profiles, we only present what we THINK people should see of us. We choose flattering photos that we think present an attractive or cool side of us. We like to think we can be so manipulative of our appearance in public as well, but bits of who we really are sneak through, creating the whole complicated and sometimes fascinating human picture.

I worry that as we all add more friends, follow more people, link up, create more profiles, we will become inundated with the amount of information coming at us.  As we become more and more overloaded with the news feeds of our internet "friends," we start to block their posting, ignore their tweets, put off seeing their uploaded videos.  We are basically teaching ourselves to shut off from others. We are training ourselves to become poor listeners, and poor empathizers.  When we choose to follow or "like" postings by those who we feel have some celebrity clout, or some other redeemable social status, we are teaching ourselves to value the socially fortunate, and ignore those who really have no immediate value to us. How will this filter into the real interactions we make with each other?  Well, I don't really need to tell you. You can see it happening already.  We are glued to our phones. When in groups of others, people check their email and text messages constantly. Our phones lie on the dinner tables in restaurants when we go out to eat. People text while walking to their next destination, not making eye contact with others, not being aware of their immediate environment.  I feel this contributes to our poor attitude on environmental stewardship, but this is a different topic for a different day.

So, social networking will actually make us less socially apt creatures. It will have a reverse effect. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Working with and Learning from Danny Trejo

This is an older post from July of last year, but as I've recently revamped the Blue Paper Film Works website, all the blogs have been taken down. I'm reposting them here:


Anyhow, we’ve had the luck of working with Danny Trejo during the week of July 3rd and 4th.  He played the part of the Hermit in In the Shadow, a small but crucial role. I think both Jorge and I can say that we learned a lot by working with this man that has had a very long career in this crazy thing called the “Entertainment Business.”

We learned about something called giving back. What? GIVING? In the film business? Yes, it does exist. Danny has a very amazing open attitude about helping out those of us that are just beginning our careers. He knows his presence in a film can help it out immensely, as far as its life in the marketplace is concerned. And I believe, to hear him talk about the stories of his own life, that his desire to help out also benefits him a great deal. He is nearing 70, and more active than I am, and I am in my 30s.

I’ve seen and worked with people on the complete opposite of this spectrum, who put themselves and their career needs and egos first, who walk into a room and feel that everyone should kiss their feet and be awed by them. I’ve seen people feel that credits and their titles are more important than the actual work and community that is necessary in something as collaborative as indie filmmaking. I have seen these self-interested people continually dig their own grave, slowly alienating their professional connections, and then bring down their friends and family after.  This is usually a hole they will never ever get out of. They have destroyed the trust of too many.

I suppose in some ways, it is encouraging to me to see that the commonly-held idea that one should work in the film business with a each-out-for-his-own attitude doesn’t really hold up over time. It may give some a brief time of success, but I don’t believe this kind of perspective allows one to last very long. Something happens to the human psyche if you always believe people are out for you, and create or produce as if you are at war. At some point, you break down and stop doing what you used to like doing.  I still want to believe that common courtesy, kindness, and honesty still can matter in this business.  Luckily enough, it does.  Directing Danny Trejo, and producing scenes with him as a performer, have taught me that indeed, it’s possible, and actually necessary, to work in this business with reciprocity, gratitude, and respect.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

HOW WOULD WOMEN DIRECT SEX SCENES?

As I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the transient nature of well...everything, I’ve been noting the fleeing nature of emotions, particularly, of human pleasure and pain, and our pursuit of pleasure and denial of pain. This has brought me to one of my favorite topics in film, the way sex is portrayed and explored.
            Rather unfortunately I feel, most men view and experience sex differently from most women. Of course, there are obvious exceptions to this rule, but there are probably some very real evolutionary reasons why there is this difference; reasons that complicate relationships, but simplify survival of a species that actually seems to be doing a pretty good job of eradicating itself despite this.
            Recently, some UT – Austin professors did a study on why women have sex. Not so surprisingly (and I think most women would agree), women have multiple reasons for "screwing" that seem to surpass the more simplistic reason of “lust” and “desire” that men identify with.
            Sadly, these multiple reasons really aren’t explored in film for the most part.  But this doesn’t surprise me because most films are directed by men.  So, by large, the act of sex is usually something meant to titillate, arouse, support fantasies of potency and masculinity.  As a result, most sex scenes seem to miss the many underlying reasons people “do the nasty,” and simplify an act that can be creatively more complicated. I think we’re missing the woman’s perspective of this whole thing.
            If most of the directors, producers, and those controlling the flow of money for films were women, the sex scenes would have a different tone.  Because women tend to have a more emotional identification with sex, I think film sex would explore more of the emotional aspects and less of the pornographic side.  I don’t mean to say that sex scenes created by women filmmakers would be out of a fluffy romance novel, but perhaps would explore other darker reasons women “do it,” like, seeking revenge on a boyfriend/husband, seeing what it’s like before marriage, manipulation of the sexual partner, and yes...even to give someone a disease. (I’m not lying on this one!)
            In some ways, perhaps a woman’s experience and perspective of film sex might be that “missing link” that I often note when filmmakers question what is the REAL difference between blatantly exposed sex scenes in film and those shown in porn.  Porn lacks the emotional complexity that I think a female’s perspective might bring to the same sexual moment. (Porn also compartmentalizes the body.)  Not to say that male directors cannot bring this complexity, because many of them already have, but by and large, it is often sometimes very hard to tell the difference between soft-core porn sex scene and a Hollywood sex scene other than what body parts they show, and the difference in production value. They ultimately still contain the same dry false emotional quality.