Discussion of the Role of New Technology and Digital Media on Filmmaking

Technology is continually evolving; film has changed throughout the years due to technological advances. The first twenty years of filmmaking was defined by the different advances and legal battles that took place concerning the new mediums technology. It seems that today we are at a similar critical moment where much of the focus in the film industry is on new technology.

Perhaps the most important development in film in the last fifty years is digital technology, which has opened up two new roads for production. First there is the large budget Hollywood production that uses digital technology to create new worlds and cool special effects. On the opposite end of the spectrum digital culture has opened up new avenues of production for small productions with little money and small crews.

This is the area, which my project is mostly focused on, the ability of one man to create something new and interesting that still discusses important issues revolving around our modern world. It seems that too often artists get lost in the visual spectacle of digital culture and forget that it should still be used to serve a larger ideological concern. I have chosen to create what I’m calling an “interactive comic book.” I chose this format for several reasons: at first I was just going to do an animation, which served many of the ideological concerns that I wished to address with the project. There is the overarching technological concern that as digital technology expands a greater number of people will be able to create film or interactive project. I have never used flash before and thus to prove that even an amateur with no experience could make a project I decided to do my project with the program.

Using the computer to create animated or drawn characters also opens up the ability to explore issues of the “digital body.” There has been an increase in the number of monster/horror films in the past decade that involve either unknown creatures or mutilated bodies. This increase corresponds with the rise of digital technology, thus the two are linked in culture. The depictions of the grotesque seem to reflect certain fears in culture. Perhaps the most obvious fear that this could be dealing with is the fear of change. The world seems to be changing at such a rapid pace today, especially in the realm of technology including mechanical, bio, and digital technology. One video that deals in a very detailed way with the connection between the fear of technology and a monstrous body is Dominic Hailstone’s The Eel.

It opens up with a seismograph machine and then follows a wire, which then leads to fish tank that contains an Eel. As the video progresses the Eel transforms into a monstrous creature that looks like some kind of boss out of a videogame. Since the wire connects with the tank and the machine is prominently featured within the film a strong connection is drawn between the two. I wanted to also demonstrate this connection within my film and therefore I created an alien for the main villain in the comic book. It would be very difficult for a person with a low budget working by themselves to do any kind of special effects or have an alien character, but the advent of digital culture has allowed me to create this character through animation.

Another fear that has driven the increase in representations of the grotesque is terrorism. In a post 9-11 world it is impossible to ignore the effect that terror has on images in popular culture and other art. The war on terrorism has greatly divided the population on a number of issues revolving around the power the government should have to investigate potential threats. Should the government have access to a person’s library rental history? If you checked out books on how to make explosives should this make you a target of the F.B.I? This seems to infringe on the basic freedoms that is due to any American citizen.

Yet at the same time people are afraid that if the government can’t take these actions there is a high risk of another terrible terrorist attack. There are both positives and negatives to the changes in civil rights that were a reaction to the attacks on the World Trade Center. This is also reflected in the images of the deformed digital body in many films. For example, in Chris Cunningham’s video Rubber Johnny the boy is deformed and sits in a wheel chair, the negative aspects of the changes of the digital world, yet he is also able to escape this reality and enter an alternative digital world where he can dance and be free of his handicaps.

The issue of terrorism is greatly related to issues of surveillance, which I also try to address in my project. Again surveillance has both good and bad aspects to it. The way I tried to include this was through the mention and use of the Internet and GoogleEarth by both the superhero and villain. The villain uses it to find out the true identity of the superhero that is trying to stop him; someone found out his identity and put it on the web for anyone to search using Google or Yahoo.

There are pictures of the superhero with his friends and family who are the target of the villain since he cannot defeat Greg the superhero. Also the villain uses Google Earth to find targets to blow up and to see the setup of cities and how best to attack them. On the other hand the superhero uses the Internet to search the secret weakness of the alien invader (for future episodes of the comic!), which was published online on a conspiracy theory site that claimed to know of cooperation between a secret cult and aliens to take over the earth.

In this digital world reality is more in question than ever. It is very easy to take a photograph and Photoshop it to distort reality. There have been recent scandals about the cover of magazines that use photoshoped images of stars to get rid of imperfections and make them more beautiful. This has seemingly met a lot of resistance, yet it just seems like an alternative to using extensive makeup.

People have more of a problem with the altered images because they use digital technology; since it is new people have a much greater distrust of it. I think this fear is misguided though because using makeup creates just as false of an image as using Photoshop. One is not more “real” than the other and this is another reason that I chose to use animation. I used screen shots and real photos and included them in the animated world to try and bring to the forefront the construction of reality.

The final issue that I tried to address with this interactive comic book project was shifting identity/masquerade. I just talked about how digital culture allows for a person to be altered and to create a new reality. This is reflected in the depiction of identity in digital works. Amelia Jones discusses the construction of identity in the postmodern digital world, “âÂ?¦younger artists tend to explore the body/self as technologized, specifically unnatural, and fundamentally unfixable in identityâÂ?¦as what some have called ‘posthuman'” Identity is constantly shifting, or as Jones puts it “unfixable.”

This loss of identity is both lamented as a loss of “reality” but it is also celebrated. It is celebrated for a number of reasons: first of all it allows a person to avoid being monitored by new types of surveillance systems. It also allows a person to become something they are not but fulfills them more than their “true” identity ever could.

Overall this was a fun project to do. It was very time consuming and though digital tools are of great help in single person productions it is still quite a challenge. To fully complete the vision I had would take much more time or at least more people. It was so ambitious to try to address as many issues as I attempted and in the end I probably didn’t explain them as well in the project to be a work of art. It seems though that much of the digital experience is not necessarily making the perfect product but rather just experimenting with what is possible.

The hope for digital culture is that it can push not only formal tools but also the limits of narrative and ideology. It allows more people to have a voice, and hopefully they use digital tools in new ways that strengthens their voice and allows the disenfranchised to have agency in culture, especially in popular culture, which right now is so dominated by white men and patriarchal ideas.

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