My Take on Timothy Treadwell

In Cinema, we watched Grizzly Man, a documentary about a man named Timothy Treadwell who was obsessed with bears and nature. Watching excerpts from his own videos through the documentary, I (and I believe many other members of the audience) was struck by his peculiar nature and deep obsession with the wilderness, particularly his apparent nonchalance when faced with enormous, unpredictable and powerful adult grizzly bears. For the most part, I think that Treadwell was a nutter, and kept thinking to myself, ‘he’s insane, he’s mad, maybe he is simply not well,’ and my mind was drawn back to yesterday’s lectorial on media institutions and Michel Foucault’s studies of how abnormal behaviour is perceived and treated in society.

Firstly, what made Timothy Treadwell ‘abnormal?’ I would say, from watching Grizzly Man, that it would be his unusual accent and mannerisms. At a first glance, he seemed effeminate which made his character distinctive and out of the ordinary, particularly in the wilds of Alaska.

Secondly, his unusualness came from his deep passionate confessions of love and admiration for bears. In a social context, most people may say they respect bears when brought up in conversation; but he publicly preached about them. Furthermore, his character implied that his love for the beasts made him naïve to their wild, powerful and deadly nature. He said so himself, without much concern, that he was at risk of bodily or fatal harm, and yet he persevered and stayed within the vicinity of bears. Why would a sane person risk their lives and safety for the sake of studying and ‘protecting’ such dangerous creatures? This, I believe, is what would help classify Treadwell in society as a ‘weirdo,’ a ‘nut,’ ‘delusional’ or ‘crazy.’

Treadwell was a fascinating character and is fascinating to observe, because he is a brilliant example of someone in contemporary society who is, in his own way, mentally unwell. He has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and voluntarily stopped taking antidepressants without the clearance of a doctor and I believe these are grounds for someone who is troubled; not necessarily mentally ill, but confused and unwell. If we were to examine him through the lens of Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation, we would engage in a sociological study of the relationship between Treadwell as an individual and society on a larger scale. In the documentary itself, his friends and acquaintances recounted him as unusual, troubled and, to some degree, worrying or even frightening in his obsession. Even Treadwell’s relationship with the audience while watching the documentary would be an interesting one to study. For one thing, how would we, as an audience of this somewhat biased a perception of a documentary, express our opinions of Treadwell in a social situation with friends or in a discussion in Cinema? That’s something that intrigues me, because I definitely have opinions of Treadwell that I want to clarify for myself.

My Take on Photography vs. Cinematography

A latest interest of mine has been practicing my photographic skills. Inspired by such talents as Ansel Adams, Lars Tunbjork and Bruce Weber, I have made sure my camera is used more in my day to day activities.

What has caught my interest lately is how different photographers are creatively motivated, and how this changes their style of photography. My fellow photographer partner in crime, who is studying a Bachelor of Industrial Design, prefers zoom and telephoto lenses, whereas I, with a keen interest in media and cinema studies, prefer a fixed wide-angle lens. My motivation is to capture story, meaning and artistic value through my photographs, and believe that my 24mm wide angle lens grants opportunities to mimic the styles of the Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson. However, the motivations of someone in the career of industrial design is to capture the most aesthetically pleasing image meant to communicate to a viewer the functions, appearance and design of a product.

My Take on Story-Telling

Today’s lectorial on storytelling really got me interested in my own experience with storytelling. Since I can remember, I have loved to create and imagination stories and worlds and fantastical journeys, and expressed these in drawings and attempts at writing books. Whatever I came up with, I had to get it down in some way, and I could spend a few hours or weeks obsessed with an idea; one of my primary school teachers thought I’d be CEO of Puffin or Penguin books. As I entered middle school and high school, that passion waned a little; I spent less time creating and more time consuming media, which isn’t so bad really. But now that high school and VCE is over, I want to get back and create again.

Something that I think became a weaker point in my productions towards the end of highschool was my ability to create a strong story, and instead spent all my time trying to impress myself and others with what I thought was avante-garde film techniques, cool editing and an unusual and difficult to function piece of steadying gear I got for ten bucks on eBay. It wasn’t until I looked back on these old films I’d made, and also until this lectorial, that it became apparent to me that the techniques, gear, cinematography and visuals that go into a film don’t mean anything without a solid story.

I also got this epiphany watching Casey Neistat’s vlogs and films, in which he encourages aspiring filmmakers to care less about the gear and equipment you use, and more about developing a story or idea. Story is what drives the film, and the equipment, regardless of whether they are a point and shoot camera or an expensive camera drone, are just the tools we use to present the story.

This past week, I went down to Mornington peninsula with 4 other friends on a photography expedition. Armed with a Canon EOS 1200 DSLR and a Nikon FE2 film SLR, it was a nice break from the world to go down south and indulge in the incredible natural world.

There’ll be a follow up post about the developed film, but I gotta say, it was a little daunting. I only had about 25 shots a roll, and neglected to bring more than one. Oopsie! I was also nervous because the night before, I had managed to tear apart my last film roll trying to take it out of the camera. Lesson learned: Read the manual.

The shoot itself was daunting, because the beach (whose name I forget) and rocky rock pools that we visited was the epitome of ‘treacherous nature.’ Clambering up rocks and over agonisingly lumpy stones was exhausting, but worth it entirely as we saw the ocean breathing and crashing so close to us.

A Self Portrait

Our most recent assessment for Media 1 was to craft short film self-portraits. With only a week to make them, I feel a little shy posting mine here but figured hey, why not. I’m still quite inspired by what we’ve learned from experimental filmmakers, and took a kind of associational filmmaking approach; my aim was to juxtapose people with the landscape. My favourite part is showing how we react when we realise we are being recorded.

Aspect to Aspect – Western vs Eastern Storytelling at Play

In Week 1, we were sent a reading in Media1 in the form of a graphic novel by Scott McCloud, exploring human perception in the media that we consume daily. I was reminded of this reading last week in our Media1 workshop and went back to it after we were sent out in groups to film content for a short film haiku. The constraints of the content we shot were that there was to be no focus on individuals, and no camera movement.

I was reminded in this moment of a method of storytelling I had learned about originally from a YouTube personality called Nerdwriter1; it is called Action to Action, and another is called Aspect to Aspect. In Scott McCloud’s Blood in the Gutter, Action to Action is shown as a storytelling method that allows a reader or audience to fill in the gaps, or gutter, between panels and frames. Nerdwriter1 analyses this deeper as a storytelling method for a society or culture that is very goal oriented; for example, in American comic books, Action to Action may be used to tell the narrative of a superhero intending to save the world, knocking down one bad guy at a time.

Conversely, Aspect to Aspect, as explored by McCloud, renders the concept of time unimportant, or even non-existent. Each frame shows aspects that allow the mind and the eye to wander, evoking an idea, emotion or setting. Nerdwriter1 has taken this a step further, and suggests that, particularly in an eastern culture or society, such as Japan, there is less emphasis on getting to a particular place or attaining a particular goal than the notion of allowing the mind to wander within a moment in time. Nerdwriter1 suggests that Aspect to Aspect can be utilised to evoke in an audience or reader a sense of simply existing in a moment. The YouTuber supports his theory through his video essay on the Japanese sci-fi thriller Ghost in the Shell, alluding to a series of shots in the intermission of the film that takes on this sense of being present in a moment, absent from time and time’s constraints.

Back to my original point about the haiku short films we were collecting content for. While I am not sure if Brian Morris was intending for us to rediscover the theory of Aspect-to-Aspect, I found it interesting that we had the goals of creating a filmic haiku (a Japanese form of poetry) and were using a method of filmmaking that is closely linked to a storytelling method used predominantly in Japanese film, narrative, literature and graphic novels. Emphasis on the landscape, setting and context was made clear to us, which is highly similar to the way that Ghost in the Shell conveys a mood and place through similar emphasis to its production design and landscapes.

LINK: Nerdwriter1’s video essay alludes to McCloud’d readings on Action vs Aspect in the first 3 mins

Jeremy Bowtell on Editing in Media

In our Media 1 class yesterday, we began with a presentation from guest speaker Jeremy Bowtell on editing; specifically, in film. For me, editing a film is the best part of filmmaking. I find it a meditative experience, requiring patience as I go back and forth trying to find the right place to cut. What I found interesting in Bowtell’s presentation was this trifecta that contributes to editing in film: Rhythm, Emotion and Story.

Rhythm refers to the technical aspect of editing; does the cut fit into the sequence in a way that fits with or challenges the rhythm of the score or soundtrack, or has a jarring or subtle effect on the audience?

Emotion refers to whether the style and Rhythm of editing evokes a feeling within the audience. For instance, in the gore-filled ‘torture-porn’ horror, Saw, the style of editing in the flashback of Amanda Young instils anxiety, fear and apprehension in the audience through its face-paced, erratic and frenetic style of cuts.

Story is how narrative within a film progresses based on editing. Bowtell provided us with a quote by Edward Dmytryk: ‘Never make a cut without a positive reason.’ This can be referred back to how Story and Editing are intertwined, as Dmytryk is saying that a cut made through editing should be done to allow the narrative to progress in a relevant and efficient manner.