I had a lot of fun with this project, and found it to be very inspiring in a number of ways. Through the process of creating this film, I gained an insight into the craft of choreography, and how it shares some key principles with filmmaking. I also had quite a profound change in thinking around the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, which I discovered through the use of VHS tapes, is a somewhat problematic distinction. I believe that the inspiration and insight that I gained from this project will be invaluable for future work.
When my mum gave me a big box of old dance tapes at the very start of the semester, it occurred to me even then that I might try to incorporate them into the course somehow. I ended up building my approach to this project around that footage. I started by watching a lot of the footage, then discussed some of my early ideas with Dan, who recommended that I interview my mum. Then I bought a card to convert the analogue signal of the VHS tapes to a digital signal that could be captured on my PC in real time. This was pretty tedious and frustrating at times but I got it done. The interview with mum also ended up becoming an important part of the process, because I wanted to select the images based on their conceptual relevance to the ideas discussed in the interview. The editing process was fun, and I gave myself a decent amount of time to get it done. Overall, I’m happy with the final product, and satisfied with the approach I took to completing it.
One of the strongest themes that emerged from this project, was the comparison between choreography and film. During the process of making this film, I was given an insight into the principles of choreography and how they relate/translate to the principles of film. Early on in the process, I had the realisation that a finished choreographic work is similar in many ways to a finished film work. They are both carefully constructed, self-contained and intended to be viewed as a whole. In this way, sifting through videos of finished dance pieces and selecting certain parts felt comparable to stringing together a whole lot of footage from a bunch of unrelated movies. For this reason, I opted to use long duration shots in this film where I could, because I felt that they gave a more accurate impression of the intention of the finished dance piece. At times during the editing process, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was switching between the role of editor and the role of choreographer. Piecing together the different images and movements felt eerily similar to the process of choreography that mum had described in our interview. Ironically, she explained that a choreographer does not have the luxury of being able to pause and rewind their work in order to perfect it. Although, there I was, pausing, rewinding and chopping up finished dance pieces in my editing software, like some kind of Dr Frankenstein choreographer. This tension between dance and film is furthered when considering ideas of old and new. Dance is an artform that transcends old and new, whereas film is a comparatively new art form, the process of which has changed drastically in its short lifetime. I found that by positioning these two artforms alongside one another in this project, I was able to get an insight into the way that different kinds of art and craft are linked through common principles.
Throughout this course we’ve looked at a broad range of ideas surrounding old and new media, including how they interact with each other in practice. For this project, I used some old media materials (VHS tapes, VCR), in conjunction with new media technology (computer, editing software). The VHS conversion process was quite funny, because it was so plain to see how the VCR and the PC were incompatible and belonged to different eras of media. However, this process also opened my eyes to some of the problematic distinctions that we make between old and new media. Looking through the footage after it had been converted, I found that the quality of the footage was very visually interesting. Despite the outdated video format and the likelihood of degradation (some of the videos were from the 80s), I thought the footage had a very appealing, unique quality. In his discussion of vintage home movies, Wilson argues that we should embrace “the imperfections of the source film rather than attempting to digitally ‘clean’ the image” (Wilson, 2011). This applies to my use of VHS footage for this project, which was grainy as anything, but still had its own unique beauty. This makes me question the usefulness of categorising some media as ‘old’ and some as ‘new’, when the media is constantly changing, and what we consider to be new now will be old in a few years. Natale puts forward the idea that old media are “in a certain sense, ghosts – presences that are generated within our imagination” (Natale, 2016). I believe that all media, old and new, should be viewed as tools that are at our disposal, rather than viewing old media as ‘ghosts’ to be distanced from and forgotten. With this in mind, I think that media makers such as myself, should embrace all forms of media available to us, and take full advantage of all the differing, unique qualities that can be created through them.
This project was rewarding for me, on both a conceptual and emotional level. I was quite humbled looking through the VHS tapes, and seeing how extensive my mum’s career in choreography was and how much she achieved artistically. For this reason, as I gained an insight into the craft of choreography, I was glad to see the similarities between my passion of filmmaking and my mum’s passion for dance. I think that inviting some of the principles of choreography into my filmmaking practice will be an asset for future work. I’m also glad to have challenged the binary distinctions between old and new media. From now on I intend to embrace the quirks of all forms of media old and new, which I believe will unlock many possibilities for my future practise.
Natale, Simone. (2016). ‘There are no old media.’ Journal of Communication, 66, 585-603.
Wilson, Shaun. (2011). ‘Remixing memory through home movies.’ Image & Narrative, 12(2).