We all deserve to be involved in work to which we have been called by our passions and beliefs. Following a vocation (derived from the Latin word for voice or calling) can lead to a profession (literally a public declaration of what we believe and who we are), which is what our work should be and can be.
The audience sits in the dark and waits….. The image flashes on the screen, and somewhere in the mind a protection, a safeguard, shuts down, and a suspension of disbelief begins. A mind readies to receive, expectant and vulnerable. As a creator of media content, responsibility in this situation is a public trust. Bill Moyers put it thusly:
“Intelligence, feeling and perception combine to inform your own story, to draw others into a shared narrative, and to make of our experience here together a victory of the deepest moral feeling of sympathy, understanding and affection. When we succeed at this kind of programming, the public square is a little less polluted, a little less vulgar, and our common habitat is a little more hospitable. When we fail we get up and try again.
Out there the public waits – for something real. They will give you an hour or two of their life – they never get it back – and you give them something of value in return. A moral transaction. That expectation, that hope; the unarticulated but patient trust that as producers and programmers we will try our best – that is what’s at stake. Henry Thoreau got it right: ‘To affect the quality of the day, is the highest of the arts. That is our mission.’”
What an exciting time to work in this industry, to claim movie making as one’s profession. Wholesale changes in the process are taking place. The tools of storytelling are becoming more sophisticated, an embarrassment of riches for the artist, the results of which are nothing less than astonishing. And keeping up is a job unto itself. Technology has always been the driving force behind the cinema, and today we are witnessing one of these flashpoints, no less profound than the transition from silent to sound. From the foreword of Digital Babylon:
“We live in a Digital Babylon, in a world saturated by hard data and new technologies, insatiable for the pleasures of fresh images of our universe and of our selves. A milieu wherein the cinema has become, as Mike Figgis has pointed out, ‘the most oversubscribed whore in the art world.’
Even so, wondering why one is drawn towards that flickering motion picture in the dark is akin to analyzing why one is drawn towards dreaming, or religion, or magic, or love. There are rationales and hard realities, but it is a passion beyond reason. It is that ineffable something that takes us beyond ourselves into another realm. And those who weave the tale, binding us with word, gesture and image, into that other world, vaunt an immense responsibility and a power.”
Not only has the technology changed but so have the politics. In less than one generation, the studio era is over, and now the media conglomerates can be counted on one hand. As I endeavor to reconcile what it means to work in the business – as an artist, citizen, and movie lover – join me on these pages.