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Interviewed Based Report - Screen History Research

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Looking at the movie image culture today, it’s evident that it has undergone a series of advancement in terms of production, direction, set, script, actors, scores, audience and the story board from what it was in the pre-1975 period.  Comparing the films we are watching today from the early films, it’s inevitable to notice precise similarities and differences between them. To better explain the similarities and differences in the movie image culture today from what it was during the early days, I conducted interview research by contacting an older person who can recall going to the movies some time before 1975. I interviewed D. A. Pennebaker who is an American documentary film maker. He is famous for spearheading the Direct Cinema movement and the explosion of cinema verité filmmaking in the 1950s and 1960s around the world. From this interview and my personal experience of the movie image culture I was able to compare the film industry in the present day from what it was in the pre-1975 period.

Industrial changes (Differences between the pre-1975 period of the interviewee’s life and current situation)

The film industry has seen tremendous changes from what it was before 1975 to what we have today. Technologically, the cameras used to shoot films before 1975 and the cameras and movie recorders used today are very different in terms of quality, size and efficiency. From the interview, Mr. Pennebaker said that they used sync sound cameras in the 1950s and Nagra portable recorder to establish cinema verite movement. They also used the Oracon camera; it was a French tape recorder, noisy, not really synchronized but had a battery to run it. This camera was very heavy that the interviewee said it took three of them to carry when filming Lenny as he went through the halls of the Russian rulers. Back then they used a special clock recorder. The interviewee said “We had a watch built into the recorder and we built one into the camera there was a frequency 360 cycles a turning fork inside, we used that as a timing device so they would both be in time together”. Later they used more efficient cameras and more efficient recorders, ‘Stellavox’ came along with a lighter recorder. These cameras and recorders used back in this period are very different from the one in use today. Today, film industry use analog and digital video cameras, which are far much better compared to those used back then, they are much smaller in size and are able to record image and sound at the same time.

The cameras in use back then could only record short films unlike today’s cameras that can record for a long much reasonable time. The films made during those days were mainly not for commercial purpose “The kind of films that we were making it wasn’t that they were documentary and the others were fiction our films were personal they were like home movies they were personal films you made because you weren’t gonna bother to try and sell it to someone as an idea you weren’t even sure if there was a big audience for it was just something you wanted to do” said Mr. Pennebaker. Today films are one of the major booming businesses in the world particularly taking the case of Hollywood . The films made during those days did not have the audio part; they were just silent films with music all over “The first film I did was the daybreak express; I used a Duke Ellington track for the music so it was just really a silent film with the music over it!”It was only five minutes long!” Today films have quality visual and audio scenes and one can watch and hear what the actors and actresses in the film are saying. Some of the films shot today are very long like most series movie today i.e. prison break, heroes and many other take about 22 hours.

The films short during those days had black and white images but today films have clear colored images that depict actors exactly the way they are. The films made during the pre 1977 period focused on famous, popular and influential people like politicians and musicians as asserted by the interviewee that, when they made films “Generally the people that interested us whether musically or politically, people in the public wheels at that point, people that were of interest to people. We could get at that them and spend time with them; we would make short films about them”. Today, the film industry has taken deeper roots; it has diverted its focus to real life issues like relationships, entertainments, drama, sop-operas and scientific issues.  The films back then had a small audience unlike today where almost every one watches movies, television programs and music videos. Films today have made an impact on almost every individual’s life.

Industrial Constants (continuities, overlaps, commonalities)

Despite the movie image culture experiencing tremendous changes from 1975, not everything has changed; a lot has yet been retained and is still in use today. Most Films made in the pre 1975 period focused on famous people/people of public interest as asserted by Mr. Pennebaker.  The case is similar today; most films and TV programs focus extensively on famous influential people like presidents, popular musicians, actors, rich business acumen and other individuals of public interests. The interviewee said that films they made back then were visual with music all over, this is still common today; music and films are always glued together. Today the best selling songs are both visual and audio. Music sounds are used in films today as sound effects to make it more entertaining and to create suspense.

Pornography and sex is a good example of some of the overlaps in the film industry, even before much had been developed on film production by the likes of Francis Thompson and my interviewee, pornography was still being filmed somewhere. “If we made a film we were so small the way it would be shown was so limited. Outside of pornography - which was a going business elsewhere, I was told you could get fined if you made pornography if you didn’t have permission or did not pay someone off! “The interviewee commented.

The commonalities on the other hand may be the regulation of the media; given that at no point in time (both in the era before and after 1975), has the media (the movie and film sectors) been left totally without some form of regulation. Even if it may not be the government carrying out the regulation, a special commission or an ad hoc committee comprising some of the media stakeholders may be carry out the monitoring.

The Issue of Cinema and Society

The issue of cinema and its impact on society has always faced major controversies. Some claim that films have misconstruction of social orders, morality and behaviors. Research carried out on this issue indicates that media and films have tremendous influence on behaviors and lifestyles of the societies we are living in today. Programs shown on television today frequently portray the values of society. Some of these values are depicted in a more positive light than others. The range of values displayed by the media runs the gambit from acceptable to unacceptable

The media mostly through the film sector has been lampooned and castigated as the number one entrencher of moral degradation and disorder. This can be evidenced from the unstoppable rise in the sexual and pornographic content displayed by the media evident also from interviewee when he speaks on the pornography issue.

On the contrary, some of the documentaries that have been made have been very educative. The society has been able to appreciate other cultures through films. Documentaries have made the world a global village where people can easily learn and interact with one another. Through the media information is sent to the world quickly and people are able to react in case of emerging disasters and catastrophes. World awareness campaigns against breaking deadly diseases are now done easily through the media.  Though some feature filmmaking has become beholden to the 'high concept' model of essentially shallow blockbusters, the media has made it possible for world integration and interaction socially, economically and spiritually.

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