As far back as time can go, people have needed ways to entertain themselves and others. One of the main ways of the past was through stage productions, whether they be plays, musicals, or operas. They were held in theaters for groups of people, and even though they had high costs to run, they usually profited off of sales, and kept people coming back for more.
Within the past 100 years, tools have been invented that allow people to record their stories onto film, and allow for an experience that could be replayed, transitioning from stage to screen. Websites like The American Widescreen Museum exist as an online database preserving many of
Hollywood’s defining technologies, and are certainly useful in looking at films of the past, but my goal is to focus on the present, and future.
In the years that passed before the invention of computers, screenplays were written via typewriter, or the even more antiquated pen and paper. When the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography broke ground in 1919, in Russia of all places, it was one of the first schools to specialize in filmmaking. Interestingly, during the period of the Soviet Union, it was required to attend this school if you wanted to direct a film. Now, just about every college in America offers some sort of film program, even here at Rowan University.
While the University has the film major bulked in with radio and television, it offers some resourceful courses that were previously unavailable to aspiring filmmakers. Film Scenario Writing, which is a class I’ve taken, guides students on the process of drafting a script, and for the final assignment, we wrote scripts of our own, which were workshopped in class. According to Rowan’s RTF Course Page, “by viewing contemporary movies and studying plotting, point-of-view, character creation and dialogue, students learn how a film script is put together and write an original script.”
Other film-based courses offered in the major include Film History & Appreciation, along with Film Production I & II, which cover a wide range of techniques and time periods, introducing students to digital as well as 16mm film. Rowan even offers more abstract courses such as Film Noir, and Contemporary International Cinema. A vast array of material exists now in educating people who want to become filmmakers, and in the Digital Age it is far more accessible than previous eras. But is this a good thing?
According to The British Film Institute, a total of 698 films were released in 2013. That’s 13 films premiering per week. This saturation of the market has been fueled by the industry’s conversion to digital techniques, which makes the entire process a lot easier than in the past. Nowadays, with enhancements in quality, cameras are more crystal clear, and digitized film negates the need for physical tape to be used, and large apparatuses to be carried around and maintained.
In fact, the technology required to make a film has become smaller as well with films like Escape From Tomorrow, which follows a couple and their children around Disneyworld as weird events begin happening. The film, which was shot in the park without the company’s permission, employed guerrilla tactics in order for its production, and was recorded stealthily with handheld microphones and cameras. A movie could even be shot, and edited entirely with a smartphone in this day and age.
Today, screenplays are drafted in programs like Final Draft, which also properly formats the script, allowing for a simpler writing experience. But with all of this new technology that allows directors to direct with at least a little more ease than in the past, we still get the same concepts and narratives thrown at us time and time again.
The internet allows us to research and learn about things we can use in storytelling to form a plot, but rather than put money behind interesting stories that are thoughtfully developed, big Hollywood companies crank out the same computer generated children’s movies, and superhero action flicks, all with the same cookie cutter good vs. evil plot lines.
Real innovation and artistry come from the underground, with students who are putting what they’ve learned to good use and creating fresh productions, backed with narratives that have hours upon hours of work put into them. Programs like Rowan’s help these students think outside the box, and employ different styles of writing and cinematography. So while roughly 600 films are released per year, this market clutter just makes it harder to find the true masterpieces, which are still there, and more captivating than ever before.