Thursday, October 15, 2009

Letter to a film student

Why does every programme have to be a constant swirl of epilepsy-inducing flashes, pop-ups and fast lights?

By Claude Carpentieri

Dear film student,

You don't know me, I don't know you, but I thought I'd write this after watching BBC Panorama -Why Hate Ryanair, the controversial half hour investigation into the airline run by millionaire Michael O'Leary.

This is not about our worthless opinion on the so-called 'no frills carrier'. Instead, I'm here to tell you about the way Panorama was filmed, which is in line with most contemporary UK programmes. I'm talking about that erratic camera, the one you hold, the one that appears incapable of sitting still for any longer than literally one second.

So this is the thing. Do they teach you that at university? Is it a new trend? Do they tell you that to be 'cool', it has to be mega-fast at all times, no matter what the programme's about? Is it to do with attention spans? What is it?

Why does every programme have to be a constant swirl of epilepsy-inducing flashes, pop-ups and fast lights? What's the deal with all those fast-forwarded bits and pieces, bursting and gleaming like the most neurotic Aphex Twin stuff?

Is it now mandatory to have every bit clipped to the extreme, textbook ADHD, jittery as a rollercoaster, as if the cameraman had swallowed an entire jar of speed and then proceeded to film from the side of a Ferrari at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix? Who decided that? Why on earth? Why? It's not cool, it's confusing, it's annoying, it gives you epilepsy, it drives you insane!

Not to mention the music. You and I will be fucked if there is any longer than 10 seconds without some music in the background. Except that it's not even in the background. It's in the foreground, because more often than not it's louder than the narrator's voice. And it's got absolutely FA to do with the content of the programme. Like, what's Radiohead got to do with Ryanair?

So here's my plea, dear film students. Don't listen to your lecturers. Ignore whatever it is that they're telling you. Please stop it now. I can't take it anymore. Every single British programme or film is now being shot in the style of a 3-minute happy hardcore video.

The world went a good fifty years with cameras being held steady, nice and horizontal for longer than a second. Memorable films, programmes and documentaries were made. I'm not saying that everything should look like the Queen's Christmas message. You can still experiment, like many directors and filmmakers did for decades (adding their own personal touch and so on) without turning everything into a televisual equivalent of a panic attack in a nightclub.

But this? What's all this? You can't watch anything anymore, whether it's Antiques Roadshow or the Xtra Factor, without getting sweaty palms as you start to believe the world is like a permanent Hurricane Katrina.

In the hope that you'll excuse my rant, I wish you a happy day.

Hagley Road to Ladywood.

9 comments:

Optimistic Cynic said...

Very true.

I'm convinced it's one of the reasons that I now watch ITV4 which is full of things like Rumpole and Upstairs Downstairs. If you watch them you realise how relaxing they are to watch because they cut so rarely.

They actually trust themselves enough to know that they can put something on screen that will keep an audience rather than thinking they have to cut quickly to stop you getting bored.

Watch Civilisation with Kenneth Clarke. There's a man, on a staircase, talking about art for 1 or 2 minutes at a time, and it's still brilliant TV. Today, you'd have to have some split screen re-enactment scene or some ambient music.

The blame lies squarely with people who believe that we're all (whether 14,30 or 60) part of the MTV generation. That for some reason, despite the fact that humans don't evolve at this speed, we've got less of an attention span than our grandparents.

PhilH said...

The goals on Football Focus.

One camera angle please.

That is all I have to say.

Stan Moss said...

Absolutely!
An example is Champions League Weekly Preview.
Watch it at your peril.
High doses in some cases can produce delirium, panic, hallucinations and feelings of paranoia.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Blame young people, show business is full of them...

Carina said...

I completely agree - I was watching this programme on surveillance a couple of months ago and BBC must have considered it a fab idea to keep going in and out of focus on whoever was speaking, to indicate the "surveillance" aspect - it would have been enough to do it once, rather than constantly (we get the clever camera trick) - I actually couldn't carry on watching it, it gave me motion sickness! See for yourself:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/whos_watching_you/default.stm

Carina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen Highwater said...

It's those French Nouvelle Vague guys who are to blame! Oh hang on, they were doing films, not documentaries....

Madam Miaow said...

Seconded. Please stop fiddling with your bits and allow us to watch the programme.

TJ said...

Well it's not all bad. There's still Adam Curtis:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAluyt5_kic