Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Internet and Contemporary Entertainment: Rethinking the Role of the Film Text

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Internet and Contemporary Entertainment: Rethinking the Role of the Film Text

Article excerpt

IN 2001, JEFF GORDINIER, A WRITER FOR ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, spotted a trend among younger filmmakers working in Hollywood. He claimed that these filmmakers used a diversity of media forms available in consumer culture as a base to reconstruct how a story is told. Describing these filmmakers as the "Play Station Generation," after the popular video-game system created by Sony, Gordinier asserted that these directors "mess with narrative in new ways . . . mess with time, with space, with the laws of physics and the structure of story." He argued that filmmakers like the Wachowski Brothers, Spike lonze, and Paul Thomas Anderson "bring to their movies the cut-and-paste sensibility of video games and the Internet" (qtd. in Wood i). This is more than a postmodern narrative strategy whereby a media text absorbs aspects of competing leisure activities in an attempt to meld media forms and attract attention within a cluttered consumer culture. It is also a filmmaking process that promotes varying levels of involvement among viewers who have grown accustomed, in the contemporary entertainment environment, to more direct interaction than ever with texts. Video games and the Internet are interactive by their very nature, needing a consumer to continually engage with them through either a controller or mouse. The integration of these media with filmmaking practices has yet to find an adequate place within the academic study of contemporary entertainment.

The effects of this integration between feature films and interactive media are best seen in the extras provided on DVDs. Besides the film text, DVDs often include commentary tracks by directors, stars, and other key creative personnel; behind-the-scenes documentaries; deleted scenes; and outtakes. Directors now are as involved in creating DVD features as they are in creating their films. Doug Wick, one of the producers of Ridley Scott's Gladiator (the top-selling DVD title in 2000, with over 3.5 million sold) described how the interactive aspects of the form work with the viewer: "DVD has just been another way to interest audiences, get them more excited about movies, give them more information, get them excited about the choices you make, about what scenes you put in and what scenes you don't" (qtd. in "DVDs"). To this end, the extras provide another marketing hook for the DVD itself, emphasizing the film as only one option in the entertainment package. In addition to offering a range of material, DVDs also permit the viewer to engage the material in any order he or she sees fit. For example, beginning in 2001 New Line Home Entertainment included the Infíniñlm mode on certain DVDs; pop-up menus throughout the film allow viewers to easily access the extras that correspond with particular scenes. As Matt Lasorsa, then the senior vice-president of marketing for New Line Home Entertainment, explained, lnfinifilm is designed for the people who have already seen the movie, who won't feel that the pop-ups are interruptions, jumping from the movie to a different area ___ Here's a more unique way to explore some of the themes while still giving them the choice of when they want to jump out of the movie. People who choose to view in the lnfinifilm mode are really seeing the added-value features in a non-linear way. (qtd. in "Building" 56)

The features of DVDs integrate filmmaking with the more interactive aspects of new media (such as video games and the Internet) to such an extent that classical narrative definitions no longer apply. The multimedia aspects of this particular format foreground the question: What is the actual text?

As the text becomes increasingly difficult to pinpoint within the multimedia approach to entertainment production, new media outlets such as the Internet provide a space to discuss how contemporary film may function in a venue that continually collapses advertising, entertainment, and information. In 2001, one of the most successful Internet film series to date merged these aspects seamlessly. …

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