Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

What Is Cinema in a Digital Age? Divergent Definitions from a Production Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

What Is Cinema in a Digital Age? Divergent Definitions from a Production Perspective

Article excerpt

Years ago, when i was in col lege studying film in a mass communications department, television was the dominant major. Many stu- dents were enamored with the entertainment it gave, the stories it told. On a summer break, I had the opportunity to work in Los Angeles on a "single-camera" television series. I was struck by the fact that its production practices had little to do with television and everything to do with film as taught in school. I knew students who had chosen to study television because they wanted to make the cinema-style shows they watched on television. As this article demonstrates, some had, in effect, entered the wrong major because of a disconnect between the academic and professional worlds, a dis- connect rooted in the lack of an accurate defini- tion of cinema from a production perspective.

Entering the professional world, I again en- countered issues related to defining cinema. Early in my career, I was hired to direct a rela- tively low-budget cinema-style series shot on videotape. As a cinema-style show, aside from budget, it was essentially identical to the cin- ema-style series I had directed on film-and the training I had received as a "film student." In addition to the money the production company saved using video instead of film, shooting on tape enabled them to produce the series under the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Freelance Live & Tape Television Agreement (FLTTA). The FLTTA was intended for "multi-camera" produc- tion but was defined by the use of tape and had a lower pay scale than the Basic Agree- ment, which was intended for cinema-style production but was defined by the use of film. These limitations in the contractual language led to my working with an out-of-his-depths multi-camera associate director rather than a qualified cinema-style assistant director.1 In 2002 the Interim Settlement Agreement (ISA) reached between the DGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers first addressed this issue by making contractual definitions more about production practice than technology-but the ISA's "single camera style" provision applied only to prime-time dramatic programming (Directors Guild, Interim Settlement 24-101). As of this writing, even the DGA's own Web page on joining the union still uses film or tape technology, rather than production practice, as the defining attribute (Directors Guild, "How to Join").

Entering academe as a professor, I was dismayed to find the issue from my youth still present. In years past, students might have mistakenly studied television because they wanted to be part of the production team that made Hill Street Blues (1981-87). Now it might be Lost (2004-10) or The Office (2005- ). The shows have changed, but the confusion has re- mained or, if anything, grown with the addition of digital technologies such as high definition, the Internet, and iPhones. I also found that these digital technologies were leading some to push for the dissolution of cinema into conver- gent terminology, theories, and curricula. Thus, what had begun as an issue of the relationship between cinema and television had now broad- ened to include new media and convergence. I wondered-from a production perspective- what is cinema? How do you define it to reflect actual professional practice? Have those an- swers changed in a converging digital age?

Countless articles and books have addressed these questions in their own way, some with titles quite similar to that of this article.2 Yet on a practical level, misunderstandings seem to be increasing as academic programs attempt to stay current. In part, this may be because the public and many in academe have not spent time on entertainment industry produc- tions. It is only natural for those unfamiliar with professional practice to think that everything made for television is best learned by studying "television production," and everything made for the Internet is "new media." In part, this may be because some who teach television production seek to include cinema-style shows because of their "high quality," whereas para- doxically, some who teach cinema production prefer to exclude them because of their "low quality. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.