Conclusions of the Culture
Well, Iceland as a place has exceeded expectations to say the least. It is as weird and wonderful as it claims to be – built upon super-heated volcanic rocks on the edge of an arctic wilderness. Reykjavik seems to be the only real city on the whole island – the rest of the country is built up of tiny towns roughly the size of our university campus.
Crucially, everyone is very friendly. Even those living out in the wilderness seem familiar with tourism – I haven’t come across one angry Icelandic person in the entire trip, not even in the airport!
Another great thing about the people as well – they seem to be happy. Of course, everyone living in Tenerife was happy too, but that was a different style. Hot sunshine with beaches and cocktails makes everyone happy – up here in the cold and the dark, it was a different kind of happiness. I also noted a ‘oneness’ with nature – all the water was heated by nature, and all the energy used was either solar powered (like the cottages), or thermal powered (like the majority of Reykjavik). This meant that people left the lights on all the time – there was no need to conserve power, as the power was from nature anyway. It formed a guilt-free existence.
Although I was rather low-brow at seeing whale on the menu, I did some research and found that not the Minke Whale, nor the Puffin, nor the Arctic Char, were endangered. All the food on the menus – although they sounded like endangered species, were actually completely legit. One tourist t-shirt in the tourist centre actually had a picture of a whale ‘fluke flapping’, with the words ‘Kill Em All’ under it. But it was a joke – a joke Iceland can get away with. The people here seem aware that nature is their friend. It’s almost a country of hippies – but happy hippies at that. They seem to be living life the way it should be lived – no war, no politics, and hardly any financial trouble.
Yes, this may just be the way I am supposed to see it, but certainly it seemed a very relaxed place – with auroras over your head at night, and so much beautiful scenery and natural spas around you during the day, who wouldn’t be? The seemingly self-sustaining guilt-free existence is the cherry on top!
Conclusions of the Genre
I had a chance to study Experimental Narrative last year, but turned it down for Short Film because I didn’t think the former was marketable to a wider audience (and thus not financially beneficial in getting a job post-graduation). I have to say, after this project, I still feel exactly the same way. Martyn’s project ‘Solveig’s Homecoming’ will clock in at around an hour, but he has a clear vision about what he wants his audience to feel. His story is ‘experimental’, but it still has a ‘narrative’.
That so many students had left their films until this point, and decided to make their artefacts up overnight, was sort of a shock to me – is it really that easy? When I visited the Tate Modern, I said that “everything in it was so reductionist and simplistic that anything could be classed as art, so long as you put the correct amount of bullsh*t in text next to it”. In visual and audio forms, audiences should never have to read what they were supposed to feel – they are simply supposed to experience it for what it is.
Thus, this genre treads a fine line between being interesting and being boring. Those are really the only two responses you can get. I asked Martyn where he planned to show his film, and the verdict is still out on that one. I thought a decent art gallery, such as ones in Nottingham, Birmingham or Manchester – I think it would fit nicely as a film that people could wonder in to, and sample the voice over and beautiful scenery (and the visuals are indeed beautiful – it was hard not to take a bad shot in Iceland!). The beauty of the piece will hold people’s attention, but the verdict is still out on whether it will hold them for an hour. I’m pretty sure there will also be experimental film festivals around the UK and abroad, where people are willing to see film more as an art form than a money-making process (which is, sadly, what I’m being trained into developing).
When I tried to suggest ideas for student’s experimental films, they just turned me down by saying my ideas ‘made too much sense’. But at least they understood my ideas. Understanding in turn makes my ideas understandable to an audience, and that makes them marketable. Marketable means money, and that means I chose correctly in my eyes. My own art (and indeed heart and passion) is in another style of film making entirely. I was curious to see if my thoughts would change during this project, but all I can think about is Broken Flowers every time a project of this style appears…
Conclusions of the Course (This is a brave one!)
If Iceland and the experimental narrative genre were not the only things I was sampling out there, it was the CCM students and their course as well. There is a lot of sibling rivalry between their course and my own, and I’ve never known why – CCM students have always been classed as the academic equivalent of the ‘working’ M-Pro students, which has needless to say given birth to this one-up attitude which was always going to surface during this project.
For starters, I’ll say I’ve just played in a fencing Varsity event at Warwick University – CCM students are nowhere near as academic as those lot. If there is some stigma about CCM being posh, let me tell you – they ain’t. Warwick Uni is still relatively fresh in my mind, and the students there are worlds apart from anyone at Coventry Uni. Not in a bad way, they’re just different. They seemed friendly enough (perhaps a little tantrum-ish at times), but they got the job done, and so did we. Out in Iceland, despite the fact that there were two self-proclaimed CCM ‘divas’ in the group, I’m sorry but I don’t buy it. Time to hold the hands up and say that Coventry University is not the best university in Britain, and we’re all ‘in it’ together after graduation, regardless of course. There are no divas here, just us students.
But let me take that acronym ‘CCM’ – Communications, Culture and Media. The word I was drawn to here was ‘culture’ – I was thinking they’d be a lot more engaged than I was about the new and wonderful things around us. Actually, I was quite surprised – margarita pizza and spaghetti bolognese were the order of the day a lot of the time, as were Chinese dishes and any variants of Italian restaurants. Comfort and happiness are key on trips like this, that’s a given. I was just expecting… I don’t know, some greater level of engagement. Everyone was enthusiastic about the Blue Lagoon spa, but that was a spa. Anyone can be enthusiastic about a spa! Sometimes you have to take a bullet for sampling new culture, because that’s what’s part of the fun. I would recommend for future experiences for the students to push themselves out their comfort zones more – start with different foods, but then go to unusual places. Don’t say that you ‘don’t ‘do’ mountains’ – just walk up, experience, see, and feel. If it is the chosen profession to study culture, it is almost imperative that this happens.
Spotlight on the director, and I owe him a big debt of gratitude. Not only has he delivered to me the first university-fronted professional experience that will further my showreel and portfolio, but he has also added one CD to my collection, and got me out of financial trouble when it arose on the last day. Never mind the whisky in the lagoon, or the epic amount of driving he did to get us where we needed to go – I think we should all be very thankful to have had a lecturer as solid as him fronting this project. Given the isolation involved in the second half of the trip, we really needed one!
Although our number was small – which made this project a lot more intimate than a lot of others – I got the feeling that he had our backs, and although he gave us room to do ‘what students do’ (i.e. get drunk, get lost, fall out, make up etc.) he was always around if we needed his help. I am always a ‘lone ranger’ on this sort of expedition, but it was nice to know the support was there (as I did indeed need to fall back on it eventually!) It’s also funny that although two of our group were only briefly with the M-Pro group, they claimed to have been effectively abandoned after only spending ten minutes with them (Cringe!)
And to bring Media Production into this – yes, everyone had their fall-outs on this trip (my blog naturally shows me getting more and more agitated in the later days!), but this would have happened with my own course mates anyway ( / has happened in the past). We were in the cottages, and we were trapped. No room to maneuver. We’ve all gone into the arctic, and we’ve all made it back alive without killing each other. For that we should be proud – we all did very well!
The most wound up I got though was when others thought they could do my job without me. It is a common misconception that anybody can pick up a camera and make a film. There is truth in the statement – anyone can pick up a camera and make a film. A sh*t one. I have been making films for over three years now. It is my profession – it is what I am depending on to pay my debt off when I leave. I am experienced at directing, producing, and film making. Thus, if I say you can’t make a steady shot with my camera over undulating marshes, it is insulting to me when people claim they can do it better, and try and do it themselves. Twice the pride, double the fall, certainly. But if that had anything to do with this sibling rivalry of ‘CCM can do M-Pro work’, again let me tell you – you can’t.
Media Production is about producing media. CCM is about studying it. Without us making the films, in this aspect of the industry all CMM students are out of a job. I have no doubt that CCM is the more academic course, but this does not mean they can operate cameras and direct films as well as we can.
Small rant over though, I think we are not so different. Without CCM students, us M-Pros would be producing out of date stuff, as we wouldn’t know what the media of tomorrow would be (thus we’d be out of a job too!). All they need to do is ‘RTFM’ on some cameras, and all we need to do is just ‘read’ – but neither of us will, because at the end of the day, out there in the world we’re going to need each other’s skills to get into our professions. This makes the underlying rivalry a little dumb and professionally pointless if you ask me – see, Warwick University have hardly any media courses, probably because there’s ‘no room for media in proper academia’. THAT’S RIVALRY!
Hopefully though I have represented my course in a good light – I’m not always the most sociable, but always reliable, dependable and (evidently) honest. I hope I’ve done Martyn’s project well and done it to the degree he wanted – I always do my best at everything I do, but this project had some very strange and testing film work going on, not least trying to steady-cam in a car on a gravel road! This project has given me a good run-through of the Canon 5D, and using DSLR cameras to make feature films – namely, a pivotal technological step forward in my career and my professional practice portfolio! For that, I am grateful – it has been a wonderful project, in a wonderful country, with some awesome people!
…But What About The Poem?
The poem never got made (semantics). But I still hope to make this poem before the PPP deadline, although that will be some time after my FMP ‘Peter Has An Angel’ has been filmed!