FLM110 Topic 11 – Spectacle

As film and technology advance, so do the techniques and ability to fully immerse our audiences in our narratives and storytelling. Unfortunately, so erodes the need for the craft of storytelling. While great storytelling and narrative still exists – spectacle can provide a crutch for films where narrative falls short. It’s important to make it clear that this hasn’t ruined the art of storytelling – at least in my opinion it just makes the great stories really stand out.

3D animation, audio, green screens and editing are advancing in leaps and bounds and further draw audiences in and make it more difficult to break the third wall. In our viewing of Birth of a Nation in class, we discussed how the fact that a story can be told with the technology in 1915, it really provides no excuse for filmmakers in 2017. On the contrary, Michael Bay is a director known for spectacle, and on a more recent note, a film such as Baby Driver feature little to no character development and narrative, but provide exciting and explosive spectacle and retain audience engagement in that way. Spectacle can also refer to advertising campaigns that immerse the audience more completely, such as The Dark Knight’s immersive advertising campaign featuring clues and scavenger hunts or (in the music industry) Bjork’s Biophilia mobile app that more completely immerses the audience in her music.

As an audio engineer working with filmmakers, it would be a great asset to begin using technologies such as 3D and immersive sound to further immerse audiences and re-enforce the third wall between filmmakers, actors, story and audience. Foley panned beyond hard left and right can immerse audiences more completely, with the ability to provide sound in front of, beside and behind (and everywhere in-between) the listener.

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Film and audience

Audience is a really interesting on for me, as an audio student and engineer, as I watch film similarly to how film students may listen to music. There’s an appreciation but it’s also difficult to understand entirely what is happening. When I listen to music – I hear the reverbs and instruments and rooms and automation mixing tricks. I’m completely immersed, as I am when I watch films, but in a different way. It’s because of this that I prefer to watch films in a typical cinema setting rather than an exhibition space.

I like to be immersed in whatever I’m doing, and I think exhibition spaces can take away from this. At least in my experience, films played in art galleries as part of exhibitions can be very compelling and engaging, but the environment lends itself to chatter, socialising and noise. This isn’t something I generally associate with being immersed in a piece of work – musical or otherwise. This can of course depend on the the type of film being shown – a romantic comedy would never work in an exhibition space because it contains (usually) linear narrative, and characters that develop. Something more avant garde or structural might be better intended to watched quickly, socialised in front of in a more exhibition type setting.

It’s important to thin about these different types of film and setting in relation to the time and place they’re consumed. In more typical narrative films, I engage with the emotions of the characters and find myself relating to them in one way or another. Similarly, more artistic/exhibiton style films often force the audience to create their own meaning, and I find myself relating to them in a more personal way – usually based around whatever I’m dealing with at the time. Both of these can make me feel happy, or sad, and that’s art is about – feeling something.