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Exercises: Film as Labor
Tackle one--that's one and only one--of the following thee questions. Structure your answer as a short, informal essay or as a list. It is your choice.
- I've made available some film clips, actual fragments of film cut from old trailers. Take one home and closely examine it. Really give it a going over. Write up your observations (say, in the form of a list with a couple of conclusions). Focus exclusively on the material features of the film. Do not speculate on matters of "content" (e.g., "I see a tree and a road." "Harrison Ford looks happy."). Do not speak to matters of theme. Again, stay away from speculations about the content of your clip. To get the most of this exercise read Ezra Pound's parable of "Agassiz and the Fish." Your assignment is to treat your film clip as Agassiz told his student to "read" the sunfish.
- View a film--any film--of your choice. Then, single out a particular scene. Make a detailed, close-to-exhaustive list--with categories that you devise--of the particular labors required to produce this scene. Of course, you ought to notice labors needed to produce the images and sounds that viewers actually experience, but dig deeper. What sorts of invisible laborers were required before the scene could be realized? For example, did caterers make sure that people on the set were fed? And who called the caterers? Once the scene was shot, what sorts of labors made it possible for you to witness what was filmed?
- View a film of your choice and write a short essay in which you speculate on possible answers to this question: Who is conceivably the author of this film? Who deserves the title? What are the possibilities? Again, speculate. Do not strive to come up with a definitive answer. Do not try to convince your reader of one right position. How does film--like other electronic media (like, say, a CD or a video game)--reveal authorship to be a concept (a historical effect of print media?), and a concept that has, in our age of electronics, become problematic?
You can contact Michael Jarrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.