The very sight of the word “SPOILERS” to my eyes in an article often results in a slight stomach turn and instantaneous need to scroll away from the following words as if the information contained within could cause some sort of irreversibly traumatizing damage to my fragile soul. The constant lookout for stray spoilers to breach my self imposed spoiler-free life can sometimes be exhausting. It’s a bit like sheltering a child from all the evils of the world. Unfortunately the inevitable will occur. Yet for some, knowing whats going to happen is an imperative element to the experience of consuming stories. What exactly drives people to either avoid or seek out spoilers? SPOILERS: I overanalyze the subject ahead.
It’s human instinct to want knowledge. The old adage “knowledge is power” rings true in most scenarios. Before entering a situation it can often be beneficial to you to know as much as possible before it as to hopefully reduce surprises. Perhaps it makes more sense than we may think to use that same instinct to want to know as much as possible entering into situations involving stories. but it can perhaps be for the same reason that people choose to withhold. Reducing the surprise is only desirable case by case.
More than ever before we have access to any and all information in a massive interlocking encyclopedia that you are currently using – The Internet. From as menial as looking up words to as vast as exploring an entire subject, The Age of Information has birthed out a generation of people who rely on the Internet for…well almost everything. As quickly as you can find out who was IN a movie, you can find out the ending of that same movie. If you google the word “spoilers” the first result is an entire website dedicated to telling you the ending to EVERY movie in theaters. They’ll even give you a iTunes gift certificate for being quick to provide the info.
Today, if you are excited about a major upcoming film you have a smorgasbord of options to tide over your excitement. Watch trailers, TV spots, follow the film on Twitter and/or Facebook for constant ‘sneak peeks’ or fun facts dispersed in your personal news feed, and even watch FULL scenes of the film days before its released. At the stroke of midnight on the eve of its release you can probably find the anticipated film in most theaters, but if you choose to go to bed early and check it out the next day, you could theoretically wake up and google the ending of the film that some midnight goers stayed up extra late typing out. Blogging it out to the masses as if they were reporting a breaking news story. All this pulls the ‘sneak peek’ curtain so far back that you begin to wonder why you still even need to ACTUALLY see the film.
A friend of mine once told me he hadn’t seen Breaking Bad, but was quick to assure me that he had read the first 4 seasons worth of episode summaries on Wikipedia so we could still discuss it if I wanted. “I don’t have time to watch 50 hours of a TV show” he said. and who’s to blame him? In almost every scenario of a modern-day young adults life in our society they are told to attempt to find the fastest and most efficient way to accomplish a task. My friend simply took this framework, saw a 50 hour way to learn the full story of Breaking Bad, and saw an alternative that would clock in around an hour or so of reading. So what exactly is he sacrificing? A whole lot.
It might not always be an easy task to convince someone investing a considerable amount more time in a piece of entertainment will reward them with a richer experience, but it is almost always the case. For example – take an art form that is nearly impossible to spoil – music. SURE you can listen to samples of each track on iTunes, but as far as knowing the ending, it’s basically a non-factor. If a friend tells you “the album ends with a kazoo solo” you at MOST could be moderately bummed that you’ll know what to expect – however it doesn’t really take away from the experience of hearing it and having your own unique feeling and reaction to it. It’s not like the interweaving story of the album reaches an apex with that kazoo solo…and if it does, stop listening to so many progressive kazoo concept albums. But almost unanimously one would agree that the more time you invest into an album, the more certain things may pop out at you as an outstanding portion of that art. Perhaps your least favorite track ends up growing on you and becomes something you appreciate for its not so immediately apparent values. The same can be said for story driven art forms like movies, TV shows, video games, or books. The more time invested in discovering how the story plays out, the deeper the connection to that story you may have.
The biggest problem with spoilers, however, is not just the lack of time you spent getting to the information at the end of any given story. By spoiling a story-driven art form you are intentionally disregarding the artists intentions and slighting yourself a potentially rewarding emotional experience. That may sound heavy-handed, but everyone as some point or another has been moved by a well told story (and if you havent, may I humbly suggest ANY FILM by directors such as David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, or Christopher Nolan – for my money, the three best modern-day American storytellers). Perhaps what many don’t realize about a well told story is that it hinges on the element of surprise.
With the prevalence of the internet and over-saturation of information available at us, the element of mystery and surprise has been sucked out of a lot of art in favor of instant gratification. Anticipation has become a feeling people prefer to avoid and combat by fulfilling a brief but easily gained urge to have what they want now in a truncated form over waiting for the full experience later.
The mixed messages of our societal functions are partly to blame for the decline of appreciation for patience and surprise-driven storytelling. We are told in many aspects of our lives that finding faster and more efficient ways to gain information is just…better. It can be hard to turn off that function when it comes to preserving the artistic merits of stories – but rest assured It’s worth it. The gratification of a well crafted and presented story is something that can never be replicated by a brief summary of events.
It’s entirely likely that you have never heard of the audio/visual artist ‘iamamiwhoami’. Like many new artists in the 21st century, using a unique viral-like unraveling internet mystery is one of the few ways to get recognized from the endless ocean of candidates all clawing for a spot in the much sought after headlines of major internet publications (because lets face it, how many of us still read the newspaper?) That’s why, at least initially, publications turned their heads when a mysterious YouTube channel with zero information other than its username ‘iamamiwhoami’ began uploading 1-minute clips of extremely well produced visuals tied together with strange, ambient / electro beats with distant, heavily distorted vocals, and a female singer consistently visually distorted as to not reveal her identity – all back in December 2009. They even caught the attention of MTV when ‘iamamiwhoami’ sent a package directly to one of their writers containing a lock of human hair, and mysterious drawings of various animals that had appeared in the videos. As far as mysterious viral artists go, this was cream of the crop, and various publications were foaming at the mouth to be the one to say ‘I totally reported on them before they revealed everything about the project’.
Well the thing is…months went by. More short clips were uploaded, and soon full songs with complete music videos followed. Each one with only a single letter as their title (B O U1 U2 N T Y). Everyone was inching forward on their seats…waiting for the big reveal…the big ‘man behind the curtain’ moment. But, it soon became clear that there would be no big reveal. These mysterious videos WERE the project. Soon the powers of the internet uncovered that Swedish folk/pop singer Jonna Lee was the woman distorted in the videos and the front-woman of the project. With that, music publications shrugged off the project, and went back to updating us on what Best Coast said on Twitter about the Lou Reed / Metallica collaboration (I’m looking at YOU Pitchfork).
The reveal of who was behind this all actually proved to really not be the driving force of the all the mystery, because the videos kept on coming with no explanation behind them. If you watch the videos in chronological order, Jonna becomes more and more easily identifiable, so I’m sure she realized it was only a matter of time before people figured this out. The true shock is that still to this day Jonna Lee has never officially stated she’s involved with the project, or who else is.
Maybe to some, that could seem like a disappointment. That these veils of mystery distract from the art. But I would have to argue that something as carefully constructed, heavily layered, and well-planned is innovation on a level unseen before. Ironically, something this mysterious can ONLY have legs to stand on with the help of the Internet, despite the Internet seemingly representing the over-indulgence in information that the project rebels from.
It’s simple to call something like this ‘gimmicky’ but there is no denying its bravery. In an age built on instant gratification, and almost COMPLETE lack of mystery (go ahead and google the answer to anything you’ve ever wanted to know), the ‘iamamiwhoami’ project is choosing to provide that mystery. ZERO interviews, ZERO promotion, and ZERO explanation of all the many layers of symbolism that fans have discovered trace back to outlandish source material like mandragora folklore. Its worth noting this choice goes against just about every typical ‘rise to fame’ move you could pull. If you think we’re ever gonna see an ‘iamamiwhoami’ song in a Coke commercial, I would suggest not holding your breath.
This project has brilliantly accomplished the unthinkable in The Age of Information: gain a rabid loyal fan base by doing absolutely nothing beyond putting their art on a tray for the taking. If you are a fan of ‘iamamiwhoami’ its because you are a fan of the art itself, simply because there is NO other aspect to the project.
I would be lying if I said this project has gotten no recognition, but it is the way that the artists behind this have handled the recognition and praise that is truly worth noting. At the 2011 Swedish Grammis Awards, ‘iamamiwhoami’ won for “Innovator of the Year”. How did they accept this award? An anonymous woman approached the stage with an envelope that she was told to open in the event they won. Inside the envelope: a blank piece of paper. Before leaving the stage the woman said ‘Thank you. That’s all I am allowed to say.” This unrelenting commitment to not break character is something to respect, especially considering the projects marriage to mystery.
There is a reason the project has such a dedicated fan-base. The rewards of the unknown, and the sense of surprise the project offers is something that many from my generation lack. The convenience of having everything at your fingertips comes at the price of losing the wonder of discovery. It’s no surprise that people have such a strong reaction to the project. ‘iamamiwhoami’ is providing what for many has been lost. In this Digital Age, that’s a little bit of magic.
Watch the latest video from ‘iamamiwhoami’ titled ‘sever’ below, which is the first video in the next chapter for the project: a full-length audio-visual album titled ‘kin’ which is to be released on June 11th 2012.
Just the other night I finished up a very rough cut of all the scenes we’ve shot so far. The cut has some scenes missing since we still have 1 more day left to shoot, but it currently rests it’s rather large head at 25min. Don’t get too attached to that number however. The scenes certainly run slow, and definitely could use some tightening up. The film is beginning to feel less like soup and more like a gelatinous jello-like substance. I’d imagine this is what it must be like to raise a child. See your creation slowly form from a thought in your head to a very tangible being. This baby is still in early adolescence, but it’s birth has been rather smooth. I still don’t feel comfortable showing anyone this small child though. I want to protect him from any outside influences, but I know that can be a rather unhealthy way to grow up. One needs some social interaction, and once my film feels solid enough for some social critique, it will be shown to my peers for feedback. The film will most likely be done in March and get an exclusive pre-screening at the Viz Cinema theater in SF for all of you eager to check it out before it begins to be submitted for some film festivals around the Bay Area and beyond. I also have some exciting news in regards to the films soundtrack that I can’t quite reveal yet until documents are set in stone…
Running time is actually much more important to the film than you may think. Many festivals will not accept films over 15min (and sometimes 10-12) for the “short film” category. It’s something I have been deeply struggling with as I don’t know if this story can properly be told in that time. If the film doesn’t naturally work its way down to that length, I’ve considered the possibility of having multiple cuts. A “Directors Cut” featuring every last moment with these characters that I’d love for you to spend together, and a slimmed down streamlined “Festival Cut” which would probably have to shave off some of the more revealing / insightful character moments in favor of moving the plot forward like a speeding train. Not something I will probably be too fond of considering the tone and theme of the story. It will feel much more natural for it to have a slower pace.
Progress continues at a steady pace for this project. If you’ve been following the film on Facebook you probably already have a sense of the daily schedule of events, but to catch you up to speed, I’ve decided to implement a fan-decided release schedule for the series of short Behind the Scenes videos. Upon reaching 50 and 75 fans on Facebook I have released them, all of which you can check out HERE. There is one last video set to release when the page hits 100 (currently at 90) so invite away to see it sooner.
Recently got some more production stills from my photographer / behind the scenes cameraman Kyle Lester. Some of my favorite shots have made it up to the Facebook, and here’s just a couple (check out the rest HERE)
I feel as if I have just come off of a centrifuge ride at one of those terrifyingly unsafe traveling carnivals. I’ve exhausted a large dose of mental energy and cannot be more happy because of it. My next film “Nuclear Family” has just shot its first full weekend of shooting and is about halfway done with production. The footage is looking incredible, the actors have a full sense of their characters, the crew has been extremely helpful and focused, and I have no doubt that this film will be my best film yet.
This shoot has been a huge learning experience for me. My previous film “Frank’s Mug” was a crew of about 6 over 2 shoot days. This weekend had a crew of 9-10 (depending on the day) and will end up having 6 shoot days and is a larger production in just about every way. My mind was being juggled around. Now in the aftermath it has become a bit easier to understand what exactly happened.
The cast and crew spent the weekend with me on location in the SF peninsula hills. Without complaint they went through a shoot completely on the payroll of ‘love for the craft’. It was a humbling experience to see so many people push themselves creatively to the limit and I feel honored to have had that sort of devoted help.
Friday and Saturday felt like similar days. They were well-paced relaxed shoots. My favorite shot from Day 1 involved an elaborate set-up for a long take that took us from the backyard all the way through the house into the living room for a well-timed character action. With the help of cellphone communication, well placed lights, and Dakota’s tireless shoulders we got the shot in just a few takes. The shot is about a minute and a half and is gorgeous. Saturday, without giving away too much, involved an untrained dog (my dog). There’s something they tell young filmmakers: avoid using animals. Going into it, I warned the crew we may be up for a challenge of patience to get the shot we needed. In a sort of culmination of factors on our side, the shots took about an hour and were mostly painless. Unless someone scraped their knee and I was unaware of it. The shots, also, look incredible.
Sunday was a bit more challenging. Through the day we shot a scene in a moving car with a car mount, getting our last shot within 5 minutes of sunset. Blood vessels were popped. Through the evening, we shot the films most intense dialogue sequence featuring the full family and tons of angles. Pushing through the long day, the cast and crew stuck with it and stayed focused. While we didn’t stay on schedule as we had with Friday and Saturday, the Sunday shoot was still an overwhelming success. I got home in a daze, and passed out (well after watching the latest episode of “Dexter”. I can’t miss that).
This weekend has been incredible, and is the first tangible feeling that this film is really coming along. It’s been over a year since I began plotting out this film, and it will still be about 6 more months before it’s completed, but I couldn’t be happier with how it’s coming together. You will see it as soon as I can get it to your eyes. For now, enjoy a very brief behind the scenes look at “Nuclear Family”:
Last night my new band The ElectroSonic Chamber finally played our first show / event.
To add a bit of history, before talking about the show, this is a project that had been slowly cooking up since December. After me and Wilfred worked together on the short made-in-an-hour stream of conscious psychedelic / musical shorts “Grandpa From Beyond” and “Incident at the Center of the Universe: The Cosmic Triathlon” we began to work on a longer film idea that would share the same spirit as these shorts with real production value and time put into it.