Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters
socratic

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Much of the art of film-making is juxtaposition. While things like camera work, lighting, and acting are important, it is frequently how they are put together that makes the difference between a good film and a bad one. Films are shot on the set and directed in the editing room. If one wanted to compare it to the writing process one might say that the actual shooting phase is the research and outlining of a movie while the post production process is the actual drafting and polishing of a text. Sometimes there is a scene or an angle that is desperately needed and then you have reshoots, expensive proceedings that require you to gather the actors back together, pull sets out of storage, and recreate the world so you can get what you need into the room and then into the film.

Why am I saying this, well part of it comes from my recent purchase of the camera. I spent part of this morning playing with it a little, taking about 8 minutes of video of various things around the house and then watching it. Most of it was shit, shots of walking down the hallway or panning over some cacti or using the optical and digital zooms to their maximum to try and read the license plate of a car about 200 meters away. As part of this experiment in self-indulgent filming, however, I got some shots of my cat. Some of them are actually quite interesting, including one zoomed in table-level shot of her playing with a mouse-shaped toy. I'm not saying that I'd use that shot in a project, it's pretty conventional and there's not that much room in fiction for a cat playing with a toy mouse, but it's a beautiful piece of footage and as I embark on this journey I am going to make a concerted effort to worry about how many of those I can get and not how big my reel of discarded lousy footage gets. One of the advantages of working on video is that if something isn't good you can write over it and not waste the tape. Part of me wants to buy like 12 more mini DV tapes and fill them with whatever I feel like. I won't. Instead I'll learn how to upload stuff to my computer and keep what I like on my hard drive. Like that pussy footage. Who doesn't like adorable pussy footage?

The other reason I mentioned this is that I think it reveals something about writing that a lot of people don't realize, or at least don't think about enough. There's no such thing as true creative fiction, there's only novel juxtaposition of truths. Okay, that might be stating the point a bit too strongly, but the underlying concept is sound. People say that truth is stranger than fiction, and the reason for this is that fiction is constrained by reality but the opposite is not true. Reality is what it is, whether we can conceive of the depth and complexity of it or not. I know this is a somewhat controversial viewpoint, seeing as the relativists are currently running the asylum, but I'm a realist and I think it's the only rational system of beliefs one can hold. That's not even getting into elements of religion or spirituality or any of that, all I'm saying is that in the end, when you boil it all down, there is some sort of objective reality out there. I think therefore I am. All that stuff. Whether that reality bears any resemblance to the reality you or I perceive and whether it actually MATTERS is a different issue. The point I'm making is that it exists despite or regardless of our lack of perception of it. There's something out there, whatever it may be.

There is nothing in fiction that is not distilled, rather directly, from reality, or at least our perception of it. In ancient times monsters used to be mere combinations of animals, like the Manticore, which was a simple human/lion/scorpion combination. As we evolved beyond that simplicity we combined more parts or radically resized things. Now our monsters have space ships and tentacles and are sometimes invisible or other times can kill us in our dreams. All of these aspects are juxtapositions of elements of truths. Tentacles are real, space ships are real (and even when they were fiction they were just combinations of real things) invisible enemies are real (Can you say bacteria?) and dreams+the fear of death have been a winning combination since the first time Ogg the caveman woke up in a cold sweat thinking the saber tooth tiger was bearing down on him, only to find that it had existed only in his head. Of course before he could consult Dr. Freugg to find out what it meant he was eaten by a real saber tooth tiger, but that's besides the point.

The point is that fiction is what we make from reality. It is what happens when you combine perception fear instinct and sentience in a head, allow them to marinate for awhile, and then turn the spigot and withdraw some of the ingredients via the mouth. An author's head is like a film maker's editing room. This is an important realization for me. It helps me bring together two of the things I want to do in my life and remind me of the importance of novel and interesting experience. After all you can't put something into your movie if you haven't shot it. You can't put it in your story if you haven't experienced it, at least at some level.

I was going to discuss things like other author's works and media representing stock footage and the impossibility of conceiving of a different emotional system than the one humans have, but I don't think it's necessary. The observation stands on its own. If you want to try to knock it down you're welcome to, but I think it's rooted deeper than you might believe.
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