Cinematography and Magic
“The means of expression can become so exquisitus that you wind up expressing nothing.” Dai Vernon quoting Da Vinci.
What does film have in common with magic? It can be easy to lose ourselves in acquiring the newest shiny piece of gear without achieving mastery of what we already possess. I for one admit that I’ve fallen into this trap (and still do from time to time.)
I’ve seen books that teach us about the philosophy of curbing procrastination and adopting a “do it now” mentality. All (most) of these I have gripes with. But Brian Griffin said it best when intoxicated, “Put down the fork!” In other words, put down the book and practice what you preach.
We see it almost daily with drones, gliders, the matrix effect, go pros, and selfie sticks. New toys for which the mass market can jump on. But people eventually wise up when they reach the limitations. Products are pushed in front of us on a daily basis with the promise of enhanced productivity at a quicker rate. I’ve had the unfortunate, but liberating, experience of having my electronics stolen overseas. I started to take chances and appreciate the analogue/real world without the safety net that technology provides. I learned that life is meant to be lived and experienced.
As Westerners, we’re constantly pushing new frontiers and boundaries. But once in a while, we need to slow down and appreciate those who take the time to devote their passion and mastery to the limitations of one medium.
The more I dive into studying magic, the more I strip myself of the “tricks” that anyone can pick up and learn right away. I have immeasurable respect for the classic routines and professors, namely the late Dai Vernon, who devoted the majority of his life to studying the teachings of a single book. He believed in performance and naturality over the display of skill.
As for film making, the kid in me definitely wants to tinker with the gadgets. But when it comes down to the knit and grit of editing, I don’t believe I’m anywhere near what this medium can achieve. To say that watching movies is a learning experience is an understatement. Sound, light, movement, colour, framing, assembly, all remaining perfectly invisible and carefully constructed to make the viewer feel a certain way. This is what Da Vinci meant by expression.
I get it, we can pick and choose from various sources, that’s one of the benefits of modern accessibility. And once in a while, breakthrough services change their respective landscape forever. But like the countless gems hidden in literature, there is something to respecting the classics.