I went to college to study film but I got sidetracked by the video art department. It was so exciting, so radical; a utopian medium for the people by the people; stories by the unrepresented, the disenfranchised; this was the medium that gave a voice to the unheard. Film seemed so stodgy and "establishment" in comparison, even experimental film seemed uptight and self indulgent compared to video art. Sure film looked better than video, but that was because you were taught to see it as better looking, like fashion magazines had taught us to see waifs as the pinnacle of beauty, we had been trained to privilege polish over substance in our entertainment. Video was real, the special effects, if you even had access to them, were so crude they couldn't be accused of trying to fool anyone. They were honest, an uncomfortable reminder that you were watching a manipulated representation of reality, a technological version of Brecht's alienation effect.
Looking back at the large, expensive equipment we had to lug around, the claim of accessibility seems like a joke, but I guess everything is relative. A twenty minute three-quarter inch tape was much cheaper than a roll of 16mm or Super 8 film, especially once you factored in the cost of processing. And you could reuse tape, until it broke or degraded into a glitchy haze of dropout. The editing equipment was bulky, expensive and complicated, but the dream was that one day everyone would have a camera, access to editing equipment, and a means of distribution. We wouldn't just be mindless consumers of media, we would all be producers. Well, that day seems to have arrived and it's not nearly as utopian as promised, but it's still pretty exciting.
The modes of production of a high end Hollywood film and a fourteen-year old kid's skateboarding video are now strikingly similar. Hollywood is branching into digital shooting, and iMovie can perform the same edits as an Avid. Smart phones come loaded with video cameras and editing software. The internet is an instant mode of distribution, today anyone can find an audience. The numbers are mind boggling, there are 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. It's true, a lot of it is crap and can make you question the intrinsic goodness of mankind, but if you do a little work and dig a little deeper (Vimeo is a good place to start) you'll discover there are some great things being made. Substance and polish are no longer mutually exclusive. It's time to make something, something beautiful, something meaningful.