Cannes Film Festival award winning director, Peter Greenaway is on the judging panel for MachinimUWA III: Journeys, and will be guest speaker of honour for the Grand Finale event of MachinimUWA III from 6am slt on Sunday the 22nd of May. Following his review of all entries, and his selection of a top 11, this is what he had to say:
"Perhaps I seldom found what I was looking for - BUT - there is virtue in these eleven ..... and all fifty should keep moving, never stopping, keep going, holding on, getting stronger, fighting 'the slings and arrows', getting better and better all the time."
He was then kind enough to answer a series of questions on Machinima that had been constructed by MindBlind Setsuko and myself, for this blog, and for other publications in Australia and Italy.
"And here's some answers to the questions - and you can see where I am heading for better and yet better and yet better machinimas."
1 - What are your overall thoughts on second life machinima? We are looking for a new audio-visual format after the exhausted death of cinema - it has to be capable of handling the breadth and depth of big ideas and it has to be more immediate than cinema ever was - and what we don't want is a digital medium that simply copies cinema. Cocteau said "Be original or astonish me". Show me something I have not seen before or show me what I have seen before but show it to me differently. Not an easy task with so much visual excitement flying around but it does happen otherwise we would not have Picasso building on Velasquez or Warhol making soup-tins philosophical, or Pollock dripping house-paint to confound the realists of figuration. You have to start somewhere - and I suggest let's find out why cinema failed, reseach the negatives and then start to rebuild avoiding the last set of negative traps. Cinema dies because of four tyrannies.
Number One - the killer tyranny - TEXT - most cinema is illustrated text - it should have primarily been a visual medium - but the visuals nine times out of ten take second place to the narrative text - cinema is largely an illustrative medium - picking its way along a text line - making pictures out of words - and usually words written by somebody else and not the cinema maker. Text has not been good enough for cinema cinema .... and first off - the machinima must not be merely an ilustration of text - so break with the bookshop once and for all - and also - and this is more difficult because everyone thinks we communicate largely by telling stories - step out that idea that cinema and machinmas must tell stories. The story, the narrative, the plot does not exist in the natural world - it is a man-made thing - a construct of convenience - therefore it can be "un-man-made".
Number Two Tyranny - we must dump the idea of THE FRAME - the frame - like the story - does not exist in nature. We do not experience the world in frames - its a limiting straight-jacket . There is essentially no frame, for example, in Japanese painting before it choose to imitate the West - the japanese traditionally got away without recourse to a frame - no edges, no margins, and by real and metaphorical comparison no boundaries, no limits, no need for resolutions. The evidence for stories being false propositions in the real world is because of this very thing - events in the real world are never "resolved".But it will be a big visual revolution to change the frame - all our digital devices have been lazy and too convenient for the money-makers - they stay with what they know . When you think about it - the frame scarcely ever has any effect on the image or the content of the image. Painters have told us about the frame edges in the 20th century - but few film-makers ever thought about the frame edge and therefore the frame limit. Until the hardware people rethink the frame - we can certainly start by pushing that frame around - changing its aspect ratio, proportion, shape - demonstrate that it can be a living thing - comic strips have been doing it ever since Krazy Kat and Little Nemo - shake it up as a prelude to dumping it all together. Humans are slow to give away their comforts and what they know they know. Machinimas could stamp their newness on the world by demonstrating they could be frameless.
Number three tyranny - THE ACTOR. Maybe traditionally the best definition of an actor is - someone who has been trained to pretend he is not being watched. Most actors are used most of the time to tell stories, pretend to be someone else. Is that what we want them to do? And most actors most of the time are asked - on our behalf - to fuck or die - the staple diet of world cinema. And curiously since cinema actors are 20th century inventions, they therefore are used primarily as pyschology-markers - pyschology-avatars. It is no accident that Freud and cinema grew up alongside one another. Compared to what painting has done with "actors" for two thousand years - actors are also scarcely used for their physicality in any truly visual sense - they only replicate us and scarcely ever extend who we are. Because of the perceived limitations - so far - of the machinima vocabulary - curiously this non-visual physicality need not - apparentlty - be a millstone around our necks. We must explore the use of "the actor", the figurant, more thoroughly in the machinima vocabulary - conceivably the actor no longer has to arrive complete with an established set of vanities - though there are very apparent vanities of a very primitive sense in most Second Life avatars - high-breasted barbie dolls and indeed "breasted" macho-men - which makes you wonder how limited human dreams really are - or is this a complaint related to available software supplies?
Number Four tyranny - THE CAMERA - merely an instrument that mimics what you put in front of it - not good enough. The camera is a recording instrument, an archival instrument.. But in a machinima everything has to be constructed and built, truly created. Critics poke ridicule at the nature of the Second Life puppeting avatars. They should be patient. Improvements happen daily - but maybe they are missing the point. The artificiality of the animated avatar could be its success. Do we want to make our avatars look and behave like people? Surely that is a low and maybe even miserable ambition? But we are learning - though maybe, sometimes I think, too slowly. Work our way through the negatives- don't build the vocabulary with the same old built-in flaws.
Other observations - length - most machinimas are too long for their media characteristic. Currently - though we need to develop - the haiku could be a model - short enough for perception at a single gasp - creating a must-see desire for repeated viewing ad infinitum. Delivering more at each viewing by staying the same. An economic jewel you always want to wear. The obvious credo - leave them wanting more, not determined to never see again.
I keep hoping to see a visionary machina maker - someone who uses the medium as the message. At present we are only seeing other art forms rewrit - the short-form feature-film, the music video-clip, the catwalk presentation, the dance-movie, the documentary-fiction with commentary - it's related of course to a loop of what you want is what we can produce for you - but I am truly full of excited hope that it is coming - an increased demand for new and better tools by machinima makers will increase the soft-ware and even the hardware thinking.
It took 30 years to make the first cinema masterpiece - machinmas have scarcely been going 8 years in any publicised sense. Let's be full of positive encouragement and let's be patient.
2 - Do you think that machinima could in some ways revolutionize conventional cinema? If yes, in what ways? Poor analogy. We don't want to revolutionise cinema - which is socially mass-audience-organised illustrated text - we need to start something new here - and that newness is also very importantly associated with viewer participation, viewer interactivity and viewer manufacture - which cinema never was or could be - and cinema is a past tense medium - every time you see Casablanca or Gone with the Wind, or La Dolce Vita or Starwars or Avatar - it is always the same - no surprises second time around .... we now need a present tense medium that can change, develop, metamorphise every time you experience it - we are all post-television people. We are familiar with present-tense media.
3 - In your opinion, what are major advantages and disadvantages of 3d real-time animation in virtual worlds? I am looking for a present-tense post meta-cinema - changing the product everytime you see it - and it is possible, though for the moment very difficult for the distributors to fathom. The whole Utube-thing could show us the way. I am dubious that 3D is that relevant . Cinema was a 2D medium - and the vocabulary of the 3D phenomenon will fast run out of juice - there are only so many times you can be hit in the face with a fist/boathook/blue-bird/ dead cat/ breast. I have yet to see a 3D moving picture show on any 2D screen bound by a rectangular frame that changes the nature of the film/video creativity.
I like the idea we can drink our coffee black or white, with or without sugar, placid or whipped in a small china cup, drunk deep in a big mug .... our choice --- I love the idea that we can switch a Second Life landscape to any minute of the day at will. We should make all machinima- viewing operable by the viewer. We write in fixed type. Basically the letter R is always the letter R - in Eastern calligraphic texts an R can be masculine, feminine, young, old, burnt, frozen, made of wood, stone ,water, dead, etc etc etc ... add to that excitement live action Rs and the capacity to customized by every recipient.
4 - What can the second life machinima industry do to raise the bar and make it a true alternative for use in 3d computer animation in movies ? Forget the goddamed movies! I am excited by the medium essentially because it can be personalised - it should perhaps become like letter writing used to be - one to one in abundance - where everyone had his or her own handwriting. Don't put it in the cinema - you will kill it . But it has now to mature - it must come with its own moral and ethical freedoms, though we may take sometime to learn what they coud really be. It should move on from the cliches. Think twice, three times, four times before you put in yet another gun, pool of blood, fire-breathing dragon, bursting bosom, thonged buttocks, unicorn, robot. Think historically backwards as well as forwards - be prepared to tackle the big themes with new thoughts.
Cinema in 115 years taught people of 6 generatiions how to make love, eat foreign food, vote, buck the status quo, wear sharp clothes, travel the world - and changed our ways of seeing one another - it really advertiused freedoms we did not know we had. Broadcast TV took on those repsonsibilities and still pretends it is doing so - but if cinema lasted 115 years for 6 generations I doubt somehow that TV lasted in influence 3 generations. And generally the new generation does not watch that much broadcast TV - but take comfort - in a world of over 7 billion people there are an awful lot of minorities all wanting a personalised audio-video phenomeon - and it can now be supplied - maybe indeed by what the machinima could be offering. All the best and most profound and lasting things repeatedly turn out to be the poetry of a medium - we need the dreamers and the poetry makers - they are the people who think out of the box and take us to places we do not know existed.
The cinema has consistently struggled to be real - rather like 300 years of the Renaissance. In painting - the Renaissance struggled all the time to be "realer "and "realer" - learnt geometrical and ariel perspective and struggled with the aids of anatomy and mathematics to convince the viewers that what was being depicted was to be real - all the way from Giotto to da Vinci -a sort of waste of time - the pre-Giotto painters had a better idea of what to do. We have been doing the same in cinema - and Griffith - praised for introducing narrative into cinema - is really a curse and not a blessing .He decided for the rest of us that cinema should be illustrated books - bad news, a wrong move. And in the same desperate desire to be real - we now have 3D and the apologists say it is more realer than real. Do we need that ? Shouldn't we be putting our energies into something more worthwhile? The human imagination is surely the most amazing thing in the universe. We do not want virtual reality we want virtual unreality. We cannot replicate reality - why are we wasting our time trying?
One of the most incredible series of answers I have received in all my life to questions I have asked of anyone!