Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures in Teaching the Unreal

From March 9, 2006

Even though there are standards in documentary production, these standards exist on a sliding scale. The concept of cinema verite is nothing more than a false definition to justify documentary film and video as pure and truthful. The fact is all documentary is the opinion of the individual(s) documenting the subject. Even the decision to document a subject is manipulation based on opinion. Once a subject is chosen to be documented, it is of the opinion of the documentary film and video maker(s) that the subject is worthy of documentation. Furthermore, the shots used, the questions asked, the pacing and the editing chosen, the music added, the order in which the story is told, and most importantly, the information left out of the documentary all change reality. Even the concept of closed circuit television such as crime caught on tape by police vehicle cameras and liquor store surveillance equipment capture the event at a certain angle, filtered through certain lenses and the limitation of the surveillance equipment, affecting the final point of view and opinion of the viewer. There is no pure truth in any documentary.

This leads me to my most recent endeavor as an instructor at Full Sail for the Recording Arts in winter Park, Florida. I was honored when I received the call from a good friend of mine at the school to instruct students on reality television production. I've been working in the field for two years and anyone who knows me well, knows that I love teaching. The exchange between the teacher and the student is a fulfilling experience and to know that in the past there were mentors and teachers who shaped my consciousness and education and that I now have the opportunity to return some of that back into the stream of learning, is a rewarding experience.

Since this particular tract of learning is relatively new, I am interested to see how students react to how unreal reality television is. In fact, I've got 4 books on the subject that all contain researched material on the unreality of reality TV. But I will also share that there is nothing wrong with that as long as the viewer is active while watching reality TV and not passive. Simply put, being an active viewer is a viewer aware of reality TV conventions and how they are used to create a program with as much impact as possible. It's the same as documentary film and video, except it has a much wider audience and the manipulation is much greater.

In the end, I am most excited about all of the theory I am learning from my reading. I am also looking forward to sharing my real life experience while working in reality television production. For the first time, I am part of a new educational movement that may open doors for students. They will learn about new career choices in reality television. After all, that's one of the points of attending a film and video production school: to have a full comprehension of all of the opportunities out there. I am still a film purist and wish I could work full time in film production. However, in the meantime, I've been able to carve out a pretty decent career in reality TV production while polishing my story telling skills, improving editing skills, and making important connections with like minded individuals. I'm in a place I never dreamed of being and, although it's got its obstacles, I'm satisfied with where I am, knowing that the future holds even more.

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