Cinema History?

bigdaddyross

New member
How important is knowing any kind of cinema history? I don't feel it's necessary, but I do feel strongly that I benefit greatly by comprehending the importance of contributions by Edwin S. Porter, D.W. Griffith, Orson Welles, etc.

The French New Wave movement came from film critics, who deeply understood what was done before them and they pioneered a film movement by taking what was done before and turning it sideways. They had a deep understanding of what was done in the past and re-wrote the book. None of them were ignorant of what was the norm and the standards.

The American film renaissance of the late 1960's starting with Easy Rider opened the door for people like Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Spielberg, etc. and shaped films into a new age of "realistic" portrayals. Large sets were replaced by all location shooting and method acting.

The benefit of knowing cinema history is understanding it's impact on the audience. Having the ideas of what have worked for over 100 years to effect a viewer is like having a rubber band versus a shot gun.

What do you think? How important is cinema history to YOU?
 
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jodymichelle

Senior Member
Staff member
re: cinema history

re: cinema history

Working online, and saw your post! My opinion is I think that knowing cinema history is necessary for those who are serious about filmmaking. And if you're serious about your work, doesn't it just come naturally that you'd be interested in reading/studying/learning/researching the history? And just like any other area of work or study, you can't be an expert or speak intelligently (much less be a scholar!) about something if you don't have a clue of where it came from, how it has evolved and progressed throughout history, what is happening now with it, and future projections. Since we were children in grade school, baby steps in learning include studying history. What do you remember studying the most in highschool? History. In college, 101 classes - yep, history. And, there's a reason for that. But, that doesn't replace the "real world hand-ons doing." But, whether you know cinema history indepthly or not, that doesn't guarantee that you'll make a good film or a bad film.

Another advantage to knowing cinema history is when situations come up, it could help you to be a better, more effective communicator. How can you communicate your ideas if you don't have anything to compare/contrast it with? And how can another filmmaker communicate their ideas with you understanding them, if you're not familiar with the language of cinema history?



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I'm trying to imagine any serious practitioner of other art forms who don't know something of the history of their chosen profession. For one thing, you'd think anyone who decides to make movies for a living would naturally enjoy watching and studying movies, beyond the level of a general moviegoer. Just as you'd expect someone who performs an instrument playing classic music would like to listen to classical music, or a painter would enjoy looking at paintings by great artists.

For one thing, it's a bit silly to reinvent the wheel constantly when you have a 100 years of filmmaking to study and learn from. How can you advance your artform to the next level unless you know what level it currently exists at? You have to have some basis of comparison, some way of evaluating your work.

It's sort of a modern phenomenon, this notion of the natural talent who needs no training in his chosen artform, he just works from inspiration, in his own bubble, with no knowledge of his place in the progression of his artform. Imagine some painter or composer in the Renaissance or later believing that he didn't need to spend years learning his craft. Imagine Mozart knowing nothing about Bach, or Van Gogh knowing nothing of Rembrandt.
 
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angvav

New member
With cinema history knowledge comes change and growth.

What do I mean by this?

If you have no knowledge, how do you know what trends there are in film making?

How can you change a style of film making - buck the trend.

Grow.

Hope I make some sense here.

If not - please ask :)

I'd completely understand if I sound silly here.

Good points everyone :)
 
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Mr Taylor

New member
For me, history is everything.
It stops me taking things for granted.
Helps me to value each type of shot and lens etc.
It sort of adds weight to each aspect of film...and I am excited to use things invented by people from past times and places.
It also makes me try harder.
Because I know my HD video edited on computer and cut to DVD should allow me to learn 100 times faster than the early fixed camera, chemical developed, hand glued, sprocket projected, ways of the past.
 

Mr Taylor

New member
After thinking about this a bit more, I have figured out that you might also want to take Art history and Music history.

Because film is an offshoot of those two forms, with a few extra dimensions.
(the saptial relationship of moving objects over time being the most interesting to me).

Of course it becomes an ever expanding circle of understanding at that point.
You start to find out about the people and places around each event, you ask questions like "why did that artist break with tradition?"
and so on.
 

bigdaddyross

New member
After thinking about this a bit more, I have figured out that you might also want to take Art history and Music history.
Some of cinema's greatest cinematographers use paintings as a lighting and color reference more so than other films.

In my many discussions with people under 30 starting to make movies, I'm finding fewer and fewer of them know anything about cinema history. A surprising number of people don't realize that DISTURBIA is a giant fat high school homage to REAR WINDOW from Hitchcock.

I thought maybe it was just my obsessive compulsive nature, researching ever so deeply anything that I do, but it looks like I'm not alone in thinking film history is important.

I wish people who don't use it would voice their opinions too. It's important to explore the different points of view and respect them equally.
 

jodymichelle

Senior Member
Staff member
BDR~

That's an interesting point, and yes, that true~

A lot of young people (highschool age, for example) don't know that "Disturbia", like you said, is an "homage to 'Rear Window'".

Maybe because a lot of the classics were before their time, combined with other factors...

You said you've had discussions~ what do they say about not knowing anything about cinema history?

Is it a temporary phase of just being in that moment where all you want to do is shoot for now and not stop for anything else?

Like how some beginner writers just want to write and write and write, without thinking about form or how format applies to anything; or how they might think, "No, I can't open up and read a 'how-to' or 'case studies' book, my artform and mind will forever be tainted! It won't be true art!"

It's not necessarily wrong (and certainly not a crime!) to just "jump in" - and just start writing or just start shooting, without having a clue of this or that.

Some people have a hard time simply "starting" - even after reading and studying almost all the books in the world. They might be able to play Filmmakers or Writers Jeopardy, but procrastinate in starting/finishing projects. Or think, "I'll be ready to pick up a camera after I... (fill in the blank)..."




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angvav

New member
It's not necessarily wrong (and certainly not a crime!) to just "jump in" - and just start writing or just start shooting, without having a clue of this or that.

Some people have a hard time simply "starting" - even after reading and studying almost all the books in the world. They might be able to play Filmmakers or Writers Jeopardy, but procrastinate in starting/finishing projects. Or think, "I'll be ready to pick up a camera after I... (fill in the blank)..."

This is a good point here :)

May I add this?

Some people have a hard time simply starting.

But do you need to have a clue about how to shoot a film if you jump in?

If you have and idea for a story - and are fairly brainy about it, and know something about the film business - well....

Don't you have to start somewhere?

Hope I make sense here.

:)
 

tinx

New member
I think it really depends. I've met many TV/ Commercial Freelancers-- DPs, gaffers and camera crew who didn't study film in school. Some were theater majors, and some were painter/illustrators-- but they got into the business because it simply pays the bills and they're good at what they do.

I believe Van Gogh, if I remember correctly, was originally some sort of Jesuit missionary before becoming a painter.
 

Mr Taylor

New member
At College in Tilburg, the Netherlands.,Constantijn Huysmans, a successful artist in Paris, taught Van Gogh to draw.

Huysmans was an advocated of a systematic approach to the subject.
 

jodymichelle

Senior Member
Staff member
two cents

two cents

I'm definitely an advocate for education and encourage going to college and getting degrees, but I don't think that having a specific ABC degree in XYZ will necessarily make or break one's career. Definitely helps you get your foot in the door in different kinds of ways if you do the other work you're supposed to do, but won't make or break you. And that can be a whole other discussion.

But what I want to point out is then there's the responsibility of continuing your education after college. And continuing your education in your professional career. If you're serious about your work and if you're serious about your career, you never stop learning. You don't get your college degree and say, "Ok, that's enough books and pencils for me, I'm all set with what I need to know for work and life." Doesn't work that way.

Different topic - I'm speed typing because I have to get back to a project I'm working on. One doesn't necessarily have to be in school to educate oneself about Cinema History. And if you've met any one that didn't get a degree but they're rockin' in their profession and in their career, you'll find out that they continued their education and learning in some way, shape, or form~ just ask them, and they'll tell you :) That could be a whole other separate discussion too :)
 
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bigdaddyross

New member
You said you've had discussions~ what do they say about not knowing anything about cinema history?
They say it isn't necessary to creating movies now. They say that they don't want to be bogged down by rules that don't mean anything, etc.

On the one hand, I respect that people don't want to be restricted, but they are without a doubt influenced by what they see, and it was in turn influenced by some other filmmakers and movies in the past. Why not go to the source?

One doesn't necessarily have to be in school to educate oneself about Cinema History.
99% of what I know of cinema history didn't come in school, but my own studies a decade after college.
 
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Hello,

I feel as though many great points have been made here, and I believe that to be part of the point with respect to this question. There really is no right or wrong answer. Having a strong background or knowledge of cinema history might expand one's range of experience from which to draw, and can be a benefit when it comes to on-set dialogues (when someone is siting references to specific foreign or obscure films perhaps) but it does not necessarily surpass a latent, raw talent, or experience gained through actual practical application of one's craft. To me, a knowledge of one's craft is essential, as is a passion for one's subject, and how you arrive at such knowledge is quite open ended. As in all art forms, cinema is at its most powerful when it transcends form and becomes communication, enlightenment, a unifying force, even educational. Some thoughts...
 

mercuryzap

New member
Hi
i've spent seven illuminating weeks receiving lectures on and researching the history and terminology behind mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound etc and I would say its been a highly valuable experience. I definitely have a much more rounded concept of the engine of cinema. it's a rewarding and confidence building process to have some of your half grasped notions and intuitions resolved.
 
I just hate to see waste -- wasted effort, money, time -- because people are trying to reinvent the wheel. I also hate it when people think they are being highly original when many people have already done what they are doing -- ignorance is not the same thing as originality. I remember in film school talking to one student about a set-up and he said "I want to shoot this in a way I've never seen before so I'm thinking of an overhead shot looking straight down". "Oh yeah" I thought, "that's never been done before, an overhead shot..."

On the other hand, on a small student film, it's not necessarily a bad thing to reinvent the wheel merely for the educational experience, that's sort of the point of learning, discovering the foundation of your chosen art form. Many of my earliest short films were about small cinematic problems I wanted to solve, like shooting and editing simultaneous action for suspense (basically learning what D.W. Griffith had already figured out.) But it was exciting to learn to make that work.
 
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