|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #113|
“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”
– Orson Welles
Let's face it. Previous joint ventures involving verses and video have been almost exclusively disastrous. With few exceptions, the dreaded music video, TV show (e.g. Monkees, Partridge Family, Banana Splits) or [Beatles] feature film has been an embarrassing display of clowns flailing and failing to be funny for the duration of a pop song. Not only did the graphics not add to experience, they actually took something (i.e. sense, dignity) away from it.
Curiosity got the better of me and I attended the premier of what is intended as an annual event: a video slam (not to be confused with a slam video that one might see on YouTube). These involve a collaboration between film makers/students and performing poets. You, the poet, present your verse onstage while a supporting video plays on a huge screen behind you. It is like that Molson's "I Am Canadian"" beer ad.
Literally, commercial poetry. Or Spoken Word¹, at least.
Organizers insist that this New York creation is "sweeping the nation" and, for once, there might be something to the hype. At our local version, attendance was much larger than most such inaugural initiatives--few of which metamorphosize into regular events as planned. This was a slam but, due to the collaboration, employed none of the usual slam rules: 5 judges, no props, nudity², music or costumes. Other than the usual 3-minute time limit, which was applied to both performances and supporting videos, it was an "anything goes" environment. Many videos had instrumentals or sound efforts (heartbeats seemed to be a favorite). Everyone present got to vote for their favorites. The winner got a cash prize: 10% of the $10 entry fees collected. (Were it not a competition we'd call it a "Video Open Mic" or "VidMic", rhyming with "Skid Bike".)
The performers were videotaped so their recitation could be combined with the existing video into a final Internet-ready product as an insert, as a foreground or as a voiceover.
Obviously, none of the efforts approached the brilliance of Pere Molina/Andy Garcia's rendition. Most were misfires, poet and videographer presenting conflicting images. No matter. As an emerging operating environment, this combination of art forms will take a while to find its "killer app". Look for it in a run down theater near you!
¹ - Notice how cautious Spoken Word and many slam organizers are to avoid the term "poetry". Ever wonder why?
² - Indeed, one of the videos did incorporate some [albeit brief and tasteful] nudity.
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