Workflow for Modular Video Coursework

A Sample Workflow

I. Video Objectives

Identify purpose, goals and needs of our audience.

Brainstorm a variety of tutorial ideas to identify how each idea differs or could change to serve the purposes of the production (time, logistics, etc.).

Define video aspects that might detract or add value to the purpose/audience.

What is the style or mood of the tutorial?

How do any graphics, audio or effects help tell the story?

How do the shots or camera angles help tell the story?

Gather a variety of videos prior to compare for similar styles or techniques.

II. Pre-production

Write a script
Include potential intro and outros in addition to the main body of your script.

Plan production and shots
Collaborate with team members and crew regarding all technical and logistical aspects of your production (shots, locations, design, angles, lighting, etc.)

III. Production

Shooting
Factor in/allow enough time for setup, overflow and troubleshooting of shoot.

Sound
Decide on boom mic or lavalier and determine potential logistics involved.

Camera’s and Lights
Collaborate with technicians regarding any specific lighting or camera lens needs that may involve additional time for setup, teardown or mobility indoors/outdoors. Address exterior/interior shots beforehand and any storyboarded shots that involve specific moving, handheld or complicated shots.

IV. Post-Production
Ingest the audio/video and import other assets (music, stills, grfx, etc.).

Media transfer to drives can be tasked to the production’s DP, director, or editor and should reside on a minimum of two seperate hard drives (as a form of backup against hard drive failure).

Decide early on, who will be responsible for some or all of the editorial steps including:

• Assembly and/or rough cut • Fine or Polished Cut • Music, FX and Graphics • Revisions and/or Color Correction • Export/Output and/or Upload to the Web

V. Web Presence and Maintenance

Analytics by Webmaster
One or potentially all members can participate in engagement with followers of any tutorial or blog to determine feedback or insight on our posted modules or any matters regarding usability error and the like.

Hits, numbers, likes, comments and shares should be a source of information to the production team and shuold note be the sole responsibility of any single team member.

However, any errors regarding the troubleshooting of any particular module or inappropriate behavior/comments from our users should be addressed by the production team as soon as possible.

VI. Distribution, Social Media Sharing and Miscellaneous
All video content should be “watermarked” with the host/client bug in the lower right-hand corner before distributing to related affilliate channels.

Decisions to determine which channel affilliates are most appropriate for the content created (Vimeo for video, WordPress for blogs, etc) should be made before any upload to the web.

Decisions regarding further production of content, sharing and miscellaneous duties regarding the site should be made by team members and occur weekly.

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The Ever-changing Employment Landscape

The key aspects of the changing landscape of employment involve forces at work that conspire and demand American workers to compete as “free agents” on a global scale and contend with ever changing skill sets and knowledge.

Countries, companies and now individuals need to think globally to thrive and at the very least, survive (Friedman, 2005). Two qualities have emerged in order for this change to occur; Age, gender, race, and structural barriers such as physical presence are becoming increasingly irrelevant, allowing Americans of all backgrounds to be able to determine their work environment and hours. Secondly, more individuals are undertaking their journey towards employment directly into the labor force without the use of unions, large corporations or government bureaucracies (Judy & D’Amico, 2010).

Self-motivation, education, flexibility and foresight are required skills for this new age of innovation. The confluence of automation, globalization, technological advances and mobility will make most segments of the U.S. economy extremely volatile. A number of small to medium-sized firms will be well positioned to react and take advantage of this. Labor unions will cope poorly in an economy of small producers, and consequently their membership and influence will diminish (Judy & D’Amico, 2010). Workers will change jobs more frequently. Those that maintain and improve their skills will be rewarded, while those who resist retraining will fall behind the skills curve and be replaced. If American workers possess the skills required to compete for the jobs created by this new age of innovation, then the majority will be filled by them and workers in other advanced countries. If not, the jobs will migrate elsewhere.

The current revolution suggests a number of implications that innovation will have on the American worker. The accelerated pace of technological advancements in products and services will be powerful enough to bring a “creative destruction” upon economies, firms and workers who relied on previous technology. Fortunately, the amount of jobs created for the development and servicing of these innovations will be greater than the number that the technology “destroyed” (Judy & D’Amico, 2010). The new jobs that are being created require workers to make at least temporary investments in reskilling themselves in order to remain competitive, specialized or “anchored” (Friedman, Middle section, para. 9-10).  

The costs related to the world’s most dynamic industries (biological formulas, computers, financial services, microchips and software exchanged on the Internet have resulted in the “death of distance” and can now cross the globe for free. Automation has displaced millions of low and unskilled workers (Judy & D’Amico, 2010). Globalization has forced these workers into obtaining second and third jobs out of necessity. Local markets that have sustained some decent paying low-skill jobs have become scarce and Americans with inadequate education and no technological expertise face conntinually declining wages and/or unemployment particularly in manufacturing. Service sector job losses, which now include many white collar service jobs such as production occupations and administrative support, will eventually exceed those in manufacturing. The largest decline is expected to be within retail trade, department stores and information (BLA Employment Projections Industry Employment section, para. 10-12). 

Job openings due to replacement or for retirement needs are expected to be more than double current levels. America’s retirees will become a large and powerful group of consumers that will demand services such as care facilities, leisure-time pursuits and other professional services that will fuel local labor markets, particularly in cities that attract retirees. Health care and social assistance are expected to add two million jobs in the form of physician offices, home health care, and services for the elderly. This may in effect help to replace many of the low or unskilled jobs lost, though not always at comparable wages (Judy & D’Amico, 2010 para. 8 p.316).

Total employment is projected for 2008-18 to grow three percent more than the preceding decade. The growth will be concentrated in the service providing industries. More than half of the new jobs created will be in professional and business services sectors (management, computer systems design, employment services, scientific and technical consulting). In addition, occupations where a post-secondary degree is required are expected to account for nearly half of all new job openings during this projection period. However, in terms of percent growth, 14 of the 30 fastest jobs have a Bachelor’s degree or higher as the most significant source of post-secondary education or training (BLA Employment Projections Education and Training section, para. 15-18). 

All of this in effect creates a bifurcated labor force where Americans with proficiency in math, science and English will join a global elite whose services will be in intense demand, commanding generous and growing compensation. Truly exceptional people with a specialized gift who perform functions that could never be outsourced will always have a global market for their goods and services and can command global wages. That leaves many formerly middle class jobs available for outsourcing. Essentially widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. Neither the American economy nor democracy can survive without these “middle” jobs or a middle class. This would lead to further economic inequality and political instability (Friedman, Middle section, para. 10-11).  

Elementary educators need to develop children’s imaginations and people skills. Such training must become even more sophisticated in secondary education in order to create a “creative workforce”. Vocational and community colleges need to adapt their curricula to this job market of the future. Young people need to plan for high-end personal service jobs that stress innovation, leadership and development of new processes, products and industries that are unlikely to move offshore where such advancements can only be followed or copied (Blinder, Will Your Job Be Exported, para.20).

The key to thriving as an individual in this new age is to obtain a job where one can justify the value that you create and the unique skills you contribute. In other words, a job that cannot be outsourced, digitized or automated. Jobs that involve some kind of face-to-face, personalized contact or interaction with a customer, client, patient, student, colleague or audience that involve some kind of specific or local knowledge are least likely to be outsourced (Friedman, The New Middle section para. 2 pg.319). 

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman once said there is always likely to be anxiety about the jobs of the future… because most of them have not yet been invented (The Economist, Into the Unknown section, para 5). In reality, the shedding of such lower-value tasks enables economies to redeploy the workers concerned to jobs that create more value(The Economist, Into the Unknown section, para 13). Writing about the effects of mechanization 75 years ago, author Stuart Chase worried if after the invention of the automobile, central heating, the phonograph and the electric refrigerator, that we’d at long last emptied the reservoirs of human desires. He need not worry. There are more (The Economist, Into the Unknown section, para 14).   

 

References

Behrens, L. & Rosen, L.J. Employment projections:2008-2018 Summary. pgs. 324-327Fifth  ed. Pearson

Blinder, A.S. (2006) Will your job be exported. The American Prospect.

Friedman, T.L (2005) The untouchables. The world is flat: a brief history of the twenty first century.

Judy, R.W. & D’Amico, C.(2010) Work and workers in the twenty-first century.

Into the unknown (2004) The Economist.

Editing Tenets

Tenet: a principle or belief, esp. one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy

Collaborative Use of the Editor: Directors deserve a different perspective. storySHOW not teller. Re-writing, and directing with image and sound instead of words. The writer conceives, the director realizes it, but it is the editor who tells it. Editors must supremely attune themselves to these feelings in order to detect and follow internal rhythms inherent in the material (speech, movement, patterns, etc.) and extract from it; continuity, associations of relation and proximity.

The fusion of motion pictures and montage is cinema. The mix of film and sound is a mystery. Between coincidence (happy accidents) and coalescence (feels right) there are three spheres: Intra-scene (match cuts, overlaps), sequence-building, story-structure (removing redundancy), building character arcs. Film is the compression of 3d into a 2d space. A real life laboratory of human perception.

If shots are thoughts, than film is a theatre of thought. If shots are like parts of speech than film is the choreography of silence. If questions are answered, you have a complete story, if not, you don’t. The materials of sound and image in motion is what an editor is an orchestrator of. Clarity in editorial is the successful communication of narrative through pace and progression and the balance of surprise and recognition while maintaining unique embellishments. 

There are two kinds of bad edits: Too many frames or not enough. One bad edit (micro) can affect (macro) entire story. Pace (macro), shot duration/screentime (micro), rhythm (distribution of meaning throughout zones of density and feeling (flow).

Cutting on an action in the frame to corresponding action in another and maintaining a continuous time frame is a match cut. The invisible cut is “hidden” because of the match cut. Bad editing (starts and stops) when you stay on a person who is speaking and cut when they finish to the the next person speaking. Use split edits to soften or hide the cut. 95% of all cuts (involving dialogue) should be J or L cuts (overlaps). Audio leading video replicates real life and is more effective and organic which almost every edit can benefit from.

Blinking seems to correspond to digestion of an idea or affirmation of a thought process.

Cut before the blink unless observing the blink reveals character.

Cutting similar views and compositions back to back exaggerates the cut unless at least 20% of the composition/view has changed.

Continuity editing (invisible style) reconstructs/resequences to mimic linear time and space.

Irrational Editing (Arbitrary relations and random juxtapositions). The abstract.

Rythmical Editing: 1) to the beat; 2) “beats” within a scene’s duration 3) sequencing of scenes strung together along a length of time chosen (suspense, etc.).

Timing is a delicate balance of duration and intention (meaning). Drama equals conflict.

Auditory/aural rhythms traditionally dictate a sense of pace and visual (editorial) rhythms can affect the perception of time (duration) in the viewer. Editors in a practical level combine varied durations in a pleasing way to the ears and eyes (to hold interest and attention). Ideally, they should produce a whole (emotional experience) that is greater than the sum of its parts – Aristotle

Editors are obligated to encourage change but maintain audience traction. Yet, hide the artifice of filmmaking. All these contribute to a “suggestion” of meaning in reconstruction. Editors translate from director to audience by role playing the gauge and thermometer of a viewer as “everyman/everywoman” and stand in for common sensibilities and symbols (i.e.: when does a person “get it”, sense it, see it, recall it, common logic)

Montage: Relational continuity syntax segment imposed on a series of images to condense. Editing is two things: intelligent construction and intelligent rearrangement.

A continuous jigsaw. Balancing the collision is the discipline. Allocation and allotment of these differences creates rhythm- Joaquin Gil

Rule of three for a cut: Builds emotion. Advances story, Supports the rhythm (musical feel) in an intuitive, instinctual way. (story requirement compels you to, control the point of focus/view, tell story of the eight little words (who, what, why, where, when, how, with whom). Different types of shots answer different questions; who(CU), what (Medium), where (LS), when (WS (day/nite) & CU/Inserts of clocks, why (POV & ECU) how (Inserts w/hands) with whom (2 -shots/relationships)- Michael Wohl’s Language of Film (kenstone.net) 

Mark twice, cut long. 80% of your time is spent trimming the last 20% of your project.

30% of a piece can be lost through concision and condensing. Next 30% involves cutting major organs. Overwrite 80% insert 20% replace (10%). J cuts are 80% L-cuts are 20%. All trimming is subtle and precise and rarely involves more than 10 frames or a second if you make decisions before editing to the timeline.

Detailing in micro must also be applied in turn to the macro much the way ironing out wrinkles on a shirt sleeve must ultimately return back to the top.

“Editing is the transformation of chance into destiny.” Jean-Luc Godard

“Good editing makes the director look good. Great editing makes the film look like it wasn’t directed at all” – Victor Fleming (GWTW, Wizard of Oz)

Leitmotif in Chinatown

ChinatownUpon viewing the film Chinatown recently, there were a number of stylistic trademarks, flourishes or nuances that I found throughout known collectively as leitmotifs. I’ll exclude musical or script-based leitmotifs, but will instead cite examples that I found that are associated with the film’s director, cinematographer, production designer and editor. In this case, Roman Polanski, John Alonzo, Richard Sylbert and Sam O’Steen.

When Roman Polanski directed Chinatown in 1973, it was from a script that was a detective story based in the 1930‘s. Authors of detective novels of that era tended to write in first person, meaning the authors point of view. With that subjective perspective in mind, I believe Polanski chose to adhere to this viewpoint via the camera as well in regards to framing, composition and movement during the shooting of the film.

I first noticed this technique within the first ten minutes of the film where the main character, Jake Gittes, follows Hollis Mulwray into the dried out Los Angeles riverbed and watches him through a pair of binoculars. The following image then switches to the all-too familiar “binocular” viewpoint of Jake as he follows this man. The scene that follows this is shot from the backseat of Jakes car, over his shoulder, through the windshield of his car as he continues to follow Mulwray now by car. We stay in this viewpoint throughout even as Jake parks his car and checks his driver’s side mirror which then switches to the mirrors (Jake’s) reflection point of view of Mulwray walking to a beach.

However, this subjective point of view is not strictly limited to Jake. In the series of shots that follow the preceding scene, the camera pans to mimic Mulwray’s when he believes he’s spotted someone and glances upward towards a cliff from his beach viewpoint. Minutes later, when Jake is taking photos from a passing rowboat, Polanski and his cinematographer John Alonzo, even go so far as to imitate the zoom out/pull of focus on Jake’s camera as he adjusts it to photograph his subject passing by boat in the background. This viewpoint “logic” is extended further when Mulwray and his “lover” are photographed in the reflection (much like the earlier mirror) of Jake’s camera lens as he captures their embrace from atop an apartment complex roof.

Incidentally, Polanski has stated that, in retrospect, that he wished he would’ve inverted that image used in this optical effect to reflect the inversion that normally occurs to an image when reflected in a lens. After Jake has discovered that he has been used for nefarious purposes and begins his own investigation to determine who set him up, production designer Richard Sylbert literally begins constructing a series of gateways and stairs that Jake must pass through during his search beginning with the doorway to the offices of Water and Power. In this scene, the direction is so rigorous that after Jake is asked to leave one office by Mulwray’s assistant Yelburton and enter another, the camera tracks with both men out of that office doorway, through the secretary’s lobby, and into the doorway of Yelburton’s adjoining office.

Upon Jake’s exit from Water and Power, instead of maintaining Jakes point of view that we’ve become accustomed to, Alonzo now frames Jake over the shoulder of Yelburton and follows him handheld to the elevator to frame Yelburton, Jake and a company henchman, Mulvehill, together in a dialogue scene that ends on the elevator arriving and closing on a perfectly timed cue. A seemingly simple, yet difficult shot involving focus, timing, and blocking with no cuts. Sylbert’s design also extends to driveways, steps and dwellings on inclines to maintain the consistency of Jake’s ascension theme. One that is made explicit upon Jake’s arrival at Mrs. Mulwray’s home which is poised on a hill with a long curved driveway extending up to it.

Sylbert’s thematic motif even extends itself into the interior of the Mulwray split level home that Jake must ascend once again before meeting her. Here again, Polanski and Alonzo choose to frame the audience’s viewpoint on Jake’s back, peering over his shoulder to maintain a voyeuristic subjective camera. Here, a wide angle lens that maintains depth of field is used to keep both foreground and background sharp, as Jake (and we) enter the backyard from his perspective. Alonzo’s use of the anamorphic lens in Chinatown not only allows us to encompass views of landscapes, reservoirs and oceans, but also the more intimate landscape of the face. Throughout the film, we revisit the repeated and familiar framing over Jake’s shoulder whether it’s by the LA riverbed, through the windshield of his car, or revealing his nose bandage to his associates in his office.

Polanski adheres to Jake’s subjective point of view so strongly that even when Jake is struck over the head by farmers who suspect him of trespassing, editor Sam O’Steen, fades the image into black and seconds later fades up from black to reveal Mrs. Mulwray and farmers encircled around him to simulate Jake’s awakening. Alongside Polanski and Alonzo’s strict adherence to the continual framing over Jake’s shoulder, Sylbert’s art direction continues to incorporate homes situated on inclines that Jake must enter that include steps that must be ascended at every new stage of his investigation. Whether it be at the Mar Vista rest home where the real Owens Valley real estate owners are discovered, a home he peeps into after following Mrs. Mulwray to, or the home of Ida Sessions the actress who initially duped him.

All of these sets involve direction that requires Jake to climb upward either via steps or a lawn before new information can be obtained by him. During an altercation between Mulvehill and Jake, Alonzo pushes the camera in on their fight and follows their movements handheld. Yet the frame is still classically balanced, and the cutting of the scene is restrained. Polanski’s blocking of the actors and his compositional structure of how the angles will cut together compliment the overall pacing of the film by not violating the already established slower cutting rhythms.

John Alonzo came out of documentaries and replaced the original cinematographer, Stanley Cortez, because he worked faster. Alonzo’s lighting conveys an abundance of warmth not only in the naturally lit sunlight of his exteriors, but the same can be found in the burnished browns and monochromatic of his (and Sylbert’s) interiors. Polanski’s direction may not shoot coverage in the traditional sense (one never knows what was shot), but his editor Sam O’Steen enhances the image systems, connections, and linking transitional shots at work in the film. Even traditional establishing shots seem fresh. Polanski is a master of motivated camera movement. Several of his long takes have multiple destinations and camera moves found within them, yet the movements are always keyed off the blocking of the actors and their actions and neither he nor Alonzo ever seem to move the camera simply just for the sake of adding stylistic movement.

My repeated viewings of Chinatown have only deepened my appreciation for the craftspeople who worked on it. Since I have focused solely on the technical aspects of this production, my viewings have only reinforced my long held belief that the collaborative nature of filmmaking is the secret to the cinema’s long lasting success, and that Chinatown is one of its finest works.

P.T.A. American Original

PTAThe work of Paul Thomas (P.T.) Anderson is that of America’s youngest and most unique auteurs in a long line of American auteurs such as Scorcese, Coppolla, Speilberg, Lynch, Tarantino, Stone, Kubrick, Altman,  Malick and the Coen brothers. My primary focus is on his sophomore effort Boogie Nights. It is my opinion that with this second feature film, Anderson solidified his reputation as a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over his films is so great that he is regarded as the author of it. Having directed seven films in the past twenty years, five were original screenplays and two were adaptations. Of his seven films, Anderson has directed seven actors to Oscar nominated performances: Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and the Oscar-winning performance of Daniel Day-Lewis (IMDB, 2015). This feat of an Oscar nomination for every movie he has made is unequaled and somewhat matched only by director Hal Ashby who directed ten actors in eleven feature films.

From the opening shot of Boogie Nights, I felt that P.T. Anderson was a film literate director in command of his craft. It was 1997 and I was working in Hollywood for a company that produced trailers for upcoming releases by smaller, independent studios such as New Line, Fine Line, Live, Dimension, Trimark, Artisan and Alliance Films. This opening shot of Boogie Nights, I felt was achieving numerous goals for the narrative as well as paying homage to the traditions of long, virtuoso handheld shots of feature films since Orson Welles’ signature opening scene shot by Rusell Metty for 1958’s Touch of Evil. Followed at least once a decade by any director who assumed his or her talent could be measured by the achievement of successfully shooting a long, uninterrupted shot sustained for as long as possible without cutting. Whether it be France’s Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1962 “Le Duolos”, Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1964 “I Am Cuba”, Hal Ashby’s 1976 “Bound for Glory”, Scorsese’s 1981 “Raging Bull”, Brian Depalma’s 1990 “Bonfire of the Vanities”, Robert Altman’s 1992 “The Player” to Scorsese again in 1992’s “Goodfellas” (whose work P.T. acknowledges as an influence).

Ostensibly, the purpose of this opening shot is to introduce multiple characters, envelop and orient the audience in the environment of the nightclub and establish the period. Anderson wanted to “just start loud and immediately by jumping in and getting it out-of-the-way”. A “180” from the deliberate pace of his first film “Hard Eight”. This Altmanesque mash of sound, dialogue, ambience, and imagery, method of introduction he would again employ in 1999‘s “Magnolia”. For Anderson, “its all about vibe because no one is saying anything of real importance” (Sperb,2013).

Some filmmakers feel that moving the camera is self-conscious or something to be ashamed of unless warranted by the story, instead of realizing that they’re just building on top of a filmmaking tradition that started with Max Ophuls, through Truffaut, to Scorsese. Anderson takes advantage of every single “show off” moment and embraces the freedom of camera movement and allows you to feel the celebration of moviemaking behind it. Music-driven Steadicam montages are a staple of Boogie Nights structure and aids in convincing an audience that they are in capable hands and that these “good times” the characters are experiencing excuse viewers for enjoying their time with this tightly knit family of pornographers. This same approach was used by Scorsese in “Goodfellas” in order to coerce viewers who may have trouble with the criminal activities of Mafia characters.

Anderson says “I’ve come to realize that my function as a director is to be a good writer. My obligation (his emphasis) as a director is to deliver the actors a good script, thus making my job as a director describable as “hanging out” and watching them go. No good actor needs direction beyond “let’s do another one” and “keep it simple”(Anderson, 1998). In Boogie Nights, Julianne Moore appreciated Paul not explaining motivations behind lines for her character and Paul appreciated her not asking. Both of them felt it wasn’t the point to know specifics because in Moore’s words “it was nobody’s business.” When it came time for her character to deliver her “porno” dialogue, Paul felt that she “nailed it”. Moore explained that it was solely the rhythm of how the text read as written and the fact that it seemed to her to have one too many words in the lines being delivered which helped give it the sense of being “off” just enough to make it “bad”.

Don Cheadle on the other hand, was unsure of Anderson’s direction a number of times. The first scene Cheadle was in, the cameraman said he could see the camera in the reflection of the window. Paul’s response was “that’s okay”. Cheadle again expressed reservations during a scene at a location behind a seedy bar that consisted of two crew members jostling the sides of a van to resemble believable movement of the van down a highway. He also felt Mark Wahlberg’s “dumb” acting was so convincing and lacked any self-awareness that in any other director’s hands the film could’ve fallen into self-parody or camp. Ultimately, he decided to go with it and became more comfortable as the film progressed until he was convinced of its merit when he was able to see it all put together. I think the film walks a fine line in portraying the naiveté of the characters in Boogie Nights because while on the one hand it makes them more endearing, at the same time it is less believable as adult behavior regardless of how innocent the time was.

Heather Graham also appreciated Anderson’s honesty and how upfront he was about the nudity in Boogie Nights specifically how much was going to be in scenes “no more, no less”. Graham said this was “cool because a lot of directors are vague about it and you then can feel slightly exploited because you never know what’s happening to you and he fully explained exactly what was happening”. Instilling this kind of trust and rapport with his actors, I think is key to getting the performances he does. Anderson’s handling of the actual pornographic scenes to me is cleverly sanitized for the MPAA ratings board as well as for audiences uncomfortable with viewing an explicit sex act.

To begin with, he reduces the aspect ratio of the frame from what would be considered a full frame image that fills the entire frame vertically and horizontally, to one where the edges of the screen are black mimicking a Super 8 or 16mm frame which fills just over a third of the frame. Next he cuts to the various reactions on crew member faces such as the cameraman, his assistant, the sound man, the director, the producer, the other actors, etc. He also succeeds in staying in tight with his shots of the actors engaged in the act; their faces, so as not to distract anyone from the emotions on their faces and the nakedness of socially acceptable male or female torsos. He’s also able to subvert expectations when we cut from the sexual acts to the mechanics of the camera lens and its spinning film that resides inside (where we see the inverted image). To me this is a comment equating the “mechanics” of pornographic actors to the “mechanics” of filmmaking. Anderson even extends this commentary to include the act of changing film reels after depletion and the setting up of a new angle while the actors pause to accommodate these changes. Inclusion of these realistic filmmaking scenarios only further engages me as a viewer and gives credit to the writer/director for not insulting the intelligence of his audience, all the while distracting viewers from any unease of viewing pornographers at work.

Anderson’s ability to give each character their own voice came down to him just giving them “their own syntax or shot” when writing them so that all the characters don’t talk in the same manner the writer is assumed to speak. William H. Macy, whose worked with the Coen brothers and Pulitzer-prize winning playwright and director David Mamet, judged Anderson as a great director of actors as well because his multi-character screenplay (Altman again) gave clues as to where a character should go, but not where they should end.

Anderson often records takes to film during what the actors assume is just a rehearsal for later use as takes to incorporate into the finished film. Boogie Nights also utilizes extreme closeup inserts as transitional entrances to scenes. Some examples are; a breakfast scene at Dirk Digglers home is introduced by three extreme closeups of a gas stove flame igniting, coffee filling up a mug and sizzling sausages in a pan. Don Cheadles character Buck Swope is introduced by three more extreme closeups of his; smiling photo on an employee of the month plaque, a “Buck” nametag on his shirt, and flickering red and green LED lights on a stereo he’s demonstrating (something he credits Jonathan Demme’s extreme closeup framing in “Silence of the Lambs” for). Another transition from Burt Reynold’s character to Julianne Moore cuts from an extreme closeup of Burt filling his cocktail glass with ice cubes to Julianne filling her palm with pills from a prescription drug bottle, to the spinning of a rotary dial phone, followed by a line of cocaine on a mirror being sniffed through a pipe.

Anderson and his editor Dylan Tichenor, extend this transitional device beyond objects when Rollergirl (Heather Graham) picks up her “Rolaroid” camera (in extreme closeup), cutting to a medium shot of that same camera being snatched off the table it sits on, to a swish pan (left to right) of Dirk (Mark Wahlberg) and Reed (John C. Reilly) posing in anticipation of their photo being taken, to a fast forward dolly into Rollergirl holding the camera to her face, to another extreme closeup of the camera’s flashbulb igniting. Lastly, a pun intended cut from Dirk responding in the affirmative, if he can repeat his orgasm again is followed by three extreme closeups of; a record player needle meeting a spinning vinyl record to a cork popping off of a champagne bottle and its resulting overflow out of the bottle top. This transitional device of extreme closeups as entrances to scenes (as opposed to wide establishing shots) to me seems derivative of some of Scorsese’s work in both “Raging Bull” and his short in Woody Allen’s New York Stories trilogy “Life Lessons”. An homage that only film literate members of the audience would detect, but still quite effective as a directorial and editorial stylistic flourish.

In a number of P.T.’s films, I find numerous film editorial techniques references that either harken back to the early days of cinema such as irises, European television dissolves of short duration as if fading up or down from a broadcast television switchboard and lap dissolves (a dissolving image dissolving into another dissolving image), and of course, slow-motion (Scorsese again), Kurosawa and Lucas style wipes (for the New Years Eve seventies to eighties transition, Lynchian and Tarantinoesque fades up or down to non-traditional colors such as orange or red instead of the traditional black or white, and split-screen opticals found in Brian Depalma’s work, Woodstock, and seventies television.

Both Anderson and Tarantino are guilty of fetishizing the films and pop culture of the 70’s and 80’s and that same fetishization extends to their directorial technique (Hill, 2008). The showcasing of Jeremy Blake’s digital abstract color artwork in P.T.’s fourth film “Punch-Drunk Love” is further evidence of an openess to the incorporation of the avant-garde in his own work (Anderson, 2002). Despite that film’s dark undertones, I find it to be one of the sweetest and genuinely moving romantic comedies I’ve seen in decades. A film unafraid to explore love between the socially maladjusted. In Projections: The Directors Cut, P.T. told Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) “I’ve wanted for a long time to make a real romantic comedy in the most traditional way. I mean, I’d fuck it up in an untraditional way, but I’d dive into it thinking it was traditional (Boorman, 2006).

Anderson’s intercutting of two “beating” sequences between Rollergirl and Dirk was referred to by one critic as melodramatic and unrealistic because at the conclusion of these two scenes, Anderson has the automobiles of Dirk’s assailants and Rollergirl’s limousine pass by each other on  the same road traveling in different directions. I see this clearly foreshadowing Anderson’s “Magnolia” and its exploration of serendipity and coincidence where miraculous things happen and people and events connect in unexpected ways (Barsam &Monahan, 2010).

A bravura sequence that encapsulates Anderson’s mastery of film technique for me is an optical split-screen that occurs roughly halfway through the film that incorporates the text from a magazine article that is being read, a montage of Dirk Diggler poses, and two vignettes of supporting characters (who also take over the narration at that point of being shown), all while the screen is divided into four vertical quadrants that contain these actions and imagery. These quadrants are then dragged offscreen horizontally in perfect syncopation with the music that reveals our main characters performing a choreographed dance routine. Anderson felt that if the characters aren’t allowed to express themselves through dialogue, he should write in a “dance number”. A technique he would expand on again in “Magnolia” where he felt “the most natural course of action was that everyone should sing how they feel. In the most good-old-fashioned Hollywood Musical way, each character, and the writer, began singing how they felt (Anderson, 2000). This to me is bold and pushes the envelope of the art form and is reason alone to refer to Paul Thomas Anderson as one of America’s finest auteurs as proven with “There Will Be Blood”, “The Master” and “Inherent Vice”. Paul Thomas Anderson is truly an American original.

Less mouse, more keys

The desire to optimize human/computer interaction is held by users of all kinds including illustrators, artists, designers, engineers and musicians. Input pens, trackballs, trackpads and the mouse all interact with the computer in a way that mimics the functionality of the keyboard. There are many similarities between the mouse and keyboard. They are both direct, tactile, and ergonomic to a point. Pointing and clicking with a mouse is also fairly basic, it’s a precursor to language in children, which is one reason children acquire mousing skills so quickly. Early interface studies conducted by Apple and Xerox incorporated child development techniques including pointing, clicking and menu command selection to form the guidelines for their mouse driven interface (Miller, 2001). The keyboard was not a huge part of that initial schema, which is reflected in its early design. Keyboard input can be useful to all computer users because they often allow for faster interaction than allowed by mouse clicks. Power users of all abilities frequently incorporate the use of keyboard shortcuts into their daily workflow. Often, there is a convention behind both Windows and Mac-based shortcuts where the first letter of the desired function relates to the letter used for that shortcut. The letter “P”, for example, in the word “Print” serves as a cue to users that it activates that function (WebAim, 2009). These associations and patterns aid in the relation of function to memory in what is known as mnemonic logic. The majority of these power users come to rely more on the keyboard than the mouse. There is nothing wrong with using different methods to do the same task, but it can be argued that using more keyboard commands and fewer mouse moves to accomplish the same task is better.

There are a variety of tools that can be used within applications for various technical reasons. Like most of the functions within software, these can be initiated by using quick key shortcuts as a way of cutting down on time. Except for the most basic shortcuts, most people can neither remember all of the shortcuts, nor move their fingers to the correct keys without hesitating. Mouse use and drop-down navigation have become necessary evils. Using the mouse requires fine motor skill movements and a heavy amount of repetition, which can quickly becoming tedious and time consuming. This is especially true when speed and accuracy are required. The keyboard uses finer motor muscles in the fingers, and less in the wrist and arm than the mouse.

According to a recent study, heavy keyboard use did not increase the risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). These findings go against conventional wisdom (Schwenk, 2007). The same could not be said of mouse users. Reaching for the mouse can result in increased stress to the shoulder/neck and severe deviation of the wrist. With the wrist fixated on a desk or mouse pad, movement occurs only through deviation at the wrist or excessive reaching with the fingers (UC Davis, 2007). Additionally, an ergonomic design study reported that tasks completed by using the keyboard alone (i.e., typing) resulted in increased wrist velocities and accelerations (speed of movements), forearm muscle activity, and a reduction in neutral wrist posture. Mouse intensive tasks (i.e., resizing graphics, browsing web pages) resulted in more constrained and non neutral wrist and shoulder postures compared to keyboard use, which may explain the association between frequent mouse use and CTS (Dennerlein, 2006).

CTS and other repetitive stress injuries result in pain, from constant and often incorrectly angled use of the arm and hand on the mouse or from dragging a poorly designed mouse with a ball that needs cleaning (one reason most mice now use laser optical technology). Novice users using extra hand, wrist, and forearm muscles to perform tasks via dragging and dropping would benefit from moving their skill set to the keyboard.

Professionals in the creative industries have embraced the keyboard as much for health reasons as for billable speed. Speed increases productivity, and reduces turnaround time for projects. Within any software interface, it is of the upmost importance to have your tasks accomplished with as little movement of the hands off their home (row) positions as possible. As an editor myself, I assign and customize keys to characters and symbols akin to their function, incorporating a mnemonic and symbol logic of my own design, and keeping modifier key use down to a minimum. Keyboard modifications such as these, are sometimes only available because developers have integrated customization options into software design.

A number of applications now allow for remapping the entire keyboard to a users specification, potentially quadrupling input timing and accuracy. Unfortunately, for the most part there is little impetus for innovation on the part of software developers to improve interface interaction because consumer passivity is encouraged by most software makers. Implementation of customization capabilities by developers is both varied and inconsistent, with the end result being a failure of keyboard customization to take hold by most. Moving the cursor to place on top of icons and click is the reason most people use the mouse, yet one of the biggest complaints about most application interfaces is that the most commonly used icons are too small. A great majority of applications contain hundreds of shortcuts that are never used. The justifications for this discrepancy vary, but among them include; user aversion to the keyboard, transposition of keys, or fear of repetitive strain injury. It takes individuals of a certain aptitude who are willing to climb steep learning curves and break habitual mental models to embrace these benefits not only to improve functionality and health.

A predilection for keyboard use over the mouse use can be attributed to any number of circumstance. Personal preference, previous software experience, or a familiarity with and proximity to neighboring keys or “clusters”. The possibility of a key command becoming second nature or imprinted is common in keyboard use. Intuitively, your typing speed increases, accuracy becomes greater, and efficiency is maximized (Kidder, 2009). This phenomenon known as “acquiring a kinesthetic”, body memory, or “flow” is a distinction exclusive to the keyboard and unavailable in mouse driven workflows.

From an artistic standpoint, the experience of creating often motivates further creation. When this happens, a sort of symbiosis between creative thought and immediate expression occurs. By appropriating keyboard shortcuts into their craft and work flow, the artist is allowed to become more intuitive and decreases their dependency on mechanics and harnesses the application so that they work smarter, not harder. Allowing the user to allocate more time to make decisions, review, and revise as opposed to just performing the mechanics the input requires. Time is spent on the material instead of the task.

Ostensibly, once an editorial or creative decision has been made, the first thing the user would want to do is either perform or review the idea as fast as possible. A mutual benefit for all users, creative decision making, and potentially, the creative process itself . Simply put, it takes much longer to click a menu command or drag an object around than it does to use a keyboard shortcut. Over time, these little moments begin to mount up. In most professional jobs, you have an allotted time to finish a project.

Each time you access a menu command that takes you 3 or 4 seconds, that’s 3 or 4 seconds lost to mechanics, operation, and ultimately, inspiration. If the interaction between you and your interface is fast, these skills will allow you to create more time for yourself to be inventive, innovative, and imaginative in the approach to your work or craft. Some may argue that you’re only shaving off fractions of seconds by using the keyboard instead of the mouse. Similarly, one could point out the difference between cable modem speed and dial-up latency being less than 200 milliseconds, and yet the end user experience is drastically different. Some statistics have shown as much as a 40% increase in speed when keyboard shortcuts are utilized over those who don’t (Morris, 2010). That cuts one hour’s time spent on a workload down to nearly half an hour.

Discovery of short and quick ways to accomplish a keyboard driven task, as opposed to using the mouse, takes time. Very few creative professionals learn to master any application in a short amount of time, much less memorize its keyboard’s shortcuts. Six months of working 40 hours a week with any given software is sufficient time to master it (Hoffman, 2003). Most applications were designed to accommodate numerous ways to accomplish the same thing, acknowledging the different sensibilities to be catered to in order for one to become proficient. The most efficient approach for interacting with software, for the sake of time and your health, is to learn that application’s keyboard shortcuts and use them. Whether working with video, graphics, photos, music or text on a computer, taking advantage of the many different keyboard shortcuts native to your software will streamline your workflow, enhance your proficiency, and turn your interaction with a computer into a more pleasurable and creative experience.

Creative Class Arise!

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“Rise of the Creative Class” had me at it’s preface. I always suspected that one’s creative talent could be an economic force as valuable as any other resource such as agriculture, industry, manufacturing and services. The author, Richard Florida, also makes a case for the economic value and impact upon cities based on that city’s level of tolerance.The “creative class” has risen to makeup nearly a third of the workforce worldwide. The wealth generated by the creative sector in the U.S. accounts for as much as the manufacturing and service sectors combined (1.7 trillion).

Florida’s points about the transcendence of creativity over race, gender, orientation and appearance were refreshing to hear because they are often left out as a determinant when these types of studies on economic progress are undertaken. As much time as it took for our country to adapt to the industrial age through experimentation, the New Deal and World War II, it will take the same amount of decades to build a broader creative society and utilize the creative energies of our population. Specifically, Florida cites tolerance, talent and technology as key factors in developing such a model.

I also appreciated Florida’s wage inequality, gay, bohemian and integration indexes that shed light on correlations between a cities rank on those indices and the robustness of that cities’ economy (and was pleased to see Minneapolis in the top five). I believe his link between income inequality and division between the classes with respect to culture, education and geography was way ahead of its time (since the book was published in 2002) and we are feeling the ramifications of it now. Its no wonder that his conclusions ran against the grain of social conservatives and he’s experienced a bit of backlash and suffered accusations of being biased, gay, or anti-Christian.

To me, whenever an honest attempt at compiling data that results in conclusions that oppose the status quo, it lends even more credence to that scientists work because of the lack of agenda behind it. Having political and moralistic accusations thrown at him indicated to me that he was doing exactly what a social scientist should do. Confirming through hard data and research that a city prospers when it is both family, gay, bohemian and ethnically-friendly (and thus conducive to creativity) runs counter to a lot of established traditional thinking and blows holes through previously held theories.

In Florida’s Rise of the Creative class was a piece of data I found intriguing; artists, writers and performers increased from 200,000 in 1900 to 525,000 in 1950 to 2.5 million in 2000 (a 375 percent increase since 1950. Rather than productivity improvements related to new technology and new manufacturing methods, it is our dominance in producing intellectual property in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks and proprietary designs in the fields of software, R&D, design, and creative content industries like film and music, that is responsible for our resurgence in global economic competitiveness since the eighties.

Venture capital and geography has also played a crucial role in the flow of innovation to places that had other (read: bohemian) elements to become part of that city’s larger social structure of creativity. This influx provides a supportive social eco-system conducive to all forms of creativity to take root and flourish. It also attracts new and different kinds of people, and encourages the transmission of ideas and knowledge so they can converge.

In manufacturing, the key (in cases of Japanese companies such as Toyota) is to have everybody contribute their minds in addition to their labor so that activities are harmonized with production. An additional “power shift” that is occurring is outsourcing (which some progressives consider a dirty word) and subcontracting of suppliers – manufacturing, warehousing and fulfillment, advertising and accounting services. This actually allows for the removal entry barriers with respect to staffing so that only the functions that generate intellectual property, creative designs or brand identity remain dispersed amongst a small in-house staff of executives, marketers and designers.

Florida’s breakdown of the four crucial periods of transition was like reading a condensed version of economic history and was the most enlightening record of man’s advancements from one transition to another that I’ve ever read. His definition of the creative class whose members want to engage in work that “creates meaningful new forms” was also both a novel definition as well as a keen observation.

Florida points out a shift that has taken place over the past three decades where, in 1970, the Service class pulled ahead of the working class marking the first time in the twentieth century that the Working class was not the dominant class. Part of this shift is based on the decline of the industrial economy on which the American class structure is based and the old society was premised on.

The new Service class exists mainly as a supporting infrastructure for the Creative class and the Creative economy. Some of the members of the Service class have adopted many of the functions along with the tastes and values of the Creative class, with whom they see themselves sharing much in common. Some members have taken up their lines of work to get away from the regimentation of large organizations specifically to pursue their creative endeavors and in fact are prime candidates for reclassification within the Creative class.

While the Creative class favors openness and diversity, to some degree it is a diversity of elites, limited to highly educated, creative people. The high-tech industry in particular doesn’t include many African-American faces, which is disturbing in light of research showing positive relationships between high-tech and forms of diversity towards gay and foreign born peoples.

In a number of ways, the Creative class has taken what were once considered alternative values and made them and many symbols of nonconformity acceptable and even mainstream. Because our material conditions now allow the ordinary individual to concern themselves with what life is about rather than devoting the entire day to earning the food, clothing and shelter needed to sustain life, a more liberal and tolerant social class has risen to a position of dominance in the last three decades that represents a new and increasingly norm-setting mainstream of society.

The core principles of the no-collar workplace are spreading because they are efficient and well suited to mobilizing talent around creative tasks. This workplace integrates flexible, open and interactive elements from the model of the artist’s studio or scientists lab. A key element is evolution and experimentation with new structures and practices. Some of which may stick (such as free or subsidized cafeterias, casual dress), some may not (free massages and dog-sitting). The structures and practices that last are those that contribute to workplace performance, efficiency and profit. The trends that feed creativity and harness it tend to dominate and persist in the creative economy.

Stanford University’s Jeffrey Pfeffer states that “all that separates a company from their competitors are the skills, knowledge, commitment and abilities of the people that work for that company. Companies that manage people right will outperform companies that don’t by 30 to 40 percent”. The concept of motivating creative people at a firm is to treat them like volunteers. Volunteers have to get more satisfaction from their work because they get no pay. The no-collar workplace acts on a complex dynamic of peer recognition and competitive peer pressure to harness the talents of creative people. The employment contract between firms and creatives is tailored to the needs and desires of the individual. Creative people trade their ideas and creative energy for money.They also want the flexibility to pursue things that interest them on terms that fit them, thus they trade security for autonomy and conformity for the freedom to move from job to job and to pursue interesting projects and activities. Creative workers express a preference for companies that combine the flexibility on matters such as dress and personal work habits and openness of the no-collar workplace with the job stability, reasonable expectations about working hours, talented peers and responsible management.

I found it interesting that skilled working class workers in factory or building trades avoid being overworked better than the creative class because they can put in their 40 hour week and go home and still pull down a decent wage. Those who are “salaried” are putting in additional “free” hours into the company. The “march of technologies” that extend the workday was enlightening for me. The idea that cellphones, laptops and wireless networks allow our work to follow us wherever (and whenever) we are reinforce the idea that work can extend into your time off. Personally, I agreed with the book’s position that the flexible, interwoven life can be more hectic than the regimented one. An interwoven day that consists of a bike ride, late-night work, meals and errands scattered across different times and places requires many transitions that are taxing over time. The act of shifting focus, gathering your materials and mulling over assignments during transitions saps your time and energy.

I strongly identified with with psychologist Carl Roger’s quote from his 1961 book “On Becoming a Person” . The lengthy quote seemed to sum up my credo (and other like-minded individuals that “when an individual is open to all experience, then their behavior will be creative, and that creativity should be trusted to be essentially constructive. A person who is open to experience each stimuli is freely relayed without being distorted by any process of defensiveness. Whether the stimulus originates in the environment, in the impact of form, color, or sound on the sensory nerves, or whether it originates in the viscera, it is available to awareness. This last suggest another way of describing openness to experience. It means lack of rigidity and permeability of boundaries in concepts, beliefs, perceptions, and hypotheses. It means tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to receive much conflicting information without forcing closure upon the situation. This complete awareness to what exists at this moment is an important condition of constructive creativity. I also believe it is an approach to living life.

I also related strongly to the author’s personal pursuit of an active, experiential lifestyle when he related his desire just to ride his bicycle after weeks of watching hours of of television for weeks. The pull to ride his bike had less to do with his passion for cycling or an effort to stay fit, but more for the release it afforded his brain to stop turning and thinking. To just let go and and do something physical as a way of both disconnecting and recharging. Since a large part of my work is intellectual and sedentary, I myself desire and seek physical activity outdoors as well.

I agreed with Florida’s observation that profound social change is afoot. High, low and no brow, alternative and mainstream, work and play, executive and hipster, bohemian and bourgeois are all morphing together and gradually filtering through the rest of society. I also felt that Marx, D.H. Lawrence and Cesar Grana’s views regarding the cultural and economic divisions between the classes, that the real enemy (then as it is now) not oppressive capitalism but the suppression of key elements of the human spirit by the prevailing (materialistic) culture.

A steady “killing of the human thing and worshiping of the technological thing”. The complaints of mass marketing of an artist’s work doesn’t necessarily compromise their creative integrity. They mainly want to hone their skills and do their art. If money can be made along the way, then the financial security that comes from such success can make it easier for said artist to experiment further. It should be obvious now to all that the rise of the creative economy is drawing innovation, culture and business into one another.

A defining American value is that of individuality, which at its heart is itself bohemian. One that can be brought into the workplace and move beyond old categories of bohemian and bourgeois. An ethos that has spread and endured and continues to permeate our society because it has a wide and sustainable economic base. It engages the world of work and life and weaves them together. Changing both in the process.

I’m proud to see Florida’s research prove that Minneapolis (ranked 10th) is considered a “Creative Center” because I was born and raised here. I lived in Orlando (ranked 32nd) after graduating high school and then moved to L.A. (ranked 12th) when I was in my late twenties.

Like Florida, I felt his correlations between Creative, Working and Service Class regions indicated that different classes are sorting themselves into regional centers that may inadvertently create a new geography of class in America and give rise to a new form of segregation. Creative class people of varied backgrounds are all migrating to the same kinds of cities that already have considerable concentrations of their class already. I concur with Florida’s belief that openness to immigration is directly linked to America’s economic performance and success as proven in the nineties.

The truly troubling statistic in all of Florida’s research, in my opinion, is that the creative economy does not include African-Americans and other non-whites. It appears that the Creative economy does little to erase the divide between the white and non-white segments of the population and perhaps may exacerbate it. This truth bears out in Florida’s research on social capital (civic trust and reciprocity) right here in Minneapolis. Although it ranks the highest in America for this category, a quote from an African-American transplant from New Jersey who states that for the six years he’s been here heading the Minneapolis Foundation, he has yet to be asked to a church, barber, mechanic or extended the type of informal invitations share with each other for bowling, having friends over, card playing, joining groups or civic organizations.

It seems a separate dynamic is at work when non-whites are encountered here in Minnesota as much as other parts of the U.S. What is needed is a new model. A place to build a real life and balance being part of a new and more accepting community where one can be oneself. One that also possesses a richness of history, a reasonably authentic community and a better way of life. In a word, Hawaii.

As Florida points out in the last chapter, the Creative Class needs to invent new forms of collective action and develop their awareness as a class in order to effect change. A shared vision that reflects its principles of creativity is the fundamental source of economic growth, and that it is an essential part of everyone’s humanity that needs to be cultivated. This involves shifting both public and private funds away from investments in physical capital toward investment in creative capital, education and skill development. A broad support of arts and cultural activity in all its forms- music, culture, design and related fields attracts creative people from around the world.

The Creative class also needs to offer to those in other classes ways to improve their own positions and ensure that our physical and cultural borders remain open and refuse to waver on our commitment to diversity. Lastly a commitment to ensuring access to full opportunity and unfettered social mobility for all by removing barriers and obstacles that are not only morally problematic but economically counterproductive as well. To paraphrase the advice given to Florida himself as a young boy: Get an education, get ahead and get out.

Women and Minority Writer Employment in TV and Film

images-2In 2009 the Writers Guild of America (WGA) released a report on the challenges faced by diverse writers in the employment and earnings fronts. Despite a call for action in their 2007 report, the report found that women and minorities had not made any hiring gains since 2005 and had actually moved backward in some areas. White males continued to dominate television writing, while women represent only 27% of the employment in television writing and 16% of film employment.

Minority share of film employment has been stuck at 6 percent since 1999, while their share of television employment has increased from 10 to 11 percent in 2012 since the 2009 report. According to the most recent stats from the WGA, about 30.5% of TV staff are women, and about 15.6 percent of TV writers are people of color; both numbers represent modest gains from the past (Note: Women of color are in both the women’s and minority data)(Hunt, 2009). A San Diego State University study puts the percentage nearer to 34% for female television writers for the 2012-13 season. More than a decade earlier in 1999, 26 percent of working writers in cable and broadcast were women. By 2009, that number had risen by 2 percent.

From 2001 to 2009, women’s earnings declined 4.7 percent to their male counterparts who increased their average earnings by 31 percent. In short, between 2000 and 2009, “the earnings gap between women and white males had almost quadrupled (from $4,735 to $17,343).” There is an over $5000 earnings gap in TV and almost $42,000 in film (Silverstein, 2009). This is the widest margin in years. For every $100 a male screenwriter makes, a woman makes $58 which is higher than the overall gender earnings gap (Lauzen, 2014).

The 2007 Hollywood Writers Report noted that while women had made substantial progress in television earnings, the 2009 report indicated these trends were reversing for women in film earnings and continue to hold for female television writers with respect to their white male peers. In essence, women and minorities closed the earnings gaps with white men in television a bit, while the earnings gap in film grew. When you consider that women make up over 50% of the population and over a third of it is non-white, these percentages are clearly out of step with the population.

Minorities account for nearly 37 percent of the U.S. population in 2010 and by 2012 the majority of the babies born in the U.S. were non-white. Data also shows that minorities watch a disproportionate share of television and theatrical films, while the increases in their consumer spending outpace the rest of the nation (Hunt, 2014).
About 10 percent of working writers are minorities according to the WGA and that number has not budged for many years. If progress were being made, you’d think you’d see this reflected in the pilots or in the world of independent film, yet a 2010 Flavorwire article states that out of 40 pilots commissioned for the 2010-11 season only six were created or written by women (Larson, 2010). The WGA’ s data for that same season noted that 24 percent of the pilots in the pipeline had at least one woman writer attached, while only 9 percent of the projects had at least one minority writer (Hunt, 2009).

The creation of the WGA’s Writers Access Project (WAP) reflects a strong interest in the writing community gaining more access for diverse writers and dispels a key myth: Hollywood’s excuse that the pool of diverse writers is limited. The success of the program suggests that the underemployment of diverse writers in the industry has more to do with access, networking and opportunity than with a shortage of talent. Before we can hope to significantly address the unsatisfactory numbers for diverse writers, industry decision makers must embrace this truth.

The WAP project represents just one small step forward in the process of rewriting the all-too-familiar story of stagnant employment and earnings gaps for diverse writers revealed in the 2009 Hollywood Writers Report. The WGA plans to eventually expand the WAP to the film sector, which will require Guild collaboration with the major studios so that selected scripts can be made accessible to executives and producers in the feature film arena. In short, the Guild is encouraging the broader industry to rethink business-as-usual practices on the diversity front (WGAW, 2014).

Even on shows about women or minorities, there has often been an attitude that as long as you have one token minority or female writer on staff then some invisible quota has been met. In Hollywood this is known as a “diversity staff hire”- an entry-level, non-white staff writer, explicitly hired due to their race and often openly referred to as a “diversity hire”. Diversity staff writing programs exist at nearly every broadcast and cable network. While the network is involved creatively in producing a television show, all aspects of the financial responsibility of salaries, shooting and editing are paid for by the studio behind the show. The network then factors in additional costs solely for that “diversity hire”, so that the studio’s budget is allocated only to that which is “integral” to the show’s production (Shah, 2013).

The problem or lack of diverse writers or writers trapped in entry-level positions involves a better understanding of writers room dynamics that may retard the progress of diverse writers. According to the WGA 2009 report, women are half as likely as men to be show runners. Under the condition of anonymity, one female writer explained that “…it’s not unusual for females or writers of color to be relegated to junior writer positions and to be stuck there for years rather than being promoted to positions of greater responsibility. If you aren’t hired to write on staff, you can’t be mentored. You can’t gain experience and move up to ultimately create your own show. You can’t have overall deals. You are essentially shut out of the process.” One woman who has written for several shows stated “Being the only woman writer in the room is like having a target on your back. Even more important than stocking any given staff with female writers, women have to make the effort to become show runners who set the tone and create their own projects. That’s where you get real diversity” (Harris, 2010).

In 2013, out of CBS’s six new shows that season, each one was created by a white male. At Fox it was the same: six out of six. ABC’s seven new shows had two female creators of comedies amongst the all-male led creators of drama. NBC, with twelve shows, all created exclusively by white males. “If I had to guess”, said Marc Guggenheim an experienced television writer, “I’d say that writing staffs have been shrinking since the (2007-2008) writer’s strike and the start of the recession. When jobs are hard to come by, it’s minorities, including women, who are disproportionately impacted.” By way of contrast, Wal-Mart was sued because only 33% of women were in management. In Hollywood only about 25% of executive producers are women (Ryan, 2011). The most recent San Diego Study of Women in TV and Film reports that 27 percent of women bear the title executive producer, and 24 percent are “creators” (Carter, 2009).

Over the past four decades, HBO and several other networks of its kind have also failed to give women and people of color a bigger role. Specifically an original one-hour drama series. Huffington Post’s TV critic Maureen Ryan conducted a poll and found that between 1975 and April 2014, of the 38 people who created or designed the narratives for HBO one-hour dramas and mini-series, thirty-four were white men, three were white females and one was a non-white man (Michael Henry Brown who co-wrote 1993’s “Laurel Avenue”). Since 2008, the outlook has gotten worse: no woman or person of color has been a creator or narrative architect on a one-hour drama or mini-series between 2002 and 2014. Under 8% of HBO’s original dramas and miniseries come from women and 2.6% are created by people of color. These numbers confirm the worst fears of females and writers of color (Ryan, 2014).

In response to this report, HBO released a statement announcing “a new program called HBO Access that seeks emerging, diverse filmmakers, currently developing new programming with Oprah Winfrey, Steve McQueen, Jenjhi Kohan and many others” (Ryan, 2014). Part of HBO’s reasoning to cast a wider net presumably would be to grow its subscriber base. People have more devices to watch than they’ve ever had, and if America’s population is expanding to the point where in a matter of decades its going to be 50% people of color it makes sense to start to open the gates wider now (U.S. Census, 2012).

AMC, FX, Showtime, Netflix and HBO are among the leaders of the pack in television. Their programming represents popular culture that can often capture the public’s imagination and solidify the power of the people who create the programs. These five outlets have ninety-seven narrative architects. Twelve are women and two are persons of color (Brown and Veena Sud)

This is an unscientific, inexact snapshot of the industry that is nevertheless telling. From 2002 to April 2014: just over twelve percent of the creatives and narrative architects in the dramatic realm were women at HBO. Of the 31 people who created or were narrative architects of an HBO original drama or mini-series, two or roughly 6.5 percent were women. Not one was a person of color (Ryan, 2014).

For that same time frame, the numbers failed to improve at AMC, FX, Showtime, and Netflix as well. Of Showtime’s 23 creators, six were women. No persons of color. FX networks had 22 creators, one of whom was a woman and no creators of color. AMC had 11 creators, one of whom was a woman and one a person of color. Netflix had three creators heading a drama or miniseries when it began. One was a woman and no creators of color. “Orange is the New Black” created by that one woman, helped put Netflix on the map in part because of the diverse array of characters and stories viewers had been missing from TV (Ryan, 2014).

More women watch television then men. In primetime and daytime, writers and producers who are female have had great success. Despite this, late night and comedy shows typically have very few or zero women on staff. More than half of Letterman, Conan and Leno’s audiences are made up of women. In 2009, out of roughly 50 comedy writers working on Conan, Leno and Letterman, none were women. Some women in the business feel that as long as the hosts remain almost exclusively male, so will the writers. One woman with her own late-night show, Chelsea Handler has five women on her staff of ten, lending credence to this theory. Yet, Sarah Silverman’s show has no women writers, although she is credited as a writer herself. (Harris, 2010).

Saturday Night Live’s cast has always been under 3 percent black and female during its 38 year run (Shah, 2013). As of 2013, there had not been a black woman on the show in six years and there have only ever been four black females on the show out of 137 repertory and featured cast members. The first black female cast member was only a featured player and was fired halfway through her first season. “The Daily Show”, with the exception of Stacey Grenrock Woods (1999-2003) and Samantha Bee (since 2001), didn’t hire another female correspondent until 2010. When asked if it felt like a boys club at The Daily Show, Woods responded “Yes. Did I want to be a part of it? Not necessarily. So it kind of goes both ways” (Carmon, 2010). Ironically, “The Daily Show” was created for Comedy Central by two women, Lizz Winstead and Madeline Smithberg. Kimmel’s Jill Leiderman and Leno’s Debbie Vickers are examples of females who’ve held positions of power as executive producers of their respective shows. Currently, Letterman’s show has three – Jude Brennan, Barbara Gaines and Maria Pope. Jimmy Fallon has three out of twelve on his staff, while Kimmel has only one. Jill Goodwin, of Letterman and Meredith Scardino, of the Colbert Report, are currently the only women on their writing staffs.

According to Nell Scovell, a former female writer on Letterman’s Late Show claims, “there have only been seven women writers hired over the past 27 years. These seven have spent a total of 17 years on staff combined (her emphasis), while male writers have a collective 378 years” (based on an average writing room of 14 men, the size of the current Late Show staff). Scovell feels that television shows that “often rely on current (white male) writers to recommend their funny (white male) friends to be future (white male) writers should instead have targeted outreach directed towards talented bloggers, improv performers and stand-ups to help widen the field of applicants. A room with a fairer sampling of humanity will always produce funnier material” (Scovell, 2009).

Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” and Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” have changed the landscape somewhat with a high percentage of female talent hires by sitcom standards, but in the decade since Rhimes first hit “Grey’s Anatomy” the status quo remains much the same. A Variety article notes that “30 Rock” had four women, seven men, and one man of color (Donald Glover who moved on to a co-starring role on “Community”) (Boyd, 2009). In contrast, women are the majority on AMC’s “Mad Men” where seven of the nine members of the writing team are women. The staffs of both Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal and Cold Case also have a majority of women (Chozick, 2009).

Some networks have established selective workshops for diverse writers and only employ “diversity hires” that are graduates of that process. Other networks believe being gay, female or sufferring from minor health defects fit the definition for non-white qualification. CBS has no diversity initiative whatsoever. The WGA has tier-based, salary minimum requirements of which staff writer is the lowest. With that in mind, if Fox hired a person of color for an upcoming season, they could keep that person on as a staff writer, year after year if desired, where they might remain in limbo at that position regardless of qualifications. If a promotion should arise for that writer of color, then their salary would then come out of the show’s budget instead of the network’s. This additional cost is taken from funds that would otherwise go towards the production of the show. Thus, making it all the more cost effective to retain that “diversity hire” at the staff writer level indefinitely if they so choose.

In addition to diversity staff writers being referred to condescendingly as a show’s “DSW”, women are often referred to as D-girls for “development girl”. There is also the unspoken stigma in TV writing of diversity staff writers never being good writers (Shah, 2013). Notable exceptions being Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project”, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel of “The Millers”, “New Girl” and “My Name is Earl” and Alan Yang of “Park and Recreation” (Shah, 2013).

A strange paradox seems to exist at most diversity departments of major networks; the segregation of young writers in diversity programs from executives in development of current programming departments. Consequently, these writers remain unknown to the very television executives who not only create and maintain shows, but hire writers throughout the year. Just another impediment to breaking through the dominant white male color barrier for writers. In June of 2014 Fox launched a mentoring program for females and diverse voices “by nomination only… from agencies, management companies and a select number of organizations identified by Fox that have a history of fostering strong, emerging and developed talent from diverse backgrounds” (Fox, 2014). In other words, if you are already a director affiliated with or represented by an agency or management company then only applications submitted through your respective organization will be considered.

In 2013, women may have broken box office barriers with the success of the female co-produced Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Jennifer Lee redefining the princess genre with Disney’s Frozen as co-director; and Megan Allison’s Oscar nominated productions for American Hustle and Her (Sperling, 2014). But a report on Women in Film conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in TV and Film: Celluloid Ceiling proves otherwise. It states that only 16 percent of behind-the-scenes jobs on the top 250 grossing movies were held by women – a one percent drop from a high in 1998. Also, only 6 percent of the top films last year were helmed by women. A decrease of 3 percentage points from 2012 (Lauzen, 2014). To add some perspective to this: In 86 years, the Motion Picture Academy has only nominated four women for Best Director and only one, Kathryn Bigelow has won. Three African-Americans have been nominated for Best Director (John Singleton, Lee Daniels and Steve McQueen). None has ever won. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and Asian director were two of the first non-white filmmakers to win Oscar’s Best Director award in 2005: Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi and Cuaron’s Gravity in 2013 (Filmsite, 2014).

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media also conducted a study in gender disparity behind the camera on all G-rated films and the 50 top grossing PG and PG-13 films between September 2006 and September 2007 noting the gender of every director, writer and producer in the 122 films. Out of 1,565 creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates into 4.88 males working behind the scenes to every one female (Smith & Choueiti, 2009).

Of the 600 new movies reviewed by the New York Times, roughly 10% were directed by women, which included foreign female directors. Only a handful of these were from major studios. In 2009, Fox and their Searchlight division led the pack with five female director releases: “Jennifer’s Body”, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel”, “Amelia”, “Post-Grad” and “Whip It”. Disney had one: Anne Fletcher’s “The Proposal”. Sony had four: Nora Ephron’s “Julia & Julia”, “An Education”, “Coco Before Chanel” and “Sugar”. Universal had Nancy Meyer’s “It’s Complicated”, while both Focus Features and Miramax had no female directors. Neither did Paramount or Warner Brothers (Dargis, 2009).

In 2013, the Emmy’s nominated two females for their outstanding direction of a dramatic series for episodes of “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad” (both lost to David Fincher’s “House of Cards”). In the comedic categories for writing and direction there were three nods for “Girls”, “Modern Family” and “30 Rock” of which only Tina Fey won for writing (Emmy’s, 2013). But 2014, had no female nominees in the drama series direction. Only one for “Breaking Bad” in the dramatic writing category and three again in comedy writing and direction “Orange Is The New Black” and Modern Family”. These results reflect the latest Director’s Guild statistics that indicate women direct only about 14% of all episodic television work (Littleton, 2014).

That same sexism and gender bias is just as pervasive in the world of theatre. In an analysis of “Discrimination in American Theatre” conducted by Princeton undergrad Emily Glassberg Sands, co-author of Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of Blind Auditions, it was found that plays written by men are produced more often on Broadway. The figure is 82% male to females 18% (Sands, 2009). Plays written about women by women are the least likely to get produced, so consequently women reduce the amount of female parts in their plays. When role names are switched to a male moniker, the likelihood of being produced increases. Only 11% of the plays on Broadway over the last decade (from 1999 to 2009) were written by women. They also made more money and had higher revenue by 18% because women buy 60% of all the tickets. In response, American playwright, novelist and television writer Theresa Rebeck stated “Women are buying all the tickets and plays by women make money. Theaters can no longer afford to hang on to the shreds of old thinking.” This same study also notes that in 2008, only 31.6% of creative jobs (actors, writers, directors, designers, etc.) were held by women in NY theatre houses, while men held 68.4% (Silverstein, 2009).

In the WGA’s most recent 2014 report, employment for minority writers increased for the first time between 2007 and 2012 from 8.4 to 9.9% overall- a period coinciding with the Great Recession’s beginning and end. While the numbers of employed writers increased for Asian (42%) and Latinos (32%), the number of employed African-American writers increased by a more modest 10.5% and the already small number of employed Native writers actually dropped by 30%. The overall employment rate for white women also declined from 55.4% in 2007 to 54.6% in 2012, while minority women enjoyed the biggest increase in employment rate over that period, from 57% to 65.5% (Hunt, 2014).

Previous WGA reports noted that although white male writers continued to dominate in overall earnings, women had closed the gap significantly by 2009, while minorities continued to lag behind. As a result, the overall earnings gap for minority writers remained the same $30,135.

In summary, the white male dominance stated in previous reports is still characteristic of current employment and earning patterns for 2012. Male writers accounted for 75 percent of industry employment. In 2012, women writers earned 90 cents and minority writers earned 77 cents for each dollar earned by white male writers (Hunt, 2014).

When asked why diverse writers seem to be losing ground, Kim Meyers, director of diversity at the WGA, attributed the trend to the types of films being developed at the studios. “The emphasis on tentpole movies, comic book franchises and graphic novel adaptations where action is the main focus. This is often seen as the province of male screenwriters and could be the reason women screenwriters are not being hired to write the “big” movies. What comes next after the comic book adaptations? Who’s to say?” Myers continued. “Trends change. It may be a young female screenwriter who writes the film that introduces a whole new era in feature films.” And let’s not forget new media. We live in a world where it is increasingly possible for all young writers to get together with their peers and make the films they write. A control over their future that previous generations of writers have not had.” (Silverstein, 2009)

Since Sherry Lansing became the first female president of 20th Century Fox in 1980, there have been women running studios on and off ever since. A few years ago, four of the six major studios were being run by women. Now there is only one, Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures which as of late has become more of a boy’s club for Spiderman, superheroes, and frat-boy, fart- joke comedies from Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow. Independent film’s female directors that have made a splash at Sundance, now disappear far too quickly: Think Sofia Coppolla of “Lost in Translation” or Kimberly Pierce of “Boy’s Don’t Cry”. Even the careers of crossover studio directors such as Clueless’s Amy Heckerling, “A League of Their Own’s Penny Marshall, Martha Coolidge, and Mimi Leder have had a short shelf life. Writer-director Jasmine McGlade-Chazelle, who mentored under Kimberly Pierce, hasn’t had much luck pitching complex female protagonists to male executives. “I’ve seen blatant sexism at every level in the questions they ask me. Questions that they’d never ask a man like… Would you be comfortable giving orders to a male crew?” (Sperling, 2014)

Hollywood’s usual answer is that all it cares about is box office which is both true and convenient, but women get less credit for blockbusters (Catherine Hardwicke’s “Twilight”) and more blame for bombs (Mimi Leder’s “Pay it Forward”). In Leder’s case she didn’t direct again for nine years. Meanwhile a flop from a top male director usually gets a pass from the industry like John Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” or Bryan Singer’s “Jack the Giant Slayer” (Sperling, 2014). Manhola Dargis of the New York Times decided to put that theory to the test.

In 2001, Michael Mann directed the bio-pic “Ali” with Will Smith with an estimated budget of $107 million from Sony and netted only $88 million globally. The following year, Kathryn Bigelow directed Harrison Ford in K19: The Widowmaker for $100 million and brought in only $66 million globally. This $22 million difference in box office receipts meant that Mann could move on to direct “Collateral” in 2004 with Tom Cruise followed by “Miami Vice” in 2006 both with budgets of $65 million and $135 million respectively. Meanwhile Ms. Bigelow didn’t direct another feature until 2007’s “The Hurt Locker”, bankrolled by a French company for a budget reportedly under $20 million and won an Oscar for as it’s producer and director (Dargis, 2009).

This might be the key. Embracing a male dominated genre and succeeding at directing it better than a male. Studios are concentrating on giant blockbusters that are driven by young males. If women and people of color can co-opt a specified genre, much in the same way whites co-opted rhythm and blues, there is room for progress and a paradigm shift. Once Tyler Perry proved box office consistency with the black family comedy, he can continue to create his own projects. As can Ms. Bigelow with the action genre and Ang Lee in any genre.

The only way to combat opportunity hoarding and various -ism’s has always been to beat a dominant opponent at their own game, whether it be sports, music, poetry or film. Progress comes in fits and starts and creation belongs to all. It transcends gender, race, and disability. A concerted effort focused towards mastering a commercial genre in writing or directing can be achieved by creating (or co-opting) your model of choice. Inevitably, your unique voice will come through despite any perceived genre limitations. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German-Jew raised in India who resided in New York for most of her life, is mostly remembered for her screenplay adaptations of Edwardian English period films for Merchant Ivory films such as “Howard’s End”, “Remains of the Day” and “A Room with A View”. Adaptation is the key.

The solution for women and people of color gaining fair employment also lies in the death of long-held beliefs confronted by new realities, the literal death of old-boy network members, and the death of previous generation’s prejudices that become cultural anathema.

On Jan 26th, 2014, Shonda Rhimes, the African-American creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal was given the Directors Guild of America’s Diversity award. When asked if it had been a struggle making diversity happen on her cast and crews, Rhimes said “I’m profoundly honored to receive this award, but also a little pissed off because there still needs to be an award. There’s such a lack of people hiring women and minorities that when someone does it on a regular basis, they are given an award. It’s not because of a lack of talent. It’s because of a lack of access. People hire who they know. Well look at us. Both Betsy and I like the world that we work in to look like the world we live in. We’re also proud that the DGA recognizes a problem and are trying to fix it. The DGA, by the way, is the only guild giving out this type of award in an attempt to draw attention to the problem, which I think is kind of badass.” (Bahr, 2014). Right on, sister. Write on.