Friday, November 24, 2006

90 degrees

Right before ‘Turkey Day’ NPR interviewed Tom Waits about working on movie sound tracks and his new three CD set.

What intrigued me was when he talked about doing sound tracks for movies and his approach. Waits talked about how if the song tracked too closely to what the film was trying to say than the overall effect was muted. He argued that coming in at a 90 degree angle to the film more often than not highlighted what the film was trying to say and supported it in a different way. The added benefit was that this is not an 'obvious' approach.

The longer I work on multimedia projects, the more I wonder if Waits is not onto something important. I think there are things people need to know, who is talking, what their story is. But I think we lose something as journalists if we 'spell everything out' for our audience and beat them over the head with it on the audio track. Sometimes, giving them room to think, feel and imagine is also important.

There are times when interesting images that go beyond the obvious can help tell stories, when sound or moments of silence can tell just as much as a narrative. As photojournalists move into doing more multimedia work, I think it is important to listen and learn from other mediums that have been doing similar things.

Here is hoping your holiday was a good one.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

A really good cross section of multimedia presentations that definitively articulate your point about "'spell[ing] everything out ..." is the current multimedia contest being held on the NPPA website. Short of offering up my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of some of the shows, I believe that we could all collectively agree to recognize a particular formulaic approach to storytelling that exists. Each and every show will typically begin with the subject of the show stating "Hello. My name is ———— ", or some variation upon that beginning. Then, in a similar fashion, the visual aspect of the show will lead the viewer through a 'how to' on whatever the subject may be. Invariably, and I apologize to those of you reading you may have already made a show in this manner, I end up closing out most shows that start that way.

Why? Well ... I believe my intolerance to this particular approach is rooted in the desire for something more, something that really excites me. Perhaps it began with my interest in programs such as Frontline. Perhaps it has something to do with visual storytellers that have spent most of their careers working with newsprint. In any case, being that we have a set of tools in front of us that allow the production of potentially powerful storytelling, I simply wish for so much more than being spoon-fed a very generic approach. Someone decided that this method was acceptable and therefore became the norm.

" ... giving them [the audience] room to think, feel and imagine ... " I think should be of the utmost importance.