"Film lovers are sick people" - François Truffaut
Welcome to The Water Cooler: a site dedicated to celebrating the many new ways people engage with film, television and other screen content. We want to examine the changes in texts, industries and audiences in the digital era, and focus on how all these changes are fostering a flourishing online participatory cultural citizenship. Each issue will contain a collection of curated essays and pieces of commentary under one broad topic, written by a range of writers, cinephiles and tv fanatics. The theme for our first issue is ‘CHANGE.'
One of the best things about this industry we so dearly love is its aptness and openness to change. There have always been the slow and ongoing changes in how we watch and when we watch, but now more noticeably than ever before we are seeing dramatic changes in what we watch. Representation is becoming increasingly important. The types of shows that are given acclaim is expanding from the high-sex, violence and drug use containing shows on ‘quality’ networks like HBO and Showtime to content that embraces change and endeavours to display difference and uniqueness on screens.
In contrast, the film industry often appears to be the slowest to move and adapt in the face of criticism and public opinion. The production of a film can extend to years, and with such a large number of people involved and investments of millions of dollars on the line, making alterations can be like changing direction of super tankers at sea. Within the studio system, the industry is often more concerned about producing sure bets over art. Hence, it’s not surprising that we find ourselves immediately drawn to indies and art films because they are the films that are allowed to be daring. All that being said, Nick will be the first one to talk your ear off about the merits of the flourishing genre of comic book blockbuster adaptations.
In regard to change and quick adaptations, the internet trumps both television and film easily. The rapid expansion of technology has put creative power in the hands of nearly every person in the developed world, and an ever increasing percentage of the developing world too. At the minimalist end, the internet and digital video means next to zero production, handling, or distribution costs to the creators. With such a low barrier to entry, there has been an exponential proliferation of online "content." Some of it is fantastic, some of it dreadful, but it does appear to be leading towards a generation that has a much broader understanding of visual language and media literacy.
We also hope this theme of ‘change’ echoes throughout our entire site and all the future issues. The Water Cooler was born out of a weekly class centered upon talking about the changes to film and television stimulated by the digital landscape, a change which is perhaps most noticeable, or loudest, in the online spheres. It is here, amongst the online community that we now hope we can continue our class discussions, or at the very least preoccupy those seminar hours we now have spare.
In this mini-issue, - a teaser of what next year's four issues will bring - Bells explores how television is reaching beyond its previously commercially defined artistic boundaries through HBO’s acclaimed series The Leftovers, whilst Nick examines changes that have occurred in film language now that digital manipulation has seen mainstream adoption. We have both also written an additional piece exploring a topic which underpinned the class we met in: the impending death of films on celluloid and the transition towards digital filmmaking. As well in this issue is part one of a brief Q&A from us, which is also for us, two people still getting to know each other.
Keep a look out for our future issues which will be released quarterly beginning the second week of January. We have really loved putting this issue together. We hope you enjoy it.
Nick & Bells