Monday 26 October 2020

Breaking Cinema - A podcast about experimental filmmaking and our relationships with multimedia


Breaking Cinema was a documentary storytelling podcast project I started developing in 2014 and abandoned in 2016. 

My vision for Breaking Cinema had been to do something experimental, educational and entertaining that would break new ground.

A considerable amount of work went into developing the format of the podcast. I recorded a great deal of content for it and even had some theme music made before I abandoned the project.  

A rough sketch and colour palette indicator of what I wanted the final logo to look like

The project was heavily influenced by my own creative relationship with film and my experiences as a film studies student. It picked up a few of the loose ends in my BA (Hons) theoretical dissertation, Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle, and its more broadly media focused successor blog, Ways 2 Interface.

Breaking Cinema mainly developed out of my frustration with the dominant complacent thinking of film theory; as well as my dissatisfaction with the lack of film podcasts that went deep into analysing the workings of cinema and our relationships with multimedia. 

I didn't want to listen to yet another film podcast where a group of people sat around discussing topics and ideas that have been discussed before.

I had listened to a lot of film podcasts that were group discussions, some good, some not so good. The Hollywood Gauntlet is a REALLY good one!

I wanted to get away from simplistic group discussions and, if it was going to be a group discussion I wanted it to be a group discussion that was at the level and quality of podcasts like The Hollywood Gauntlet.

I just wanted to say something new and I wanted to be highly experimental in the way that I did it. 

I didn't know exactly what form it would take when I first hit upon the idea of creating a podcast, but I started recording material to help me focus my thinking and decide upon the style of the project.

I recorded sixteen test epsiodes, varying between 30 minutes all the way up to 90 minutes in length.

Some episodes I did solo and others I recorded with colleagues who I thought would bring insight and differing perspectives to the discussion. 

For the most part, the test episodes started out as a group of people discussing cinema, but my approach was to be increasingly controversial. 

So if we were discussing a film or topic that I felt was just regurgitating film theory or film thinking that had been said before, I would jump in with a curve ball to inspire the discussion to go in a fresh direction.

Sometimes this worked, but quite often I would experience a lot of resistance. 

The most infamous example of my controversial style can be found in the episode about Christopher Nolan's Memento in which I claimed the film was a one hit wonder, much to the annoyance of my co-hosts.

As I have grown older, I have come to learn that human beings are very good at holding onto their deep-seated beliefs... and are very rarely willing to step outside their comfort zones. 

I have also discovered that it is incredibly exhausting trying to get someone to step outside of the comfort zone. 

As I progressed through the test episodes, my thinking for the format of the podcast shifted from moderating fatigue-inducing group discussions to individual interviews that would be interspersed amongst a bigger, constructed audio documentary presentation. 

By this point I had transitioned onto listening to more storytelling podcasts that used dramatic narratives to explore their topics. 

Two of the absolute best film storytelling podcasts I had listened to (and I still think are the best) are The Secret History of Hollywood and You Must Remember This by Karina Longworth. 

I wanted Breaking Cinema to be much more of a storytelling podcast in the vein of The Secret History of Hollywood and You Must Remember This.

But I didn't just want to tell the stories of the people in front of and behind the film camera

I also wanted to tell the stories of the people watching the film content and interfacing on their smartphone.

This is how I came up with the first ten episodes of Breaking Cinema as an experimental documentary storytelling podcast that constructively explores cinema, multimedia and human psychology from a lucid and lateral, but highly entertaining and quirky perspective. 

The first ten episodes were a varied mix of topic focuses and presentation formats...

Ep. 1. My First Education  

A self-reflexive documentary about my relationship with film interspersed with an examination of the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, that was a key milestone in forming my understaning of cinema.


Ep. 2. Triumph of the Willful Blindness and its Great Dictator

A documentary that would have used the rise of Nazi Germany to explore the concept of willful blindness in relation to mass media. 

Being polar opposites portraying the same set of events surrounding the allure of Adolf Hitler, Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator were the two film texts that would have been analysed in relation to larger mass media, cultural, historical and psychological relevancies and media text references.


Ep. 3. Pride and Prejudice and Smartphone Zombies

A documentary that would have explored the mass communications phenomenon and technological obsession of the smartphone. It wouldhave touched on how the smartphone has become an additional and inseparable limb-interface of the human body and what impact this is having on our ways of being. 

The smartphone revolution would have been explored in relation to the biases around using or not using a smartphone; as well as in relation to the smartphone as a new form of cultural artefact, lifestyle connector and status symbol. 

The episode would primarily have been a central group discussion with cutaways of vox pop material and other relevant media content. 


Ep. 4. In an Auditorium Darkly: The Terror of the Eye-Phone 

An audio drama that would have been made in the style of old time radio dramas with vintage 1950s advertising included.

The plot would have taken place in a cinema 1953 during a screening of The War of the Worlds. Specifically, the plot would have concerned the protagonist being on a date, popping out for a toilet break during the film, wandering off to have a bit of an explore in the dark recesses of the cinema and then finding the terrifying "eye-phone" and its orchestrator therein... 

This would have been the first of a planned five In an Auditorium Darkly episodes that all take place in cinemas at different points throughout the 20th-century. The point of including fictional audio drama episodes was to use the fictional storytelling format to stimulate original thinking and to explore the concept of hypertextuality.


Ep. 5. Gamer Girls Galore

A documentary that would have explored the topic of adult females who play video games, a demographic which now comprises the largest collection of gamers. It would also have explored female objectification in the media and how the empowered female gamer stands in contrast to that objectification. 

The female point-of-view is far too often overlooked in regards to media research and I wanted to open it up and present a thorough exploration.

This episode would have been a combination of my linking narration, contributions from the interviewed guests and excerts from other related media texts. 


Ep. 6. Spectators of the Spectacles

A documentary that would bring film theory into the real world by starting with an analysis of the spectator, not the spectacle. It would have explored the larger psychology of the film experience, as being heavily determined by the psychology and personal history of the individual spectator.

This episode would have been a combination of my linking narration and contributions from a range of interviewed guests who would all have varying interests in film. It probably would also have included clips from other related media texts and some vox pop as well.          


Ep. 7. The Slow Motion Picture Entity

A documentary that would have used a very thorough analysis of the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Often referred to as The Slow Motion Picture, due to it's slow pace, the first Star Trek film would have been used to emphasize the point of slowing down our thinking and expectations when analysing a film text.

Another key point of the episode would have been establishing the difference between a film text, the two-dimensional images on the screen, and the film entity, the larger culturally embellished version of a film text as it exists in the collective consciousness. 

This episode would have been my narration analysing The Motion Picture that would have included clips from the film as well as other related media texts. 


Ep. 8. Microfilm in a Day

A documentary that would have chronicled a group of participants being brought together and set the challenge of going off to make a short film in a single day using nothing but their smartphones.

The point of this episode would have been to explore the idea of using practical filmmaking to better understand film theory and increase the effectives of the education of film. 

The episode would have been a combination of my linking narration and the reflections of the participants of the filmmaking challenge. It probably would have included some vox pop.


Ep. 9. The Media is the Mentality

A documentary that would have been structured somewhat like a news report and would have analysed how mass media and "the news" voices and dictates the status quo and collective consciousness in both a negative and positive sense.

The episode would have been a combination of my linking narration and contribution from a range of interviewed guests; as well as excerpts from other related media texts and probably some vox pop too.


Ep. 10. This is Breaking Cinema

A self-reflective documentary that would have brought together all the threads of the nine previous episodes and, together with an overview of the development of the podcast and its episodes, would have presented my intentions for the Breaking Cinema podcast.   

My intention was to orchestrate the podcast in this particular fashion in order to illustrate and inspire a broader and more flexible approach of thinking about cinema, the media landscape and how human beings play into and grow from these things. 

This episode would also have established anticipation for the next season of Breaking Cinema

It would have been a documentary analysis using a combination of my narration and excerpts and elaborations of the nine previous episodes.

You can read my highly detailed 48-page podcast overview document that includes the outlines for the first ten episodes right here

I also started writing another document, Pulling Teeth & Breaking Blindness: The Detailed Overview & Vision Document for the Breaking Cinema, that focused and presented my thinking for the podcast as a long-term project that would have successive seasons of episodes after the first ten. 

In this overview document, I started to think much more broadly about the potential of the Breaking Cinema brand as being something that could eventually develop into a YouTube channel that would feature experimental filmmaking content and video essays that would expand on the podcast.

I never finished writing the document because I shifted to turning it into a video essay that illustrated my thinking. 

I never finished that video essay either, but you can view what I did make of it...

Ultimately, I abandoned Breaking Cinema because my focus shifted more so towards the mammoth studies of my self-directed Masters of Transdisciplinary Application.

It was just a case of being economical with my time and energy.

The production and postproduction on producing the first ten episodes would have been hugely time-consuming. 

The podcast was not a commission and I would not have generated an income stream that I could have used to me support me through all the time it would have taken me to produce its content. 

It's not that I did not want to produce the podcast, I just didn't have the time, energy or financial resources to prioritise it above everything else I had going on.

Abandoning the project was not an easy decision to make.

I was incredibly passionate about this project and I felt that I had crafted it into something that would have been quite ground-breaking. 

But I had to let it go. 

So here it now rests. 

My thinking for the Breaking Cinema podcast and my ideas about what I term as being "constructive film studies" are explained and summarised in a random 40-minute reflection I made while I was still developing the podcast and was experiencing a bit of the flu...

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