I said, I’m lying!
Of course I'm lying. There is no way the images I'm putting on the screen for you can possibly be real. We’ve figured out precisely where the lights need to go, where the cameras need to go, what lens to use, what shade of make-up looks best against the lead actor’s sweater. It's all a lie. You think real-life looks like this?
Even when a filmmaker designs a scene to appear ugly, when it’s intentionally designed to resemble worn-out, nose-scrunching, seeping-water-rotting-the-baseboard decrepitude, the beautiful perfection of the scene is different than reality. It must be. Why? Because it’s not reality.
Most creative work it's about telling a certain kind of lie. The inherent irony is that creative work tries to tell deep truths through its fabrications. What should the truth be when what you do is make things up for a living? The truth should be something that feels authentic, that resonates. The truth should be something that offers insight into the world. The truth rarely has much to do about recitations of reality. Truth rarely concerns perfectly reproduced information and careful verisimilitude. The truth is usually something synthetic. It’s an expression that that makes us feel the value of reality, even as it does so by careful contrivance.
Regular readers will recall that our team here at 1AU Global Media largely invented the surreal and compelling cinematic experience of movies on spheres. We didn’t invent spherical project screens, but we did invent methodologies for showing films on them. The reason to bring this up is that if cinema is almost always a string of lies and deceptions, cinema on a sphere is even more of a lie. There’s no camera that can see a fully spherical image. There’s no round computer monitor on which we edit our films. In each spherical experience we distort reality in profound ways, but the goal is never to deceive, at least not exactly. In warping the world we strive for a measure of authenticity so that a deeper, more resonant truths emerges. Authenticity is about saying something that makes sense. For things to make sense on a sphere, a creative team must be clear about what they’re trying to say, lest the medium define the message, or worse, deliver just a jumble of sounds and images that don’t amount to any cogent message at all.
I’m guessing you took the bold-faced question posed at the top to be rhetorical: You think real-life looks like this? It’s not rhetorical, and I know you don’t think real life looks like this. Of course you don’t. In fact, I know that you want us to lie, us and all of our creative kin in all our motley clothes doing our strange and artsy things. You watch and listen and read what we’re doing because you’re looking for something abstract. You’re looking for some inner truth that speaks to you, sometimes looking for pure entertainment, sometimes seeking more. You go to the movies to ogle the impossibly coiffed implications of movie stars, carefully presented to appear just like you or me, but ever so slightly more perfect than we might find ourselves. Television and streaming video in it’s many prismatic forms presents the same unreality. People even pay attention to the endlessly poetic abstractions of their respective religions for precisely these reasons. They’re looking for truths that resonate, and the deeper the abstractions the greater the resonance.
I said I’m lying but my goal is to tell something truthful. I may lie in the process of doing my work, but my work never lies. Make sure you understand: I’m not intentionally deceiving anyone, but I’m not trying to re-create the real world. I lie to tell the truth. My actions may contrive, but my intention is to speak clearly and honestly through those actions. Creative work never lies; it’s always authentic to itself. That it might invent tales to reveal deep truths about reality is beside the point. You may tell falsehoods in a story, but if the story successfully misleads an audience, the story itself…it’s true.
The French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard said, “Every cut is a lie.” Yes, oh yes! Life unspools without the ability to alter time and space and choose another camera angle. You can’t make an edit in real life. Creative work is all about making those changes. But when Godard’s movies first hit the screen, the verite of his cinema made sense precisely because he made intentional cuts in order to present stories that were resonant and honest and real.
In other words, don’t fear. As long as your goal is to be truthful, you can invent new realities shamelessly.