I was inspired to crank out another little promo video for the TC franchise, such as it is, har! – and I plopped it on my Amazon author page and youtube.com because, hell, you have to do these things these days. If you already watched it, thanks. And if it inspired you to check out the novels, thanks likewise.
Otherwise, obviously, I’m not a videographer or video maker or what have you by nature. I’ve experimented with some things all the way back to my Texas days but I’m a writer and an authorpreneur and that’s that. However, like it or not, everybody, including me, of course, responds to video – animated visuals in whatever format or style, call it what you will – like nothing else. No book blurb or email blast or print advertisement, when it comes to marketing your novel – marketing anything for that matter – can compete with the moving image. Resist this phenomenon, which is closer to a law of Nature if you ask me, at your peril, at least if you fancy yourself an artist-craftsman seeking to participate.
J.C. himself (Joe Campbell, that is) understood this or, more accurately given what I’ve read about the man’s attitude towards film and television which wasn’t a very amendable one, apparently. Clearly the moving image just didn’t appeal to him and mostly, if you watch his video legacy, it reveals that he wasn’t particularly comfortable in front of the camera, despite possessing some honest charisma. Comparative mythology was his subject matter but he was a writer, after all, I get it. And the images that affected him were static – classic mythological imagery that to be affecting had to do it all within the limits of a single frame, as it were – without the seductiveness of being in motion. Even mostly compiling static images into a short video format, like I do, activates the imagery in a different, immediately dynamic manner.
That is to say, a static mythologically affecting image is powerful and the best of them invoke aesthetic arrest, as I’ve oft discussed. Hence, it’s immediately possible to imbue less-than-authentic dynamism into a video or a film, in my opinion. It happens whenever somebody attempts to abuse the medium by way of simply marrying crappy imagery with crappy narratives and putting it into motion. Watch lousy animation – some of the Hanna Barbara garbage from my youth comes to mind.
I’m suggesting that you ought to rather begin with a powerful static image because myth itself originates within our unconscious as, arguably, static imagery. Our dreams my play out akin to little movies in our heads but we remember the images (if we remember them at all), as static scenes. Indeed, perhaps as the Jungian collective archetypal frameworks that we fill-in, in accordance with our unique dreams, sleeping or waking. Otherwise, if you begin with the idea or requirement of movement, with a string of empty film frames, like old-fashioned celluloid film frames, and attempt to shove imagery into them. I don’t think it works as well or as reliably at least as beginning with strong static imagery.
Anyway, J.C. himself wasn’t so stubborn as to dismiss the power of the moving image. He was doing video take-offs of his lectures (recall that he was a part-time teacher, teaching being a kind of performance) very early in his career and I’d like to get my hands on the video series he did, mentioned in his biography, well prior to any of his well-known stuff. All of which is to say that I identify with J.C.’s skepticism, let’s call it, regarding the value of video yet, like him perhaps I too see it for what it is: namely, what people tend to like. It’s what they arguably tend to prefer, at least in terms of, say, my 85/15 rule of thumb. It makes intuitive sense that for every 1.5 folks who would rather look at a picture (photograph, painting, illustration, etcetera) there are perhaps 8.5 of them who would rather watch a video. Or a film.
Moreover, the shorter the better, within limits. Hence, the super-short format I use which is fundamentally geared to communicating an energized introduction to some other art-craft or endeavor; in my case, novels. Does it make sense at all that little video shorts sell novels more effectively and efficiently than static images or words themselves? Well, I can tell you that it costs a hell of a lot more to put out a magazine advertisement than it does to make and publish a video. My Locus Magazine ad that’s running right now cost me $675 for a little 1/6 page image in three consecutive issues. That’s $225 each with the discount I earned, otherwise it would’ve been almost a $1,000 investment. Video shorts? I used Animoto again, and splurged for the $96 annual fee that allowed me to download my videos instead of resorting to merely publishing a link to the Animoto page.
Videos, then. Moving images. We like them. We love them. I’ve discussed at length here within the DOP how it’s pretty much agreed amongst those that study these things that the modern novelist like me, for example, literally writes from a perspective of film, a.k.a. movies. Having grown up immersed within the medium. It’s true. I tend to literally “see” or otherwise envision my TC stories – the characters, the action, what have you – as little movies of a sort in my head.
Meanwhile, as long as I can keep the experience of making videos fun – short, and sweet – and not a chore, well, I can admit that I like doing them. If I had to do them? Ugh. Hence, I don’t ever see myself becoming a devoted, monetized you-toober with a following and production values and cameras and lighting and microphones and all that. To say nothing of the editing that makes or breaks the entire outcome. These folks who make great videos are great what I would call long-form editors. Not me, brother. No. No fucking way. A handful of hours and less than thirty seconds of result and I’m toast until the next book. Although I will likely do an updated video short for TC2 when it’s officially published.
But our voraciousness, our ability to consume so much of it creates an exhausting demand for more of it. From each of our favorite creators we are ceaselessly demanding more, more, more! And faster, faster, faster! And we discard our experience almost immediately. Videos are like candy or dessert in this way, as opposed to, say, a pot roast for dinner. The one is nutrition and the other is, well, information, let me put it that way. I’ll bet almost everyone who happens to sit through the twenty-six seconds of the TC2 promo, for example, never watches it again. They may perhaps eagerly click on a new short, but regarding the work so lovingly slaved over? It’s old news, man. And it doesn’t sustain you over the long haul of life. So be it.
It’s different with different types of work, of course. Films are like novels in the end – the best of them transcend the times and provide lasting, repeatable value. Cooking videos? Crafting videos? Home repair videos? Exercise videos? These are all very popular video categories. If the knowledge they bestow retains its value, sure, they can stick around, they can retain value in that way but unless there is some story being told by an otherwise uniquely charismatic “host” then, well, this is what I’m talking about. Namely, that the cooks and crafters and handymen and music appreciators (I don’t watch exercise videos but A. does) and such that I enjoy watching are mostly doing something besides merely instructing. T-Nu and Cajun Craftastrophe. Crafsman. Teaching is part of it, sure. But the magic sprinkles, as my brother likes to refer to it, comes from the storyteller quality of the on-screen personality.
Look at so-called radio these days. Oftentimes the host is streaming the video of the radio program as it happens and then of course posting the thing on youtube.com or wherever, afterwards. It’s a little weird if you think about it, and then again, akin to an author slapping together video shorts, perhaps, the radio star does well to promote the radio format by way of the power of video.
And why criticize any of it? Everything has its downside, so why dwell on that stuff? Choose your art-craft medium or, better yet, surrender to the idea of your medium choosing you and get on with it. Things change and then again they don’t, regardless. The mythological waters, personal and cultural, are warm, so I say grab your flotation device and come on in.
Innertubes and umbrella drinks, yeah. On a good day, you’ll find me mostly drifting contentedly upon the innertube of my writing, occasionally buoyed by an umbrella drink of video shorts….