The necessity for media literate citizens and creators continues to evolve at an astounding pace. Most recently, the intensely developing story of the accusations against iconic comedian Bill Cosby has played out through a highly complex web of media platforms: scant coverage of allegations dating from about a decade ago; recent live performances from the comedian Hannibal Buress that were then uploaded to streaming video platforms; snowballing revelations through social media by victims of Cosby’s alleged abuse; and a major multimedia report in New York magazine that utilizes Internet interactivity to explore accusations against the performer by many women whose corroborative evidence has shocked people from across the globe. The resources stemming from the New York article and more sources will serve as invaluable materials for social studies coursework, media literacy analysis, and a wide variety of evaluation of American values related to the legal system, sociology, women’s rights, and psychology in the months and years to come. Finally, as direct primary resources that utilize digital media to express ideas, the streaming video testimonials set up to accompany the article by Noreen Malone and Amanda Demme are examples of profound uses of direct interviews to enhance stories already told through print and images.
(And, yes, if you want a lesson in nailing every nuance, gesture, cut, transition, and graphic in a parody — look no further. Key & Peele continue to hone their genius at short-form filmmaking with their provocative mix of social commentary and media savvy.)
Chapter 8 of Moving Images — The Production Process — presents ways in which people need to work together effectively to make movies. In fact, students learn this throughout the book, by investigating media, studying film- making processes, writing for different contexts and platforms, and creating movies of all kinds. Of course, this process is also a business, which is discussed at various junctures in the book and has been addressed in earlier blog posts here.
A recent article by Adam Davidson (a host of NPR’s Planet Money) for the New York Times highlights the tremendous value of examining the intricate processes of moviemaking, which reveals ways in which The Production Process can help us to figure out how a successful workplace functions. In particular, Davidson highlights how lessons from the world of moviemaking can be instructive in enhancing new trends in the contemporary workplace. I highly recommend “What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work.”
In earlier posts, mediateacher.net has shared profiles of such classic composers as Henry Mancini and contemporary masters like Cliff Martinez. One of the most interesting current examples of an extremely successful and acclaimed musician and composer making the transition to scoring music for television and film is Emmy Award winner Jeff Beal. At the outset of his career, he began forging an identity as one of the most talented young trumpeters in contemporary jazz who could also compose in a wide range of idioms for projects ranging from solo piano to orchestral suites.
Like many musical artists with his range of talents and interests, Beal began composing for motion pictures, and as part of a trend with some of the most acclaimed composers of the past decade or so, his primary source of exposure has been through composing for television. In series such as Monk, Carnivàle, Ugly Betty, Rome, and The Newsroom, and movies like Blackfish and Appaloosa, he has established himself as one of the most expressive and compelling creators of music for motion pictures. Most recently, his work on Netflix’s House of Cards has brought him even further into the spotlight. This recent article on Jeff Beal (and family members) at work on the musical accompaniment to the most recent season of House of Cards is highly informative both for its artistic insights as well as for practical details on the work of contemporary composers, such as how contracting works.
I also highly recommend Jeff Beal’s recently redesigned personal web site, which includes his own selections of movie sequences that highlight the importance of his work on the outcome of dramatic scenes. It is no surprise that there are two examples from his lauded score for Ed Harris’s feature Pollock about painter Jackson Pollock. These clips can be very useful in media literacy, music technology, and video production courses.
Finally, for those with further interest in the work of Jeff Beal as a composer, I highly recommend his albums Alternate Route and Red Shift which both feature large ensembles as well as the more intimate Contemplations.
Perhaps your school year has already wound down or maybe you’re just about there. Here’s a brief post to share an artist with whom you may already be familiar — and if not, I think you are in for a treat because I believe he is one of the most dynamic multi-media presences of the past few years: Stromae. He is first and foremost a musical artist, but the place of visual expression in his output is key to his message and to his success, like many performers today. I recommend these videos because of their extremely high degree of thematic force and visual impact. There is a total command of motion picture language throughout the work he creates with his collaborators, from the animation of Carmen (by Triplettes de Belleville director Sylvain Chomet) to the art direction of Papaoutai to the cinéma vérité tour-de-force of Formidable (with a song that is profoundly reminiscent of Belgian icon Jacques Brel, who was also a multi-media giant) to Tous les Mêmes, which brings most of thèse qualities together in its eye-popping, thought-provoking glory. And like many artists today, Stromae needs to be pretty good at self-deprecation, which is quite apparent in his very funny (for those who understand French) video alongside French comic Jamel demonstrating the mock creation of his first mega-hit Alors on Danse. And the original video to that one too — Alors on Danse — is stunningly original, particularly alongside standard music videos, rap or otherwise.