Film as Art, and the Educational Possibilities It Presents
Story Screen, for those of you who may not know, is currently operating in Beacon, NY as a pop-up film exhibitor. Our website: StoryScreenBeacon.com features film reviews and articles written by local film lovers and filmmakers alike, as well as amazing, original artwork made for beloved movies by some of Beacon’s most talented artists, using all sorts of mediums. We are currently working on an educational platform that we will be making available to the public very soon, centered around the concept of film as an art form. Using this, we hope to engage with people through film in an entirely new and exciting way.
But first, I’d like to explain why I believe film is art:
Film is THE collaborative art form. From hundreds to thousands of people, all working around a cohesive vision, to the billions of people who choose to experience that vision, the art of film is a seemingly never-ending cycle of contemplation, hard work, extraordinary skill and unified artistry. Film combines the beauty of multiple art mediums: performance, writing, music, design and much, much more. It is a major contributor to culture, as many consider it to be the most easily accessible approach to communicating a story. Some even argue that film was the dominate art form of the Twentieth Century. And why shouldn’t they? We’ve watched film grow as a collected culture throughout our entire lives, and some of us have even chosen to look beyond our years to the incredible stories of its origins and evolutions. Film is a marvel.
It's sometimes hard to choose between the vocabulary of “film” or “movie.” They are, by their very definitions, one and the same. But the term “movie” can so easily lead to thoughts of popcorn, soda and candy, crowded rooms full of strangers in the dark, and the excitement and thrills of date night. Large corporations and studios have learned to make the big bucks on movies by streamlining them and making many of them identical (creating a larger platform of accessible audiences), but that does not mean that films that are considered slow moving or boring by some are not successful or “good.” These films choose to challenge, to inspire. Many people do not see this problem, or even the difference, because of a lack of education in what a “movie” can truly offer the viewer: escape? Yes. Distraction? Absolutely. But also, perhaps, a form of momentary transcendence and enlightenment. Change.
It can be hard to remember that there is a healthy selection of “movies” that ask for contemplation, review of philosophy and the possibilities of ourselves and the world. Writer Jeff Goins put it perfectly: “Art surprises. It wounds. It changes. Entertainment makes us feel good. While entertainment generally leaves us unchanged, art breaks our hearts, causes us to cry and reveals our own inadequacies.” Classic Cinema, Art Cinema and Blockbuster Cinema differ greatly, but they all want to tell us a story. And it is what we gain from that story, and how it may or may not change us, that is the true power of the art of film.
Even the act of watching film can arguably be labeled as its own art form. Critiquing and the review of film can expose beauties that a single viewer may not have noticed. Film criticism, in all its variety, holds proof to the power of film as both art AND entertainment.
So this brings me to education, and the place film holds in that field, not just in educating those about film itself, but by using it to educate culturally. Film breaks down barriers, teaching information on an emotional level, while engaging intellect through imagination and repetition.
Young people are becoming increasingly visually literate, and this is a great thing to nurture. Film literacy can speak to cultural aspects of life that some would otherwise have a hard time fully comprehending, such as racism, political injustice or homophobia, to name a few. Like documentaries, the story of a film is meant to engage and inform, to cause a reaction. People in general can relate to film no matter their family background or learning abilities. Film provides a gateway to other peoples' experiences, and it can reshape how we perceive and think about the world. Even children with moderate to severe learning difficulties and disabilities have proven a stronger relation to film when learning about any subject. It’s part of what the magic in “movie magic.” It transcends.
Film is a universal language.
We at Story Screen want to use this language, not only inspire but to specifically educate the next generation of filmmakers and critics in the Hudson Valley. This is where Story Screen originally spawned from: wanting to share great movies and talk about how they work and how they don’t work and why? We want to find that spark and where it comes from. That’s how you learn to start your own spark.
Making your own film is a monumentally different feeling than anything you can ever feel. Seeing an effort that takes so much time and so many people and such a variety of skills up on the big screen is soul warming. It gives its creators a level of validation that I liken to being in love and being loved in return. And it’s not just for the jobs behind and in front of the cameras that we wish to educate; it’s for the ones in front of the screen too. Film, specifically, can allow the nervous aspiring writer/reviewer an easy start. A book may be too intimidating at first, however film is considered a recreational activity by many, not so much an artistic experience worthy of dissection on a story and theme level. But it is. And we can show you how.
But it’s rough out there. Unpaid internships for filmmaking, like many professions of today, are becoming a problem for young people looking for experience in the field. We hope to create a difference in the standard for our students.
Film studies must continue to build consideration that it is just as viable an option to our youth as fine art or music. Allowing the next generation, from all walks of life, the opportunity to learn and understand film is paramount. Moving forward, diversity is key. We need diverse minds and lives to create diverse stories. Building a community for film lovers and makers to learn about and discuss their passion for a shared medium of art is a HUGE part of why Story Screen exists and what it aims to do, not just as an entity, but also as a business and educational resource and alternative. And it can be entertaining, too!
Stay tuned as we begin to release articles and theories that will help broaden the scope of how film can help us learn, not just about itself, but about each other and ourselves.
Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He lives in Beacon, NY with his cat who is named after Kevin Bacon's character from Friday the 13th.