Everything Is a Remix: Parts 1 & 2

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While many of you out there know me as a gear-head (yes – I do like my toys ;), I have always stressed the importance of story.  I have said that films must have original narratives/characters/and themes with which an audience can engage.  There are tons of cool effects and graphics out there which are great eye candy – but ultimately those that do not have a story to tell will be lost amongst the deluge of content out there.  Of course – an original story is not the easiest thing to come up with, much less tell.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hollywood, with all of its remakes/sequels and seemingly unoriginal content.  The video below addresses this trend in filmmaking (Part Two):

(Watch the whole thing!  A great little analysis of Kill Bill at the end)

At first glance, the video seems to discredit the notion of an original story at all.  But a second thought should reveal this to be something that we have always known.  We’ve been remaking the same stories since the advent of storytelling.  If you really break it down you can classify all stories as a basic struggle between man v. man, man v. nature, or man v. himself.  These conflicts make up the bulk of all stories – the elements around them have just grown in complexity as storytelling techniques and conventions have grown upon and informed one another.  There isn’t a huge difference between Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the Greek myth of Pyramus and Thisbee save a couple thousand years of linguisitic and theatrical developments.  But they share a common conflict of the human condition that has engaged audiences for millennia.

The video above says as much – and what I find so interesting about it – is that instead of pointing out a lack of originality in modern storytelling – it strives to redefine that originality.  It simply proposes that “everything is a remix” of the elements that have come before it.  Therefore, originality is not the genesis of some new unknown idea – but the compounding of two ideas that have come before it to create a new meaning.  The same is true for all arts and letters – as they make up the mediums for all communication.  They have evolved over time – incorporating new techniques and developments.  Language is the most pertinent example – you must understand the meaning of all the different words you are using to put them in sequence and express an idea.

And so let me rephrase my thoughts on originality of story.  I still believe story is important.  A good story engages an audience and captivates them.  Variations of the same stories have done it since the inception of drama.   If we take into account what the video above explains about the re-use of stories over time, then we should be lucky that we have such a large repository of story elements to draw from.  As filmmakers we should focus on understanding all of these elements and how they might work together to set forth new ideas. For this is how we will attain originality – not through telling a story that no one has ever told – but by expressing an idea, opinion, or point of view that has never been considered.

You can check out Part One below, and Parts Two and Three will arrive in the coming months.  A sincere congratulations to filmmaker Kirby Ferguson for putting together such a well constructed  and informative piece.