Some reflections on this project:
I found this video essay to be an exercise in obsession and flexibility. Once I settled on the theme of ordinary beauty, it was hard not to see the world through this lens. Everything became fodder. Whether in the car, on the bus, on the ferry, at home, school, or work I had the iPad in a holster ready to shoot.
I decided early on to capture and edit everything with the iPad. This constraint gave me clear parameters, and encouraged me to be creative with the available tools. I faced frustration (such as not being able to do picture in picture, having multiple videos playing in iMovie simultaneously) and had to find alternate ways of expressing my vision. However, the resultant creative surprises usually felt innovative rather than restrictive. I stretched the limits of iMovie and used the full range of options—timings, fade outs, Ken Burns effect, transitions, themes, multi-tracks, volume, text—and found ways to do what at first I was refused. For instance, no option exists for changing the displayed text while showing a single video clip. The solution? Breaking the clip into three parts and removing the transition effect to accommodate three different placements of text over continuous video.
Prior to this assignment, I had never used an iPad. Further still, I have never owned a cell phone. My relationship with technology is double-edged: I love the tools offered and the vast potential for creativity, while at the same time I am horrified at being tied to a gadget. This assignment was partly intended to teach teachers how to use the iPad as a learning tool. At the same time, my wife and I are expecting our first child in March. For the first five years of his or her life, we intend to keep our child’s screen time (computer, TV, cell phone, tablet or whatever else leaps onto the market) as close to zero as possible. Excess screen time affects concentration and health. The more time one spends with technology, the less one spends with nature and the countless gifts she offers: food, oxygen, spirituality, recreation, art, inspiration.
How, then, do I reconcile this with the fact that I adored using the iPad for this project? The answer likely lies in the happy middle ground of moderation and intention, and depends entirely on how I decide to use the available tools.
Being techno-savvy, I moved swiftly over the iPad’s and iMovie’s learning curves, my fingers sliding and swiping over the aluminosilicate screen. I spent the majority of time recording photos, video and sound, reviewing them both individually and within the context of my video essay, and then re-recording (and often re-re-recording). This trial-and-error process sounds tedious, but I felt excited and energized to capture precise moments in a precise way. For the author there is tremendous satisfaction in selecting that choice word. The photographer hunts (or waits in ambush) for the right light and frame. The cinematographer positions him- or herself as an omniscient observer in order to pan across the objects of interest. I endeavoured to succeed on all three fronts. Sometimes this happened on take one; more often, take seven.
Having juggled the roles of screenwriter, director, videographer, editor, composer, sound recorder, and location scout, I possess a newfound appreciation for filmmakers and the extensive crews that make movies a reality. As a writer I am used to a first draft, revisions, more drafts, more revisions, final edits and then polishing off the finished piece. However, this project required syncing different layers of expression, a dance among my varied artistic selves. I made words fit into brief windows of images and sound. Out of necessity, I wrote new text to accommodate unexpected footage too captivating to discard. Compromise proved unavoidable, such as cutting my script word count in half. Yet this meant—whether it came from my keyboard or the iPad’s camera—that I could choose the strongest material to use as the foundation from which to build my video essay.
The importance of musical accompaniment became obvious early on. Video without sound is like soup without salt: bland and lifeless. I had to mute the sound of many of my recorded video clips because of distracting or inappropriate background noise. While I trusted myself to compose a simple tune on the piano, I knew the wondrous ferns and fountains obliged something more delicate, something that brought to mind dancing light and floating dandelion seeds; my Dad’s flute fit in this way. I recorded many different takes for different parts, with my father switching flutes. Afterward, I spent many hours choosing particular passages for specific clips. Although time-consuming, this musical addition gave my video essay its final and professional touch.
The first words in the voiceover are: “Art is everywhere.” This provides insight into my aesthetic perspective. For me, the natural world goes beyond experience and inspiration: nature fully encompasses art and beauty. Despite philosophers who elucidate that artworks are created with intention, I am inclined to include life itself as art. Whether Gaia, God or some other divine or mysterious force is the creator, my “Art is everywhere” statement is telling in my firm belief of intentionality in the universe.
Towards the end of my video essay my voiceover proclaims that “Life is a series of changes in perception.” As this project progressed, my own perception tuned into the crepuscular sunlight and heightened to the lines and angles that give rise to beautiful symmetry and shape. In my video essay, nearly all of the images of beauty were spontaneous discoveries. I did not plan on a full moon’s light rippling on the ocean, the golden Arbutus next to a double rainbow, a bee hopping from flower to flower. These wonderful visions stood out to me in moments of being still yet aware. And the more I found, the more I began to see. My tiny backyard proved to be a plethora of aesthetic wonder. In searching for and appreciating ordinary beauty, I could not help but see it everywhere.