Browsing articles tagged with " art"

Harry Potter and the Generative Artist’s Intent

Jul 16, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Movies, Theatre  //  2 Comments

I’m a reader. Always have been, always will be. I started reading when I was about 3, and I’ve never looked back, and while reading was my first love (okay, second; I’m pretty sure that music was first), I have a distinct love for other, non-literary art forms. Of course I do. My life wouldn’t be what it is if I didn’t have that love. Theatre, music, film, dance, and visual arts are all art forms that I have a great deal of respect and passion for (and in the case of music and theatre, extensive training and a career built around), and they’re not necessarily based on the written word.

Read enough books, and you’ll soon come across movie adaptations of some of them. Take something successful and make it even more successful by making it accessible to a different audience! What could go wrong with that? I think it’s most prevalent in the film/TV adaptations of books and plays; then in plays that are adaptations of books or movies; and then novelizations of existing movies, TV shows, and plays.

(I think that music, dance, and visual arts tend more toward derivative works than toward adaptations; because their storytelling is less narrative and less linear, the relationship between those three and the other three, going both ways, is less of a direct re-telling of a story. That’s another conversation altogether; right now, I’m mostly concerned with the distinctly narrative art forms.)

Now, don’t misunderstand; I’m not trying to argue the superiority of books to their film adaptations. While this may be couched in a conversation that is primarily about books and movies, the scope is far broader than that. I’m talking about understanding the generative artist’s intent. Regardless of form or genre, that’s the most important thing to be aware of. A TV show can be superior to a book; a movie can be superior to a play. It’s not about which forms are more “valid,” because none is more or less valid than the others. They each require a different set of skills, they each have the potential to showcase truly great art and storytelling, and every single one of them is constantly adapted from and by other art forms. Books are not inherently better than television; theatre is not inherently better than film, and great culture and art can be found in all of them.

I think, though, that there are several important questions to consider:

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What we do best

Jul 6, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, Faith, School  //  3 Comments

Ever feel like there’s a message that keeps hitting you over the head, getting more and more obvious?

John Cosper, a Christian playwright and filmmaker, posted a manifesto about “Christian films,” particularly talking about what needs to change. It’s a great read, and I wholeheartedly agree — and if you’ve ever heard me talking about many, many Christian scripts, you’ll have heard the same concepts as they relate to very specific pieces that I’ve worked on.

However, the broad meaning of his manifesto isn’t what struck me most today. Instead, it was the following paragraph:

Seek out the best teacher or mentor you can. Don’t go to a Christian teacher just because they’re a Christian. Go somewhere that you can learn from a true artist, one who is a master of the craft in their own right. In other words don’t seek to be the best Christian writer/actor/director you can be. Seek to be the best writer/actor/director you can be.

A few hours later, a very different entry popped up on my RSS reader. Cole Matson, a theatre artist and C.S. Lewis scholar, is writing a series of posts on his transition from the Protestant church to the Catholic church, and it’s a fascinating and deeply personal story. Today, part of his entry talked about the decision to go to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, rather than Wheaton College, for his undergrad:

I had loved Wheaton, and had been in awe of its existence as an intentional Christian community of scholars “for Christ and His Kingdom,” as Wheaton’s motto goes. However, I also wanted to study to become a professional actor, and Wheaton did not have a theatre major, much less a professional training program. As a matter of fact, there did not seem to exist a Christian college of Wheaton’s faithfulness and academic caliber that also provided professional arts training. (This gap is one I hope the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s C.S. Lewis College can fill.) The other school to which I had been accepted was NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which has one of the top undergraduate theatre programs in the country. I asked my dad, who I knew was pleased that I had fallen in love with his alma mater, for his advice. He said:

“What do you want to do?”

“Become an actor.”

“Then go where they do that best. In this case, that’s not Wheaton.”

Twice, in very different contexts, the concept of choosing a school or other training for its quality rather than for its theology.

Two things strike me as I think about that.

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When “good enough” isn’t good enough

May 9, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Faith, Reviews  //  4 Comments

One of my primary goals when I was working with the drama ministry at the church was to see it become as professional and high-quality as possible, because what’s the point of putting on shoddy work? Too often, I think that the attitude within the church is, “Whatever we give God, he’ll do something good with, so I don’t have to give my best.” And yes, while it’s true that God makes beauty out of our brokenness, it doesn’t give us the excuse to be lazy or to give less than our best–not only the best of what we currently are, but the best of what we can be, through training, practice, and honing our skills.

(And if I ever end up back in a position of leading the drama ministry at Foothills, one of my goals is to make it a place of training, mentoring, and growth for the team members themselves, as well as a place to use theatre as a ministry to the church and community.)

Mom and Dad gave Colin and I the movie Fireproof for Valentine’s Day. We haven’t watched it yet, but despite not having seen it, I’ve been pretty vocal with my disappointment in it (and maybe I’ll post a review of the movie itself once I’ve seen it, but this isn’t a review of the movie; it’s a discussion of the reactions I’ve heard). I’ve read reviews from sources that I trust, and everything I’ve heard indicates that it’s a pretty formulaic “Christian” movie: overly expository writing, not-so-great acting, less-than-subtle conveyance of its message, and mediocre production value.

Even the opinions of people who liked it have been mixed. They thought it was a good story, but the acting wasn’t the best they’ve ever seen; or they thought the message was good, but it could have been told better.

My argument against it from the beginning has been this: Why put something out there on a stage where it can’t possibly compete with the best that’s it’s up against? Why create something–with a God-honoring message, and with the best intentions in the world–to a standard of mediocrity, where even the people who like it only like it with reservations?

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If there’s no room for you, where is there room for me?

Mar 20, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Faith, School, Theatre  //  1 Comment

It’s the responsibility of any artist to champion the creation of art that he or she disagrees with, doesn’t understand, or is offended by.

This is a theory that I’ve been mulling over for a while–about a year now, I guess–and I think that I can fairly confidently boil it down to that statement.

I subconsciously became aware of it when I was considering CalArts, but I actually put it into words last spring, when I was deciding whether I was going to take the job with the Calgary Fringe Festival for the summer. In that case, it wasn’t about whether I was artistically opposed to anything, but it was the fact that a lot of the work I’d have been associated with and working on would be work that I was morally, ideologically, religiously, and politically offended by.

Could I put my name on that kind of work professionally? Well, in a sense, I do it every day, simply by being at CalArts. A lot of what comes across my path is work that I don’t find very aesthetically pleasing, work that is in direct contradiction to my beliefs and the way I live my life, and even work that mocks the things I build my life around.

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Grad school projects based on “Harold and the Purple Crayon”?

Dec 7, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, School  //  No Comments

A few days ago, my Facebook status read thus: “Alida’s creative idea is inspired by ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon.’ Yes, that’s right. That’s what grad school has done to my brain.”

A friend replied, “If you were in my grad program that would be perfectly acceptable. In fact a girl in my publishing class is doing her project on Harold. I am doing mine on The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

I told her that maybe, once I’d finished the project, I’d post a synopsis of it, just for fun, since I’m fairly sure that a library school project based on “Harold and the Purple Crayon” is vastly different than mine, and it’s cool to see how we can take the same source material and have to do something completely different with it.

My assignment, for my Advanced Case Studies in Producing class, was to create a proposal for a project. This wasn’t a complete strategy (which would include a budget, marketing and PR plan, preliminary contracts, timeline, personnel needed, etc), but rather, a preliminary proposal for a commissioning project that was inspired by the research we’ve done into the worldwide producing environment. Preferably something exciting, challenging, complicated, compelling, and big. Basically, it was a chance to dream big without the limitations of trying to figure out the reality of it.

So here’s what I came up with:

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Your argument for Disney’s level of evil leaves something to be desired

Nov 18, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, Music  //  2 Comments

I was browsing through some random websites earlier this week, and I came across a site was full of “evidence” of how evil Walt Disney was (and Disney as a corporation is). It had some of the more common stories, but the one I found most amusing is that “Walt Disney was evil because he chose music by dead composers for Fantasia so that he wouldn’t have to pay for the music.”

While it’s true that Disney (as a company) has an incredibly powerful legal team that understands the inner workings of copyright law better than just about anyone else anywhere, it makes me laugh that using public domain music is evidence of evil. How is it not an artist’s prerogative to choose to either have new work commissioned, support currently established composers, or reintroduce the public to classical works? Any of those three options, especially with the scope of Disney’s influence, had the potential for significant ramifications within the artists’ careers (if new work had been commissioned or contemporary work used) and the public consciousness and awareness of the music scene, even though the film was originally not as well-received as hoped.

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