The Best Vodcaster Alive

I can’t tell you what an exhilarating experience this has been — writing, shooting, and editing this slate of ten vodcasts. It’s like turning over a rock and finding a new language, one which gives voice to a lot of thoughts you’ve had banging around in your head, thoughts that have been looking for an exit for a long time.

I’m still trying to navigate this new grammar, trying to avoid the film equivalent of run-on, illiterate sentences. I’m finding the equivalence between shots & edits and sentences & punctuation, finding inspiration in Hillman Curtis, who is the most literate voice in online film today, particularly if we control the selection for a certain DIY ethos. Please watch the first half, if not the whole, of his portrait of artist Lawrence Weiner.

You are in the stream of life whether you like it or not. And if you’re going to be in the stream of life then you have to accept the responsibilities. I would like a few more pleasures but there doesn’t seem to be time. — Lawrence Weiner, on what it is to be an artist.

Vodcasters like Ze Frank understand that good video is largely about compression, about sharp edits compressing the time between thoughts, events, and locations. (ie. here you’re in Belize, now you’re in Chattanooga) Hillman Curtis gets that great video — like great writing — moves to a rhythm, one which must speed and slow.

Curtis understands that, in film, as in writing, you can force the reader to slow.

And think.

And breathe.

By breaking up the text.

Or, in video, by lengthening the shots.

A third of the way through the Lawrence Weiner portrait, Hillman Curtis does just that with a long, slow tracking shot, the rails obvious beneath the camera, laying bare the mechanics of film.

The odds are 5:2 at best but I may score a video production class this upcoming school year in addition to my usual slate of Algebra, Algebra, Algebra. I couldn’t be more excited.

[BTW: didn’t score that class. life goes on.]

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.

8 Comments

  1. P.S. Love the choice to go with the visual profile shot in the concluding layer in the Weiner vid. Somehow feels nearly voyeuristic and tissue paper delicate all at once — both in a healthy way — to see him laid bare, watched from an off angle. Fits seamlessly with his language/POV, which makes it all dovetail. A visual surprise for me, esp. given that most previous shots were a) taken over his shoulder as he worked or b) straight on as the audience was invited to ‘enter’ his ‘studio of the mind’ in a more direct manner. Seeing him from the side, however, changes the artist/audience dynamic in just the right way as the piece comes to a close.

  2. Okay, so I watched the video, and I’m not sure of the wisdom of doing a moving shot towards a mirrored surface when the object of the shot doesn’t completely occlude the reflection of the camera person. Better, I think, to line up the shot from a distance and use a longish zoom to achieve more or less the same effect without the distracting black blob in the mirror. Other than that quibble, extremely well put together. I see Reznor is becoming a popular-ish track to back with, though, since that’s about the fourth video I’ve seen with something from Ghosts in the backing.

  3. Dan, a beautiful piece of video. I have been wondering why you aren’t teaching film/video production. You certainly have the skills. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  4. I’d appreciate it. My current slate of five consecutive Algebra sections just leans a little heavy on my left brain, you know?