Back in September, Universal Pictures released through its social media portals, the “official” trailer to The Fabelmans, a dramatic story on how a nice Jewish kid living with his family in post-war America took his passion in making movies and how this passion became his life long career.
The feature, written by Steven Spielberg & Tony Kushner and directed by Spielberg, is generally “The Steven Spielberg Story” that takes the protagonist named Sammy Fabelmans (played by newcomer Gabriel LaBelle) and how he discovered movies by not just watching them in a theater, but how he can create them with the aid of an 8mm movie camera, and telling his stories through the magic of what movies were all about.
This notion of taking media and using it as a “voice” isn’t new. Back in the so-called “good old days”, if one wanted to create some type of artistic expression, one really had to work with it either as a hobby or as something one can actually get paid to maintain this passion one may hold true to their heart, mind and soul.
Now when this writer speaks about what may be called “the good old days”, we will be speaking before that notion of “The Internet” became accessible to the public at large. This would mean anytime up to the end of the 20th century. (2000) Back then, one had to use whatever tools that were available through manual and antilog that showcased the ability of its user, or “fan” so to speak!
Of course, this creative and perhaps artistic talent could be based on the written word (a manuscript) or through an artistic object. (Painting, objet d’art, etc.). However, for simplicity’s sake, we will limit this artistic expression based on electronic means, such as making a movie or even a video (TV) production.
Back before the days of what the internet and all of its gear connected to this network was just a novelty, it was possible for kids (boys mostly, but a few girls did participate) to grab dad’s and/or mom’s camera to show to the world they had access to that they too, could make a movie or a TV show! The latter choice of TV was added in the 1980’s when video cameras, along with the decks that could record such media on videotape only a 1/2” wide, were available to the general public.
Many of these kids teetered toward videotape mostly for economic reasons. Blank video tapes were cheaper to get than a roll of Super 8mm film. In 1982, the cost of a blank tape made by 3M under its Scotch brand cost around $10.00, and could record images at a minimum of two hours (120 minutes) in time length. A roll of Kodak Super 8mm film cost around the same price. One can shoot footage with a three minute running time, and the price did not include the processing of the film! (That was around $5.00!) And one had to wait a week’s time to get the film processed to see if whatever was shot was suitable for use. On videotape, one watches the imagery almost immediately. And the best part of using tape. If one didn’t like the imagery that was shot, one can erase the tape and start over. For film, once that was exposed, then one was stuck with what was shot. Many budding filmmakers shot dozens of rolls of film to create their next epic, only to discover that the imagery was over exposed, under exposed, out of focus, or a combination of all three! And if one wanted sound with that film, then that should have to be recorded onto a separate tape recorder, and wouldn’t necessarily be in sync to the picture. There were Super 8mm sound movies, but those setups were rather pricey.
But getting back to shooting movies. For those kids that were privileged enough to have access to a film camera, it was more of a passion that was also a challenge. Yours truly was one of those many sets of youth that held on to that passion! Although I adored movies (and still do), I had a bigger interest in TV, since television was “everywhere”. Just about everyone I knew had a TV set, and one can watch this device in the comfort and privacy of one’s homestead. Movies have to be seen inside of a theater or a place that resembles a theater, a big darkened room with a row of seats facing a white screen where the image can be projected.
Even though I had interest in making TV shows, I didn’t know where (or how) to begin that process. I could not walk into a TV station and say “Can I play with your TV cameras?” I’m sure as a dumb kid, I would be laughed at first, and to be thrown out of the station’s building the next. I only knew the type of shows I would watch, but really didn’t know how to make them. The idea was there, but not the concept.
That did change when I was a teen. At my local high school, they did have a working TV studio. This school was a first for a high school to provide television production as it was first set up in the 1960’s. (Time Magazine wrote up an article on this video service back in 1967!) By the time I was a student at the school,their video services were up and running.
But it wasn’t a few years later in the 1980’s when I began my video production career through public access TV, where this “passion” became a “career”. That tale of where I journeyed and how I arrived has been told through isolated means many times through the pages of this news service. But for those that have that same desire that I did back in the day, they have the world at their feet.
Thanks to portals connected through social media from YouTube to TikTok, they can create content that can be seen by not just a few folks, but my millions, and even have the chance of being discovered by those that can lead them into fame, fortune, and both! And they don’t have to necessarily go through any formal training to get their points across. All they do is to hold up their phones, hit a few apps, and get started. They can even do their thing live for all of the world to see for its better or for its worse!
Again, getting this quick and easy way of fame through media in today’s landscape may not hold the same drama as Spielberg’s feature may contain, but it shows that a kid such as Steven could make it to the movies, even though that his story is just another isolated episode out of many. And of course, his feature does cater to a specific demographic that sadly, holds little to no room (or interest) for their participation in the TikTok world. That discrimination may not be ethical or legal, but that is the way things tend to be. If somebody has to pass the torch to somebody else, it would be from the “film makers” to the social media “influencers”.
And the cycle continues.
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