As discussion swirls about guns in public spaces in the United States, let’s not forget that we point cameras and shoot films. How did cameras and guns become so closely tied together?
First, raising a camera viewfinder to the eye is just like lining up the sights to shoot a rifle. Second, the movie camera derives from the 1882 invention of the photographic gun by the French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey who wanted to capture bird and insect flight on film: you pulled a trigger and the film pulled through at 12 frames per second. It looked like a rifle and worked like an old machine gun and so the the entanglement of guns and cameras began. It continues to this day with new guns being fitted with cameras that line up the sights or record the action.
Now that most everyone has a camera, perhaps it is time for new language that separates the process of capturing an image from that of taking a life. There are enough words out there for us to use already. For a start, film is no longer just a noun, it is also a verb so we can film a film. But that is not a great phrase. So what else is there? We also have the word capture, used in image capturing, and taking prisoners is very different from taking lives. And we do take photographs and footage…we take them away and use them somewhere else.
Perhaps best if we get to the reality of the modern process of filmmaking and away from historical origins. Light comes into the camera to create an image, bullets go out of guns to take a life. What’s going on here is absorbing, not emitting, and with the new sensors in cameras we are detecting and conveying. So let’s go out and take in, engulf, gather in, assimilate, pull in, collect, ingest, realize, receive, immerse, consume, or take up a film today. If this is too obviously from a thesaurus perhaps we need some new lingo. So I am off to film a digie, snap-frame a doc, viz-pro a feature and image-sense a short before moving on to the safe language of editing.
– From the laptop of Deirdre Evans-Pritchard, at DCIFF