It’s the little things in life that make video worth shooting.
The scene is a mid-summer company picnic of long ago. Joe, the Commander of the production department, gives Will, the Equipment Manager, an assignment. "Document the picnic on videotape. Heres your PortaPak. Get in there and shoot."
The President and an angelic host of V.P.s show up smoking cigars. They move ever-so-casually through the drones hanging near the picnic tables and horseshoe rings. The newly ordained documentarian, open reels rolling, shuns the Suits. He follows the kids.
Will spends the next few hours in some unusual positions: on his knees, walking in a deep crouch like an arthritic Groucho, sitting on grass and dirt–all this to shoot the kids from their own point of view. He stays with the kids, their sights, their sounds. He sticks close to one boy, a drones son, and follows him as he meets the son of a V.P. The two boys begin to form teams for their games. He checks in on three girls. They say "hello," and continue making their plans. The tape keeps rolling. After 10 minutes, he is no longer Gulliver in Lilliput: the kids dont notice him. In half an hour, he realizes he has entered another world. He has left the orbit of the mother planet. Will has landed in Kidworld.
Strangely, though Kidworld rolls in its own orbit, it sometimes overlaps Grownworld. Sometimes it even shares the same physical space, but it always hums on a different wavelength. The foreground of Grownworld is never more than the background of Kidworld. We can refer to this as the Distant Thunder effect.
The film, Distant Thunder, by the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Rey portrays a village in India during World War II. It shows rural life flowing on as it has for thousands of years. The viewer senses the earthshaking events of the great war in Europe only indirectly–through small but significant changes. Suddenly sugar cant be had, then tea, then rubber. We never hear a shot fired, a bomber screech overhead nor see the flash of a bomb. Yet the villagers catch the wars reverberations: spiders feeling the spasms of flies caught in remote threads of the web.
This is how Grownworld feels to Kidworld at this company picnic. Will begins to pick up the threads as he comes to know which children belong to which parents. They form their own one-afternoon civilization. They go on about "My Mommy," and "Your Daddy." Will begins to see something of his boss in the commanding stance of one of the girls, hear an echo of the laughter of a co-worker in one of the boys. The adult conversation murmurs in the background. Sometimes it breaks through into Kidworld in a peal of laughter or a barked command: "Donny, stop that…now!"
Another flash of insight. Will thinks, "Different dimensions, maybe, but Kidworld resonates with Grownworld. In fact…yes, its a microcosm of Grownworld!" The documentarian now sees galaxies in a grain of sand, the ocean in a drop of rain. When trading cards, the kids are their parents trading the companys stock; planning the next game, they are a meeting of the board of directors. Chuck, the Accountants son, pulls the pigtail of Karen, the CEOs daughter. The symbolism! Will sends up a prayer of thanks for that profound shot. Yes, the tape was rolling, the lens cap off!
But its not just about this company. This is another Lord of the Flies. Yes, Kidworld is the whole world writ small.
"Will!" Its the Commander.
"Yes sir!" (Remember, this was long ago when people talked like that.)
"The picnics almost over, and we havent seen you the whole time. I thought you were going to tape this event."
"I was. I have been. See? Ive actually got it all right here," patting the tape deck swinging from his shoulder.
"But all you did was follow the kids around. Do you realize weve got the blasted President and the whole Board right here? You havent taken a single shot of any of them. Youve got to shoot some Grip and Grins. This wont sit well, Will."
"But I dont have to shoot them to show them. Theyre in their kids. I shot the kids, but I got the Suits too. I got some good shots of your daughter Alice, but I captured you too. Its all in here, believe me. Those kids gave me the whole blessed country."
"You say you got some nice shots of Alice? Would you rewind to that part and let me peek through the viewfinder… ?"
Its a great little country. Happy 121st Vespuccia!
Stephen Muratore is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.