Thought for the day: if it’s not in focus, it’s shit.
Well, we have DSLRs to thank for removing the validity of this statement. Never has the cause of great lensmakers like Zeiss (the sharper the lens the more we’re prepared to pay for it) been so undermined by a vein of filmmaking in which what’s out of focus is almost of greater value than what’s in focus. Bokeh bokeh. Bollocks.
This whole issue of focus is of course entirely subjective but for me focus is such an important of being a filmmaker, and it’s not just the mechanics of apertures and distance from the lens, it’s how we draw the eye, it’s what we choose to show and what we choose to spend our time doing. Somewhere in the middle of all this out of focus filmmaking all the other things that need to be in focus have slipped into a mushy bokeh swamp as well.
Now, everyone’s a Dop and an editor, a director and a producer, a writer and a paediatrician. I had a fairly expansive argument with a visual FX supervisor the other day about the job of the focus puller. He couldn’t understand why they got paid so much and why they even needed to be on set. I would have thought it was self-explanatory, but apparently it’s not.
Far be it for me to tell people to specialise in anything but for me there’s a big appeal to people who have a certainty of purpose, who know what they want to do, and are happy to specialise. In a contemporary economy and, given the production marketplace, you simply can’t be a specialist anymore, and yet… in other worlds the bespoke, the custom, the craftsmen are cherished and flourishing. Will we see specialist film people enjoy the same status or are we on a neverending downward spiral into a one-size-fits-all jackass of all trades kind of industry. I sincerely hope not.
I see a lot of pretty bland, uninspiring films on vimeo but occasionally you see something that sticks out because the person or people that made it really had a singular and distinct sense of craft. If we can retain that, somehow, somewhere, we might have a chance. For now though most of what I see is copycat, me too, filmmaking where the very fact of doing it, the miracle of production, if you like, justifies the lack of invention in the content. ‘It only cost $20′ – who cares?
I wrestle with this immensely. I’m the perfect example of someone with a dark, ugly, lack of focus and it kills me. I wish I only did one thing, and could focus on it and do it brilliantly. Life, however, gets in the way. That, and an unhealthy curiosity for all things new and shiny. It’s not easy, but I think it’s something we can all learn to do better, in everything that focus relates to. Yes, even at f1.2.