Lately I’ve floated a few ideas around on this site that may seem to slag off the movie industry in general, and perhaps unwisely, Weta Workshop being right down the road. There may be a few Orcs knocking at my door if I don’t pull my head in.

This was certainly not the intention.

We live in a strange time. A time of confusion around where the barrier between the virtual and the real sits.

Recently I went to a concert and there was this woman sitting four seats along. For almost the entire time she held her phone aloft, taking snapshots of her and her hubby, the concert, the crowd, generally photographing and videoing everything, as well as updating it all to Facebook. This was really annoying, as she had the cameraphone (Iphone or smartphone, don’t know which) with the flash on. So i asked myself, what world is she living in, the virtual or the real?

I propose that the line between the two wasn’t clear to her, partly because she has got them mixed up, partly because she has a total addiction to social media. She had two selves at that concert, her Facebook self and her physical body. They worked in tandem. Her fleshy body activated the device which allowed her virtual persona to live. Together, as one, they absorbed the concert. The aftermath is a human being that enjoyed a concert, and a bunch of data in the form of text and pictures on Facebook that has documented this. She has two memories, one in her brain, another in HTML.

This seems sci-fi and out there, but it’s right here, right now.

It’s not as if this concern hasn’t been brought up before. This Is Not A Pipe: This is a painting of a pipe. Of course we can see that the canvas is not a pipe, but if we were asked ‘what is this?’, we would reply, a pipe. I would. Only this is not a painted canvas either, this is a JPEG file originally found under ‘this is not a pipe’ in Google Search. This is a bunch of lit pixels on your screen.

Ultimately, this is what a Facebook profile is. It is maintained by flesh and blood, but we have no way of knowing that. To us, all that appears is a lit screen. Only we take it as common knowledge that a text, an Email, a Facebook post, even this blog right here, is personal, controlled by a human. The screen, like the painted canvas, disappears.

Concerning the movie industry, all I was saying is that the screen will always be there. In todays astonishing graphics, like the Halo 4 video game I have just been playing, the screen is actually holding it back. My television is ugly compared to what it is housing. The conquest of realism in todays movies and video games, coinciding with the explosion of Facebook and social media, confuses us a lot more as to what is real and what is ‘realistic.’

What I was not sledging is making something beautiful. It’s a misconception that beauty comes at the expense of a good idea. A misconception that flies rampant at Massey University amongst Fine Arts students. By all means make something beautiful, it’s fun and challenging. Weta, lead the way.

But a word of caution. How ridiculous is it, that in today’s world, I can say that I’ve driven a spaceship through another spaceship, shooting Promethian robots and what not, and it looked pretty darn real? This is an issue, because it takes a lot of effort to make sci-fi, fantasy stuff appear real, Weta will attest. The issue is that you are dealing with an audience that is increasingly being immersed into the virtual, and thus is no longer wowed by its spectacle.

Alien worlds, floating towers, villainous hordes. Seen it. Done it.

But we spent millions of dollars making it!

Yeah, but, been there done that.

Another layer of realism isn’t going to be enough for much longer. This is what concerns me. However, being way more conscious about what stories are being told in these amazing worlds, being brave, being experimental, and being less concerned with making the screen appear absent, will be more than enough. Lets move away from the Hollywood, America vs terrorists disguised in sci-fi storylines.

The screen is already gone for a lot of people. If you believed that this writing is remotely human, you’re one of them. It’s just pixels on a screen. So…

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