Backstage Pass: Thematic Integrity

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It took a long time to understand my desire to publish online. I’m discovering that knowing my theme makes choosing much easier.

I am at a point in my life, creatively, where I am moving beyond natural talent and digging into the difficult work of being an artist. Creating music has changed from layering loops and thinking of cool chord progressions, into thoughtful development of emotional story to shape the sounds and the music. Photography has grown from interesting imagery into storytelling. Filmmaking has evolved from sequencing events and setting up jokes into using imagination to access deep questions of humanity’s interaction with change, success, and disappointment.

I’d recently been using the web more as a social tool. Distance has kept me from the people I care about, and blogs, Facebook, and iChat are rich ways to keep in touch. But in being social online (through the melée of Facebook friend requests and instant messaging), I found myself being hardened by it. The internet is highly efficient at communication and preservation of information, but it is not an effective social medium. As a social system, the internet promotes the commodification of people that inhabit it. Each person – a “user” – is forced into a uniform, technologically-defined box, devoid of a person’s true nuance and individuality. And I also found that mediation in my closest relationships was running counter to deep, safe interaction.

So, my opinion of the web as a social destination cooled… but I couldn’t kick the idea of having a site.

The internet is good at being a voice-extendar. It’s a flat publishing system, good at making boxes to put stuff in. In designing something for myself, my desire for uniqueness ran against the problem that most systems are designed around the now-traditional concept of “blogging.” Blogging has become largely about the regurgitation of information in the form of textual commentary, quotation and criticism. I already knew I wanted to stay outside the net’s social web, but I still had a desire to build my own soap-box for the things I found beautiful and interesting.

My primary mediums are film, photography, music, and words. I wanted to build a site that reflected all aspects of how I create. Typical blogs are all about the text, and accompanied by all kinds of extra clutter designed to improve Google search ratings and advertising page-hits. I also didn’t want to be locked into the chronological nature of blogs – there’s something about dating posts that makes anything old seem stale and less interesting.

All of this searching led me to clarify why I wanted to publish online. It’s not to be ranked on Google, to make money, for acclaim, to be known, or to get more work as a photographer or a filmmaker. My desire is to bring to light beautiful and interesting things from my world (whether found or original) so that whoever happens across this site will have their story enriched by their visit.

Once I understood that theme, accomplishing the final design was relatively easy. In a matter of days I rebuilt the site from scratch into the form you see now. It’s an example of how in my life, in my stories, in my screenwriting and directing, I’m learning that taking time to know the theme of things clarifies the action required and enriches the story.

One Comment

  1. Posted December 6, 2007 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    “taking time to know the theme of things clarifies the action required and enriches the story”

    As I read this, the first thing I thought was, how would it change the way I read the Bible if I kept this thought in front of me?

    Beyond that, I wonder if it is possible to know the theme of your own life? Is it visible only in retrospect? If the theme was knowable – whether on a physical level or a spiritual one ie what is God trying to teach me? – I think it would clarify the required action (and enrich the story). Perhaps that is the role of mentors in our lives, to be compassionate observers who point out our themes to us?