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A Look at Digital Content Creators – From a Super-8 Perspective

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Those of us who are veterans of the “super-8″ filmmaking generation have been experiencing a wave of nostalgia in the wake of the recent J.J. Abrams / Steven Spielberg film of (nearly) the same name.

Why did super-8 filmmaking mean so much to us? For one thing, having the ability to actually shoot and edit movies was still relatively rare amongst most kids, so a kid making a movie was a special attraction to like-minded friends.

For me, the greatest attraction – though I wasn’t aware of it at the time – was the chance to have and lead a team. I might come up with the general parameters, and my friends would join in the adventure and make their own contributions.

Like in the film, Super 8, someone might specialize in monster make-up, while others simply wanted to act. Others would work with me on a screenplay, or co-produce a film with me (inevitably leading to an afternoon-long negotiation dedicated to naming our new production company. During junior high school, I served as a mini-mogul at several of these creations – from RSDH Productions (combining my initials with my friend’s) or Silver Hammer Productions (because another friend was a big Beatle fan).

The creation of each studio, naturally, would lead to a slate of proposed films, developed through further negotiation and debate. My friends and I usually focused on horror and science fiction films, with titles that ranged from Killer From Space to The Blob From Outer Space.

A frame of film didn’t even have to run through the camera. In sixth and seventh grade, I created the concept of a Star Trek-like TV series called, Voyages of the Spaceship Clipper (as I entered junior high, I would change ‘Clipper’ to ‘Triton’ because I thought it sounded cooler). My friends and not only conceived of an entire season’s worth of episode concepts, but some designed costumes, sets, props and even new characters. This was our team sport. Playing the game – working to plan the film – was the important thing; winning – shooting and finishing a film – was secondary.

If we actually did shoot a film, the satisfaction of having everyone showing up to shoot was even more exciting. We were on an adventure – a mission – with a set goal – and even a roadmap in the form of a short screenplay. We weren’t just pretending to shoot movies – we were making them.

While I might sound nostalgic for “the good old days,” I’m more excited for the young media creators today.

After home video came along, a full generation passed before technology caught up enough so that young people, on their own, could begin creating media again.

Today, I believe, is becoming a golden age for young “content creators” (with film gone, we can hardly call them filmmakers, anymore). Simple editing software is as cheap as free; and even the cheapest cameras are of superior quality. Access has never been easier – and as available to more kids and teens.

Team building – collaborating with friends who share the same interest – is now possible on a worldwide scale – This generation can experiment and learn their craft with incomparable speed, using tools that really aren’t that far removed from those they may one day use professionally. They can easily interact and learn from others – and not just their peers, but, from media professionals.  Most importantly, they can bring their work to the world through countless social media channels, starting with YouTube.

The best of these content creators will, by using the creative and social tools that are second nature to them, re-invent both the definition of media and human interaction. This generation has the potential to create cross-platform, socially connected and emotionally engaging content, and pioneer a new avenue for entrepreneurship and artistic freedom.

Like the super-8 generation before them, young content creators today may dream of being big Hollywood filmmakers. Their true potential is far more intriguing.

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