Mike Sullivan- “The River Ebbs and Flows” Mashup

This mash-up of the items below discusses the use of parental drug use and its effects on the family dynamic. Characters display cyclical nature in repeating the problems and at the same time showing glimpses of leaving those demons behind forever.

Project Facts-
This project was completed by myself for “Writing, Research, Technology” at, Rowan University for the Fall 2014 semester- taught by Dr. Bill Wolff. This work is created for the above class and as a result falls under Fair Use Guidelines and within the exemptions to DMCA Section 1201 rules announced by the Library of Congress on July 26, 2010. The project was completed using iMovie 08′.
-Michael S.

Digital Medium Reflection-

There was an original apprehension with the project when it was first explained. The fact that it is not just analysis of some pre-existing piece but a complete creation of my own, it felt like a crushing project to place upon my already large plate. As I learned about the project it did seem daunting. Looking at the post production timelines in mainstream movies, which  can last upward of three years until it is finally released, made fitting it into the day seemed crazy. So knowing that, my nerves burned with anxiousness.

When I started, the idea of baby steps almost seems laughable as I struggled to figure out the path I would take. Thinking of story arcs to elaborate on was a problem as nothing seemed to expanse enough to fill a full song- at least not at that moment. Strictly, the use of  images created an interesting dilemma as to how I will effectively convey an issue without giving it away with speech. I researched some avenues and landed on drug use. Drug use created many aspects to expound on and the family dynamic came to mind. As I molded the piece to compare the idealized TV family and a real life broken one, it really took shape. Comparing it to a written piece, I had to take it on in pieces and collect information to be effective. Brainstorming, much like the written version, had to take place as well as tentative storyboarding.

The medium demanded quick expression with maximum impact. What I mean by this is that if I were to analyze the same piece via writing I can elaborate to reach my point. In text I can say “Drugs will ruin the lives of everyone it touches.” If I was to convey that in a mashup, I must show some type of drug or drug use then find the appropriate reactions from family. It caused me to work out many more aspects of it- as what I am trying to say wasn’t landing without a critical image. I must plan this out in great detail before continuing on and have a concise plan to accurately convey the meanings. This works the same way in preparing the written version. I must organize and convey the facts in an organized and effective manner to create my purpose.

That being said, the imagery is similar to an equally analyzed written piece. The adage “a picture’s worth a thousand words” is accurate in this case. When I needed to convey the heartache of the family, it would only be possible if I found a video that the watcher can immediately extract it from. Watching Marion from “Requiem for a Dream” begin to cry in the bathroom can explain equally well the pain she may be feeling in comparison to a paragraph trying to masterfully tell it. From carefully selecting the right images I have effectively told a dozen pages of explanations in written form.

Working with the media and editing software turned out to be very enjoyable. Since I was using an extremely old version of iMovie 08’, I did not have all the effects and abilities at my disposal. Trying to mold my cuts to suit both tempo and lyrical content proved to be tricky. As I shortened and elongated pieces, I would throw the whole remainder of the project out of tempo- so the project took a bit longer due to odd interface tweaks. The written piece would work the same way as I made sure my writing held consistency and coherency.

The final project came out well and I can say I am very happy with. WIthout giving away my intentions too blatantly it turned into a thinking piece which I think will find a home to be analyzed well. Although highly time-consuming, this project has proven itself to be even more fruitful in comparison to a written work. If this was an option in the future I would love to convey my thoughts again via video.

Video Reflection-

Reflection on the piece as a whole, I leave it finished highly satisfied. I find that there is ample representations of various semiotics and with each review of the piece I notice more, deeper, contextual factors that can build on what I originally intended. The piece used thirty-one sources and over five hours of footage that have been picked through. All the cuts, outside of one scene, is quick chop cuts to emphasize the lifestyle. The majority of the mashup is using elongated scenes to stress focal points of fake family versus real families.

The first aspect I would like to address is text. This project called for little if any words but one part of my project used “fall” and “winter” during a drug use montage. This portion (2:112:16) shows fall to winter transition. The intention was to show time rapidly passing and the sedentary lifestyle of drugs. Although on its face this is effective, I may have gotten around the use of the text by showing a few images of snow and falling leaves placed within the drug use. It would be equally, if not more effective to demonstrate the movement of time. The concept of words in mash-ups help drive home facts or create recognition to the artists intentions. For this project, I would want to edit it further with images of the change in season.

Gesturing is the actions taken by a character that indicate an intention or highlight a feeling that is not supposed to be overly advertised. One instance in this piece uses Tony Dow’s hand on Beaver’s back keeping him close (1:11).  Juxtaposed to the theme of loss from drug use that moves throughout the mash-up. This highlights a father who has a sense of purpose in his role as a model of a man. The gesture of guiding with a hand on the child’s back is reaffirming and suggests a father who will catch a wayward sin. This works well for just that reason when discussing an addicted family member who will do just the opposite.

In “This Means This, This Means That” Hall discusses concepts which can take multiple forms and levels of abstraction. For the book it discusses the concept being an overarching idea or theme that is expressed through selected means. This mashup uses the large-scale concept of the addicted parent and its effect on the family (project wide). On a deep level I contrast the idea of a “tv family” as it is challenged, in this case through drugs, and shows the realities of life. My project doesn’t explicitly show drug use past a few fleeting frames which plays off the concept of secret lives. The drug addict rarely are vocal enough to show it publicly, so it is reflected that way in my mash-up.

The idea of using diagrams (2:222:26) was a bit of a stretch but seemed to work okay. The rated R explanation video shows two parents accompanying the kids to the movies. Using just the R rating demands a parent be present for someone under seventeen seeing it. It shows both parents in the diagram which plays well into my theme as an instance where a child needs a parent but they may not be available. It plays on absence and a restriction that goes past the movies and into the family life wholly.

Symbolism is something that is highly subjective to the onlooker and it depends solely on their preference and values. The mashup uses various symbols but one that sets itself apart is at (3:123:25). This scene uses nuclear bomb explosions during the word “promises” and is coupled with blooming flowers happening after. The idea being the destructive nature of promises left unfulfilled and the inevitable growth after. The two images playing back to back attempt to show the repeated nature of destroying and rebuilding in life. It ends the set with the continual bloom of the flower being a symbol of permanent growth after the destruction.

Metaphor is a device that will take a scripted image and relate it to something foreign. An example would be Shakespeare saying, “The world’s a stage.” We know the world isn’t a stage but at the same time can understand what is meant as we act out our daily lives- playing our own parts. I chose Dick Van Dyke intro (0:330:35) to illustrate this. The slapstick nature of the entrance is in direct opposition to the inserted images. From the opening as he closes the door, a bolted door comes into frame. This metaphor or a locked door is an introduction of a male character indicating the closed off nature of many men. The metaphor continues on the “stage” as the wife happily invites him in the house and flashes to a beaten women abruptly. This indicates a dramatic shift in the reality of the wife, metaphorically saying she is internally beaten and broken. Using the same scenes, I employed the concept of truth and falsity. The play between positive and negative images in the Dick Van Dyke intro portrays the potential falsity of this mans scripted actions (and for that matter, the whole family) as they play their part and put on the show for their guests. The idea of placing these negative tones within the positive TV show intro can have a watcher begin to question the shows authenticity. As the watcher see the negative shots they can ask if this family is really happy, or possibly question what they are hiding. It the use of these non linear story lines against each other is why I count it as intertextuality. As the watchers relate the odd nature of family television against the reality of their own life, they can measure it against the inserted images to help sift for some kind of middle ground.

The utilization of objectivity and subjectivity is important in this whole project. I intentionally set the book ending character to carry a conversation that could be reminiscent of a mother talking to her absent husband. The subject being stuck in this muted bathroom repeatedly applying her make up giving clues of the repeating offenses to her. Some students have discussed the potential for the woman at the opening to either be the mother or a child from a broken home that has grown up. Both can be valid as what follows can be a reliving of her past and hopes or her being an onlooker as her family falls apart.

Throughout the project I have multiple instances of juxtaposition, the intentional placement of two different things that work with each other, but one of the best showings fall at (1:582:05). In the scene, the music discusses the heartbreak of the mother as the accompanying images taken from “It’s a wonderful Life” portray a happy christmas experience. The fades are used intentionally to set her in a kind of dream state or imagination moment. The family from the movie is almost flaunting their happiness as if they are shoving it in the mother’s face (He is even seen winking in the video, adding insult to injury). At this moment you can be distressed that a woman can be feeling such lows and yet have someone smiling carefree. It is in this scene that I enjoy the soundtrack most as the music is complimentary. It offers light narration to a back and forth of the family life. The soundtrack, when analyzed alone, is a driving force of a personal testament to a neglectful father. The soundtrack and video are a union that work great with each other and yet keeps the theme a little deeper for someone analyzing it.

The use of the drugs in the project are quick and jumbled showing the lifestyle itself. It also is subtle enough because many addicts don’t advertise their use in the first place. This is the best placement of the montage. Drugs themselves are a whirlwind and I wanted the piece to not see it directly as much as feel you seen it. Keeping it more subdued lended itself to keep your eyes on the focal points- the family it is hurting.


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