Life is linear but you can rewind and snip out the mistakes.

I was enchanted by the story of Ken Loach editing his latest film on an old fashioned Steenbeck machine, where the 35mm film is literally cut and stuck together with tape. It seems he ran out of tape and was helped out by the Pixar studios.

What it has made me think of during the course of the day is not the switch from analogue to digital, but the more important change – linear to non-linear.  I started my career at the BBC in the linear world on film.  The shift, I think, has radically altered the way we think and create and live.

Directors in the old world had to pre-visualise the story and decide in advance how the film was to be constructed.  Even more so with linear video editing once you had laid down a shot there was no chance of easily changing it without starting over.  The skill was to hold the vision for the film in your mind, (in fact edit in your mind), and then conform the material to your vision.  Story boards were important but could never replace the actual process of thinking and editing in the session.  You had to work with the editor and share your vision in words.  Now, it seems, many directors will pop out of the editing session for a quick beer and leave the editor to it.

A literary version of this is using a typewriter. As I am writing this I am habitialy running back over the text to change little bits of it, but with an old fashioned typewriter you had to think of what you were  going to write before writing it. Now you can skip back and forth.

Of course thinking about what you are doing before you do it is common sense.  If you take that thought to the extreme you might say it’s sensible to plan your life out befor living it.  It seems to me that in the old world many people DID plan their lives out in advance and then run the recording.  The impact of being able to change and edit at any stage in the process even extends now to history.  Rather than accepting that “we are where we are” we rewind our story and tweek the bits we don’t care for and buff  it up a bit, snip out the mistakes.

Real life is in fact linear but that shouldn’t mean we can’t be forgiven for the odd mistake.

Published by Mark

Mark Waddington is a former BBC broadcaster and producer. He now works for the Diocese of Leeds as Urban Mission Officer. If you would like to get in touch email mark.waddington@leeds.anglican.org

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