Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Integral Cinema Blog on Integral Life



Postings of Integral Cinema Project preliminary research findings can also be found at Mark Allan Kaplan's Integral Life Integral Cinema Blog. Mark's blog has received Integral Life's Editors Choice recognition for two months in a row.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Hollywood and the Integral Tipping Point


Hollywood is currently in a state of panic. While box office attendance is up, DVD sales have fallen through the floor and the traditional market streams and financial indicators are in a state of flux. To more clearly understand this situation I chose to look at four developmental lines in the social holon of the current American motion picture industry. The four lines I chose are the Techno-Economic Base (T-E), Business/Markets (B/M), Communication/Media (C/M), and Artistic/Aesthetic (A/A) lines of development. I used a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest level of development and 10 being the highest. These numbers correlate to the first 10 altitudes of consciousness of Ken Wilber’s spectrum of worldviews, with 1 representing Infrared/Archaic and 10 representing Violet/Super-Integral Level 2 (Wilber, Pattern, Leonard, & Morelli, 2008, p. 90).

Reflecting on the current state of the industry, it seems to me that the Techno-Economic Base (T-E) of the industry is shifting from level 6 (Green/Pluralistic/Informational) to level 7 (Teal/Integral Systems/Trans-Informational or Virtual). This shift appears to be driven/co-created by a transition from separate/pluralistic media technologies and platforms (i.e.: Movies, TV, Gaming, Web, etc.) to more integrated, cross-media, and virtual technologies and platforms (i.e.: Material delivered/integrated across multiple convergent, immersive, and embedded mediums), represented by a shift from level 6 to level 7 in the Communication/Media (C/M) developmental line. As the nature of the medium is shifting, cinematic media artists are embracing these advances as a means to expand their artistic expression across these multiple platform environments. This in turn is shifting the Artistic/Aesthetic (A/A) line from level 6 to level 7 as well. While these three lines appear to be shifting in tandem, it also appears that the Business/Markets (B/M) line is stuck at level 5 (Orange/Rational), as the industry’s business community frantically tries to apply their old models of finance, distribution, and marketing to the emerging new techno-creative-communication environment (see chart below).

There are indicators of some potential shifts in the Business/Markets (B/M) line, including a major restructuring of Disney’s studio model to meet the changing media environment and the release of James Cameron’s Avatar, which appears to be attempting to cross the integral media threshold by offering content immersion (IMAX 3D), platform convergence (Theatrical/Game simultaneous release), and a foray into virtual aperspectivalism (Character-to-Avatar perspective shifts). It should be interesting to see if these forays will be part of a vertical rather than horizontal change. Either way, I believe the industry is poised at the edge of a tipping point between the relativistic/information age and the approaching integral/virtual age. Only time will tell if the American film industry will cross this threshold through a single major shift, or several smaller transitions, or a combination of both major and minor shifts, or if it will be a turbulent or peaceful transition. Since several members of the industry have already begun downloading the Integral Operating System (IOS) into their consciousness, I think we are in for a wondrous and wild ride.


References

Wilber, K., Pattern, T., Leonard, A., & Morelli, M. (2008). Integral life practice: A 21st century blueprint for physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, and spiritual awakening. Boston: Shambhala.



American Motion Picture Industry Social Holon Sociograph

T-E = Techno-Economic Base
C/M = Communication/Media
A/A = Artistic/Aesthetic
B/M = Business/Markets


*Originally published at Integral Life.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Co-Evolution of Cinematic Expression and Audience Perception


One of the most memorable days of my life was when motion picture director and editor Robert Wise spent the afternoon with me going over the rough cut of one of my films. As Bob went through every cut with me and shared his wisdom I kept thinking to myself “My God, the man who edited Citizen Kane (1941) is helping me edit my film!” I learned so much from Bob that day, both about filmmaking and about life. One of these “Wise” lessons was his sharing with me his perceptions about a possible connection between the evolution of consciousness and the evolution of the cinema.

Over his illustrious 60-year career, Bob observed that the perceptual consciousness of the cinematic audience appeared to advance along with the cinema in the ability to communicate more information, in more abstract forms, within shorter durations of time. He explained that when he first started in the film industry the motion picture audiences required very clear linear story structures, and that gradually throughout his career, the audiences seemed to develop the ability to more readily and quickly project meaning across discontinuous and non-linear cinematic structures.

To illustrate one aspect of this evolution, Bob used the example of a cinematic sequence that has a character driving to another character’s house for a meeting. In the old days filmmakers had to show the person driving the car, stopping the car, getting out of the car, walking up to the house, knocking on the door, and then going inside. Gradually over time, the audience has advanced to the point of being able to accept a direct cut from a person driving a car to them suddenly being inside someone’s house. Wise believed that these advancements in both cinematic expression and the perceptual consciousness of the cinematic audience were the product of an interdependent and co-evolutionary relationship between the cinema and the audience. This observation appears to concur with Jean Gebser’s (1986) contention that artistic movements and trends have a tendency to influence and be affected by the evolution of consciousness.

At the end of our time together, Bob was called away quickly, but before he left the editing room, he paused to compliment my work and then sweetly and genuinely said, “I hope I helped you a little bit…” Of course, I profusely thanked him and sincerely assured him that his help was beyond measure. As Bob walked off, I thought about his last words to me and felt a mysterious shift inside me. In that brief moment, it seemed as though I had received a kind of shaktipat, or life-lesson-energetic-transmission, from this amazing man. After all the awards, honors and accolades, Bob Wise was still a sweet and deeply humble human being, and his living presence and example penetrated me in ways I still cannot describe. I will never forget that moment, and every moment I was blessed by his presence. In my heart and mind, I believe Bob Wise was a true Cinematic Bodhisattva.


REFERENCES


Gebser, J. (1985). The ever-present origin (N. Barstad & A. Mickuns, Trans.). Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. (Original work published 1949)

Image: Citizen Kane (1941)
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tetra-Evolution



According to Ken Wilber's ontology, being evolves in a four-fold way. That is, each of the four quadrants co-evolves with the other three.

The four quadrants are: Self (subjective being); Culture (intersubjective being); world (objective being); and systems (interobjective being). Or I-WE-IT-ITS. Or Intentional, cultural, behavioral, social.

So individual and collective subjective and objective being co-evolves or tetra-evolves. No aspect of being is isolated and alone, all four aspects of being tetra-mesh, co-influences and co-evolving the other.

(Adapted From Integral Wiki)
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Star Wars and the Tetra-Evolution of American Cinema

During my studies into the application of Integral Theory to cinematic media, I attempted to look at an evolutionary or unfolding display moment in Hollywood filmmaking history through the lens of the three Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP) principles of Nonexclusion, Unfoldment, and Enactment. The evolutionary moment in Hollywood filmmaking history I chose was the making of the first Star Wars (1977). A film that, according to most members of the various Hollywood knowledge communities, revolutionized the creative, technical, business, and critical evaluation aspects of the industry.

These areas of advancement represents the four general knowledge communities within the world of Hollywood movie making, each with their own, often conflicting, paradigms/practices/injunctions and constructs of what makes a “good” movie. There is the Cinematic Artists Community, which tends to view the goodness or success of the cinematic work by how much of the artist’s subjective vision (UL) is translated onto the screen. There is the Cinematic Technicians Community, which evaluates the degree of technical/material/objective (UR) quality of the cinematic work. There is the Cinematic Business Community, which appraises the success of the cinematic work by its market reach and profitability within the economic system (LR). Finally, there is the Cinematic Analytical Community (Critics, Historians, Theorists), which evaluates the quality of the cinematic work by the contextual effectiveness of its cinematic language (LL).

Conflicts often arise between these communities, and their seemingly contrary social practices/injunctions and the constructs generated by them. In the case of the first Star Wars (1977), the Cinematic Business Community (every studio) turned down the script at least once, even though many of the executives personally loved it (UL). The reasoning behind their choice was that their marketing models (LR) clearly showed that a science fiction film could not be profitable. What they failed to see was that George Lucas had crafted a cinematic vision that would ultimately transform the paradigms and constructs of all four knowledge communities (see below).

Finally, one of the executives at 20th Century Fox, Alan Ladd, Jr., was able to join Lucas in ENACTING a different world by seeing the other dimensions of Lucas’ work (taking a leap of NONEXCLUSION), and by heroically putting his job on the line for the script (George Lucas, personal communication, 1978). In the end, the film shattered box office records, transformed Hollywood’s marketing models; saved Fox from bankruptcy, and gave Ladd and Lucas their own companies (LR). It created a new genre (trans-genre) within the cinematic lexicon (LL) by including many different genres (Science Fiction, Westerns, War Movies, Mythical Adventures, etc.) into a cohesive blend that transcended all of them (UNFOLDMENT). Stars Wars also helped usher in the return of mythology to American cinema and American culture (LL) by blending mythological archetypes with modern and postmodern story and thematic elements. Lucas and his technical team also managed to advance cinematic technology (UR), making it easier to translate the creative visions of cinematic artists (UL). The effect of Star Wars’ genre hybridization, techno-creative advancements, and rebirthing of mythic cinema on the cinematic audience was something the traditional business and marketing models could not prehend (LR).

For additional reflections on the elements and conditions which made Star Wars such a unique and profound phenomenon, see my previous post and comments: My Cinematic Structuralism Emancipation at Integral Life.

*Previously published at Integral Life

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Cinematic Structuralism Emancipation


As I reflected on the importance of structuralism within Integral Theory (Wilber, Excerpt D), I remembered one of my first encounters with cinematic structuralism and how it had a profoundly emancipating effect on both my personal and professional life.

It was my third year at USC School of Cinematic Arts, and my very first class in cinematic expression. The teacher, famed animator, special effects artist, and IMAX pioneer Lester Novros, came into the crowded classroom and walked up to the blackboard. A hush fell over the room as Lester drew a rectangle on the board and then turned to look at the class. He paused for a moment and then dramatically told us that the rectangle on the board represented the motion picture frame, and that every element within that frame had the power to affect the viewer’s body, heart, mind, and spirit. With a twinkle in his eyes, he promised that he would teach us the rules/structures governing these elements of expression. My perception of myself, the cinema, and the world profoundly shifted as I sat in the back of that classroom and listened to Lester explain how the expressive elements of space, line, shape, tone, color, movement, rhythm, and contrast and affinity, influence the physiological (UR), psychological (UL), cultural (LL), and social/environmental (LR) experience of the cinematic audience.

For example, in the opening of the first Star Wars (1977) we see a relatively large spaceship fly across the screen. Suddenly, another spaceship appears in hot pursuit of the first ship. As the hull of this pursuit spaceship progressively enters the frame for an extended period of time, the viewer is surrounded by a deep rumbling sound that moves from the back of the theater to the front. This amalgamation of the visually expressive elements of open space (the ship extending beyond the edges of the frame), spatial contrast (difference in size between the two ships), and movement (the relative movement of the two ships), combines with the spatially-moving depth-representational sounds to produce a powerful synchronization of the senses that replicates the experience of actually sitting under this massive ship. In an instant filmmaker George Lucas stylistically and viscerally communicates a deep archetypal message to the viewer, the message that we are about to see an epic struggle against a great and mighty force.

When that first class was over, I walked out onto the quad (yes, quadrants are everywhere!) and everything within and around me seemed different. I noticed the bright sunlight streaming through the trees, the patchwork patterns of bright green lawns between winding pathways, and the feelings I was having in the midst of this spatial reality.


*Originally published on
Integral Life.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hollywood Flatland

While studying the Big Three Perspectives of I-WE-IT of Integral Theory, I started mentally playing with a memorable event from my days as a Hollywood “wunderkind,” and then suddenly, a perspective on the event I had not seen before shifted my entire understanding of the experience. This new insight rippled through a series of connected events and suddenly all my experiences in Hollywood came into a new and clear perspective for me. I felt a wave of deep physical release in my body as though a great unconscious burden and tension suddenly lifted off me.

THE EVENT: A few months after graduating from film school, I was house-sitting for a movie star and had a life transforming experience sitting by the pool of his estate. My graduate film was winning awards around the world, I had a high-powered Hollywood agent, and studio executives were courting me.

THE IT OF THE EVENT: I was reclining naked on a lounge chair by the pool, talking to my agent on the portable phone. The afternoon L.A. sun was hot and bright. I had mirrored sunglasses on and had an ice-cold margarita in my hand. The pool was a beautifully manufactured grotto of exotic plants, palm trees, rocks, waterfalls, and a series of crystal blue swimming pools and hot tubs. A beautiful young woman I had just met and slept with the night before was swimming naked in one of the pools.

THE WE OF THE EVENT: The conversation I was having with my agent on the phone was the same as all the rest; he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear and I pretended that what he was saying was true. At the same time, I was watching the naked woman sensuously swimming in the pool. She smiled sweetly and looked back at me with “starry” eyes.

THE I OF THE EVENT: I suddenly felt an emptiness deep inside me as I listened to the voice of my agent and looked into the eyes of my new found lover. I felt as though I did not exist and that everything around me wasn’t real. Soon after this experience, I put all my possessions in storage, left Hollywood, and began my quest for meaning.

My current insight around this event came when I pondered my conversation with my agent from the perspective of the Hollywood client-agent cultural and social system. I realized that “I” as the client was actually a product (an IT) in the agents’ world. Then I realized that we were both seeing each other as objects to be manipulated, and not as subjects that could be understood (Wilber, 2000). Suddenly I saw all my similar Hollywood experiences in this new light and realized that all of us were objectifying each other and our own selves because we were caught in our own fears, which were being fueled by a larger system. In an instant, I felt as though a deep unconscious reservoir of regret, resentment, self-blame, and blaming of others that I was holding washed right out of me. A sense of gratitude swept through me as I perceived this experience as a moment of grace that was my wake up call to get out of the Hollywood Flatland before my I was totally reduced to an IT and lost forever!

Wilber, K. (2000). A brief history of everything (revised edition). Boston: Shambhala Publications.

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*Originally published at Integral Life
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mark Allan Kaplan: Recipient of 2008 Integral Life Award


ICP Lead Researcher, Mark Allan Kaplan, is the recipient of the 2008 Integral Life Award! The IL Award is an annual merit-based scholarly award given by the Integral Institute. Mark received the award in recognition of his demonstrated potential and capacity to make a difference in the world through the application of integral principles in his personal, professional, and academic endeavors.
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Project Status


The Integral Cinema Project is currently in the theory building stage, exploring the application of Integral Theory to cinematic media development, production, and distribution, under the auspices of Integral Institute's and Fielding Graduate University's Certificate Program in Integral Studies.
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