Just one source.

In or out of context? That’s the question.

How much should the audience relate to the original story and how much should they take out of context when it comes to remix? I rely on the phrase remix storytelling when describing one-source remix works because I’m building a new narrative from scratch. But remixing requires using pop culture clips in and out of their original context, a confusing dynamic often done simultaneously depending on the video’s message. The problem I consistently run into is how much should the audience relate to the original story and how much should they take out of context? More importantly, how does the audience know to separate the images from their original context and how does one convey that separation from the onset?

  1. I’ve been interested in the female voice-over ever since I saw Clueless at camp in 5th grade. There’s something about hearing the internal dialog of a lead female character tell a story, presumably her story, that draws me to the material. Conveniently, the voice over is the easiest thing to manipulate. A narrator’s words can be tweaked early on to give the audience the first sign post to take things out of context: this is a new world. I did this a lot in QueerCarrie but probably not early enough in the narrative. 
  2. Choosing only shows with voice overs will solve this problem, however you’ll be severely limited in source material. For shows without a voice over, I’ve been experimenting with what I’ll call a main-character trait sign post. In Mad Men, for example, Don is our main hero and he’s not exactly a supportive husband or great father. He’s prone to yelling, throwing things and narcissistic put-downs that make the other person feel like theyare the crazy ones. Subverting Don’s seminal (pun intended) character traits early on let’s people know we’re operating in a new world. For example right now I’m toying with this scene:

Now remixed, after Betty yells the very applicable “You come home and get to be the hero!” Don says calmly, “You’ve had a hard week. I understand.” I took this dialog from an other scene and put it under Don’s cutaways, editing out everything else after it. But to make it work, the main character’s new traits have to be completely contradictory to their normal behavior, even if they aren’t the main character of your remix. And in my opinion, this has to come early on in the remix to be an effective sign post.

Except in this example. Here, every clip is kept in context. The transformative nature of the piece doesn’t come until the very end (and the very last scene at that) where we’re led to believe Betty killed Don.

The audience doesn’t separate from the original context until the very last scene and the suspense keeps us watching, knowing it’s different, just wondering how it is so. Witholding the transformative aspect until the very end renders the subversion paramount: the suspense becomes palpable when the climax is the raison d’etre.

If we keep every clip in context, how can we transform the original material enough to be fair use? And at what point does the audience need to know we’re in a new world? With multiple sources, I take everything out of context because, well, there’s more than one back story to negotiate. But with only one source, the remixer always plays a fine line.

PS: What do you want to read more about on this blog?


2 thoughts on “Just one source.

  1. DL says:

    The questions you pose at the end are very challenging given the nature of one-source remixing. Subverting the message of the film/show is the PRV’s raison d’être, and I like that you are calling attention to how latent this critique must be (fair use issues in mind), and when it must occur in the narrative (to maintain audience retention/interest and provide a scope for what you intend to accomplish). Legal stuff aside, these are in the main aesthetic considerations. Certainly a work succeeds on some level if the original message is incontrovertibly refuted, but I’d like to suggest a work can be successful even if an attentive viewer comes away asking questions about the original narrative that s/he hadn’t considered previously and that the original source masked or altogether didn’t address. I go back and forth on whether remix should be overt in smashing a position, or crafty and elegant in leading the horse to water. Mystery is so attractive to me, and it gets lost a lot in what we’ve all produced the past several years. If the remixer poses ‘mystery’ or ‘lack of consensus’ whereas the original source was distinct in its position, this is a subtle yet powerful form of subversion.

    Keep up the remixes and the wonderful writing. I wanted to vote ‘yes’ to everything listed in your poll, lol.


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