Hack #5: Remix

For the fifth hack that asked us to remix existing media in a transformative way, I made a trailer for a documentary called Stalked.

I had four source materials for the project. The first is a Ted Talk from Robin Brockelsby where she talks about when her and her family were stalked by a known acquaintance. In the talk, she offers advice and support to those going through the same thing. I used just her introduction, where she uses lighting tricks to build suspense as she introduces the topic. The next source is the opening sequence from the 1996 movie Fargo that infamously (and erroneously) informed viewers that what they’re about to watch is a true story. Next, I took the audio from the trailer for the Netflix series You that was released in 2018. The series tells the story of a bookstore manager that starts dating one of his customers. The relationship quickly turns volatile as he becomes obsessed with her and uses technology to control and stalk her. The fourth source was video footage from Taylor Swift’s music video You Belong With Me, which has almost 100 million views on Youtube. In the video, a young Taylor lusts after a boy who seems to be just out of reach until they lock lip on the dance floor at prom.

The Ted Talk and the You trailer are both scary pieces of media that evoke terror and fear. They both deal with stalking, one in a personal, first-hand way and the other in a fictionalized, sensationalized way. The Taylor Swift video, on the other hand, is a lighthearted video about unrequited love where Taylor dances, plays dress up, and eventually gets the guy. At first glance, these pieces don’t seem to go together, but with some simple editing they come together quite easily and seamlessly.

I collected the footage by using the Screen Capture feature on Quicktime. In order to include audio in the screen capture, I had to download a program called Soundflower. Instructions about this process can be found here.

To make the video, I used the iMovie application on my Mac. For the most part, I kept the sources in tact. My goal was to not alter the audio from the You trailer and instead edit the Taylor Swift video in order to map onto the audio. I did this with simple cutting and pasting within iMovie.

The Rules

  1. Your source material must come from at least three distinct time periods.

When looking at the dates of my sources (1996, 2009, 2018, and 2018) it appears that I worked with two obvious time periods; Fargo is the only one that was made in another century from the others. However, nothing in the Fargo clip that I included dates it, aside from implicit knowledge of those familiar with the film. For this reason, I don’t think it really counts as coming from a distinct time period.

However, it could also be argued that although there are less than 10 years between them that You Belong With Me and You come from distinct time periods. Taylor Swift’s video came before the wave of female empowerment and the #MeToo movement that brought crimes against women, stalking included, into the public eye. This change in culture is exemplified by the Ted Talk because the social culture has changed enough that stalking is now a recognized atrocious crime. Although stalking has always been a problem, the music video was produced unaware of its pervasiveness in society or the social justice issues that it would become the forefront of. The Netflix series, however, was produced within this culture and was presumably a sort of response to it.

Nonetheless, I maintain that my project broke the first rule because Fargo isn’t obviously from a different time period. At most, my project drew from two distinct time periods. However, a “distinct” time period is a subjective classification. My project seems modern and appears to have a cohesive time period even though the source dates vary.

2. Your remix must incorporate at least four different sources from at least three different media types 

My four sources were: the Ted Talk, the clip from Fargo, a trailer for a Netflix series, and a music video from a pop/country singer.

The three media types I utilized were: text, audio and video. I also think that a public speaking audio recording is much different than audio from a series trailer.

3. Your remix should be about something, other than itself.

My trailer offers a commentary on the way that context can significantly alter the perception of a piece of media. The original Taylor Swift video is very innocent, but I changed that evocation by changing the context. For example, the scene where she is in a gown and looks down is originally the moment just before the two lock eyes and begin kissing. Instead, I made the scene creepy by overlaying a female voice saying “are you following me?” Just by removing the music and replacing it with dialogue I’ve made a romantic scene sinister.

In addition, including a creepy Ted Talk in the front of the trailer introduces the idea of stalking so that the viewer is already primed for the first time we see the man staring at Taylor through his window. Instead of seeming like shy infatuation, his gazes feel like they belong in a horror movie.

Then, the opening text from Fargo creates a sense of true crime drama that makes the forthcoming horror seem realistic and unavoidable. Fargo isn’t a horror movie, but it is a common trope of horror films to claim that they’re based on real events in order to make them scarier.

All of these transformations take an innocent music video about love out of context and completely turn it around. I even switched the gender roles from the original video to the remix; instead of Taylor lusting after the man, he is now the one with unrequited love.

We live in a time of “fake news” and blurred lines between truth and reality in the media. My trailer demonstrates just how easily a narrative can be constructed by taking things out of context and connecting them to other pieces of media. I have very limited video editing skills, so it’s easy to imagine the stunts that professionals would be able to pull off.

4. Your remix must break one of these rules, but only with deliberate and well-defended justification.

See rule #1!

Uncreative Writing

In his essay, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, Kenneth Goldsmith describes the modern dilemma of writers: there is already too much out there to contribute anything new and meaningful. As he says, “faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists” (1). Although this hack was based in audio-visual mediums, it also appears to be an act of uncreative writing. Or, more accurately, uncreative creating. Instead of filming and recording new material, we were tasked with repurposing existing media to give it a second life with new meaning. I used different source materials that were, for the most part, kept intact, apart from the music video which I cut up quite a bit. Preserving all but one of the sources makes the trailer seem cohesive and eerily calm. Instead of jumping from source to source, the narrative progressively slowly and steadily. The music video is recognizable to a lot of people, so even in its altered state of editing, it is still evocative of the 2009 Taylor Swift. Preserving the other pieces supported my argument that messages can be constructed just by simple juxtaposition of materials. These objects were given a new life and meaning just by putting them next to each other and reordering one of them to map onto another.

This argument wouldn’t have been possible without uncreative creating. Reusing old, recognizable sources allows for juxtaposition without asking too much of a viewer. The themes and message are immediately clear simply by putting a Taylor Swift video in conversation with more sinister pieces of media.

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