Raul Alvarez


Film Here Now investigates the relationship between filmmaking and well-being with two specific aims: to illuminate how and why the process of making films inflicts stress on the filmmaker, and to determine what can be done within this process to prioritize the filmmaker’s well-being. My empirical framework of inquiry combines a particular filmmaking practice with a reflexive analysis of my experiences and observations. The practice component of my research consists of the daily production of films that adopt the aesthetic of Actualities, the minute long, single non-moving shot films by the Lumière Brothers, Thomas Edison and W. K. L. Dickson that dominated early cinema. Noël Burch’s theory of film, wherein films are analyzed as a combination of Institutional and Primitive Modes of Representation, provides the framework I use to contextualize my films in relation to the dominant visual aesthetic of today’s cinema. From an examination of my process and the resulting films, I draw conclusions about how making daily Actualities affects the relationship between my perception of the world and the world itself. I pit these conclusions against the cinematic realism theories championed by André Bazin, Siegfried Kracauer and Dziga Vertov. Unlike them, I reject the notion that the camera sees what I see and the idea that it has the ability to record or reproduce my experience of the world. Instead, I argue that the process of making daily Actualities serves as a tool that facilitates my ability to look at the world with greater awareness and, in consequence, expands my capacity for presence and acceptance. Through the philosophical works of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Alan Watts, I contend that it is these qualities—awareness, presence and acceptance—that pave the path to well-being and, if a filmmaking process is to prioritize the well-being of the filmmaker, it must thus be designed so as to facilitate the filmmaker’s ability to attain them. Overall, my thesis contributes a new assessment of the Actuality film form as a tool for expanding well-being and a new critique of realistic theories of film on the grounds that they run counter to the maximization of well-being. The conclusions I have drawn regarding the relationship between filmmaking and well-being stem from a singular case study—my own—consisting of a particular filmic approach under a specific set of conditions. Is my methodology transferable to other practitioners? I suggest it is and, moreover, I propose ways in which my findings may be applied to other forms and modes of filmmaking.

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