Nothing new under the sun

Directing

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV

Sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking (for example) moving cameras or distressed sets are simply necessary concessions to a contemporary culture.

But they aren’t.

I would venture to say it’s really all been done before in one way or another. This is why the desire to do something totally new, truly unique, can potentially turn into a pitfall because someone has probably done the thing you are imagining before, even better than you. It is therefore important to understand and learn from production people who have gone before us.

Here is a great old video from 1964 of Big Mama Thornton singing Hound Dog (Big Mama recorded Hound Dog four years before Elvis Presley’s version became an eleven-week #1 pop chart hit). Note the set, it easily could be used even today on the Grammy Awards. Also note the use of camera motion, foreground/background objects, high key lighting with dramatic contrast and how the camera team and video director nailed Buddy Guy’s guitar solo while still keeping Big Mama in the frame. Importantly, note how few cameras are used to achieve this … yet the capture does not feel limited even by today’s standards.

It may bear pointing out that cameras at that time weight many hundreds of pounds. Camera motion was not a small feat, but they got it done and it paid off.

Do you struggle with feeling that you need to do something new, something completely different? Maybe rather than trying to do something new (which is in reality not very new), our goal should be to do things more effectively, learning from the successes and failures of others?

Tom D'Angelo

Tom D'Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for nearly four decades. He is Emmy Award nominated (Best Director category, Mid-Atlantic) and has been part of various teams nominated or winning national Emmys.  As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.