Running to a Charger: Sunlight Thru a Magnifying Glass

After watching Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016), my friend Lora and I decided that there was a lot more to it than Herzog’s noteworthy voice narrating to us what we already knew about the Internet. I mean, we already knew the Internet can do amazing and terrible things to us, but for some reason, after watching Lo and Behold, I felt as though I was unintentionally reconsidering everything I knew about the Internet. I remember talking about the film with Lora after class and her absolutely hating it. That might be an overstatement, but I do remember a bit of distaste in her tone when talking about it. LOL. In that same conversation, we laughed over our mutual love for Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location Is Everything” which parodies Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia. But it was that conversation that inspired us to make our mockumentary, Running to a Charger: Sunlight Through a Magnifying Glass. (Below the video is a brief telling of how we made it.)

The structure of our film directly mirrors the ten chapter format; from the font to the titles to even the opening song; of Lo and Behold, and the monologue style of “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything” in a more modern form, the vlog. Between the two of us, Lora and I split the chapters, and I wrote the monologues for Chapter 1: The Early Days, Chapter 4: Live Without the Net, Chapter 5: The End of the Net, Chapter 6: Earthly Invaders, and Chapter 9: The Power of the Net. We collaborated on Chapter 7: Internet on Mars. On Lora’s blog, linked above, she discusses the chapters she wrote as well as her experience making the film. For the remainder of this post, I’ll only be discussing my chapters and my experience.

CHAPTER I: The Early Days | This was actually the last monologue I wrote because for the longest time, I struggled with what I actually wanted to do with this monologue. I wasn’t sure what tone I wanted to go with or what the situation would be. Initially, I had planned to create this a mother character who just found out that their son is watching porn online, sort of as this “well, I guess my son’s a man now.” Then it occurred to me that was too similar to what Lora was doing with Chapter 3: The Dark Days and my Chapter 6: Earthly Invaders. So I scrapped that idea. The dialogue I ended up writing mirrors what Herzog does with his Chapter 1 which opens with his signature raspy voice (of which I think I did a pretty spot on impression of for my film) describing a place and interviewing a sweet looking man. I created the character of Rina Tuttle, who is the only person in the film with a (known) name, and set her in the year 2039 where a Black Mirror-esque chip that’s inserted in users’ skin exists. In retrospect, it’s probably the best way we could have opened the film because of it’s expectable similarities to Behold and because it adds to the then excitement of the Internet to the now excitement of the chip; which really crosses the line from normative practices of Internet use. As Rina hesitates to answers my final question, “Do you think you’re happier now because of the chip?,” the audience hesitates to think about their own growing dependency on the new technologies in their lives.

CHAPTER 4: Life Without the Net | This was the first monologue I wrote after a conversation with my brother that reminded me of the times when our parents used to take our phones away as punishment. Writing it was incredibly easy because personally I have so much fun making fun of the pre-teen I used to be who was so boy crazy and even more phone crazy. The character is a mixture of my brother’s and my angst and our experiences with sneaking behind our parents backs just to get some more screen time which is ridiculous now because I’m always trying to sneak away from any time I have to spend in front of a screen. In Werner’s documentary, we follow a group of people who’s health is directly affected by the presence of the Internet and must live in seclusion from it. Having our character be overtly petty about not having his phone is a comedic spin on this idea that Internet exposure is/can be bad for people. This monologue is filmed outside nudging to the rather archaic belief that kids should spend more time doing things outside than inside playing video games all day. I should add that when Lora and I were re-watching this part after our friend recorded it, we were laughing so hard that we were crying almost.

CHAPTER 5: The End of the Net | This is one of the three connected monologues that follows a love story between a woman and her phone’s operating system. Lora explains it better in her post (see above) so I’m not going to waste your time here. Incidentally, around the time that I was writing this, I was going through a break up of my own, making it a lot easier to write. Maybe easier’s not the best word… Maybe therapeutic? There was nothing similar between the two relationships so don’t start any conclusions… Mom… But there’s a certain universality in breaking up and relationship mourning that I wanted to adapt to this unconventional relationship between a woman and Siri, who is pretty much a celebrity in our world today. In Behold, someone talks about the sun being this mystifying source of both life and destruction; a concept I find similar to that of love — the presence and the absence of love that deeply affects humans. The way we are reliant on love and human connection is like our reliance on the Internet and Internet connection. I loved writing this monologue, to be honest, because it is one of the more poetic toned monologues I wrote for the project that I think its a tonal texture necessary in capturing rounded (fictional) perspective of the digitally connected world.

CHAPTER 6: Earthly Invaders | One of my biggest fears is unknowingly getting my forward facing camera on my laptop hacked and being secretly stalked by some pervert. It’s a stretch, but it’s also extremely real! Foreal! Get some tape and cover those cameras guys! I think my paranoia comes from my mom who kind of demonized the Internet while my brother and I were growing up. But in that classic mom-like way. Nothing extreme. For this monologue, I wanted to give it an edgy, little twist that would turn the tables on those situations when people are getting stalked in this manner. The first draft of this monologue included several cuts to future dates where the character develops a sadistic side and stalks her stalker, leading her to killing him even. I eventually deleted that whole bit because for one thing, it was way too dramatic and unrealistic, and for another thing, it was easier to just focus in on the paranoia. I remember our friend who acted in this one telling me that she wanted to re-do the monologue because she felt she could have “broke down better.”

CHAPTER 7: Internet on Mars | Funny story: I thought I had to write this monologue, but Lora also thought she had to write this monologue so we both wrote separate monologues, not knowing the other was working on a chapter 7 monologue as well. It was Lora who combined the monologues, her part being the first half about the character telling of her mother leaving Earth for Mars, and mine being the second half with the love-letter tone. We didn’t want to talk too much about Mars or the Internet despite the name, instead we wanted to focus on the Earth as an original life source entity. It’s one of my favorite monologues not just because I think the writing is beautiful, but because our friend who performed it had a reaction that we did not see coming; a reaction so moving I forgot it was Lora and I who wrote the monologue for a hot second.

CHAPTER 9: The Power of the Net | This monologue started with a surfer-bro kind of character scrolling through the infamous hook-up app, Tinder. I wanted to address the aspect of the Internet as a place where anything and everything is accessible at the touch of a finger, but then as I was falling asleep one night, I was thinking about the Old Testament belief that woman was created from man for man, and how it’s similar to how the Internet was created by humans intelligence and innovation for human consumption. The monologue is more or less a satire on radical feminism as it reflects on the egotistical nature of the human with the Internet. The monologue addresses the Internet’s initial purposes of data processing and knowledge sharing which was something I believe is important in analyzing the way the Internet only “exacerbates the egotistical world.”

I only have ONE qualm with the project, that being the audio lag in certain chapters. At least for me, it takes me out of the film a little bit. Lora spent a great deal of the editing portion having to convert some of the video files because PremierePro wouldn’t recognize them. Even after converting the files, the audio would still displace itself and at that point, it was out of our control. Had we started the project a lot earlier, I think we could have tried a different video maker that would have given us a better quality film. But I mean, other than that, I’m really proud of the film Lora and I made and I hope that if you’re reading this, you’ve seen the film and like it too.

Bibliography:

Baudrillard, Jean. “The Ecstasy of Communication,” The Ecstasy of Communication.

Brooker, Charles. “The Entire History of You.” Black Mirror. Netflix. 18 Dec. 2011.

Galloway, Alexander R. “Introduction: The Computer as a Mode of Mediation.” The Interface Effect.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. Dir. Wernerz Herzog, 2016.

Mulaney, John, and Bill Hader. “Parker Gail’s Location Is Everything.” Documentary Now! IFC. 28 Sept. 2016.

Rainie, Lee and Barry Wellman. “Interlude: A Day in a Connected Life,” Networked: The New Social Operating System.

van Dijck, Jose. Mediated Memories as a Conceptual Too. Mediated Memories in the Digital Age.

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