I found the link in an innocuous email newsletter for HD video cameras – the opportunity to apply to Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School. Having spent three years shooting assorted interviews about fine artists in Los Angeles who were once street artists, the implications of co-opting oneself and so on, I decided to apply, if only to put pressure on myself to create a “sizzle reel” per my documentary instructor’s instructions, as I was advised in her UCLA extension course.
I input less than a thousand lines about my life in the bio section of my application. Two weeks later I was advised that I had been accepted. At first, my LA-fuelled cynicism presumed this to be a given, that these celebrity auteurs simply allowed any applicant in to cover the speaking fee. But upon arriving at the hotel for the first meet and greet, my sense of wonder and awe were restored as I met fellow journeymen who had traveled from Africa, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada to join the 65 members of this year’s Rogue Film School.
For the required reading list alone, it became apparent that this was worth the cost of admission. Such black and white classics as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Battle of Algiers and the Apu Trilogy had been prescribed. Masterworks that I may never have taken the time to which to be exposed. The reading list required Virgil’s “Georgics”, Earnest Hemingway and the Warren Commission report.
There was a prevalent theme, and that was that in order to kill the snake, you must first cut off its head so that the body may die.
I spent three hours speaking with the other who had been accepted and found a room filled with cultural savants, encyclopedias, vessels of experience, and instantly introduced to a myriad references: musicians, films, books. These were all readily available, but how would I have otherwise been pushed to review them?
There is a universe available to us all. With the internet it is more readily available than ever before. But to where have we arrived? A summary of experience that blocks us from even the endeavor to access it.
I recall the posit, perhaps from Ray Kurzweil in The Age of Spiritual Machines, faced with a quantum computer, wherein any question could be answered would pose a new problem – not whether the computer could find the correct answer instantly, but whether we might have the capacity to posit the appropriate question.
The technology is prepared to serve, but are prepared to demand of it what is available?
As we virtually sign petitions to shoot down SOPA and PITA, as we march on Wall Street, as we ingest documentaries on Netflix, or stream playlists created by iGenius or Spotify, are we, in turn doing these artificially intelligent tastemakers justice? How about those that are not artificially so?
Are we really doing our part and protecting and nurturing the fonts of learning, understanding and progression?
Is it not up to us to look into dark corners, to seek further? Else we are just feeding the status quo, rife as it may be with stoic insistence that what we have already covered is all that there is?
Take risks, play, step outside your comfort zone, for learning is ecstatic and the truth even more so.
“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Shakespeare