Tough Luck on Transmission Highway

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Mona Lisa in Space Productions Presents...

Tough Luck on Transmission Highway

By Daniel Byers, Sophie Lynford, Mara Maracinescu, and Harrison Noffs

Summary

Tough Luck on Transmission Highway strives to explore the effects of technology on our daily lives by following one person and his three friends as they journey through one day. Dan, our protagonist, wakes one morning and is immediately faced with his electronic to-do list. Dan goes about his morning routine unaware of his friends' attempts to directly address him. After brushing his teeth and taking a shower, Dan proceeds to the next item on his list, the ping-pong game with his friend, Harrison. At the game, the two friends stand on either side of the table ready for some friendly competition. Where there are usually ping-pong paddles and balls, the friends whip out gaming devices and play each other virtually, instead actually engaging in the physical activity. The game ends in a victory for Harrison, leaving Dan to seek comfort in his girlfriend's company, Mara. At the same time, Mara and her friend, Sophie, are chatting away in Mara's room. Instead of speaking face-to-face, the girls sit back-to-back and chat via their webcams, showing off their new purchases through the cameras. Their conversation is interrupted when Dan comes in to pick up Mara for their date at the movies. Dan and Sophie exchange a friendly greeting through the webcam. The final scene revolves around Mara and Dan's walk home from the movie. Mara is clearly fuming, unable to express to Dan how she feels. Dan seems perplexed. Mara whips out her cell phone, furiously types something, and storms off. Soon Dan's confusion is cleared when receives the text message announcing their break-up.

Interpretation

What the viewer first notices while watching the film is that these characters are extreme technology-lovers; if the equipment is available, they'll find it and use it. Upon closer examination, its presence is not wholly beneficial; the technology in our film disrupts the characters' everyday communication. Dan and Mara cannot maintain their relationship with such distorted contact to the point where they break up through text messaging. The girls gossip through webcam---in the same room. Are these people so enslaved to technology that they cannot tear themselves away from it to communicate normally? We believe that technology, when used to the extreme, despite people's obvious thirst to utilize a plethora of high-tech wonders, could actually be detrimental to our relationships rather than beneficial. Presenting this issue in a silent film format is ironic because the caliber of technology the actors make use of is analogous to what is available to us as filmmakers. Instead of employing this equipment to produce a high-definition film replete with special video and audio effects, we use this technology to actually make our film look antiquated. We used a filter effect in post-production to not only convert our movie to black and white, but also to add an old-school "feel." Additionally, we interspersed inter-titles to replace dialogue and to alert the viewer to characters' key emotions and thoughts. The language in the intertitles is reminiscent of the vernacular of true silent films, and is ironic because the langauge we chose has never been used in the same enviroment as the technology we are discussing. Finally, in the spirit of New Media Art, we appropriated silent film music from the Internet to match the sentiment and main action of each our scenes. By choosing not to use dialogue or color, we are further highlighting the disconnection in communication among the characters by also disconnecting the viewer from the filmmaker. As a result, the viewer's expectation of the film's presentation is overturned.

Concluding Remarks

The technological advances in communication have been affecting life for centuries. Only recently has communication technology actually begun to create a disconnection in people's face-to-face communication. For the first time, the convenience of modern communication technologies have caused people to prefer them, or even rely on them, over face-to-face communication. Some people maintain that some of their friendships are easier to maintain via Instant Messenger chatting rather than phone conversations or even meeting in person. Our film guiltily criticizes this extreme---we as the actors and the filmmakers acknowledge our own over use of technology, but we realize that in the long term, technology might radically change the rules of communication.

Materials

High-Definition Digital Video Camera

Two new MacBooks with built-in webcams

One Dell Inspiron 500 Intel Pentium Processor Laptop

Two state-of-the-art video iPods

One Nokia 3610 mobile phone

One Samsung T2100i cell phone

Silent-Film music clips appropriated from: Sound Dogs

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