Today in my Gr. 11 Communications Technology course, we had the distinct pleasure to welcome, celebrated director Vincenzo Natali, who join and enriched the learning via Skype. With genuine warmth, he reflected on a variety of topics. From the rise of Hollywood “tentpoles” to his career path into television, the conversation was incredibly rich and provided the students with an an authentic opportunity to understand their media landscape.
Vincenzo’s body of work is nothing less than exceptional. From features Cube and Splice to his television work including Hannibal, The Strain, Luke Cage and West World, my students have been provoked and entertained by his work, perhaps without knowing. Although his name may not be in the glowing marquee of Hollywood blockbuster films, his credits live on shows that help define today’s “Golden Age” of television and that speaks to his talent and diversity. The shows I mentioned are incredibly successful and although Vincenzo called himself a “gun for hire,” the same visceral visual style that painted the canvases of his feature film work is unmistakably recognizable on the home television, computer and mobile screen. You can’t get better than Vincenzo Natali directing an episode of Hemlock Grove or West World. It’s a perfect marriage of genre, style and narrative.
I can reflect on so many great talking points from today’s conversation. From the rise of new technology in shaping today’s television and streaming programming to Hollywood’s preoccupation with global blockbusters, the chat provided a real education on how the film and television industry has evolved since the release of Vincenzo’s Cube back in 1997 (two years before I entered Humber College’s film and TV production program and a major influence in my engagement with Canadian film). Theatrical and home video release was definitive as a new filmmaker, but now the model has completely changed. Reimagined by tech companies like Netflix and Amazon and to the same extent You Tube. The boundaries, compared to film in the late nineties and pre Web.20 have been completely rewritten. As a teacher, this is incredibly exciting as student work can be readily broadcasted; film festivals use to be the place to have work screened but this is no longer the case when you have YouTube or Vimeo at your disposal.
In regards to my own academic obsession with genre as the foundation for students to grow in their critical understanding of media and importantly produce viable and challenging video works of their own, Vincenzo reflected on his film Splice (a real must see), that was intentionally grounded in the “meaning” of science fiction and influenced by the “man as monster” themes inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and echoed in movies such as The Bride of Frankenstein. In speaking to the film, Vincenzo reflects on his affinity for science fiction and horror along with his “intentional” discourse within this genre. This is of such importance as it reinforces his auteur flavour – understanding genre and working within a structural author lens where genre is recognized and convention is reshaped for new meaning.
Here is an extract from the Skype conversation regarding Splice.
Let me say, it was a true privilege to have Vincenzo share his time with the class. His generosity was incredible and I extend my warm thanks for enriching the learning.