Experimenting with Viewmanship…

By Jeff Kubik

Juxtaposed surveillance camera footage; a 28-minute continuous shot of the Calgary tower’s revolving restaurant; a series of shots centering on the various incarnations of the first pre-fabricated house design–if it’s not independent cinema then Vin Diesel’s movies have become strangely unconventional. Viewmanship is a series of short, experimental films by filmmaker Patrick McLaughlin, the acclaimed cinematographer of the +15 drama waydowntown.

Born in Medicine Hat, McLaughlin remained relatively isolated from film until his arrival at Concordia University, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production.

“I never really thought about the process of making films, consequently I thought that it was a job no one wanted to do,” recalls McLaughlin.

However, after arriving, Montreal’s fanatical film culture soon forced him to develop a passion for film. Inevitably, he ended up behind the camera.

While primarily a cinematographer, with credits on projects ranging from 1995’s Suburbanators to a recent documentary on Confucius, Viewmanship represents an opportunity for McLaughlin to showcase his directorial ventures in order to convey a single overriding theme.

McLaughlin hopes that the exhibition will make audience members question their ability to separate themselves from the experience of watching a film, rather than simply losing themselves in escapism. While the process of “viewmanship” may seem passive, the audience’s perceptions are actively involved in the creation of the movie’s content.

“Every audience member, despite the fact that they may be at the same screening, will have their own unique experience,” says McLaughlin. “An audience member, in my opinion, has a dialogue with the film.”

To demonstrate this point, Viewmanship presents films in which the audience’s perceptions and reactions are more important than a cohesive narrative. Videos such as Panorama–a full trip with the Calgary Tower’s revolving restaurant–and the parodic Don’t Worry, Call Nury–a real-estate channel whose sales pitches provide more information than the average viewer requires–draw attention to the “cultural wallpaper” that we often ignore. In film as in life, the things that draw our attention rather than the things simply placed in front of us often define our experience.

Relinquishing Power to the Delicate Bond of Understanding: Part IV represents the most unorthodox medium in Viewmanship, using projected images as well as a live actor on stage who will interpret the foreign dialogue for the audience.

“It’s about the delicate balance that the filmmaker has with the audience,” says McLaughlin. “What the filmmaker thinks his project is about might not be the result that the audience experiences.”

The films of Viewmanship are experimental and are aimed at creating an audience reaction different than films at your local Famous Players.

“Expect something different, expect to be thinking about yourself.”

Click for a review of Viewmanship.

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