With a tall glass of water and a handful of pills for the Sunday morning whiskey hangover, I set off towards Town and Country; the home of some of the wealthiest people in St. Louis. My purpose for the day would be to cover the production of the fourth scene in the feature film, “The Method,” an avant-garde production shot entirely in the first person that tells a tale with 12 extended take shots influenced by the existential and spiritual crises facing much of the first world today.
I let myself in through the massive wooden front door and chuckled under my breath as I took everything in. Extravagant art, photographs of the home owner posing with world leaders, beautiful rooms decorated in the style of Jordan culture complete with crystal chandeliers decorating the seven million dollar abode. As a lowly peasant inside the confines of such a home, it took me a minute to shake the fear of bumping over a $100,000 vase and causing a Three Stooges style domino effect of destruction.
Tensions were running high in the halls of this venue as the crew and actors prepared for the crucial 15 minute shot. The day prior was spent rehearsing and today was the do or die time to achieve it. The scene involved a dying man, rendered mute and wheelchair bound by a stroke, being wheeled into his study and left to witness his family argue over his fate and the situation in a lengthy and intense volley of dialogue. The POV wheelchair rig worked out beautifully and with all the blocking orchestrated, the scene in theory would look incredible. All that was needed was a flawless performance by the actors. Very much a high risk, high reward shoot—and with the autumnal equinox falling on the very same day, time was of the essence as natural light was essential to the scene.
I got my shots and after seeing my fill of the action I decided to take a break out pool side in the perfect weather to try and nurse my throbbing head back to normal. It was there that I struck up an incredibly deep conversation with a Bosnian woman under the shade of a bench swing. We chatted about a wide spectrum of topics as I like to do with people from outside the typical American mindset. But when she revealed to me that she would soon be getting her PhD in Psychology, I asked her a burning question I’ve had for many years I like to ask people in the field regarding our status as social animals in the age of digital communication.
I spent much of my high school career in an introverted bubble playing online video games and communicating with friends mostly through AOL Instant Messenger. By the end of the four years, I became more and more aware that had missed out a crucial part of my life for developing social skills and how much spending more time in cyber space than reality had crippled me. I made a conscious effort of getting out of my comfort zone and improving those skills so that I might have a chance in the real world (and maybe get laid before I finished college,) and I can say that I’ve come a long way from where I started. Unfortunately, as I made those improvements and looked out to use those skills, I saw a disturbing pattern. The once social stigma of spending hours in front a computer was now becoming a social norm with the explosion in popularity of Facebook and cell phones. My friends and colleagues were unknowingly falling into the same hole I was finally escaping, and it was a frustrating existential dilemma of my own.
In my personal experience, observations and the occasional social experiment, I’ve noted some of the effects of a digital age of communication. The decline in the ability to empathize, the narcissism epidemic partially fueled by Facebook, the isolating effect of the “Filter Bubble" to name a few things off the vast list. There was a time during my College career that I almost dropped my passion for cinematography completely for one of my secondary passions of psychology in hopes of better understanding the effects that digital communication has on the human condition, and I made a decision that I still haven’t decided if I regret or not. But in that moment by the concrete pond I was in the presence of a professional psychologist, so I couldn’t help but unleash the question upon her. I thought I was prepared to what I was about to hear. However, her answer took me off guard, and through a straight face my stomach sank to my feet.
"It will be the death of us." She said after a sigh and a moments hesitation.
The ensuing thirty minute conversation had me more engaged than I had been in a long time; she had some incredible insight on the subject that was refreshing to hear in a way. It was good to hear somebody with actual expertise in psychology reinforce my crazy pessimistic ideas. Just like I had feared, much of the depression, division and dysfunction we are faced with today can be contributed to our new normal.
Unfortunately, the conversation came to an end abruptly when she was summoned by her husband and left for the day. The talk inspired me to perhaps tackle a piece regarding this subject, finding more psychologists and collecting a pool of professional opinions to help make the public more conscious to the issue so that it may be better addressed. With each passing day, media literacy seems to be becoming more and more apart of my life.
Despite the conversation about the potential downfall of the human race, the day was far from a downer. After a stressful ten hour day and a close race with the setting sun, the scene was finally completed with great results and I also was able to spend some time in the basement sharing haram shots of Grand Mariner with a beautiful Jordanian princess. In the end, I was even able to make it home just in time to see the viewer discretion warming before Breaking Bad.
A strange day for sure. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.