SOME FILM LISTS
THE DIAGONAL PATH
THE STAGE IS IN YOUR MIND
TO CHECK THE SURFACE WITH BAREFEET, ABOUT THE SERIES OF "WALKING IN THE JUNGLE"
HARRY PYE'S POSTCARD FROM LONDON
LIVE AGAIN IN PEACE
SPEECH TO THE INVESTORS
AT THE FOUNDING MEETING OF THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENTALIST PARTY
Format is greater than us. Format came before us. Format cannot be changed. There is no use in arguing with the format. You may talk to the format, but it will not change. It is a futile battle. Go ahead, give it a try. Try to change. You cannot do anything with a fixed format. Why change it? You would have to spend too much energy. That would be too original. You will not succeed anyhow. People do not want it to change.
Formats stare in my face when I open a newspaper or a magazine. Format of the yellow press, women’s magazine, men’s magazine, design magazine, fashion magazine. Content format. Length format. Epifanio is a good paper in the sense that the content dictates the format. Not vice versa. Like anywhere else.
When I switch on the TV, various formats enter my room. Talkshow, where two men jump from one chair to another after saying hello. “Funny” youth or extreme sport program, where youngsters glide around on skateboards and do silly things. “Genius” format, where a clown sets up embarrassing situations for his friends. Survival format, where one has to eat frogs and other facinating stuff. Adventure format, where people have to go through trials in a foreign land and vote each other out of the show. Serial, where you have to talk in a “spoken language” and pretend that this is real life – all with the seriousness of antique tragedy. Documentary, the length of which had been set for the film crew. Negative news format. And so on.
Most of all, however, I am surprised by the servants of the format – loyal people, who voluntarily choose to keep the format. With all their might. Who are convinced of format’s superiority. People, sitting in front of the screen, are the victims of the format; people, sitting behind of the screen or any other apparatus and fighting for the format, are. . .
People in executive positions, publishers, marketing departments, theatres, television backoffice and editing-rooms claw on to the format. The format is in their head. They want it to be in my head too. But I do not want it there.
When I turn on the radio, I am in for a wonderful selection – morning program is ran by two jokers – not because they can or want to be funny, or it’s even possible to be funny at this early hour, but because the format demands it. Every quarter of an hour, the format demands a hit. Every half an hour a national pop-song. And in between – a jingle.
When I enter a cafe, those two jokers have preceded me and are continuing their noisy show. On the background of loud dance music, whose authors could be called the Format Victims with Capital Letters. When I order a meal in the heart of the city, I get a micro-waved thing – this is the tourist format. Fancy meals, the appearance of which is more important than the content, are a souvenir, not really meant to be eaten.
When people want to do business, there too is a format that makes every idea a good idea. Powerpoints, projectors, summarising sentences in a memorable wording. The format of a marketing assistant, a trainer, a sales person, and a book-worm, who takes a break in Thailand, Spain on tropical islands. Maybe is even interested in Buddhism and goes to Tibet – the roof of the world. Looks thoughtfully at the holy sites and comes back home. He wishes sunshine! to everybody. And then diggs the excavator in the ground and builds a large ugly house.
When I think about success, I picture a slightly overweight man driving a large jeep, a middle field man driving a smaller jeep, and the “bad guys”, who want to be just like their heros in the business world. They too want to conform to the format and drive the same cars as bankers. I see a middle-class woman running behind the glass on a trademill. Instead of doing it in the forest. But in the forest, they are afraid, because this is an unknown world for them. There are mosquitos, tics and annoyingly rustling tree leaves. There is no soft music and oriental aroma oils. I am generalising, but these men and women are decision makers. While being format victims, they want everyone else to conform. They decide what format we must fit, which supermarket we need to visit, and what kind of cities we have to live in.
When I think about our Republic’s anniversary, I am confronted by the parade format as appropriate to one of the largest armed forces in the world. When I turn on the television on the New Year’s Eve, the past-president format awaits me, which the new president has not quite remodeled according to his own face yet and is making a great effort to assimilate. Why he does that, I do not know. I think he too senses the superiority of the format. He too feels that the format was before and it cannot be changed. He cannot be original. Like himself. He can only be like the president.
When I think about a book-store, colourful formats come to my mind. Book-stores aren’t selling anything besides the format nowadays. They sell formats not books. Children, adventure, mysticism. Coelho, Potter, Brown. Poetry format has lately flourished – poets are inventing new cover-formats, lest the poetry itself be uninteresting or un-sellable.
And when I go to the movies, then. . . well. Or when I go to the theatre, then. . . oh well. It is mistaken that the art crowd is not a victim of the format. One of the most profound art formats is the madness format. “Depth” format. The format of “Art”. When somebody wants to become a writer, they swear and bleed and talk about intimate affairs for couple of hundred pages. Most repulsively and provocatively. And the critics swallow the format as bold, wild, young and angry.
I remember my first format contact like it was yesterday. It was when we had just freed ourselves of a foreign oppressor, when times were enjoyably format-free. We worked at a radio station with a bunch of university friends. And that radio was quite creative at times. But one day, a candid old man came, together with a group of obedient boys. That Homo Formatum knew how things work in America; he had been to a training. He drew a large circle on the wall – this was an hour on air. The circle was divided into sectors, every sector standing for a hit. Now it was not allowed to play songs older than twenty years, and the outer had conquered the content. From that time on, all radio stations slave the format. And they are all the same. Radio has become predictable.
People are often asked if they would like something to have been different in their lives. I would promptly respond that, I wish format had never reached our shores. Or if it had, that people would not have started to protect and serve it massively. Would not make such an effort for the format.
I am not saying that form is bad, but format should be better perceived. There is a danger that format suffocates diversity. Because format usually serves someone’s material interests. It feels like the format invasion has numbed us altogether. If people can’t see that, the format has already engulfed them.
I call for format richness! Not the exterior format glitter. The outer format is easy to sell. But discusting to buy. Luckily we have other formats. Not necessarily new formats. There are good-old formats also. As I was saying – I make a call to notice the format. To discover it, as well as doubt it. To choose your format carefully, to weigh. I too am a format victim and therefore need your help, as you hopefully need mine. Lets be vigilant together.
Andri Luup is a freelance script-writer, actor and director. See also www.theatrum.ee, www.allfilm.ee and www.hot.ee/aroonia3.