Filmmaking as public art

When a building is surrounded by cameras and lights or an entire street is blocked off for filming in L.A., you don’t really notice. At least I don’t. Not anymore. Well, I notice, but the sight is so familiar that to me and to many in Los Angeles, it is not too much different than seeing kids at the park or hardhat guys working on a road.

Witnessing something being filmed in L.A. — be it a movie, a car commercial, a TV show or a music video — is not unusual. But the fact that it just kind of blends in with regular city life is definitely unique.

This close intermingling of filmmaking and city life essentially injects art into the daily lives of the general L.A. public. Where else in the world is art so entwined with the city, so public in its execution? I’m not being rhetorical here, I’m really asking because I don’t know.

This is not to say that no other city has public art; there’s plenty of public art out there in the cities of the world. From commissioned murals and sculptures to non-commissioned and non-sanctioned graffiti, practically every city has its share of public art. L.A. is no different in this regard.

But L.A. also has its filmmakers — a different breed of artists, who despite their acknowledgement are actually creating a form of public art. Film is set apart from the more traditionally defined “public” arts because it actually involves the public with its process. By taking place in the public realm, in the middle of peoples’ neighborhoods and workplaces, film includes the public, by osmosis, in the process of creating art. By merely being a bystander or an invaded neighbor, the general public is exposed to the creative process.

This forms a completely different relationship than do other more traditional forms of public art, where the public is exposed only to the creative expression in its completed form. In L.A. filmmaking, there is no curtain between the artists and the audience. The audience has seen the art take shape, resulting in a public that is more in touch with the process of artistic expression.

Being more familiar with the process of creation undoubtedly develops a people that are more liable to seek out ways to creatively express themselves – more so than in a city with little public art or only those more traditional forms.

That may be hard to quantify, but it’s pretty clear (to me, at least) that this type of exposure to the creative process makes the public more informed about the mechanics behind artistic expression. This eliminates the mystery of the process and breaks down the barrier to entry that might have made art-making seem an activity beyond the comprehension of the average person. By being more intimately in touch with publicly created art in the form of film, the public in L.A. is automatically more artistic.

Hollywood filmmaking is obviously unique to L.A. and not easily replicated in other cities. But the affect of this city’s filmmaking on the psyche of the general public makes me wonder if there are other ways these different places can embrace new, non-traditional outlets that nurture the creativity of their people. I hope there are, but what are they?

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Read more from Nate at The Interchange, Planetizen’s daily blog.

Tags: arts and culture