Remember your audience

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins

I shot Billy Corgan for a benefit concert the other night. Though he was donating his time, he made a few comments to the crowd which reminded me that contempt for the audience is not always made up for by expert guitar picking.

This reminded me of the axiom, “Remember Your Audience.” Film school was full of people trying to outdo each other with strange concepts and experimental imagery. An apple sitting alone on a chair in a long hallway is juxtaposed with an angry old man. Some students would nod knowingly but I would often suspect they were harboring deeper confusion. So when it came time for me to make my films, I tried to fall on the side of “clear narrative” and “understandable imagery” in order to not alienate my audience. This approach was nearly derailed in my “Experimental Media Production” class. So I ended up doing a stop-motion animation of a metal man with alligator clips for hands and a magnifying glass for a head, named Mr. Magnifier. The story involved Mr. Magnifier being trapped in a giant maze of electronic gadgets and sound board sliders. I had him riding a hockey puck car through diverging hallways. It was called Escape From the Machine. The great thing was that the film developed quite a following and people constantly asked me when the sequel was coming out. This was a double-edged sword however as I had recently run out of money for film and processing (we shot on 16mm reversal film back then).

For my senior thesis, I switched half way though my film from motion picture to still photos.  I looped it in as a (say this next part in a near-sarcastic lilt reminiscent of a film student taking himself too seriously) “montage” of images speaking the truth about Mr. Magnifier’s struggles and how they reflected contemporary society’s painful move toward technology at the expense of technology…or something like that.  I got a B.

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins

What do you think?