DIY and Die?

While I was diligently eating saltines and drinking water this morning I happened to catch a newish PBS documentary called e2: the economics of being environmentally conscious. The subject at hand was wind power, and the show provided strong economic arguments for locally-produced power through small, family-owned wind farms that allowed people to stay on the land in this ever-urbanizing country.  I was immediately taken with the gorgeous cinematography–slightly desaturated landscapes with beautiful positioning of the interviewees. This doc used the “talking heads” schema, but made the people part of the landscape instead of interviewing them inside offices and such. I still wince whenever I see the academic/expert inside their book-lined office, but I suppose it’s appropriate but highly unimaginative. There was a voice-over by Morgan Freeman and the whole presentation was impossibly slick, moving away from the shaky hand-cams and poorly lit shots that usually characterize the kind of documentaries you’d expect out of this kind of politically-motivated film-making. Two things came to mind–that I’d just about die to make my films look like this, and that the documentary looked more like an extended commercial than anything else.

I looked up the company that made the film ( and, unsurprisingly, both of the producers mentioned have backgrounds in marketing. This made sense with the scheme of the show–selling green power to the public. I did appreciate that they eschewed the fake dichotomies that these kind of documentaries (and a lot of news reporting, for that matter) employ to try to appear fair or to create tension. (Is global warming real? We dug up one guy that says no, let’s interview him!) They obviously seem passionate about this subject and everything ends well for everyone involved, with Morgan Freeman’s godly voice providing the correct conclusions for us all.

As a quick sidenote, I just finished Eric Janszen’s report in Harpers about the bubble economy and the rapidly accelerating cycles of boom and bust and he predicts that green energy is the next boom. Welcome news, and Kontentreal is helping to make it happen. I’d love to see their investment portfolios.
I suppose I am just bitter though, as I do not have access to the HDR cameras with cinematic lenses, and Brad Pitt does not narrate my scrappy little archaeology films. Their artistry is obviously not 100% financial in origin, but it seems to help. It’s just frustrating when I notice that another of their films, Ausangate, made it into the Archaeology Channel Film & Video Festival. Is there any room for an archaeologist making her own films on no budget?

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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