Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground
Interviewer: Jesse Walke
Interviewee: Francesa Coppa
Date(s): August/September 2008
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Vidding
External Links: online here; WebCite
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Contents

Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground is a interview with Francesca Coppa conducted by Jesse Walker for "Reason.com" in August/September 2008.

Some Excerpts

I’m a vidder first. I don’t normally write on fan stuff. It wasn’t my academic area of expertise.

I started doing this work because I knew enough to try to present the vidding community fairly. If you’re going to start documenting subcultures that have been doing interesting things in the world of film and video, vidders deserve a place at the table. The stereotypically female desire to keep our heads down should not keep us out of the history books.

That’s what happened with the novel. There were women who wrote novels in the 18th century, and then the novel “went professional” and the men came. Now people will tell you that the first novel was by Henry Fielding or Samuel Richardson. This whole women’s culture that came before that got written out and later had to be recuperated by feminists. And I feel that I would rather not die out and have to be recuperated by feminists. Maybe some of us could actually articulate ourselves right now and never be lost in the first place.

I was going to academic conferences about remix culture and hearing people say, “Since the dawn of YouTube…” Or the Machinima guys: Very early on, they were saying, “Hey, we have this history. We’ve been doing this since 1996.” I think it’s great that the Machinima guys have been making their stuff since 1996, but I thought, “Hey, we’ve been doing this since 1975. And nobody even knows we exist!”
[Comment on Both Sides Now] ...in Kandy Fong’s earliest slideshows, she’s using a song to tell a particular kind of story about Star Trek. This was happening in a moment when you weren’t getting any new Star Trek. The show was canceled, and it was before the first film. People were hungry for new Trek. And the slides she used were outtakes.

This story she told about seeing the world from both sides now was a mini-essay on Spock and his character, and was told from his point of view. The issue of point of view in vids is very important: Whose voice is it? What is it about? What is it trying to say about that character? It’s those analytical moves that make it a vid. Kandy presented a vision of Trek that was about Spock and his duality of experience as a human and a Vulcan. That she used music to create an argument is what makes it a precursor to vidding. The music is an analytical device, not a soundtrack.

Kandy would show her slideshows at conventions and fan gatherings, making the cuts live with the slide projector, essentially making the vid as she stood there. Later, she used two slide projectors to make faster cuts between her slides to tell the story she wanted to tell.

I hadn’t heard that there was a previous history of slideshows, but I wouldn’t be shocked. I mean, I’ve been to rock concerts where there would be slideshows, and Kandy got the idea from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. But I don’t think most slideshows have the same storytelling urge.
MediaWest vidders are those who really congregated around that convention. Vids would be shown in the vid room all day, and people could wander in and out; it wasn’t a big, solemn screening. So the vids that were successful there had to be spectacular, splashy, funny, because they had to be understood by people who didn’t necessarily bring a lot of context to it. The followers of Mary Van Deusen were the opposite. Van Deusen called her vids “literary music videos.” We call them “living room vids,” because they are designed to be watched by fans of a show multiple times in a relatively quiet environment where you can study all the visual choices. You know the source, so you’re sitting there trying to figure out the argument the vidder is making about the character. A vid that comes out of that school of storytelling really has to be watched multiple times to be understood, as opposed to a MediaWest vid, which has to be gotten in one shot and then it’s over.
Vids are arguments. A vidder makes you see something. Like a literary essay, a vid is a close reading. It’s about directing the viewer’s attention to make a point. A vid like A Fannish Taxonomy of Hotness is very much about the way fans watch television. All of the scenes where somebody’s chained up. All of the scenes where somebody’s half naked in a bathtub. All of the scenes where there are sunglasses. We’re not “supposed” to find these scenes sexy. But I think, particularly in the female community that I come from, often watching TV is: “Yeah yeah yeah, plot. Oh, look at the line of his neck.” As a feminist, the technical term for this is “reverse scopophilia.” Women looking. The traditional film relationship involves female bodies being fetishized and admired and lusted after on the screen. So the Media Cannibals, Sandy and Rache, did this vid that shows you male bodies, largely, doing a series of behaviors that you’re calling clichés but that are also essentially sexy. They’re part of the vocabulary of sex.