Why They Call It Windows

I’m a frustrated filmmaker. 

When I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam War and got my expected draft notice, I had the choice of going to Canada as an expatriate or into the Army as a private or of taking advantage of my college degree and joining any of the services as an officer.

One reason I chose the Marine Corps was that they were shrewd enough to bargain and agreed to let me put off reporting for three months to attend a post-graduate survey course in cinema at the University of Southern California (where one of the students a year behind me, whom I don’t remember meeting, was a kid named Spielberg).

It didn’t take long to conclude that I didn’t have the stomach for dealing with the short, hairy-chested middlemen with Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts and gold neck chains and the sleazy, wasteful tactics of movie-making as it was practiced in the Hollywood of that day.

I remember being impressed by what a collaborative art form a movie is. Everybody knows the importance of the stars and the directors, but the skill of the editors impressed me most. These under-appreciated craftsmen and craftswomen literally construct the film out of the raw materials the director gives them.

And so it is that 45 years later I find myself unbearably frustrated with the world of digital filmmaking. My medium, murals, is not collaborative and is very static. In order to bring some movement to my art on this website, I decided to videotape as much of my oeuvre, scattered across the continent and the decades, as I could conveniently accomplish. But once I had the raw footage I was faced with editing it into something coherent and professional looking.

I tried to accomplish this as inexpensively as possible and rediscovered the inevitable truth that free software is worth every cent you pay for it. All I ask is for the ability to cut up and rearrange segments of my footage, dissolve from one piece into another, fade to black or white, tint or filter the colors, and overlay music and voice tracks, as I once did with physical pieces of celluloid with little sprocket holes along one edge. Is that too much to ask?

In a word, “Yep!” Most editing programs don’t allow some item on that list, and even when they do, the order in which things happen and the arcane icons to be clicked are not just baffling and user-hostile, they bear not even a tincture of logic or reason. I find myself asking the silent universe, “WHO WRITES THIS SOFTWARE?!?” and “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?” while visions of some pencil-necked geek laughing maniacally infect my head. I am chagrined to admit that my laptop bears the marks of me slamming it shut and biting the edges like a rabid gopher with a sub sandwich.

Cartoon of laptop flying out the window by muralist Paul BarkerAnd so, dear reader, please be patient where I cannot. The clunky video segments you see are but a phantasm of the gossamer, Oscar-worthy images floating in the cyberspace of my cranium awaiting their birth until my discovery of an editing program worthy of my grand, pretentious vision. Please God, just send me some software that doesn’t suck… so I don’t have to throw my laptop out the window.