A Decade in the Life of Technology

Something interested occurred to me this week.

I have been preparing to host a seminar in which I will be interviewing Northwestern MFA graduate Amy Thorstenson about how to write a better screenplay, and then turn that screenplay into a better film. In the course of my preparation, I was reviewing the questions I will be asking Amy about her childhood, her education and her past work, which naturally got me thinking through my own past experiences and how I’ve managed to get myself to this point in my life and career. As I stumbled backward through college and into high school, I was taken aback by a fun fact.

Like Amy, I graduated high school in 2003 and attended a four-year university from 2003-2007. After that I messed around in the software industry for a couple years, and finally came to filmmaking in 2009.

Then and only then did I come face-to-face with a fully digital, non-linear editing system for the first time.

Sometimes it is so easy to forget how far we’ve come in the past decade. In high school I filmed little projects for class on VHS tapes and used an incredibly slow, incredibly error-prone editing system to piece together moment after painstaking moment of footage. College was even worse. There was no film studies major at my school, and therefore no editing equipment at all. Not that it mattered—at that time in my life I was lucky I could make Outlook do what I wanted, let alone tackle anything as scary as “codecs” or “frame rates.” And as far as cameras were concerned…well, let’s just say my parents were not shy about letting me know that the Sony MiniDV standard definition Handycam I wanted for my 19th birthday cost them somewhere in the neighborhood of $600.

And now, ten years, two jobs in the tech sector and an Associates degree later…we have cameras on our CELL PHONES (which everyone also now has, by the way). People have made entire films using nothing but an iPhone and iMovie, Apple’s consumer-grade editing system.

Also, consumer-grade editing systems…exist.

As a professional, I have access to not one, but TWO non-linear editing systems on my work computer, and a completely different third one on my home computer. I have programs in which I can build entire rooms out of NOTHING! I CAN FLY THROUGH SPACE! And if there’s something I don’t know how to do, instead of doing research by physically going to library (that’s a building where they keep books, by the way), I can just type a few words on a screen and the magical Google elves will find it FOR me!

Now, I will admit that I’m as impatient as the next technophile. I am constantly spurring my computer to go faster and wishing that the powers that be would hurry up and create a <insert name of gadget here> that runs better and costs less. But to look back and track the progress of technology just in my own small and relatively short existence…I have to say, I’m floored by how much better things have gotten as a whole.

And yet the struggle to write a decent screenplay continues. So come to the seminar, and make sure all this crazy-amazing technology isn’t going to waste 🙂 Click here for more information, and I hope to see you there!

-Sarah

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