The Netflix series Voir, executive produced by filmmakers David Fincher and David Prior, explores how the grammar of filmmaking affects a film or TV show’s meaning.
Three of the six episodes are made by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou, who own the YouTube channel Every Frame a Painting, which almost served as a proof of concept for Voir.
One key difference: obtaining the licenses to show content on YouTube was “very constricting,” while, with the combined clout of Fincher and Netflix, it meant almost too much freedom of choice.
“It was mildly terrifying,” Zhou told IndieWire’s Sarah Shachat.
More than just access to money for media libraries and rights lawyers, what Ramos and Zhou had to contend with was the ability to scale how they presented their ideas, expanding from narration over picture to mix in other modes of filmmaking.
“Videos are a weird hybrid that have elements of narrative and elements of documentary,” Zhou explained. “So [there are] elements of this show that tilt towards narrative… or documentary, in our case. We went out and shot interviews, which we would have done in a doc format, or things like motion graphics, like actually building an animated character.”
“Film vs. Television,” narrated by Ramos, examines the differences between the small screen and the big screen, especially the difference between how these two mediums are shot. Cable and streaming have mostly changed everything, where television can now be cinematic and film can be easily watched on the small screen.
Zhou and Ramos’ “The Ethics of Revenge” serves as a meditation on why violence off-screen can be more haunting than violence on screen.
“The Duality of Appeal” takes us through character design by looking at how the human eye processes shapes — what is pleasing and balanced? Ramos and Zhou try to deconstruct why it is we default to the same familiar face for females in animation.
“The thing I’m most proud of learning [was] the process of adapting what was effectively a two-person workflow to like 40 to 50 people,” Zhou said. “It’s one of the weird things that they don’t really teach you in school. They’ll teach you protocols for how to do certain things on set, but they don’t necessarily teach you how to you take something that involves just two people talking and make it 40 people without causing chaos.”
Another episode, “But I Don’t Like Him,” dives into Lawrence of Arabia and the value of films that center on complex or even dark characters. This episode suggests this is especially true of the films of the 1970s and directors like Martin Scorsese.
“Profane and Profound” is Walter Chaw’s personal examination of the Walter Hill film 48 Hrs. and how it connected with him growing up in the mostly white Colorado. He explores Hill’s daring approach in giving the Eddie Murphy character so much agency during a time when that really wasn’t done quite to the same degree — a life-changing revelation to Chaw.