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The Myth of Originality: Raiders of the Lost Archives

The next time you run into one of those people that cling fast to how original their craft, writing, research is as a justification for not sharing– pull out this video. Whoever the folks are at StooTV, they have pulled together clips of 30 action films from 1919 and 1973, and put them side by side with almost the same scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark- it is about 13 minutes of shot-by-shot comparison.

It’s not to say that we are not creative, but when we are most creative we are always re-interpreting, reworking, remixing prior works. It is not copying as in duplication, it is actual originality in re-imagining, not this myth of uniqueness that pre-supposes works arise from nothingness.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but is mashed and remixed, transformed through multiple media to renew and expand its meaning in a contemporary setting and to provide food for the future; and so it must be. . . .
    —John Donne”

    So (nearly) starts an excellent essay by John Letham in Harpers entitled “The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism” which not only exams the same territory as the great clip above, but also actively argues that appropriation of the past to feed the present is in fact how it’s always been and how it must be.

  2. I just sent @onepercentyello a link to a Joseph Campbell book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. You may have encountered it several times. One hero. Many faces. It has been contextualized even more by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. Powerful tool for screenwriters!

    Your post reminded me of both of these!

  3. Excellent work.
    Did I tell you about hanging out with Errol Morris last year? He was convinced that the biggest impact of the digital revolution on filmmaking wasn’t editing or distribution changes, but the ability to use vast archives.

      1. Raiders is a great example as it very self consciously pulls from action serials and cliffhangers. This video is a great illustration of that and helps remind that it is an homage to early actioners on top of being an awesome action flick in it’s own right.

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