Unknown Existance

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Unknown Existence by Cooper Wickum

Cooper Wickum narrates the story of a man named Dale Wickum about a trip he took on the railway system in the central part of the United States in 1970 to research the life of hobos.

It seems as if Cooper had the photographs and some written evidence and pieced what little he had together to formulate his script.  He repeats himself and that leads me to believe that he has little information to go on.  He tells us that the hobos are loners and many of them alcoholics.  They form bonds quickly and are all engaged in survival.

Apparently, Dale Wickum spent three months traveling on railroad cars with a camera and some black and white film to document the life of hobos.  Dale met many men during his trip along the railway system.  There were some quotations from Dale in the film and one feels removed from the story because the plot has little or no evidence of detailed events that happened during Dales trips.  The writing has straight forward facts with a few of Dales quotes about the hobos sprinkled into the film.

Technically the film was good.  However, I would have liked to see more photos in the film.  The music in the background had a suspenseful and dramatic tone to it and felt it helped the film greatly.  The music was perhaps the best sensation about the whole film.

Perhaps Cooper was privy to a journal left behind by Dale? One asks the question about Cooper’s relationship to Dale.  Perhaps Dale is his father or uncle but it is not revealed during the story.  The story would of been better if Cooper were to of told us more about actual events that Dale encountered along the way.  It was if we were looking through two lenses and left to ask many questions.  This story would have been much richer if there were more photographs and intimate details about Dale’s true experience on the trains.

Category: W2: Digital Story
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2 Responses
  1. cjames says:

    I thought that this project had a lot of potential.

    Dale Wickum’s research sounds very interesting, and he took some great photographs. The panning on the photographs was very effective because it followed the rail tracks, simulating the movement of the rail cars. Cooper Wickum had good source material, including the quotes.

    I was disappointed by the execution. The voiceover comes in a few seconds too late. The first three lines or so are a bit redundant or repetitive. And, as you say, Joan, the relationship between Cooper and Dale needs to be explained. Did Dale Wickum ever even publish these photographs or his research, or show his photos in an exhibit? I tried to google “Dale Wickum” but could find no relevant results.

    I think that Cooper Wickum could have used more counseling like that offered by Bernajean Porter. She advises to ‘unfold a lesson learned’ and not just a synopsis. In its current version, “Unknown Existence” resembles Version 1 of her sample story on p.2, but it could easily be Version 2 with some script revision.

  2. sblaher says:

    I also disliked the voiceover. I felt that although his tone varied throughout his monologue, he kept changing the pace and it often seemed he was talking too fast for the images and music. While both the image transition and music were slower, the fast talking made it awkward. I think that he probably could have gone further in his research as well, particularly googling images to include in addition to Dale Wickums. It was a great start, but could use work.