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Showing posts from 2011

End Of Year DIY Perspective: How Our Moviegoing 2.0 Culture Redefines Our Artistic Vision & Relevance

One of the special features on the DVD of Jean-Luc Godard's Week End (New Yorker Video label) is a short interview with director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas). Halfway through the interview, after pointing out the iconic and technical significance of Godard's body of work, Figgis makes a fascinating aside: Godard's recent reaffirmation as a "modern" filmmaker is a direct result of his singular commitment to expressing a cavalcade of ideas without ever giving his audience a shred of attention or consideration. In short, Godard was the uber-artist for employing tunnel vision in his approach to the medium. Yes, he was a philosopher and a technical wizard in the art of filmmaking. But audience engagement was the last thing on his mind. Godard never aimed to capitalize on a single idea or selling point--he wanted to avoid making industries of such things.
So you can see why I sat up and panicked. It's December of 2011. The new year is days away. Further technolog…

The 11th Hour Question: Is Your Fan Following Your True Audience Group?

It's going to be a cloudy day for you if you come to realize that your core online fan group is solely comprised of grandma and cousin Kenneth from Wichita, Kansas.
I always cringe when I see independent filmmakers create a Facebook fan page, Twitter page or even a Myspace FILM page and then...they just walk away from it. It's as if they're convinced that simply publishing these pages will attract fans/followers/potential viewers outside of their close friends and family. But this isn't a FREE CINEMA NOW entry that is going to beat you over the head on how you absolutely must be rigorous in your quest to build your online brand (even though I'm pretty sure every post that I've written pulsates with that message in some way).
Rather, let this entry be a potent reminder that audience management/cultivation through social media is still very real and very VALUABLE. If social media wasn't valuable, why would VOD cable marketers develop an app for users to "L…

Documentary Storytelling: The Myth Of Objectivity

"In documentary we deal with the actual, and in one sense with the real. But the really real, if I may use that phrase, is something deeper than that. The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation--which is profound." - John Grierson
We live in such a strange time. It seems like there is social unrest at every corner of the world. And as filmmakers, we are storytellers. But what stories are we telling? It's hard to get through the day without checking on the latest #OccupyWallStreet update. We're all affected by such monumental civic events.  Facebook news feeds are riddled with individuals asking for cameras/collaborators to cover this nationwide event...or at least their perspective of it.
In recent years, documentaries have been quite popular with mainstream audiences (look no further than the Palme d'Or-winning Fahrenheit 9/11). Stories on war, education, prostitution & even dolphins have found their core audience (and in some cases, activ…

Letting Go Of Copyright & Embracing The Fundamentals Behind Creative Commons

"Piracy is great." - Harmony Korine
Last week Facebook pissed off a lot of its users, detractors and indifferent site visitors when it introduced its new feature: the "Timeline." As if privacy was erased yesterday, a good chunk of Internet bloggers questioned the ethos behind having one's entire life available in a social media platform. But am I missing something?Aren't we over the whole privacy hump already? Are people still under the spell of attaining some romantic mystery? These people need to get with it. This is OUR era: An open, free network of information, ideas and innovation. Non-transparent walls are not welcomed.
Facebook isn't doing anything it wasn't bound to do anyway. A massive social network that spent years building a base of active users HAS to raise the level of access and interactivity at some point. The only logical way of doing this is by highlighting and exercising the key trait of every user (and of every human being): STORYT…

Poverty, Pluck & Perseverance: The Life Of The DIY Artist

"I make my pictures for what Hollywood spends on lipstick." - Maya Deren
There is a negative sentiment shared by some in the industry these days toward the term "DIY": For those individuals, going DIY can be a precursor to failure.
Of course, that kind of connotation doesn't benefit anyone of us who are plugging away at our own DIY endeavors. As DIY filmmakers, we're prone to suffering. We can take it. This was never going to be easy. Besides, whoever said that the DIY mindset/route was the ticket to becoming a conglomerate movie-producing titan? Or that anyone of us could become blockbuster filmmakers?
The line in the sand needs to be drawn.
DIY, at its core, is the lifestyle of the true independent artist. It's about risking life and limb (and that's not an exaggeration) to attain a truly fulfilling work-flow of creating engaging and valid content, without compromise. And if we can somehow leverage today's new media tools to acquire reasonable re…

"Storytellers Are Simply Curators Of Information"

There have always been the core ingredients behind the act of storytelling but as we propel wildly into the new media age of digital storytelling, we're seeing that most of the dialogue among content creators moves away from the storytelling fundamentals and more towards brass tax questions like--why aren't we making money at this?
An interesting thing has happened among the independents. For the first time--at least in my lifetime--we're seeing more of a gap between seasoned mentors and hungry apprentices in our workplace. The democratization of film has left up and coming indie filmmakers to become more cavalier and guerrilla; these days the indie industry resembles a volatile landscape packed with hungry and desperate artists.  On the other hand, seasoned industry pros seem to have become blindsided by the digital revolution, not knowing what to make of the fall of print journalism, the demise of regional film criticism and the introduction of non-traditional distributio…

Age Of DIY Consent: Desperate Times Call For Cavalier Risks

Microbudget filmmaking--or as it's known these days as "zero-budget"/"guerilla" filmmaking--is at a crossroads. As the DIY filmmaker, we're sometimes asking ourselves: Is this worth it? I'll admit that in a macro-centric-industry, one that is in a constant flux, it can be disheartening to still be a "micro" player. Big changes are happening. For content producers, Netflix is looking like less of a venue for streaming content, as they will probably lose their core audience soon. For the social media pioneers, an online earthquake will push followers to start trending Google+ sooner than later. With such industry-redefining events happening, how do we micro/DIY folks look to nab the eyes and ears of the masses?
I hate to sound like a broken record but I still think it'll come in innovation and a knack to be REALLY cavalier in how we tell, brand and deliver our stories. The dust hasn't settled yet. DIY is still very much alive and--more im…

The Flip Cam May Be Dead But The Rebel Indie Spirit Is Very Much Alive

Back in April it was announced that Cisco was planning to shut down its video department--in other words, the Flip Video Camera. While it came as a shock to most people, it pays to remember that technology these days changes quicker than an infant's diaper. It doesn't mean that the Flip Cam is obsolete; Cisco is just off to new ventures. What I always liked about the Flip Cams--and what I still do like about them--are their tremendous reach. Not reach in depth of field but in how easily they can be toted around and pulled out in a blink's notice. These are the REAL instruments of guerrilla and indie filmmaking. Fuck the setup--just point and shoot.
Now that Cisco has stamped an "RIP" on these cameras, I feel that they will grow to be treasured tools for true indie auteurs. In the same way that certain "film" cameras resurfaced for experimental filmmakers, Flip Cams will be Thor's hammer for digital filmmakers. And with no more of them being produced,…

Cross-Platform Media, A Foil For SXSW & Tomorrow's Digital Life. The Future Of Indie Cinema Is Now.

For the longest time, movies were constrained to only exist in the time and space of a single screen (albeit a theatrical or television screen). Yes, they lived on in our heads, imaginations and aspirations but the sender-receiver model remained archaic (in plain terms that is). With the "New Cinema" upon us--that sometimes dangerous, always exhilarating landscape which is truly indie film--movies have now stretched to avenues of social filmmaking, Transmedia, revitalized underground cinema and much more. The short film, for example, is no longer a stepping stone; it's a valuable entity in a new market (VOD, iTunes, Mubi, etc.). And Transmedia, with its cross-platform approach to storytelling, is quickly becoming less of a novel gimmick and more of a cultural phenomenon. In this Tribeca (Online) Film Festivalpiece, this popular genre is put into context: "Whether called transmedia, multi-platform, cross platform or just cross media, filmmakers from all genres no l…

Our Cinematic Post-Postmodern New (Media) Wave

This past weekend I wrote of the newly revitalized underground cinema as being a palpable gateway to the "New Cinema" (Regardless, the New Cinema is organic, ever-changing). That said, I still think it's essential for us independent filmmakers and content creators to start addressing the void in our immediate industry, our immediate culture. That void comes in the misguided collective mindset that ours is a failing or unfulfilled industry. Anyone who entered in the independent cinema game should NOT be surprised when they soon realize that overnight financial gains aren't a realistic feat. We become independent filmmakers because we are first artists. Those who think otherwise should read Ted Hope's powerful post, "A 'Career' In Indie Film? Better Have That Second Job Lined Up..."
In times of struggle and uncertainty--key words for our independent film realm--there lies great potential for reinvention, risk and (hopefully) reward. What I still fi…

Social Filmmaking: Casting The Viewer, The Individual

Our current era of independent filmmaking/exhibition/distribution has introduced alternate methods of delivery for the new media content creator. That is to say, the new indie filmmaker has to tell a story with much more frequency, sometimes over longer periods of time. Before, a filmmaker would just make the film and then hope the finished product connects with some sort of audience for fiscal gain (ticket sales, studio deals, yada, yada, yada). But Web 2.0 and the social media revolution have (thankfully) lifted Oz's curtain. Therefore, a revived need for (daily) content has really put filmmakers on the spot. The good news is, is that filmmakers have more power in actually choosing their audience than ever before. The bad news is that this daily content (an active Twitter feed, updated YouTube channels, blogs, etc.) is often free content and therefore returns no immediate revenue for the artist. But don't fret.
A post in Filmmaker Magazine--"The Microbudget Conversation:…

Understanding The Value Behind Your Free Content

Figuring out how to transform the free online content that we produce (almost on a daily basis) into currency that can someday pay the bills isn't just a growing concern--it's an indie industry-felt dilemma. Yet, for the longest time, I've been insisting that my peers continue to make work (mostly digital shorts, blog entries, images, RSS Feeds, etc.) and just put that content out there--for free. I still feel this is a vital behavioral-business model.
Other indie digital filmmakers have actually asked me, "Yes, but how do I make money with my short film?"
My answer usually is, "Well, that's a tough question. First of all: Who are you? Do you have a following? Is your work actually good ("good" meaning it's content that is engaging, interesting or of some niche value)?"
I think those questions need to be answered first before any artist makes the leap from 'independent creator' to 'financially successful creator.' Today…