Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Dead and Long Live

I got a lot of hits on my musings about grassroots DV and its next incarnation, and lots of comments here and in emails. Thanks to one and all for the continued feedback.

Longtime reader Scott writes, I read your blog post on the new face of grassroots cinema. Interesting stuff, and certainly a lot to think about. I'm not sure how much I like the idea of working hard on a project only to make it available for free, or at least doing that on a regular basis. I think there's a sense of entitlement that young Internet users have -- they not only want everything without paying for it, but they also take pride in being the first to make something that should be paid for available for free...I realize that what you're talking about is different than the wholesale theft of movies, but I think it all comes from the same place. I also think a lot of this "mumblecore" and whatnot stems from impatient people wanting to make movies, but not wanting to make the effort to do it right -- they want to invent some half-assed way of crapping it out without bothering to light or mic anything or even do a halfway professional job of shooting it, then turn that half-assedness into a new "movement" to lend themselves credence. Maybe it's the crotchety old man in me talking, but I don't have any interest in that sort of stuff -- I feel like I work hard as a writer and as a filmmaker and it irritates me to see both those forms reduced to Internet shorthand (don't even get me started on the self-proclaimed "writers" that litter the Net). I guess my opinion could be summed up thusly: the easy, worldwide availability of shit doesn't make it any less shitty, no matter how much people try to make you think you're looking at gold. Jeez. I'm gonna go back out on the porch and whittle my stick.

New reader Michael writes, I enjoyed your blog post and feel your perception of technology and media is right on. Itunes seems to be the leader in the technology of transporting media via Itunes, but it is all mainstream and one has to find other sources for projects that are more grassroots or independent. I don't like watching full length movies or reading lengthy manuscripts on my computer either, but I've noticed, though it's too expensive right now, Apple selling Apple TV and large TV monitors so one can watch their computer media content on their big screen TV's. Then you have Amazon's release of the KINDLE.
The wirless reading device is suppose to read like paper, but it's pricey at the moment too. But I think the switch in technology and media that you mention in your article is inevitable, which is why it was great for the writers to fight for their part in it all now.
Another new trend I see is webisodes. Many people, who might have never gotten their break otherwise, are getting Hollywoods attention by creating a webisode series, each on being 3 minutes long. Why 3 mins? I think it's because, like you and I, people don't want to 90 minute movies on their computer. But people, including me, will watch a 3 minute webisode (even during their break at work).

This is basically the kind of thing I'm talking about.

I'm trying to get smarter by going to this.

By the way, my alma mater, Ball State University, is working on a feature film this summer with one of probably our top ten most famous Telecommunications alums (after David Letterman), Doug Jones. Unbelievably, he was the sports mascot for the Fighting Cardinals when I was in town, now he's in Hellboy movies and Pan's Labyrinth and played the Silver Surfer and more. Meanwhile, one of the dudes in the bottom ten alums wasn't asked to do anything with it.

Keep hollerin' at me at


Dr. Squid said...

"I think a lot of the early adopters of microcinema in the late 90s have gotten more into family and job commitments"

Yup. That's me.

I agree with so much of your post as well as the comments. At a ripe old age of 41, I do feel like I am out of synch with all those crazy kids making movies nowadays. They should all just get off my lawn!

Just a couple of years ago I was planning to re-edit one of my movies to try and take advantage of a distribution deal that had been proposed to me. The deal had a "no nudity" clause, so I reshot once sequence that just couldn't be cut out. When the actors asked about where this new version of the movie might turn up, I joked with them that it would probably end up only on Korean cell phones or something. I was joking, but frankly, I knew that there was a world of new distribution emerging and that I wasn't sure how, or if, I would fit in.

(By the way, I never did re-edit the movie and from what I understand the deal blew up and never happened anyway)

What is interesting is that some of the "bedrock" of microcinema, or more specifically "personal cinema" as it's been called, still hold true for me. Regardless of format or distribution, if I have the desire/itch/spark to create something - I can, and I will. And I can take years to do it if I want. And it can be a movie or a short or a script or a drawing. I've tried a few times to make something to "fit a market or trend" or make a quick buck and was never happy with the results and kicked myself for wasting time on that stuff and letting other more dear projects sit idle. Distribution is another animal and for me it's still easier to work on the production and THEN figure out what to do with it. Partially because it does take me a long time to finish stuff and any model or company or deal existing when I start something may be gone or obsolete when I'm finished!!

Again, this is just what is working for ME at this point in my life. I understand the value in marketing from pre-production all the way through including blogs, vlogs, viral videos, websites, flickr galleries, poster and box art mock-ups, e-mail, myspace, facebook, etc. but for a one man band for me at this point, I just don't have the time nor energy.

Interestingly, though, on my last few things, the cast I was working with were anywhere from 10 to 15 years younger than I and it amazed me that the morning after a ridiculously long night shoot, there would be photos and videos already posted to myspace, with comments even! It just showed me how much that media and connection is a part of their world and how much damn free time they had. Of course they were mostly single, none had kids and half had no job.

Once I get a couple of my current projects done, it will be REALLY interesting to start looking to see how I will get them out there.

- Joe

Cunningham said...

I'm finding my creative batteries are becoming recharged by the sudden influx of new ideas and new distribution methods available with the web. I've always been the guy to try new things and the web is perfect that way in that I can create a story, then the short, then the comic or whatever else comes to mind.

I like the 3 minute rule as it keeps the storytelling brisk and eventful. Perfect "microcinema" - short on length but big on ideas and ambition.

Bravado Erin said...

I'm 27 and I feel out of synch with all those crazy kids making movies!

Bravado Erin said...

Weird, the rest of my comment seems to be missing. It wasn't particularly important, I just babbled on and on about how much the community has changed in the last ten years... and then admitted to totally stalking your blog. Weird.

John Oak Dalton said...

Erin, Thanks for stalking! I have always liked Bravado's stuff!

Bill and Joe, wise words as always!


Bravado Erin said...

Thanks! We actually have a few horror projects that we are working on.