Friday, February 26, 2010

11/04/08 and participatory filmmaking

On 11/04/08 I voted, went to work and celebrated a bit too much at the end of the night when Obama took the stage to announce he'd won. Jeff Deutchman and more than 20 other filmmakers documented the entire day, from 8am til 4am the next morning, and the resulting film, called 11/4/08, is about to premiere at SXSW very soon. I was lucky enough to be among a small group invited to see the film in advance yesterday, and I can highly recommend you see it there or at another festival or screening soon. But this isn't a review post, but rather is a note that what Jeff is doing goes well beyond just telling a story of which we know the ending.

Jeff's idea came to him just a few weeks before the election. It was likely to be an historic moment, which it became as Obama became the first black president. It also turned out to be historic for other reasons - the turn out from young people, the places that turned blue, etc. But as many of us can remember, this wasn't a given, so Jeff's team could have ended up documenting the defeated hopes of so many supporters for all they knew. Jeff wanted to catch the day regardless of the outcome, and he asked friends from around the world to document their experience of the day, send it to him and he would "curate" a film from their footage.

More than 20 people, from accomplished indie filmmakers to amateurs, agreed to take part. Some filmed their own experience throughout the day, others captured organizers pulling out the vote, some went with the major crowds others just their own families and friends. Jeff calls the film a piece of "consensual cinema," and while you see the vision of multiple filmmakers shining through, it has been edited to his own rhythm. BTW, it interestingly let's you experience your own version as well, in a way, but that's for a review piece.

Jeff isn't done, however, with his participatory cinematic experience. He's still collecting stories online at the project website, and he's encouraging people to upload their footage, or their complete films, and to take the film's footage, remix it and upload their own versions for everyone to see. It's a great way to collectively re-participate in the experience. This is something that might make McCain supporters gag, but hey, they can theoretically spin their version as well, and I am willing to bet one of the more interesting results will be when that happens.

Anyone who reads this blog knows what a big fan I am of those who embrace the new, participatory culture and this film is an interesting way to use it for the recording and re-telling of history. Check it out when you can and spread the word. Oh yeah, as you can see from the image, there's a Kickstarter campaign you can help with too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Engage 101 at Shooting People/DCTV

Tonight I gave a speech for Shooting People and DCTV called Engage 101 - Audience Building Masterclass. That was an impossible enough task, so I tried to make it harder and give a brief overview on film distribution, all the new models out there and some basics on using the web and some old fashioned tools to build your audience...all the way up to transmedia 101. Whew, not sure that was smart, but I got good feedback and it was fun. I also learned a lot from the questions, and at the end we opened it up for a group session on a few films, and as expected, the audience feedback was great. I always upload my presentations for free, so here below it is. No audio or video was taken, and these slides don't capture everything I said, but the essence is there. If you're super advanced in this stuff, it might not be worth your time, but could be worth a view for some new (and old) ideas. Feedback appreciated as always. This was also just one of many panels and masterclasses these folks do, with many great speakers, so check out their info online.

here's the presentation, and my apologies that Slideshare always repeats the title, the title, the title....I don't understand this glitch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ben and Noah in Rwanda

About a year ago I was lucky to join a group of people on a trip to Rwanda. With us on that journey was Joe Summerhayes and his two sons, Noah and Ben. They had the task of teaching several young students from Rwanda to make a hand-made animation about gorillas in just two days. Somehow, they did this, but it took them about a year to edit their mini-doc about our trip. It's a great little ten minute video, and I think it's worth watching all the way through, but if you feel 10 minutes is too long in this day/age, skip through to watch our amazing hike with the gorillas (and the near-death experience when a gorilla tackle's our leader!) and the preview of the animation they created. I only show up briefly, so you can tell what an impact I've had on these kids and their future careers in media! Great video, and btw, their father's blog is pretty cool too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ACTA...wasthat? and why it matters

Well, the New York Times finally covered what is arguably the most important tech/film/net/future/etc story going on in the world (a close second to the Google/Authors Guild proposed rip-off) yet I'm not seeing much about it in the blogs and tweets I follow from the film world. That's bad news, because this is something every filmmaker should be aware of, as well as anyone who is interested in the future of content online. Or the future of the net, really, and that should be everyone. So what the heck is ACTA and what can you do about it?

I know, I know, these policy things make your head hurt. Mine does too, and this one is a doozy. ACTA, or the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Haven't heard of it? That's because you aren't supposed to know about it. It's a top secret negotiation between major countries to combat counterfeiting. You're probably thinking well, piracy and counterfeiting are bad, so what? Well, there's lots of arguments against that view, but even with it, it's a pretty big concern when major countries meet in secret, with no democratic input, about possible rules which could forever change how we access content online. Guess what....your needs as a little indie producer/consumer probably aren't on the list. But you can bet those of the MPAA are, and knowing how like the RIAA they've become, you can bet their proposals amount to breaking the net to preserving their business model.

These talks are secret, you know, like the ones you kept when you were twelve, so details are scant, but there's been leaks and they've have included some doozies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Upcoming panels and workshops

I've been here in London, doing some consulting and speaking at Shooting People's "Short-sighted" event at BAFTA. It was a great conference and I highly recommend that filmmakers check out the line-up of speakers and (eventually to be posted) the videos of the day. They gave out many resources for indie filmmakers, especially short filmmakers, and I learned a lot. More soon, but there was a fascinating discussion about advertisers/sponsors and indie films, inspired by a dialogue with MoFilm. They've got an interesting model for short filmmakers working with brands. Check out their page for some details on how they work, and the contests they are running. Many filmmakers have benefited from the program, but some in the audience took issue with the corporatization of indie filmmaking, as well as their deal structure and payments. I'll have more thoughts on this soon, but for now a note to festival and conference producers - this is the conversation to be having going forward and it's much more interesting than new distribution yadda yadda stuff. The biggest change to indie will be how we work with advertisers, sponsorships and corporate support for media (or don't). Especially in Europe as state subsidies dry up and corporate support becomes one of the only viable options. What are the ethics, the best practices, horror-stories, etc. What do we think about this as indie filmmakers and what is our stance? More soon....

I'm very excited to be speaking soon at several cool events. Check out the following websites, not just to see me speak, but because the other speakers are pretty great and there's bound to be some great conversations. I look forward to learning more about the future of the business at each of them:

First up on March 27th is "The Conversation." Scott Kirsner has been running this excellent event in a few cities for a couple years now and I'm excited to be part of the line-up in NYC. Check out the schedule and sign-up soon.

The following week on April 3rd is "DIY Days NYC." Lance Weiler is putting together an excellent group of speakers, and what I like about this is that he's looking at innovation beyond just film - in music and other arts as well. This one is free, so consider this and the Conversation and it's like a 2fer1 special!

Later this Summer I'll be participating in a new Lab from Power to the Pixel - a full week of intensive training and discussion around trnasmedia and the future of the business. As the organizers explain -
"The Pixel Lab, a ground-breaking new residential course centred in developing, producing and distributing cross-media stories – stories that can span film, TV, online, mobile, gaming. The Lab is open to anyone with a strong track record in the European film and related media industries."

You have to apply soon, so check the website asap. And, if you need a cool job, they are hiring a producer for the event, so look into that as well.

I'm booking some other talks and projects soon and hope to report more in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

On the YouTube, Sundance Failure

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic There's been a lot of noise out there about the YouTube rental program and it's experiment with some films from Sundance. Most of the posts seem to (almost gleefully) agree that the program was a failure - and with approximately $10,000 in net revenue, it's hard to disagree. So, I'll concede from the start that whatever this experiment was, it was a failure. I don't think it's something we can really make any judgements from, however, as it was almost not even an experiment. The story of this debacle really shines a light on the problems Sundance has always had with digital, and which YouTube seems to have with monetization in general, but I'm not sure it shines any light on indies, rental or the future of the business except that it might not be Sundance and YouTube figuring it out (even if they likely remain part of the answer).

First, calling this an experiment in day/date rentals is generous at best. Ok, they did get lots of press impressions, but in nearly every mainstream publication I read, the story was buried on about page 2 of the business section. Almost every story focused on the idea of rentals, the fact that it was in partnership with Sundance or some similar angle. There was almost no mention of the films, the merit of the films (as no PR person seemed to think that was something to pitch them on) or anything else that would make you want to see the films. Then we have the marketing...or should I say we didn't.

Midway through this experiment my Sundance condo-mates and I did our own experiment - how easy would it be to find and rent a film. So late at night (disclaimer, we'd been to a party or two, so this could be an influence) Lance Weiler, Scilla Andreen and I tried to find the films online.

For an hour. With no success.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Diverse thinkers on the new era

I’ve been spending much of the last few years on the road speaking at numerous panels about new models for film, new media and distribution. I’m continually peeved to find myself sitting on a stage with a bunch of other white guys talking about the future. Usually, there’s not even a woman on the panel. I often bring this lack of diversity up publicly, because I find it so odd to find a bunch of white guys talking about the future - when we are decidedly not the future. What gives?

I found myself thinking about this again at Sundance in the panel entitled “The Doctor’s in the House” on distribution. Besides the moderator, Eugene Hernandez, there was no diversity on the panel. Now, I’m not faulting Sundance here - while their track record isn’t great when it comes to diversity, they aren’t the only, just the most recent example of this phenomenon. It’s much broader.

During the panel, I tweeted out the following:

“What, do only white people think about new models for film?? Wtf #sundance c'mon”