Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Letter from the Future

Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machinephoto © 2007 Adam Lautenbach | more info (via: Wylio)
I am a 32 year old indie storyteller living in Pepsidelphia (formerly known as Philadelphia, before the crisis), population 23 million, and it’s 2018. I moved here after the “event” in New York City along with everyone else. Last night, I went to Lance Weiler’s amazing Opera, Hope, which was supposedly the culmination of a nearly seven year process starting way back at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival when he played his short film and premiered the interactive Pandemic experience, which began this entire Gesamtkunstwerk phenomenon (the German’s told us transmedia was a bad name, and this one kinda stuck). I was able to get a ticket through my friend who does code programming at TopSpin, which was lucky because all operas sell out immediately now that they work with established directors from gesamtkunstwerks.

I go to the cinema more often now that the Pepsi Alamo Drafthouse offers free screenings 24/7 to anyone who has drank at least 4 Pepsi’s that week. It’s really great because I only see one advertisement for Pepsi at the beginning and then the film plays, I order some great Vegan food and a Diet Pepsi water, or a beer and enjoy the show with all my friends. We pick the show we want to see the day (or week) before, and which theater we want to see it in – KidFree, MobileFree or FullActive. I usually go to FullActive because then I can see what my friend’s are thinking while I watch the show (from my retina display), and I usually sit on the left side of the theater. I’m not sure why, but I think the content is usually better there than on the right side. I think more of the clues to the film show to the audience on the left side, but maybe I’m wrong. Sometimes, I go see something again from the other side, but I already know the clues from the left side feed, so it’s hard to tell. The Alamo is really great because I can also choose to see the film edited specifically for my town. Always better than what I get on PepsiNet for free at home.

Speaking of which, I’m so happy Pepsi took over Netflix. That happened back in 2015, a year or so after Netflix had taken over Time Warner, and it made sense to change it to PepsiNet since they were now offering me internet service everywhere, as well as flix. Now when I watch films, I can choose which charities my points go to (I’m on the point, as opposed to pay plan which means I see more advertising for free access and get points for watching), and I always choose Sundance. Then, Sundance selects which indies get funded and then get to go on the Sundance Festival Tour.

My friend Saskia Wilson-Brown got funded $50,000 to make her gesamtkunstwerk, plus another $10,000 for the theater piece she had made and $5,000 for the short videos. Then she went to Sundance Cokelanta, Sundance OWC (formerly Chicago), Sundance Duke, Sundance Harvard, Sundance Jetblue to Puerto Rico, Sundance Heinzburgh (formerly Pittsburgh), Sundance Sarasota the Riviera of Florida, Sundance Missouri Tea Party and even to Sundance LL Beane (formerly Maine). She did a big international tour, playing in Sundance Norway, Sundance Sur de France (formerly Cannes), Beijing Sundance, Rio de Sundance (note which towns get priority naming!) and Sundance Dubai, among other places. Her film played each of those cities with her and the cast in attendance, and only people who had given to her SundanceStarter campaign were allowed to attend. That was a cool idea Redford had when he took over KickStarter – if you don’t fund it, you can’t see it live, only a whole 24 hours later on PepsiNet.

Saskia’s theater piece made her (and Sundance) a lot of money, and rumor is she’ll be making an opera at the Pepsidelphia Opera soon, after Lance. They don’t announce the show until one month earlier, and only to subscribers to that artist through TopSpin. Since I subscribe to Saskia, I get to see her the week before the rest of Pepsidelphia for half-price. My dad, he of the Gmail address (why do old people always use Gmail??!!), doesn’t subscribe to her, so he has to wait a week to see her (if she’s picked), but my sister does, so we’ll go together.

Dad misses out on a lot, because he still gets his news from the Google Times. Google thought it was a good idea to take over the New York Times four years ago, which made sense as the City doesn’t exist anymore and they needed content, but it’s now known as the AOL of the Twenty-Teens. Apparently, AOL was some company that was popular back in the beginning of the internet. By the time my Dad was my age, it had sunk to the level of Facebook popularity. No one under the age of 40 uses Facebook anymore. It has become THE place to be though for the 70 and older crowd, the Boomers. They get all their content for free from AARP, and Livever (the pill to keep you alive longer) and talk to each other about how great they are while using Skype and Twitter. Word is that Google Times is a sinking ship, but they just took over David Letterman’s show, and have Paul McCartney hosting a talent search, so maybe that will keep them alive another ten years.

Me, I use Baidu because it’s easier to keep in touch with my friends in China and Brazil. You have to be able to speak both Mandarin and Portugese, so most adults can’t keep track of what you’re doing (other than the government, that is, but more on that later). Baidu is awesome. It let’s me not only keep in touch with everyone, but it also recommends to me pretty much everything I’ve ever used. For example, when I shop for deodorant, I can see which friends use which types and compare that to how I’ve felt about their smell and how often they get laid. This helps me pick the best scent so that one day I will produce a child with my partner.

When I do what you called watching TV, what I want to watch is picked by Baidu and PepsiNet based on my mood, who I am with, what products I use and what my friends have recommended to me. I don’t actually watch a TV, I just stare at a wall or a stationary spot and watch it through my retina display. Some people get freaked out by this and use their mobile to project an image on the wall, but no one under the age of 70 owns a television anymore.

I watch stuff from my queue, based on my mood, my friends, who I am with and what is most popular now. If the government or PepsiNet wants me to learn about some important news, like an earthquake, then that interrupts my watching, but otherwise, I switch to other shows in those rare moments when I get bored based on who I’m following on Baidu and what they recommend. The other day, I was watching the Today Show, hosted by the Olsen Twins, which I like never do (it’s for old people, but my PepsiNet server was acting up), and suddenly President Bloomberg came on to tell me, personally, that Bloomberg Media was now the official provider of news for all PepsiNet and CokeCast customers. Most people aren’t worried about any conflict of interest though, because Bloomberg promised to keep an iron wall between him and his company’s editorial policies, and most of the news is curated by our friends anyways.

I guess this is where I should bring you up on politics. Bloomberg became president after Obama left office. He ran without a VP, a first in America, but he said that he had more business experience than anyone in history, so he didn’t need a VP. People liked that idea. He had a tough race though. Hilary Clinton had become Obama’s VP, which helped him win the 2012 election. She was hell bent on finally being president, and ran in 2016. But the woman vote was divided by the Gingrich/Palin campaign, and the democrats lost a lot of votes to the John Stewart/Rachel Maddow campaign and the Al Franken/Michael Moore independent campaign. So, Bloomberg, after spending a billion dollars of his own money, and after declaring he had converted to Christianity, finally won in 2016. Some people say he bought the election, but most of us just think America felt sorry for him since he came from New York City. But I know the truth – he won because only 30% of the population bothered to vote, and the voting system was run by Xe-Diebold, who make our retina screens and electronic voting systems and they also have all the contracts for our wars. Who they want to win, wins.

I know this because I am one of the only people in my neighborhood, Tropicanaland, who has access to the Darknet, through the Freedom Box made by the great Eben Moglen. He’s been killed now, er, he’s on extended interrogation, but he created this great little device back in 2011 that let’s people create their own internet which is decentralized and can’t be controlled by any government or corporation. I use this to watch Al Jazeera, speak to my compadres in Egypt and Tunisia and Bahrain, where there’s real democracy, and I learn a lot of news that never makes it on PepsiNet or anywhere else in America (or Germany, China, Brazil and other important countries). Al Jazeera is where I learned the history of Xe-Diebold, formed by Dick Cheney when he merged what was Blackhawk with the Diebold company. This was while he was on his fifth new heart, but he still ran the company for another five years.

This is also how I know the truth about New York. See, everyone else believes the story the government gave – Iran attacked New York City with Nukes to kill the "Great Satan," and that’s why we hired Xe-Diebold to manage a war for us there. But what really happened was four rebels from Bahrain attacked us in revenge for Obama never getting tough and assisting their revolution back in 2011. That story wouldn’t sit so well with the public, seeing as how they’d already forgotten about Bahrain due to the earthquakes that destroyed all of California in 2012.

So, by the time 2013 rolled around and NYC was destroyed, we were pretty freaked, but we were used to relocating millions of people to other cities, and most people were ready for a Mideast dictator to demonize, especially since he was about to be deposed by another democratic mob himself and we needed some instability there to justify our troops, which keep the poor people employed (it's their only job opportunity now). I can’t tell any of this to anyone, or they think I’m one of the 9/11 conspiracy nut jobs, but trust me – if you visit Egypt, this is accepted fact and they have the biggest democracy on Earth, and I hear about it on Al Jazeera (via the Darknet).

Anyway, the Darknet is also how I try to distribute my films. See, I haven’t broken into the system yet. Back in 2011, anyone like me could pretty much make and distribute their film to a wide audience via the internet. But then several things happened at once and this changed. First, Obama and the MPAA worked together to shut down all pirate networks. Then they worked globally to change all IP laws so that we no longer had anything like the “first sale doctrine” or “fair use.” Then we got the pay as you go meter – for many years, until Pepsi took over Netflix, you had to pay a few pennies for every MB of data download, and soon very few indies could afford to make their films available unless they were on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon or the six major studios - iKavanaugh, Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, Berlin or Toronto. But these studios also controlled the festival marketplace. At first, when Sundance and Tribeca started opening festivals in every major city in every country, it just sucked a little for the now-fired employees of the fests that had been in those towns. But before long, all of those fests closed and we had just the five major festival networks and the newly minted iKavanaugh Road Show. Then they all became studios.

Then, Berlin partnered with Lufthansa for the LuftFilm Idol show. From then on, Berlin only accepted 1 indie a year from America – through a reality contest show where the audience narrowed down the filmmakers from 100 Americans competing to make the best film for 50 bucks. The winner got flown on Lufthansa to Berlin and received 2 tickets to the premiere of their film. That went so well that soon Sundance partnered with YouTube to do the YouTube LiveLabs. You can see where this kept going, and now, unless you get into one of these Festudios, you are kinda shit outta luck.

By the way, in 2014 the entire system for documentaries collapsed. Sundance announced that other than at their film festivals, no one was watching the social issue docs getting made and they were losing a lot of money. New research showed that no one ever wanted to see a doc in a theater unless it was about music or sports, and that no one wanted to watch a doc that was more than five minutes long. That kinda hurt some feelings, but now docs are made by the bands they are about, as advertisements for their music and their touring. And for sports. Social issue docs only get made now as projects for college entrance exams. It helps people feel better about themselves, and if they do it right, they can get into Harvard or the New York Film Academy. Then they move on to entertainment, make docs for bands or NASCAR, go into advertising, become an investment banker or become a Degenerate.

Yep, those of us not in this system are now known as Degenerates – “indie” is now trademarked by Sundance, so we took the label used in China for unsanctioned films and we all show our films through Bittorrent on the DarkNet via the FreedomBox. The billionaire producer Karin Chien still secretly funds the D-Generate films Darksite, to pay homage to her background as a struggling indie, er degenerate. We all send notices to each other on Diaspora, the underground social network of the DarkNet. It was a legitimate open source service before the government found out that a lot of their users were talking about Bradley Manning, and so they got shut down from PepsiNet and soon the other two servers shut them down as well. Not long after, Obama told everyone that opensource was hurting business and the government, and that ended that whole movement. Except the OpenSource education programs of MIT and Harvard – those were exempted so we would have some college for people to attend for free since only the top 1% of society could afford, or pass the entrance exams for, real universities.

So, now I’m a Degenerate Filmmaker. I don’t get paid for any of my projects, but I have a fun time doing them, and when my friend’s donate to me on Diaspora, I actually make a few hundred bucks, which is more than the Berlin Luftfilm Idols. Most of my money is made in my “day job.” I work as a virtual assistant to a Brazilian money manager. I’m hoping that one day she’ll ask me what I do, and invest in one of my films, but if not...I do have access to her friends list on Baidu.
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