g The Film Panel Notetaker: The Creators Series: Participatory Filmmaking - June 10, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Creators Series: Participatory Filmmaking - June 10, 2007

On Sunday, I attended a panel discussion titled “Participatory Filmmaking” presented by Tribeca Enterprises newest venture Tomorrow Unlimited. The panelists not only talked about their projects, but also to showed portions of their projects to the audience.

Martin Percy – Interactive Filmmaker, MovieActive.com
Matt Hanson – Film Futurist, A Swarm of Angels
Chris Doyle – Multidisciplinary Artist, 50,000 Beds

Jeremy Boxer – Director of Programming, Tomorrow Unlimited

Percy’s Presentation
On Martin Percy’s company’s website, MovieActive.com, there's what's described as Percy’s “interactive live-action work.” The sample Percy presented was “A Conversation with Sir Ian McClellan.” Percy said that every 13 year old in the U.K. has to learn a speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III. The interactive live-action work asks and answers questions about Shakespeare to the viewers. It’s a living video. More like a conversation and less like a lecture. Percy also did a piece for Tate Modern, which allows young people to not only come to the physical gallery, but also to the website. On the website, you can click on a piece of art that’s at the gallery. It’s trying to use live-action video to model a natural experience. Online, you can take your time viewing the art. The experience is best for single users with a broadband connection. It’s a lot harder to do this, for example, with a lot of people in a cinema, but not impossible. One example of a larger cinema audience is The Bunnysaver Challenge. On the screen is a host who asks questions to the audience and the audience sends a text message on their mobile phones, and the results are shown on screen. The problem before this was that people don’t believe sending text messages will work until they see it on screen. With cinema, it’s much more difficult to make it interactive, but there are huge opportunities for filmmakers by using digital cinema and broadband.

Hanson’s Presentation
Matt Hanson is the creator of A Swarm of Angels, which is described as “
a groundbreaking project to create a £1 million film and give it away to over 1 million people using the Internet and a global community of members.” Hanson said he wanted to make a feature film that wasn’t done the normal way. Hanson described several elements that formed the basis of A Swarm of Angels:

- The Blockbuster is Dead
- The End of Celluloid – a digital manifesto
- User-Generated Content, ie. YouTube
- Bridging the Divide – filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City and Steven Soderbergh

Hanson asks, how do we move forward? The answer: A Swarm of Angels, which is an “open-source” film licensed under Creative Commons. Hanson terms this sort of filmmaking as “crowd sourcing,” meaning creator-led and member-powered. It relies on the collaboration of all of its members. The collaboration is managed through tools, facilities, languages, rules and incentives.

Finally, Hanson described the level of phases, or amount of members, that can be involved in A Swarm of Angels:

- Phase 1: Proof of Concept – 100 members
- Phase 2: Early Development – 1,000 members
- Phase 3: Advanced Development – Up to 5,000 members
- Phase 4: Pre-Production – 25,000 members
- Phase 5: Filming – 50,000 members

Doyle’s Presentation
Chris Doyle is a multidisciplinary artist in Brooklyn. Three years ago, he created a concept called “Leap” where people contributed to the project. 11 videos of people at the end of New York City subway lines showed people jumping up and down. Chris edited all of the jumping people together. This was a way to get involved with people in a direct way. He wanted to make a video that would engage people.

Doyle did another project in Tennessee. He set up a structure with students doing work in a library late at night. He gave them headlights and a camera to shoot themselves doing their work. The next day, he edited the material, and would project it onto the side of the library the next night.

For 50,000 Beds, Doyle was approached by contemporary artists in Connecticut who were interested in a collaborative project. He submitted a proposal where hotel rooms would be used as studios. The end result was 45 artists in 45 hotel rooms, three venues, and one show. He had no idea what he was going to get. The interesting thing was he had to give up a certain amount of authorship. The end-product is a physical project or an installation.

Moderator Questions:

Boxer: How have you found the experience of building a framework that allows flexibility for collaboration?

Percy: If I shoot video and you watch it on TV and didn’t get more out of it without interactivity, then I’ve failed. Flexibility is absolutely crucial.

Hanson: A new process is being developed through the Internet. There’s a weird paradox. As a filmmaker, I’m giving a lot of control to the audience, but I’m the center of the power process.

Doyle: Opinion overlaps with Percy and Hanson. There’s an interesting tension with authorship. I am the director, but ask for input from all people. I am the creative director of the project as a whole.

Boxer: Because of the Internet, your projects have come to creation. Can you talk more about this?

Hanson: It’s about bringing like minds together and building a network effectively. How can you get the network to build a global community? You’re giving away a lot of power, but getting a lot in return.

Percy: Interactive videos began in the 1970s, but the Internet, and Broadband, more specifically, has changed everything. Think about the fundamental approach for making digital media on the Internet.

Audience Q&A:

Q: If there is a profit involved, where is it coming from?

Percy: The Tate Modern piece is part of an advertising campaign. It’s discreet branding or in other words enlightened sponsorship as the source of funding.

The concept came from the frustration of getting my work funded through normal means. Had to look at other funding sources. I had a business management degree instead of going to film school. A Swarm of Angels is funded by a £25 subscription fee.

Doyle: 50,000 Beds was funded through grant sources like the NEA and Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Q: Is there a future for non-linear films. What is the future without having gatekeepers?

Hanson: My project is about creating a linear film and distributing it in a linear fashion on any screen, but there’s a non-linear aspect because people can re-mix it.

Percy: Reflect on though processes in a natural more though-provoking way.

Doyle: 50,000 Beds unfolds not just linearly, but also spatially.

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