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The Sky Is Not Falling: Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System // submit a post -- nelson@nelsoncarvajal.com

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

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 It doesn't mean that the Flip Cam is obsolete; Cisco is just off to new ventures.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, you can bet they will be in demand. 

But what about the stories being told with Flip Cams? They're still as viable as anything being shot on 35mm. Like I always scream about: It's about content and NOT fancy cameras/expensive budgets! Consider filmmaker David Guy Levy's feature length film A Love Affair Of Sorts. It was shot entirely on Flip Cameras.

Los Angeles Times: "The 30-year-old Silver Lake resident made A Love Affair Of Sorts with just two $300 Flip camcorders, an actor he barely knows and a budget of $1,600. He's not just showing it in his living room, though: The movie, apparently the first Flip Cam movie to get a U.S. theatrical release, will open Friday in cinemas in L.A. and New York.

"A lot of people might question why I'm making the first Flip Cam movie," Levy said at his home, where half of A Love Affair Of Sorts was shot. "They might say, 'Why did you do that? Why not a big movie with a big story?' Well, I'm not trying to make Avatar."

The fact that a Flip is only a few inches tall helped create an intimacy that bigger, fancier cameras couldn't offer.
Awkward pauses, spasms of expressions and subtle drama are captured as the audience "secretly" watches from the coffee table or the bedside.

"With the Flip Cam, we can just put it down and two minutes later forget it was even there," Levy said. "We would interact and realize that we've had the camera rolling.""

Now I'm not saying that your next project should be shot on a Flip Cam. But know that for the true independents--a useful filmmaking instrument is a useful instrument nonetheless. "Share your story--in whatever capacity you can!"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

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 Festival piece, this popular genre is put into context: "Whether called transmedia, multi-platform, cross platform or just cross media, filmmakers from all genres no longer just make films. Aspiring filmmakers in the social documentary sphere are facing the prospect of a media campaign of overwhelming proportions. But innovative and passionate socially-minded individuals are taking chances and creating blueprints for future filmmakers."

The key is that this new "blueprint" is not only on a single screen. It's interactive. It exists in offline social groups, gaming devices, mobile devices, guerrilla marketing campaigns, DIY cinemas and so forth. The ethos behind Transmedia--which lies in telling your story in EVERY possible capacity--is something that ALL new independent filmmakers/content creators need to embody, practice and elevate. With this new era of digital filmmaking/storytelling 2.0, the indie filmmaker needs to constantly be pushing the envelope in delivering or presenting his or her content. It's not enough to just "make" your film. You need to "make" your film matter in the eyes and ears of consumers/viewers who are swept up in the sea of content that is in the theatres, on TV and on the Internet. I think a big part in achieving this comes in the practicing ethos behind Transmedia/Cross-Platform storytelling.

For guidance on executing your multi-platform story (and remember that the "story" doesn't only have to be your film; it can be your branding, your company, your online identity, your crowdfunding idea, etc.), let me point you to Julie Matlin's helpful article "10 Things To Keep In Mind For Producing Cross-Platform Media":

"1. Pick your spot. Not every film/TV project needs an interactive game, original webisodes, extended interviews, director’s blog, a mobile app, mash-up tools, user-generated content, podcasts, online chats, screensavers...
2. Involve the audience. Capitalize on the unique opportunity to engage audiences more deeply through forms of interactivity ...
3. People connect with people. Digital or otherwise, audiences connect with stories through people...
4. Distribution as destination. Let your audience put your content in front of other audiences...
5. The end is just the beginning. Notions of development, production and post-production do not accurately define the realities of digital production...
6. Tailor production values to context. Do your business and your audience a favour: don’t apply film or TV production budgeting to digital programming...
7. Pay attention to marketers. The most innovative and engaging programming happening in the digital medium today is being led by marketers and interactive ad agencies...
8. Tell the whole story. Or at least a digital version of the whole story...
9. Measure and report meticulously. The only way to improve on what you’re doing today is to know if your content is being used at all...
10. Stay in the game. Avoid bleeding edge. Focus on content that you think can deliver value..."

In addition to successfully adapting to this "cross-platform" mindset, it also helps to learn that entities and organizations on the indie landscape are also adapting and responding to this cultural filmmaking change. For example, indie producer Ted Hope points to the Northside Film Festival as being "an answer to SXSW." As many have already discovered, SXSW in a lot of ways has grown to the mammoth scale of Sundance and can sometimes miss the initial intent: To find the TRULY independent films.

Hope writes: "The democratization of culture and the tools to create and share it is definitely been one of the more exciting trends of the recent past.  We see it in all spheres and aspects of our daily life, but what symbolizes it best?  Many friends and pundits characterize it as a dumbing down, but I truly perceive it as quite the opposite.  People everywhere are asking all of us to look and reach up, to aspire to more, to inspire each of us to cross into new realms.

DIY filmmaking is very much a part of [Northside's] mission. It’s now a given that many of the most exciting films at major American festivals are the product of a handful of friends working on a shoestring, and it’s time festivals gave these films the dedicated platform they deserve."

With more niche festivals emerging (and with better curating mindsets!), more indie filmmakers challenging the narrative form and the digital frontier becoming more than just an accessory (Haven't heard about iCloud? Read here), anyone who still shakes their head at the thought of filmmaking being synonymous with "digital" is begging to be left in the dust. There is nothing wrong with our medium evolving. In fact, it's expanding--and the digital frontier, the digital life is our right of passage.

The digital tomorrow will provide us the opportunity to really get our work, our voice out there. It already has.