Saturday, March 04, 2006


The Democratization of Filmmaking

Today -- as the film industry gathers to recognize the best in "non-studio" productions at the annual Independent Spirit Awards (sponsored by Pop Secret Popcorn) -- I watched (on my computer) the short film My Space - the Movie, after reading how its 21-year-old director, David Lehre received a development deal from MTVU (MTV's on-air, online and on-campus network), and calls from Hollywood managers, due to the film's popularity on the Internet. To date, the film has been viewed six million times! Now that's independent spirit! Six million downloads is roughly equivalent to a $54 million opening weekend. Not bad. Clearly, the rules of filmmaking have changed (that is, if you're willing to not use film to make your movie). The lower costs of digital cameras, desktop editing systems, and DVD burners, and the ability to easily upload and distribute a film on the Internet, have all finally converged in critical mass to revolutionize and exponentially democratize the art (and the business) of filmmaking. There are more people making films than ever before (and now the Internet gives these filmmakers an audience!) Lehre (who still lives at home with his parents in Washington, Michigan) is a prime example of this new crop of 21st century filmmakers. Lehre started making films in 10th grade, using the same group of friends, as cast and crew. Together they have amassed 50 films to their credit, many of which can be viewed at Lehre's website (that is, of course, unless the two million hits a day the site receives don't slow you down). Lehre first screened My Space - The Movie about a month ago at his 21st birthday party. It was then posted on Jan. 28 to Lehre's site and, three days later, was placed on (Approximately 20,000 films are uploaded to every day, and more than 15 million are viewed daily.) With 3.4 million viewings to date, MySpace - The Movie currently ranks as the site's most viewed film. Gone are the prohibitive costs of making and distributing a film. Does this mean more crappy films will be made then ever before? Sure. But it also means that a talented director, who might have otherwise gone unnoticed, due to fiscal restraints, can now be discovered. I'm excited about what the future holds in filmmaking and what treasures are out there waiting to be found!

There have been vanity presses forever but you can count the number of self-published books on one hand that made any impact on the world of books.
And a self-published author really has access to the same resources (save the talent part) as any author. The guy who makes a movie on a handicam he bought at Circuit City does not have the actors and the scores of talented and experienced artists and technicians that make the overwhelming number of good movies good.
So really, unlike the age-old phenomenon of the self-published author, the one-man-band filmmaker has nowhere near the equivelant set of resources as his upmarket collegues.
I think these little DVCam projects will be interesting curios and demo reels for a select few but they'll make no more impact than the novel the guy prints at Kinkos and hands out for free in Columbus Circle.
It's what ends up getting played in movie theaters and rented at Blockbuster nationwide that gets noticed, and talked about..
I don't know about changing the world...but I saw an interview with Andy Samberg one of this season's new SNL cast members. He and two friends were writing, starring in and producing comedy films that were broadcast on the internet. Samberg and his friends were "discovered" by Lorne Michaels. He is now on the show and his buddies are writers.

They're films may not change the world...but the films changed the world for these guys.

Samberg, a native of Berkeley, Calif. also moves east to join the show. Samberg was one of three writer-performer-filmmakers dubbed "The Lonely Island" whose films were showcased on the popular "untelevised television network" show and website: Channel
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