Lance Weiler Responds To Brent Chesanek

Scott Kirsner wrote a book called “Inventing the Movies” which details the history of cinema from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs. Within the book he describes three types of people - those who innovate, those who persevere and those who sit on the sidelines waiting. When I read your critique of the NYC DIY Dinner it is clear you fall into the preservation camp. Personally, I love films and prefer to see them projected when I can and when it makes sense. But I also grow tired of watching filmmakers struggle to get their work seen and to sustain. And the sad truth is that many talented filmmakers have fall prey to exploitation.

The reality is that the system is overloaded. Everyday 50,000 more videos are uploaded to YouTube. There are more choices (tv channels, countless blogs / sites, dvds, VOD etc.) that compete for peoples time. Theatrical bookings are very difficult. I know, I’ve personally booked my films into art-house and independent cinemas across the country. I’m a fan of independent cinemas and even though my work has cross-media components it will always have live event elements, and those live events will include theatrical screenings.

But this I think is our key difference and correct me if I’m wrong. But I don’t consider myself a filmmaker – I don’t shoot on film, I don’t cut on film and I don’t work on a single medium anymore. I believe in story and the emotional connection that an audience experiences from great writing, strong direction and wonderful acting. But I also believe that the form is changing and that is what excites me. It’s not one way or the highway. It’s a reality. Art forms change and audience’s relationships to the way stories are told change. The birth of 16mm cameras ushered in cinema verit. Desktop systems and advances in imaging technology have empowered a diversity of voices that have never had access. Last month, I was in Copenhagen for a film festival and I connected with friends from all over the world, many who I met online or via social networks. One friend is from the Philippines. In the last 12 months there’s been an explosion of DIY filmmaking there - doc, narratives, experimental works. The films are unique, artful and passionate. But yet they have not been seen here in the states. We live in a global film community, it is not just about the US it is about allowing voices to be heard all over the world. The social networks and online outlets that you consider to be nothing more than popularity contests are so much more. They are a voice, a way for people to connect. Yes some people use them for status but others use them as a way to understand other cultures and share experiences. It’s not a contest its a connection.

And when it comes to brands let us be honest. Many of the films that you love from well know writers and or directors were brought to you by some brand some where along the way. It might have been a critic, a well know film festival, or the publicity machines that rollout films both big and small or maybe even the art-house theaters that screened them. The fact of the matter is that “filmmakers” need to take some time to understand how various aspects of the process work. If you want to be a good director you need to understand the roles of your collaborators. And similar to how you crew up for a film ( producer, production designer, dp, ad, gaffer etc.) when we discuss the role of technology or branding or marketing we are calling attention to a part of the process that needs new “crew” positions. We’re not saying that an individual “must master” them or they are destine to fail. What we are saying is that if you ignore or consider it to be someone else’s duty or job then often you will be disappointed with the results. What is often ironic is that I’ve know many filmmakers who entered into deals with distributors only to find themselves doing a loin of the share of the work anyway. In some cases out of despration when they realized for whatever reason that their film wasn’t getting the push that it really needed. It is about understanding what is needed and having an open discussion about it. That way new processes can be discovered. Learning from each other is what will make the stories better, our work stronger. We need to build an infrastructure that will in turn help to establish a foundation for a truly free film community.

We are standing at an unprecedented time in history. We can for the first time reach and communicate directly with our audiences. There doesn’t have to be gatekeepers or middle men or filters. It can finally be about connections. People connecting to the stories that move them. So in some ways maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities - many within the industry are. But in uncertain times some amazing things have been innovated. In the economic downturn of the 70’s, apple computer which started in a garage and was born out passion, creativity and a desire to empower people. The beautiful thing is there are no rules, no right or wrong way. There is just progress. In the end the audience will decide what they want to see, how they want to see and where they want to see it. So I say its time to innovate and seize the opportunity instead of waiting for someone else to shape the future for us.

And Brent I’m more than happy to answer any technical questions you may have. And over at the Workbook Project we have a number of folks who know how to use social media, build audiences, create brands and release films in alternative ways - all of them would be willing to do the same. DIY DAYS, the Workbook Project and From Here to Awesome are based on open source philosophies, ones that encourage community and sharing. That being said, now seems like the perfect time for this new emerging truly free film community to help each other make great films - we just need a little bit of innovation to make it possible.
- Lance Weiler