Recognize The Time We Are Living In

If you didn't notice this is a new year.  It is also a new age.  My resolution is to help all filmmakers and members of the film industry to understand it.  Hopefully we can also all get started on adapting for this Age too.

This is The Age of Access & Surplus.

This is no longer the Age of Control & Shortages (that was last decade).

These times require New Rules & New Emphasis:

  1. Discovery
  2. Participation
  3. Demystification

We need to conceive of both our creative and business practices in terms of how they incorporate these three elements.

When 45,000 films are made globally each year and the film work of all time is instantly available at a very attractive price point (how does free grab you?), how will your work be discovered?  How will an audience value it over all the other content competing for their attention?  Since the films of Godard and Kurosowa are far better than yours, why will someone watch yours?  It no longer is enough to be new.  It no longer is enough to simply be playing at the local theater (although that still helps a great deal).

The one thing that today's filmmakers have over all the past masters, is that the past masters are dead.  Their work is not going to change.  Today's filmmakers can build relationships with audiences and communities.  They can offer a deeper relationship with them than Stanley Kubrick can.  Audiences have changed.  Communities are not passive.  As much as people like to be directed, they also want to participate.

The truth is out there.  They may sell us a bunch of lies, but people are smart and they figure it out.  We know how the tricks are done.  We also know how art is made.  The curtain has come down and those that don't provide access to the process risk the wrath of the hungry.  Is there any reason to keep any of it hidden?

Indie Film's Future To Be Decided Today

If your ability to earn a living as an Indie Filmmaker is not a big enough issue to catch your attention, how about considering that your freedom is at stake?  What if you knew that the principal and practice of free speech was at risk, would that wake you up? How about if you knew that corporate interests were once again being favored over those of the people?  Well, today is the day that all those things are happening, so whachagonnnado? The FCC meets today and proposes regulations that could seriously undermine net neutrality.  It generally appears that corporate interests are being looked after, and we are headed towards a tiered internet where providers can favor some content over others.  Prepare to get really upset.  Prepare to do something to fight back and protect a free and open internet.

Al Franken says it is the most important free speech issue of our time.  VC fund, Union Square Ventures, recommends prohibiting "application-specific discrimination", and that seems to make good sense.

You can watch it all live right here starting at 1030A EST.

Piracy: (Some Of) The Short & The Long Of It

Thankfully, Taylor Hackford recognizes that the film industry needs to wise up and educate itself on piracy. He and I agree on that. And I think we agree on the goal of it all, but I suspect we have completely different approaches to solving the problem.  And that is where I am really concerned.  To solve it, Hackford seems willing to sacrifice greater principles in the service of business, and that is a shame.  I hope I am wrong. Mr. Hackford, president of the DGA, was recently speaking at the Content Protection Summit and Variety reported on it. Reading the article I remain unclear as to what Hackford's point is about piracy beyond that it is bad and we need to make it a real concern of the industry. He seems to be saying that if we want to protect our content, we have to be willing to give up on a free and open internet. He claims groups like Public Knowledge and Free Press as enemies. Shutting down a free and open internet is not the path to solving the piracy problem; it is the path to a closed society that favors a class or capital over access and opportunity -- and that is the antithesis of what we need to do.

We can not create a system that favors the powerful, the connected, or the well capitalized. The Film Business already favors all those niches quite well, and government and utilities should do all they can to provide for all equally.  Equality under the law and within the society remains one of the greatest ideals, and personally speaking, I would rather have a world that strives for that ideal's enforcement, even if that striving has to support some bad apples, rather than risk that anyone does not have equal access or equal opportunity.

Hackford was insightful to link Hollywood's focus on event pictures to piracy, in that if piracy is eroding film's revenue -- or even thought to be -- then investors will be more likely to put money into the projects most likely to generate the quickest return and the most unique experience.  The insight would actually make sense if individual investors were backers of event pictures, let alone studio pictures.  They rarely have such opportunities.

Being someone who has depended on private equity for all but a few of my 60+ films, I have never once heard an investor confess concern about piracy (and granted some of that may have to do with their education on the issue).  I do have investors express concern about distribution opportunities, access to markets, cost of promotion, and difficulties to reaching audiences.     I do hear people intrigued about using the systems that have been developed by pirates and copy-forward advocates to reach audiences that they have not reached before.  They know that the system has to change and recognize the realities of the time we are living in.

I have witnessed first hand, and was one of the key witnesses, in a successful anti-trust suit against the MPAA for coercing the studios to take action that unfairly hurt independents in the process.  That case, popularly known as The Screener Ban, used piracy as the fear that prompted excluding the key marketing tool of Award Screeners from all filmmakers' arsenal.  The powerful often look out for their interests without even consulting the rest of the industry about their practices.  When Dan Glickman took over at the MPAA, he was quite vigilant at soliciting the indie sector's opinion on the state of the industry, and I hope his successor remains as committed.  I hope whomever takes over the MPAA recognizes the necessity of our culture industry to commit to a free & open internet or else exclude a serious sector of our community.

When it comes to protecting artists' rights, piracy is a serious issue, but open and free access to a public good (i.e. the internet) is a greater one.  We can not look at short term solutions that have long term repercussions.  The focus on the piracy issue tends to take place at events that exclude a large portion of the film community -- namely the truly independent artists that will never have access to the studio system.  We need institutions, organizations, and methods that make sure to include this segment's voice -- and that includes the DGA.

I, and artists everywhere, will not be able to support ourselves -- and thus generate new work -- if our work is widely stolen and we are not compensated.   Mr. Hackford is right on when he speaks of the need for passion and education when it comes to the issue of intellectual property theft, but as we enter that discussion, we need to strenuously protect the greater ideal of equal access and opportunity.  We also need to recognize human behavior and the current state of things -- people want convenience, but they also want other things.  The large media corporations have done little to offer a better option to theft.  Our methods of licensing and distributing work relies on out of date analogue models.  There are actions that can be taken, by artists and businesses, and it is hight time that we begun this discussion in earnest -- but let's not abandon the ideals as we start the march down the road.

Save the internet!

Net Neutrality Supports Independent Art

Troma's mastermind Lloyd Kaufman is quite a serious man. Seriously. He puts in a great deal of time and passion trying to preserve and enhance the life of Indies everywhere. He most recently penned a good rallying cry for Net Neutrality that you should not miss.

The Internet, the last free, open and diverse democratic medium, is under attack. Net Neutrality, which provides that no content is favored over any other, and that content creators have an equal opportunity to freely disseminate their information, is being imminently threatened by media mega-conglomerates and their vassals. It is urgent that we fight those who would sacrifice our freedom for a profit. Net Neutrality will be the savior of independent art and commerce if we preserve it.

Read all of it on Save The Internet here.

Saving The Internet Through Storytelling

Today's guest post is by John S. Johnson.  The Harmony Institute, a research group that John runs, is offering a free new guide to help combat the Telecom's tales in their efforts to end net neutrality.  Here he explains a bit of the why and wherefore you need to download it (for free!) and read it NOW. In 2010 it’s easy to forget how profoundly the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, interact and access information. When you logged on this morning to check your email, bank statement, or local news you may not have noticed that there are very few limits placed on the sites and services you have access to. While some people must crash the couch of their best friend to catch the latest HBO release, since he’s subscribed to all premium cable channels while they’re still stuck with rabbit ears on their TV, no one has an edge over anyone else when it comes to what we can access on the Internet.

Yet this principle of net neutrality that allows all sites, services and applications on the Internet to have equal access to consumers, and vice versa, is being fundamentally threatened. Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to revise rules that have kept Internet Service Providers (ISPs) at bay for decades. These companies, like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, would love to become the gatekeepers of the Internet, reserving preferential bandwidth for those sites and services that make them the most money.

And I can guarantee you HopeForFilm is not one of those sites. While offering thoughtful critique of the film industry, HopeForFilm, like most online communities that have sprung forth from inspiring ideas that can only be fostered online, will perish if service fees force all but the super-rich from accessing and producing online content.

While there’s a broad coalition of supporters that lobby for responsible telecommunications reform ensuring net neutrality, the issue has been bogged down for years in technical and policy jargon. The conversation has stayed behind closed doors, not because it won't have a drastic and potentially life-altering effect on Americans, but because those leading the fight for net neutrality have predominately favored petitioning Washington over telling the compelling story of how the loss of an open Internet will affect our daily lives.

Recently my research group, the Harmony Institute, published a communications guide that hopes to bring much needed attention to this pressing issue.  FTW! Net Neutrality For The Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet was written to inform people working in a diverse range of fields, including media and entertainment, on the looming threat posed to the open Internet. The guide is part of our mission to harness the power of entertainment and mass media to tell stories about key social issues, such as the fight for net neutrality, that will resonate with a broad audience and promote action.

The guide explains how we can use the untapped potential of narrative to increase support for net neutrality.  Telling stories about how vital the open Internet is to our livelihoods is the key to getting people to take notice and take action. Using recent polling results and behavioral science theory, the guide offers seven communication recommendations that can be applied to new media projects, as well as existing media campaigns.

I truly believe that today is the day for you to invest in igniting a broader, more passionate conversation about net neutrality. It may be easy to allow this concern to take a back seat when an unstable economy, violent conflict abroad, and an environmental catastrophe dominate our headlines. But you realize that the open Internet, safeguarded by net neutrality, influences how we understand and interact with almost everything else we care about, it's clear that maintaining our rights in this respect is not only a personal, but also a national priority.

So, how do you get started? I encourage you to download Net Neutrality For The Win today, and become part of the rapidly growing community of Americans who care deeply about preserving the open Internet for all.  Its free and it will help you be more persuasive with your friends and readers, online and offline around this issue that is going to affect each of us. Get your free manual here: www.savemyinternet.com [link: http://savemyinternet.com]

The New York Times profiled John and The Harmony Institute earlier this week.

John S. Johnson is the Director of the Harmony Institute, a research group that studies the application of behavioral science to communication in media. He consults with media creatives, socially conscious film funds, and production companies to help their work achieve concrete, positive change in specific target constituencies. Johnson is also the co-founder of Buzzfeed.com, a trend detector and platform for transmitting contagious media. In 1997, he founded EYEBEAM, a MacArthur and NEA funded non-profit art and technology laboratory in New York City. John is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and editor of a book in production titled "The Atlas of Art and Capital: Business Models of Art Production for Artists from 340BC to the Present".

U.S. Court Curbs F.C.C. Authority on Web Traffic

Yesterday's Federal Court decision is a serious setback for net neutrality and the efforts to maintain equal access to content on the internet. It is a setback for both consumers and creators, and a threat to innovation in general. It also underscores the importance of court appointments. In short, it seriously curbs the FCC's power and its ability to set the agenda for an open and free internet and the hope of media democracy. The NY Times reports:

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that regulators had limited power over Web traffic under current law. The decision will allow Internet service companies to block or slow specific sites and charge video sites to deliver their content faster to users.

Wondering what you can do? FreePress notes: The FCC needs to “reclassify” broadband under the Communications Act. In 2002, the FCC decided to place broadband providers outside the legal framework that traditionally applied to companies that offer two-way communications services, like phone companies.

That decision is what first put Net Neutrality in jeopardy, setting in motion the legal wrangling that now endangers the FCC's ability to protect our Internet rights.

But the good news is that the FCC still has the power to set things right, and to make sure the free and open Internet stays that way. And once we’ve done that, the FCC can ensure that Comcast can’t interfere with our communications, no matter the platform.

SaveTheInternet has a good overview here that links to a letter you can send to the FCC.

After that, if you haven't already,  please join and follow Public Knowledge, Free Press, Electronic Freedom Foundation, and Save The Internet.

Battelle On iPad as Metaphor For All That's Wrong With Media Distribution

I got hipped to this by MovieCityNews.  I had not read John Battelle before, but in his broadside he sums up what he doesn't like about the iPad and he sums up our current situation pretty damn well:

Media traditionally has gained its profits by owning distribution. Cable carriage, network airwaves, newsstand distribution and printing presses: all very expensive, so once you employ enough capital to gain them, it's damn hard to get knocked out.

The web changed all that and promised that economics in the media business would be driven by content and intent: the best content will win, driven by the declared intent of consumers who find it and share it. Search+Social was the biggest wave to hit media since the printing press. And the open technology to make better and better experiences has been on a ten year tear: blogging software, Flash, Ajax, HTML 5, Android, and more and more coming.

Read the rest of the article here.  I look forward to reading more of him in the days ahead.

We are in a battle where the hope and promise offered by a free and open internet is challenged by the traditional drive for total control by excessive capital.

Woodstock Film Festival Trailblazer Acceptance Speech

I am receiving an award tonight. This is my acceptance speech.

WOODSTOCK TRAILBLAZER AWARD SPEECH

10/2/09

I’m honored to be invited to join all of you at this great celebration of film, music, and community. I want to truly thank Meira, Laurent, and Nikki and all of the volunteers and sponsors who make this festival – and all festivals -- happen. We wouldn’t have events like this without you. Thank you.

Can you imagine this world of ours without evens like this one, without films like the ones being screened here? I can, and of course you all can, because we have all lived when we were without – and we know it could very easily happen again.

I’ve been called many things in my life, but tonight I am being called a “Trailblazer”. I work really hard and have been really fortunate and because of those two things I have had the privilege of making about 60 films with some of the greatest directors of our time and I have dreams of making at least that many more with even better filmmakers with even more engaged audiences in the years ahead.

My drive to get so much done comes from being able to remember when I didn’t have the opportunities that I do now, opportunities not just to make such work, but even just to see such movies – and particularly to discuss such films, to participate in that incredible thing when a shared experience brings people closer together. My drive comes from not wanting that opportunity to be missed by others or myself.

I like to think that tonight’s honor partially comes from my commitment to truth, both in terms of content and in terms of process, my commitment to emotional and experiential truth, to the presentation of our complex reality and desires, to the portrayal of our world in such a way that we aren’t diminished or denigrated or spoken down to but instead are portrayed in ways that recognize s the expansive nature and deep community that truly defines all of us.

But lately, when people talk to me about “trailblazing” -- and well, don't they always...! – It’s not because of the work I’ve done in the past, the films I’ve made, or any innovations I have been part of – it’s because of what I am doing right now when I haven’t been able to make movies. It’s about what I have been doing because I am afraid we might lose this glorious and diverse and ambitious film culture – a community that has blossomed over the last two decades both here in Woodstock and all over the globe. We might lose both that community and the opportunity to evolve it into a true force for social change if we don’t all start to act in new ways.

People think of film as an art form, movies as an entertainment. An independent producer from an earlier era, Walter Wanger, spoke of movies as ambassadors, cultural ambassadors. In my experience I’ve felt movies are more like community organizers. (And I should note that I was one, and in fact, I once almost very happily worked for ACORN, but that's another story...) A movie’s ability to:

Bring us together

Expand our horizons

Encourage our dreams

Recognize our commonalities

Motivate our actions

Ignite our passions, and

Unite us as a community

is unrivaled. But it is also a power that is all too rarely unleashed. I am so inspired by the potential now before us. I don’t want us to squander it.

I want to ask you all to do something. Imagine the world you’d like, or at least imagine this world being closer to something you like. Look at these simple tools we have before us: films, the Internet, and you. Please recognize what you can now do with them, the power that they contain.

Isn’t it time that we all act? The economy is the toilet, corporations are in control, the gates and access are closing down, but we still have these three things – film, Internet, and community – and I still believe they can change the world.

For the past year I have been striving to set the example of what I am speaking about. One year ago, I used the Internet only for emails and to read newspapers for free. I had never blogged, twittered, been on a social network.

Now I have several blogs, am completely wired, and have thousands of friends and followers who feed me with hope, information, and knowledge. I have hundreds of NEW friends who now work with me building at truly free film culture that is diverse, vibrant, and open to all, a culture driven by participation on all sides, and united in its mission to get good work seen, appreciated and utilized by audiences who choose and act, ones that don’t surrender on impulse to the diet of mediocre drivel that is forced fed to us by what is euphemistically called our entertainment industry.

There is constant chatter by these lucky ones who have “jobs” in the film industry about crisis, but I don’t see a crisis in the same way they do. I see a golden age blooming with more great artists than ever before pushing and pulling the work they love to a deeply engaged and participatory audience.

And that is what I am really here to do tonight: to ask you – this incredible and legendary community – to go one step further, to take the love and appreciation you have for ambitious and humanist cinema, to use the skills you have for community building, to use these tools we all have available to us, and to simply spread the love further out into the world.

Our culture is under siege by the very apparatus that currently delivers this culture to us. But is an easy thing to change. Our fear of the future may still out weigh the pain of the present when it comes to culture, but the price is too high for us to continue to wait.

Write, blog, post, and twitter about the things you enjoy and the reasons why. Become the filter and curator for your family and friends. Don’t allow superficial responses to deeply considered work to permeate further. Don’t wait for the things you want and appreciate to come to you; there is a vibrant community of filmmakers out there eager to bring their work directly to you and discuss it via Skype or iChat or that good old face to face with whatever group you organize. Just reach out! The pleasure that the Woodstock Film Festival brings you each fall can extend through out the year.

Our "indie film" trail has now come to a crossroads. The road to the summit will not be cut by filmmakers alone, but equally drawn by the audience that recognizes how vital a diverse culture truly is.

· We won’t unlock the full potential for narrative unless we break the wall between art and commerce, the project and its marketing, and as artists engage not just in content and production, but also in discovery, promotion, and appreciation.

· We won’t have artists who can afford to create and engage unless we compensate them fully and shed this notion that content should be free but we should pay huge fortunes for the hardware that stores them.

· We won’t have a way to access and offer truly independent work if we don’t have a free and open Internet – true net neutrality.

· We won’t be able to find the unique and personal work, if we don’t all take on the responsibility of curating for our family and friends.

· We won’t have an exhibition industry if we don’t make a point of getting out of homes and sitting together in the dark to enjoy movies on the big screen.

· We won’t have that exhibition industry if we don’t just simply stop showing movies but instead return to putting on a real show.

· We won’t have anyone but the rich making movies in this country if we don’t have affordable education and health care.

Wherever we sit we have to accept the responsibility to promote, enhance, and participate in the culture -- and the apparatus that delivers it – that we want, and to expand the community that already understands this. It means all of us regularly discussing all of these things I raised. Sure, it is a great pleasure to see and talk about films, but it is also now very much a political act and a necessary act.

We all must engage in this way on a regular basis. Lend a hand. Take those five minutes in the morning and those ten at night and spread the good word: there is great work out there and you have seen it. Don’t settle for cats playing the piano, kids speaking at high speeds, or robots battling each other. Demand more.

I stand here tonight because no one likes to hike alone. I know you are all trailblazers and it will take many roads to find our way out of the woods and to that mountaintop. But this mountain is scalable and it is climbable in a very… big… way –- a way that is going to continue to change our world in wonderful and wondrous ways.

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This piece has now been picked up by a few other spots. I truly appreciate the support:

Tribeca Film Festival

Film News Briefs

And referenced here:

Indiewire: Is there a doctor in the house?

Tribeca Film Fest Shout Out On Tax Credit Stall Out

The good folks over at Tribeca asked me to post on the NY State Film & TV Tax Credit debacle.  So I did and surprisingly I was able to come up with a few more things to say...

Read the whole post on their blog.  Let me know your thoughts.
My gist is we all have to be a hell of a lot more vigilant about the issues that may effect us if we want to be able to earn a living working in this field.  I list out a starter course, but really the question is what can we go to dinner on?  And let me know what you think I left out.
Here's the menu:
Net Neutrality—Our ability to access and distribute work and ideas, organize around it, is dependent on this core democratic principle.

Media Consolidation—The lack of an antitrust action has created an environment that is virtually impossible to compete in.

Labor Union Stability—The unrest of this year across the guilds has helped no one.

Copyright Law Revision—The rules are antiquated, protecting corporate interests over the creators, while limiting the audience's access to new art forms.

Copyright Protection—The blatant disregard for artists' rights across the Internet make a bad situation even worse.

Government Funding For The Arts (or lack thereof)—The only work artists can expect to be compensated for are the most blatantly commercial endeavors.

Social Network Rules—The Draconian control different networks exert over user content does not bode well for community hopes of sharing information and content.

Data Portability—Everyone’s right to the information their work generates is a necessary principle if artists are ever going to have a direct relationship with their audiences.

Demystification of Distribution and Exhibition Practices—The last twenty years were about demystifying the production process, but there will be no true independence unless the cycle is made complete.

Exhibition Booking Policies and Practices Revision—Distributors require exhibitors to book on full weeks, restricting their ability to become true community centers, providing their audiences with what they want, when they want it.

New Blood Recruitment for Distribution and Exhibition—Since virtually all of the specialized distribution and exhibition entities are run by people who came of age in the days of pure theatrical exhibition, they yearn for a return to those days and are resistant to new practices.  Or are they?  

Ratings Structure—The current system is not applicable to the diverse work being made today.

Loss of Film Critics’ Old Media Platforms—Our critics were our curators, letting audiences know what to see when, and now most have been fired. Where will our new curators be found? We’ve started HammerToNail to help audiences find the best in true indie American narrative work, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Filmmaker Re-education for this New Media Universe—Let’s face it, we are all a bunch of Luddites. Until we recognize what tools are available and how to use them, we are depriving both ourselves and our audiences from the quality of work we all deserve.

Creation of Indie Film Promotional Portals—How can we see good work when we don’t even know it exists?

Broadband Availability and Strength—America lags behind the rest of the developed world not just in terms of broadband penetration, but also in the quality and level of that broadband service.

Digital Film Archive—As more and more filmmakers move to a digital medium to both originate and finish that work, how will this work be preserved for future generations?

Indie Film History Archive—The history and process of how this work we are now creating will be remembered will be impossible without some joint effort to preserve it.

Hope For The Future pt. 10: The List #'s 39 -42

39. Producers are being recognized for doing more than just sourcing or providing the financing and administrative structure to a production. A good producer makes a better film and not just by making it run smoothly. Sundance – who has been recognizing producers’ contributions for years -- just held its first Creative Producing Initiative. There still remains a lack of clarity in the public’s mind as to what a producer does, but when leading organizations like Sundance take the effort not only to clarify that producing is a creative act, but also help producers to build their creative skills, change will come. This clarity and the restoration of the integrity of the producer credit won’t just restore producers own recognition of self-worth, but will lead to stronger films.

40. Senior film organizations, like the IFP, Film Independent, and IFTVA/AFM are working together, along with advocacy organizations like Public Knowledge to try to maintain key policies crucial to indie’s survival like Net Neutrality and Media Consolidation. If everyone with common interests learned to work together…. Wow.

41. There appears to be real growth beyond navel gazing in terms of subject matter among the new filmmakers. Filmmakers aren’t just interested in whether the boy gets the girl or the boy gets the boy. We seem to be moving beyond strict interpersonal relations in terms of content and looking at a much bigger picture. Chris Smith’s THE POOL, Sean Baker’s PRINCE OF BROADWAY and TAKEOUT, Lance Hammer’s BALAST, and Lee Isaac Chung’s MUNYURANGABO to name a few, point to a much more exciting universe of content to come.

42. New technology makes it all a whole lot better. Whether it is new digital cameras or formats, digital projection, or editing systems, it just keeps getting better, faster, lighter, cheaper. Reduced footprints, sharper images, and quicker turnaround: who amongs us does not believe all these things lead to better films?

On The Soapbox For Net Neutrality

I spoke at The New York Film Academy on Oct 21 to a room of thousands.  Well, not quite, but I did speak, and I got to speak out about the issue that is most crucial to all "independent" filmmakers these days.  This is part two of three.  Part One is mostly focused on what Truly Free Filmmakers need to do in this day and age.  Three is how to keep your passion for filmmaking alive in this cruel, cruel, cruel world.  Check them all out.

Making Net Neutrality The Key Indie Film Issue

If it wasn't clear already, I think Net Neutrality is the key issue for all filmmakers.  

On Saturday morning I gave the Key Note talk for Film Independent's annual Filmmaker Forum.  I posted the speech (A Thousand Phoenix Rising) on Let's Make Better Films.  Please read it.
All this is pretty swell, but it truly illustrates the need for maintaining Net Neutrality.  The internet is the home of free speech and participation.  There is no such thing as free choice if you don't know what the choice is.  To make decisions, we all must be able to access all info immediately and equally.  It's not like old media would have covered something like my talk.

Why The Hysteria?

The hysteria of the last six months in Indieville is built partially on our collective relunctance/slugishness to abandon an old model which has long been recognized as being inapplicable to most filmmakers work, but also out of the slow drip of the inevitable.  For fifteen years we have all heard of the dawning of the new era when we will have instant crystal clear downloads of everything under the sun on every screen everywhere anytime.  And we are waiting and waiting and waiting.  And still waiting.  The reality is the core audience could give a hoot about that future.  They like the here and now just fine (and granted most are old and grey and bald like me -- or two out of three). Reality check: the glorius future is still a long way away still: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2008/09/reports-of-dvd.html.

Have you wondered why though?  Who's keeping you pleasure at arm's length?  Did you know that in the last three years the US had dropped from 3rd to 16th in terms of internet penetration among countries.  I just got back from Asia.  South Korea has 80% Broadband penetration!  Imagine what that could do for all of us.

We can't drag our feet any longer.  We are on the precipice.  Truly.  For the first time in our cultural history, we have the opportunity to truly have the culture we want -- whatever it is, in it's multi-headed truly glorious diversity.  Once all filmmakers had to consider mass audiences.  Now, if you reach them, you can create for niches, even niches that once never existed.  It's hard to even fathom what this means.  But it's also on the verge of being taken away from us.  Truly.  The phone companies, cable companies, the Hollywood Studios, and the MPAA have banded together to take away the first utility to promote democracy (and innovation, participation, and free speech).  On Monday I got to speak up about The Key Issue In The Entire History Of Independent Film at IFP's IFW Filmmaking 2.0 panel: NET NEUTRALITY.  The theater was 33% full at best (ugh), and only six people in the audience said they knew what "Net Neutrality" meant (UGH!)  It's nothing to be embarassed about, but it is something to take action about.  I am going to be writing more about it on my blog INFO WANTS TO BE FREE (one of my many, mind you... please check them all out), but you can get super clear info on it now from both SaveTheInternet.com and PublicKnowledge.org.  On the panel with me was Art Brodsky from the latter entity, and I was completely impressed with him.  Follow that blog, that man, that issue.  We need to get active on this.

I should point out that the presidential candidates have incredibly different views on this subject.  If you want to endorse the candidate that supports Net Neutrality -- and thus by extension truly supports true independent film -- click and give here.  And if you are in NYC next Monday, you know where you should be (or will when you click there).

Net Neutrality Is Not The Fairness Doctrine

The Conservatives at The FCC have been up to the old dis-info game.  Robert McDowell, one of the two FCC commisioners to recently vote AGAINST the Comcast judgement, tried to rally the right by linking Net Neutrality to the abandoned Fairness Doctrine.  

I, for one, would love to see the Fairness Doctrine return, and with it the respect for all voices that the "public" in public airwaves demand, but find this sort of deliberate confusion quite frustrating.   

Are Your Rights Being Violated?

Boing Boing hipped me to the Electronic Frontier Foundations's ISP Testing Tool "Switzerland".

It's particularly resonant that EFF released this just prior to the FCC fining Comcast for violating Net Neutrality.  Now we all check to make sure that no one is given preferential treatment or being denied access.  Citizen Law Enforcers Unite!

"Until now, there hasn't been a reliable way to tell if somebody -- a hacker, an ISP, corporate firewall, or the Great Firewall of China -- is modifying your Internet traffic en route."

Net Neutrality: The Key Issue

I imagine Net Neutrality will be a regular focus here at IW2BF.  I am by no means an expert on it, but I do recognize that my opportunity as a Content Creater (aka Film Producer) to access audiences hinges on it.  As a general audience member too, I relish my ability to watch what I want, when I want it, and resist anyone telling me what to watch (without me first selecting that curator that is) or restricting my or anyone's ability to access it.  It is precisely this open access that I love about the Internet.  And it is this that the TeleCo's and others wish to end.

Fortunately, there are a lot of people working to preserve Net Neutrality.  The first thing you need to do is go to www.savetheinternet.com  and sign their petition, write to your rep in congress, and get their regular email blast.  It's a great site.
There are also a lot of good articles that you can find on the subject: