Why Don't We Have MORE Mindblowing Movies?!!

We were promised jetpacks.

That pretty much sums up the state of culture for me. Maybe I am greedy. I have far more movies that I want to see than I have time on earth, so I shouldn't be complaining, right?  I know that we can match people with the movies that they will respond to so much better than we do now. Everyone is in a similar boat of grand abundance. But still...  We were promised jetpacks, and have cheese spread instead.

Is it that we don't try hard enough to create truly original work? Or is it some flaw in the environment, an outside contagion? In America, I recognize we have tremendously diverse work -- and granted it is remains a bit difficult to discover it, even when it is out there. But at the same time, since we have no actual government support for the cinematic arts, the films that are well funded are generally forced to pursue the path of what is expected to sell. Most people determine what will sell by what has sold before. It is not so surprising that most of the work is consequently derivative .

I remember once being told by an executive -- who claimed to truly love the mindblowing film I was trying to get support for -- that he would do my movie in a heartbeat...  provided I had ten other ones just like it, so that if he built an audience for groundbreaking work, the time and expense he went to building that community would not be squandered. I recognize that ours is an economy of scale.  Nothing can be done just for a single audience (right?). However, I also recognize that our biggest independent successes are frequently the films that are doing something very different from what the mainstream is doing (Paranormal Activity, The Passion Of The Christ, Farenheit 9/11).

So why can't we deliver movies that consistently take us to another place? Can't we train ourselves to deviate from the norm?  Why does so much of the work have to be so damn derivative?  What happened to the WTF moment being a staple of cinema?  Isn't part of the artist's obligation to show where we could go?  Had we been around in 1902 for Melies' A Trip To The Moon and then dreamed of where the voyage of cinema would take us, I can't help but think we would not still be stuck at this place and time on earth. We can go FURTHER. What is holding us back?

First The Feature (Script), Then The Short

We hosted Anna Boden as an Artist In Residence at The San Francisco Film Society recently.  I found it interesting to hear her say she and Ryan Fleck had been inspired by Peter Sollet's RAISING VICTOR VARGAS and the prize-winning short that preceded it 5 FEET HIGH & RISING.  They had written the HALF NELSON script and in trying to figure out how to do a short that could help get the feature made they decided to shift the focus away from the focus on the teacher (later played by Ryan Gosling in the feature) and put in on Shareeka Epps the student (and who stars in each the short and feature).  This is the short  GOWANUS BROOKLYN that helped get the feature HALF NELSON shot.

Who Is Making The Best Short Films Out There?

If you were going to give an award to the "Best Short Film Director", what would be the criteria? I think the director would have to have made at least three shorts. Maybe over a five year period. If a director only has made two shorts, my sense is that they aren't doing it for the love of the short, but more for their "career". Three shows a commitment to the form. Making one great, or even two great short films does not detract from the strength of those shorts, but again it does not show the devotion to the form. Now, as I believe that the dominance of the feature film form is on it's last legs, and that ending it is TGHOTFOC, I think we will see even more great short directors in the years ahead. Presently though, I am a bit at a loss to nominate multiple directors who have made three or more excellent shorts. Nonetheless, that limitation does not reduce my enthusiasm for my nomination.

I had the good fortune of being asked to be a judge at TropFest NYC this year. It was an incredible program, and in the highlights of years passed, I was reminded of how great Nash Edgerton's short work is (I also dig his feature The Square). Can you name a filmmaker who has made three shorts stronger than these:

LUCKY (Tropfest Finalist TSI "Umbrella")

SPIDER was the short film that brought Nash to my attention. I have blogged about it before.

BEAR is Nash's sequel to SPIDER and it's pretty f'n awesome too (although having set a high bar with SPIDER, I confess I wanted things to go even further with BEAR). Unfortunately I can only find this teaser online to share with you, but trust me. He hits the trifecta with these. Maybe if Nash wants to win the HFF "Best Short Film Director" Award, he'll have to put the full version online for you to decide...

Who would you nominate for "Best Short Film Director"? But remember, they must have done three excellent shorts.

PS. Nash's partners at Blue Tongue deserve some extra kudos for their entire body of work (Kieran Darcy-Smith "Wish You Were Here", David Michod "Animal Kingdom", Spencer Susser "I Love Sarah Jane"). If the film business had any sense, they'd give these guys a heap of money to do whatever they wanted... #Just Saying

What Is The Great Hope For The Future Of Cinema?

Or for that matter, what do you think can really change and move things forward in both the near and distant future? If we could ask five key people what they saw on our various horizons, what would they show us? Who should we ask?  One of the great things about being pointed in a direction, is that it is almost a path. Could we have walked down that road when Francis Ford Coppola predicted YouTube in 1991:

It is not easy to just boil down to one specific all the various change that is swarming over us at this point.  I see major shifts coming in so many different aspects of cinema: discovery, consideration, value/return, participation, collaboration, transitioning, immersion, and many others. The fact that this far down the road of a connected culture we have not wed social and content together may speak of the resistance to change, but also of the tidal wave that will one day hit us. That all said, I think that all of us -- creators, appreciators, entrepreneurs, & passive audiences members, are going to truly be best served by another aspect all together.

If you ask me, one of the big next changes and TGHFTFOC (see title) is the end of the dominance of the feature film form. Now don't get me wrong: I love feature films more than any other manufactured entity. I have devoted my labor to the creation, enhancement, and appreciation of the form. I just see many trends leading to feature-length linear-narrative passive-engagement work's decreasing relevance, along with many indications that it won't be a bad thing when all participants in both the film industry and culture look at a far widening realm of creation, participation, and consumption.

Perhaps though it is that the end of dominance of the feature film form is a symptom of something even greater. Or maybe it is just another chicken vs. egg paradox. Regardless, the industry and culture are both waking to and adopting a move from a one-off paradigm where each new creative work requires reinventing the wheel and instead embracing both a business model and community focus on an ongoing conversation between the story world initiators and those that engage with it. This abandonment of requiring each new tale to be able to not just stand but forever sprint on its own two feet is not only logical and practical but offers many new opportunities.

I eventually will go in to far greater detail on this (particularly when I can find the time to do so), but want to get this conversation moving forward. I wonder why it is still only the outliers who are in this discussion.

Still for now, we can surely see the benefit of expanding our scripts to include a series of narrative & character extensions. We recognize that each work represents an opportunity for collaborations that we have yet to dream of. We can empower those without traditional access to work with us on building previously neglected connections and launch pads. Our stories and fantasies do not need to begin or end with our renderings but can foster new works and continual creation. We can combat the challenges of living in an era of super-abundance and non-filters by championing greater value in community focus.

The easy way is a path to irrelevance. Temporally manipulative, crowd-based consumptive,  audio-visually focused content stopped long ago as being both the art form and entertainment outlet most indicative of our time. The new form is all of that and more. It won't only reflect our era, but lead us into a better world. And it starts with saying good bye to the cultural & economic dominance of antiquated concept.  

Love What You Do (Waves Of Gratitude)

Mickey Smith's "Dark Side Of The Lens" captures a passion for a life worth living, or scraping as the case may be. A cool wave of water washing over the pleasure of using your labor towards creative ends. As we chisel and nail let's not forget that the real reward is the doing.

DARK SIDE OF THE LENS from Astray Films on Vimeo.

Films Are Magic

How great is it to be lost into a short, transported, and then to recognize -- know again -- what you have known for so long: that movies are magic.

Out Of A Forest from Tobias Gundorff Boesen on Vimeo.

Okay I really like The National, and I really like stop motion, and beautiful lighting -- and yes there is a part of me that is a sucker for both nostalgia, innocence lost, and cute furry animals, so...

(via Flavorpill)

What If You Could Escape Your Daily Routine?

I met Steven Briend at the Disposable Film Festival last year. I liked his papercraft stop motion "magic" short PROTEIGON. I just got to see his new short SHUNPO which is a nice bit of dance on film with another tad of cinema magic thrown in with excellent results. Check it out:
SHUNPO by stevenbriand

What if we could escape our daily routine for a moment ? A Step, just one, that could move us miles away from here, in a second; a flash step. A Shunpo. Shunpo was shot in 6 days in 13 different locations in Paris plus one in Turkey at "Tuz Göllü" salt lake. The camera used was a Canon 5D Mark III with 16-35 L, 24-70L and 70-200L lenses.