Digital and DIY

I’m working on my contribution to my workshop panel at SCMS and have found myself thinking quite a bit about the relationship between digital video (DV) and the recent DIY culture that has grown up around it, which we’ve certainly seen among some of my favorite film bloggers. Because this is a workshop panel, I have a little more room to speculate and point towards interesting possibilities rather than reaching conclusions (which is kind of nice). These thoughts are all over the place right now, and I’d love to hear from indie filmmakers (and other interested folks) on some of these issues.

With that in mind, I’ll be tracking a few links to blog entries, websites, articles, and other materials that have been informing my thinking on these issues. I’ve already mentioned my interest in the buzz around My Space: The Movie and my curiosity about Dylan Avery’s Loose Change, which calls into question many of the claims about the September 11 attacks (I’ll try to write a short review later, but the doc does raise some interesting questions).

But as I’ve mentioned, I’m also very interested in the DIY community that seems to be forming in (or near) my corner of the film blogosphere. In particular, Sujewa has been incredibly active, not only in promoting his Date Number One, which I can’t wait to see, but also a punk rock DIY ethos. He’s also asking some important questions about whether DIY filmmaking can be a “day job,” which I think is an important question when it comes to the autonomy of the filmmaker and his or her work. I’m inclined to disagree with Sujewa to some extent and suggest that it’s relatively rare that a DIY movie maker can earn enough to make it a full-time gig, even if the quality of work is quite good, but I’m certainly open to hearing from others who might be more optomistic than I am.

David Lowery also discusses some of the issues at stake with regards to DIY, namely the distribution question. Of course digital distribution has been celebrated as an alternative to theatrical release, but like David (and Sujewa), I’m still pretty attached to the big screen (and here, I find David’s comparison with the music industry quite helpful). David also discusses the role of a filmmaker’s signature in using DIY priciples, specifically when he discusses the marketing/promotion of Mark Cuban-Steven Soderbergh experiments with “day-and-date” release for Bubble, which relied heavily on Soderbergh’s reuptation as a pop experimentalist.

There’s also a nice collection of links at Self-Reliant Filmmaking, where Paul Harrill has been asking some interesting questions over last few weeks. He also mentions the International Documentary Challenge, which sounds really interesting (and I think this short form can be an effective way of putting together an interesting doc).

I do have another question that may be difficult to answer: I’ve noticed that my digital DIY culture, is well, pretty much a boy’s club. I’m certainly aware that women are doing interesting work in independent film and video, but I can’t help but think that the construction of this version of DIY filmmaking has somehow been coded as male, and I’m wondering what might be producing that perception.

Finally, just a couple of additional pointers to atuthor Rick Schmidt’s website, where he is proting his filmmaking manual, Extreme DV at Used Car Prices, and to the Lost Film Festival, which looks like an interesting venue.

Update: Here’s some more information about Four Eyed Monsters, one of the more interesting self-distributed film projects I’ve encountered. Their video podcasts are highly entertaining and do a fantastic job of creating demand for the film (one of the film’s directors, Susan Buice, notes that each episode of their video podcast series has been downloaded 50,000 times, which would not be an insignificant audience for a low-budget indie).


  1. Jason Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    I’m curious if there’s any conversation on the film side of things about games like “The Movies,” which in many ways seems to formalize in gameplay the growing scene of machinima. Something like The Movies not only provides mechanisms for creating independent animated cinema, but also addresses the distribution question, with a built-in audience watching, reviewing, and creating films…

    I haven’t followed the machinima scene long enough to offer anything much more valuable, but it strikes me as a particularly interesting sub-culture of DIY film-making. As I recall, there was one film that made the rounds in the MSM around the time of the French riots, which I think was made using The Movies, or was at least machinima of some sort.

  2. Chuck Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 10:18 am

    Interesting. I missed the story about the machinima film circulating during the French riots> I’ve seen some of the machinima stuff, but not nearly as much as I should have. I’ll dig around this morning (or afternoon) and see what I can find.

  3. Jason Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 1:54 pm

    This was the one I was thinking of:

    Note the additional commentary citing the copyright policies tied up in using The Movies… another twist to the mix.

  4. Chuck Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

    Ohhh….I remember that Movies game now! The copyright issues are interesting. Here’s a direct link to the Boing Boing entry, Amazon’s page on The Movies, and the film, The French Democracy, itself.

  5. Chuck Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 2:14 pm

    BTW, I’m not getting any sound from the Democracy video. Is that normal or am I missing something?

  6. Chuck Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 2:15 pm

    Never mind, I started playing it again, and the sound ws finally working. Must have been a glitch somewhere along the way.

  7. Sujewa Ekanayake Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 9:26 pm

    Hey Chuck,

    Thanks for the mention. You will soon get to see “Date Number One” (this weekend?), all the major cutting is done, but I think I still have about a week of audio fine tuning, mixing, color correction junk and trying out never-before-performed-on-the-current-system stuff like burning a 1.5 hrs long movie onto a DVD left to do. This is my first time using an editing program from the Final Cut family (I’m using FC Express), so things are going slower.

    Re: DIY filmmaking & distro as a dayjob, I am sure there are a few people out there who are doing it now (Todd Verow? Jon Moritsugu?). They are at least making some money, I think/it looks like, from their largely self-distributed filmmakig businesses. Maybe DIY film making & distro as PT job if not a FT job initially.

    But I do think it is totally possible to become a self-sustaining FT DIY filmmaker/self-distributor & afford a normal life (not live in a tree house, not use a 1980’s cell phone, etc.). The films have to be good, and the distro work needs to be carried out well. If they can do it in indie rock, we should be able to do it in indie film. I’ll let you know in a few months (by Nov ’06 lets say) how I am doing, revenue wise, on DNO self-distro.

    Later on, keep up the blogging, glad you are on vacation.


  8. Chuck Said,

    February 27, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

    Well, I wouldn’t call it a “vacation.” It’s just a break. 😉

    I’ll be out of town from Thursday until early Monday morning, so it may be a week or so, but definitely count me in. I can’t wait to see it.

    Good luck with the editing and audio work.

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