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The Path To The New Model: Join The Community

by Ted Hope
March 3, 2011 1:15 AM
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It is easy to speak and to write of community, but how do we actually work together to make it better? We are dispersed across the globe, some professional, some amateur, but all driven by passion for a more diverse and ambitious film culture. We have the tools. We have the know how, but we still have a long road before us. Stepping down the path requires us to put one foot in front of the other, and make some progress, even if it might be in the wrong direction. Today's guest post is from filmmaker and lecturer James Fair, a regular contributor to this blog and discussion.

The web is full of amateurs that can collectively fail a whole number of times until a pattern of success can be accumulated from the collective mass. A website like HopeForFilm/TrulyFreeFilm charts the various different experiments that people are taking and enables us to benefit from the cumulative thought. Can this be the path to a new model for Truly Free Film?

I don’t believe that this process is entirely new or exclusive to the Internet. History is full of examples where many people simultaneously chased identical goals, often experimenting along similar lines until circumstances played a big part of what technologies and processes were kept. For example, the history of the film camera has a variety of notable pioneers (Muybridge, Dickson, Edison, Lumiere to name a few), each influencing one another in processes of refinement and standardization until we arrived with many of the specifications that we have continued to use to this day (gauges, frame rates etc.). History has a tendency of simplifying the past with the fallacy of narrative. We forget the turbulence of emerging trends and technologies and formulate a neat recollection of how and when things appeared. Let’s look at playback technology alone; did you buy Betamax or VHS? Did you buy laser-disc or wait for DVD? Were you Blu-Ray at the start or did you gamble on HD-DVD first? If you bought into the wrong one of these technologies you made a costly mistake; such is the price of being at the cutting edge!

I have written a few times upon TFF about the ‘paradigm shift’ and the fact that we are encountering new ways of thinking about every aspect of filmmaking: production, distribution and exhibition. The most exciting and simultaneously daunting factor about these new ways of thinking are that the methods are not yet fixed and established. When the ‘digital revolution’ was being heralded at the end of the last millennium and the disintegration of traditional models began, few envisaged that it would take a lot longer to establish new protocols and procedures. We seem to have been left with the ‘age of uncertainty’.

In many ways, digital technology has developed an affordable culture of trial and error. Many people like myself are just shooting our features and seeing what sticks and works. This is the ‘amateur’ way, driven on passion and enthusiasm. Marshall McLuhan argued that this ‘amateur’ way led to some important discoveries that ‘professionals’ and ‘experts’ never envisaged because they had fixed modes of thinking that prevented them questioning the ground rules. McLuhan used Michael Faraday as an example of a scientist who made great scientific discoveries, because of, not despite of his lack of formal education. McLuhan included The Beatles as a further example of young pioneers who pushed boundaries, not because of any great formal knowledge of what they were doing, but because they were empowered to explore all music without limitation.

The unique benefit of the Internet is that these experiments are not taking place in isolation anymore. We have the cumulative effect of many minds all addressing the problems that we face. Critics, like Andrew Keen, argue that the ‘wisdom of crowds’ is not very valuable if everyone is unknowledgeable in the first place. But here on Truly Free Film/ Hope For Film it appears Ted fosters a broad cross-section of filmmakers, all in a perpetual state of interaction so that good practice can be shared and understanding accelerated.

Tomorrow, we'll look at how sharing our failure can lead to our mutual success.

James is a lecturer at in Film Technology at Staffordshire University. His latest feature, The Ballad of Des & Mo, was shot and edited in 72 hours at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2010 and was in the Audience Top Ten. The film screened last month (Saturday 12th Feb) alongside the Berlinale Film Festival – people interested in future screenings & bookings can email{encode=" james@hellocamera.ie" title=" james@hellocamera.ie"}

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