Software as the key artform of the 21st Century

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Isn’t it time we stopped talking about media and returned to the term artform?

A medium is ultimately physical in our understanding of it, no matter how enhanced or extended it may be.

For me, one of the main achievements of the digital revolution is to have separated creative content from media. Now, no longer bound by the existing hardware models with all their limitations, we are free to explore our various artforms via software, a far more natural environment for creative material.

Technology has always impacted upon cultural development, in particular the arts. All you have to do is look at the Russian avant garde and the impact of the machine on art, or in the explosion of media in particular, from radio on up throughout the 20th century.

The rising tide of digital technology as the end of the 20th century which has matured at the start of this century, given the wide dispersal of computers and the emergence of broadband globally, gave birth to a new internet culture which has impacted hugely on existing media.

We’ve been distracted by how digital technology mimics a medium really well, how it extends them and combines them with other technologies. Those three steps are present in each of the creative fields, most clearly in music. There it took on the genre of music completely, extended the creative options for musicians and spearheaded the new distribution channels for music. These cultural forces, experienced as rapid changes to humanity, are almost alive in how unstoppable and progressive they are.

Not all existing media fare well out of this, television as a medium was in trouble long before digital culture emerged. The structure of television, top down, one to many, rigid control of content, only a few outlets per nation, had been incredibly limiting over the years, and it had ended up myopically examining itself as the last century closed with top ten shows focussed on television’s own inventory. If music had faced similar limitations it would have withered and died.

The net disbands completely these kinds of structure, they have no place there. The recent economic downturn and the shift away from advertising saw those old models crumble alarmingly quickly, it became clear that the boom and advertising were all that was holding up the existing ways of doing business.

This dispersal of content creation opens up the very basics of each artform for questioning. As a creator of course, It matters not whether it’s individuals or groups of individuals, active independent content producers or production companies, all bets are off. And ultimately one major question we all face is that of production finance. Who’ll finance these?

Our focus now, both on creative work and it’s dissemination should be on exploring developing software with a view to creating work and it’s expression and communication. The creators of software whether it’s new services online or applications, are the structuring limitation or future liberators, the new artists in our mix. If Film was the artform of the 20th century. Software is the key artform of the 21st.

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Earlier thoughts on software here and here.
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32A in Cinemas

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We’re finally in the cinemas in Ireiand with our feature, 32A. It’s been a long haul and the final step is one we have to take ourselves.

Independent cinema faces a lot of new challenges. On the one side, there’s competition for audience eyeballs from the internet and computer gaming. And on the other, filmmakers encounter increasing distributor nervousness. The studios are pumping out bigger and bigger tentpole movies, pretty soon you won’t be able to pick out the big movies in the cinema, they’ll all be big. And those smaller films find it harder and harder to get a release. We’ve forged some relationships with exhibitors and are putting the film out in Ireland ourselves. So a risk, but hopefully with a good outcome. We’re going with our gut, hey, it’s got us this far.

As a filmmaker, exhibition is very necessary phase. The film only becomes real when you sit with the audience and you feel and hear them respond. It’s almost physical, the sense of an audience going with a film. I’d say the other side is true also, losing them can be as painful as it gets. We’ve been very fortunate however, and had really great audience response and feedback in screenings at festivals so far. I can’t wait until I pick a random screening and pop in to see how it plays.

Dublin: IFI Cinemas
Booking office: 01.679.5744
Book Online

Carrick on Shannon: Cineplex
Booking office: 071.967.2000
Book Online

Sligo: Gaiety Cinema
Booking office: 071.917.4001






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Alles

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There’s many nice things you can receive in the post from a festival, an acceptance letter, a prize and hey, a cheque is always good.

Last week, we got an envelope at the office we didn’t expect. The Berlinale sent us out an envelope with t-shirts for each of our lead actresses, all wrapped up in festival posters for them, together with a photo for each of them and a lovely one of Marian at the Q&A in Berlin. There was a nice letter from the festival director and a press pack and DVD of still images from the premiere.

But best of all was a whole stack of filled in response sheets to the film. The first to catch my eye was one with only one word on it, they ticked the ‘sehr gut’ box and simply wrote ‘Alles“ for what they liked, really just great to hear. Theirs was the briefest, others had plenty to say. About half of them were in German and the other half in English and I’m definitely going to have someone translate them for me. It was a total kick reading through the english ones and what people’s response to the film was.

It says so much of the festival that they do this, the Festival was two months ago, they are one of the world’s leading film festivals, they really didn’t have to do any of this. And the thought came to me, that perhaps they are one of the best festivals in the world, simply because they do things like this, the little things that make such a difference.

I definitely have my own personal ‘sehr gut’ and ‘Alles’ to the good people working in the Berlinale Office, who were a pleasure to deal with from start to finish.

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The Problem with Punk

Peter Carlton of Film Four in the UK has said that they make films your mother wouldn't like. If you're a filmmaker it's a constant mantra from financiers... "hip and edgy".

A few years back, I went to the local supermarket and was loading up the aisles when I noticed the music over the tannoys. 'White Riot' by The Clash. I laughed to myself as I loaded up the pizzas. "White Riot, I wanna riot. White Riot, I wanna riot on my own..." Someone must have been asleep at the scheduling wheel or having a laugh. But no... the dulcet tones of Larry Gogan followed; "That was today's Golden Oldie..."

Hold on, that was White Riot... on Radio 1... in the mid-afternoon... on Larry Gogan... as a Golden-Freakin'-Oldie.

I recalled the NME during the punk era and what they called men of a certain age. 'Boring Old Farts' was the term they coined. Is this what's happened, have all the punks become the boring old farts who run the show?

My generation sneered at those hippies who were becoming middle-aged guys, still with the long hair and beads. But hey now, it's my generations turn. Angry Punk Dads, pushing shopping carts, loading up with stuff for the kids, somewhere inside still giving the world the finger.

When I ask my students who watches TV every day, a handful put up their hands. When I ask who goes online everyday, they all do. They are the Add Me generation. The current crop of Gen Ys and Millenials are a far nicer, more connected and more concerned bunch than the set of Angry Punk Dads that have preceeded them.

They're not that hip or edgy really, in fact they're rather nice. My mother probably would like them... perhaps she should have a word with Peter. Television might be losing it's audience in more ways than one.


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Once




Saw 'Once' again.... I love this movie...

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Don't try to be original, just try to be good...



Nothing quite an old geezer who knows his stuff.... Paul Rand discussing his approach to work.


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32A trailer



The trailer for our upcoming feature film, 32A, being premiered in Galway at the Film Fleadh this Friday. There’s more information at the Janey Pictures website.

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Four Eyed Monsters on YouTube

I blogged about these two before. They have now put their feature, all of it, on YouTube for free and legal viewing for one week only.... They have a promotion whereby for each viewers who sign up with Spout, a film review site, Spout will give them 1 dollar. Sign up and help these guys get out of debt and hopefully working on their next feature.



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Susan and Arin

I’ve followed these two for the past couple of years... it’s been amazing to watch them fulfill what the ongoing development of digital media has promised.

Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, and their project Four Eyed Monsters.

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They are two filmmakers who, like many others, set out to make their first feature.

They were perhaps unwitting pioneers in a way, building an online presence around their project which ultimately absorbed their film and became bigger than it. it’s been great to follow it, each step of the way, not just uploading video, but building a community around their project, exploring everything from a premiere on Second Life to Google mashups for screenings.

They give me heart in that it’s not the future, it’s now. It’s the first time I’ve seen filmmakers act like musicians, making their stuff and marketing and distributing it themselves and operating at a certain level. The entire project is open and brave and full of humour and life, genuinely engaging...

The podcasts track the development of the film, its trials and tribulations through production and festival runs and now distribution. They’re funny and touching and really one of the best things on iTunes. I’d recommend watching the podcasts in sequence, including all the little bits promotional stuff... and then catching the film. They have the DVD on sale on their site.

It might tell you something of the impact of this project when you watch the purchasers of the DVD upload videos to YouTube of them opening the packages and popping them in their players. I love the fact that an audience felt that kind of connection, especially for an indie low budget feature.



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The future of film financing?

Cinematech recently did some interesting coverage of current projects out there seeking finance online, Howard Dean style.

http://cinematech.blogspot.com/

It’s too easy to view these projects a little harshly, and no doubt some of them may be finding finance difficult for a reason. But generally I think that would be too simple. Film financing is such a complex problem, this approach has many benefits.

Documentaries
This could suit some documentaries really well. A lot of documentary makers have unique problems, their projects typically develop over years and they progress through actually shooting stuff, as opposed to pitching and refining scripts and creative packages. They go and gather material, often tons of it, offering them good opportunities for disseminating it in new ways.

I can see documentary makers building rich and illuminating web presences which track their projects, offering their individual backers an ongoing relationship and insight into it’s progress.

That would certainly work well with political or advocacy style projects which highlight issues and can attract an audience who care about the issue.

Drama Features
Even excellent drama projects face many hurdles. I remember during financing our first feature the Coen brother’s finance disintegrated. It happens all the time in film no matter where you are on the Hollywood food chain.

It’s because the chunks involved are just so big. The pressure is always on, you are exposed to the vagaries of that particular source of finance. If something goes awry, a whole side of your film’s finance falls away and the entire structure can collapse.

And as a result people enter it cautiously. The financiers are exposed to a high level and are cautious as a result, the film makers are exposed to their nervousness.

Even getting the initial finance is unpredictable. In the US, it’s usually the ‘guy’, whoever it is at the top of the food chain, and whether he ‘gets it’. ‘yeah, I get it’ can be a green light in the US of A. Over in the EU, it’s about panels and committees, equally unpredictable, their version of ‘I get it’ is usually an avalanche of required documentation, combined with panel members who aren’t exposed but nonetheless whose opinion is taken on board. Go figure that one out. Gimme the ‘I get it’ guy any day.

We had eight sources of finance in our film, the legal documentation totalled over 2000 pages. A part of me is wondering if I’d prefer 2000 sources of finance each with the same 1 page contract.

And if one or two go wobbly, would it all fall apart?

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The Angelus

The Angelus
A short film parodying the Angelus as portrayed on RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster. Backed by The Irish Film Board's Short Shorts Scheme. A Janey Pictures production.
Formats available: Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)
Tags:drama, parody, short, film, irish


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Come To

A short film by Marian Quinn

A story about Kathy Farrell, an Irishwoman living in New York. A series of stills trace out this woman’s life. A series of scenes trace out her stay in hospital. A stationary camera takes her point of view throughout. In a coma, she lies mute, fading in and out of consciousness as her inept and fussing family or drunken and concerned friends come in and visit, culminating with the visit of her abusive boyfriend.

Format: 16mm colour Sound: Optical Mono Duration: 15 minutes. Festivals include: New Irish Shorts - New York / Film Fleadh - Galway / Raindance - London / Kino Irish Festival - Manchester. A Janey Pictures Production
Formats available: Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)
Tags:short, film, drama, woman, drama


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