From Free Film Movement to Cluetrain: the importance of personal filmmaking


Streamers by PixieTart from Flikr CC"As filmmakers we believe that no film can be too personal. The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments. Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.”

"For every entry in the encyclopedia, there is now a Web site. For any idea you can imagine — and some you can't — there are thousands of articles and images electronically swirling around the globe. But that's not the real story. That's not the big news. The word that's going around, the word that's finally getting out, is something much larger, far more fundamental. The word that's passing like a spark from keyboard to screen, from heart to mind, is the permission we're giving ourselves and each other: to be human and to speak as humans."

Looking again at James MacGregor's guide to the Free Film Movement  this morning, I was struck by how similar its founding statement is to some of the central ideas of Cluetrain. For those who haven't heard of it (which until a few months back included me), The Cluetrain Manifesto is an essay published by Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger in 1999 looking at how business and communication was evolving on the Internet. Unlike the typical corporate sponsored report of that period, Cluetrain recognised a massive sea change in nature of business transactions, shifting from heavy top down systems (we will tell you what to buy) to loose non-heirarchical structures like eBay, and tranposing this shift to communication and the media saw a revolution brewing. At its heart is the idea that only by becoming more personal - as personal as is humanly possible - would an organisation or individual be able to stand out on the web where there are billions of pages and products competing for attention.

What's remarkable about the essay is that, with the explosion of blogs, vlogs, and sites like Flickr, MySpace, Digg, DeviantArt and Del.icio.us is how true this has proven to be, especially in the creative world. Like Hakim Bay's Pirate Utopias and the Temporary Autonomous Zone, it has been one of those defining texts that in retrospect look almost prophetic.

"From another perspective, the news is not good at all. Everybody's miserable. Everybody's had about enough. People are sick to death of being valued only as potential buyers, as monetary grist for some modern-day satanic mill.

They're sick of working for organizations that treat them as if they didn't exist, then attempt to sell them the very stuff they themselves produced. Why is a medium that holds such promise — to connect, to inspire, to awaken, to enlist, to change — being used by companies as a conduit for the kind of tired lies that have characterized fifty years of television? Business has made a ventriloquist's trick of the humanity we take for granted. The sham is ludicrous. The corporation pretends to speak, but its voice is that of a third-rate actor in a fourth-rate play, uttering lines no one believes in a manner no one respects.

Oh well. That's OK. We'll get by. We've got each other.

I have to laugh as I write that. The Internet audience is a strange crew, to be sure. But we're not talking about some Woodstock lovefest here. We don't all need to drop acid and get naked. We don't need to pledge our undying troth to each other, or to the Revolution, or to the bloody Cluetrain Manifesto for that matter. And neither does business.

All we need to do is what most of us who've discovered this medium are already doing: using it to connect with each other, not as representatives of corporations or market segments, but simply as who we are... Tell us some good stories and capture our interest. Don't talk to us as if you've forgotten how to speak. Don't make us feel small. Remind us to be larger. Get a little of that human touch. "

 

But how does this apply to filmmaking in the web age? One of the most common criticisms of indie British cinema in the last decade is how how derrivative and similar much of it is - somewhere between a Working Title rom-com, a low grade horror and a gangster flic. These aren't the films you see leading on YouTube's most popular page. There you see - most often - human beings doing something (creating, dancing, scoring a goal, juggling, falling over, singing, playing the trumpet, impersonating, rapping) which is unique. The technical quality seems irrelevent. The interest seems to be something personal, uniquely and unapologetically human.

Admittedly much of YouTube's most popular stuff is glorified party tricks aimed at short attention span teenagers - the real treats are layers deeper in the dozens of millions of films hosted there. But the same patterns seem else where, after watching dozens of video blogs, it's the tender sensitivity of something like 29fragiledays that stands out. In the inventive 7 Maps project, which has been running this week, Vlogger Daniel at PouringDown.TV has challenged his viewers to challenge him by setting instructions of where to travel to and what to film each day for a seven day period complete with technical restrictions and a Wiki to collaboratively decide what his mission should be. [He also managed to raise over $2000 in funding for the project from small donations from his viewers via group fundraising site fundable.org].  But amidst these seven films, (of which I have only seen the first six) it was the one that focussed on something quite human and personal, as opposed to those which were clever or even the most attractive to look at that best caught my attention - and judging by the comments I wasn't alone.

It makes sense. There are potentially billions of filmmakers now with digi cameras, camcorders and mobile phones who can make films which mimic on some level that which we've already seen in a cinema or on TV, and the web provides a free global platform for all of them. But coming back round, via the ideas of ClueTrain, to the British Free Film Movement - the 1956 no-budget 16mm British movement that predated Dogme and Cinema Verite, there is some hope for those of us who will never see a big budget and want to express something beyond that which commercial TV and cinema currently offers. For amidst the countless pages of the web, what is left then to stand out, but our own story, our experience and perception of the world?

“With a 16mm camera, and minimal resources, and no payment for your technicians, you cannot achieve very much in commercial film terms. You cannot make a feature film and your possibilities of experimenting are extremely limited. But you can use your eyes and your ears. You can give indications. You can make poetry.”
Lorenza Mazzetti, Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reiz, Tony Richardson - The Free Film Movement

read - the Cluetrain Manifesto

James MacGregor's Groundbreakers, The Free Film Movement in British Cinema

 

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Comments   

0 # thanks for the quotesGuest 2006-08-12 16:08
Nicol, thanks! When I wrote those passages seven years ago, I could not have imagined what the net would be like today. In some respects I\\\\\\\'m quite encouraged. But then I see Rupert Murdoch in that arrogant stance on the cover of WIRED and I want to puke (see my embedded MySpace tribute to him here birdfluent (myspace.com/birdfluent)). Nonetheless, I suspect we ain\\\\\\\'t seen nothin yet -- from both positive and negative perspectives.
0 # Dinosaurs can\'t dance...Guest 2006-08-13 12:24
Nicole: Your harmony to the Cluetrain melody is much appreciated.

The Internet allows us all to be more in touch with our inner Emma Goldman - and we are all voting progressively earlier and more often to have no part of any revolution in which we cannot dance.

Keep the beat.

XOXOXO,
Kevin
0 # ciclemaniacGuest 2006-08-14 01:51
8) since i met the manifesto ...
and a weirdo named rageboy ...
it kept me tracking the tao of light or psi or princes of serendip ...

2day i brought me, lucknow?, 2 offers ...
* I could take you to Benaras to a place connected to Kuthumi Baba
* [ Diese Seite ?bersetzen ]I would be happy to learn of your activities and explore prospects for further conversation and cooperation, from interlinking sites up to picking some global challenge together. Dr. Yitzhak I. Hayutman, The Academy of Jerusalem ... www.newciv.org/cob/members/benking/SharingVoices.html

which one to follow; or isnt there a choice, voiding ...
;-)
+1 # Seven YearsGuest 2006-08-14 07:43
When did Netribution begin? 1999. When did the Cluetrain get mobile? 1999. Yet it took seven years for people at Netribution to discover the Cluetrain and seven years for a people who signed the original Cluetrain Manifesto to discover Netribution. That for me is what the web is about and what film is about, it\'s about crossing boundaries.

When we cross such boundaries we are driven to a different view of the world and if that differences serves to change the way we talk, the way we look at life or even moves us a single inch from transient communication (which is generally what blogging is), to the lesser traveled field of rich media (which is only as wealthy as our imaginations allow it to be), then we become seven years richer for the experience and seven years wiser for the development.

We won\'t change this world simply by finding our human voice, but in how that voice reconnects the disconnected parts of our life and how much more intelligent we become by moving across boundaries and acquainting ourselves with environments that where not naturally our own. The economics of intellectual incest has never made sense to me while the social dimension of diversity can spread us too thin.

Media comes into its own when it is connects to our own imagination flow and it flows within the individual so we can experience the recipes of collective imagination; so if you are religious call this rebirth, if you are scientific call it evolution and if you are a simple human being call it discovery.

Whatever we call it, the internet comes with time markers and for Netribution and myself, and 1999 is such a marker; but what about now - that is the fundamental core question of any media, what did it change? Countless people have tried to change the world without changing themselves.

So are any of us here seven years wiser for our individual experience? Did we cross boundaries or did we merely serve to expand our own boundary? Once we add the word Rupert to \"Media\" we have simply capitalized the word \"Media\". Capitalization occurs at registration.

Capitalization is merely money but the little \"m\" of media, represents more than just money, it represents the essential maturity that seven years of media engagement and interaction should expect to flower within us. If we didn\'t grow in the process, then it is more than simply wasted content, or wasted time, it is a wasted life.

Seven years becomes a blip in existence if we turn on to forget or forget why we turned media on. There is intelligence here at Netribution, I am glad I crossed another boundary into the world film which I have not previously explored; and so I raise a toast to what another seven years will flower and to you the folks at Netribution, that your mission adds more wisdom to our world.

M.
0 # thank youGuest 2006-08-15 10:39
..for the comments, easter egg hunt and toast - and delighted to welcome you to netribution.

There is always so much to see and learn - Emma Goldman, Krishnamurti, Guy Debord and the Situationists for me in the past few days from comments here alone.

Cluetrain seems to give me the excuse that I\'ve been waiting for not to try and express in anyone else\'s terms, a lazy knee jerk thing that happens when I\'ve kinda lost faith in it all - in other words, forgotten to dance.
0 # oops - it is about governance & higher sGuest 2006-12-24 20:53
following a message from chrismystB (mysticbourgeoisie.blogspot.com) isuddenly saw what i am ... cocreating on this world :: a new kind of peoples governance system :: reality governance connected to unique expressing individuals by a method that gives the opportunity and the infrastructure to manage, maintain and sustain our individual uniqueness ...

here we more and more do that by building our websites, our blogs, our tubes, our my(a&un)dress acts to be NAKED! aint we humans actually prefer that act more and more?

and to whoM are we undressing ?
to one another?
to the masked ones?
to our pretty selloves?

strange to find a comment of me here ...
just a flashback ... or does it mean a thing to me personal?
what comes up after reading about master Kuthumi Baba is the adventure i had about 10 days ago :: visiting the house of Master V. in Veranasy (=Banaras). This Master V. and master K. both had the same Yogi teaching them ... Tricks.

Those who are interested in co-writing on Global Reformation :: mass mind method (www.globalgeniusvoter.com/7pre.html) on integral governance needs co-builders finding cluetrain formulations to conquer ...
;-)