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netribution > features > interview with peter wintonick > page two
What do you think of digital in general?
Well it's just a series on 1's and 0's but hopefully more 1's than zero's! My film's really about a technological revolution, one of my motivations was to show people practising in this new, revolutionary period, that there was a time before Sony. It's certainly not about the technology, its about the way you use it and how you approach your subjects. The 7 or 8 principles of Verite were mimicked by the Dogme movies and so, its really about the approach to subject and the approach to cinema that's important. I'm still obsessed by…I mean even with the Chomsky film and perhaps other films earlier - the media per se has the sort of subject matter of failed journalists etc. Your foremost responsibility is to your medium. If you are a painter you don't have to have an intrinsic knowledge of paint. But digital does liberate us of the £10,000 of costs for development, you can be pretty much self-sustaining, self-fulfilled and self-reliant if you buy the $5000 camera, Final Cut Pro 1.2 and the G4 Mac. You need some kind of knowledge of manipulation of images, design, editing and After Effects and then with some kind of HTML programming you can distribute it on the web. At least you are connecting with people around the world and I'm now connected with Indian documentary filmmakers by using the Internet. We find out about them and try to promote them in exhibition spaces in Canada and elsewhere and now there is such a great industrial backbone to documentary because of it. There's at least 20 film festivals around the world dedicated to documentary.

Would you say that the Verite movement came about in response to cameras being light enough to carry around on one's shoulder, or was it vice versa?
Well I guess filmmakers are also tinkerers or are enamoured with technology. Great Verite filmmakers have always been great cameramen and women, it’s the eye essentially, the eye-brain connection that has driven the need for the tools. The primordial necessity for documentarians is to capture, reinterpret and project reality, it comes out of a basic need to communicate and, for me, those that do it well are the artists/tinkerers. They've almost created an industry out of the tools but the artist is now a slave to the technology. From studies in the history of cinema it was magicians who became engineers, at the birth of the art form they created their own cameras. The Verite movement came out of a rejection of an earlier tradition of documentary - the sort of 'Voice of God' standard, other than the fly on the wall approach, the naturalistic and human contact which the technology allowed. It's an interesting question and its always been fought over.

How much do you plan your projects?
Well some look very planned but more and more - for the security to your funders and broadcasters - there is a prerequisite that you write proposals. It’s a trust thing but I'd far prefer to go out with the freedom that the Verite generation had, shooting off the hip spontaneously with intuition. The film is more written in documentary on the editing table generally than in pre production. More and more they ask for lots of paper work. There is no methodology to it, I like to think that it has a lot to do with confidence in past work, the ideas and the passion but there are trends and tendencies that supersede those things. Reality based programming is huge now with the Survivor and Big Brother things, its an amazing money generator, sort of based on Verite really but without having any truth in it.

Despite a huge market for that sort of thing, do you think there are any positive elements to that sort of programming?
It’s a piece of tragedy is what it is! It's to do with a generation of voyeurs where the only validation is to appear on TV. Positively - it allows real people to be featured not in a real situation but one step below or above the surveillance cameras on every street. The biggest problem is the erasure of private space - and private thought eventually, we will either become a media game show or else we'll just create out own. The real promise of the web is that it can be democratic by building alternative communities, the playing fields are almost level, Yahoo and Warner Bros are losing money whilst individuals are becoming successful.

A kid in a bedroom can set up a TV channel.
Well I know Alan Fountain who was at Sheffield, he used to be a commissioning editor at the `Independent and at Channel 4. He has a lot of connections internationally with third world filmmakers, he's got some sort of international net project going and the possibilities for independent broadcasting are growing.

Do you see yourself continuing to tackle similar issues as a director?
I guess so but I don't know, its hard to make films. Cinema Verite is the penultimate film and Utopia (next project) isn't complete, once we've found it we'll just send you a postcard! I could work in fiction. I was an editor and a unit manager in the late 70's and early 80's but I haven't any ambition within fiction. I love writing, that would be the easiest thing to do provided it pays well. Are you mostly writing?

Writing and designing and its not paying me well yet!
True. I found when we did our Internet thing at the virtual film festival that the biggest thing to do was to market the site.

Blair Witch is mentioned in the notes here. The use of the Verite aesthetic to create a fiction that people will believe in. Did you ever intend anything like that with Cinema Verite?
Not in the early impulses. The more sophisticated uses of Verite… the kinds of documentary that I like are the ones that transgress different mediums and touch the line of fiction, what I call 'faction', fact based film or factualised documentary. There was a naivety with the early filmmakers, they were trying to make the real more real than it was, I've been on panels with Verite filmmakers and argued about that. The kind that I like are almost essays that take techniques from every where.


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