The future is fast approaching

Caught up in an information culture.


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Ted Hope, pushing back against low-value filmmaking

Low value both in the sense of quality work, and monetary valuation.

I like Ted Hope; he’s on my chalkboard as very clearly being One of the Good Guys, and he writes and speaks with great clarity and immense practicality. I was at this talk, shortly before he announced he’d be leaving producing to head the San Francisco Film Society.  This was a difficult one to listen to, because for the first time it seemed that his frustration with the industry had hit a tipping point, and he could no longer see any practical route through it.  “Fed up and ready to move on” was clear, but what I missed at the time was this bit above, that he had a new role in mind, changing the industry’s approach to distribution rather than playing under it.

Which is just what he’s done.  The SFFS has just wrapped up the first AE2: Artist to Entrepreneur, a distribution lab to redesign and experiment with distribution.  This makes me more hopeful about the prospect of finding a more stable approach to independent film distribution.

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The Last Ice Merchant (2012)

In the mountains of Ecuador, the last ice miner makes his daily climb up to the glaciers with an axe and a donkey, and returns back down with chunks of glacial ice wrapped in hand-made grass matting.  At the market, it’s almost valueless, with the rise of refrigeration and factory-made ice, but it’s the family business, so he carries on.

Beautifully-made short film, just stunning to look at.  I often have a lingering feeling of unease watching documentaries about the third world or the poor, which can romanticize the conditions that keep those populations poor and voiceless nearly as often as they give them a voice and document the overlooked; the siren song of simpler, better times long ago can cover a host of sins.  This film doesn’t romanticize – though the visual romance of mining the glaciers high in the mountains versus turning out blocks of ice in the factories is undeniable – but instead presents the subject’s own ambivalence over what’s being lost and what’s being gained.

(via Kottke)


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“Because of the nature of the way the human mind works, the image at the cut point has a little kind of mental flash bulb on it. You remember the last image of a shot. Maybe not consciously, but it imprints in a way and we use that as we structure a film. We want to leave audiences with these little flashbulb moments, which are key moments.”

–Walter Murch, interviewed by Filmmaker Magazine


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Digital Signposts, the Physical Environment, and Steve Martin’s “L.A. Story”


There’s apparently no CG there, it’s all on-location footage.  Oh, the beautiful, shiny future of the pointy sign.

It’s fair to say that this sign, as implemented, duplicates a lot of the functionality people expect from smartphones, but I don’t see street signs (or, for that matter, billboards) disappearing.  This may not be the final form digital signposts take, but it’s an interesting look – minimalist, fairly unobtrusive. Forget the content for a moment; as a medium, I like this as a way for the physical environment to communicate information to me.

The question it raises is, how much interactivity do we need?  The simpler interface of buttons rather than screens seems appropriate, though I wonder about how the interaction goes down on a more crowded street corner.  Some of the suggested interactions seem counterproductive; there are other devices far better suited to streaming digital news, for instance.  I don’t personally need my physical environment to display tweets, and nor do I have a pressing need for game scores or news, unless that news is accompanied by “and evacuate immediately in this direction” (which would, by the way, be a great use of this sign). Continue reading