In his editorial, Scott Hessels writes about his recent embrace of new forms of screen-based content creation and delivery compared to his earlier approach where content was king.When we consider the historical grammar of film we can observe an evolution as well as the relationship between the context of the form and the engagement of the audience; the zoetrope – one-to-one; cinema – one-to-many; television – one-to-few; Internet and mobile – one-to-one-to-one-to-one… Interestingly, the content of each platform changed accordingly in each stage bar the last.
Concern about the commercial highjacking of new media technologies is justified; rather than the wholesale dumping of cinema and television archives onto the Internet or mobile screen, why not instead draw upon the years of innovation by niche, independent producers . Such producers – once seen as the bleeding edge of this brave new world – are rapidly increasing in number and, importantly, audience reach. So, while I don’t expect current mainstream audiences to fully embrace new screen formats, I do foresee unprecedented growth in niche audiences, which en masse will easily outnumber traditional film audiences. (To see how quickly such a transition can take place, we just need to look at recent figures showing games industry revenue to be double that of the box office).
Curious then that mobile filmmaking is still generally something delivered in schools or as the community development strand – nine times out of ten targeted to ‘youth’ and those with no experience of mainstream film festivals. No wonder the results are often of shoddy quality and negligible artistic value.
That said, there are exceptions to the rule every time. For example, mainstream screen culture events are increasingly engaging with mobile films and pushing them to new levels of acclaim; Shane Emmet and Jason van Genderen’s short film Mankind is no Island (shot on a whopping budget of $57 AUD) was the first ever mobile phone film to make it to the Tropfest finals, going on to win both ‘People’s Choice’ and the (jury selected) ‘Best Film’ awards. So, whilst the the vast proportion of user-generated content on YouTube and equivalent sites is rubbish, it would be foolish to think that future stars will not be born from these early experiments.
As communities like the international Kino movement show, the ability for any new maker to display their work and receive immediate feedback is a valuable experience; even if is not professional critical analysis. Another important benefit for the mobile filmmaker is that of production innovation and immediacy. You want to film ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary footage? How unobtrusive can one be with a broadcast standard camera, lighting and sound equipment and the crew required to make such recordings happen at high resolution? A camera phone on the other hand, has an intimacy that cannot be beaten, as well as a potential for surveillance that will surely give rise to renewed and vigorous debates about the power and truth of the moving image. Of course such technology will not be as high quality as celluloid or its digital brethren, but the ability to capture and create content, to upload and directly communicate that to others, to view a less filtered perspective of life than that projected through our current news and entertainment providers and to invite an immediate response from the audience more than makes up for this.
At this year’s BigPond Adelaide Film Festival (BAFF), ANAT is throwing down the gauntlet! Our Portable Platforms (PP) program is running its own experiment with the mobile film form, Kino Portable. Inspiring collaborative storytelling through mobile filmmaking, we will build a reciprocal community whose job is to plant narrative audiovisual seeds and respond to those planted by others. Where the story goes (or indeed, has come from) is entirely driven by the participants. Supported by a bespoke non-linear video viewing and submission platform for mobile phone handsets, Kino Portable pushes the boundaries of interactive narrative through the immediacy of mobile phones.
Don’t just choose your own adventure, make your own adventure. This is filmmaking on the run, made by and for innovative, upstart and unknown producers. Why not see what they come up with and give it a go yourself!
A note on the Kino movement: The original Montreal base launched in 1999 with the motto ‘do well with nothing, do better with little, but do it now’. Now global, each group meets monthly, with a week long “Kino Kabaret” (an immersive week of filmmaking) held annually. Through ANAT’s ‘Portable Platforms’ program, Kino Portable is the official Kino group working exclusively with mobile phones as the capture and sharing device for innovative video storytelling. At this year’s BAFF, Kino Portable teams with kinoadelaide to present a week long Kabaret.
Fee was the Portable Platforms & Emerging Technologies Program Manager at ANAT from 2008-2009
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