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Participatory Filmmaking, A Swarm of Angels and 50,000 Beds
Sarah Rich, 11 Jun 07
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This weekend I spoke at The Creators Series in New York, an event organized by the new curatorial and media group, Tomorrow Unlimited. The program brought together fifteen individuals from various creative disciplines to talk about what's emerging in their fields, and collectively speculate on where things are headed.

Of the six categories of creatives, I found the "Participatory Filmmaking" grouping to be particularly interesting from a Worldchanging perspective. Matt Hanson, Chris Doyle and Martin Percy formed a complementary trio of innovators using film to change cultural conversations and challenge existing frameworks for making and experiencing film.

Matt Hanson presented his work-in-progress, A Swarm of Angels, an "open source cinema" project that proposes creating a £1 million feature film with distributed models for financing, screenplay development and distribution. The project invites contributions from a limited group of collaborators, with the amount of creative input correlated with the amount donated. Over a series of phases, Swarm will bring together 50,000 individuals to complete their goal.

A Swarm of Angels is a third way between the top-down approach of traditional filmmaking and the bottom-up nature of user-generated content. A way for anyone to influence the creation of a professional £1 million+ ($1.8M+) feature film.
We are gathering 50,000 people in a giant new media experiment to be part of an exclusive community which funds and helps make this film...This feature film and associated original media embraces the flexible digital-age copyright of Creative Commons, because we want people to freely download, share, and remix the original media made for this project. You can remix and use the film for any non-commercial purposes. You can also use parts of it for your own commercial work, under the additional Sampling Plus clause.

Last week, Forbes named Hanson one of "10 revolutionaries who could change the world." At the Creators Series, a large computer monitor sat in Hanson's section of the gallery, inviting viewers to Join the Swarm. They're currently between funding phases, but will continue to grow the community in a controlled manner as they make their way to the final stage. The project website has a great deal of interactive functionality, including a public forum where the public can discuss the film pitches, plan offline meet-ups, and develop ideas; and a members-only forum for the early Swarm community.

Chris Doyle has a collaboration in progress in Connecticut. His 50,000 Beds looks at the meeting point of travelers and laborers in the hotels, motels and inns of Connecticut (which, in total, house 50,000 beds). Forty-five artists will go into forty-five rooms and create a short film reflecting on the human interactions that occur there, and the "100,000 hotel, motel and inn employees who maintain them -- a little noticed, yet sizable demographic within the state." The films will be shown in three Connecticut contemporary art spaces this summer.

Martin Percy presented his project, MovieActive, a series of films focused on "live-action interactivity," embracing tools and strategies made available only through digital technology. His work emerges from a firm belief that cinema for online viewing cannot be a simulation of the conventional sort.

"If you’ve had the same experience watching a piece I’ve made for a digital medium (broadband or digital cinema) as you would with normal TV or cinema, then I’ve failed," Percy says, "If you’re using a new medium properly, you’ve got to give the spectator something new. When you shoot video specifically for online use—respecting broadband as a medium in its own right—useful and effective things can result." To understand the approach, it's helpful to watch a few of the films.

Next week the Creators Series will run again in Los Angeles, and the three filmmakers will be doing an open panel discussion there on Saturday. Many of the lectures and conversations from the Creators Series will also be available online in the next few months.

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I was also at the Participatory Filmmaking panel discussion on Sunday and took some notes, which I welcome you to read at the link below:

Posted by: Brian on 12 Jun 07



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