8/10/08

INFORMATION DEMOCRACY or: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE YOUTUBE

petersellers

Last week I was asked by one of the production entities helping to finance my film "City Island" to stop posting clips of the dailies. Actually I wasn't asked to do so, I was ordered to do so. Being in mid-filming and this not exactly being a priority of my day, I told them it was not a problem. So the clips came down.

But now I wonder: why did they ask me to do this? And what message does my compliance with their request actually send? Having had a few days to think this one over, I'm gradually coming to some conclusions and am ultimately glad that this controversy--minor though it is--has reared its head. I was especially interested to see how many readers of the blog wrote in protesting the removal of the clips. This, more than anything, told me that I was on to something with the whole notion of blogging a film production and sharing the experience as well as sharing the bits of the mosaic--the "dailies"--that go into the end result.

So, in order of the above questions. First: they asked me to remove the clips because of "piracy" issues and fear that the small amounts of the film that I'm sharing could possibly appear to other buyers as "unpolished" or "unrepresentative" of what the final product will be. Okay. But what is piracy? It's taking something for free that should have a monetary value and profiting off it. So my question is: what could possibly be done with any of the dailies clips I've posted that would provide monetary gain? Would anybody pay cash for a ten to thirty second clip of my film? Clearly the answer to this is no. As to how representative of the final product the dailies are, I argue that they are both completely unrepresentative while at the say time super-representative in their rawness and thus a good deal more tantalizing than, say, a slick little trailer. When I show you a piece of my dailies (and believe me I'm like all good directors--I ain't showing nothing that I'm not proud of) I'm showing you part of the process we go through in achieving the end result. One of the reasons outtakes are so fascinating and elucidating (and I'm a big fan of DVD extra outtakes for old movies--check out the new "My Man Godfrey" edition with some fine Carol Lombard and William Powell outtakes) is that they provide a view of the meta-film, the other movie that's happening while the end result is achieved. Robert Altman used to insist that the cast and crew watch the dailies together at the end of the day because, he said, "the real movie is in the dailies". (This was also Altman's way of encouraging his actors to improvise and then feeling free to discard 90 percent of it without guilt since they'd already seen and admired their work in the dailies). Dailies are an entirely different view of the movie that will eventually emerge. I think it's important and not at all harmful to let people in on how the process works. That old "don't show the magic" line feels last century to me. By now, the bizarre and beautiful process that movie making is is known to many, many people. And if it's not, I think it's my right to share the process. What are you going to do? Pirate the process?

As to what message I'm sending by complying with the request to not show the dailies, clearly I'm agreeing that the last century and its thinking is still correct, that the world order is unchanged, that 19th and 20th century notions of ownership and control (as well as 19th and 20th century fears) are still wagging the dog. But let's face it: even large corporations realize that in the current world, any viral presence is a help, not a hindrance. Clips of movies on youtube are a non-starter in terms of harming people's copyrights. Clips are clips. Not movies. They are their to educate you on the existence of the finished product, not rob you of the opportunity to see it.

A final word about this subject for now. We live in the age of branding. If you're an artist and haven't found a brand for yourself, chances are your marching uphill on an increasingly lonely trip. Nothing I do is "brandable". The movies that I make, and the movies that I watch, are specialty items. The music that I love--jazz--is also now considered "boutique". (That means unpopular to large masses). With the advent of youtube, the cultural treasures that I've clung too ever since I was a kid are now available to share with others and--I hope--are being given new life because of this availability. Hence this blog--which I started in order to justify the hours I was spending on youtube watching clips of forgotten movies and dead musicians. The glory of the information democracy is in the ability to reinterpret the very existence of this material without profit being an issue. Thus people post short brilliant clips of music or dance from old two hour movies that are simply not movies that most people would watch in their entirety anymore. Perhaps the sum of the parts of "Down Argentine Way" no longer speaks to many people...but the parts certainly do. The numbers featuring the fabulous Nicholas Brothers deserve to stand on their own no matter the dubious value of the rest of the structure that was initially there to support them.

Similarly, I don't know how many people will see "City Island" when it's done. Plenty I hope. Some readers of this blog will probably seek it out and some may have, by the time of its release, moved on. But if right now people are interested in the story of how a movie is made, that part of the process should be shared should if I choose to do so. And posting information about the film--production reports, call sheets, dailies,--can't, I believe, truly do any harm and probably can do some good in terms of letting people know that we're out here, creating this particular film. I'm not sure that removing the clips was the right decision. And while I think it over and decide what my next move is, how 'bout those Nicholas Brothers?

20 comments:

  1. Hi Raymond,

    Thanks for explaining why the video clips have been removed. It is such a shame!!! I also love outtakes and I am a big fan of DVD extras too. So, if they do not allow you to post the video clips now, please do put them in the DVD extras. I don't know if I will have the chance to see this movie on the big screen, but I will buy the DVD for sure.

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  2. A little piece of my heart broke off with this news. I'd hoped that Jeff Pulver might have given your team a bit of insight into why what you'd been doing in posting snippets of dailies was important and cutting edge, but it seems that the time for his visiting the set may have passed. [For who Jeff Pulver is see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Pulver ]

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  3. dear Raymond, I'm really sorry to know your stop of posting the dailies of City Island. It was a great idea! Good promotion for the movie, moving curiosity about it. I don't understand your production "entities", they are behind the times and stupid. I hope to see the clips again,
    Rita from Italy

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  4. I put my blog about this on the Carrie Baker blog spot by mistake.Please check it out fellow film folks ..... you might just
    agree with my reasoning for not
    showing the clips just yet.chowwwww

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  5. Raymond,
    The loss of the dailies has spoilt a great experiment, that would have promoted the film and its revenue .A sad day. It has been fantastic to follow the process but now there is no context ,the blog is a nice box of what ?
    I will see the film any way, they will get my buck.A low res' taster has almost no value,but a great add'.

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  6. I was a bit confused by why they asked you to remove the dailies as well. To me, as someone interested in the movie, they were just tantalizing crumbs that just made the anticipation that much greater. They certainly wouldn't have diminished the movie in any way. And I certainly agrees with those who have said that if you can't do it during the filming, please include this type of things as DVD extras. That's one of the big reasons I buy DVDs in the first place. I like behind the scenes, I want to see actors in unscripted moments, I like bloopers and the whole process. As for the movie itself, I am eagerly awaiting any thing you can tell us, when you can tell us, about release dates. Please continue to share with us what you can. It seems like in these days of TV channels specifically geared to entertainment news and the internet, that blogs such as yours are the way to draw in viewers, not lose them.

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  7. I'm crushed. I didn't know the dailies were on your blog. I would have loved seeing them. How great to get really close to a movie as it's being made. I think it's a wonderful idea. And, I think it would make seeing the finished movie irresistible.
    LV, Alfa-Betty Olsen

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  8. Peter Jackson showed little clips of dailies from all of his Lord Of The Rings movies and if I recall correctly, those movies did pretty decent box office.

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  9. Thanks all for such a positive and clear response. Obviously the clips were well worth posting and the lack of them is not a good thing. I'll work this out somehow. I appreciate your reader/viewership and will endeavor to post behind the scenes video until I get a handle on how to re-engage the powers that be on this issue. Meanwhile, keep reading--I promise less ephemera (street signs) and more meat (actual materials, call sheets, behind the scenes video) this week. And Daniel thanks for the Peter Jackson info. Guess he didn't exactly kill the buzz for those movies with his postings.

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  10. Oh Ray!!! I can't believe they think its a bad thing to post the dailies, who are these people? Regardless, this movie will be well worth waiting for. Thanks so much for inviting us down,Gina and I had the best time and I must tell you that your cast is stellar and The leads are all beautiful{incidentally, your camera crew was equally as attractive and nice too!!]You can forward that compliment to them for me!Clips or not ,we are all waiting to see this great work.thanks again!!!

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  11. Carol Medina-GarciaAugust 11, 2008 at 6:22 AM

    Yes its a shame because the first thing i did when i open my internet window was to look for the dailies, they didnt give that much about the movie 30 secs come on!! people, but it was beautiful to see the movie making at the same time,it was hapenning i bet that some of the scenes will be edited.. or what ever and it was a great marketing strategy and i am guessing, the only people that read the blog wont be the only ones going to the cinema.... i am Pro dailies ... if that mean anything to anyone.. i support mr de felitta... and by the way yes i have a life lol ;)

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  12. Carolina Medina-GarciaAugust 11, 2008 at 6:41 AM

    PS: thanks to all of you guys who took the time to show us the dailies.....

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  13. I disagree with all of you on this
    page my reason for not showing clips
    is posted on the Carrie Baker blog spot by mistake..This film is not
    You Tube......chow

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  14. And I disagree with your reasoning unfortunately since no one is forced to watch dailies. It doesn't "spoil" it for anyone since a person can choose to remain completely in the dark on the movie if they want, and those of us who are inspired and tantalized by the dailies can watch them. Nobody loses.

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  15. Lord Of The Rings....is a different
    kind of Ball Game.......

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  16. Thanks for reading it.I love you.....
    Maybe someday we can have coffee together. I have to go to work now.
    I love your site Raymond.....

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  17. I miss the dailies and I believe the tantalizing effect is stronger than any other argument. Sorry "chow" friend!

    For movies that don't come with $20 million marketing budgets, the buzz created by viral marketing is a home run for everybody. If the teensy bits of dailies you were posting could help that, then the "entities" that told you to take them down are just shooting themselves in the foot. Unfortunately your neck is in there too, though, so I hope you will discuss this with them further and get them to see the light.

    Promotion = warm butts in seats = dollars in everybodys' pockets. Or better yet, Euros!

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  18. Sherry,Sherry, I miss them also but
    that dos not mean they should be there.... Tantalizing now that's a
    nice word,,,Chow
    Don't get mad at me Sherry I love
    you...

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  19. I'll still log on to your site -- you never know what you're going to encounter and I like surprises!

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  20. I asked my Twitter pals to help explain why dailies can be an important part of marketing films, and so far one responded:

    Eric Zimmerman (ezwrighter) @fauxpress - I can only speak from my perspective, but I knew nothing about CityIsland before the dailies, now I want to see the whole movie. about 20 hours ago from twitterrific in reply to fauxpress

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