More on Film versus Video

So Film vs. Video wasn’t much of a competition up until very recently. The difference between professional content and amateur content used to be that professional content actually looked good. Now, high-end consumer HD cameras are pumping out beautiful quality and the lines of professional content are getting blurred.

It used to be all about 35mm, but then in the late sixties and early seventies there was a 16mm revolution and that grainy blown out look became the benchmark of counter culture cool. So movies were being made on the (relative) cheap, but only if your characters dropped acid, engaged in casual sex as a war metaphor, or were seen through trippy gels or washes that tinted the entire screen blue then yellow then pink.

Jim Jarmusch made a splash with “Stranger Than Paradise” in 1984 because he immortalized a fictional account of kids in their 20s who sat still for long stretches of silence in a story that had no momentum or sense of direction for 89 minutes. Hell, you can watch that on a gagillion Youtube channels now for nothing, but he shot it on grainy black and white FILM and it was seen as a metaphor for a generation without hopes or prospects. If he tried to shoot that today with an HD camera it would have cost him less, it would have looked a lot more polished, and it wouldn’t make it into one film festival. That’s because the market has become hyper-saturated with video content.

Even at the dawn of digital video, as soon as mini-dv tapes showed up, the next movement started. The “Blair Witch” kids made bank off of a brilliant marketing campaign and a movie that looked awful and Mike Figgis made “Timecode,” a one take, four screen, real-time masterpiece of blocking that didn’t make any money but proved that new toys can produce cool concepts.

Now that us low-to-no budget guys can get our hands on equipment that makes our movies look great, does that mean we’re all headed for the limelight? No. Because everyone else has the same equipment. I could throw a handful of stones into a Starbucks and hit nothing but amateur filmmakers. In fact, two or three of them would probably be shooting something on their iPhones when I did it and Youtube would suddenly be flush with viral videos of “Guy Goes Crazy in Starbucks”, “Rocks on, Starbucks,” and “Let He Who Loves Lattes Cast The First Stone,” viral videos. That actually sounds like a good way to get my project some attention. I’m going to do that. Anyway…

So the market is so full of amateur HD content creators that it’s nearly impossible to get noticed. I’m not bad-mouthing the system. If it wasn’t for my easy access to modern equipment, I wouldn’t have over 20,000 subscribers for the “Platoon of Power Squadron” now, and we certainly wouldn’t have fan-art sent to us from our Facebook Fans (!/album.php?aid=9775&id=124001504307199); it just blows my mind that people like us enough to draw pictures of us. We garnered so much more attention when we switched to HD during episode 3. People think there’s money behind the show, when in actuality we can make an episode happen for under 300 dollars. But I have no idea how big of an audience we would need to have to get the attention of producers, investors, and networks. As much as the advent of affordable HD equipment has made our content look better, it’s also made attracting attention a lot harder. That’s why competitions like NexTV are so cool.

Now, huge movies are being shot digitally. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a Best Picture and it was shot with the Silicon Imaging SI-2K. Movies like “Wanted,” “District 9,” and “Angels and Demons” are shooting with the RED, and awesome shows like “Weeds,” “Dexter,” and “Battlestar Galactica” are being shot digitally. If you want to get noticed, you don’t need to shoot something on film. Our film short (Twisted Thicket) only got into one festival. I’ve gotten way more attention shooting digitally, and it’s a LOT more financially feasible.

Leave the developing costs to the directors who have a studio behind them. Just grab an HD camera and tell a good story. If anything is going to get you some attention, it’s a story that draws people in.

Jarvi out.

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