Despite box office receipts being at their most buoyant for years, the movie business claims to be in crisis. The latest elephant in the cinema is the Internet, making a dramatic effect on the industry through its impact on the DVD market, in a continuing state of decline as more and more of us choose to stream movies from online services such as LoveFilm and iTunes or, perish the thought, download them.
“Film is no longer about ownership, but access,” announces Hengameh Panahi, down the line from her office in Paris. Hengameh is a champion for independent film, having established The Auteurs with Efe Cakarel in 2007 with an aim to deliver films directly to your laptop. The company hooked up with Sony last year, and now beam indie and art house cinema into homes via the PS3 and their (brilliant) MUBI service, which plugs movies into the social network.
“For us film is a discussion between artists and audiences,” she explains. “You see the new Godard and you want to find someone to talk about it with; you just discovered Wong Kar-wai and want to know who makes films like him. The bigger corporations have never had it difficult in the past. They owned the content, in addition to controlling the distribution. The tent pole film continues to fill the multiplex - throw in 3D and people will go - but the arrival of digital completely exploded the cinema distribution chain as being the only business model. What we’ve seen recently is a complete change of paradigm, instigated not solely by technology but changes in consumer behaviour. Rather than having content pushed upon them, audiences now pull it in. This has made context, rather than content, the king, with value coming in how people come to draw upon this material.
Kevin McDonald devised a film that made use of YouTube. They asked people to shoot and upload a film that charted their life on a specific day - 24 July 2010.
Amidst the continuing panic of the suits occupying the risk-averse bubble of Hollywood, this week sees the release of an entirely more positive response to the easy access and continuing digitization of cinema. Last year Kevin Macdonald, the director perhaps best known for his man-down-a-hole movie Touching the Void, hooked up with producer Ridley Scott to devise a film that made use of YouTube. In short, they asked people to shoot and upload a film that charted their life on a specific day - 24 July 2010.
YouTube advised Macdonald that he should expect 12000 clips though an incredible 81000 people responded to the call, with an equally astonishing 5000 hours of footage uploaded to the website. Macdonald and his lead editor Joe Walker, together with an army of assistants, then faced the daunting task of having to sift through this mountain of material in order to tag the content with key words before they could even start to think about pulling together a narrative.
Two years later and Life In A Day has finally arrived in our cinemas. The breathtaking project reflects life on earth on an epic scale though, unlike the focus of humanity’s effect on the landscape in Godfrey Reggio’s similarly conceived Koyaanisqatsi, people form the centre of Macdonald’s interest. Powered along by a dramatic score, the film is in parts inspiring, occasionally upsetting and often enigmatic. Its central message however, is one of a celebration of life, individuality and the value of our many, many shared experiences, wherever we may be in the world.
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