SXSW Interactive vs. Film


As you know I recently went to the SXSW Film Festival. Being the geek that I am I also joined Twitter and went to a number of panel in the Interactive portion of the conference.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about let me quickly explain. SXSW is really three conferences in one. Interactive, aimed at web people, Film, aimed at filmmakers, and Music, aimed at the music crowd. There are two parts to Film and Music as well, panels and performances.

Now the thing sure to offend people. The interactive participants seemed to often be smart ass teenagers and the film people were grandpas.

(BTW These are generalizations, there were a number of very mature teens and hip grandpas.)

What do I mean?

Interactive people think they know it all, just like teenagers do. They understand movies because they made a feature and put it up on the Internet. They understand how to make a piece 90 minutes long and put it out there where people can see it. They are right on the edge of figuring out how to make a living doing this. They don’t need to listen to the grumpy old men because they don’t understand new tech, either in production or distribution.

Film people know how the system works. They know how to take a film from a festival and make millions of dollars off it. They know what is good and what isn’t….well at least some of the time. The internet is that new fangled thing and we’ll wait to see how it turns out. Those guys on YouTube are a bunch of kids with video cameras not creating anything of importance.

This really struck me when I left an interactive session and went to the sound session. These sound guys have literally forgotten more than the interactive sessions filmmakers know. They’ve been recording sound for 20 years and their skills are not going to be replaced by a computer system or a fancy HD camera. They use Protools, but they know what to do with them. They know how to make a poor recording better and fit the story.

Tip from the sound guys. Want to avoid your sound blowing out when someone suddenly yells? Record mono in stereo and set one channel 10 db below the other. So you are essentially recording the same thing twice, but once for loud and once for regular. So when someone yells you can used the -10db channel to get usable sound.

The other film session that really impressed me was the Acting Workshop. As Rudy from Galacticast, who was in the session and proves the rule by being the exception among interactive people, twittered “Jeffrey Tambour’s acting workshop is sooo good! Learning so much as a writer/director/actor”. All the technical knowledge behind the camera and in front of the computer don’t mean shit if you can’t get a good performance out of an actor.

To give the Interactive people credit, they understand they are in it together. They understand they are figuring stuff out and the best way to do that is to share what you know. There must have been half a dozen video cameras in every Interactive session. They don’t see every image and video as something that needs to be owned, controlled, licensed, and sold.

Interactive panelist stuck around after the panel and talked to the crowd. At a film panel the panelist were walked in just before it was scheduled to start and ushered out before people could even stand up at the end. (This was less true of the smaller film panels and mini-meetings.) There was no recording during film only panels.

Film is also completely of the mindset of dealing with people with a lot of money about a lot of money.

I went to Meet the Guilds which was suppose to tell us how much the Guilds wanted to help Indie film makers make their movie. It just convinced me I didn’t want to deal with any of them until I absolutely have to.

If you choose to use a SAG actor, they graciously provide you the low budget contract. After they review your script, they dictate where can shoot your movie. I don’t understand how SAG actors benefit if I go to Canada to shoot something because it is cheap and they can’t go because SAG won’t let them.

It may make sense to give the Writer’s Guild or the Directors Guild control of my movies credits if the movie is owned by Warner Brothers, but not if it is my movie and I want Frank Miller to get Director credit.

The theatrical distribution people are the same way. They are assuming there is lots of money to be made in theaters and DVD so they want to buy all those rights. They take a hit and miss approach to films and are often wrong. Oh and they don’t like each other much.

I don’t know where I fit in this world. I’m a geek wannabe filmmaker. I know there is a ton I don’t understand about filmmaking, and all my technical knowledge won’t change that. But I also end up wondering how useful film festivals, agents, guilds and all are to me when I can take it direct to my audience and they can just pay me.