Interview with Louie Psihoyos

Teague and I met Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove, at AFI SILVERDOCS.  Psihoyos talked about how he made The Cove, which documents his team’s mission to expose the destruction of ocean wildlife in a secret cove in Japan.  We really enjoyed his stories about getting footage using both high and low tech spy tools – many of which are featured in the film.  We asked Louie Psihoyos about the role of the web in distributing his film, and about how he ended up making a documentary that feels more like a thriller.  Take a look at our interview below!

Still Indie Interviews Louie Psihoyos from Anna Pinkert on Vimeo.

Validation in Short Film

Here’s another inspirational short film.  Films of this quality are easily produced in a technical sense, though not easily written, and a perfect example of how an engaging story and good acting trumps the cost of your camera.  I find this kind of film both uplifting as a viewer and encouraging as a producer.

Validation

If you’re trying to figure out who the lead is, that’s T.J. Thyne, most well known as Dr. Jack Hodgins from the TV show Bones.

Xu Bing: The Future of Art and New Media

Last night I caught Xu Bing’s talk at Lesley University/The future site of the Art Institute of Boston.

Xu Bing is a Chinese artist, probably best known in the states for his unusual use of imagined calligraphy – either characters that have no meaning, or English letters morphed into psuedo-Chinese script.

Butterfly Dreams at Contemporary Museum Image from aur2899’s PhotostreamLast night, among other things, he showed a few images from his Book from the Ground project. The Book from the Ground is an attempt to use iconography to tell stories. You can read excerpts online. He talked a little about the goal of creating a book that everyone involved in modern life can read – inspired by the airport signage he saw around the world. His team is even creating software so that we can all talk to each other in icons.

This one project made me think a lot about film and the success of symbolism. If you see an old man and a young man on screen, looking at each other from afar, then running towards each other and embracing – you don’t need to know that they are a separated father and son. In fact, any other explanation would be downright subversive. Modern culture has flattened the symbolic landscape to the point where we all know the sign for “man” “alarm clock” and “airplane.” We don’t need a dictionary. Xu Bing talked about the decision that Coca-Cola made to stop printing its labels in other languages. “Coca-Cola” is now a symbol around the world, more than it is an actual word. He didn’t even mention IKEA, which uses a language of symbols and signs to give a universal set of instructions with every piece of furniture.

Much as I could type all day about symbolism, culture and iconography. . . I’d rather pose a real-world question: Are we genuinely moving toward a universal language of symbols, or are some sentiments too complicated, too culturally specific, to ever become universalized? If we are moving toward more universal forms of communication, is that always a good thing?

Will "Repo!" Steal Hearts?

Repo Promoting in Downtown Berkeley Image from shellEProductions’ PhotostreamDoes anyone else hate the phrase “Instant cult classic?” Instant classic is like instant chocolate brownies. It might temporarily fix your chocolate craving – but it’s nothing like a dessert you spent a couple hours baking from scratch.

Well, NPR is also a little skeptical of the idea that someone can deliberately create a cult film. Repo! the Genetic Opera is an upcoming movie starring Anthony Stewart Head, Paul Sorvino, Alex Vega and. . . uh. . . Paris Hilton. Combining organ repossession, rock musical numbers, a big bad corporation and a distinctly “Blade Runner” feel, the creators of “Repo!” seem confident that alternative kids will come running to a film made just for them.

Beth Accomando at the NPR pop culture blog points out that the movie is using a web-heavy marketing strategy out of necessity – they have no money for a big budget ad campaign. I am impressed that the film’s creators are interacting directly with fans – but I wonder if you can classify people who have yet to see a film as “fans.”

Increasingly, savvy directors and producers have deputized fan communities in the fight to keep a movie franchise making money. This creates a sense of “ownership” that is actually quite different than the fans of a cult classic like Rocky Horror. Rocky fans go to midnight showings because they aren’t supposed to: The film wasn’t intended to be made fun of and shouted at and have toilet paper strewn all over it. It’s not just an alternative film, it’s an alternative film-going experience. Whether or not “Repo!” can capture that sense of forbidden fun is yet to be seen.

Canon 5D Mark II Video Footage

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Image from Steve KeysCanon lent a prototype of the new 5D Mark II to New-York-based commercial and editorial photographer Vincent Laforet for 72 hours, and this short film is what he put together: beautifully shot, put to music (no sync sound), using only footage from the 5D Mark II. The footage is 1/4 size (from the original 1080P) and shot with mostly L-series glass. The 5D Mark II retails for about $2700 (body only) from B&H. The combination of excellent lenses with the full frame sensor yields some gorgeous low-light shots.

I’m certainly interested to see some of this tech make it over to the prosumer video side of Canon. After seeing this kind of result, would you consider shooting your next project on a DSLR?

Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem: DRM done right? Or yet another failed attempt?

Here’s what we know so far. DECE will announce details at CES in January. The general principle is something along the lines of a digital rights locker in the cloud that keeps track of what content you have purchased and have rights to play.

Burned (read: Destroyed) DVD Image from Night Star RomanusThe major goals of the project are interoperability, allowing users to copy content onto household playback devices (as opposed to streaming only) and to enable writing to physical media.

Sounds like an ambitious project, and maybe a pipe dream given the walled garden approach that most content providers have been pushing thus far. But with a list of players that includes most major media corporations, some serious technical expertise, the device manufacturers of both HD disc technologies (and then some), and at least one major retailer, this might have a chance to get past the conception stage.

The list of companies signed on so far is Best Buy, Cisco, Comcast, Fox, HP, Intel, Lions Gate, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Philips, Sony, Toshiba, VeriSign, and Warner Bros.

What does this mean for indie producers? That remains to be seen, but for most of us, there’s already an alternative. What else supports interoperability and portability of content to offline and physical media? What lets viewers watch what they want, where and how they want to? Anything without DRM. Just sayin’.

Flicks to Watch Out For: Cartoon College

Recently saw the trailer for Cartoon College, a documentary by Tara Wray (who also made Manhattan, Kansas). The subject of the film is the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT. I love documentaries about people who are very passionate about something very obscure – so this should be just my thing. One part of the trailer that excites me is the idea of incorporating the art of the cartoonists into the visual medium of the film. I’m trying to come up with other documentaries that use an artist’s work to tell a story about the artist. Who has done this really well of late?

Here’s the trailer:

BRAND NEW teaser