Ella Es El Matador – Women v. Machismo in the Bull Ring

This week, many of our posts will feature films and seminars from AFI SILVERDOCS, an 8-day documentary film festival that takes place in Silver Spring, MD.  We have an upcoming interview clip with Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove, and a lot more to say about the future of public media.  But for now I want to direct your attention to one of the best films I saw last week:  Ella Es El Matador (She is the Matador).

Gemma Cubero del Barrio and Celeste Carrasco follow two women in their quest to succeed in the machismo world of Spanish bullfighting.  The film itself is beautiful – watching it, I had an incredible sense of the two women not only as devoted athletes and trailblazers, but also as people who are passionate about an art that is significant in Spanish culture.

Maripaz Vega, Celeste Carrasco, Eva Florencia and Gemma Cubero del Barrio.  Photo by Anna Pinkert

Maripaz Vega, Celeste Carrasco, Eva Florencia and Gemma Cubero del Barrio. Photo by Anna Pinkert

Both filmmakers and both of the women bullfighters were on hand at the screening I attended.  The filmmakers said that this movie took 9 years to make.  Initially, they conceived of it as a piece on the history of women bullfighters, but when they met Eva Florencia and Maripaz Vega, they decided to make them the center of the story.  On their part, Eva Florencia and Maripaz Vega said that they loved watching the film, and were proud to be a part of it.  Vega, who is an established matador, hoped that the film would improve the situation for women bullfighters in Spain, but that they have a long way to go.

One of the many things I learned at SILVERDOCS is the value of a good relationship with your subjects.  At a screening of Salesman, legendary director Albert Maysles updated us on the status of his four Bible salesmen subjects, 40 years after the film’s debut.  Being warm, generous, and kind to the people in your film has a better chance of yielding the intimate stories that you want to tell as a filmmaker.

Ella Es El Matador will premiere on PBS on Sept 1 as a part of POV.

Web Comics Under Fire

Neil Swaab posted last week about the viability of webcomic business models in the current economy.

“I know there are plenty of web comic artists who are able to subsist on the income they make from their website, but they aren’t making money from their comics; they’re making money from merchandise. Not to belittle web-only comic artists, but when their income is derived from t-shirts, it makes them salesmen first, artists second.”

As a print comic artist, Swaab’s assesments about the webcomic world were questioned and challenged by several webcomic artists, most notably, Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content. Jacques’s post contains a point-by-point rebuttal of Swaab’s assertions and the back and forth illustrates most of the key differences in perspective between those working primarily in traditional media and those more comfortable with online and new media outlets.

On merchandising:

Swaab:

The t-shirt sales method is unacceptable for the reasons that an artist is not intrinsically making money off his or her comic, but is instead making money off merchandise sales and using the comic as a form of advertising for their merchandise.

Jacques:

I don’t know what country accepts BULLSHIT ARTISTIC CREDIBILITY DOLLARS as valid currency but I’m sure glad I don’t live there! Money is money.

On subscriptions models:

Swaab:

If enough artists decided to lock up their archives at the same time so readers had no choice but to subscribe, and the technology existed to prevent illegal copying and distributing on the Web, this could be a very wonderful solution.

Jacques:

If “the technology existed to prevent illegal copying and distributing on the web” we would be living IN MAGICAL FAIRY PONY FANTASY LAND. Maybe that’s also where those BULLSHIT ARTISTIC CREDIBILITY DOLLARS are legal tender!

On viability:

Swaab:

“Whatever business models alternative comic artists can come up with, the one thing that I firmly believe is that the current paradigm is dead… Artists must figure out a way to monetize their work online and readers must be willing to take this journey with them.”

Jacques:

Webcomics readers are the best readers in the entire fucking world. We are all incredibly, incredibly fortunate to have you guys supporting us, either monetarily or simply by looking at our websites and enjoying them.  But artists already have figured out how to monetize their work online, and readers have already made that journey with them.

It will be interesting to see other responses to this debate as the decline of traditional print comics and the viability of webcomics are likely to be echoed in other creative mediums. Jacques also briefly mentions an important point at the end of this response: that some comic would only work online, and other would only work in print.

Jacques is alluding to the fact that the long tail effect makes it possible for webcomic artists to sustain interest within a niche audience that is reachable by using the web as a distribution platform. Conversely, some print comics that have enough broad appeal to survive in a print world would not attract enough loyal fans if those readers were presented with a host of other options that may be more tailored to their individual tastes.