Saturday, May 3, 2014

Side by Side the digital revolution/evolution for movies mirrors digital publishing

As a full disclosure, Keanu Reeves has held a special place in my heart since I was sixteen and saw Point Break, pretty sure I have watched Speed more than twenty times, yes I'm 'special' but not enough to ride the short bus to school. My love waned as he stopped taking off his shirt in his movies. I fell in love again watching The Matrix then the two that followed had me seeking a divorce. Occasionally I have caught a movie and was drawn to it more for Keanu than the movie and I enjoyed it. I caught the interview of Keanu pushing the documentary and the way he talked about it drew my attention. He mentioned the ability to touch the film, that there was something to hold onto when it was done. My mind went to what I would like to hold onto and I watched it that night. So, yes I watched it hoping I could just stare at Keanu for an hour but then I started to really pay attention and began to hear things I've heard before, only in reference to epublishing versus traditional publishing. (I promise I always have a point, even if it takes forever to get there. There's a reason why editing myself is so damn painful.)

While yes, there are places where the comparisons just don't meet, I was surprised by how often they did. It is in and of itself an interesting documentary and I recommend it just for opportunity to learn something new. (It's available on Netflix.) I learned ten minutes of film is all that can be recorded at a time before a new roll must be used. Ten minutes, I couldn't wrap my mind around it for a few minutes, I thought of all the long beautiful films that had to be cut together ten minutes at a time. I found it hard to believe, how could something so limited  be used for so long and not have everyone rushing to the new use of digital? The film recalls George Lucas holding a conference at his ranch declaring the death of film, long live digital. But still movies are being shot on film, about ten years after that declaration. Seeing the differences, of film versus digital, it's obvious why. There is a difference in quality of viewing that could not be denied. But now there has been a progression in technology that has even those clinging to film, letting it go.

Keanu seems to mourn the loss of film but the documentary is shot digital as is his first movie he directed, Man of Tai Chi. So even as he seems to be advocating the continued use of film he is using digital.

Is it a revolution or an evolution for film? Is traditional versus ebook publishing a revolution or evolution? A revolution, to my tiny mind, means there's blood on the floor when it's over. There is a fight and one wins, one loses. Evolution means to me, it's natural there's no fighting the change that is coming so it moves on and people do or get lost and it is the end of them.

It was interesting that someone in the documentary says close to the same thing, either you evolve or your time is over and it's time for someone else to take your place.

Those most excited, jumping on the digital bus and riding into the sunset were not surprisingly those that had more to gain. George Lucas makes blockbuster movies but those blockbusters come at a high price, by lowering the price there is more of a profit left over that makes the studios happy, that greenlight the movies. Robert Rodriguez was all over that, he's an interesting filmmaker that isn't to everyone's taste. His movies have been small, his budgets even smaller, he could use digital to do more, push his own envelope and impress not just the moviegoers but again, making the studios happier perhaps?

Then the focus came to the indies of digital, the real indies making movies and how excited at being able to make something different, and doing it their way. Lars Von Trier, Danny Boyle and Anthony Dod Mantle, Mantle had made a tiny movie called Celebration and had been lauded for the tiny thing done by handheld cameras. The freedom, the word came up so many times I lost count. The freedom to dream, imagine and create.

Isn't that what a writer does and seeks out? The characters that come and won't go away until their story is told, they can be uneven and edges unsmooth, that's life though and not everything ends with a bow tied around it. The publishers, the gatekeepers they want the edges smooth, they need the edges smooth because they know what they can sell. Uneven doesn't work, the bow doesn't have to be tidy but it needs to be there.

Lena Dunham appears and shares that as a writer she felt safer in making her first movie with a small hand held camera as she didn't feel she had to build something large to go around it and she could go at her own pace, in her comfort zone.

Mark Linklater (he made dazed and confused and a scanner darkly), remembering when it used to be guys would sit around talking about what great films they could make if the man gave them the chance, well now they have the chance.

Sixteen half-completed stories that I didn't bother to finish as I didn't believe they would be good enough to get published. Two of those are now self-published and one of them is selling extremely well. One of them was turned down by Harlequin, it's selling second to the one I just mentioned. I didn't cry or was upset or depressed when Harlequin didn't even respond to my query, it wasn't a possibility I even allowed myself to hope deep down. My hope was I could at least get feedback to make it better but I didn't even get that. So I shut it down and then three years later the epublishing began and I began again.

My not good enough to even get a no is selling, was the gatekeeper so wrong, or did I get better? As it is now, would it have been picked up or would I still be waiting if I hadn't taken control of my own future as a writer? It's interesting, I see the free go up and then I watch sells trickle in thereafter. So the buyers, they think it's good enough, and they come back for more. Self-publishing has given me a means to tell the stories, a means to become the writer I have always wanted to be.

At one point, Keanu is talking with a producer and says something to the effect of "More movies, that's a good thing, more stories being told."

The response is immediate, "No, less good, more bad. My children won't have the same quality, a taste maker isn't involved." A producer, he's the money man, he doesn't make the movie but him fronting the cash for it to be made, makes him a gatekeeper, or as he calls himself, a taste maker.

The consensus as the documentary draws to a close is that film is sadly going away. A loss of something special is going away. But here's the thing, the stories, they will never go away, it's just being told a different way.

Print books, they aren't going away. I still buy them, love them more than my ebooks, I really do. I like the feel of them the smell, the pages that become worn with reading and rereading them. The 12 boxes still packed full of books, I have already read and will 'someday' read attest to that. I started reading at five, then I really started to read by six, my mother handed me a dictionary to save her sanity. It was medium sized, about the size of a hard back book but a little thicker. It was blue and the outside wasn't flat it was woven with texture. Books became my escape, when the real world became to painful to endure I slipped into another world where the books took me but in my youth not all the worlds made sense because I didn't really understand them. The dictionary made the worlds clearer, sharper and brought it all into focus. I carried it around for years, my hands lingering down the front more gently and with as much love as any woman has ever caressed her lover. I lost the dictionary in one our many moves and I miss it still, more than I miss anything really in my childhood. It was real to me, it explained the world to me and the holding of it close made me feel real. So it is with the sincerest belief there are others that won't let print books ever go away.

It was interesting to learn at the end that for all of the raving about digital, the only true way to back it up, is put it to film. Digital keeps changing and so the means to store and playback changed and some lost completely. With film, it can still be seen, shot for shot, frame by frame against light.

For all of the love of ebooks and self-publishing, I know people that have published their books not for the readers but for themselves, as a means of proving what they created, to hold it in their hand and run their hands over the covers and see their name in print.

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