Erasmus in the digital film world

Exploding Cinema – About the future of film

"Humanism, that is the technology of the future", Henry Jenkins claims and pays tribute to Erasmus, in whose native city he gave a lecture on pop culture and the convergence of film and the Internet during the Rotterdam Film Festival. Erasmus had tried to mediate between theology and a new idea of human self-realization. A contemporary humanism, on the other hand, has to mediate between the popular culture of fans and the high culture of cineastes.


The classic 90-minute cinema will continue to exist, but in the digital age we must get used to the fact that film clips will soon be available on millions of cell phones, not to mention the many short films available on the Internet. These films have a length of up to 20 minutes and are often watched by fans of crude movie sagas such as the "War of the Stars" or "Star Trek" put on the Internet. But increasingly, American fans are facing penalties for infringing on the production companies’ intellectual property on characters like Luke Skywalker or Data, according to U.S. legal catchall.

Henry Jenkins sees this as limiting the human desire to actively shape stories heard and seen. He spoke in the section "Exploding Cinema" at the Rotterdam Film Festival, which explores the future of moving images in this series of discussions and lectures. Festival director Simon Field and his curator Femke Wolting are convinced that a festival must inform about changes in the image industry. This includes short films on the Internet and game stations. In 1999, according to the industry journal, these computerized video games generated "Variety" these computerized video games generated a turnover of 7.2 billion dollars in 1999, close to that of the film industry (7.4 billion dollars), so that even a festival must take heel to arm film lovers with information about new exploitation strategies of the dream factory. A recent assessment of the importance of the Internet for the film industry was formulated by Strauss Zelnick at the Variety Summit in San Diego in early February.

The transitions from a fan to a programmer of games or to a scriptwriter are fugitive. A prime example is Kevin Rubio. He programmed the 1998 short film Troops, which features robot COPs from Darth Vader’s army. Troops attracted so much attention on the Internet that George Lucas offered the twenty-year-old a job as a programmer. In Japan, there are numerous examples of company foundations by the supposedly so passive fans. In the land of the red sun, fans are also not told to shut down creative websites by the lawyers of crude production companies, Masuyama Hiroshii argued in the discussion with Jenkins. Hiroshii is planning a museum for game stations in Tokyo, and curated the exhibition in Rotterdam "Tokyo Techno Tourism" with new productions from this area.

According to Jenkins, because of the American legal practice, there is no question that the "War of the Stars" compete with the rough stories of mankind. With the "Odyssey", the "Iliad" and the stories of "One Thousand and One Nights" generations of listeners have participated in the erzahlerische creation of the materials. On the other hand, spinning the fortunes of the Enterprise or Luke Skywalker is often legally prosecuted in America. However, the fans are almost unstoppable. Following the example of Robin Hood, they rob the studios of copyrighted characters only to give them to the community of active media users. With little technical means, z.B. two video recorders, they mix the faces of the movie stars with family recordings or with music videos. The Internet helps fans around the world to see each other’s niches, exchange tips on costumes and scripts, and discuss political ideas of planetary justice.

Jenkins is convinced that the future of the media lies in the hands of the fans. These are new tones from the technology hotbed of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Jenkins teaches and has to hold his own alongside researchers like Marvin Minsky, for whom culture is nothing "as bad science" is. The future in the technological age will depend largely on creative appropriations of media offerings. Media innovations, from photocopiers and VCRs to computers and digital cameras, have contributed significantly to the spread of subcultures by reducing the cost of printing and developing information.

Japanese cartoons are a prime example of cultural exchange between Japan and the West. The so-called manga (comics) and anime (cartoons) currently have cult status in America. College students sitting at their computers with a word book to learn from the Internet the latest information in Japanese about products from Tokyo. The Japanese comic industry can be traced back to the admiration for Walt Disney in the East on the one hand and to the traumatic end of the Second World War on the other hand. It is a special challenge for humanists of the digital age to understand the aggressive and fast-paced image offerings from Japan. A closer look reveals a dark side of Western culture: the heroes of Japanese popular culture are unmistakably American and German. They resemble the Nordic Siegfried, bear names like "Most dangerous spirit" and are often clumsy strongmen that destroy cities. they reflect the violent upheaval of Japanese culture forced by the West in the nineteenth century for economic reasons. Now the success of Japanese cartoons and game stations in America is forcing the U.S. film industry to rethink its approach.

"Exploding Cinema" in this process does not mean that the enjoyment of cinema is reduced. Instead, the desire for moving images is spreading at an unprecedented rate. Cartoons will soon be available on cell phones, and short film directors will be able to get in direct contact with the viewers of their films via email.

Erasmus in the digital film world

Blair Witch Project

Numerous niches will emerge, according to another panel on the future of film distribution, in which short films will be shown to specialized audiences. These niches are also sources that the cultural industry will tap into. The success of Blair Witch Project is due to test runs and discussions on the Internet, which have allowed to estimate the possible success of a theatrical release (Eduardo Sanchez on the film) "Blairwitch Project").

Michael Comisch presented the strategic use of films by the company Atomfilms, in whose European division he works. His paper confirms the suspicion that the digital revolution has led to strategic links between computer companies and advertising agencies that financially exploit the creative potential of filmmakers. The short films are aimed at a niche audience that can rank the films and email the director with disliked points about his production. Michael Comisch presented it as a desirable perspective that filmmakers take into account the audience’s requests in further productions. This form of film reception is financed by advertisers who place information about their products next to the films.

However, the presentations by Jenkins and Comish suggest that digital film distribution on the Internet will put fans and filmmakers at a disadvantage. The Internet tightens the relationship between film consumption and the advertising industry and can lead to an efficient "Networking" by consumer habits. Because the visual preferences of Internet users can be conveniently recorded and evaluated. The digital plunderers then become coded fish whose preferences can be stimulated so precisely that they become entangled in the networks of the culture industry.

The opportunities to make money, either by producing films for the network or by advertising on the network, are still small. They depend on the expected advertising revenues and on the successful development of strategic partnerships between customers and manufacturers. Therefore, for strategic reasons, companies like Atomfilms occupy the segment of film productions on the Internet. Today’s Erasmus, who would like to mediate between popular culture and the world of expensive cinema, must therefore arm himself legally if he does not want to become an ideologue of the culture industry.