Cream on a mountain bloden stuff

Digitization makes filmmaking cheaper for amateurs, the Internet gives them an audience, and even Oscar nominations come out of it

"405" is more of a manifesto than a film: almost three million people have seen it, but neither in the cinema nor on television. You can see the emergency landing of a jumbo jet on the Los Angeles Highway 405. A single motorist has overheard the warnings on the radio and is happy about the empty road – until he looks in the rearview mirror. An action scene a la "Speed" begins. The production of the three-minute spectacle cost nothing, but weekends and nights of the two creators, a lot of computer time and 300 dollars. Of course, the film can be seen for free – on the internet.

A negation of all the principles of filmmaking: no crew, hardly any money, no production company and no distributor. Jeremy Hunt and Bruce Branit did all this themselves. Although they emphasize that their principle can only be applied to a limited extent to longer and non-computer-animated productions, it is generally true today: "Technology makes the professionalism of films a matter of time and talent rather than budget."

Technology means on the one hand the production: computing power has become so cheap that digital images with quite solid special effects can be calculated on a few ordinary home computers in short time. The main investment here is in animation software, which is usually the most expensive budget item. Hunt and Branit were able to work with the programs at their companies. Good software can cost up to 5000 dollars, as Joshua Meeter tells us. The 19-year-old nevertheless completed The Award Showdown in four months. The short film tells the story of how the Nobel Prize for Lifetime Achievement ends with a lightsaber duel between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The two giants are cute plasticine figures painted with acrylic paint. Meeter paid $ 1900 for the production – including a Sony Hi-8 camera and the necessary animation software.

The cost of films without animation also benefits from the inexpensive power of today’s computers. About image post-processing, editing, and mixing the sound. But more important here is the second aspect of the technology that Hunt and Branit are talking about, more important: the new distribution channels. Since 1998 there are two rough offers on the Internet, which bring amateur filmmakers and audience together. Atomic film.com currently offers 1300 films, about a million viewers are registered for free. Ifilm.com presents, in addition to the offer on its own pages, categorized references to about 15000 other films on the Internet. It costs the filmmaker nothing to prepare his work for the web and to present it. The concept is to be taken quite seriously. Investors include Eastman Kodak Digital, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment and Steve Tisch, the producer of "Forrest Gump".

The range of offers is huge. At IFilm, for example, you can find a ten-minute documentary about a dinner for the homeless and poor organized by the U.S. community of Springfield for Thanksgiving in 1999. The film sums up the atmosphere, which is more reminiscent of a meal at a friend’s house than a soup kitchen, quite well. A few mouse clicks away, The Killer Bean 2: The Party features a coffee bean that takes up arms because of its loudly partying neighbors. 650000 times people have looked at this. The poetic short film "Grooves" from Zurich shows the daydreams of a writer, the Swedish short animation "Alice in Plasma Land" a man paying for a peepshow with a bucking old lady.

The volume can become a problem. Where should a common cultural intersection come from when anyone can be an author, director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and actor all at once? The rapper Chuck D has predicted in relation to the distribution of music via the Internet: "In five years there will be a million artists and a million labels". In the end, each filmmaker will produce for himself and a few people with similar interests?

None of the do-it-yourself directors want to accept that. Bruce Branit says: "I hope a lot more people start making movies. Of course, this will lead to a mountain of stupid stuff, but it will also allow some people to shine with material that probably no one else had seen. The cream will always rise to the top." In a sense, it’s already doing so today at IFilm.com. Viewers can not only see how many times a film has been seen, but also read comments from other users about each work. A far more sophisticated system of audience rating than the current box office voting system.

The consensus is that the relationship between audience, producer and intermediary institutions will change. Even last year at a conference, U.S. television makers spoke of a fragmented media world. "Children today spend two or three hours on the Internet and create their own entertainment", complained Delores Morris of the HBO Family channel. Das Publikum gewinnt Macht. filmmakers who depend a little less on budget and a little more on their passion, too. Anyone who sees this as a threat to quality should check with Atomfilm.com to watch the short film Holiday Romance or the animation Humdrum. Both were nominated for Oscars in these categories in 1999.

The film world has long recognized the new competitors. And consequences were drawn: In June of this year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences excluded Internet films from Oscar nominations. Only works that were shown for the first time in the classic movie theater are now admitted.