Open Philosophy on Filmmaking

It has been a few years since finishing Considering Democracy. After the screening tour, for various reasons, it has taken a few years to recover from the process. The path that I’ve taken has been one that has allowed me to meet some fabulous creative people, along with the chance to see incredibly moving documentaries. I’m always struck by the irony of experiencing powerful stories on the screen in the theater, yet as I look around, I often find myself wishing that more people could experience such a story.

As the process of filmmaking has become more democratized with the advent of digital filmmaking, likewise, the internet’s functionality and reach has also been growing in rapid leaps and bounds.  I’m fascinated by and have gravitated toward Open Source web development platforms and communities. WordPress and Drupal are CMS communities that rely on a the work of developers that voluntarily give resources within the development of plugins and modules and as well as within its core. Because their source code is open, anybody can make modifications and contribute to its development.  While I feel that filmmaking and storytelling is a vital and important part in contributing toward our humanity, I have been wanting to make the leap into creating web-based frameworks that harness individual stories.  I’ve been watching interactive media online and have been watching different filmmakers trying to make the transition to the online world with some heartache and frustration.

The internet is an amplifier of information.  Information can quickly spread over social networks and articles and individual tweets and posts retweeted and posted to become viral.  Indeed, revolutions have been spurred by social media.

Yet filmmakers are often caught between the desire to tell stories and the desire to protect the story that has so often painstakingly created.  With the recent swell of creators of media fighting for money that can be gained from selling it, the filmmaker is in a dilemma.  On one hand, it is almost flattering to have others upload and spread one’s creative work.  On the other hand, it hurts to see your work that took years to create, be so easily and willingly copied and given to others.  (One does want to eat, have a place to live, and we do this within a capitalist society – which I’m fine with, but it does create some dichotomies.)  I’ve seen this happen over and over.  With a film, there is the marketing desire to create demand, yet protect it to go through the usual channels of distribution.  Typically, it has been film festivals, theaters, then to digital viewing like Netflix or iMovie.  Yet very often on the web, many of the technologies that we benefit from every day are iterations of open source code that many people have contributed toward, and very often without any pay.

I recently went to Mountain Film Festival in Telluride.  Besides being in a beautiful area, being exposed to truly inspirational stories and people,  I was also struck by how passionate individuals  telling a story.  Some, while passionate, are seemingly shouting into the wilderness.  A person wrote a book where she interviewed people to see how they have been affected by fracking.  She had left her books, signed, in a pile on a table that had other informational material associated with the festival.  I asked if it was okay to take them, as it was a book – something that obviously took a lot of time and work to compile, and the volunteer relayed that it was okay, and that she left them there on the table for people to take.  I was struck by a thought that has been echoing within my mind – that there are now more efficient ways of getting these important stories out to audiences.

Part of this is that I’ve shifted in my thinking and have moved toward openness for the sake of getting information out to a greater public.  Today I changed the copyright on the bottom of a web-based magazine Green Passive Solar from my copyright to one that utilizes the Creative Commons designation.  And I will do the same to Considering Democracy.  I do want to willfully designate creative works that have information that is important and has value to others.

I’ve been thinking of remaking Considering Democracy and updating the stats, but if I were to do so, I would do it in a way that was web-based.  I recently showed Considering Democracy to students.  One student said that if he had a copy of it, one of his friends would translate it into Spanish.  It made me think that it would be more efficient if it were online – then it would be shared and made into any translation – by anyone who wanted to make one.

That’s part of the thinking behind making Considering Democracy under the Creative Commons.  I do want to put more work into it and it will be on its way and will happen soon in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, if you want a copy of the DVD, I’ll send you one.


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