Making a movie

I shot around 20 hours of video in September. Is that enough to build a coherent feature length movie?

My original idea was to post video during the trip, but It turns out that sailing 20-30 miles, camping/packing, shooting and editing are four unique and demanding jobs. Usually only two of them (occasionally three) are doable in any given day. So…

A trip rhythm might flow like this – sail to an interview or location and shoot (day 1-2), rough cut a ten – twenty minute chapter, perhaps moving to a remote site to minimize distraction (day 3-4) and post to the blog as at the next decent cell connection, (day 5).  Repeat. If the weekly postings are consistent the chapters become episodes of a show. At the end of the trip the episodes might be reconfigured as a feature or perhaps a trilogy.

With more advanced packing techniques I may be able to reduce my cargo and the inherent complications of carrying gear for so many diverse activities. I can schedule destinations based on the rhythm and perhaps develop editing templates so chapters can be easily assembled. There’s lots of strategies for handling the unique workload of a windy filmmaker, the first step is feeling it – taking in the experience.

Then there’s the open source philosophy. Open source started with software development but has been migrating to other disciplines. It’s a cooperative ethic. My posted chapters are available under a Creative Commons license, which basically allows non commercial use with attribution, meaning folks can work with my video in their own projects as long as they are not making a profit and I get credit. This might queer my chances at distribution or getting into festivals, but I like the idea of providing public access to the film as it happens.

This is a lesson I took from working with Jeff Gibbs on his Planet project. We were in West Virginia interviewing a man whose land was being destroyed by a nearby mountaintop removal operation. I proposed to Jeff that we leave some footage behind so the local activists would have more resources for their struggle, but he declined – he needed the footage to remain under wraps until the entire project was completed, even if it took years. He didn’t want his footage getting used in some other project, he didn’t want to get his story scooped. His reasons made sense, but it meant that the local folks wouldn’t be any better off by our visit.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since. I recognize that by putting great gobs of my source material online I may be risking my feature project but if I find something that can advance global consciousness or energize regional activism then posting as I go makes sense.

As I’ve mentioned, I didn’t get to put much video up in transit, so the next best thing is to open up the editing process. This makes me feel a bit queasy though because I am showing rough cuts which are by nature – rough. I am making the first pass on my source material, grabbing interesting moments and slamming them into some kind of sketch. In a closed editing process would then drop that sketch into the archive for later review by the post production team. In an open process sketches go up on the web, warts and all, for public access. This is probably not really such a big deal – my public is less than 200-300 people presently. However, it’s likely to increase if I keep presenting interesting and valuable material. It’s both a marketing ploy and a proof of concept. I want to explore how an open source movie would actually work. What are the implications and can it be scaled up?

For me, this is what the entire project has been moving towards.

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