Is Film History? New Media Film Fest Might Say So.
Film is (maybe) almost history. Soon, it looks like, those hot reels–romanticized in the 1980s vehicle, Cinema Paradiso–may be relegated to folklore, the way the Kindle or iPad threatens to eclipse printed books. According to Maxwell Gately, Chief of Projection at The Screen on Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus, The Screen could be one of the last places in the country to project authentic film print. Maxwell emphasizes that when given the choice, The Screen will always privilege film print, because of its quality, over other perhaps more convenient and inexpensive digital formats. Although I suspect there may be some nostalgia at play for film, maybe digital pixels just aren’t made for the big screen (web screens max out at 72 dpi resolution, after all!).
Perhaps this makes the New Media Film Festival (out of Los Angeles, CA) marketed as “Sundance for the Facebook crowd,” just a come-lately design hybrid to the ever-changing landscape of film and how it’s made. In Santa Fe the NMFF appears thanks to mastermind Terry Borst, the screen-writing professor at SFUAD, who helped bring this second year of the California festival winners. On February 6th, Monday evening, film students from SFUAD showed up for a chance to spy their competition and stay informed, in the good company of community film and new media enthusiasts, who seemed also to have attended for that reason.
We saw a series of 12 short films, ranging from 2 to 15 minutes. The vignettes encompassed production-stylistic techniques of 3-D animation and webisodics. Some were shot with RED Cameras; one presented a spotlight (commercial) for an iPhone app promoting e-call sheets. Their minimal length mirrors our minimal attention span – a fact which alone should signify that the coming of new media film to a movie theater near you seems to modernize the whole enterprise with the latest implication of being contemporary. We are a digitally engaged crowd and, as Professor Borst told the audience, new media is ”general, but here.”
There was lots of pleasurable footage, in a survey circa 2011 vein. That is to say, nothing looked particularly futuristic. If anything, it looked familiar. Visual sequences with few, if any, spoken words relied on music to keep tempo, recalling music videos. Lily Baldwin’s Sleeping With Frank translated choreography to the digital screen using a RED Camera. Digital animation took different forms from superimposing stills out of an actual book to effect depth to rendering swings on building tops that swing you right into heaven. My heartstrings were definitely tugged and overall, I felt like I had a satisfying cinema experience. It was refreshing to see short films, often relegated to YouTube, in that larger than life nostalgic cinema setting. My friend even got popcorn.
So what’s so new about this media? Its affordability and definitive convenience, for one, that, like photographs made on a mobile phone camera, democratize the image. Today anyone can make movies, edit them on their computer and distribute them online. As Maxwell Gately pointed out, “digital film isn’t made for the small screen as much as it is made by people who are used to the small screen,” i.e. the computer screen. Behold the Facebook crowd, accustomed to Vimeo or YouTube videos endlessly linked on their wall. New media could imply an end to shared movie-going – or else it’s just Plato’s cave gone digital.
When I asked Professor Borst what I should look for in the series of shorts he replied, “a good story.” Even the New Media Film Festival’s header reads “Honoring Stories Worth Telling.” Digital film, no matter how advanced its technology, still relies on something overtly humanistic, which kind of makes sense if anybody – that is, everybody – can make a movie. Even when the glamour of the “silver screen” are as dusty as memories of the silents, at least we’ll still have a good story.
More information on the 3rd Annual New Media Film Festival here.