Director’s Diary: Power to the People!

April 20th, 2011 by Timo Vuorensola

I was asked to participate in an interesting seminar / panel discussion that was part of the Imagine Film Festival program, in Amsterdam, Holland. The seminar was called Power to the People, and it discussed two basic topics: fan fiction and crowdsourcing. Attending alongside me were a New York -based filmmaker and an actor Zachary Oberzan, who had made his own interpretation of the book First Blood, called Flooding with Love for the Kid (2010), Alexandré Philippe, a documentary director who had released a film called The People vs. George Lucas (2010), and a Danish director Martin Koolhoven, who had crowdsourced 60-second edits of his hugely popular film Winter in Wartime (2008).

The Imagine panelists (from left): Zachary Oberzan, Alexandré Philippe, Timo Vuorensola and Martin Koolhoven.

The moderators had prepared a bunch of bold statements, which they flashed on the screen as a discussion starters, igniting the panelists to venture from fan art to crowd sourcing, crowd funding and finally the future of the film industry. Although I was one of the panelists, I felt the discussion was quite thorough, and didn’t degrade into circlejerking or a flame war at any point, which unfortunately can’t be said of every panel I’ve attended to.

Flooding with Love for the Kid is quite an interesting project, of which I had not heard of before the festival, although the film’s been out there quite prominently – just one of those things right down my alley that I’ve managed to somehow miss. The idea behind the film that it was shot with $96 in one apartment in New York, by Zachary Oberzan, who’s playing all the roles himself. Zachary, a big First Blood fan (first, the movie – then, the book), realized his life-long dream to re-interpret the novel, on which Stallone‘s film by the same name is based on. Fact is, he never had any money, equipement or crew to do it, but being an unemployed filmmaker and an actor in New York, he decided to quite waiting around for other people’s permission to make the film, and went ahead and just did it. The trailer is here:

Zachary told interesting stories, as he had contacted the novelist David Morrell who wrote the book, to gain his permission for making the film – and although Morrell didn’t own the rights, he did give his blessing. But still, Stallone has the filming rights for First Blood, and if he wanted to play asshole, he could sue Zachary quite fast. But the discussion of whether it would be either a fan film, a parody or something in between is something the lawyers are not especially enthusiastic to start fighting for.

Right now, Zachary is working on a film/theater project where he’s re-making shot-by-shot his youth fan remakes of Van Damme‘s movie KickBoxer (1989), and he tours around the world on theater stages showing the films and playing Van Damme on the stage simultaneously. A very interesting project touring right now, and goes by the name Your Brother, Remember. Check out the amazing trailer below – if this doesn’t make you think about Samuli Torssonen back in the days when he was working on Andy Bones and Star Wrecks, then nothing:

Alexandré Philippe, a director of The People vs. George Lucas jumps even further down the fan’s mind with his documentary, trying to find out an answer to the question of how far does the rights of the author go, and does a fanbase that’s been feeding the filmmaker for decades have any say on what can be done with the franchise and what not. Although Star Wars is quite unique case, it’s a great subject to mess around the topic; there probably is no fan of the original Star Wars saga who really can say they think the prequels, started by The Phantom Menace (2001), get even close to the original trilogy.

And more interestingly, as Lucas has been tampering with even the original trilogy, releasing new versions loaded with heaps of terrible, already outdated CGI and completely retarded plot twists and needless changes, the question is even more interesting. What version of the original Star Wars trilogy is the version that’s “real”? Who can make the decision? Lucas – who says that the latest remake of the original trilogy, the one where Han Shot First, is the real one, and the original one is obsolete? Or the fans who’ve fell in love during the last 30+ years over and over again to the very original trilogy – they’ve been denied an access to that film, and re-sold time and time again a newer, even worse version every time.

Check out this trailer for the film, it should prove to be quite an exciting watch indeed:

The last guest was a Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven who made an extremely succesful Dutch film Winter In Wartime that’s been spreading on big screens all the way to the States. He was there because as a part of a competition, the fans of his film were asked to re-edit the film into 60 second segments. As it usually happens (he indicated it was especially a Dutch phenomenon), the people didn’t follow the rules and re-made the 60 second versions into a completely different stories that had nothing to do with the original film.

The winning piece was a very innovative 60 second short film where the main character rides a bicycle, and on his both sides jump on and off the characters of the film, thus telling in a very clever, cute and compressed form the story of the film. Instead of editing it, they shot the whole material, so they had really put an effort into making the film.

This led to a question I wasn’t able to give a clear answer to: why did I release Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning (2005) under a license which allows anyone to further distribute it the way anyone wants to, but not to make derivate works of it.

Like Martin said, there’s no better way to promote a film than a fan re-make – or a spinoff – of it – which have happened already so many times in Star Wreck’s case, the biggest of those being Star Wreck 2pi that’s currently in production – so why didn’t I allow, and encourage it further?

I enjoyed taking part in the panel, and liked the way the discussion travelled from defining a fan film to legal issues, and then moving on to separation between crowd sourcing and crowd funding, and eventually asking what’s the business model of a laptop filmmaker using Internet as his or her’s main distribution and marketing channel. I assume there’s not one clear answer to that, but I believe it’s “motion”. It’s impeartive to be able to keep the product alive, keep it spreading in whatever form it most naturally takes, in whatever media it most naturally goes to – whether it’s fan art, merchandise, DVD sales or whatever – and constantly try new things.

And coming back to Hugh Hancock‘s extremely good point he made during a seminar in Singapore – the most important thing in the Internet is to fail fast. Try new things, see if they work – and if they don’t, kill them, move on and come up with another idea. The Internet is in constant motion – the key is to keep up to it.

Here’s a Director’s Diary of the trip; it’s quite long, and maybe quite confusing, but I wanted to grasp a bit of Amsterdam and a bit of the panel to it. Enjoy:

Ps., here’s another report I wrote from the festival, to my blog Zombie Room.

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2 Responses to “Director’s Diary: Power to the People!”

  1. Actually, I remember why we didn’t allow remixing Star Wreck from the start. It was because we were worried about the people who had helped us to make the film (and acted in it) – we thought that they might not like it if their work was used again in totally different ways.

    Sure, that was a mistake, since we’ve enjoyed pretty much every single remix we’ve seen and given permission to everyone who has asked… However, one has to remember that was in 2005, in internet years that was ancient Greece. I mean, it’s now completely normal to make films just for the internet. And we know that once you do, remixes happen – but that hadn’t happened in 2005.

    Talking of mistakes… We also missed out on YouTube – back in 2005 they were just starting and our site actually had more traffic. So what if we had been the first to upload a film there? We didn’t though, because we thought the picture quality (remember when all video on youtube was 15fps?) was so horrible no-one would like to watch it. Not the smartest decision in hindsight.

  2. Jaap says:

    Nice to see Amsterdam (and thus my country) through the eyes of a Finn!
    But please let correct something: Those ‘houses’ on the water are actually (stationary) boats dedicated to be inhabited permanently, but they can be moved if necessary.
    In Dutch we call it a ‘woonboot’ (literally translated ‘living boat’, but the English name is simply ‘houseboat’)
    Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houseboat
    Btw, in the north of the Netherlands there’s a boat where you can eat Dutch pancakes, so if you once happen to be in the city of Groningen, keep it in mind!

    But thank you for visiting my country on such a perfect occasion, it was great meeting you, one day I know we’ll meet again, under the Iron Sky! (in plain English: Next year on Imagine: Iron Sky screening + Q&A + afterparty, I hope!)
    I hope the interviews you did (quite a lot, I think you were the most interviewed person on the festival after our national pride Rutger Hauer) make the low countries aware of Iron Sky.
    Good luck!

    P.S.
    One thing I forgot to ask you: (I blame myself for forgetting it)
    How do you, as a Finn, percieve the Dutch compared to Germans?
    What are the main differences?

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