Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ingrid Kopp's Digital Bootcamp

As noted in my previous post, I'm spending a lot of time in New York CIty these days. So, it's important that I get a feel for what's happening here. I'm lucky enough to know the awesome Ingrid Kopp of Shooting People (great org!). And she was kind enough to invite me to her Digital Bootcamp seminar at DCTV (another great org!).

I partially went to hear what cool stuff she was going to discuss, but also to see who turns up for a talk like this and if there is a real "community" attending these things. There was a nice turnout, although there is never as many people at these things as there should be - considering all the filmmakers I know who would benefit from Ingrid's info. Just sitting in the audience waiting for the presentation to begin, I wasn't able to see how much community there was among the audience. When I say community, I mean some kind of familiarity/connectivity between peeps that may include shared goals, projects, resources, etc. People were invited to stick around after the presentation for drinks and chatting, which would have given me a much better idea. However, I had to leave right after the presentation and missed the opportunity to see what's up.

Why is assessing the size and types of the filmmaking community here important? Well, if I'm going to start a community, I'd like to know what's here already. What am I dealing with. What exists already? Is there really even a need for Filmmakers Alliance in NYC? So far, I'm confident FA would have something significant to contribute here.

Anyway, all this focus on community went out the window when Ingrid began to talk. Immediately and throughout, I was very excited by everything she had to say and how she said it. She whizzed through a jam-packed tour of online digital tools in just over an hour and probably could've talked for several hours more. She spoke rapidly, but very succinctly, focusing not only on what technology exists out there on the web to help filmmakers develop an audience for their films, but also on how filmmakers can use these tools to expand the definition of filmmaking - and, therefore, how they define their own creative lives. Much of what she had to offer was not just "Check out this thing or check out that thing", it was "Think differently about films. Think differently about building an audience. And here are some tools to help you do that...."

How do we think differently? Well, first of all, the old idea of "build it and they will come" simply isn't working. I know, I know, you're an artist. And artists make art. And if it's great, people will see it - even if it's the very small handful of people who can recognize your genius for what it is. Or, if you are like Van Gogh, they will never see it in your lifetime, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're a true artist. Oh, stop it, please. Van Gogh would've given his right ear to gain a large audience for his work. Or was it the left ear?....Anyway, that romantic notion is simply foolish, especially given what exists out there to help people find your work despite the zillions of attention-grabbing, time-sucking choices they can make.

Ingrid Kopp of Shooting People

In her seminar, Ingrid introduces a whole array of clever, easy-to-use gizmos and do-dads that make the tedious job of building an audience actually kind of fun and creative - which offers another opportunity to think differently. She challenges us to not think of an audience as just an audience. The old idea of a passive audience engaging in a one-way relationship with the artist also does not serve the new age of indie filmmakers. Audiences can now be, in many cases MUST be, partners in a creative experience. And how does one build these "partnerships"? And what do they look like? Alas, those questions demand too much to be answered in this post. Suffice it to say, for now, that there are many, many cool new web tools out there to help you build those partnerships and many, many filmmakers and other creatives who are already taking advantage of them to successfully do it themselves.

Ingrid pulls a lot of examples from sites that have nothing to do specifically with filmmaking, but can be easily re-imagined to support the needs of indie filmmakers. They are tools used for marketing products, building grassroots support around a political or social issue, educating people about an issue or simply creating a very cool distraction. Often, these tools are used in very creative, unexpected ways that pulls in not just eyeballs, but true partners. This offers yet another opportunity to think differently filmmaking. How can we use these tools to extend the film experience beyond the parameters of the film itself? Can the process of building an audience/partners be a creative endeavor that is not altogether separate from the film itself? The answer is unequivocably, yes.

I know these emerging possibilities scare a lot of old school filmmakers who really just want to make a film and have it play to packed crowds at hundreds of commercial theaters. Then, become "industry famous" - wheeling and dealing with studios and making films with famous, fabulous people. I feel their pain. New technology is always scary, especially when it totally changes the game. Many silent filmmakers were terrified of and/or completely uninterested in the advent of sound. But like sound, this new technology is a reality of, not just the marketplace, but the creative process itself. It is much wiser, and ultimately more satisfying, to embrace and integrate all the cool stuff and enjoy the exciting new places it can take your work. Your childhood filmmaking dream may look a little different, now, but truly achievable.

Anyway, my head was spinning with all kinds of cool possibilities as Ingrid rolled out all of this amazing stuff. So, to get your heads spinning, too (since I've been speaking in such general terms throughout this post), you need to go here:

Ingrid has created this great resource site and considerately put together a bunch of info and links to help us navigate this brave new world of filmmaking-useful technology. Check it out. And join us as soon as you can in the 21st century.....

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