Monday, 24 November 2008

Online Film Audio-Commentaries and Video Essays Of Note

In Film Studies For Free's humble opinion, one of the most exciting online areas for potential Film Studies' development is rapidly emerging from the already hugely popular Web 2.0 practice of video-sharing. It has never been easier to publically display work in which moving (and still) image-tracks, created by others, can be 'overlaid' with one's own recorded words/sounds/text, to create web 'video-essays' or online 'audio-commentaries'.

The practical/technical side of this activity should provide few challenges for the YouTube generation: the main issue to consider in relation to the educational uses of such 'user-generated' resources is, as ever, that of the quality of content. But there are plenty of noteworthy models around, from which Film Studies teachers and students can gain insight and inspiration, such as Susana Medina's excellent video essay on fetishism in the work of Luis Buñuel, embedded above (and also available on MySpace and at the Internet Archive).

To celebrate these developments, and to support them in a small way, Film Studies For Free has created a new (right-hand margin) list of links to freely accessible online audio commentaries, video essays, and 'alternative' DVD commentaries. The list currently links to the following websites: Shooting Down Pictures; Susana Medina, 'Buñuel’s Philosophical Toys'; Listology List of Best Fan Commentaries (until 2005); Sean Weitner and Andy Ross on Mulholland Drive; on Suspiria and Profondo Rosso; and Renegade Commentaries. Suggestions of other websites or items of this kind are, as ever, warmly welcomed.

By far the richest website resource in this area, to date, is the one at the head of FSFF's current list: Kevin B. Lee's fabulous Shooting Down Pictures. As GreenCine Daily rightfully testified back in July 2008 (when Film Studies For Free was barely a twinkle in this neophyte blogger's eye): 'For some time now, Kevin B Lee's video essays have been among the most exciting developments in film blogging, suggesting not an alternative but supplemental form of film criticism accessible to anyone online.'

Lee is a filmmaker and multimedia producer based in New York City. Shooting Down Pictures primarily serves as a repository for a wide variety of materials connected with his project of viewing every film on the list of 1000 greatest films of all time, as compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? Rather than simply writing about, or gathering pre-existing resources together for these films -- both of which Lee does brilliantly, it must be said -- he also makes video essays about them and commissions others to provide their own audio commentaries, including ones by such luminaries as Nicole Brenez, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Richard Brody, Karina Longworth, Andy Horbal, Mike D'Angelo, Matt Zoller Seitz, Preston Miller, Vadim Rizov, and Girish Shambu.

The current full list of video essays by Shooting Down Pictures is given below, but also check out the video index Lee maintains at YouTube where these and many other videos by him, or fabulously 'mashed up' by him, are hosted.

After a recent flurry of literally feverish activity, Film Studies For Free is going to take a richly-deserved, two-week break so that its cold-ridden author can become fully healthy once more, and go off to deliver a talk on her own work (which is not totally unconnected to the focus of today's blog post, as it happens). In the meantime, FSFF leaves you with a little video essay by Lee and Dan Sallitt on another of this blog's favourite filmmakers (alongside Buñuel), Claude Chabrol. Adieu, pour le moment...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ahoy, Me Hearties! Pirate Philosophy by Gary Hall

Open Access publishing is not all that scary

Yesterday, Film Studies For Free's author attended a very stimulating talk on a subject dear to this blog's heart: Open Access publishing in the Humanities.

Tireless proponent and exponent of radical Open Access Professor Gary Hall gave his lecture -- 'Pirate Philosophy' -- as part of the Research in Progress Seminar Series at the School of Media and Film at the University of Sussex, a talk he had also delivered at his own institution, Coventry University. The Sussex event was chaired by Caroline Bassett, whose own writing on digital media is well worth checking out: click HERE for an online Open Access article by her on Web 2.0 and read about her new book, The Arc and the Machine: Narrative and New Media (complete with its discussion of Gus Van Sant's film Elephant) HERE.

A description of the earlier version of Gary Hall's talk, available online, reads as follows (with the odd hyperlink added, as usual, by FSFF):

This Lecture presented a series of performative media projects or ‘media gifts’. Operating at the intersection of art, media and philosophy, these projects – which include an open access archive and a ‘liquid book’ – are gifts in that they are part of the ‘academic gift economy’ which circulates research for free rather than as market commodities. They are performative in that they are instances of media that produce the things of which they speak and are engaged primarily through their performance.

The media gift that this Lecture focussed on was ‘Pirate Philosophy’. This project investigated some of the implications of internet pirate philosophy for the arts and humanities, particularly the latter’s ideas of authorship, the book, the academic journal, scholarly publishing, intellectual property, copyright law, content creation and cultural production. ‘Pirate Philosophy’ explores such ideas both philosophically and legally through the creation of an actual ‘pirate’ text.

Hall's lecture richly explored all sorts of different models for Open Access as well as, very engagingly, the current relevance to these matters of the work of a variety of cultural theorists (most prominently Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Zygmunt Bauman, and the gift-economics of Marcel Mauss -- 'gifts are never free', but instead often give rise to reciprocal exchange).

The question session at the end of the seminar showed that many of those attending were, in part, inspired by Hall's call to piracy/self-piracy, but were residually anxious in the ways that academics employed (or working towards being employed) by the current system so often are about the challenges to conventional systems of academic, and other, authorship that Web 2.0 has raised, and that Web 3.0 will take even further. Hall's tactical refusal to assuage those anxieties was well met by this attendee, though. A little pirate heartiness will indeed be necessary if the lockdown culture of Western Academia is truly to change. (But that's easy for this blogger to say...)

All these debates are closely connected to ones about the spreadability of digital moving image materials as well as text-based ones. Interested FSFF readers should also check out Gary Hall's website together with Culture Machine, the online journal he co-founded and edits, which will have an upcoming issue on Pirate Philosophy. You should also visit and support CSeARCH, the pioneering Humanities online-archive he co-founded in 1999. Hall's latest book Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now is a highly compelling read, but you can get some sense of his detailed arguments from the following online conference proceedings piece: 'The Politics and Ethics of Electronic Archiving'; and from the following interview: ‘OA in the Humanities Badlands’.

If you've got as far as this point in this post, ye verily deserve today's final, 'piratical' gift: a video of Hall's lecture as given at Coventry University on September 29, 2008:

Film Studies For Free's author promises to return to the fascinating questions about authorship, online and otherwise, raised by Hall's work in a future post for her research blog Directing Cinema.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Scott Kirsner's 'Inventing the Movies': free online video

Scott Kirsner at Google HQ

Film Studies For Free has already waxed lyrical about CinemaTech, the great blog by Scott Kirsner. Today CinemaTech offered up a link to a video posted on YouTube by Google of a hugely informative 46 minute-long talk on the history of Hollywood film technological innovations given by Kirsner when he visited the company. The presentation is wonderfully delivered and festooned with great clips.

Here's the blurb for the talk, with hyperlinks added by Film Studies For Free for further information:

Scott Kirsner visits Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss his book "Inventing the Movies: Hollywood's Epic Battle Between Innovation and the Status Quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs." This event took place on October 16, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series.From Edison to the iPod, from the Warner Brothers to George Lucas, the story of how the movies became America's favorite form of escapist entertainment--and retained their hold on our imaginations for more than a century--is a story of innovators prevailing again and again over skeptics who prefer to preserve the status quo. Inventing the Movies unspools the never-before-told story of the innovators who shaped Hollywood: how a chance meeting at the Saratoga Race Track led to the end of black-and-white movies ... how Bing Crosby brought you the VCR ... how Walt Disney tamed television ... how a shotgun blast signaled the end of hand-made models and the beginning of digital special effects ... and how even the almighty Morgan Freeman had trouble persuading theater-owners that the Internet wasn't their mortal enemy. Inventing the Movies is an important read not just for fans of Hollywood's history, but for innovators trying to make change happen in any industry.

This is obviously a very 'technology-positive', not to say 'technologically-triumphalist', take on Hollywood/California history; for much more nuanced views readers should take a look at Henry Jenkins's work, including his blog. But Film Studies For Free thinks that this free video is well worth a watch and certainly serves as a particularly good and lively introduction to film technology history for those who are fairly new to the topic.

P.S. Film Studies For Free was stunned yesterday to hear the news that the aforementioned Henry Jenkins is to depart from the MIT Comparative Media Studies program that he co-founded to take up a new position at the University of Southern California. Truly, the end of an era, but hopefully the beginning of another one for work on participatory culture.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Mickey Mouse and Animation Links

GreenCine Daily reminds Film Studies For Free that it's Mickey Mouse's birthday today - eighty years to the day since his first film appearance in Steamboat Willie. GC Daily points us in the direction of a nice annotated photo gallery with informative text by Neal Gabler, author of Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, at the Guardian Online. And once there you can find a tribute video with some wonderful clips (you just have to endure a short advert to watch them). The BBC also offers some infotaining fun with the old mouse, too. If Disney World's anthropomorphism or cultural imperialism are not your cup of tea, then check out another cultural text that 'age cannot wither ..., nor custom stale': Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's enduringly essential How to Read Donald Duck.

Anyhow, on the occasion of this mousepicious anniversary, the ever event-driven Film Studies For Free decided to gather together in one place (below) all its current animation online-resource links (to archives, online films, weblogs, e-journals and noteworthy articles, e-zines, discussion and research groups, and podcasts):

Monday, 17 November 2008

Internet Archive Film E-Books: Pudovkin, Kracauer, Balázs, Rotha

Today, Film Studies For Free brings you news of some more cinema-related items from the Internet Archive. The following are links to out of copyright or otherwise legally scannable books that have been collected and archived by the IA. They may be accessed in various formats (PDF, DjVu, Full Text) and can take a while to download, but it's great that they're available online. There are quite a few film books archived (of variable quality) -- check out the IA search tool HERE -- but Film Studies For Free especially likes these classic tomes:

By the way, if you want to know more about these or any other books then Film Studies For Free recommends you look no further than the wonderful Open Library site. The Open Library promises 'one web page [full of information] for every book ever published':

To date, we have gathered about 30 million records (20 million are available through the site now [and there are 1,064,822 so far with full-text]), and more are on the way. We have built the database infrastructure and the wiki interface, and you can search millions of book records, narrow results by facet, and search across the full text of 1 million scanned books.

The Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and is funded in part by a grant from the California State Library. It needs volunteers (like all wiki-type projects) so, to find out more about participating, please click HERE, or just start browsing around and add some book information.

Finally, thanks for all the appreciative email comments about Film Studies For Free's listing of Online and Open-Access Film and Moving-Image Studies Writing Of Note by Individual Named Authors (also see the explanation of the listing HERE). To reiterate, suggestions for further items for inclusion are also warmly welcomed: please email Film Studies For Free HERE. Thanks.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Individual Authors' Online Writing Of Note - an explanation of FSFF's list

Film Studies For Free proudly presents, in the post below this one, its current listing of 'Individual Authors' Online (and Open Access) Writing Of Note' (in the English language). List entries come in two forms: weblinks to particular articles or e-books (or online theses) by the named authors; and weblinks to the authors' own live links lists to their collected works online. These links, like all the others on FSFF, are permanently accessible via the numerous and copious lists to be found on the right-hand side of the blog - just scroll (almost) endlessly down to find the various categories.

The taxonomy of authorship is always a funny business. Academics often try to work in a spirit of disinterested enquiry and so a system of credit on the basis of names and reputations can have obvious drawbacks. Nonetheless, name recognition functions as effectively in academia as it does elsewhere; and lists of work organised by author name have very obvious uses, beyond that of propping up academic star systems.

Film Studies For Free's author list, like all its other selections, is inevitably partial. Many of those named in the post below are personally known to this blog's author, or associated with academic departments with which she is familiar (though, to be fair, there are many such departments and many such academics as she has been around rather a long time). Other name entries reflect, on occasion, this third-person's own (broad) research interests. But the list also represents a pretty good cross-section of the kinds of Open Access, academic, film and moving image studies work online at the moment, and is fairly international in focus, to boot. So, FSFF offers it up in its usual 'treasure-trove' spirit and hopes you find it useful and spreadable, too.

Any recommendations (by commenting or by email) for additions to the list -- especially for authors' 'collected online works' listings -- will be ever so gratefully received, as will notifications of any corrections or dead links. And the list in the post will be updated as necessary whenever new items come to FSFF's notice. So please keep your undoubtedly beady, Film and Moving Image Studies' eyes on it, from time to time. Thank you.

Online and Open-Access Film and Moving-Image Studies Writing Of Note (by Individual Named Authors)

[Last updated: January 11, 2009; see just added label for latest entries; the list is organised A-Z by author forename]

Please read Film Studies For Free's accompanying explanation of this listing HERE. The list in this post will be frequently updated, so please bookmark it. Comments are closed on this post but please feel free to comment HERE or email FSFF with suggestions for addition HERE.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Documentary filmmaking and intellectual property law: free e-book and short films

The above great little comic book can currently be downloaded for free in a new and expanded edition from the Duke University Press website.

Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain, by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins takes a humorous look at copyright and fair use issues in relation to filmmaking. The book has a new foreword by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (Director of An Inconvenient Truth) and a new introduction by award-winning novelist and copyright activist Cory Doctorow.

Here's the blurb about the book (which was available, in its earlier, shorter edition, through Google Books) from the Duke University Press website:

A documentary is being filmed. A cell phone rings, playing the Rocky theme song. The filmmaker is told she must pay $10,000 to clear the rights to the song. Can this be true? Eyes on the Prize, the great civil rights documentary, was pulled from circulation because the filmmakers’ rights to music and footage had expired. What’s going on here? It’s the collision of documentary filmmaking and intellectual property law, and it’s the inspiration for this comic book. Follow its heroine Akiko as she films her documentary and navigates the twists and turns of intellectual property. Why do we have copyrights? What’s “fair use”? Bound by Law? reaches beyond documentary film to provide a commentary on the most pressing issues facing law, art, property, and an increasingly digital world of remixed culture.
The book is the fruit of the pioneering Duke Law School Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Do check out their fabulous website which, among many other resources (webcasts and online articles about fair use), has the following downloadable short films (via RealPlayer):

If you are a budding documentary filmmaker, or if you are teaching the next generation of budding documentarians, Film Studies For Free thinks that you should definitely check out all of the above resources.