In the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s, the artistic endeavor that most high school aged people did was start a band. The music store business thrived during the time when you could by LP’s, Cassettes, and CD’s all at the same time. Then the other kind of music store, the type where they sell guitars, amps, keyboards, and drumsticks, also began to thrive. I speak from some level of experience because not only did I play in bands on guitar or keyboards, but I worked at LANG MUSIC, a now defunct music store where I sold guitars for several years from ages 16-23. Bands still exist, but the dream of “making it” seems more diluted and realistic. Where the dreams of avarice and fame go now is FILMMAKING.

All because of a little thing called FIREWIRE, or IEEE1394 in technical terms, the ability to edit video on a home computer opened up a world of creativity and storytelling previously not available to the average person. Much like the inexpensive electric guitars going down in price (being made in Taiwan or Hong Kong) and mass produced, we had an army of Eddie Van Halen wannabes. Today we have David Fincher/Peter Jackson wannabes running around with camcorders making movies.

The parallels to the movie industry and the music industry are obvious. There is the same type of gatekeepers where you cannot sell anything unless you have an agent and you can’t get an agent unless you’ve sold something. If you’re not on the inside, it’s hard to crawl over the wall to get in.

The Internet has changed the game in many ways. Thanks to YouTube ™, a complete unknown filmmaker can garner a million downloads of a camcorder series pretending to be an angst ridden teenage girl. The CW network would kill for this kind of viewership and then maybe they wouldn’t have to renew 7th Heaven.

Much like the way the music scene in virtually every town exploded with amateur gigs and open mic nights, coffee houses are being turned into pseudo-art theatres as “filmmakers” are using a digital projector and presenting their movies to the public. Even more common are the film festivals that are the microbudget Sundance’s when industrious moviemakers band together and screen a compilation of digital video movies.

Most high schools offer multimedia classes, teaching video editing and basic shooting techniques. Several schools even have their morning announcements plugged into the classrooms on TV like a news broadcast. If self-image wasn’t important enough to the public, it’s certainly being taught well enough in school.

Here’s where the parallel to music ends. I’ve been judging a high school film festival every year for the past 6 years. I’m blown away that so much talent exists and more importantly the availability of the equipment to high school students who are basically just filling in an art credit to graduate. This makes me think that the future will be even more multimedia heavy. Now that the New York Times is offering classified ads in video form on their website, it’s an indication that the future is beating down our door and we should all be prepared to make & edit videos instead of typing emails within our lifetime.

Digital Video has created a new generation of storytellers because now ANYONE can shoot and edit a movie, add titles and music. Just because anyone CAN, doesn’t mean they SHOULD, but even then, there’s no reason not to as long as you have realistic expectations. While I agree that everyone CAN shoot and edit their own movie, I just don’t think everyone can shoot and edit WELL, meaning there are ten times as many bad movies in the world now, for good or ill. Does this make it harder for the good to float to the top, or is there too much crap in the water and it’s harder to get through?

The reality is that it will never be easy to make a career out of any art form, whether it is music or movies, but there is a lot more competition today in movies than there was 10 years ago and most of it is not good, just like the garage bands of yester-year.

Categories: articles

Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world's only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer


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