Take the Survey: 50 States, 50 Filmmakers

I've been looking over Ted Hope's blog lately and one thing he keeps returning to is the idea that in order for cinema to be truly free (i.e., liberated), we have to do our part to help film culture. I agree.

That's part of what this blog has always been about. One of the reasons I began this blog was to champion filmmakers working regionally.

But now I'd like to undertake a concrete project specifically dedicated to spotlighting filmmakers that live around the country. To do that I need your help. Not a lot of help, mind you -- just a few minutes.

I'm calling this undertaking 50 States, 50 Filmmakers.

It will probably end up being a series of discussions with filmmakers working around the country. I hope to talk with others about why they live and work where they do, the challenges and opportunities they face, the resources available to them, and how they support their work. Ideally, these discussions will include links that allow you to watch or purchase their work. And I'd like to do one for each state, in case the title didn't tip you off.

So, to restate, to do this project completely, I need your help.

I want you to tell me who you think is living and making interesting films outside of New York or Los Angeles. The films can be feature films, documentaries, or short experimental works. I don't care. "Interesting" and "not-New-York-or-Los-Angeles" is all I care about.

If you want to nominate a filmmaking team or filmmaking collective, that's cool. I'm open to doing a few historical surveys, too, so if you prefer to nominate someone deceased (say, Eagle Pennell of Texas or Colorado's Stan Brakhage), go for it. I just want some interesting ideas.

So, without further ado, CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY.

Don't know 50 filmmakers in 50 states? That's okay. I don't either. That's why I'm doing the survey -- to fill in some blanks and to get some good ideas for this thing. Just take the survey and give suggestions where you can. You don't have to provide nominations for all 50 states.

And please pass this along to your friends. I'd like as many people throwing out ideas as possible. I'm going to leave this post up for a couple of weeks, after which I'll start compiling replies.

Again, here's the link to the survey.

UFVA Panel - "Self-Reliant Filmmaking"

I am in New Orleans at the University Film & Video Association conference. Today I moderated a panel on Self-Reliant Filmmaking. There was a good crowd and, as often happens with these things, the discussion just scraped the tip of the iceberg. The panelists were:

Paul Harrill, Virginia Tech. Moderator. Sasha Waters, University of Iowa. Jennifer Proctor, Grand Valley State University. Bob Hurst, University of Kansas.

As promised, I am posting links to many of the articles and resources discussed by the panelists and myself. If this is your first time visiting Self-Reliant Film, I encourage you to sift through the posts, especially the first post, which lays out some of the points made in my discussion today, and the resources page.

Paul Harrill: Panel Opening Remarks

Yes, The Sky is Really Falling" by Mark Gill Welcome to the New World of Distribution by Peter Broderick

Workbook Project - website led by Lance Weiler that "bridges the gap between tech and entertainment"

CinemaTech - Scott Kirsner's blog about "digital cinema, democratization, and other trends remaking the movies"

Self-Distribution Case Studies: Power to the Pixel conference presentation: Brave New Films Power to the Pixel conference presentation:Four Eyed Monsters

Panelist Sasha Waters:

Be Fake, Remake - group blog featuring work from Sasha Waters' Remake Seminar

Panelist Jennifer Proctor:

Jennifer Proctor: home page (see "Teaching Materials")

Center for Social Media - Best Practices for Fair Use in Online Video

Vimeo -- a video hosting community

Student work shown: Anna Gustafson, “Woman” Evan Rattenbury, “Land O’ Dreams” Josh Carlson, “Donkeys vs. Elephants

Making a Fullscreen Video Loop for an Installation (or Kiosk) Using Automator

UPDATE: Spring 2013.  SRF reader Jessica Barr corresponded with me in 2012 about how users of more recent versions of the Mac OS (10.6 and higher) might have issues with the Automator script below because QuickTime 7 is no longer the default movie Mac OS movie player. Jessica kindly revised the automator script and offered it to me so I could share it with you. Download it here: Revised Automator QT Movie Loop script

(By the way, from my limited testing, it appears you still need QT Pro 7 -- which is still sold as of May 2013 -- to run this script. Quicktime X, or whatever it's called, can loop, but you can't save a movie as one that loops. And Automator's loop instruction in its "play movie" actions don't work reliably. )

Read on for the full instructions.....

Original Post from 2008:

Apologies for the long post title. This is to help anyone searching for such a thing on the internet.

This post will explain how to create a video that plays full-screen and loops repeatedly on a Mac. Looping full screen video is useful for, among other things, kiosks and video installations. If you want to cut to the chase and learn how to do this, skip down. Otherwise, I'll offer a few words explaining the reasoning behind what I did.

Ashley Maynor and I recently put up a small video installation near the offices of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. The installation was done as a gratis piece of temporary public art, so we needed to keep the budget as small as possible.

In our case, this was a three channel installation -- that is, we had three different videos playing simultaneously on three different screens. The screens were going to sit next to each other, so we wanted some uniformity in presentation. Video projection wasn't an option -- the space was too tiny for projection. (It's basically an empty downtown shopwindow.) So we needed televisions or computer screens.

We didn't have three identical televisions, but I did have three identical old semi-working iMacs sitting in a "junk" closet at Virginia Tech. So I borrowed those.

Regardless of whether you use a television with a DVD player, or a computer and its video monitor, for this sort of thing you might burn a DVD that loops. That's a perfectly fine solution, but the DVD player on one of the iMacs was broken. Also, there might be solutions out there for having a DVD player and television power up and down automatically, but I know it can be done (and know how to do it) with a computer.

So how to do it?

I decided to create a simple Automator application that could be used to automatically screen a QuickTime movie in full screen mode when the computer was booted. I also automated the startup and shutdown of the computers so that the installation runs during prime hours downtown, saving power in the wee small hours of the morning. Details on how to do this after the jump.

A note for anyone creating a kiosk: If you're creating a kiosk (i.e., something where people will be able to touch the computer), you'll either need to take the keyboard and mouse away from the computer or you'll need a kiosk application if you don't want people exiting out out of the fullscreen player. WebXkiosk is one such application, and it's free. I have never used it, and I didn't try on this occasion because our computers were going to be behind a glass case in a shop window.

To make the loop using Automator you'll need QuickTime Pro. If you have Final Cut Studio, you already have this. If not, you can buy QT Pro for $30.

1. If you haven't already made one, create a QuickTime movie of the movie(s) that needs to be screened. Do this in Final Cut Pro or whatever you want. Once you've created that, open it in QuickTime (if it's not already open).

2. In QuickTime select VIEW --> LOOP. This will play your movie on a continuous loop. If "Loop" is greyed out you probably don't have QuickTime Pro.

3. Now select FILE --> SAVE AS... to save the new "looping" movie. When saving -- this is important -- save the file in your Movies folder. If you're like me, you don't usually save movies there, but you must do it this way or it won't work. Then QUIT QuickTime.

4. Download the Automator QT Movie Loop script that I have already created. Actually, download the revised one found at the updated beginning of this post, unless you're running an old (10.5 or lower) version of Mac OS on your computer. In that case, download the link that has been struck through here.)

5. After the file downloads, double click on the script, which will open Automator. On the right, under "Get Specified Movies", click on the "+" button. A window of all the movies in your Movies folder appears. Select the looping QuickTime movie you just created. (Note: Alias files will not work. You need the actual movie flie in the Movies folder.)

6. Now, in window #2 ("Play Movies") , select, "Movie Playback Size: Fullscreen". Leave the other options the way they are, unless you want to show the movie on a different display, in which case you choose the option you want. You'll see that there's also an option for "Loop movie sequence X times." I found that this wasn't nearly as reliable as simply saving your QT movie with the Loop setting as we did in step 2. So you can leave the "Loop movie sequence" checkbox unchecked here.  (This information is no longer relevant with the latest Mac OS and the updated Automator script referenced at the top of this post.)

7. Click the "Run" button in the upper right hand of the Automator window. Your movie should now open, play, and loop. If it doesn't automatically play, you may want to check your QuickTime preferences to make sure "Automatically play movies when opened" is checked. When done confirming that it works, hit the "Esc" key to exit out of fullscreen.

Assuming everything works ok, you're ready to make this an application.

8. In Automator, select FILE--"SAVE AS... When the save dialog box appears, select FILE FORMAT: APPLICATION. (The default is usually "workflow.") This saves your Automator workflow as an application that, when you double click it, executes the script. Then name the file something like "[mymoviename] Automated Loop" and save it.

9. Quit Automator, locate the "[mymoviename] Automated Loop" application you created, and double click. The QT movie should open into full screen and loop over and over.

Bonus points: Having your computer startup and play the movie immediately.

10. If you want a computer to play your movie in full screen the minute it starts up, go to your computer's System Preferences, select ACCOUNTS and then select LOGIN ITEMS. Add your new Automator application (the file you created in Step #8). If you have other applications set to launch on startup you may need to remove those. Also, make sure your computer is set to log into that user account automatically, bypassing the need for a password.

11. To be on the safe side, I disabled screensaver and sleep modes on the computer. Do this in System Preferences -> ENERGY SAVER. Drag both of the sliders to "Never."

12. Finally, if you want to schedule your computer to startup and shutdown at specific times, while in ENERGY SAVER, click on the "Schedule..." button. This will allow you to set the startup and shutdown times for the computer. If you want your computer to run non-stop, skip this step. You can also set your computer to automatically start up after a power failure in Energy Saver prefs.

That should be it. Happy looping.



Bruce Conner, R.I.P.

Bruce Conner -- avant-garde cinematic giant, co-founder of one of the first and most important film distribution co-operatives, and spiritual godfather to all youtube mashup artists (though most of them are clueless to the fact) -- is dead at the age of 74. GreenCine is compiling links to obituaries and remembrances. Valse Triste, a haunting film that draws on his midwestern childhood, is the film of his that most feels appropriate to watch today. You can find it on YouTube, but its quiet power is utterly diminished by the small screen.

So instead I offer this, the first film of his that I saw, which turned me onto his work: Mongoloid

Jonas Mekas: 365 Films (and then some)

Legendary filmmaker/exhibitor Jonas Mekas has put dozens (if not hundreds) of his films for sale online. All the files are mp4 -- suitable for your video iPod, computer, etc. Currently Mekas is undertaking a project in which he will make a short film a day, every day this year. Each day you can download the movie for free; after that, you have to pay for it. A fantastic idea.

A dig through the entire site reveals all sorts of interesting stuff -- Kenneth Anger movies, outtakes from Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice... Enjoy!

[via DVGuru]

Lost in Light Launches

Jennifer Proctor and Aaron Valdez's Lost in Light project website has officially launched. If you missed my post about it in October, the project is "devoted to preserving, archiving, and making available 8mm and Super 8 films that are otherwise being lost to time." Now that the project has begun, Jennifer and Aaron are ready to start accepting Super 8 and 8mm films for free transfer to video and inclusion on their videoblog. They are also accepting creative works made in Super 8 and 8mm for posting to the site.

Click here to find out more about having your Super-8 and "regular" 8mm movies transferred to video for free. The transfers they're offering are flickerless, and they look good. Check out their first post to see a sample.

If you're interested in submitting creative work, click here.

Lost in Light

A few weeks ago, in an effort to show my students some of the more interesting film and video work being created for the web I discovered Have Money Will Vlog. It's an ingenious site that helps media artists raise funds to produce their web-distributed videos and films. The project budgets are in the $2000 - $3000 range, and the donations are usually small -- $10, $20, and so on. Of course, that money adds up when you consider all the people online. You get what you pay for, too. The work you'll find on HMWV is about, oh, a zillion times better than anything you'll see on YouTube or Google Video. (Unless, of course, you have some predilection for watching pre-teens doing karaoke in front of their webcams.)

Anyway, if you've not yet run across Have Money Will Vlog, now is a particularly good time to check out the site (and to dig in your pocket for some loose change) because funds are currently being raised for a project by Jennifer Proctor and Aaron Valdez, two Iowa City filmmakers. The project is called Lost in Light and, in Jennifer's words (via email) the project is "devoted to preserving, archiving, and making available 8mm and Super 8 films that are otherwise being lost to time."

In fact, as they state on the Lost in Light websites (HMWV site, official site), "we will provide free Super 8 and 8mm to video transfers to anyone who asks, in exchange for posting their video to the Lost in Light site and on the Internet Archive with their choice of Creative Commons licenses. In addition, Lost in Light will include articles and features by members of the filmmaking and film preservation communities, video tutorials for making 8mm films, as well as creative work, all with the goal of preserving and championing this important film format."

So, send them your Super-8 and 8mm films. And send them some $ while you're at it.

Online Viewing Tip: UbuWeb Films

If you're at all interested in avant-garde cinema or video art, you need to check out Ubu Films, which features works, both rare and well-known, by everyone from Vito Acconci to Agnes Varda. In a perfect world, YouTube would look more like this. Of course, if you're aghast at the idea of watching experimental films on your computer monitor, consider this justification from the Ubu website:

UbuWeb is pleased to present dozens of avant-garde films & videos for your viewing pleasure. However, it is important to us that you realize that what you will see is in no way comparable to the experience of seeing these gems as they were intended to be seen: in a dark room, on a large screen, with a good sound system and, most importantly, with a roomful of warm, like-minded bodies.

However, we realize that the real thing isn't very easy to get to. Most of us don't live anywhere near theatres that show this kind of fare and very few of us can afford the hefty rental fees, not to mention the cumbersome equipment, to show these films. Thankfully, there is the internet which allows you to get a whiff of these films regardless of your geographical location.

We realize that the films we are presenting are of poor quality. It's not a bad thing; in fact, the best thing that can happen is that seeing a crummy .avi will make you want to make a trip to New York to the Anthology Film Archives or the Lux Cinema in London (or other places around the world showing similar fare). Next best case scenario will be that you will be enticed to purchase a high quality DVD from the noble folks trying to get these works out into the world. Believe me, they're not doing it for the money.

Well said. Now, go check it out...

UPDATE (May 12, 2016): If you do get turned onto Vito Acconci's work (or were already a fan), check out his Artsy page, which an alert reader just pointed us towards.