By Alicia Brown, San Francisco
Brisvegas circa 1974 has always appealed to me. The idea of being a properly disaffected youth as The Saints partied and performed in a suburban house, making proper punk rock history, is incredibly enticing. There were no thirty something Malcolm McLaren’s or Vivienne Westwood’s orchestrating the ‘revolution’ like the London scene, just a wave of pure anti Bjelke-Peterson rage coming from a makeshift stage.
I love the thought of living in Brisbane 40 years ago because I’ve always wanted to be part of a movement. Right in the middle of where it was happening, rather than reading about it, or looking back with an inherited nostalgia, understanding the context, being able to analyse every angle and see why things evolved the way they did. I wanted to be smack-bang in the middle, not quite sure where it was headed, not knowing, but hoping, that it would have any lasting impact on the world…only being certain that it was important right now, and fun, and spontaneous and dangerous and risky – cause that kind of passion, uninhibited compulsion, is where all the good, nay, great stuff comes from right?
And happily, here in San Francisco working with Ted Hope at the San Francisco Film Society I think I’m in the midst of one – a sweeping (silicon valley) tech fuelled creative burst to save ambitious independent film.
And by save I mean change the very bones of how we make and watch aspirational and inspirational indie movies. It seems that the internet is finally doing what they said it would back in ‘97 – putting the power back in the hands of the people, to make and watch movies the way we want to, and not the way the market behemoths say we should. Now we just have to figure out how to connect these two groups, indie filmmakers and indie audiences, in a meaningful way through the technology – and bam – a new indie film infrastructure, that sees the money and the power securely in the hands of the creators emerges. There isn’t a day (or even an hour really) that goes by here that I don’t come across a new platform, or practice or person that is trying to subvert the current system.
I have to say at the outset, Ted H is like a movement in himself. He operates like a director on set, every second of the day. There are constant (constant!) requests for his time, attention, answers, ideas, inspiration and energy from every direction. Watching him move through them is a spectacle of presence and focus.
And how does it feel for me to be in the middle of this movement? Terrifying and exhilarating. Luckily, being a producer, those are obviously two of my favourite emotional states.
Firstly the pace at which Ted operates is slightly terrifying, like entering a cyclone…then it morphs into an exhilarating ride of possibility….
There is a terrifyingly confuzzling choice of technology available to filmmakers to talk with their audience, to transmit their films to whoever wants to watch them. And then I’m exhilarated by the mammoth possibilities they present – a world where filmmakers have the power, the power to make beautiful artwork, have people actually see it, and make the money from it to plough back into their art, making a creative life sustainable, rather than to go to traditional studio owned middlemen.
Terrified at the thought of continuing a conversation about movies, loudly and candidly, in a public place (bless the Yanks, there is a refreshing lack of self consciousness about candid conversations in public here). Exhilarated by the revelation that The West Wing IS REAL! Walk and talks do happen. I strode out of the building, into the car, out of the car park, into the lift and all the way to the eye doctor with Ted, all the while discussing the notions of a ‘good’ deal and how digital self-distribution could give may filmmakers a better deal.
So how am I finding calm in the eye of the storm??
About 6 years ago on my first visit to San Francisco I fell in love with its creative and revolutionary heart while sitting in a coffee shop watching an old man paint the specials board, working from a palette that was a hand carved, history filled wooden box overflowing with oil crayons. He painted the specials board at every café in the neighbourhood everyday for a $5 a pop, his creative outlet, his livelihood, and a service to the city in general – every board in a three-block radius was a work of art.
I was reminded of that art in everyday life philosophy at the bus stop in the Lower Haight the other morning when I saw these casual denim pot plants (I hear they use black skinny jeans in the Mission district):
And then while instagramming these blue jeans filled with dirt I was reminded of the simplest beauty of the indie film revolution happening here – you don’t have to be physically on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, or in the heart of Silicon Valley circa 2004, or at Sundance 2013 to be a part of it.
Right now we can work the technology so that it really can support indie filmmakers and indie film lovers – and that we can be part of it wherever we are.
Alicia Brown of Optimism Film was the successful applicant for the Screen Australia internship with US indie Producer Extraordinaire Ted Hope who is now the head of the innovative San Francisco Film Society (which runs festivals and funds films) and is keeping Metro Screen posted.