Re: Research question

From: Jonathan Walley (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 21 2010 - 11:08:10 PST


Thank you - your "2 cents" are adding up (just like the cost of film/
video making!). I think this is a really important point, one that my
students would be well to absorb, as well as those authors of ecstatic
paens to the digital revolution (lots of academics, unfortunately, as
well as journalists in the mainstream press). Again, even if it's not
true, there is this perception that video is cheaper and, flowing from
that, more accessible, democratic, populist, etc. [It amazes me how
many people assume that every single person in America could join the
digital revolution on the grounds that "all you need is a cheap video
camera and a computer." As if everyone can afford even the most basic
home-use hard and software. Whenever I hear that - and I do, from
students and colleagues alike - I invite the person who says it to my

My reference to economics was partly in response to the posts about
James Benning that came up earlier, which indicated that Benning felt
he could no longer continue as a filmmaker because of cost. As your
post suggests, it probably depends a lot on the scale of production
and what kind of work you want to do. It's true that filmmaking can be
very cheap, but only if you want to make certain kinds of films - that
is, only if you're willing to accept certain constraints above and
beyond those "built into" your medium. Unfortunately, the overriding
assumptions in our culture about what films "should" look like means
that the people who embrace these constraints and say, like Sidney
Peterson did, "resources limited, content almost unlimited," are in
the minority.

Of course, there are video makers out there working in equally cheap
and subversive ways - again, my personal feelings about film "vs."
video aside, none of this is necessarily meant to make a whipping boy
out of video.


Asst. Professor of Cinema
Denison University
email suppressed

On Jan 21, 2010, at 1:11 PM, Roger Beebe wrote:

> Jonathan,
> This has been a really interesting thread to follow, and I've loved
> both the anecdotes that have popped up in response as well as the
> more theoretical musings on this topic. However, I do want to
> trouble (again) one of your assertions below, about the economics of
> filmmaking. There seems to be some idea that making video is
> "cheap," and I want to suggest that that's a total illusion. For
> the price of even a consumer-level HD video camera, I could make
> several years' worth of short 16mm films. With video technology
> constantly evolving, you're forced to upgrade (camera, editing
> software, computer) every few years, thus requiring expense after
> expense; with film on the other hand, I'm still shooting on cameras
> that were made 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Plus, since everyone's
> decided that film is basically worthless, you can pick up 16mm,
> super 8, and regular 8mm gear for a song. I've got a fleet of 16mm
> projectors that I've purchased for $5 or $10 each; I shot a film on
> a ca!
> mera that I got for $4 at a flea market. Sure, once the film starts
> running through the camera, you'll start spending real money, but
> with the tremendous startup costs for making work in video (costs
> that recur regularly), it'd take a lot of shooting before the price
> of 8mm or 16mm filmmaking began to approach that or working on
> video. Of course, there are ways to make your experimental
> celluloid works really expensive (like having someone else conform
> your negative, for ex.), but one certainly can avoid many of those
> costs.
> 2 (more) cents,
> Roger
> On Jan 21, 2010, at 12:23 PM, Jonathan Walley wrote:
>> Hopefully I cleared this up in my last post - that I was looking
>> for examples in which filmmakers emphasize the constraints of their
>> medium in ways that could be either positive OR negative, but that
>> in most cases the constraints or limitations are characterized by
>> said filmmakers as essential for their art and thus valuable. The
>> one major exception, so far, seems to be economics - the expense of
>> working with film, as in the case of James Benning, is a difficulty
>> that is harder to "embrace."
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.