A few more notes from the Future of Film conference
- I had a chance to talk with “Ask a Ninja” co-creator Kent Nichols after his panel. We talked about the competition between professional and amateur/semi-pro content creators online, which I think will intensify this year. Kent didn’t seem worried. “I’m just fighting for five minutes of people’s time,” he said.
I asked him whether he’d played around with Joost. He said he had, but that he isn’t convinced it will take off. He did say that the concept appeals to media companies like Disney, though, because it’s like TV all over again, with a channel metaphor and everything.
- Director Jason Kohn, whose first movie, “Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)”, won the documentary grand jury prize at Sundance this year, was the day’s most passionate (and profane) speaker.
He wants to shoot movies on film, and have them seen in theaters. With his documentary, which focuses on corruption and kidnapping in Brazil, “I was reacting against the future of film. The future of film at the time was video, and I thought the future sucked. So I decided to change the future.” He said he was depressed after listening to all the day’s talk about digital distribution, and watching movies alone on tiny handheld screens. “This was made to be projected in a theater in front of hundreds of fucking people,” he said. “We’re entertainers. We’re not fucking drug dealers, just fulfilling demand.”
Kohn is a real firebrand. He worked on the movie over five years. After the first edit, he and his investors realized he didn’t have a compelling ending. The movie didn’t make it into the Toronto International Film Festival. So he went back to Brazil, and eventually met the dangerous character who provides a solid ending for the movie. Kohn doesn’t have distribution for 'Manda Bala' yet, but it sounds like talks are still pretty active.
- Tim Sarnoff, who runs Sony Pictures Imageworks, was the final speaker of the day. He said that the company’s performance-capture abilities had been improving with each movie. With ‘Polar Express,’ recording the motion and facial expressions of a single character was a challenge. For the upcoming ‘Beowulf,’ there were scenes where they did mocap for 20 characters – including horses – simultaneously. That film, Sarnoff said, required 28 days of performance capture work. With ‘Surf’s Up,’ the upcoming documentary-style animated movie about penguins who surf, they did key-frame (standard) cg-animation, but they did performance-capture on the camera. The idea was to have the feeling of a real documentary cameraman shooting the scenes, which of course had all been created in the computer. I’ll look forward to hearing more about that.
But Sarnoff said that he doesn’t want people to focus too much on technical innovations like those. As visual effects and computer animation mature, “the future of film is in the performances, and the characters you can create.”