Disposable Film Festival Mobile Film Festivals News, , , , , , , , , , , — May 8, 2012 15:52 — 1 Comment

The Disposable Film Festival: not a throw away idea, after all

The Disposable Film Festival, iPhone, samrtphones, Flip, film festivals, San Francisco, filmmaking, iphone film festival

Carlton Evans, the Disposable Film Festival'€™s executive director and co-founder, with managing director Katie Gillum

Way before the likes of iPhones and other smartphones existed the only inexpensive way to make a movie was to shoot on disposable gadgets such as the CVS One-Time-Use Video Camcorder, which was launched in 2005. Around the same time Pure Digital Technologies brought out a video camera that cost $20 from the pharmacy (which eventually transformed in the popular Flip camera) and a new movement was born — with its very own festival.

The Disposable Film Festival (DFF) was created in 2007 and is a true pioneer of mobile filmmaking. While the flashy Apple iPhone has brought the spotlight down on this new wave of cinema and spawned countless recent variations on iPhone film festivals, only the DFF can say it was there from the start.

Having wrapped up its fifth festival in San Francisco in March (before it visits other cities in the US and Europe, including London this summer) I managed to pin down Carlton Evans, the festival’s executive director and co-founder, and managing director Katie Gillum for an email interview.

While broadly welcoming the new kids on the block, they are rightly proud of what the DFF has achieved in the past five years when, in the beginning, hardly anyone took it seriously apart from die-hard geeks and enthusiasts.

Here’s what they have to say.

Q: I watched the winning entry, Les Ongles (The Nails), made on an iPhone 4, and  it made me feel quite queasy, what qualities attracted the jury to give it the grand prize?

Carlton Evans: The jury chose it because it’s a great story, but also because “disposable” media were instrumental to telling the tale. The film works because it’s cell phone footage shot at a house party. It’s a mode that everyone instantly recognises and it lends a level of reality to the piece that makes it all the better.

Katie Gillum: I agree completely, I think what resonated with the judges was how well “The Nails” walked the line between reality and fiction so well. The acting and direction is so killer, so when you realize something is afoot, it is that much more jarring!

How did the new categories — music and travel — go down this year?

CE: Great. We got so many wonderful films this year in both those categories. I think the travel films in particular really inspired the audience to think more creatively about how they document their experiences.

KG: Yeah getting the opportunity to focus on the very specific types of storytelling was great. Our goal with this topical programming is to have people use what they have around them to tell real stories about their experience and not to only document and have big archives of past travel!  Hopefully, we’ll end up with more interesting films and fewer three-hour long slideshows about a week on safari. It is the same basic attitude we apply to all of the types or genres of disposable filmmaking.

Do you have any further plans to expand/develop The Disposable Festival in future?

CE: We have a few ideas in mind, but our year is just getting started. We’ll be hosting a Night Life event at the California Academy of Sciences on July 12, and will have the 2nd annual DFF Health competition in the fall, where we’ll be looking for compelling healthcare stories.

KG: In the past year we have been developing our youth education programming with our OutTakes Youth Documentary crew and dedicated workshops to encourage young people to learn skills for visual communication and have their work viewed as part of the dialogue in the film community. We’re also expanding our Lights, Camera, Social Action programming to support activists and filmmakers to tell compelling social action stories. The Health competition, as Carlton mentioned, is one great and big example of that. We put on a ”Create-a-thon“ in San Francisco to hash out the specific issues telling health stories creates and teach some of the special skills both to people new to filmmaking and those filmmakers who haven’t ever dealt will health subjects.

Pure’s One-time Disposable video camera, introduced in 2005, seems an ancient piece of kit now — can you believe how much has changed in the last couple of years with the advent of the smartphone and new mobile technology?

CE: It’s amazing how much the landscape has transformed since then. It amazes me that in a few short years we’re shooting in true HD on our mobile phones and broadcasting it. The line between disposable and professional equipment is becoming increasingly fuzzy, which makes me very happy. I’m looking forward to a world where the playing field is level in terms of costs, and the only real determining factor is the quality of the ideas.

The first Festival took place in 2007, how hard was it initially to get it off the ground?

CE: It was very small then. We only did one screening in SF of a 50-minute programme. But even then it was more popular than we could have imagined. Over 300 people showed up to our first screening, which was at a venue that held about 80. We added an extra screening and tried to accommodate everyone. That year the festival just took off. We got invited to screen all over the world and so in 2009 we expanded the SF event to the current four-day format.

Have you ever had any thoughts of not continuing, or have you always had sufficient interest/momentum to keep the Disposable Film Festival going?

CE:  The external interest and momentum keep getting higher, so I’m always curious to know where it’s going to take us. When we started this it seemed like it was this weird obscure idea that people would make films on cheap cameras. Now it’s totally mainstream, with incredibly vibrant creative communities like Vimeo. And we’re also seeing more and more integration of disposable video in big budget films, simply because it has an immediacy and lends a context for certain kinds of storytelling.

Has promoting awareness of the Festival become easier, now the rest of the world has caught up — with the introduction of the iPhone, for example?

CE:  Absolutely, people get it right away now.

KG: Yeah, the issue now is just helping people making the connection to being “real” filmmakers and thinking about how to tell a real story. People know they can film; they just don’t know how easily they could be filmmakers.

There is a plethora of online iPhone/mobile film festivals, not all of them are good, how do you view the competition. Do you welcome it?

CE: We do welcome it. We think of ourselves as part of a much greater movement. In the beginning we were so excited to know that anyone else out there was noticing what we’re seeing, and we partnered with them whenever possible to share the best content and help promote the work of the most interesting filmmakers we were seeing. Since then the community has grown immensely and as a result the quality of work has only gotten better and better.

How do you see as future of mobile filmmaking developing? Will all films be made and viewed this way, for example?

CE:  I think there are much bigger changes in the industry that are dovetailing with disposable filmmaking. I think in some larger sense we’re going to see the entire notion of cinema radically reoriented in the next decade and disposable modes of filmmaking will be central to it. Everything from production to distribution the content itself. I think we’re just getting a glimpse of what that will look like.

Was there a notable difference in the standard of films this year, in terms of overall production quality?

CE: Absolutely. Every year the submissions get better and better. But only part of that has to do with the technology. I think as we become more accustomed to the ubiquity of the cameras we more able to use them to tell stories about that reality, which in many ways has come to be a defining feature of the contemporary world.

What next for The Disposable Film Festival this year, is it touring?  Any plans to come to the UK?

CE: We are! We will definitely be playing in London. Stay tuned!

• The DFF 2012 winners

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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