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The Future Does Not Exist
By Donal Foreman

Panel.What do an animator, a PR representative and an experimental filmmaker have in common? Those who went to the "Film's Future Lab" panel discussion discovered the answer: not a whole lot. Intended to be a debate on "the coexistence of 'traditional' and 'new media'", the event was unfortunately a rather confused affair in which none of the panelists had anything to say to each other and frequently, nothing really to say about the topic at hand.

Animator-director Michael Arias admitted straight off that what he was going to say may not have any bearing on the future of media — and although his animation technique of combining traditional hand-drawn images with 3D technology was interesting, it did, like he said, have no bearing on the future of media. The MySpace rep plugged his bosses' new project, "the world's first user-generated feature film". The film's director, script, cast and crew are going to be selected from the MySpace community and the film will be developed interactively with the wider MySpace "public". Finally, experimental filmmaker Graham Weinbren kicked off by explaining how he's always asked to take part in talks about the "future of cinema", but since he's not a fortune-teller, he always just talks about the present instead.

Weinbren's work involves new technology, it isn't engaged in the internet — meaning that the only "connected" member of the panel was a spokesperson for one of the largest corporations in the world. For a discussion on the future of cinema, this is either very cynical or very dumb.

Weinbren also made the point in his presentation that, when it comes to new technology, we should keep in mind that the corporations who make them usually have a hidden agenda. Whether he made this statement with a conscious nod towards the Rupert Murdoch employee across the stage or not, it no doubt has implications for MySpace's feature film project. What's most remarkable about the initiative is this tag of "first user-generated feature". Apart from the fact that it is obviously MySpace who are generating the project, this claim ignores the fact that "users" are making films everyday — including feature films. To suggest that they need corporate approval to make their work both insults them and distorts the democratic nature of the internet. Of course, it makes sense for Murdoch, in line with the "if you can't beat'em, make them join you" philosophy that has led, for example, to the widespread co-opting of independent film into Hollywood.

The irony of all this rather uninspired discussion was that, elsewhere in the Campus, these issues were being tackled with far more acuity — albeit under a different name. The excellent "Indie Filmmaker's Guide to the Internet" workshops that have run for most of this week have looked at the growing potential of marketing, distributing and screening films through the internet. Yesterday, filmmakers Susan Buice and Arin Crumley discussed their feature film Four-Eyed Monsters, and how they've been able successfully connect directly to an audience—without the need for middle-men. Sorry, Rupert.

Donal Foreman



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