film

CC Filmmakers and Festivals Change the Rules

Elliot Harmon, March 19th, 2013

During the Academy Awards a few weeks ago, we were reminded of an interesting piece of Creative Commons history:

In 2007, Donna Dewey’s A Story of Healing became the first Academy Award–winning film to be released under a Creative Commons license. The film follows plastic surgeons from Interplast, an organization that provides free reconstructive surgery to people with injuries and congenital deformities. Interplast (which produced the film and is now known as ReSurge International), recognized that sharing it under a CC license could allow its message to reach more people.

Sita Sings the Blues

Sita Sings the Blues / Nina Paley / CC0

Six years later, filmmakers all around the world are using Creative Commons licenses to bring their films to new audiences. And in the process, many of them are redefining how film production and distribution can work. No, CC-licensed films aren’t sweeping the Oscars, but maybe they’ve become a part of something even more exciting.

For example, take Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues. Most people reading this blog post have probably seen Paley’s amazing film. (If you haven’t, watch it right now. We’ll be here when you get back.) But you might not know that as of 2013, Paley has placed her film in the public domain. Paley explains why she made the unorthodox decision to waive her copyright under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration:

… I still believe in all the reasons for BY-SA, but the reality is I would never, ever sue anyone over SSTB or any cultural work. I will still publicly condemn abuses like enclosure and willful misattribution, but why point a loaded gun at everyone when I’d never fire it? CC0 is an acknowledgement I’ll never go legal on anyone, no matter how abusive and evil they are.

Gottfrid Svartholm

Gottfrid Svartholm (from TPB AFK) / Simon Klose / CC BY

A few weeks ago, Simon Klose released TPB AFK, the long-awaited, Kickstarter-funded documentary about the lives and legal difficulties of the founders of The Pirate Bay. Klose released two versions of the documentary, one licensed BY-NC-ND and one BY-NC-SA. According to Klose, the film includes six minutes of footage from a television network that wouldn’t allow adaptations, so he chose to release a remix-friendly version omitting that footage alongside the NoDerivs version. Both in Klose’s case and in Paley’s, the licenses invite types of reuse and creative participation that can get really problematic under traditional, All Rights Reserved film distribution.

This summer, members of the Nordic CC community are organizing the first Nordic Creative Commons Film Festival. Organizers are inviting anyone in the region to host a screening. Venues will range from full-size theatres to small gatherings in people’s homes. (The organizers are currently looking both for volunteer organizers and for film submissions. Visit their website for more information.)

The Nordic festival is the latest in a growing movement of CC film festivals that began with the Barcelona Creative Commons Film Festival. The BccN launched in 2010 with the slogan “COPY THIS FESTIVAL.” And copy it people did, with “copies” appearing in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima, Helsinki, and beyond.

In a video message to the organizers of the Nordic CC Film Festival, CC cofounder Lawrence Lessig suggests that the film culture of the future will look less like today’s film industry and more like this festival:

Another new direction in filmmaking — which, interestingly, also originated in Spain — is Pablo Maqueda and Haizea Viana’s #littlesecretfilm. Anyone can create a “#littlesecretfilm,” as long as her film follows a list of minimalistic rules (finish shooting in 24 hours, ad-libbed dialogue). It’s hard not to make comparisons to Dogme 95, but #littlesecretfilm’s organizers stress that they’re not trying to build a new movement (interview in Spanish). The project’s manifesto describes it simply as “an act of love for the cinema,” which could also describe the global spread of CC film festivals. And of course, #littlesecretfilms must be licensed under Creative Commons.

Around the world, CC filmmakers and festival organizers are changing the rules of every step in the process of filmmaking, from writing and shooting to editing, distribution, and monetization. At a time when the mainstream film industry is struggling to redefine and modernize itself, the CC community isn’t waiting up.

Attention CC filmmakers: Please add your projects to our Case Studies and post upcoming screenings to our Events page. We’d love to help promote your work!

Update (April 11, 2013): The Nordic Creative Commons Film Festival has just launched a crowdfunding campaign. Make a donation or visit the festival site to find other ways to get involved.

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CC-Licensed Documentary Explores Personality Rights Issues

Elliot Harmon, November 19th, 2012

A few weeks ago, CC received an interesting email from filmmaker Annie Berman. She told us about a CC-licensed documentary she’s been working on called The Faithful. The film explores issues of fandom and ritual, with Elvis Presley, Pope John Paul II, and and Princess Diana as its focal points.

As Annie was working the film, she contacted by Robert Sillerman — owner of the name, image, and likeness of Elvis Presley — for an interview. And suddenly, The Faithful was not only about the followers of iconic figures, but also about who owns their images.

THE FAITHFUL Teaser, as seen at REMIX NYC from Fish in the Hand Productions on Vimeo.

The film features an interview with CC founder Lawrence Lessig. In the clip below, Larry answers a pressing question: can Annie Berman make this film?

Excerpts from Lawrence Lessig Interview, THE FAITHFUL from Fish in the Hand Productions on Vimeo.

You can support the film on Kickstarter through the end of November. For more CC-licensed projects, visit our Kickstarter page.

Updated November 20: We incorrectly reported that Robert Sillerman initially contacted Annie Berman while she was working on the documentary. She contacted him.

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A new CC team for Argentina

Jessica Coates, March 6th, 2012

Argentina Flag
Argentina Flag / quimpg / CC BY

It’s taken us a few months, but we would like to introduce some new members of the CC family – our new CC Argentina affiliate team.

The new Argentinian team (see their website here and their CC wikipage here), came on board late last year and is headed up by public leads Beatriz Busaniche and Patricio Lorente out of institutional partners Wikimedia Argentina and Fundación Vía Libre. Both organisations are well known in the Latin American open community. Wikimedia Argentina supports the local Wikimedia community and promotes projects for the dissemination of free content and wiki-culture. Meanwhile, the non-profit Fundación Vía Libre works closely with the free software community and is committed to spreading knowledge and sustainable development. Among other things, it is a participant in both the FLOSSWorld and Science, Education and Learning in Freedom (SELF) projects.

With the new team, comes some exciting events for CC in the region. On 8 March CC Argentina, with Wikimedia Argentina and La Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, will jointly host a breakfast with Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, an academic from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and legal lead of CC France. The theme of the event will be “legal aspects of the digital public domain.” Melanie and Beatriz will then team up with Claudio Ruiz of CC Chile at the first Latin American GLAM-Wiki event in Santiago a week later.

This comes hot on the heels of the announcement a few weeks ago of a new CC-licensed Argentinian documentary, Runa Kuti: Indigenas Urbanos, which is making the rounds of film festivals. The film, which is under a BY-NC-ND license, focuses on the lives of indigenous Argentinians living in Buenos Aires.

Congratulations and welcome to the new team. We look forward to working with you on CC and all things open in Argentina.

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12th Annual Media That Matters Festival – Call for Entries!

Jane Park, February 1st, 2012

Arts Engine‘s annual Media That Matters Festival — now in its 12th year — is accepting new entries for short films! In addition to being a “premier showcase for short films with big messages” Media That Matters will give filmmakers the opportunity to connect with educators, activists, and nonprofits around the globe, helping to move communities towards social change. If selected, your film will be screened at the Fall festival and featured via a “multi-platform campaign combining online streaming with personalized screenings,” and made available under CC BY-NC-ND.

Submission criteria from the announcement:

Short Film: Films must be twelve minutes MAXIMUM; the ideal length is around eight minutes.

All Styles: We accept documentaries, narratives, animations, music videos, public
 service announcements, dramas, comedies, hybrids, or a style of your own creation!
 Creativity is always encouraged. The only guideline is that your project must focus on a 
social issue.

All Issues: Any and all issues will be considered.

All Ages: All ages will be considered!

The early deadline to submit is February 23, regular deadline is April 20, and the late deadline is May 1. Submit your film at http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org/submit. Send questions to festival@artsengine.net.

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1,200 screenings of CC-licensed documentary “An Island”

Jane Park, May 26th, 2011

AnIsland2_by_Antje_Taiga_Jandrig
by Antje Taiga Jandrig / CC BY-NC-SA

When Vincent Moon and Efterklang completed “An Island” earlier this year, they launched public-private screenings of the film, encouraging the public to host free screenings under the CC BY-NC-SA license. Over the next two months, 1,200 screenings took place at various locations around the world; this Google map and Flickr stream demonstrate the reach and scope of the film.

To follow the success of their initial distribution, Vincent Moon and Efterklang have announced a limited edition DVD package of “An Island” and a digital download that follows the Pay What You Can model used successfully in the past by bands such as Radiohead. You can pay what you can for the documentary and download it under CC BY-NC-SA at the website, where you can also order one of the limited edition DVD packages with a run of 5,000.

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An Island: CC-Licensed Film, Public-Private Screenings Announced

Cameron Parkins, January 12th, 2011

Music and film lovers take note – An Island, a beautiful new film by Vincent Moon featuring Danish band Efterklang, is very quickly nearing public release. A new teaser for the film was released today along with an announcement describing the “Private-Public Screenings” of the film:

Efterklang and Vincent Moon welcome all our listeners and followers to host their own screenings of An Island.

We call these screenings Private-Public Screenings and the rules are very simple.

  • The screenings need to have free entrance
  • The screenings need to be public.
  • The screenings need to have a minimum capacity of 5 people
  • The screenings need to be verified by Efterklang & Vincent Moon and only screenings that are featured on www.anisland.cc are official Private-Public Screenings

Moon and Efterkland hope to create “a free and inspiring distribution method for [the] film” – as such, An Island is CC BY-NC-SA licensed (like all of Moon’s current work), allowing the free sharing and reuse of the film for non-commercial purposes.

More info on hosting your own screening is available here.

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Watch Sintel, an open-source animated short from the Blender Institute

Lisa Katayama, November 2nd, 2010

Last week, we interviewed Ton Roosendaal, head of the Blender Institute, on his new open animated short film called Sintel. (Blender is an awesome open-source 3D creation suite, and the Institute is the studio that creates content like Sintel that employ amazing Blender-enabled techniques like smoke simulation and volumetrics.)

The film was made possible with crowdsourced funding from thousands of online supporters and, since it was released on YouTube a month ago, has gotten over 1.8 million views. If you haven’t seen it already, here’s your chance!

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CC Talks With: Ton Roosendaal, Sintel Producer and head of Blender Institute

Chris Webber, October 27th, 2010

Sintel poster
Sintel poster by Blender Institute / CC BY

Ton Roosendaal is head of the Blender Institute, leader of Blender development, and producer of the recently released 3d short film Sintel, which is released as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

Sintel is the Blender Institute’s third “open movie”. Could you describe what “open movie” means to the Blender Institute?

Oh… many things. First, I love to work with artists, which goes much easier than working with developers! And making short animation films with teams is an amazing and very rewarding activity. With this large creative community of Blender artists, the financial model enables it even; not many short film makers have this opportunity.

But the practical incentive to do this is because it’s a great development model for Blender. Putting artists together on a major challenge is the ultimate way to drive software like Blender forward. That way we can also ensure it fits ambitious targets weeding out the ‘would be cool features’ for the ‘must need’ ones. And it’s quite easier to design usability with small diverse teams, than have it done online via feedback mechanisms, which easily becomes confusing with the noise of hundreds of different opinions.

It’s also a fact that the Blender Institute was established for open movie projects, so for me (and the Blender Institute) it means our core business.

Blender Institute projects have a rare but heavily developed intersection between free and open source software (Blender the software and its developer community) and free culture (the films the Blender Institute produces). How related and similar are these worlds?

I don’t consider myself much related to “free culture” really, and certainly not in the political sense. For Blender projects it’s just a natural way to deliver it in open license like with [the licenses provided by] CC. We want our users to learn from them, to dissect our tricks and technology, or use them for other works. And not least: to allow everyone who works on a project to freely take it with them; as a portfolio, or companies who sponsor us who need demos or research material. So in that sense we are free culture!

But each time I meet people who work in this field, it’s mostly theorists, not practicists. so I’m a bit biased [...] people who talk about free culture don’t seem to make it (at least here in the Netherlands, at conferences or meetings). I get regular invitations to talk on this topic. I do it sometimes, but the blah-blah level disturbs me a bit. Free culture is about doing it.

So at the Blender Institute, you have artists working on these works, and you have programmers working on this code. How similar are those worlds?

For Blender, I think we have a great mix, with a lot of cross-overs. Several of our coders started as users, and we involve artists closely in design for tools or features.

This doesn’t always go perfectly, especially when it’s highly technical, like simulation code. But if you visit our IRC channel, or mailing list, or conferences… it’s always a great mix. Maybe this is because 3d art creation is quite technical too? I dunno… not many users will understand how to construct bsp trees, yet they use it all the time.

In general compared to other open source projects, I think we’re quite un-technical and accessible. A big reason for that is because I’m not even a trained programmer. I did art and industrial design. When coders go too deep in abstract constructions I can’t follow it either and can simply counter it with an “Okay, but what’s the benefit for using this?” And when the answer is “It makes coders’ lives easier” I usually ignore it. In my simple world, coders suffer and artists benefit! But one coder can also do some stuff — taking a few hours — that saves hundreds of thousands of people a few seconds in a day. And that’s always good.

What’s the development of a film like Sintel like as in terms of internal development vs community involvement in production? Has that dynamic changed at all from work to work? I partly ask this because some people think “Oh, open movie, they must have their SVN repository open the whole time and just get random contributions from everywhere,” but Blender Institute films don’t tend to work that way.

Right, we keep most of our content closed until release. I’m a firm believer in establishing protective creative processes. In contrast to developers — who can function well individually online — an artist really needs daily and in-person feedback and stimulation.

We’ve done this now four times (three films and one game) and it’s amazing how teams grow in due time. But during this process they’re very vulnerable too. If you followed the blog you may have seen that we had quite harsh criticism on posting our progress work. If you’re in the middle of a process, you see the improvements. Online you only see the failures.

The cool thing is that a lot of tests and progress can be followed now perfectly and it suddenly makes more sense I think. Another complex factor for opening up a creative process is that people are also quite inexperienced when they join a project. You want to give them a learning curve and not hear all the time from our audience that it sucks. Not that it was that bad! But one bad criticism can ruin a day.

One last thing on the “open svn” point: in theory it could work, if we would open up everything 100% from scratch. That then will give an audience a better picture of progress and growth. We did that for our game project and it was suited quite well for it. For film… most of our audience wants to get surprised more, not know the script, the dialogs, the twists. Film is more ‘art’ than games, in that respect.

Ton Roosendaal
Ton Roosendaal by Kennisland / CC BY-SA

You also did the sprints this time, which pulled in some more community involvement than in previous projects. Do you think that model went well? Would you do it again?

The modeling sprint was great! We needed a lot of props, and for that an online project works perfectly. The animation sprint (for animated characters) was less of a success. Character animation doesn’t lend itself well for it, I think. There’s no history for it… ehh. Like, for design and modeling, we have a vocabulary. Most people understand when you explain visual design, style, proportions. But for animation… only a few (trained) animators know how to discuss this. It’s more specialist too.

How has the choice of the Creative Commons Attribution license affected your works?

How would it affect our works? Do you mean, why not choose ND (no-derivatives) or NC (noncommercial)? Both restrictions won’t suit well for our work. And without attribution it’s not a CC license.

I did get some complaints why not choose a FSF compatible license, but the Free Software Foundation has no license for content like ours either.

What kinds of things have you seen / do you expect to see post-release of a project such as Sintel?

A lot of things happened with previous films, Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny, ranging from codec research in companies, showcases on tradeshows, to student composers using it to graduate. Even wallpaper!

We are working now on a 4k resolution of the film (4096 x 2160). The 4k market is small, but very active and visible in many places. They’re dying for good content. I’m also very interested in doing a stereoscopic ’3d’ version. As for people making alternative endings or shots; that hasn’t happened a lot, to my knowledge. Our quality standard is too high as well, so it’s not a simple job.

But further, the very cool thing of open content is that you’re done when you’re done! A commercial product’s work stress only starts when the product is done. That’s what I learned with our first film. Just let it go, and move on to next.

And at least one “free culture” aspect then: it’s quite amazing how our films have become some kind of cultural heritage already. People have grown fond of them, or at least to the memory of them. It’s part of our culture in a way, and without a free license that would have been a really tough job.

Might there be a Sintel game (Project Jackfruit?) using the Blender Game Engine like there was a game following Big Buck Bunny (Yo Frankie)?

Not here in the Blender Institute. But there’s already a quite promising online project for it.

You can watch Sintel online and support the project (and get all the data files used to produce the film, tutorials, and many other goodies) by purchasing a DVD set. You may also wish to consider supporting Creative Commons in our current superhero campaign.

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One Week Until the Tenth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival

Cameron Parkins, May 27th, 2010

New Yorkers: Arts Engine‘s fantastic Media That Matters Film Festival is less than a week away, taking place June 2nd at The Visual Arts Theater (Google Map). Tickets are on sale now – as the event has sold out every year, it is wise to purchase in advance. To make this easier, Arts Engine is offering a discount for the CC community – simply enter the code MTMSPECIAL at checkout and receive $2 off the regular ticket price of $13.

Now in it’s tenth year, the festival showcases twelve social justice shorts selected by a fantastic jury of filmmakers and activists. New this year is the impACT salon which will allow attendees the chance to meet the festival filmmakers, learn about the festival’s presenting partners, and will include free ice cream from the Raw IceCream Company.

Following the premiere, the films will be available for purchase under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives license on region-free unencrypted DVDs.

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Tenth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival: June 2nd, NYC

Cameron Parkins, May 3rd, 2010

Mark your calendars – Arts Engine is back with its annual Media That Matters Film Festival on June 2nd in New York City. The festival, now in its tenth year, showcases twelve social justice shorts selected by a fantastic jury of filmmakers and activists.

The premiere will take place at The Visual Arts Theater (Google Map) and will include not only the films featured but also a salon with some of the MTM presenting partners and a chance to meet the festival filmmakers. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance if you wish to attend in person.

Following the premiere, the films will be available for purchase under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives license on region-free unencrypted DVDs. This allows activists, educators, fans, and audiences to host their own non-commercial screenings of the shorts without having to negotiate complex contracts with MTM and the many different filmmakers participating in the festival. Those interested should preorder a DVD, check out MTM’s DIY Screening Guide, and add themselves to the list of existing screenings.

Visit the festival’s site for details, schedules, and downloads. Also, check out the video that Creative Commons and Arts Engine collaborated on in late 2008 that explains how CC licenses have helped filmmakers in the Media that Matters festival (more info and download available here).

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