Bricks in the Wall
Theater and drama fans are familiar with the Fourth Wall, the conceptual boundary between
performer and audience. It’s an artistic term, but we’ve now extended the concept in a Creative Commons way. At the South by
Southwest Film Festival this week, I moderated a panel, “Can Copyright Bring Filmmaker and
Audience Together?”, that explored creative ways for filmmakers to (1) maximize distribution
and/or (2) encourage interaction with their works by going Some Rights Reserved. The premise for the talk was the idea that any worthwhile discussion of film today has got to address the copyright bricks in the Wall.
We were lucky to have a fantastic group of panelists. Creative Commons contest winner Justin Cone
described the making of “Building on the Past” and explained how the process of working with public domain
footage opened his eyes to a new range of aesthetic possibilities. (Justin, a newcomer to moving images,
is now pursuing other film projects.) David Jacobs, chief technologist of youth media activists MediaRights.org,
explained the group’s decision to Creative Commons license their Media That Matters Film Festival.
All-around media head Wiley Wiggins put his finger on the single app that we need to make Commons’d film catch
fire: a simple “share” button and license menu in Quicktime and other film editing tools.
Zack Exley, organizing director of Moveon.org, reflected on Moveon’s Bush in 30 Seconds contest
and told of his brushes with copyright trouble in his former life as a political satirist.
Finally, in a headlong dive through the Fourth Wall, actor-writer-director David Ball announced the release of his full-length feature
Honey — plus all its component parts, from script to soundtrack — under Creative Commons
licenses. Ball is opening up the free copying and trading (for noncommercial use) of the final film, but also encouraging
film schools and aspiring editors and directors to re-interpret selected scenes by digging into the
raw footage and re-cutting it to their tastes. On the new Fourth Wall Films website and blog (which I highly
recommend you check out and participate in, esp. if you do film), Ball explains his decision and calls for others to do the same:
I want to seed a movement, one where filmmakers and the filmgoing community
are more directly linked, where people can make up their own minds, and where a diversity
of voices can be heard-not just the voices a few hundred decision makers decide are
“marketable.” So many times I heard from people that my movie was good, but not
marketable. When I heard that, I realized something was wrong with the market. Here’s to
making our own market. I hope Honey is a start.