Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cellflix Interview

The Cellflix Film Festival is upon us again! This year is the second annual festival. Last year, at it's inception, I was one of the top ten finalists. Andres Perez-Charneco from "Tompkins Weekly, an alternative, community oriented newspaper in the Tompkins County/Ithaca area," wanted to interview me for a piece he is doing. We didn't have time to meet face-to-face, so he e-mailed me some questions and I e-mailed back my responses. Here are those questions and answers, edited into an interview style:

Andres Perez-Charneco: What made you want to enter the 2006 Cell Flix Festival?

Sam Friedman: I wanted to enter the 2006 Festival for a couple of reasons. First and
foremost, I was really excited by the medium. I had never considered
using my phone to make a movie, and as an experimental filmmaker, I was
intrigued by the opportunity to do something genuinely new, innovative,
and experimental. Also, I had a good idea (that I ended up scrapping in
exchange for another good one). And lastly, I was just excited by my
own institution founding a film festival, and wanted to be a part of

APC: How would you describe the experience of filming on/with a cell phone?

SF: I had shot a significant amount of footage on my cellphone and was
comfortable with it. I enjoyed the lo-fi quality it has. I didn't
actually shoot anything for the festival. You could say the footage was
all archival! It was all stuff I'd shot in the previous half-year or so.

In terms of what it is LIKE, though, to shoot on a cellphone: It gives
you a different feeling than shooting through a video or film camera.
It is more subtle, more acceptable, and less inhibiting. I found it
easy to quickly change things like the brightness and zoom, and I
enjoyed how easily it sat in my pocket. I didn't have to look through a
viewfinder, just looked at the screen. The real advantage to shooting
with a cellphone is that it's a device one becomes extremely
comfortable with on a daily basis, so shooting with it becomes second
nature - an extension of oneself, one's eye - because it is a device
that one's hand is already at home holding.

APC: What do you think of the cell phone camera as a tool for making films and clips? Is this more of a gimmick or a serious tool for media production?

SF: Cellphones, in my opinion, are a legitimate medium, although they are
certainly not addressed as such very much so far. While I can fully
recognize the gimmickry that one might find in, say, a Cellphone Movie
Festival (and I would even go as far as to say that such gimmickry may
have been part of the allure of Cellflix, both to host it and to pay
attention to it), I think that there is something significant about
cellphone movies: they are a burgeoning mode of capturing documentary
footage... what I mean is that because they are so readily available in
virtually EVERYONE'S pockets, cellphones are starting to become very
important tools for capturing not just fun, enjoyable moments of
people's lives, but crucial moments of social history and
documentation. This is a topic that was addressed in one of the other
finalist's films, a film about what would happen if cellphone
videocameras had been around during the assassination of a particular
political figure. This is extremely relevant to the social climate
today... Bathrooms and certain private facilities at one point were
banning cellphones. But most importantly, cellphone videocameras are
being used to document things such as police brutality. A recent string
of tasing events have been documented and posted to youtube and other
websites in order to take the police department and specific officers
to task for unruly behavior. No longer can they defend themselves after
the fact by saying they were acting in self-defense, for instance, when
there is footage of them being aggressive and offensive. And
furthermore, a crowd of people at such an event offers the promise of
multiple camera angles, leading the overall footage to being that much
closer to the truth. In short, Cellphone videocameras take a massive
step further than digital videocameras to put motion-picture-making,
and the power that accompanies it, into the hands of the public. This
makes a more creative society, as well as a more culturally and
socially aware society.

APC: How would you describe your film "Log and Capture?" If you could spell it out in a one sentence blurb, then what would it be?

SF: "Log and Capture" is a testament to the elegant mess that is life, and
the inability of technology to clean that mess up, no matter how tiny
or user-friendly it is.

APC: Where do you feel this (cell films) mini-genre will go in the future?

SF: Where this mini-genre will go is hard to say... in the art community,
it will probably fall into the fetishized or idolized obscurity of
other lo-fi movie-making media such as video, super-8 film, etc. I sent
"Log and Capture" to a couple of film festivals with no reception. But
then again, there are New Media festivals that are also trying to
embrace this medium specifically. The future is, as always, ours to
sculpt. If the movie- or art-making communities believe cellphones to
be worthy of our attention and focus, that will be dictated in the work
created, submitted, and shown around the world.

(If you'd like to see "Log and Capture," you can still do so here.)

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