Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why I'm retiring...

While doing my first feature film, when many of you were playing in the sandbox and eating paste, I discovered a way to use the AVID to online our DAT and Nagra sound files.

The process was quickly adopted by pretty much everybody. I even went in to show the editors of SHOWGIRLS how to do it.

In the late 1990s, I went to Sundance and witnessed a demo of Sony's new Digital Betacam cameras. I immediately ran home to tell all of my friends that we could now make inexpensive feature films without any film.

Within a few years I had feature films, shot on video, airing on major broadcast networks.

After witnessing a demo of the RED camera at NAB, I knew that film was dead and that RED had something special.

After my friend secured one of the first RED cameras, we shot one of the first RED features to be commercially released.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm the only person who figures this stuff out. Clearly, everyone knew that RED was ushering in a new era of image acquisition. But, I'm always one who jumps on the far end of the curve. I believe that I am what they call an "early adopter".

Which is why I want to make the following announcement. After viewing the landscape, analyzing the marketplace and really looking inside and determining what interests me as a person and an artist, I've come to the following conclusion.

Leigh Scott isn't going to make movies anymore.

At least not in the traditional sense.

Everything is changing. The way movies are made. Audience attention spans. Economics. Formats. Delivery methods. You name it.

So the idea that the artists who make movies wouldn't change is simply ridiculous.

The earliest films were quite short because of technology. Edwin Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" was only twelve minutes long. As the technology expanded, filmmakers moved to mimic the other thing people were accustomed to sitting in a theater to watch; stage plays.

12 Minutes. Still longer than a youtube video

Movies ran roughly the same duration as stage plays until the advent of television. Then it became all about scheduling blocks and advertising space.

An episode of "Seinfeld" runs at twenty-two minutes for commercials, not because it's the optimum duration to tell a story.

The Greatest Character in the History of Television

I'm fascinated by the potential of audience interaction with the film and filmmakers. Not in some boring, Communist sense of "let's allow the audience to tweet the plot or ending", but by creating fan bases and allowing the audience to expand upon what the artist has created. I like the idea of blurring the lines between fact and reality. What's real and what isn't anymore? Do we know who people really are via social media? I mean, you don't really know who anyone is when you talk to them face to face, or share a bed with them (sorry, I couldn't resist) let alone in a few text messages and photos.

All exciting stuff.

Plus, there is a great potential now to mix and match various formats and styles. Music, visual effects, still photography, poetry, animation etc. All can be blended into narrative projects that bend genres and formats and can provide the audience and the creator with a better experience. 

So yes, as a filmmaker, the guy who writes, produces, edits, color corrects does audio etc. I'm pretty positive that "Extracurricular Activities" is the last traditional feature film that I will make. I've fought, for a long time, my own short attention span and desire to always be "making stuff". It's just too much and too exhausting to spend the time living in the same cycle. Raise money, make film, deal with nonsense, sell film, get ripped off, call lawyers. Rinse. Repeat. It's time to take what many may consider a personal weakness and turn it into a strength. To dive, full speed, into the future.

I'm going to stay involved with typical film projects in other capacities and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the future stuff "feels" like a traditional feature in many ways. But it can no longer be business as usual.

This industry is a dinosaur business. Full of tiny armed T-Rexes who can't reach their food. So they have to steal the food of others in order to survive. It's no place for people who actually care about their work, care about people and love what they do. And that's not the only reason. The business is just a part of it. The restrictions and expectations in general have become creatively stifling.

I'm a little, fast mammal. With big ideas and scary teeth and claws. Teeth and claws that I don't want to have to use all the freaking time. I've got some neat ideas and I hope I can get people as excited as I am about them.

Happy New Year!
Leigh Scott
Former Independent Filmmaker