Apologies it's taken so long to post about ALL the conference sessions; I've been besieged with problems the last week or so, from a dead PC to leaving my notes at my Mum's house in Devon! But here you go Riboflavin, I know you're chomping at the bit to hear about the rest of it... Enjoy the rest of you as well! ; )
Lunch was a quiet affair, though I got the opportunity to meet several other "media types" in the throng, including someone from Screen Yorkshire (I shamelessly pimped my script reading ass, natch) and another person writing up the event, this time for Scriptwriter Magazine.
Next came probably the most lively and interactive session of the day: the subject? Piracy. I've never been one for downloads, legal or otherwise, but several audience members were whipped up into quite a frenzy and not for the reason I had expected. Jonny Reckless (who sounds like a pirate, doesn't he?) of Macrovision and a lady from FACT (whose name I wrote down but my handwriting is illegible here) presented a very good case for piracy (or what they preferred to call "copyright theft") being wrong and as a potential filmmaker I couldn't help but agree: being able to nick stuff surely brings down the content's value? Lots of people in the audience disagreed. Very strongly! I heard all kinds of opinions on the subject voiced, but I thought it was neatly encapsulated by Kirk of Team Rubber, whom I had the opportunity to talk to afterwards. He said that of course "stealing is wrong" - except when you're stealing from THE MAN. The Man being the guy of course who sets the odds in his favour - like CD companies, big film distributors and so on. As I understood it, then of sorts it becomes a matter of honour almost, a Robin Hood kind of scenario: people are being priced out of information in effect, reflecting the notion of Baudrillard's "info poor" - is it piracy then? In addition, both representatives posited the difference between "copying" and "cloning": now we're going digital, quality is not always lost so rather than copying artefacts, we're actually reproducing them - there is no difference between the legal and illegal version, in stark contrast to the days of pirate video when the differences were obvious. Again, something I had never thought of before. A very interesting session, probably my favourite of the afternoon.
We were also treated to a case study of how the Netherlands approach distribution etc and they seem well ahead of us in terms of digital and have more of an idea of how this will affect independent cinema: Gerben Kuipers of Cinemec, a venue much like The Watershed, told us of how he went up against the big corporates by providing Ladie's nights, themes nights etc in his cinema and making it less of a building to go and watch films than a "cultural lifestyle". I really liked this idea; though we have places like The Watershed, The Poole Lighthouse or The Phoenix in Exeter, I think more emphasis should go on these venues as promoting not just film, but culture too. I think it's a shame that cinema *seems* to be falling foul of the "instant gratification" idea - give the people what they want, not what they need - so the great history of film AND cinema falls by the wayside.
Pete Buckingham of the UK Film Council was next and though he was supposed to talk about distribution, he talked a lot about Amazon and its e-book reader Kindle, something I had never heard of before but have been reading about since and you can see here. Basically it seemed to form a metaphor for the film industry "keeping up" with technology, yet not falling foul of some of the restrictions and constraints levvied at the Kindle. Though I could be, and probably am, completely wrong! As mentioned in the previous article, some of my understanding of this sort thing is nothing short of basic.
Finally then, we were treated to a digital distribution legal masterclass courtesy of
Anna Keeling of legal experts Osborne Clarke. This really was a revelation: I had no idea that contracts had to be SO specific on what constitutes "on demand viewing" for example. It really is a minefield - get it wrong and it seems you could lose the licence for your content's distribution. Anna presented a selection of slides and really broke it down for us, which was great. I just wish it had been earlier in the day, since a lot of us were flagging by this point and it was a lot of information - but perhaps scheduling just wouldn't allow it.
So that's the day itself: as requested I will be returning to some of the issues of digital and what it means for us as writers in the new year. No doubt it will be half-assed I'm afraid, I'm still learning myself, but hopefully we can find some more techy people out there in www.land to help us out on the road to understanding. I for one think this is fascinating though and look forward to exploring the notions further both on this blog and in my professional life. Thanks South West Screen!