“Great web philosopher” David Weinberger weblogged several talks at PopTech 2002, which had the theme of Artificial Worlds. From his posts, it sounded like a lot of thought-provoking fun. But what’s in it for me you ask? (Me meaning me, of course, not you.) Some speakers addressed stuff that matters to the Animated Musical (which now has a future-based flashback-to-the-present structure, as noodled over here):
Ray Kurzweil spoke about the future (of computing), where human brain power and computing power intersect in 2029 (he didn’t give a date, so keep your calendars open).
Alvy Ray Smith, co-foundar of Pixar, presented the case against digital actors. Acting is founded in consciousness, and would be impossible to model/program without conscious computers. [And even if computers achieved consciousness, how many do you have to make to get one Emily Watson? -ed.] Oh, and Pixar’s still at least two orders of magnitude away from modelling real humans satisfactorily.
Bonus Weinberger question: “I said last summer I stood in a wheatfield that 100M stalks of wheat. If we take left-leaning is on and right-leaning as off, for 5 minutes, that wheatfield completely represented Casear’s brain state when he was stabbed. So, I asked, it seems to me that hw-sw is entirely the wrong paradigm for the brain, intelligence, consciousness. (Unfortunately, I chose not to draw the explicit connection, in order to save time, and thus sounded like a lunatic.) “
Bonus outside reading assignment: Dr. Antonio Damasio’s The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness
Warren Spector, game god, said games are “part of the real world.” Games as a story-telling medium, or a story-facilitating medium, really, with the explosion of continuous multiplayer games.
Bonus video game-as-research:The Sims, duh, and Grand Theft Auto 3 (“reprehensible” but “revolutionary”).
Palm recharging at home, I had a little red notebook with me on the train last night, and, still stuck on the entry from the other day, I wrote “Who are such mystics, astronauts, filmmakers, ?, people with a Knowledge, but limited means to convey that knowledge/experience?”
Film technology and technique go so far in “accurately” communicating/realizing what is in the director’s (realisateur, in French, you know) mind, but how long does it remain effective? Early filmgoers reportedly jumped out of the way when they saw an image of a train chugging toward them. The War of The Worlds usurped the medium of radio news reporting and scared millions of less alert listeners. Yet by 1998, the spare-no-CG-expense afterlife in What Dreams May Come had all the impact of a rendering demo at Macworld.
There may be many paths to the top of Mount Fuji, but the techno-theocratic path seems to be leading off somewhere else. Seeing the earth from space may be a transformative experience for the engineer/colonel/astronaut, but their flatly telling us so doesn’t change us that much. In Contact Jodie Foster’s character is “reduced” to pleading for faith after her $600 trillion, globally engineered space trip appeared to go nowhere.
So as I wrestle with how to realize my own vision, the simplest means seem the best. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s brilliant film, After Life [DVD] not only portrays the next world as a shabby but genial bureaucracy, it contains documentary-style segments that celebrate theatrical geniuses who use the humblest means to re-create the happiest memories of the dead. For all Matthew Barney’s baroque dazzle, a single Felix Gonzalez-Torres photo or a lightstring (components bought on Canal Street) strike a deeper chord. The vision is more perfectly realized/transferred.
Three tidbits that I couldn’t fit in:
I thought it was scary enough when Alec Baldwin was the one saying, “I am God.”
On a Harper’s panel about film/literary adaptations, Todd Solondz “defended” James Cameron when someone decried the soulless banality of Titanic: “Oh, I believe that Titanic did come from deep down inside James Cameron.”
The first book I read on my Palm was the 1841 Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds, by Charles MacKay, which we all should have read 3-7 years ago.
To paraphrase Max Fischer: I’ve applied for early admission to the Edinburgh Film Festival and Cannes. Sundance is my safety.
[wesanderson.org is a good source for active fans.]
When I saw an hour and a half on Sundance Channel blocked out for Meet Mike Mills, I couldn’t figure out how interesting he could possibly be. 90 minutes with Scorsese, sure. But 90 minutes with Mike Mills? Naturally, I HAD to watch it.
Turns out they showed the entirety of his shorts, Architecture of Reassurance and my favorite, Paperboys. It’s one of the most unassuming films in a long time, and it’s got a really engaging, smart view of a world many adopted New Yorkers have fled. (Architecture is actually about a girl who longingly wanders around an oppressively homogeneous suburban subdivision.
Paperboys figured into my first documentary project, adding to my conviction/hypothesis (depending on the day) that a studied look at rural life could be interesting.
Mills also directed the some of my favorite Gap ads (did that phrase just chase you all away? hello? …hellooo?), the ones inspired by West Side Story, which is one of only four musicals I can stand. (For your purchasing pleasure, the others are Moulin Rouge, South Park and Umbrellas of Cherbourg.)
Mills’ videos, commercials, and some shorts can be seen in the archives at The Director’s Bureau site, which has one of the only Flash intros I don’t mind watching. Work and info from his partners, including Roman and Sofia Coppola, is also available on the site.
“Damn you!” campaign results (source: Google Adwords)
The low number of searches/impressions for Varda and Maysles was surprising, as was the high rate (2x) of Wes Anderson searches vs PT Anderson and Soderbergh. And this was a week when PT Anderson had a movie debuting at Cannes. It could be that the high quality of search results for Soderbergh and PT Anderson (both of which lead with eponymous and actively updated fansites, Soderbergh.net and PTAnderson.com, respectively) may lead to faster search “resolution” than for Wes.
The ads were generally effective, with clickthrough rates falling within–and in some cases, on the high end of– ranges reported for online ads.
It is heartening to see that the two directors who inspired me most have the highest clickthrough rates. The “greg.org factor” is a subjective ranking of “most inspirational,” I guess. To date, both Varda and Soderbergh have three explicit mentions/discussions on the site. Varda was an inspiration to get going, and Soderbergh was critical to getting through production and editing. Maysles is hugely important, too, but frankly, more for the documentary project that launched the site than for Souvenir. The Magnificent Andersons are inspiring more for their ability to pursue and realize their singular visions at such an early stage in their careers. (Some people call that ability “final cut,” like in Guardian interview with Paul Thomas Anderson aboutMagnolia.) (Oh, and we called straight-on, centered, camera angles “Andersons” after Full Frontal, which has it’s own behind-the-cameras website. (Although it’s not in real time; the film’s sliding release date means that “Week 3” lasts for months on the site.) Interesting to you? Interesting to me.
The greg.org “Damn you!” ad campaign on Google is just about half-over, and the results are rather interesting. (The launch is mentioned in this post.)
The campaign appears on searches for the names of directors who inspired/influenced me, either stylistically or professionally (or both). Since all these directors have turned up here during the making of Souvenir November 2001, I figured ads using their names wouldn’t be gratuituous, but relevant. In addition, I figured someone who searches for a director’s name (especially one of these directors) would be a nice audience for the site and the movie; they’re presumably interested not only in independent film, but in the filmmaking process, too. And if we share interest in these directors specifically, well… Here’s an example of the ads:
Damn you, Wes Anderson!
You made me want to make a movie,
so I did. click to read about it.
I spent $10 for each name/ad combination, which, bought about 7-800 impressions (at the retail $15CPM). With this spending cap, the duration of each ad was determined by the frequency of Google searches for each director’s name. Next: results data and analysis for the campaign.