What Does a Feature Film for the Web Look Like?
Here's a question: what is Film 2.0?
With my goal of making and releasing a "web feature" looming in the near future, I am beginning to question even the very nature of what that means. We all know what a traditional feature film looks like, and we can still see them in the theater, on TV, on DVD and streamed to our computer or smartphone. They are still viable forms of entertainment and creative satisfaction (with the potential for profit) for the filmmaker. So why am I worried?
I've had this nagging at the back of my brain that, for the microbudget creator, we need to do something different that hasn't really been done yet. It seems that while we acknowledge that the internet is still the Wild West with all kinds of possibilities, we still want to shoehorn old models into it. I strongly believe in a free web release of whatever project I end up making, but why should that project come from the same box that I'm trying to escape with an unorthodox release model?
In other words, if I want to try new and unusual distribution methods, shouldn't the project itself be new and unusual?
This idea makes me question everything about what I already know about filmmaking. Narrative structure. Character development. Presentation. Running time. I'm not saying I should throw everything out and reinvent the wheel. Not at all. It would not only be stupid and arrogant (who am I to say that over a hundred years of filmmaking history is wrong for the web?) but crazy. We should learn and adapt what we already know, taking the best things about story, character, training and experience and letting them inspire us to take chances and be adventurous.
Take YouTube for example. Right now, it's the best place to host content. Sure, Vimeo may look slightly better, but YouTube offers the chance to make a little money from what we are doing. You make partner and the doors of time open wide open and the profit window cracks a bit. No other service can claim this. Not only that, but the annotation feature is a creative embryo that practically dares us to do something really cool. Linking to other videos and director's commentaries is just scratching the surface. We need to scratch harder.
This begs another issue--interactivity. Give the user (again, within YouTube so you can make a little bit of money) something else to do other than watch and they won't click away (or to another point in the timeline). Keep them involved. Become a partner with them in the story. Make them part of the story. Make them the story.
Video games. Alternate Reality Gaming. Role Playing Games. Choose Your Own Adventure books. It's all interactive storytelling. What can we learn (read: "steal") from these sources?
Another important component in all this is still cost. I don't want to trash frugality. Having some grandiose idea that takes years to fund and implement is a giant step backward. Use the inexpensive tools we have at our disposal to create. We can't compete with Hollywood and big corporations, but we aren't bound by their rules and formulas, either. Make something they won't in a way they wouldn't touch and begin carving a place for yourself.
Obviously, I don't have all the answers. This is more of a rant to get us all thinking. I want to hear your ideas.
For a continued discussion on this topic, click here for part 2.