Film work has been at the core of Fabrica's output and culture since the start—the original creative director was Godfrey Reggio (of Koyaanisqatsi fame) and Fabrica even has an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film from its time as a production company around the turn of the century.
So it's been particularly rewarding to see Ries Straver and team pick up the challenge of following that this year. No Academy Awards—yet—but some great work, a building of a new culture for film inside Fabrica, an immense help in terms of our lecture and workshop series, and one success in particular.
Ries is now running a studio called "Document", which explores what the contemporary documentary can be, across various media, as well as looking at the creative documentation of creative work as a new genre in its own right.
It feels like the documentary, as a format, is more powerful than ever, and like many things, has been reinvigorated by the web. I'm more interested us in distributing direct to the web, via Vimeo in particular, than the circuit of film festivals and so on—though they're not mutually exclusive, and we can do both where appropriate.
But documentary for web is where the opportunity is, including exploring the "i-Docs" movement, using interactive elements alongside traditional narrative film (for an example of that, we were impressed by Clouds Over Cuba, both technically, as well as for the "what if" faux-recreation, as well as Money & Speed etc. This is something Joseph and Marco in our Networked Politics studio are also interested in, as well as Enrico and his Slow Journalism studio.)
Again, the potential transdisciplinary aspect of the "Document" studio gives us the possibility of exploring that, wherein a coder will sit next to a filmmaker, a sound designer, an interaction designer, and so on. If you want to be one of those, and you're under 26, apply!
But a short film which shows what we can do with a straightforward documentary has been one of the major successes of the year: "Ai Pioppi", a wonderful 12-minute film about a man building who has hand-built a funfair in the Italian forest over the last 40 years. It's a film about making, in a way, but a lot more besides.
This is the work of Coleman Guyon, a young American filmaker in 'Document', and Luiz Romero, a Brazilian writer in Colors, well-supported by Ries and team (soundtrack is also by the very talented Coleman; lovely titles/poster by Vidit Narang, too.) I've seen it probably 30 times, from early cuts through to final edit, but I remain utterly entranced by it. It's beautifully done.
We've premiered online a couple of weeks ago, and the response has been incredible. It's got over 170k views on Vimeo already, in less than a month, and made the coveted Vimeo Staff Pick (which is almost the equivalent of an Academy Award for aspiring filmmakers these days.)
I'm really proud of Ries, Coleman, Luiz and team for "Ai Pioppi". Here it is:
Ries has been pushing the "making of" videos too. Video for the creative documentation of creative work is one of the more interesting areas to have emerged in the last few years, particularly for interactive work. This is also part of a "legible practice" culture we're developing at Fabrica. (Again, for an example, Timo Arnall's work is a great precursor I've mentioned before..)
You can see some examples in the documentation of the 'Objectified mp3' project, such as Sadly By Your Side and MOHS - Stone Pad, as well as the documentation of Jonathan Chomko's "Physis" project, as well as the great videos summarising and catching the spirit of our workshops.
Alessandro Favaron and various others are responsible for capturing and editing our lecture series too. Many thanks to them. (See previous entry noting production approach.) For example, lectures like:
Also, some nice trailers for projects, such as those made for "Iranian Living Room", "News Machine" and "Colors #87".
In terms of cinema culture, Ries has also started a weekly film night in the Fabrica cinema (yes, we have an 80-seater cinema. It had been little-used recently, as it was locked by default. We've fixed that. Ries said there used to be a film night, a while back; I suggested we just re-start it.) The night is called "WWWWWatch" and usually features a documentary or some exploratory film work, though is sometimes tailored to the current projects. There's also a WWWWatch Tumblr too, which a bunch of us post to, collating YouTube and Vimeo clips that we've found that week.
One of our new studio leads, Ivor Williams, who leads "Being & Dying", ran a little showing of Seinfeld episodes referencing or concerning death, Monday to Friday, 5.30, all last week – along the lines of "the one about Jewish humour and death". This is exactly how studios can easily and informally use the cinema as a tool, as well as showing our own work there.
Similarly Joseph Grima and Marco Ferrari has started a Networked Politics film series around their studio, which commenced with "The Battle of Algiers". Recently, GTA V has even popped up in there (note Ivor's posters below), which is quite something at that scale I can tell you. Hopefully other studios will now use the cinema in future too.
I love the fact that the cinema is in use again—with the side-effect that there are more posters being around Fabrica now, which also feels lively—as it's too good an asset to lie dormat, but also in the use of film and related media as another kind of "acupuncture" for creative practice. It's a small thing, but in terms of building a culture, one of my favourite developments of the year.
- Build on tradition of strong documentary work
- Focus on documentaries for web, and soon interactive documentaries
- Increased facility with "making of…" videos and trailers
- Use of the cinema as a tool for studios #buildingastoolkit