I am never happier than I am on a bicycle, despite New York's fatality statistics. I love the feeling of freedom and mobility, of moving faster than pedestrians, of never getting stuck in traffic. As I pass people holding out their arms hailing cabs, I high-five them, as if to say, "If you were me, you'd already be on your way."
These same thoughts were on my mind as I spoke to filmmaker Lance Weiler, a pioneer in the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement. In 1998 Weiler co-created the film The Last Broadcast, for just $900. "We felt like we'd buried it in our backyard," he says. Instead, Weiler took the unheard-of step of creating his own video label, making the film the first ever to be distributed digitally to theaters, eventually grossing over $5 million.
Since then Weiler has gone on to create the Workbook Project, an open creative network, and Seize the Media, which focuses on transmedia, the "collision of gaming, music, film and technology."
He is my new religion.
"It's very exciting," Weiler says. "If you look at the way people are consuming media, it's changing." As a result, Weiler looks to tell stories across platforms in combinations of both free and paid content, whether it be a phone app or a game or a traditional film. "I look at those outlets as creative storytelling tools," he says. "These will allow a story to move into people's everyday lives."
Weiler uses a lot of terms I had to Google, like "social graph," the mapping of social networks, and "alternate reality game," an interactive narrative that sounds to me like Facebook meets the Sims. "We're moving away from auteurs to a communal experience," Weiler says, "more like telling a story around a campfire. These multiple layers of interactivity are like a bullet hole in a glass: as it cracks out, it leaves room for the audience to socially interact with each other."
It makes sense. Why read or watch The Lord of the Rings when you can be in The Lord of the Rings? As Creative Commons proponent Cory Doctorow blogged recently:
Content isn't king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you'd choose your friends -- if you chose the movies, we'd call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.
The more answers I got from Weiler, the more questions I had. Of course, what I wanted was the $5 million formula for success in the New Media. But Weiler admits we're in an experimentation phase right, one full of both new pathways and dead-ends. I'm sure a hundred years from now our current internet will look like two tin cans and a string.
But I'm invigorated by the possibility of artists taking control of their own destinies, of not waiting around for gatekeepers to say yes. For instance, just yesterday I needed some information for a project. After a few minutes of Googling and two e-mails I found myself getting answers from one of the foremost experts in the world, freely sharing his knowledge. And that's just a sliver of what's possible, a hint of a future in which the creative class can move ahead on its own, independent and free.
Just like on a bicycle.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
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