Mob Films Manifesto
Author: Eamonn Crudden
Duration: 14 mins
The Robot Series
Mob Film Manifesto (Stephen Soderbergh Loves $$ More Than Art) I am the Pilot – The Pilot is in My Sights
These two sketches which I completed during a burst of creative work in early 2006 represent the start and end points of a series of four short films grouped under the title, ‘The Robot Series’. The other titles are ‘Skizohacker- for the Noisehacker’ and ‘Infect-Executable’. The series title is a straightforward reference to the fact that in all the films I have used voice reading software for the voiceover elements and to the fact that all the pieces are concerned in some way with a filmic appropriation of, and comment on, new information technologies.
All of the films in the series are available for download at: http://mobfilms.allotherplaces.org.
This body of work represents the creative practice element of my PhD in Film Studies at Queens. My doctoral research programme (with the provisional title of ‘Mob Films: Hybrid Spaces and New Documentary Forms’) focuses on a range of innovative, collaborative filmmaking practices developed by a number of the new social movements, like the anti-globalization protest movement. These practices have been facilitated by the growth of networked computing and digital filmmaking platforms. I argue that these new networking technologies have opened up exciting possibilities for collaborative filmmaking and alternative documentary practice and that that this new horizon remain un-theorised within the field of film and media studies. Where a critical understanding of what I have called ‘mob filmmakng’ has appeared is within the ad-hoc collectives of media makers operating within the new social movements. Their work, both practical and critical, represents a radical break with traditional documentary filmmaking practices and with the theorization of these. The new media makers tend to make use of serial efficiencies introduced into their productive processes by the ubiquity of digital storage and distribution. In so doing they efface the role of the ‘auteur/director’ and replace it with various forms of distributed authorship. So we are witnessing not so much the ‘death of the author’ within documentary film making as the dispersal of authorship and its collectivization under network conditions. The films presented here both exemplify and explore this ethos.
I have in the recent past in my work with Indymedia played a role in the production of a substantial number of such collaborative films. In my PhD I report on this engagement employing an auto-ethnographical methodology. This ethnography, conducted largely within a ‘virtual field’, will be at the heart of the written component of my PhD. This account will explore, via a series of case studies, how new network technologies are facilitating innovative modes of collaborative filmmaking. It also explores the manner in which the appropriation of these new technologies by social activists involved in mass protests photographed by hundreds of participants employing camcorders can change the nature of the actual event blurring the boundaries between event and representation. In turn, these activists are creating new sites of exhibition and exchange for film work via websites, databases and chat rooms. I argue that a key future challenge for any kind of politically engaged documentary film-making will be to construct critical representations and histories of events which take place primarily in networked virtual spaces.
The short films presented here mark something qualitatively new in terms of my own creative practice. As I watched and participated in an explosion of collaborative documentary filmmaking in the years 2000 – 2006, I noted the parallel growth in the field of music of what I would term ‘Mash-up’ culture and in journalism/writing of ‘Blog’ culture. Both of these modes of alternative media employed creative strategies utilizing found footage/ music elements. This collaging of material from diverse sources accessed via the Internet seem to represent the emergence of new cultures of production based on the increasingly accessibility of software tools facilitating the recombination and compositing of already existing texts – visual and sonic.
I consciously adopted the techniques and strategies of blog writing and of ‘mash-up’ in constructing the soundtracks of my films and also in the visual assembly of what I can only term a series of ‘composited’ spaces which seek to represent the spatial complexities of events which take place simultaneously in the ‘physical/real’ and ‘in the wires’.
In the two films you see here my use of computer generated, voice- reading texts gathered primarily from the internet can be read as a gesture articulated against the omniscient narrator of didactic documentary film. The work points towards a more discursive and hypertextual form of audio-visual narrative production. This has with more in common with modes of distributed authorship and networked exhibition familiar from the world of web blogs and mob film making than with traditional documentary forms.
This imputed model seems to me goes to go significantly beyond scratch video and traditional found footage filmmaking. From it I developed a strategy to make things which were prototypical, demonstrative and reconfigurable and which, as far as possible, effaced any traces of individualist expression. Each of the films in the series makes a point of comprehensively directing viewers to the sources of the raw materials employed in the mashed text. Each seeks to open up the possibility of a multiplicity of variations and reconfigurations of the material and themes presented. The work then emerges from an ongoing encounter with a productive audience who are, after all,’ in the same space’ as the ‘filmmaker’.
All reviews refer to original research statements which have been edited in response to what follows
Review 1: Accept
This is an important and interesting work to include in the first edition. It presents an entirely different way of producing moving image that has important things to say about the age of ‘user generated content’. Web based digital environments make moving image production a far more flexible, expressive and accessible process than heretofore. In a way the most important feature of the piece its self avowed off handedness – the fact that it declares at the outset that everything was downloaded in three hours online, This suggests that film artists can now can now mix work rapidly and fluidly before moving on fast. Despite the irritating voice treatment – are we to think machinic consciousness here? – the ‘argument’ sounds a blast of new consciousness across the academic film community. Youthful and utopian it may be but shouldn’t that be what we expect from our new filmmakers? I am unconvinced that the commentary treatment undermines its authority – quite the opposite in fact, but this raises all kinds of questions about the post human that I’d like to have seen explored a bit more.
The research statement does seem to me to make a convincing case as to how and why this piece might be considered knowledge generating. The citation of sources in both statement and film seems to suggest a very clear attempt to locate the film within a tradition of argument, debate and research about the ways digitality is challenging the media landscape.
Review 2: Accept
I liked this – in fact there was a range of interesting material on the DVD but I’m assuming Mob Film Manifesto is the selected piece. It’s a tightly defined project, taking Hitchcock and Soderbergh as avatars for an exploration of the idea. This should be in the first edition because it illustrates the range of work going on from traditional to the web based. Obviously this project raises all kinds of questions about the nature of moving image production – as a research piece the manifesto nature offers clears challenges to he way we have think about our work.
Excellent statement by Eamonn Crudden – clearly establishing contexts, aims, methods, frames of reference etc. for innovative and focused research field. Exemplary and a very useful marker by which to evaluate other statements.