sean heaLy™· on Wed, 10 Apr 2002 20:48:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> online film vs banff

A yet to be shrunk to fit my column type interview that I thought u
might enojy in it's entirety?


Introducing Sara Diamond who runs the Media and Visual Arts program at the
Banff Centre (, works with documentary production, and
makes software at I missed her online documentary
workshop at the Adelaide fringe in oz due to trapeze commitments, but she
seemed happy to say this later:

>What attracted u to the online film-making?

I have been interested in the Internet and then the www as a means of
communication since l993.  It occurs to me that this format allows levels
of dialogue between a group of filmmakers who can engage in a dialogue,
one that shares differing perspectives around the same issue. It is an
ideal form to engage audiences in testimonials and debate around questions
in their lives.  I believe in a variety of forms, but the interactive
qualities of on-line video and media are particularly appealing. The first
projects that interested me were simple exchanges of images and poems
between communities that were in conflict in the” real world” but able to
solve their differences through the use of distance communication.  The
Electronic Café International did amazing work in this area as early as
l991 and 1992.

>Important issues for writers / filmmakers tackling interactive media?

This is a form that incorporates what we know and demands that we take
risks to explore what we do not know.  We need to remember the elegance
and power of documentary photography and its history of montage for
example.  We also need to pay attention to access.  What kind of bandwidth
do our audiences have, what technology knowledge do they have, how can we
create an ease of experience for them. For exemplary sites look at 360
Degrees, they really use the form of interactive media and the web to
communicate development over time, complexity, and relationship.

>Nobody watches films online. Too small, pixelated, is computer not TV.
Your response?

Well not yet, though broadband may change that with on demand services,
and the new confusion about broadcasters versus ISP delivery mechanisms.  
Millions of people down load illegally from the Internet, so they do
gather films on line.  But this is not what interests me as much as what
is now possible with interactive media and on-line communication.  People
crave communication, a sense of identification, ease of relationship, fast
information, the ability to change the image, to quote and consider, These
are wonderful qualities and demand film-making as immediate, brief and
powerful experiences, to kick off debate or emotion, This is the ideal use
of the on-line environment.

>Thoughts on balancing interactivity and narrative?

I think that it is possible to make work that has some of the power and
pleasure of narrative and the interruption, distraction and then extreme
decision-making process of gaming and other forms of interaction.  Or,
interaction can be understood more as a navigational, dwelling, drifting
kind of metaphor, like in Myst, or Eve, or as a puzzle metaphor, like in
Ceremonies of Innocence.  Interaction can build strong identification or
reaction around characters.  Look at Smart Hearts, Victoria Mappledeck’s
work and other, less empathetic, reality television.  People spent hours
with those characters.

>What new possibilities and creative processes are opening up?

Well, verite type documentary has always desired a fly on the wall
relationship with its subjects.  Lightweight cameras that are unobtrusive
place the documentary maker right into the scene.  This is enabling, but
also raises ethical questions around surveillance.  You can again shoot at
a high ratio because of high quality small format.  I think that there is
a shift in methodology around gathering and editing material because
working in short sequences that have their own logic can allow you to
remix digital objects or film elements.  Making work over distances and
without being in the same space is greatly enhanced. raven bread

>Some online documentaries you respect? (why?)

The wonderful experience in putting together the conference for The
Adelaide Fringe is that I had the opportunity to review a great deal of
creative and compelling work by documentary makers, in collaboration with
Peter Winntonick.  We explored four categories of documentary practice
that made use of interactivity.  I’ll give an example from each. The first
panel considered participatory design, where audiences are contributors.  
I think that Madmundo is an amazing project where
everyday people can ask investigative journalists to help them understand
a political issue, solve a crisis or take on an authority.  It is
absolutely compelling and a really human, way to bring social issues to
the fore through not only an individual experience but actually through
collaboration.  For a very different experience, more an environment than
one work, explore, which is the Aboriginal radio
streamed media environment that aggregates content from stations all over
the world.  The second category explored the relationships between
surveillance, verite, spectacle and reality television.  I mentioned Smart
Hearts earlier; I suggest that you examine the work of Blast Theory at  They create situations
where players or participants move between the web, mobile technologies
and actual physical or v.r. locations.  They enacted a kidnap scenario,
have made a virtual reality work about The Gulf War and developed a large
scale urban game played out on actual streets, on PDAs and on-line. The
third session looked at technologies of power, digital media and human
rights. We included tactical media groups such as with their films about the G8 protests, and
of course, I suggest exploring the work of
Rachel Baker at, because she uses intervention as a
documentary form, issuing smart cards that are knock offs of actual
corporate cards and bring users into a collective on-line where they can
shop for ethical goods.  Or look at,
a website about militarism created through gaming. The final panel
considered autobiographical forms, but suggested that these were most
effective either as short intimate, funny statements on the web,, or poignant filmic ones,,
or through software the rearticulates your computer through intervention,

>How are the net and interactive media transforming documentaries made for
traditional media?

The web cam, helped to inspire Big Brother and a
24/7 relationship to documentary subjects.  U8TV is a very successful
Canadian reality t.v. show about a group of media makers and designers who
live in a loft.  These shows combine surveillance with Jerry Springer.  
Reality t.v. is versioned all over the world, from Argentina, to Australia
to Hungary, let alone at the source.  The sense of voyeuristic pleasure
and the power to decide the fate of others without personal implication
seems to effectively cross cultures.  The proliferation of digital media
has opened some avenues for low budget thoughtful documentary from
alternate sources to find a space on television.

> Your thoughts on film-making potential of real-time video software? (eg
vjamm, arkaos expose, vdmx, visual jockey etc )

I personally like events where there are mixes of multiple live streams,
whether in club situations, or perhaps theatres or on-line. I like
spectacle on occasion and look forward to the ways that the power of
presence and actuality can become a better quality experience on the web.

> 3 video related urls that really imaginatively harness the web's

I mentioned, it has very strong design values,
making use of the time line in various configurations.  It uses video as
well as interactive experience to bring you first close the subjects and
then, close to the analysis. is the
SmartHeart site.  I love the work of XPT, a UK company who create pseudo
reality t.v. using video and a great deal of humour.

>3 inventions you'd like to see?

An invention that can effectively save me from endless delays, missed
flights and lost luggage when I travel.  I travel constantly and have long
thought of starting the parallel site to Survival, mine would simple be
Travel and that I could make a small fortune sharing my horror stories
with the world and gathering those of others. Clothing that is responsive
and represents my social patterns and is able, through tuning to find
others who either parallel or oppose those patterns.  I would also like it
to be able to warn me when I am about to faux pas in a social situation.
Furniture that remembers my body movements and those of others and can
play these back to remind me of pleasures now gone but fondly remembered.

>3 things that make me smile at The Banff Centre?

Many things at The Banff Centre make me smile and sometimes cry with
happiness.  So, this is going to all sound corny: When artists are
completely and totally engaged in the process of making something powerful
and beautiful and they are smiling with delight while pushing themselves
to the limit.  I have to say, that happens a lot there. When artists from
really big cities see their first very large elk. My staff. I work with
the most amazing people in the world. I am SO lucky.

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