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hot docs talks: Digital Distribution
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Hot DocsTalks
Transcripts from interviews conducted at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, April 25 - May 4, 2003

Theme 6: Digital Distribution
How are new modes of digital distribution, from mobile platforms to the Internet, helping documentary producers reach their audiences?

Sara Diamond and Peter Wintonick
Peter: What are we supposed to be interested in now?

Sara: Distribution.

Peter: Ah yes, distribution - this is about the Internet. No really, it always has been a power in terms of how do you get your valuable jewels out there and sold. And generally we're making films for our own audiences. But I think now in terms of the economic model... The most important factor is that you can go, as the Napster and the post-Napster world has taught us, from one to many, and from many to many, and from one to one, and many to none. And we can subvert in a very strong way the pyramid of distribution, turn it upside down in a martini glass, somehow we're all balancing on the head of a pin, and we are the pin...we can reach everyone and everywhere.

Sara: One of the things that I am excited about is that the National Film Board, CBC, and some of the small independent environments are all thinking in a similar way - using digital distribution means as a way of getting really high quality media out to different kinds of communities, and get their opinions back. So I think we're seeing, in a sense, a revitalization of things like: Challenge for Change, which was such a transformative force in Canada for a long time; APTN, the Aboriginal People's Television Network. All of these are vehicles that use digital means to reach different kinds of audiences, and also put the tools of production back into the hands of the audience and the participants. So that's kind of exciting.

The-Phone-Book-Ltd
Ben Jones: There's a big industry myth within the telco companies that the wireless Internet is an expensive place to inhabit, and a difficult place to inhabit. And it's not the case, it's not the case at all. It works in the same way that regular Internet does. If you know a little bit about html, if you know a little bit about servers, you can have a wireless Internet site. You can be streaming videos to people's mobile phones later today.

Marc Glassman
Our government used to believe in culture, and I feel less and less is it willing to give money to support that culture. Whether it's the thing that's happening now with the CTF, or all kinds of things... There now seems to be this thing with [Richard] Stursburg, with Telefilm, where they feel that somehow the fiction filmmakers have to produce huge successes: "Where is the Canadian Full Monty?" And if we don't end up with the Full Monty, forget it. We can't be doing any more films that are just brilliant films but they don't attract a big audience. Somehow it's the filmmakers' fault. I don't think it's the filmmakers' fault at all. I think it's the fault of the distributors who don't believe, really, in the product. I think it's the problem of the marketers. I think that what we need to do is have as much innovation and as much determination and integrity from the people who do the broadcasting, and from the people who do the distribution, as we have from the filmmakers, whether they be documentary or drama. And then we will see that the good work that is actually happening, will become quite successful nationally and internationally. And that's the sea change. The sea change is actually, on the one hand, great people. On the other hand, not much money to produce anything.

The digital technologies are our only way out at this point. At least it's possible to make the work. Certainly I find that, with younger filmmakers who are really hungry and really want to make that first film or that second film, they can do it. I mean that's the amazing part.

Tom Perlmutter
The one thing that the National Film Board has missed, and has not been allowed to have in a sense, is its own broadcast channel. And with the new technology, with the Internet, we create it. We're kind of able to reach out in new and interesting ways to our audiences, and we're doing it in a whole range of ways. We have high speed connections that allow full films to be screened across 55 libraries, institutions, educational institutions across the country. I think more central, though, in some sense to the production side... we're so committed to social issue filmmaking, to creating communities, to linking Canadians to subjects that are so important. The film board used to do that with the travelling projectionists. The Internet has replaced that. The Internet has become our travelling projectionist and it's able to create, we're able to create, a space in which...what we're always interested in is giving a voice back, and creating space for voices, and this allows that to happen in a much more expanded and interesting way.

Paul Jay
I'm kind of working on a project now which is to start an alternative news network which will be - if we can raise the money we hope to raise - a full fledged broadcast news network, and compete with CNN. And that's only really even thinkable because we could use the Web as the base for broadcasting from. If you have to get a CRTC license, or you have to go and set up the way you used to with transmitters across the country, there's no way you could start something like that.

Rae Hall
The fabulous thing is that now that technology really is in the hands of the people, we really are at a moment where people are really burning cds in their living room, creating their own wonderful visual essays. And they can upload them now to the site that we've got, and they get their part of CBC television. And that's part of what a public broadcaster should be doing.

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