20 April 2010

Battlefield Eaarth

Like I said, I have to keep a hand in this. Because the storm may already be here.

The most visible change is what’s happening to ice around the world. But probably the most important is what’s happening to liquid water. Warm air holds a lot more water vapor than cold, so you get a lot more evaporation in dry areas, and hence more drought. Even easier to measure, and more troubling, is the fact that what goes up must come down, and what’s coming down are these intense precipitation events.

In the book, I describe the rainfalls in my small town in Vermont — record floods that cut us off from the rest of the world. But that’s happening around the world almost every day now. The 100-year storm comes three times a decade in a lot of places. Stuff like that is sobering, not only because it demonstrates how out of balance things are, but also because the consequences of a world run amuck are not to be taken lightly.

Lately, in the U.S. as a whole, local and regional action has reached more than a level of experimentation. The number of farms across the country is growing for the first time in a century and a quarter, with 300,000 new farms this decade. The one business that boomed in the last two years was seeds — Burpee Seeds was up 40 percent or something. There’s an awful lot of land in American suburbs currently devoted to growing grass, often with lavish infusions of fertilizer and chemicals. Turn some of that energy and resources toward growing vegetables, and you’re getting somewhere.

08 April 2010

The Deadstock Chronicles, Part I

A stray dog killed two-thirds of our chickens.

We get more eggs now.

It's a metaphor for something.

FOOTNOTE: The original Hollywood Farmer has moved (or rather, been re-located) to China. There's a new Hollywood farmer in Tinseltown. OK, in San Diego. As near as, anyway.

05 April 2010

DIY Footnote

OpenIndie is, like the local foods movement, about localism. Both "proposals" feature neighbors, friends, communities looking to each other and the resources they have to hand and "next door" to provide for their own needs (growing food for their own tables, asking theaters to screen the films they want to see). Except that OpenIndie is not a member of any given community, and yet it would have to be accepted by a local exhibitor as something he can trust, as "someone" whose word he can bank on. OpenIndie might say that they're simply telling me, the exhibitor, how many people of my community are saying they want to see a certain film play in my theater... but am I going to sacrifice a booking or even a single screening of something that Disney or Universal has "vetted" for me (i.e., deemed bankable) for the sake of something that my neighbors say they want to see (based only on the trailer) but might not actually show up for and if they do might not build up word of mouth about because the film actually has limited (or even little to no) appeal?

When you look at a locally-grown organic tomato, you pretty much know on the spot the wonderfulness you're going to have on your salad or in your sauce. But does a good trailer mean you're going to get a good film? Somebody asked the OpenIndie fellow if any films would be rejected for any reason. I don't remember what the fellow said in response. But I do think one of the problems that may beset OpenIndie is one of vetting, of allaying exhibitor anxieties (e.g., "Universal is saying this film is bankable, they're doing the marketing and the distributing; who around here is doing the marketing for this film, and how do I know it's a good investment?"). Even if the members of the community were petitioning the exhibitor directly (handing in signatures, picketing, or otherwise making a stink), this wouldn't be a compelling argument for considering a film competitive.

It all reminds me of the other incarnation of the "revolving online media showcase" I was "pitching" at DIY Day -- this "other incarnation" being a sort of Metacritic for the undistributed, with those found "most worthy" having their trailers/clips/press featured on the front page, the "worthy" being judged so by the critical elite (e.g., from NYT, LAT, Chicago, David Denny from the New Yorker, David Edelstein from Slate, Andrew O'Hehir from Salon, David Bianculli from NPR), the members of which "elite" would review one selected "nowhere" film/webseries/et al. on DVD or online per month for the love of their chosen medium, because they do in fact love and watch all sorts of movies/TV/etc., and like the journalists they are would be pleased to break the story about the "next big thing"... which is just the sort of thing The Industry is anxious about missing. Hollywood always cares about "art" at Oscar-time, Edward Jay Epstein has observed, and who judges what is "art" but the critics? Might critical acclaim from the greats for the undistributed become a new source of industry buzz, like "the boards"? This may not be a community-centered model, but it might nevertheless help the DIYer.

OK, time to start plowing!

03 April 2010

Local Film Might (and Should) Be Next

I just got finished posting that movies are a lost cause. Because of articles about industry leaders like this one. Cyrus is the best that the Duplass Brothers have yet offered, and they're among the very best that indie has to offer right now, but how many theaters will this play in? And so what hope is there for the rest of the world of filmmakers, especially for their all-important-for-your-morale debut effort?

Which is why I got up today and talked so earnestly about an idea for a start-up called film(yourcityhere).com -- a partnership with local governments to promote and even finance their local filmmakers, for the sake of promoting local culture, i.e., local coolness (sort of like our new local-foods market, which my wife founded, has done, at least in the opinion of our fair city). Kind of like winning the Super Bowl did for formerly-forsaken New Orleans. Local coolness could be even further served should the locally-made film highlight local businesses, landmarks, anything that says (yourcityhere). Cities/communities win, and every local filmmaker gets a chance to be spotlighted, not to mention find and support from their fellows.

A long time ago I made a short film in Ann Arbor, MI called God's-Eye View. It was my debut, and it wasn't genius, but it basically held together, and the PV's were decent. It showed at a "local filmmakers" show at the Michigan Theater. The next day one of the other filmmakers featured at the show emailed me to ask how I got that master overhead shot. It was a local connection with another filmmaker in my community (who wasn't a U of M student). It was cool, and something that could have kept somebody like me going (except I moved to upstate NY to start a farm -- and decided I wanted to write for TV, after starting to write for TV).

But of course giving moral support to filmmakers is not the only or even main reason for putting something like this forward. It's about getting films, more films, made and shown (and sold on DVD). Sort of like OpenIndie (one of the companies in the Incubator at DIY NYC) is trying to do. Everywhere else in the world, government financially supports all kinds of film. Why shouldn't we?