A Research Site Devoted to the Past and Future of Found Footage Film and Video


"The Literary and Artistic heritage of humanity should be used for partisan propaganda purposes." - Gil J. Wolman
“A lot of people who call themselves artists now are cultural critics who are using instruments other than just written language or spoken language to communicate their critical perspective.”
-Leslie Thornton

Friday, December 7, 2007

Some new Machinima: Mashups and Mourning

The film "The Tyrant" sets some interesting precedents in machinima. It is ostensibly a machinima mashup with political undertones. See for yourself.

I don't quite know what to make of this film. It is an interesting follow up to "The French Democracy" machinima, which dealt with the Paris Suburb Riots of 2006. This film, a memorial for the Virginia Tech Victims oscillates between a statistics and facts about the tragedy and images from Halo 3 presumably reenacting the massacre. It seems a bit trite to critique the massacre with this particular game but it's nevertheless a conscientious little film.

The Films of Scott McElroy

A nice example of avant-garde found-footage practices seeping onto the net.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

MPAA's Copyright Woes

The MPAA's software to sniff out copyright files on student run P2Ps has gotten the organization into some hot water. Apparently, the Ubuntu-based toolkit they used requires that the source code is published along with the program. This is obvious to all of us open source Linux proponents but could not be understood by the minds of the MPAA. If the source code were published hackers could easily develop new technology to get around copyright tracking. But guess what? TOO BAD--use of Ubantu programs requires it and if you don't follow the licensing rules YOU GET SUED. Did Ubuntu developer Matthew Garrett sue? No, like a nice guy he called and emailed the MPAA. Did they take the program down? No. So he had to call the ISP to do it. The MPAA forcefully had the program taken off their website last Tuesday. Thank you Matthew Garrett. Now if the MPAA could just learn something from this...

Canadian Copyright

Canada is gearing up to pass their own version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act--only this one has teeth. Below is Michael Geist's take:

The Canadian government is about to introduce new copyright legislation that will be a complete sell-out to U.S. government and lobbyist demands. The new Canadian legislation will likely mirror the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act with strong anti-circumvention legislation that goes far beyond what is needed to comply with the World Intellectual Property Organization's Internet treaties. Moreover, it will not address the issues that concern millions of Canadians. For example, the Conservatives' promise to eliminate the private copying levy will likely be abandoned. There will be no flexible fair dealing. No parody exception. No time shifting exception. No device shifting exception. No expanded backup provision. Nothing that focuses on the issues of the ordinary Canadian.

Instead, the government will choose locks over learning, property over privacy, enforcement over education, (law)suits over security, lobbyists over librarians, and U.S. policy over a "Canadian-made" solution.


check out his YouTube video:



Also--check out this animation that addresses the recent privacy issues facebook has had:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

This Spartan Life on Net Neutrality



“This Spartan Life,” is a machinima show which some have dubbed “virtual reality TV.” The show, which takes place in the violent Halo 3 environment, follows a host who interviews significant media theoreticians, avant-garde artists and open source programmers inside the game. The show has attracted Criterion Collection creator and Voyager Company founder Bob Stein and avant-garde, found-footage filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh. The dramatic tension of the show is centered on the fact that interviews are over if the guest’s avatar is killed. Videos are available on YouTube and Machinima.com

Thursday, November 22, 2007

EBN: The Emergency Broadcast Network

Remember the "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" as sung by Bush video that was a minor phenomena last year? The technique was invented 15 years ago by the new media collective EBN. The group is led by Josh Pearson whose bad-ass website is an archive of old EBN films. Below are a few gems. EBN makes funky music/video cut-ups which were so powerful in there time, they were co-opted by ad agencies and music video makers to make more shit for EBN to parody. Viva la detournement!



























Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Santiago Alvarez and the Latin American Found Footage Contingency

I recently came across one of the most original and politically provocative found-footage filmmakers of the 1960s, Santiago Alvarez. His films are available on DVD under the title "He Who Hits First, Hits Twice: The Urgent Cinema of Santiago Alvarez." These are some of the most refreshingly uncynical found-footage films I've seen from a man devoted to montage juxtapositions which have tremendous emotional impact on the viewer. If you like Jon Josts early work it is a must see. Below is one of his early films "Now!" I strongly urge everyone to see his films "LBJ" and "79 Springtimes" aka "79 Primaveras." Alvarez had no formal film training and worked for the Cuban Film Institutes newsreel division. A bio from Wikipedia is below. For anyone interested in newsreel found footage films, check out the book "Films Beget Films" by Jay Leyda.



Santiago Álvarez (born 1919–died 1998) was a Cuban filmmaker. He wrote and directed many documentaries about Cuban and American culture. Among his most famous works was the short Now (1964), about racial discrimination and featuring singer/actress Lena Horne. LBJ (1968) and 79 Primaveras (1969) examined figures of the Vietnam War. In 1968, he collaborated with Octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanas (members of Grupo Cine Liberación) on the four-hour documentary Hora de los hornos, about foreign imperialism in South America. Among the other subjects he explored in his film were the musical and cultural scene in Latin America and the dictatorships which gripped the region. He died of Parkinson's disease in Havana on May 20, 1998 and was buried there in the Colon Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

News Found Footage

'Special Report' by Bryan Boyce


AMERICAN GULAG (Caution: Graphic)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Andrew Keen's dissapointing self-reflexivity

I picked up Andrew Keen's "Cult of the Amateur: How Todays Internet is Killing Our Culture" in hopes of finding a thinker who could articulate some of my own anxieties about the subject. I may blog, study internet video appropriation at a graduate level, sing the praises of Lawrence Lessig, etc, etc...but I am aware of serious problems facilitated by the wonderful contributions of the internet. Unfortunately, Keen's work is not the place to find insight. In fact his work seems to suffer from the problems he derides so often. Keen loves to make sweeping generalizations and outrageous claims without evidence. Furthermore his lack of reason and logic is puzzling at times. He blames the blogosphere for Wendy's restaurant's plummeting stock after the "severed finger in the chili" farce, but fails to mention that THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA wasn't skeptical of the event either. He sets out to deride the amateur but spends much of his time attacking the ease by which corporations can moonlight as anonymous amateurs to build product loyalty. Ultimately, he is guilty of what many people in the establishment who didn't grow up in the computer age are; He doesn't realize that internet users are savvy enough to know that everything they read isn't the truth. His major critique of blogs is that they aren't peer reviewed or published and don't face the quality control that authors do. However a myriad of opponents to his ideas (far more than followers of his skepticism) are published authors who've gone through this very process. Lets not forget how much misinformation, plagiarism and forgery occurs even in publishing. Keen has done one good thing--he brought this conversation out into the open in a way it hasn't before. Unfortunately, this serious conversation, which should be dialectical in nature and not a screaming match, has been completely undermined by Keen's amateurish, illogical, unreasoned and ill-researched arguments. Please see the video below celebrating everything Keen hates:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Copyright Hitmen

Below is a video by John "Bull" Dozier. Described by online magazine "Virginia Super Lawyer" as an "Entrepreneur, Technologist, Hired Gun and Founder of Dozier Internet Law, PC." This hired gun's law firm recently threatened the website infomercialScams.com with legal action if they posted A CEASE AND DESIST LETTER?!?! That's right--they threatened to sue if they published their threat to sue. The initial suit was over InfomercialScams.com's publishing of material denouncing the service of a "manufacture-direct" furniture company. Hot damn folks. This is why THE LAW remains in the public domain--so it can't be copyrighted by assholes like this. Here's the original site which goes into detail.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Apologies

Alright, I know. These Brokeback mashups are done and done. But this is just too good. Best title cards EVER.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Christian Media--for the young and the out of shape

This is an evangelical Christian indoctrination video. enjoy. praise jebus!



Gospel Aerobics with ambiguously gay instructor:

blackwater footage

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Exporting Freedom One Sitcom at a Time

It's not enough to fuck the world over through globalization, free trade, and real politik. We must also export the lowest forms of mass cultural narratives as well. With Russia's so-called emerging middle-class, Sitcoms have become the hottest thing on TV. Below are Russian versions of Married with Children, Perfect Strangers and The Nanny. Click here to see the Russian opening of Married with Children.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hail! Total Recut

For everyone who had dreamed of the holy grail of recycled cinema sites, wake up and go to Total Recut. This site has all the films, literature, how-to, raw digital footage, and communities for any self respecting found footage filmmaker to want to explode in a frenzy of mouse clicks.

They're currently featuring a film by Caped, Masked and Armed; those beloved people who brought you "Kodak Moments," one of the most scathing political mashups to date. Now they give us....



I am currently working on two "improved film" mashups. I will be taking a shitty genre film and mixing it with an art house film for a trailer. Anyone interested in working on one of these, I would love to feature you on an upcoming post.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Big Brother you never knew you had

The EPIC 2015 video has become a bit dated, but the Googlezon idea (a merger between Google and Amazon and the implications behind it) still resonates today. The most interesting new development is what some people are doing with Google Maps and Amazon wish lists wherein maps can be used to detail purchasing patterns (ie. what regions are purchasing Michael Moore books or Rush Limbaugh books) to map out new congressional districts.

MyEverythingdotcom

The latest recycled cinema from MyEverythingdotcom is quite good. Here it is, followed by a few oldies.





Monday, June 25, 2007

Great New Work

I've recently been corresponding with several recycled cinema filmmakers and have found two great films worth mentioning.

"Cosas de Mujeres" by Javier Plano takes after many great avant-garde structuralist films in the spirit of Hollis Frampton or Michael Snow. The film has a leitmotif for each character, except instead of a musical theme, they are given a single tone. Javier explains it like this:

i can say that it was made following a path in the beggining: A, B, C, D (Antonioni, Bresson, Cocteau and Dreyer), and i try to make a tone for each one of the women that correspond with that musical note (A -> la , B -> si , C -> do , D -> re).

Through editing, a melody appears in the presentation of each character, giving unity to this examination of fighting women. A and C confronting D, with a bystander, B. Thanks Javier. This is truly amazing work.



ikat381's film "my heart will take a kayak" is a satirical mashup of "Titanic", celebrity journalism and Hurricane Katrina. I feel artistically akin to ikat381, especially since we've both been criticized online for mixing satire and parody with serious subjects. ikat381's mash-up is reality based, and works by forming connections between pop culture ("Titanic" and Celine Dion's famous song for the film) with real life tragedy (Hurricane Katrina) and the strange intersection they have on Larry King Live. It's also hilarious...





I recently took off a post I made which irreverently looked at some of the critics of my satirical mashup, "Ocean's 9/11" because it descended into petty name calling on my part. I'm working on new (less controversial) projects right now, one surrounding the great character actor Harry J. Lennix and his life playing an Uncle Tom, and the other regarding Capitalist critiques and Marxist undertones in horror films. Ocean's 9/11 was in the LA Times last week. The link is here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Towards a Poor Cinema

Below are eleven points of a credo for the "Recylced Cinema" I'm calling "Towards a Poor Cinema" in reference to Jerzy Grotowski's outsider theater manual "Towards a Poor Theater." I've modeled it stylistically off Debord's writing, making brief statements to articulate some points about the intersections of the "high art" or avant-garde tendencies of so called "found footage" and the "low brow" tendencies of mashers, jammers and internet video appropriators. I believe that the term "Recycled Cinema" should replace "found-footage" because it is more intellectually honest about its origins (footage is hardly ever "found" in the way it used to be) and because of the positive association of the word recycle, which defines a certain post-modern tendency to reuse something without the icky suggestion of actually stealing or plagiarizing. In the spirit of Recycled Cinema, feel free to repost wherever!

Towards a Poor Cinema: A Credo of Recycled Cinema

1. Cinema, like other arts, should remain in a constant state of flux. Stasis is the enemy of art the same way it is the enemy of science and medicine.

2. The dialectic, in which a thesis, antithesis and eventual synthesis are produced is the most productive means of facilitating a constructive, socially relevant artistic tradition. Artistic output is a conversational practice by which ideas and sensibilities are evaluated, imitated, critiqued, devalued, buried and eventually resurrected. All of these components are part of a rich process of evolution by which societies and artists contribute. This tradition currently has little or no place in the infrastructure of cinema.

3. Current economic and social conditions have strained the desired dialectic from taking place. Several hindrances have arisen. A.)Studios have divested themselves of earlier models of funding vying instead to spend large sums of money to attract large audiences with astronomical returns; B) the endowments and benefactors of other art forms are not present for cinema because of the immense popularity of the form and immense commercial successes possible thus eliminating funding for those who haven’t been granted access by gatekeepers of popular distribution corporations; C) The labor involved in the business of making films have a strong grasp on the industry. A combination of self-sustaining unionization which makes it difficult to self-produce, guarded and expensive distribution platforms which make it unfeasible to deliver films to audiences, and a nearly universal acceptance of these parameters has made true independence a fallacy. A poor cinema will abscond from every one of these tyrannical forces in the film-making process.

4. We believe as Cocteau did when he stated that "film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper." In other words all commercial cinema is the sale and marketing of products by corporate monopolies designed as a part of what Guy Debord has called “the spectacle.” These products have been tailored to appeal to mass audiences based on the successes and failures of the past, making innovation (which translates as economic risk) more and more sparse.

5. We believe that the new technological innovations made possible by internet distribution platforms, digital video, and the tools of the age of reproducibility must be harnessed by individuals with a commitment to re-instituting an artistic dialectic. We believe this is the only possible step in reviving an art form which admittedly for a lengthy period of time necessitated significant capitol for materials and participation, but has recently been dramatically stunted by a rising trend of artistic stasis.

6. We believe that the Recycled Cinema is the most powerful pedagogical tool in this process of reinvigoration. The goal in this circumstance is not only to think, but to remember. It is a revaluation of the art form in the hopes of discovery and critical deconstruction in an artistic laboratory. We support this process in part because the tools necessary to produce art are more widely available with an enormous cannon of works to detourn, re-construct, manipulate and addend.

7. While the financial irreducibility of cinema as we know it today plays a part in our support for Recycled Cinema, or the act of utilizing appropriated and sometimes “found” footage, our ultimate conclusions in this direction are liminally based on money, though we find this fact very convenient. The “cinema povera” or cinema of poverty allowed through the pillaging of images makes it a revolutionary practice on a number of levels. Ideally, a person is re-claiming the works of those who erred, mistreated or denigrated the medium so that they may redeem them by highlighting, altering or critiquing their work. Recycled Cinema in itself is an end towards showing the essentially uniformity and creative vapidity of commercial cinema.

8. The financial infrastructure by which films are made is fundamentally at odds with the practice of recycled cinema on a number of counts. The studio model, by which large sums of capital are invested up in hopes of larger returns has no place in a system in which films are made often “on the fly” with limited need for materials which can be distributed and accessed for free on internet video platforms. This aesthetic and economic difference will not be left as a simple artistic divergence. Capitalist forces in the industry will always retaliate against individuals offering competitive products at zero cost to the public. Copyright infringement suits will always be a looming threat to appropriators of footage, but for now the relative obscurity of the medium is its best defense against truly crippling legal action. But just as various forms of online video have had enormous overnight success, some unfortunate spokesman of the digital age will be left trying to explain to intellectual property owners the difference between appropriation and piracy, fair use and theft, and all of the other artistic practices of the post-modern era. Inevitably they will fail to move the holders, and it is likely they will fail to persuade the courts. These are necessary battles that must be waged.

9. The fading remnants of independent film (a term usually falsely attributed) and the tradition of the art film has little or no relationship to the burgeoning recycled cinema. These traditions, which are endemic to the academy, highly intellectual and theory based art institutions is produced by a fringe of the society for themselves. It has little or no interest in harnessing the popular distribution platform that is the internet which Recycled Cinema has been a part of since the inception of internet video portals.

10. The purpose of detournement, compilation, mashups and other techniques attributed to recycled cinema is to reach to the root of the artistic stasis present in the commercial cinema. Mashup films which combine two or more films expose the uniformity present in narrative today. The most skilled mashup filmmakers will use the tropes and styles of commercial films like an armory of easily imitated techniques, ultimately undermining the elements present. In the process these tropes and styles can be understood as easily employed “tricks” which require no artistry in their execution and only an understanding of quick ways to manipulate people. Compilation filmmakers like Craig Baldwin seek to discover the subconscious of styles and genre through the prism of history and culture. In this way, he exposes the temporal nature of commercial cinema—which stands in stark contrast to the universality and timelessness of real works of art.

11. Ultimately the Recycled Cinema offers tools to evaluate an even more threatening tyranny over independent artistry; the universal specter of narrative, most contemptibly in the stylistic mold of the novel. Much can be said of the novel’s rise to become the foremost model of narrative structure, but ultimately the most important idea to note is the needless choice made by filmmakers to perpetuate it. The single most differentiating attribute of avant-garde film from commercial narrative cinema is its reliance on non-novelistic models. Whereas avant-garde films overwhelmingly rely on literary traditions like poetry, the short story, stream-of-consciousness, and religious literature; non-literary art forms like painting, sculpture, animation, and dance; social sciences like psychology, and anthropology; and human phenomena like ritual, mythology, synesthesia and the subconscious. The novelistic mode has dominated cinema because in film-making’s nascent stages, novels were the most popular art form in the western world. We believe as Bruce Elder when he wrote “narrative is the artistic structure of technocracy. The cinema we need, the cinema that combats technocracy will, therefore, be non-narrative.” The co-incidence of the novel and the industrial revolution which followed soon after has devastating implications. Narrative at its foundations is a cause and effect, chain of events structurally identical to the assembly line on a factory floor. This linear means of representing human life is often defended by the false adage that human life is best represented by narrative. Instead, we are faced with propaganda, aimed at witling realistic events into a highly unrealistic framework.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ocean's 9/11 - The First Act of Recycled Cinema

Today I am proud to present to you all the first film of The Recycled Cinema. May god have mercy on our souls.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Found Footage Film Festival

On my way to see David Lynch's "Inland Empire", Jessica discovered in NOW (Toronto's free weekly) that the Found Footage Festival (which has the distinction of being the first google hit when you type in found footage) was on that night. Phew! That was a close one. I was hopeful there might be some avant-garde films in the mix--but I was treated instead to home videos, mcdonalds training videos, that famous RV commercial, Tracy Lords' exercise video and a Carnivale promo starring Arnold fresh off winning Mr. Universe. These guys are true warriors for the cause--traveling the US and Canada to spread the good word. There DVDs are great and can be bought here.

Below are some clips from the fest:


Arnold in Rio: The groping begins....



Jan Terry: The video you didn't see on MTV



That crazy RV salesman is back at it:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Found footage by Mireia Visuals







A Spanish found footage filmmaker by the name of Mireia Berenguer recently got in touch with me. These appropriated clips and compilations show the devastating effects that fashion advertising has had on female self-image. This to me represents so much of what Recycled Cinema should strive to be--a critique of commercial cinema and advertising by means of the very material proliferated. The first clip is a simple scene from a model show in Spain, the second a compilation of grotesque scenes from Hollywood films and the last is a wonderful evolution of a model shoot. Please visit Mireia @ http://mireiavisuals.blogspot.com. Recycled Cinema salutes you!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


(Recycled Cinema pioneer Arthur Lipsett)

“Narrative is the artistic structure of technocracy. The cinema we need, the cinema that combats technocracy will, therefore, be non-narrative.” -- R. Bruce Elder "The Cinema We Need."

Seeing Arthur Lipsett's "Very Nice, Very Nice" was as impacting as the first time I saw Bruce Conner's "A Movie." This work of recycled cinema made in 1962 uses Eisenstein's idea of vertical montage, "the moment-to-moment juxtaposition of a film's audio and visual tracks" (Brett Kashmere in Senses of Cinema). Lipsett mixes sound and footage for his portrait of 1950s consumerism and social apathy. While watching I couldn't help but notice the image of a crowded movie theater watching a 3D film used on the cover of Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle." However, Debord's text was published in 1967 . Is it possible Debord looked to this film as resource for the defining work of the Situationist International?


(The now iconic cover of Debord's classic text, seen five years before in Lipsett's film)

The film subtly but stealthily depicts social apathy, rampant consumerism and the very dark underside of the seemingly innocuous pop culture that Debord so despised. Reading more about Lipsett and the NFB's abandonment of his work I was again reminded of how most of our avant-garde film innovators are shunned by the establishment and ignored by film critics because of their inevitable unbankability. Too bad Lipsett hadn't made this more recently--it may have become a viral video phenomena, but perhaps that's just wishful thinking.

It is hard to not be floored by seeing the origin of so many techniques I've seen in later recycled cinema: the ambiguous layering of audio that seems at first only tenuously related to the images, the sophisticated blending of multiple sources to create many contrasting ideological conclusions, the unity of style and content best described by Lipsett's illustration of the "dissolving phantasmagoria of a world."


In Brett Kashmere's wonderful essay on Lipsett
, he writes that "Kubrick described Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) as “one of the most imaginative and brilliant uses of the movie screen and soundtrack that I have ever seen.” Kubrick was so enthused with the film he invited Lipsett to create a trailer for Dr. Strangelove, an offer Lipsett refused."

All of these obstacles compounded and Lipsett became mentally unstable. "Lipsett began wearing winter coats in the summer and would tape his fingers into Buddhist mantra position for protection from phantom voices. In 1982 he was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. After numerous failed suicide attempts (which he dubbed his “little experiments”), he took his own life in April 1986, shortly before his 50th birthday" (Brett Kashmere "Arthur Lipsett")

I hope you all enjoy his film as much as I did--and if you know where to find more please let me know.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Chris Marker's "Last Bolshevik"; Jonathan Lethem puts his money where his mouth is

"It is not the literal past that rules us: it is images of the past" -- George Steiner

I found a VHS copy of Chris Marker's "The Last Bolshevik" over at Suspect Video-an absolutely amazing video store in Toronto. With no info on the film, I was blown away by a documentary about repression and "smuggled" polemics in early Soviet Cinema. The film focuses on filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin, a contemporary of Eisenstein and recycled cinema hero Dziga Vertov. Chris Marker writes several video letters to Medvedkin, whose classic film "Happiness" follows a simple Russian farmer trying to find happiness that he can put into a wheat bag and bring home to his wife. The scenes of this film are so incredibly brilliant, funny, and bizarre you will scower the ends of the earth to actually find the film. You can see a short clip here, about how Eisenstein's fictional rendering of the storming of the Winter Palace during the October Revolution is rumored to have resulted in more deaths than the actual event itself. This movie reminds you of why the Russians got it right ten years before Western Europe and at least thirty before American Maya Deren.

"The Last Bolshevik" is also a self conscious work of recycled cinema, made evident in Marker's opening quote found at the beginning of this post. There are images in this film from some of the most experimental Soviet films (most reviled by Stalin as stylistically decadent), unreleased on video. One sequence continues to haunt me, showing several disembodied Cello's playing a thunderous piece of music superimposed over a steam train barreling towards the screen. The images are so perfectly cropped a superimposed--the light has that silver metalic sheen only old film stock can give you--good old nitrate film! In other ways I am realizing Chris Marker must have been an enormous influence on Adam Curtis, whose historical musings are evidently derivative of Marker's essays. It would be impossible not to steal from Marker whose simple and straightforward style is also so radical at the same time.

Jessica put me onto a fantastic essay by writer Jonathan Lethem in Harper's called "The Ecstasy of Influence." Lethem writes:

Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.

and

Eliot evidenced no small anxiety about these matters; the notes he so carefully added to The Waste Land can be read as a symptom of modernism's contamination anxiety. Taken from this angle, what exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety?


I am impressed with Lethem's ability to explain a distinction between modernism and post-modernism that I've never heard before and seems wholly true: post-modernism had no desire to apologize for being derivative. Instead the movement celebrates its derivations in a form of artistic transparency usually hidden by artists.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Perils of the 8 hour work day

Has anyone else noticed a sudden influx of insane office stress videos? They've become a new genre.Some of them appear to be a Russian stress relief product. The ad campaign is a pretty edgy. Here are my favorites:











The Grey Video

An appropriate Mashup video of one of the great mashup albums:

A Hard Days Night of the Living Dead!

This goes in the pantheon! One of the best ever!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Martin Arnold Tributes

Like most people, I encountered Martin Arnold rip offs before I ever encountered Arnold himself. These are a few Arnold inspired films I love:


A Recycled Cinema song for Arnold using Evangelical "Trinity Network" footage


Harmony Korine's video for Bonnie Prince Billy's "No More Workhorse Blues"


This can cause inexplicable joy and suffering:

All This and World War II

Check out this trailer for a found footage compilation film called "All This and World War II" almost inexplicably constructed around Beatles covers. Amazing!







Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cliff Roth's Reagan Recycling

Here's a great satire on the misguided "just say no" anti-drug campaign perpetrated by the Reagans through the 80s. It was compiled by Cliff Roth.

Chevy Tahoe Detourned!

Last year Chevrolet decided to forgo paying a smart Madison avenue ad agency for just another slick car ad.

Instead, these maverick innovators chose you! Yes, that's right, the iconoclasts in the board room thought you were the best person to engineer their new ads. Unfortunately, they put the tools of their own demise into your hands. Viva la detournement! See below for some of the best of the unused entries:










Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Black Sheep

As it turns out-- I've been wrong this whole time! The mountains of money that control Hollywood haven't completely undermined innovation. I mean, how could you call this an uninspired cinematic age when the like of THIS is being produced?



Thank you Icon Productions--for The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre and now Black Sheep

Sunday, March 18, 2007

From Russia, Japan and Africa with Love



An offering from the AMSDS filmmakers responsible for many a classic re-cut. Here we have some recycled cinema paying homage to black sunglasses.

For those not familiar, CineFile is a cinema institution in Los Angeles responsible for amazing video sections like "Christ-sploitation," "Horror Franchises" and the wonderful "Shade Tipping" section composed entirely of films with shade tipping on the cover. Beyond lining their shelves at any cost with some of the most rare and important films in the 100 years, they have promoted important filmmakers with their line of Master Filmmaker shirts in Heavy Metal Band fonts.

More importantly, they are now hosting a youtube site with found footage films! Check out Cinefile's video blog for other links and exciting videos.

I have had not one but two wonderful found footage experiences recently:

1) I saw Chris Marker's legendary essay Sans Soliel which moves from Africa to Japan exposing the two "extremes of survival" in the process. I considered writing an essay, but found a good one at here at the Chutry Experiment. Sans Soliel has a remarkable amount of Japanese horror films in it--with some wonderful hypotheses by Marker. He appears to be a believer in the theory that horror films take the pulse of an audiences anxiety.

2) I went to Cinemateque Ontario for a special screening of "Pervye na Lune" or "First on the Moon" directed by Aleksey Fedorchenko. The film is a revisionist history of the Soviet Space Program, positing that the Russians were the first to send a team of men (and one woman) to the moon on a secret mission. It was never revealed to be successful--so it was never declassified. The film mixes incredible soviet space program footage with perfectly rendered "surveillance footage" of the team. The film stock is so perfectly grainy and decomposed that it looks quite authentic when paired with the other archival footage. Aleksandr Gonorovskiy and Ramil Yamaleyev who wrote the screenplay infused it with a wonderful madcap humour which sheds light on the Soviet space program: something most North Americans know very little about.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Sites and Future Essays




From the mysterious Pleasure Dome Site, I give you: "I. SPIRIT: THE INNER ESSENCE OF MAN (FROM CINEMA TO LIFE)" I came upon a site through an old avant-garde film primer I used called cosmic baseball association which is a metaphysical baseball team composed of avant-garde filmmakers . This new site, called the "TRUTH IN CINEMA QUEST" is a remarkable research site devoted to films which depict a spiritual essence--without being facile garbage. This site contains some of the most beautiful prose about cinema in a poetico-historical way. It is much like a combination of Geoffrey O'Brian's wondrous poem about film "Phantom Empire" and Sitney's "Visionary Film." The site allows you to enter several doors, each marked with different questions and modes of navigating the site. Click "To have a good time" and take a meta-tour of the spiritual significance of the greatest filmmakers of our time. While searching, I came across this film "I. SPIRIT: THE INNER ESSENCE OF MAN ('FROM CINEMA TO LIFE" which is embedded above. It is a compilation film of transcendent moments in film with the creator's spiritual ethos entagled within it. It is a remarkable found footage film, so cohesive in its presentation that it makes one believe in a unified artistic vision in the films of directors as disparate as Tarkovsky and Passolini. This and other films can be found also at the cinemaseekers site.



A recent comment brought this site "caped masked and armed" to my attention. It is a wonderful political mashup site. The video titled "Kodak Moments" may be one of the most scathing political mashups to date.



Also, it is worthwhile to check out this interview between documentary film legend Errol Morris and his heir apparent Adam Curtis.

One of the most interesting things about this interview is Errol Morris' insistence on calling Curtis' films media appropriations. If you haven't seen them, go too google video and see "Power of Nightmares" and "Century of the Self." They are truly remarkable.

I am working on an essay soon to appear here called "What is Footage" about the nature of footage and the physicality of footage as portrayed in narrative films. In addition, bewildered, depressed and incredulous about the gaping void of websites devoted to my beloved recycled cinema, I am going to begin working on a data base for everything in existence on the subject.

I also realized Godard's film "Week-end" may have been a pun on the French phrase "Fin de Semaine" (end of the week) as "Fin de Cinema."




Thursday, February 1, 2007

Work In Progress: Found Footage on the Internet

Mashups, Re-cuts, and Machinema: The New Found Footage Filmmakers of the Internet

Once the exclusive province of the avant-garde and a few rogue outsiders, found footage filmmaking became a popular and widely emulated technique on internet media forums like YouTube in the last two years. Found footage filmmaking is the practice of appropriating or literally scavenging for footage and compiling multiple source materials together in a montage to construct a new film. Based on a hybrid of culture jamming[i] and detournement[ii], the technique as an art form came to fruition under the pioneering auspices of artists Joseph Cornell[iii] and Bruce Conner[iv]. This once obscure technique has found its way into the homes of millions of computer users in the form of online viral videos. While similar in technique, the found footage films of the internet have many marked stylistic differences with the found footage films from the avant-garde.

While the new found footage filmmakers of the internet have begun to develop superlative work, with their own sub-genres and technical innovations, impending legal battles have threatened to eliminate the distribution of these films. Unlike the found footage filmmakers of the past who found source materials in abandoned archives, thrift stores or literally thrown away in trash cans, the found footage filmmaker on YouTube tends to prefer well known, visible, and highly copyright protected images of mainstream Hollywood, TV shows, and video game screen captures. These tendencies emerge most likely from more than just the artistic fashions of the post-modern age. They are a direct response to the age of reproducibility we are currently living in. Digital media has made copying and manipulating media fast, cheap and easy to use. Abandoning the traditional tools of found footage filmmakers[v], the new cinematic appropriators have instead vied for the digital file and the Digital Video Disc (DVD). But while the ability to find source material has become easier, the law regarding its use has never been more steadfast.

In fact, the most notable distinction between the found footage filmmakers of the avant-garde and those of the Internet can be related to the choice of source material. While cinema appropriators of the past had little to fear in the way of copyright infringement suits from unmarketable, un-saleable films whose authors were often dead or unknown, the class of 2005 has graduated with the dubious honor of pillaging the most recognized media available. However the recognition of an established, popular piece of source material is intrinsic to the artistic, social and satirical value of new found footage films.

Another notable distinction between the found footage filmmakers of today and yesterday is parody. While found footage has a long history of parody, it has never existed so exclusively in this realm until now. The paradox of the new found footage style is that it must violate copyright in order to be an effective parody. Linda Hutcheon writes in her book, “A Theory of Parody”:

In order for parody to be recognized and interpreted, there must be certain codes shared between encoder and decoder. The most basic of these is that of parody itself, for, if the receiver does not recognize that the text is a parody, he or she will neutralize both its pragmatic ethos and its doubled structure[vi].

Parody requires the recognition of a reference—and because we live in an age where media is overwhelmingly controlled by private entities, it follows that most media that is part of the public consciousness is protected by a copyright. Within this paradox is contained the fuel for both sides of the legal battle over contemporary found footage filmmaking.

Most early found footage films are derived from what is commonly referred to as “ephemeral[vii]” media or footage. Due to the fact that the source material of early found footage films is usually unknown, the critical focus is on constructive properties. New found filmmakers transform well known source material, and so, the artfulness of the transformative process becomes the critical point of focus. In other words, the critical inquest becomes, “In what ways has the filmmaker played with music, scenes, and dialogue to present a well known film work, in a new way?” Unlike the antecedents of found footage, new filmmakers abandoned a conceptual framework and focused in on presenting reinterpretations of famous storylines, incorporating the most recognizable elements from several films, or, alienating the viewer from familiar films by altering genre or tone. In many ways, the “artiness” of found footage filmmaking has been abandoned in its co-optation of popular culture. To understand the social value of the new found footage filmmakers, I have elaborated on the categories, styles and contributions of various found footage films made for distribution on YouTube and other online video forums.


The most highly visible and imitated found footage techniques on YouTube today are mashups, re-cuts and machinema. Mashups combine multiple films to produce a cohesive work, often in the form of a film trailer. Re-Cuts usually take a single film or trope and alter it in several ways. One popular form of re-cut is re-genre, in which the tone, plot and genre of a film is altered by manipulating title cards, music cues, and selectively using scenes which when presented out of context serve the purpose of the appropriator. Machinema, a very recent development in found footage filmmaking utilizes screen captures from video games, which are later dubbed to produce a film.

Mashups

The term mashup, coined in Jamaica to describe destroying something was first widely used when referring to music. Employed most often in hip-hop, mashups described the combinations of a cappella tracks over new beats done by club DJs and on the radio. In the late 80s, John Oswald took this practice to another level when he released his album “Plunderphonics” (another early term for mashup) which utilized multiple pieces of source material put together in sophisticated patterns and combinations. The term has only been used to describe films in the last decade. Early forms of film mashups appeared in compilation films, though distinctions between the two have been made and will be elaborated upon later.

One of the most well known and controversial music mashups occurred in 2004, when Grammy winning hip-hop and alternative rock producer Danger Mouse did a mashup of The Beatles “The White Album” with rapper Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” called “The Gray Album.” This unification of highly disparate source material based entirely on a linguistic association has also entered the consciousness of found footage on the internet in the form of word associated mashups, which I will discuss later. The practice of the mashup has a long relatively uncharted history extending back to literature, and classical music. James Joyce’s epic tome “Ulysses” qualifies as a mashup because it places the themes and characters from “The Odyssey” into Dublin in 1904, introducing numerous other literary styles (women’s romantic literature, boys magazine writing, erotic sadomasochistic novels) into one narrative. Many famous pieces of classical music are the result of European folk songs expanded and altered to reveal complexities and variations. The Dadaists also performed literary mashup by utilizing aleatoric writing practices in which pieces of literature were randomly cut and pasted onto one page.

Behind the technical aspects of mashups, the practice of subverting a work of art by implying a new, often opposite or contrary meaning was a technique developed by the Situationist International called detournement. The practice of detournement has provided a wealth of creative works challenging the very source material employed in the work through manipulation. Most of the found footage films on YouTube display some level of detournement in their execution. While the spirit behind these works is more often playful than overtly political, they ultimately undermine and satirize the source material in a meaningful way. Many find it hard to seriously regard some of the seemingly sophomoric and juvenile works found on internet video forums, but as the technique has only been recently discovered, the most sophisticated applications in this arena have yet to be seen. One truly legitimate issue raised by all of these films is the apparent opposition to the clichés of modern cinema. In this way, YouTube mashups, re-genre and machinema strongly resemble the practice of “culture jamming” in their process undermining commercial cinema.

Mashup films can be broken down into several predominant styles and tropes. Most of the mashups found on the internet fall into one category and more or less obey the unwritten rules of that class of film. These categories, as I see them are: word associated mashups, which like Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album” unite two disparate source materials by a pun or joke found in the name; transgressive mashups, which transgress the sexual norms put forth in a film, often subverting hetero-normative portrayals; and overdubbing mashups, which use the images from a film and replaces the soundtrack with new dialogue or dialogue from another work, which undermines the original narrative.

Mashups based on word associations speak more than just for the wit of the appropriator. In principal, these mashups, when executed well, express some of the central creative tenets of modern found footage filmmaking: 1) Narrative film consistently follows the same filmic grammar and rarely diverts from it, making it easy to unify disparate films because of their similarities; and 2) the formulas inherent in narrative film are so well known by audiences that a few stylistic cues (which have been imitated to the point of cliché) can easily alert an audience to the nature of what they are watching. Using these two principals, mashups are highly successful at parodying more than just the films they chose to amalgamate, but also at critiquing and revealing the tools of narrative filmmaking.



Some exceptional word associated mashups include “Must Love Jaws” a combination of the romantic comedy “Must Love Dogs” and “Jaws” in which music cues and humorous scenes turn visual source material from “Jaws” into a story about a man who falls in love with a shark. Other superlative works include “8 ½ mile” in which Fellini’s 8 ½ is blended with the trailer for the Curtis Hanson, Eminem vehicle “8 Mile” and one of the greatest YouTube mashups I’ve seen, “10 Things I Hate About Commandments” in which Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner’s roles in “The Ten Commandments” are reduced to a petty High School tiff.

Ostensibly a kind of re-genre, transgressive mashups are crude, juvenile, sometimes vicious, and often droll subversions of the hetero-normative sexuality of films. The rise of YouTube fortunately coincided with the release of American culture-shocker “Brokeback Mountain.” The cause of intense derision, and equally impassioned pleas for tolerance months before the films actual release, the now canonical trailer for the film was, even for the open minded American film-goer, a bit shocking. Never before had two leading men played homosexuals on film demanding empathy rather than ridicule. The trailer was so solemn, so serious about the subject matter that it of course, demanded to be parodied.

Armed with the Gustavo Santaolalla score and the template for the Brokeback trailer[1] hundreds of YouTube users constructed mash-ups of popular films with gay themes. Among the most notable is “Top Gun: Brokeback Squadron,” which puts together the most homoerotic scenes from Top Gun. Playing on Top Gun’s homoerotic subtext between Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, (whose very casting was based on a picture by photographer Bruce Weber, famous for his homoerotic ad-campaigns for Calvin Klein and Abercrombie and Fitch) the film uses the “Brokeback Mountain” trailer template to tell a new imagining of “Top Gun” as a film about two Naval pilots who fall in love, but must keep their homosexuality a secret from their commanders and girlfriends. Other superlative work includes “Brokeback to the Future,” “Brokeback Mission” (Apollo 13) and “Brokeback Weapon.

Overdubbing, a tradition harkening back to Woody Allen’s “What’s Up Tiger Lilly?[2]” and the Situationist International film “Can Dialectics Break Bricks?[3]” has one of the longest histories of incorporating detournement into cinema. Overdubs have been employed most often using television to provide source material, frequently for political purposes to undermine an agenda or ideology. As of late, overdub has been rare—though the ease of employing the technique has kept it in practice.

Re-Genre and Re-Cut

Re-Genre films on YouTube often delve deep into iconic genre films and find the possibility of a new reading of the work. Re-genre places a traditional genre film into a new genus by manipulating music and selecting pertinent scenes to present a re-imagined trailer of a film. These transformative works play with the formulas and shibboleths found in Hollywood genres by showing the ease in which they can be manipulated to fit into new paradigms. Inventive re-genre films can pinpoint the subtle tricks employed in film trailers to inform an audience, often sub-consciously of exactly what kind of film they are watching the preview for. When done well, re-genre films completely invert the tone of a film.

The most widely seen re-genre film on YouTube manipulates the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Stephen King novel “The Shining” into a light hearted family film called “Shining.” The romantic comedy re-imagining of the film, constructed by Robert Ryang, a professional editor, depicts Jack Torrance (originally a character driven insane by cabin fever in a remote hotel) as an author struggling with writer’s block who meets a fatherless young boy named Danny (his son in the original film) and his mother (his wife in the original). Accompanied by Peter Gabriel’s sentimental rock song “Solsbury Hill” the trailer uses a voice over to transform the horror film into another genre—the family oriented romantic comedy. Utilizing dialogue from other films with Jack Nicholson, the flawlessly incorporated trailer could easily convince a naïve viewer of its authenticity. To the viewer in the know, it reveals the techniques of film trailers and genre.

Machinema

Machinema (a portmanteau of machine and cinema) utilizes the images generated by video games to produce visuals for a film. The narrative of a machinema film is composed through overdubbing and selective editing. Instead of using the expensive computer generated images designed for big budget Hollywood films, the machinema filmmaker appropriates a pre-created 3-D computer generated environment and plays the game according to how the film will look. As is to be expected, some games can be controlled better than others. The video game “Sim Life 2” allows people to create their own films using avatars which move in a designed space. One of the most viewed films on YouTube, (3,111,692 views) “Male Restroom Etiquette” utilizes this Sim Life feature to describe the nuances of appropriate behavior in male restrooms. Utilizing computer generated avatars as actors, the film, designed as an instructional video, allowed someone to create a well developed, intelligent, humorous and wholly original film right at their computer.

Conclusion

Found footage emerged as an art form because of its powerful critical properties. It flourished because of the cheapness of the materials necessary to create found footage films. It has reappeared as an art form because of the powerful distribution platform of the Internet, and Internet video forums like YouTube. While the use of actual film footage to create a film required purchasing film stock, a flat-bed, splicing materials, and sound editing equipment, the new found footage films require nothing more than internet access. All the material and programs required to create a found footage films today can be downloaded over the Internet, creating an unprecedented ability for filmmakers to write, direct, produce and distribute their films. These new technologies have facilitated resurgence in a technique once only used by marginalized artists and filmmakers. As the tools to create these films become more accessible, the powerful properties inherent in found footage filmmaking will allow for a multitude of people without resources to make films.



[1] Brokeback Mountain Trailer Template: Along with the Gustavo Santaolalla score, the template for the Brokeback trailer tends to revolve around the use of the title cards “It was a friendship / That became a secret / There are places we can’t return / There are lies we have to tell / There are truths we can’t deny.” When inter-spliced with well selected scenes from another film can intimate a gay relationship between any one.

[2] “What’s Up Tiger Lily?” was originally a Japanese film by Senkichi Taniguchi called “Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi.” Woody Allen liberated this silly Japanese spy film and transformed it into a story about a man trying to find a secret egg salad recipe through the use of overdubbing.

[3] “Can Dialectics Break Bricks?” directed by René Viénet from the Situationist International liberates footage from the Chinese chop-socky film "The Crush" by Doo Kwang Gee, explores non-violent resolution and Marxist ideology.



[i] Culture Jamming: “I first came across the term in a 1991 New York Times article by cultural critic Mark Dery. It was coined by the San Francisco audio collage band Negativeland on their 1994 release entitled Jamcon ’84, as a tribute to jam radio “jammers” who clog the airwaves with scatological Mickey Mouse impersonations and other pop culture “noise.” Early culture jammers put graffiti on walls, liberated billboards, operated pirate radio stations, rearranged products on supermarket shelves, hacked their way into corporate and government computers and pulled off daring media pranks, hoaxes and provocations.” (P. 217, “Culture Jam: How To Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge—And Why We Must” by Kalle Lasn, Quill Publishing, New York, 2000.

[ii] Detournement is described as when “an artist reuses elements of well-known media to create a new work with a different message, often one opposed to the original. The term "detournement", borrowed from the French, originated with the Situationist International; a similar term more familiar to English speakers would be "turnabout", although this term is not used in academia and the arts world.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detournement)

[iii] Joseph Cornell: American artist and filmmaker. “Cornell’s first collage film, Rose Hobart, was made in the late 1930s…It represents the intersection of his involvement with collage and his love of the cinema; for Cornell had been for many years a collector of films and motion-picture stills. Rose Hobart is a re-editing of Columbia’s jungle drama, East of Borneo starring Rose Hobart. It is a breathtaking example of the potential for surrealistic imagery within a conventional Hollywood film once it is liberated from its narrative causality.” (P. 330, “Visionary Film” by P. Adam Sitney, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002.

[iv] Bruce Conner: American artist and filmmaker. “Investing disparate shots with a kind of pseudo-continuity is one way of transforming found footage, as Bruce Conner demonstrates in a well known sequence of A Movie (1958): a submarine captain seems to see a scantily dressed woman through his periscope and responds by firing a torpedo which produces a nuclear explosion followed by huge waves ridden by surfboard riders.” (P. “Recycled Images: The Art and Politics of Found Footage Films” by William C. Wees, Anthology Film Archives, New York 1993.

[v] Traditional tools of found footage filmmakers would include film stock, a flatbed, splicing equipment, and sound equipment.

[vi] P. 27 “A Theory of Parody” Linda Hutcheon, Methuen, New York: 1985

[vii]Critic Rick Prelinger uses the term ephemeral to describe films that are produced for a specific, short term purpose, then are normally discarded.” (p. 25, “Cut: Film As Found Object In Contemporary Video”, Lawrence Lessig and Rob Yeo, Milwaukee Art Museum, Distributed Art Publishers, New York: 2006.