PressPausePlay: Art About Art

The art industry is in dire straights. You’ve had conversations about it. I’ve had conversations about it. I may have had conversations with you about it. It’s at the core of your defence on why you pirate music and it’s gnawing like a beaver at the very paper your arts degree is printed on.

Just look at the historic plummet in the music industry over the past decade. Since a couple of 18 year old hackers came up with a way to share .mp3s for free a.k.a. Napster, the industry has dropped from a $45 billion industry to a $14 billion dollar one.

David Dworsky and Victor Kohler tackled this extremely relevant issue in their documentary PressPausePlay. And, as you might expect, the documentary is available for free download at presspauseplay.com and on Vimeo.

PressPausePlay from House of Radon on Vimeo.

It is not very often that I am extremely blown away by a documentary. As interesting as the words coming from the heads on the screen can be in a documentary, it is still talking heads on a screen unless you do something to make it more interesting. PressPausePlay is proof that long form documentary is not dead.

Using new, inexpensive RED cameras, creative graphics and 33 extremely riveting and relevant characters such as Sean Parker, co-creator of Napster, Lena Dunham, creator and main character of HBO’s Girls, Moby and Lykke Li, the film is not only visually pleasing, but also extremely present. An article on Hdvideopro.com goes into some detail on the innovative production used in this documentary.

18 months, over 200 hours of footage and shoots in Toyko, Shanghai, Sweden, The United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, France, Spain, Iceland, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Dworkin and Kohler have created a fine piece of art worth consuming.

Holding to the film’s theme of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism, an interactive version of the film can be downloaded with extended interviews of every subject. Watch them. The interview with Sean Parker is particularly interesting…mostly because he is far more human than how Justin Timberlake portrayed him in The Social Network.

Another character, Andrew Keen, sees what is happening today as a destruction of the cultural economy. Keen calls art today a “cult of the amateur” where real artists are undermined by the heaps of narcissist garbage on cyberspace. Finding good art is like finding a needle in a haystack and the cows have already fed.

This is not news to me. As I was reminded again and again in my four years of journalism school, media is in a transitional stage and no one knows what the fuck is going to happen.

Sitting on a huge ancient couch looking like Sterling, Cooper, Draper, (Price)’s next accountant, another prominent interview subject, author Seth Godin tells upcoming artists that this technological evolution in the arts industry “is the best shot, you’ve ever got.”

Author Seth Godin in PressPausePlay. Read his popular book The Idea Virus, given out for free to market and then sold on Amazon for $40 each.

Throughout the film, the viewer is constantly reminded that everyone has a camera, everyone has music and video editing software and everyone is doing it already. I don’t know about that… Not everyone has this technology nor do they have the time or knowhow to make a good piece of art. At the same time, a lot of the shit out there is… shit.

As Anthony Volodkin, creator of the music blog aggregator Hype Machine says in his interview: “once you can get any song in the world anytime, the question will be which song do you want to get?”

Will good art like PressPausePlay or my favourite band of the week The Paper Kites stand out from the pile of garbage? Or is Keen right and will no artist today will make a lasting cultural impact like they did in the 60s or earlier.

Its simple to say just go out and be creative, but it’s not simple. Its just like Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) on HBO’s The Newsroom saying just make better news and it will sell. There is no magic creativity or entrepreneurial pill, but it doesn’t hurt to think outside of the box. Except maybe for your wallet.

The starving artist dogma holds true, even for the makers of PressPausePlay. “Our goal here is not to get rich,” insists Köhler. “It’s to try to reach as many people as possible with this film. That’s the strategy we have when we go into distribution meetings. We want to maximize our audience rather than our paycheck,” as quoted in this interview on hdvideopro.com. However, the first comment you can see on Vimeo is: “This is such a great film. It made my sad, angry, excited and inspired. Where can I donate or pay for it? It’s too good to not be purchased. Well done!” I hope this guy paid or at least shared it.

Will people pay for art they appreciate? Or will they only pay for the experience of a show at a venue as some suggest.

Watch this movie, get out your crystal ball, and comment on this post. Let’s have a discussion about this!

This is Sparta!

This year, tens of thousands of people will subject themselves to:

(i) drowning and cold water; (ii) near-drowning and cold water; (iii) sprains; (iv) strains; (v) fractures; (vi) heat and cold injuries; (vii) over-use syndrome; (viii) injuries involving vehicles and caused by electrocution; (ix) animal bites and/or stings; (x) contact with poisonous plants; (xi) accidents involving, but not limited to, paddling, climbing, biking, hiking, skiing, snow shoeing, travel by boat, truck, car, encountering electrocution , or other convenience;(xii) heart attack and (xiii) the potential for permanent paralysis and/or death.

for… a generic medal or a badge?

The Spartan Race, incase you haven’t heard has blown up into a fad that everyone but your Mom is talking about. Well except my Mom who has strongly urged me on multiple occasions not to do the Spartan Race this Sunday at Mont Tremblant. “Why not just let yourself come in last?” she said this morning. I balk at the suggestion! I am the guy who as a kid on the playground would rather pull himself off the recess soccer field if I broke my leg than let the game be disturbed. I’m the guy that spent summer after summer since I was 12 training at the gym or going to bootcamps for a chance to make it to the NHL or as my hockey bros called it: “the Show.” I am also a victim of incredible new-age promotions from the marketers at Spartan Race.

They have convinced me, and many more like me, to run 5km and hop, skip and probably stumble around 10 obstacles that they won’t even tell me about. I expect something like jumping over fire, crawling through mud under barbed wire, and maybe even swinging over a mucky moat. When you sign up they say that all you will get is a t-shirt, a medal and bruises, but really all you get is a t-shirt, a medal and bruises.

Why the hell would anyone subject themselves to so much pain and discomfort? It is how the race is presented that turns off your biological danger meter and cranks up your survival clock.

Jaw-dropping HD videos with pump-up music and the most famous motivational speeches ever known to man can be found at Spartan Life. And I’m talking Ali, Rocky and that sick Al Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday. But that’s not all. Inspirational stories, and bone-bruising Workouts of the Day (#WOD) highlight the incredible website, Twitterfeed, and daily email digest. Even the white on black font screams out challenge!

No I am not being paid by Spartan Race to loft them high on a pedestal, it is out of an utter respect for their promotion, marketing and rhetoric that I am blogging about it. And, it is not Spartan Race alone that has figured out a way to get people to spend lots of money on injuring themselves. Extreme sports have done it for years. Marathons and super marathons and super duper ironman marathons speckle the map and are found in most of the world’s major cities.

Fuck yeah I ran a half-marathon. So you wanna mess? (Means nothing, nothing at all).

Yet, the way that the Spartan Race, Peak.com and the Montreal-based workout community of Training Mobs have taken it to the next level is by incorporating social networking, or more specifically, the “hey have you checked this crazy shit out!?” tactic.

#WOD are always accompanied with a Twitter hashtag. You can search on Peak.com for “people like you” in your “network,” and click on profiles of other crazy athletes. On Training Mobs, the whole site is set up to be a social network for those wanting to go for runs together or catch the odd Cross Fit workout in a warehouse near you. Most importantly, you are encouraged to do these workouts or races as a team – getting you to do the recruiting and promotions for them.

Just because these strategies get the owners of these fit sheek enterprises your money, does not mean it is a bad thing. Instead of saying go for a jog 3 days a week around the block, they are demanding that you push it with every single workout that you do.

I challenge you to try one of the WOD. Run, chin-ups, sprints, burpees, squats, sprints, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The all too famous 300 workout, by the best get fit marketers in the business Men’s Health magazine, said to be the workout done by the actors in the film 300 to get insanely jacked, is still talked about today. Do people do these workouts on a consistent basis? Probably not. But who cares what other people do. It’s “Me Against the World” as Tupac said, right?

The idea of pushing it in your workouts will carry over to the rest of your life because you know what, life isn’t that hard for most people that enter these races or competitions. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and jumping over fire is.

It must be funny to ask someone who’s life is hard. Who struggles paycheque to paycheque or even hunt to hunt in order to survive. What about those living in war torn places like Mogadishu, Somalia or in urban DRC? “Why the hell would you pay money to get bruises and risk your life for basically nothing?” I’ve been convinced by the epic marketing, now I guess I’ll know at the finish line on Sunday what the rest is all about.

Damn it! “You’ll know at the finish line” is the Spartan Race’s slogan. Sunk into the marketing genius again…