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!

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