The Digital Journalist
We're Back!

by Roger Richards

Readers of The Digital Journalist (TDJ) have known of the long partnership with my own Web publication, The Digital Filmmaker (TDF), and our collaboration in the portal site Digital Vision Network. Over the last couple of years other demands have kept us from keeping TDF as current as we would have liked. But things have changed, and we are now back.

A little background first.

Launched in February 2000 as a 'sister site' to The Digital Journalist, our goal was to compliment each other and offer our readers diverse news, articles and opinions on visual storytelling. TDF's mission statement is that we are 'Dedicated to the art of visual storytelling, uniting the worlds of the photojournalist, the videojournalist and the independent digital filmmaker.'

Accordingly, we are pleased to announce that veteran filmmaker and television journalist Ron Steinman, who is also a TDJ columnist, has joined The Digital Filmmaker team as our executive editor. The following is a message to all our readers from Ron, with an open call for submissions.

Roger Richards
The Digital Filmmaker

Lights, Camera ... INTERACTION!

By Ron Steinman

At our discretion, we will often go outside the realm of digital documentary film, digital narrative film, and digital documentary photography. We will allow, in fact encourage, the discussion of everything to do with films and still photography wherever it originates and wherever it lands. This can be in a theater, on TV, a film festival, home video, DVD, VHS, a museum, a gallery, the Internet, even from a foreign shore - although because of the Web and the virtual world it inhabits, a foreign shore is something that no longer exists.

We intend to be as inclusive and as ecumenical as we can. And with that in mind, also as critical as our writers and we can be. If we took the narrow view, the road to creative freedom would also be unnecessarily narrow. We want to forge our own roadmap as a guide to others in their struggle to bring forth their best effort. By doing this, we might be on to something useful. For it is better to give than to receive, especially in the realm of the highly competitive and infinitely creative world of the image.

We want to include personal stories about filmmaking. Tell us what drives you. Tell us how you overcome obstacles. Share with us your frustrations in raising money to start and finish your film. Relate your anguish, your frustrations and, hopefully, your triumph. We want to hear from animators, musicians, and composers, those in dance. We want to hear from the innovators and the traditionalists and those trying to bridge both worlds. We all share the same dream. We should share how to get there and how we got there. We want to know how you measure success. Is it in the creative act? Is it in capturing the image when shooting? Is it in editing with the latest equipment? Is it how you judge the audience? Is it how the audience makes its judgment about your work?

We want to make film reviews an important component of The Digital Filmmaker. Reviews can open our eyes to other worlds, and guide us to the place where we might find the unique, the unusual, and the surprising message. No film is too small for us to review, though some made by the adolescent boys who run Hollywood and produce, mostly, purely commercial, action blockbusters are certainly bigger than the films I have in mind. I understand that it is hard to ignore popular entertainment, but I will do my best to make it happen. These big films rarely mean anything. Special effects raise the testosterone level of the constant audience of 16-year-old males who never leave these theaters, where they set up camp waiting for their next bloodcurdling experience. Though some might consider these technical tricks good moviemaking, the often-clever techniques creating over-the-top effects are meaningless. They have no lasting value, except to the techno-nerd. Most of these are also poor entertainment.

I do not subscribe to the old saw that a few hours' worth of entertainment absolves the filmmaker from creating anything more constructive than a new version of a car crash. These films are here today, and gone in three months. Then they show up forever on cable TV. How is that for smart programming? At times, these films have a vague or hidden message that reflects in their odd way American life now. Despite that rare occurrence, they have no effect on our lives other than their cost to make our cost to see them. Spend your money elsewhere on films that may have a lasting effect. Thus, on this Web site most of the major films by Spielberg, Stone, Scorsese, and others will be off-limits unless they offer something fresh.

Face it. Many films are bad. The creative urge that pushed the filmmaker to start, and then complete the work is often weak or misguided. When this happens, the audience ends on the other side of the moon and the filmmaker either disappears or goes on to produce more bad films. Yet, that the creative urge is alive is a tribute to the filmmaker. Understand there is no magic formula for creativity. It is up to us to say why the failure and to give the audience the option of staying or walking away. For this reason, we will also welcome divergent views of film generated by the reviews we publish. Welcoming this does not guarantee publication. If a writer presents an alternative view, I will not post it if it attacks the writer of the original review. Opinions do differ and no one owns the rights to critical thought. But I warn you, if what you write is only emotional, and not a genuine critique, we will not post your offering.

Speaking of films, we want to hear from you about films that influenced you in any way that whispered in your ear or shouted in your face, "Be a filmmaker. It is the art for you." Everyone has antecedents. It is important to know yours. Why did a film, or films, a genre, a period or a director become important to how you think, and thus create? Thinking this through in its small way may aid other filmmakers as they, too, define their art.

Finally, at least for this session, there will be no idle posts. We will judge each submission on clarity, creativity and originality.

We are waiting.

© Roger Richards

The Digital Filmmaker
Digital Vision Network

Contributing Editor
The Digital Journalist