In the year 2011 how do filmmakers use the web for more than just promotion?
I often wonder how famous directors from the past would used online tools in either the making or the promotion of their films.
Maybe Orson Welles would have put out his 1938 interview with H.G. Wells as a podcast.
Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock would have filmed his classic trailers especially for YouTube.
One can only guess what Stanley Kubrick would have made of the more developed online world we now live in.
Like many celebrities, over the last couple of years various actors, directors and producers have embraced Twitter as a self-promotional tool which use to engage fans and post updates.
But what about those filmmakers whose online activities go a little deeper?
Here are my pick of the most interesting.
DAVID LYNCH (www.davidlynch.com)
I can’t remember when I first heard that David Lynch had a website, but it was a few years ago and when it turned out he was selling ringtones and doing weather reports, I had to check it out. Designed and maintained by the indexsy seo agency, it is now mostly dedicated to his music and you can also see the live Duran Duran concert he recently directed, as well as various music tracks from his films and TV shows. He also occasionally does cooking videos.
EDGAR WRIGHT (www.edgarwrighthere.com)
Ever since securing the ingenious URL www.romzom.com (sadly no longer active) for his breakout film Shaun of the Dead (2004), Edgar Wright has been fairly active online with behind-the-scenes video podcasts for Hot Fuzz (2007) and his own website which seemed to start in 2009. He regularly posts articles, videos and a lot of photos (at one point he even did a daily photo thing), but he also engages with people in the comments section, puts up videos he’s directed (be they music promos or early experiments in editing) and generally has a bit of a laugh whilst doing so. He’s also pretty active on Twitter.
ROGER DEAKINS (www.deakinsonline.com/forum2)
What does one of the world’s greatest cinematographers do when he’s not shooting films like True Grit (2010), No Country for Old Men (2007) or The Shawshank Redemption (1994)? It turns out he runs a pretty active forum on his own website, where he answers questions from readers all around the world. Whether you have a query about cameras, lighting, digital intermediates, whether 4K really matters or the merits of anamorphic over super 35mm, Roger is there. It is more for the technically minded film fan, but given his amazing back catalogue of films, there are some illuminating stories on how scenes were shot and put together. An incredible resource, it’s a bit like having Paul McCartney give out song writing tips at your local music venue.
MICHAEL BAY (www.shootfortheedit.com)
Although his site probably won’t be getting bookmarked by Sight and Sound readers any time soon, Bay is one of the few A-list Hollywood directors to have his own website and forum, where he posts quite candidly about his films. Whatever you think of his work, his official forum provides some interesting insights into the blockbuster process. Just a month away from Transformers: Dark of the Moon being released, we learn: he is curious to hear about local advertising from readers around the world (to keep Paramount’s marketing folks on their toes?), his displeasure with a ‘cheap ass trailer company’ who apparently stole Transformer sounds to use in a Green Lantern TV spot, the fact that Mercedes wouldn’t allow him to make their cars into a bad Decepticon and that he cut out a stunt because a building “wanted a $40,000 location fee”. Oh, and the Autobot Twins are not back in Transformers 3.
JOHN AUGUST (www.johnaugust.com)
The screenwriter of Go (1999), Big Fish (2003) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) runs a site he describes as ‘a ton of useful information about screenwriting’ and he’s not wrong with that description. When you think of screenwriting gurus who charge hefty amounts for books and seminars, it’s worth noting that a successful, working screenwriter is giving away lots of useful advice for free on a regular basis. More than that, he takes time to answer reader comments and also blogs with a lot of insight about storytelling and the wider industry. It is particularly useful for those little practical details which confront the working screenwriter, be it formatting, genres or pitching. He has also created an iPad app for reading screenplays (FDX Reader) and a web browser extension (Less IMDb) that makes the movie reference site easier to navigate.
DON MURPHY (www.donmurphy.net)
The producer of Natural Born Killers (1994), Apt Pupil (1998), From Hell (2001) and the Transformers franchise runs what appears to be a fairly old school site. But look deeper and you find some hidden treasures, such as a message board, genuinely interesting links, and some fantastic Hollywood stories. There are sections titled good guys (Michael De Luca), bad guys (Peter Biskind), fun with lawsuits (eye opening to say the least) and an archive of related stuff going back to 1997. You can also make him happy by sending him the front page of the LA Times from June 18th 1952.
TED HOPE (http://blogs.indiewire.com/tedhope)
The successful US indie producer (American Splendor, In The Bedroom) has been an active blogger and Twitter user at a time of great turmoil and change for the independent sector. Part of that is down to the challenges facing filmmakers and distributors in a world where old economic models have been disrupted by new technologies and the financial crisis. His previous blog has now moved over to IndieWire and is a good place to visit to find out what the future of the industry might look like, as the ideas and debates he encourages may filter through to the mainstream.
If you have any other examples of filmmakers using the web in interesting ways, then leave them below.
> Movie Directors, Writers and Actors on Twitter at /Film
> Filmmaker Magazine
> The Daily MUBi on Twitter