At the risk of summoning Captain Obvious, the world of film experience is changing. Film isn’t just a shoutcast anymore—or, at least it doesn’t need to be. It is becoming more intimate: something to be viewed privately and with the ability to choose your own adventure. The user has some control in the outcome of the experience.
And this trend is fantastic.
One of these films—and I’m going to continue referring to them as films even though there’s got to be a better term—is This Place, a love letter to the Oregon coast by Portland digital creative agency Instrument. Film director Truen Pence explains:
I guess it’s not a novel concept in terms of how we went about the project, we just chose to produce the type of content that we would also be into consuming. If you’re like me you’ve got a list of hundreds of movies in your Netflix queue that you “have to watch” and just haven’t had time to get to, but 5–15 minutes at your desk or on your phone are easier chunks of time to devote to an immersive film experience. When you think about how we watch “content” now on our computers/devices it’s less about whether it’s a piece of commercial content or a film, but whether it speaks to us or entertains us.
I’m a big fan of both commercials and film and love that feeling when I get hooked by something or am inspired by the medium. Usually it’s the story or the character or just beautiful cinematography alone. In this case our inspiration was the Oregon coast and so we challenged ourselves to capture the essence of the place in multiple formats; film (video), stills (film/digital), and sound (archival sources and environmental recordings) and let the best content dictate the format of the piece, less concerned in the beginning by the type of format it would take on.
The integration of multiple vignettes reminds me of a potluck—the mélange of video, stills and environmental recordings are different courses coming together to create an entire meal of unexpected offerings. But, 5–15 minutes is still snack size. And when binging means you might spend as much time as you would on a feature-length film? Well, that doesn’t feel like binging. It feels like exploring.
Instrument did this earlier in 2013 with The Build (again, with Pence at the helm), a study of custom motorcycle building in Portland. Hollow takes exploring a bit further. Producer and director Elaine McMillion put cameras in the hands of the subjects, the people of McDowell County, West Virginia. Planet Money Makes a T-shirt (or is it Seed to Shirt?) does what NPR does best: educate, inform and unveil the interesting from the otherwise trivial or unremarkable. And I think Kirby Ferguson’s serial documentaries Everything Is a Remix (videos) and This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory kinda fit this mold, too, with his periodic updates on the process and the films’ subjects.
All this to say: I am fascinated. Half of all internet traffic is Netflix and YouTube, and it’s growing. These novel film formats are impacting a huge part of our information and entertainment consumption. And for the first time, I am charmed by the vessel as much as the content. I can’t wait to see what’s next.