INTERVIEW: BRETT GAYLOR, Director.

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Poster remix

By Mungo van Krimpen-Hall

‘RiP: A Remix Manifesto’ opens for limited release this Thursday, and we had a quick catch up with Canadian director Brett Gaylor to discuss the film.

4ZzZ: Your film covers a LOT of ground, figuratively and literally, it’s hard to sum up. How do you pitch it to people?

Brett Gaylor: It is hard to pitch, but I kinda like to call it a Party Rock & Roll movie about intellectual property. It’s a manifesto movie and it’s meant to be fun, and it’s meant to get people thinking about an issue that a lot of people haven’t been thinking about, which is that this concept of copyright & intellectual property really applies to everybody, and how to make sense of the digital age.

4ZzZ: Why was film the best way to get this information across?

vlcsnap-94326Well again, because we wanted to make a really enjoyable entertaining fun film, and we didn’t want it to feel like medicine. I had a teacher once called certain films ‘Caster Oil’ films: It was ‘good’ for you, but it didn’t taste very good, watching them was like work. And RiP isn’t like that, its really meant to engage people on a cinematic & entertaining level, but also to get them thinking. I think that for a lot of times when you want people to begin to think about an issue, or perhaps haven’t thought about deeply before, you have to give them a reason to care. And so we tried to consciously make a film that would resonate with people, with their emotions, and their funny bone, and their heart, instead of their head. Or in addition to their head, I guess.

4ZzZ: For all the topics the film covers, it’s incredibly easy to follow. Was it always going to be focussed on the copyright/public domain issues, or around remix culture, how did it evolve over the last six years?

It was the whole time we were planning it & thinking about it, it was some times challenging to think of a structure that wasn’t just talking head after talking head.  You see that way to often in documentaries, the film maker will assume that the the audience will come with that same passion.  And so when we were planning the film we looked for character, for people who had an arc, that did something out there in the real world.

vlcsnap-84478For example, Girltalk is a Mash Up artist who’s always constantly touring,who’s live shows are engaging, and who really sums up what we wanted to say about participatory culture, that the audience isn’t just passive anymore, they really do want to collaborate, where they literally will jump up on the stage and party with the musician, the artist. Also, Laurence Lesseg, who is actively travelling the world, convincing governments, speaking wherever he could very passionately & articulately about the subject.

And in Brazil, you have this whole history of this kind of remix culture in all their music, like in Bossanova and the music that we focus on in the film which is Baile Funk. It was very vibrant it was something you can tangibly film and see. So we tried to focus our filming on those types of events and that helped to structure the film. In between all that we had my Manifesto which is sort of my call to arms, how I wanted to frame the debate and how I try and convince the audience.

Manifesto

I didn’t want to make a balanced film, that not the role of a documentary, that’s the role of a journalist, but I did want to make sure that there was a balance so there was this Manifesto points, this essay structure, but that it always landed on something real and something you could feel, and something that proved my essay points in the real world.

4ZzZ:The film highlights several of what some might discribe as a surreal use of copyright. Was there any particular moment where you felt disparaged by what you were investigating?

Well I think the example we rely on most in the film is Disney Corporation, and the example of Disney highlights the first two points of the manifesto, the first point being that culture always builds on the past, and the second point is the past always tries to control the future. So if you look at Disney, Walt Disney the creator, he built all the films we’re familiar with Snow White, or Pinocchio, or Cinderella, these are all stories that existed in the Public Domain. Walt was able to go build on these works, animate them, make them relevant to a whole new generation because of the fact that there was a public domain. People forget, and maybe they don’t know that the original terms of copyright were really short, so after 14 years your work fell into the public domain, so people could remix it/ rework it, and that why Walt Disney could do want he wanted to do.

So Walt Disney had built up an empire. In fact, an empire who was built up around Mickey Mouse who was actually a remix of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, a parody of with Mickey Mouse playing Steamboat Willie! But after Walt passed away, Walt Disney Corporation won legal decisions to make copyright last longer and longer because, of course, they didn’t want their stuff to fall into the public domain. So When Mickey Mouse was about to fall into Public Domain in 1998 (Because at that point copyright lasted 60 years), Walt Disney Corporation went to US Congress, and asked & demanded that copyright last even longer, so that’s why now, Copyright lasts the life of the author + 70 years. Which is waaayy out of whack with the original definitions of copyright, which were always this balancing act between the public’s right, and the framers of the US constitution recognised that the public had this right to intellectual work, that a engaged and informed citizenry was the basis of a democracy, but the balanced that with trying to create an incentive by giving authors a limited monopoly on their work.

4ZzZ: How has the film been received so far? You mused during the movie that your inclusion of copyrighten materials might land you in trouble, have there been any major herdals?

Most of the problems that we’ve run into is television. Networks have been a little bit leery of being sued by some of the corporations that we kind of lambaste, that’s the problem we run into now. In Australian & Canadian Law, there are exceptions to copyright called fair dealing that we use in the film, but not all broadcasters agree with that. So we’ve been limited a little bit, particularly in the United States about which networks will show the film, that’s the legal trouble we’ve run into now.

vlcsnap-98344But at the same time the film is played all over the world on different TV networks, theatrically, there’s a DVD coming out, you can download it, so it’s spread quite wide. We haven’t been sued I think for the same reason Girltalk hasn’t been sued, because a lot of the big corporations realise that if they were to take it to court and we were to defend it as fair dealing and they lost, it would open the floodgates

4ZzZ:At the end of the film, you put out the call to arms and invite people to ‘remix’ RiP, how’s that been going, and what does that entail?

The whole time we were making the film, we let people contribute to it through a website called opensourcecinema.org, that’s where a lot of the video mash ups would come from. People would take the film that was in progress, remix it & upload it. But we wanted to continue that after the film was done, because once the film gets out there in the world, that’s when the conversation really starts.vlcsnap-99344

So what we’ve done already is at different film festivals we’ll show a different version of the film: We’ll ask for collaboration, people will send us new material, we’ll enter that back into the film, and show that version at different film festivals. And I mean that’s exciting for me as a film maker as I get to watch the work evolve. Like, we’re opening the film in New York city in about 2 weeks, and we’re gonna ask for people from New York to send in their material, we wanna remix a scene in Times Square by people from New York which is great because it helps to engage your audience. We’re all looking for these New models for getting people to continually support your work in the digital age where everything is free, so we’re trying to embrace that and say “yeah, it is free, you can do what you want with it” and become part of the conversation, part the participant rather than a consumer.

4ZzZ: And you film open’s in cinemas on Thursday?

Yeah. I’d really encourage people to come see it on the big screen because we put a lot of effort making it something that would really work well with a big screen big sound type of experience, and the kinda film that’s fun to watch with a friend.



RiP: A Remix Manifesto opens Thursday at Dendy portside (http://www.dendy.com.au/sessions.asp?Cin_ID=19) &  UQ Schonell Cinema –  Special screening at 6.30pm to open, see www.schonell.com for times. And you can go to http://www.opensourcecinema.org/ and maybe even contribute to a future version!

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