My Various Hats

I’m a mother, wife, independent film executive, volunteer Chairwoman of Israeliness Family Program at the 92nd Street Y, do research work with the Harlem Schools Partnership, project manage a mobile game for health, while pursuing my doctorate degree at Teachers College, Columbia University.

How can I wear all of these hats and stay sane?  I read Yochai Benkler’s “The Wealth of Networks” book (2006) and I am assured that wearing many hats simultaneously is possible, accepted and predicted.  I am not insane!  I am merely adjusting to the age of equality and democratic opportunity afforded by the Internet.  The sphere in which the removal of physical constraints on information production, the immersion in a diversely-motivated participatory system, and most of all the availability of free software (open source) provide a way for enhanced communication, organized relationships , and the creation of formal organization and new business models, based on web-based cooperation, wealth of information, speed and fluidity.

So why am I doing so much and hardly getting by financially?  How come I invested tens of thousands of dollars in a visually-pleasing, witty and edgy independent film (“Failing Better Now“, 2009), which falls into the crack of old model versus the new model of distribution, leaving the producers in wonder whether we should pursue a traditional business model (find a sales rep and a film distributor) or should we keep all rights and self-distribute the film as we go along?  Some producers argue that even after the huge investment of money, time and talent in the creation of a feature film, the current social structure driven by web-based networks would require us to distribute our baby free over the internet (see supporting NY Times article, Jan. 2010).  On the one hand, creative filmmakers can control their work’s destiny (at least in theory) when filmmakers and producers accompany their art in a self-distribution model, using the Internet as the main platform.  On the other hand, promoting and distributing your own artistic creation may keep you away from creating new work, and/or the outcome may be better when a film is placed in the hands of experienced marketing and distribution professionals.  In any rate, independent filmmakers are exploring the web as a fundamental social structure that changes the familiar model of film distribution.

What would you do if you were the co-owner of an East Village “chick flick with balls” indie that has urban appeal, festival awards and some distribution interest in Hollywood?  If you were in my shoes, would you hand the rights to a small company for distribution or would you self-distribute the film?  Would you produce DVDs and sell it online, or would you offer the film free online?

Benkler in this video interview (NYC, 2009) asks whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that it is becoming harder, maybe impossible to encapsulate information in discrete units and sell them.  How will creators ever make money (see the discussion about the film industry from 06:22 mins).

“The availability for opportunities for people to see film, respond to and care about opens up a new domain of small commercial film production; something that won’t be the primary way by which somebody makes a living, but a part of the mix of things they do for their life …to allow millions of more people to engage in film production”.

Yes, I’m here for the journey, and I am grateful for every moment of the experience of collaborating on making a feature film.  I recall my business partner Peter Schelfhaudt’s words to me when we were first considering investing in auteur filmmaker Keren Atzmon and her feature debut “Failing Better Now” 2.5 years ago.  He said that “independent cinema is a high risk business venture.  If we invest we do so for the experience, not the expected return of investment.  We do it as labor of love”.  And we did.

This brings me to a favorite quote from another text that we read for this week (Chapters 11 and 12 in Kurzweil, “The Age of Spiritual Machines” (2000) about attempting to understand how the year 2099 may feel like as an identity (or societies) in an augmented reality world where the computer brain surpasses the human brain. The native virtual AI character tells the 20th century human visitor: “Of course I’ve kept my old personality.  It has a lot of sentimental value to me” (p. 238).  This is how I feel toward independent film production.  I do it out of love of the craft, while I develop new practices (related and distant from the film production industry) as an explorer and a participant in the wealthy web-based networks.

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February 2, 2010. Columbia University Doctorate, Independent Film Production.

3 Comments

  1. Ruthie Palmer replied:

    This is a great blog post, Pazit; very thought-provoking, informative, and engaging. You raise some terrific questions about what the non-market production and distribution Benkler discusses means for the creators of content. As he says, many of these pursuits may end up being side projects for people, rather than their primary ways of making money. While projects like this, as you acknowledge, are often labors of love that enrich the lives of the creator, as Lanier points out, isn’t there something wrong with a society that does not financially reward its artists and creators? If our future is one of many projects, none of them lucrative, what does that kind of uncertainty do to an individual’s psychology and sense of a security? I enjoy doing freelance work and cobbling together paid projects, but I could see how this might be a strain in the long run if I had other people to support. I worry that Benkler is a bit too rosy in his prediction that this will somehow lead to an overall happier, healthier democratic society.

  2. Loyd replied:

    How much time did it acquire u to write “My Various Hats | Pazit’s Weblog”? It seems to have quite a lot of really good info. Thx -Francine

  3. Krystyna replied:

    This specific post, “My Various Hats | Pazit’s Weblog” shows that u really understand exactly what u are writing about! I thoroughly agree with your blog. Thanks a lot ,Harry

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