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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

May 10, 2004
In my last few years of film geekdom I have acquired quite a taste for the short form medium. Be it my first viewing of Blur's "Coffee and TV," Mike Mills' "All I Need" video, or Spike Jonze's "How They Got There," I have been consistently amazed at the adaptability of the medium as well as the exposure it gets versus feature length films.

In the contemporary visual spectacle of rapid, homogenized, high-gloss advertising and pop culture, little emphasis is placed on the role of art within large scale media dissemination. It's not that it doesn't exist, it's just sometimes very hard to discern in mainstream media - enter stage left: subcultures. The conglomerate amalgam of visuals is punctuated periodically by subversive creative elements seeking to redefine the standard, the canon.

The inception of photography in the early nineteenth century brought about sweeping social and cultural change much like its ensuing process - filmmaking. The advent of the moving image sparked the era of cinema and the visual narrative, setting about an impetus of formal and content development.

In the past decade the emergence of digital filmmaking techniques, increasingly cheap equipment and the mass appeal of the internet has given the common auteur a chance to showcase their work to a larger audience. Ten Second Cinema, a website that seeks to provide a space for filmmakers to exhibit short-form pieces and serve as a catalyst for content expansion, is providing the forum for many artists to showcase their work online.

Experimental film has been known to range from the usual feature-length with such films as David Lynch's Eraserhead to a quite lengthy variety such as Doug Aitken's 24 Hour Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho, extended to run over an entire day) and the infamous Empire by Andy Warhol. But some of the most common and easily produced manifestations are short films, music video and video art. Stemming from works such as Luis Bu˝uel's Un Chien Andalou and Stan Brakhage's Nightmusic (a selection from his inimitable collected works, which number over 400), short-form media has seen outstanding innovation in the early twenty-first century.

With Ten Second Cinema, the contributors are given a set timeframe in which to work, and the creative freedom to head in any direction based on their own areas of interest and exploration. The short-form of the 10 second works allows for lowered production time while increasing the penchant for more capricious cacophonies. The website now hosts a plethora of content that is both immediately appealing and suited for deeper investigation, lending itself quite readily to random perusal.

I recently had the chance to toss some questions at Christopher Kalima, one of the driving forces behind Ten Second Cinema.

---

LAS: What initially brought about the conception of Ten Second Cinema?

Christopher Kalima: Ten Second Cinema was a concept that Josh (from Airspace Workshop) and I had discussed in November of 2003. He had previously participated in something similar, however it had been print-based. A group of designers were presented with a theme, and then they would respond via email with a visual response. We thought it would be interesting to do something similar, on a larger scale, with motion graphics and no restrictions. It was in response to our own hunger for alternative media, and disgust with the current state of the mainstream media. We felt that by creating a showcase online, we could stimulate a visual dialogue among filmmakers, designers, and multi-media junkies that was both personal and non-commercial.

What has fostered your interest in film? Favourite films perhaps?

Feature films that spark my interest are primarily independents, or quirky foreign films. There are so many things to appreciate about film, from art direction to editing style, cinematography or sound design. A few favorites are "The Limey" (directed by Steven Soderbergh, has fantastic editing and narrative structure), "Avalon" (Mamoru Oshii's Matrix-Ghost-In-The-Shell hybrid, for it's visual effects and scary smiling ghost girl in the end, which I still don't understand.), "THX 1138" (before Lucas started shooting Sony Cine Altas, fantastic pre-cursor to "Star Wars").

To be honest however, I'm much more interested in short form media. We normally have RES or Gasbook DVDs around the office; we're constantly fascinated by the short form material that floats around the Internet. Some Airspace Workshop favorites are "Ear Eye Data Poop" by Thomas Campbell and the films of Charles and Ray Eames. They're both inspirational and just damn good.

What has been the reaction from your viewers and contributors?

Originally, we thought to start off small, and ask everyone around us in the community. So we solicited local directors, editors, and graphic designers for submissions. Sadly, we didn't receive a single entry. This wasn't very surprising, considering the community here in Honolulu is a bit isolated and disjointed. Not to be negative about our home town, but this place isn't exactly a hub of creativity like San Francisco or New York. So we changed our perspective and began to post submission requests on various design sites online and got a huge response. We've been overwhelmed by how far and wide word has spread. We've received films from Australia, San Francisco, all over Europe, and it just continues to grow each month. The site is not even 6 months old yet and already it has blown away our expectations.

I think for some of the viewers, the quality of the films could be better. But you have to consider the fact that we have yet to reject a submission, and there is no incentive to submit a film. It does take some time to do something well, and for a busy creative person who has clients to service, finding the time to do something for free can be difficult.

In providing an arena for experimentation, to what degree do you feel that the medium boundaries need to be pushed? Alternatively, do you feel the current state of mainstream filmmaking is in creative paralysis?

Filmmaking is definitely flourishing; you just need to know where to look. There are so many people creating films out there. It isn't so much that the medium hasn't been taken to the boundaries, people are definitely doing that, but content is suffering. I'd like to see better stories, not flashier ones.

It's easy to bypass 'process' and look at what the next guy is doing and 'just improve' on things. As a designer you are always faced with what the industry is doing. Clients often want the hip new look and could care less about process. For filmmakers it's the same kind of pressure. The system as a whole is very copycat oriented, one bright idea is followed by a thousand not so bright ones, and we are subjected to all of them until we gag.

In the contemporary mental landscape of fast-paced information how do you feel that 'ten seconds' is relevant?

Content is being replaced with effects, pseudo-realities, and news banners. A certain dilution is occurring. There is too much information. I think things need to slow down. There needs to be a return to content.

Ten Second Cinema is sort of a weird dichotomy of content and concept. I think its most valuable aspect is the fact that it allows for dialogue and feedback. When you watch a film or television show, you have no way of replying to it. It is a one-way medium. Ten Second Cinema gives its users the ability to respond with feedback and 'constructive criticism'.

The site wasn't limited to ten seconds with viewers in mind, but rather contributors (and unfortunately bandwidth costs) in mind. As I said earlier, it isn't easy to persuade people to submit without incentive, and it takes time to do something well. The ten second limit encourages people to not over-produce a submission and be less self-conscious about things. It also gives participants enough time to experiment with an idea or new style. It is a sentence rather than a paragraph.

What sets the site apart from the contemporary visual landscape is that projects are not driven by a client's pocket, but rather an individual's vision. The statement made in the project belongs to the director, unadulterated and uncompromised by commercial intent.

Are there any other major players who contributed to constructing the framework of Ten Second Cinema?

When we first started, all submissions came in via email, and we'd have to manually enter all the film's information, pull a thumbnail, update the html and upload the film. We didn't realize the full potential of the site until we were contacted by Christopher at Dekko Studios. He happened upon the link and instantly understood what we were doing; he also offered his programming skills. He assisted in rebuilding the site's framework to allow for streamlining and automating certain tasks. That was a huge step for Ten Second Cinema, because he allowed us to implement a lot of features that make it much more communal and autonomous.

Do you foresee any future plans for expansion?

That's a great question, because expanding could be misread as commercialization, and that could undermine the grassroots ethic we like to subscribe to. However, we do want to promote the site's message and the contributors involved, as far as we can, possibly partnering it with a mainstream film festival or art gallery. We are currently working on implementing themes into the site as additional incentives for filmmakers. Overall, we are blown away by the participation level and hope to give something back to everyone who stepped out on the ledge with us. Maybe a DVD perhaps, stay tuned.

SEE ALSO: www.tensecondcinema.com

--
Abi Huynh
A contributing writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Abi Huynh enjoys film and music that most people criminally ignore.

See other articles by Abi Huynh.

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