Going back a couple of years now, to the start of Twitch. I personally thought the major power in what Todd had offered me the chance to be a part of was the upfront opportunity to bring much of what remains an undercurrent that's a challenge to jump into; that remains the case, and this has grown exponentially, has hinted at having a power for good.
Twitch is worth spending the time on, it hinted at such simply by appearing in the form of a simple definition just before it went online, it's a site that should have been around for a lot longer than it has. It's a necessary way of applying strange films as part or whole of a taste, because clear upfront communication in accessible terms is the compromise that applies power to the issues being dealt with. Mainstream material suffers from a dearth of coverage.
It's not hard to follow once you get into it, this undercurrent of opinions, but it still remains time-consuming to follow, often requires constant growth of knowledge and understanding, and can be a little daunting even at the best of times. Of course, many around here are a large part of that more underground edge of how information is communicated, and there are advantages to both ways (forums and blogs/sites, the two contrasting key forms) in how quickly and substantially information can change hands that suit those that choose to hang around those places. Many suffer from not being able to spend the time deciphering all the snippets that are harnder to find, and Twitch's nature allows a way of trying to amalgamate them into something a little more accesible.
The benefit of Twitch is that many of the thoughts that are either repeated in frustration through forums, and remain scattered throughout posts on sites too, are issues which have become perpetual, threaten to dampen the potential for change, tentatively tip us towards better situations, or they're philosphies on the benefits of the interest in films and how it has undergone a mixed paradigm shift since the late 90's.
Some have obvious solutions, others have begun to naturally resolve themselves, others may require certain parties to become aware of them, and it's not entirely clear where and when, or if, any key information is getting though - in either direction. In here then, in not necessarily any particular order if that's a way you prefer to see issues portrayed, my perspective and ideas, with much cross-connection involved, around a selection of key issues that relate to everyone that is suffering from the minefield inherant in a taste for strange films from around the world.
One. Caught Between A Rock & A Hard Place.
Apparently, Companies in other countries like to court or deal with Festival Organisers or potential DVD Licensees directly, and this is the tradition of one-on-one consultation, wrangling, and opinion-forming as it currently works, and of course includes what information can be gathered on the reaction to the films as well as a screening for those bodies or companies. We seem (all too often) to be caught between the two involved parties as they currently work (as is the case for people following in a relatively remote manner, as we do), but because I don't really know how all that works precisely, I would say that we have a known following that involves both crowds, and both take much benefit from what we do, as do the more traditional everyday visitors to such a site as Twitch.
This is how it would seem to work for us right now; lots of DVD Licensees use Twitch on a regular basis as a part of their information gathering, because it's so clear and upfront, hopefully substantial in its content and reactions to films, and we seem to cover a lot of stuff that's not so obviously covered in English elsewhere as well as a great many things with other varying levels of reaction. The coverage is increasingly varied and regular, and it seems to make a lot of the effort for other people also by making it accessible, balanced and led by personal interests of increasing variety. The aim is to remain individually-focussed and objective, but to increase the connection between the discussion and other input of fans and the people who they're most likely to want to connect with. Companies don't seem to have a process to supply screeners on an international basis or to people on an advisory / publicity basis in order to provide a third-party reaction that directly relates to the third-party coverage that's utilised by the companies they would eventually be dealing with, such as that found here, and at many other places too.
We therefore don't get opportunity to react to International or domestic releases too often, and bridge a gap that exists in the process in order to at least help correct the situation where we could seem to have maintained a particular stance on our interest in a film even if it should eventually reveal itself to be better or worse than expected. We also don't often get review copies (not often) for films which we've covered in their run-up to release either; a shame, but a less important issue when personal taste initially drives us.
Additionally, Twitch's reputation is for many, as a site, about tracking new work rather than garnering opinions on that works qualities through reviews. Ironically, there seems to be a separate crowd for whom Twitch offers good opinions on the qualities of the work we've seen and they find the coverage of new work less easy to penetrate the values of without there having been much of an indicator as to how it all hands together as a whole. Everyone has a variety of different aspects required to maintain informed enough to make choices work well. The concern isn't that there's varying opinions on the values of the site, its that one crowd isn't necessarily aware the other exists or that both are, in conjunction, able to work with stronger results. We're in an odd kind of limbo which, once breached would hopefully multiply the power of the site several times over for all parties' benefit, for more good than would necessarily be initially apparent.
Two. With Hope More Than Ambition.
I am still surprised by people who get frustrated with finding content within a website that doesn't exactly suit them. In my opinion, a site and its contributors should work from personal interest and perspective in the hope that it is of value to others, rather than adjusting personal interest and perspectives in the hope of finding more hits to a site; if you find things of interest on a site, it's a bonus, if you don't, there's plenty of other places to seek out opinions. Any website can be described as being "written for other peoples' benefit", in truth it is not with a group in mind that individuals are best served, so it's not written for a perceived demographic but for people to pick through as they choose.
Still, you never know where intially disinteresting material might take you, and that's part of the philosophy of the mix in the coverage around here too. Providing the alternative view anyone would hold within themselves helps to balance things out, accepting variations in requirements would potentially be denying themselves and others, which is a shame. Twitch is only one example of such a site for film, one part of the picture, never intended to be more than that I believe, but it does contain a lot of hard work represented in its knowledge. Just adding another sharing of the knowledge from an individual perspective in the hope of reaching those who find it useful, and more freely too, would dramatically change so many things, so quickly.
Three. DVDs As A Primary Experience, the Second-Class Citizen.
In the late 90s, when DVD first began to appear, I (like so many) stumbled upon an opportunity to fulfill desires held for years, to see certain films which had always been too expensive to buy, to post, to import. We've also had the chance to see films which had been little-seen since their initial release or outside their country of origin until this point in time arrived, or to connect more directly on an 'as it happens' basis to new films from elsewhere. DVD is a light format, easy to post, as well as being comparatively high in quality, and relatively cheap in all aspects; and so the floodgates opened to a whole new series of possibilities, online rental services grasped the idea of the formats size / weight aspects and showed a good understanding of what was denied (and often still seems as such) by the industry at large.
Still, I would like to see more confident attempts to go with the flow, the scene for foreign / strange films being tied to the need to communicate, the internet being ideal for this, and there's an unavoidable link between strange films and internet activity which has only so far managed a small overlap in fans desire and the positive grasping of that force from the companies selling to those same fans. As I have heared Mamoru Oshii describe, a love of film is not about what you already know and love, it's about searching for new experiences you might soon know and love.
There's also seems to be a subsequent mis-understanding in why there's a focus on DVD as a format for worthwhile experiences coming at all angles and directions, one that's both publicly-held but initially industrially-imposed as much as possible. It suggests a purchase subsequent to a previous experience rather than a purchase for a new experience. It's perhaps fundamental thought, that, once realised, can dismantle the prejudice which is even dismissive of the industries own hidden disregard (intentional or otherwise, conspiracy says former, potential is for the focus to be pulled onto the new because of it's reliance on the financial dominance new releases) for its older product as it appears on a format that has flooded the market with a whole wealth of material.
Unless sold on a basis outside of the intended, the original filmic values, everything extranious to this is potentially a manipulation that contradicts other practices applied to new films as they are produced and sold, and denies so much culture to be appreciated and preserved on realistic, natural terms. Yet, if a film was ever regarded as being worthy of appreciation, if it contained the qualities that made it an experience of note in and of itself, then why is it to be so instantly discarded and denied when it appears again years down the line or simply from a different origin, a different country? The most obvious downside I can think of right now is perhaps the overwhelming flow of DVD can become an object fetish more than it's a desire for experience, an opinion that's derived from the driving force of DVD consumption, the mainstream, major releases, the repeated purchase post-cinema experience, but not something entirely as necessarily directly applicable to less mainstream output.
Four. The Lack of Publicity and Promotion Focus.
There's an uncomfortable melding of traditional and new-fangled about the current state of the film scene works. Companies come online to see reactions to their releases, to find out about new films they might consider releasing, and at the same time they seem to have mastered the use of the internet to make sure people know there's a release when they put one together. Key information about releases appears on some websites unannounced or undiscovered far in advance of the typical online press release reproduction method of publicising it. Skipping around very few key sights can completely bypass the majority of the usefulness of a press release, so it's clear that information is at hand long before it's issued as a whole with the perceived necessary aspects contained within it.
There's a middle-ground approach that's easier to understand or perceive the value of in traditional terms (online press releases for example) but which doesn't suit the possibilities open to companies via the internet, doesn't match what it's possible to do, and doesn't make itself clearly heard or easily found. YouTube for trailers, anyone? or QT downloads at small dedicated sites?.
There's also likely to a minimal extra on a DVD release of an original trailer too, but you'll not necessarily ever see it until the moment just before or just after you're about to watch that film. Redundant or impotent by then, in terms of the way in which the day-to-day flow of discussion and decision making is done, in that it doesn't fit snuggly into the information released to create or inform that flow. The trailer is the most powerful way of giving a taster for what a release would offer. A simple splash page that amalgamates all this information, both traditional and new, into the most basic and accessible form of publicity in a modern take that's more suitable would be the quickest way to focus peoples' thoughts.
Five. Lateral Not Literal.
from Wikipedia, "Techniques that apply lateral thinking to problems are characterised by the shifting of thinking patterns away from entrenched or predictable thinking to new or unexpected ideas. A new idea that is the result of lateral thinking is not always a helpful one, but when a good idea is discovered in this way it is usually obvious in hindsight, which is a feature lateral thinking shares with a joke." and from pshychology.org, "De Bono identifies four critical factors associated with lateral thinking: (1) recognize dominant ideas that polarize perception of a problem, (2) searching for different ways of looking at things, (3) relaxation of rigid control of thinking, and (4) use of chance to encourage other ideas. This last factor has to do with the fact that lateral thinking involves low-probability ideas which are unlikely to occur in the normal course of events."
There's benefits to both literal and lateral ways of thinking, for example, but I feel that lateral thinking is the way to the new and unexplored (or under-explored) and unfortunately it's with small careful steps that most companies seem to select films which they license for release and not with a comparable confidence found within many of those buying their products. It often doesn't show the confidence, dynamically-mined consideration, radical or adventurous nature many would hope for, but it also clearly serves a large section of the public in the way it deals with previously known material.
It all seems to often commit rapidly to going forwards with mediocrity rather than imaginatively and passionately going sideways with care when the signposts are shown to the quality, the success stories, the upcoming films that people react too more positively. I would hope that, although labels are clearly businesses, that lateral creative thinking wouldn't be regarded as something inherantly insecure, that perhaps more daring attitudes towards the upwards shift in quantities need new or updated practices to match. It's not in the literally similar fashions that benefits only exist, it's in the related, linked, unexpected, unusual, similar (by interpretation) ways - the genre, the director, the country, the decade, the atmosphere, cinematographer, writer, the charms, the obscure qualities, the less familiar, less obvious; these are the literal signposts to lateral ways of thinking.
Perhaps the playing field is strangely level when everything is simply presented as a new DVD purchase. It's much easier to draw the lines between material even on simplistic terms are purchase selections made and yet the heavy-handed genre ploughing is tiresomely trudged away at. Of course people are generally so much more open to the possibility of a new experience if shown that they exist, (
Six. Positive & Negative, The Multi-Region Taste.
If you have a mult-region taste, you need a multi-region player. That is, as soon as you develop the desire for films from outside your home territory (made elsewhere, or released elsewhere), you will never be served as well in your own territory as you will be by the collective territories that make up the global market that has inadvertently developed from the publics' control and desires. There's lots of energy being put into dampening down the positive opportunities to be had that subsequently has a negative impact on those making that effort to discover and experience the new. Lots of the frustration in a taste for films from elsewhere clearly comes from weaving around all the aspects of this situation, always in flux as it is, with ever-moving obstacles, thus making it perpetual, painful too, it's why there's work involved in managing this unusual aspect of anyones taste. The public has already made use of other peoples' inventions as it has desired to and as is the norm with society, so multi-region is a set president now and needs to be worked with rather than worked against, capitalised upon constructively it's the key benefit of a market that opened up in dramatic style.
Thinking globally may be the larget leap the industry faced, one it hasn't really made, one hesitated over, that has resulted in contradictory fracturing of practices. Many grasped it as a concept without trying to simply because they're a little smarter in delving into the wealth of little-seen or previously-unseen material, companies set up by fans who are born of fandom and an experience from the experience of a fan buying films from abroad on DVD. Many have taken their more negative or restricted choice and perhaps alienated the foundation for their market, instead relying on bastardisation, manipulative marketing, mis-selling and fantasising about a films potential rather than attempting to gain and maintain a realistic perspective, building from the dedicated audience. There may be no such thing as a cult film, but when the sensibilities of a film are different from the majority of material experienced it's with gradual steps that it becomes truly appreciated beyond its' borders, and not with giant leaps or tricks for short-term gain.
Seven. No Such Thing As A Blind-Buy.
I Blind-Buy the very large percentage of what I do buy and it's from a fed instinct that I lead my taste. Blind-Buy is a poor label that deters people from the major boon on offer through DVD (in my opinion) the possibility of new experiences, but would still benefit from slightly increased levels of information about the possibilities; again, trailers . From the stand-point of individual understanding comes the greatest pleasure (which will always share common ground with others) but also throws up oddities that you wonder if others have picked up on or won't have seen much discussion about, so the completely individual taste is a semi-myth - simply by the nature of mass-produced experiences, hence their accesibility also, but not as impossible as it can seem to be. Blind-buys are over-stated as being such. You're never entirely as blind as many may infact want you to believe, or as blind as we all sometimes feel. There should be an understanding that for every lowest-common-denominator experience that will undoubtedly chime with your sensibilities more often, there's always something which will hopefully touch us on a much more individual basis that's out there to be found.
Eight. The Internet As The Ultimate Focus Group, The Internet As Public Enemy Number One.
If the idea of monitoring online activity as a source of opinion is to continue it needs tightening up in how substantial it is and opening up in how freely shared it is, to become bi-directional with consideration for the issues of how deceptive written information can be, how open to interpretation it actually is. From a position of ambition, motivation, self-knowledge and imagination much more than from any other action comes a more solid, less fickle, more reactive or responsive, less ephemeral way of managing where film choices come from.
It's perhaps partly from initial negative actions and policies, region coding for example (because the multi-region generations' existence is denied and confirmed simultaneously by the same company or companies) , that the battle for control began and from which point it extrapolates. Even the positive elements of how peoples' tastes have broadened don't persuade many to change, often encourages some negative action in itself. I would love to be able to abolish the gap between labels and fans, the negative work pulling us in the opposite direction that's hard to combat, would be easier if we had a sense of who was making the choices we suffer or benefit from in order to make for a more teamwork approach.
It's clear that there's a chance the Internet, as a tool and particularly in relation to films, is being intentionally distorted for its' immediate short-term potential, rather than a long-term perspective. For other reasons too, it's no utilised as it could be, and it's a shame - it's simply a communication device, not a living entity, and it requires feeding, maintenance, and it's only as honest and worthwhile as the content that's shared via it, and by as many people as possible too. It's about the sharing of the information in the end, and not the financial opportunities for individuals to earn a living from simply discussing it, it's not for an external definition of anyones' individuality with a distortion for other purposes, or confirmation of anyones' worth beyond the way a personality is informed, or any of the other various alterior objectives people abuse films for so freely.
Nine. Ways of Thinking, Not What to Think.
This is why I don't like reading or writing reviews, this is why I pick away at information in snippets. I simply like the idea that a review or any form of communication on a film should give an individuals ways of deciphering rather than what should be specifically deciphered from a film, there seems to be a fine line that's regularly crossed, perhaps unknowingly, into the territory of imposing rather than exposing opinions, views, thinking.
What I tend to do when I write a review is simply type out my instincts on a films' content, the thoughts I've had whilst watching that I remember when I sit down to write it out. There's always numerous second parties involved when interpreting the content of anything that's written. Then there's the added complication of ways of deciphering information being conveyed simply by talking about your thoughts - so, you might not even intend to restrict the thinking with regards a film, you might unintentionally do so, and that requires reading between the lines. Opportunities for one person can be easily closed down by anothers lack of desire to consider their approach at any time, because it can be so easily seen as ephemeral, of little importance, ironically considering the power it seems to weild.
Ten. Perhaps there's no such thing as a Cult Film.
ScreenAnarchy's lack of intended genre or supposed predetermined commercial value as a focus showed some hidden values in what we're doing. One of these is that it's possible to make things look unrealistic and unnecessarily specific with regards a portrayal of peoples' taste, that it devalues what is being said to be focussed upon when that very specific direction is chosen, as well as distracting from what else could be viewed - the routes that shoot-off and drift between genres and those attempted to be contained by such definitions. It also potentially denies the expansion of taste (both in that it encourages self-limitation and that it simply doesn't talk about variety, encourages dedication that's unnecessary), both in the individual and the interest as a whole, as it perhaps encourages unrealistically narrow points of view.
We don't have a specific predetermined coverage (though it is possible to attempt a definition of it) and there's no desire to do so, of course it's a case of the more diversity the better simply because it's with strange films in mind, and they come from all countries, both in commercial work and in much more obscure work. There are many who would have others believe that it's not without unnecessarily obsessive behaviour, tunnel vision onto a particular field, genre, country, that you develop an understanding of film (a genre, or film in general) and what it is you prefer. I say it's actually the opposite, that's it's with the diversity that a contrast is given, that an aspect, attitude, approach or any given element might unintentionally be highlighted from the most unexpected angle onto any other given past or future experience. Even those that give an impression of speciality in their taste watch far more than they might well admit too (or simply choose to talk about) which exists outside their (only) apparent limitations.
Clearly, much of film is intended for domestic consumption, and it's with a certain alternative objective that someone tends to turn to material from elsewhere, but it's never entirely or always a given that the sensibilities of film from elsewhere makes the work inaccesible beyond the point of worth. There's always consideration to be given as each experience offers up new slight shifts in perception and understanding as new directions are explored. A so-called Cult film is more often than not a film viewed out of original time and out of place, and it's often over-stated as such for elitist purposes, supposed specialisation (though it shouldn't lack the balance it can often be seen as having) or from the perspective of a misundertanding of a genres qualities, or any number of reasons to at least appear 'different'. It's simply unnecessary, especially given a tool such as the internet, where publicity is possible for little cost or totally free. There are some films, very few and far between, that aim to cater for a knowingly limited audience, they exist outside the realms that use distribution networks, any other signifier of connection to any business aspect that's in any way corporately-connected, they're perhaps the only true cult films.