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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Internet Films: The Next Big Thing?




American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola once remarked, "For me the great hope is that now that 8mm video recorders are coming out, people who normally wouldn't make movies are going to be making them. And that one day a little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father's camcorder. For once the so-called professionalism about movies is destroyed, it will really become an art form."


One of the unexpected side effects of the digital revolution has been that now almost anyone can easily transmit huge amounts of information across great distances without the aid of middlemen. Once it was impossible to publish a journal without access to a printing press; now you find desktop publishing systems everywhere. Once you had to cut a 12-inch record in your garage so that fans could hear your underground hit; now all you have to do is send a digitalized file of your song to the MP3.com web site. The next revolution will take place in the world of movies: any penniless independent director will be able to show his films on the Internet, bypassing distributors to reach film buffs directly.


It's technically feasible right now. Several companies offer products for transmitting so-called streaming video through telephone lines. But not everyone has grasped the practical applications these new technologies open to artists and directors.


Take, for example, Message to Man, the annual festival of documentary, short and animated films that St. Petersburg hosts every June. Among the hundreds of works shown at this year's festival, there were several wonderful films that many viewers would enjoy seeing again - Konstantin Bronzit's "On the Edge of the Earth," for one. If festival organizers inaugurated a special web site containing at least fragments from the winning films, it certainly wouldn't suffer from a lack of visitors. And this wouldn't put any undue strain on the festival's budget: It costs much less to install and maintain an Internet server than it does to rent several movie theaters and cover other expenses entailed by a "live" festival.


In the West, several quite successful attempts to create similar systems have been undertaken already. Check out, for example, the web site of the digital film festival D.FILM (www.dfilm.com), the server of one of the largest net-based film and video distributors, AtomFilms (www.atomfilms.com), or the independent animation contest Hotwired Animation Express (www.animationexpress.com). You'll find dozens of live-action and animated shorts in RealVideo, Quicktime and Shockwave Flash formats.


Of course, your computer isn't quite the same thing as the silver screen and the cushy seats at the Crystal Palace, one of St. Petersburg's few Western-standard cinemas. Sound and picture quality leave a lot to be desired, and the films download at a snail's pace. But this is the future, and the future is something you have to respect.


Daniil Dougaev is a columnist for the Independent Media Russian language newspaper Kariera-Kapital.