Technology and the future of short films and
Technology -- such things as digitization of film and
subsequently easier distribution -- is having a dramatic
effect on the documentary film industry.
Much like technology has and is transforming the
newspaper world and now the popular book and even text
book industries, new software and new hardware
developments are making production easier, quicker and
more affordable for the masses.
As an example, film festivals increasingly are digital
festivals -- offering a wide array of documentaries and
shorts that have been converted to a digital format. All
of these offerings can be stored on one computer drive,
or downloaded via satellite to multiple festivals held
across the country.
There are clear upsides to this.
have a greater opportunity for a viewing. Their work,
which might not be commercially viable for a big motion
picture house, drops in cost and becomes viable for
regional or even local film festivals.
In turn, because these offerings are now being seen at
all increases the breadth of film offerings and the
possibility that some of these documentaries and shorts
will become even more widely distributed. Indeed some of
this has already occurred and film festivals -- often
featuring short films or documentaries -- have seen
increased popularity with people tired of more
predictable major motion picture and even major
But, there also are some downsides to the more
accessible technology. Anyone can become a filmmaker.
But, that means many people with little story-telling
experience and little production or editing experience
are submitting their work to the masses.
This is akin to the glut of Web citizen-news sites now
providing some level of community journalism. Many of
these sites are not well-produced and are not high-end
journalism by any stretch.
But the good news is that such community news sites do
fill a niche; they provide a service. They often produce
the chicken dinner news published in years past by small
community newspapers. If the local elementary school is
having an event, you are likely to be able to read about
it at these sites.
In similar fashion, some of these smaller attempts at
film-making can serve a need. The ones that don't will
likely fail and the ones that do will find a small, most
likely local audience or one that is discrete by the
topic or issue.
For the viewer though, this means one thing. That the
average documentary and short film fan will need to
become even more diligent and discerning in the
selection process. Not all local film festivals will
provide Sundance level work. The key is in knowing the
And, if they don't like what they see, well, they can
always grab a camera and produce a film themselves.