The MTP Interview: Indie Film Maker David Newhoff

Film Maker David Newhoff sat down with MTP’s Chris Castle to talk about his experiences as a film maker and the threats to creators from rogue sites (like Megavideo) and those who support them.  He recently joined the call for Congress to do something about rogue sites in The Hill.  (The interview continues in the next issue of MusicTechPolicy Monthly, sign up for a free subscription in the subscription box.)

MTP:  Tell us a little bit about how you came to make your film Gone Elvis and a few of your experiences as a creator.

gone Elvis began when my wife saw an episode of Oprah that profiled homeless, female veterans.  We had discussed it as a short film, and then I tabled it while I worked on other things.  In the Spring of 2011, I decided I wanted to make a short in time to possibly get it into the FilmColumbia Festival in Chatham, NY, which is near where I live.  I was thinking something light and easy, but my wife reminded me about the homeless vet stories, and gone Elvis was the result.  I wrote the first draft of the script very quickly and sent it to Carla Duren to see if she would be willing to play the lead.  Once she agreed, I launched a Kickstarted campaign with the help of my friend Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, who agreed to act as executive producers on the project.  We raised about $9,000 in a little under 45 days and shot the film over a 4-day period in early July in Upstate New York.  The film did have its debut at FilmColumbia in October and is now available as a free stream via the website while we wait to hear from some other festivals.

[MTP: David’s production diary is available here.]

MTP:  What technologies do you use in your craft?

I’m sure I use the same technologies as most folks.  On the capture side, I’ve worked with multiple formats, from film to video to HD digital.  I shot gone Elvis with the Arri Alexa [see discussion ]and am a huge fan of that camera now.  On the post side, I cut now with Final Cut but was among the earliest users of AVID in the New York market.  I don’t do AfterEffects but work with people who do.   Naturally, I use the web for communications, file distribution, and promotion.  I have three Facebook pages, a LinkedIn account, a Twitter account, two WordPress blogs, a company website (sort of), cloud storage, and a YouTube channel.

MTP:  How do you think the legitimate Internet could better serve an independent film maker?

That’s hard to say because I’m old enough to be cynical about predictions related to the Internet; we’ve seen a lot of forecasts come and go.  Still, I think there are several aspects of the Internet right now that help the independent filmmaker, or any artist, in tremendous ways.  The most obvious, of course, is self-promotion.  Part of selling anything is selling yourself, and the web enables literally anyone to do this because the cost of entry is zero.  I also think that some of the ad-supported models on YouTube, etc. create ways for some quality work to find audiences without the corporate filters that can dilute creativity.

When it comes to independent filmmaking, I think there’s a lot of dangerously vague, web-centric ideas out there based on the notion that creators need to forget about customers paying for the products themselves and should focus instead on free viewing as a vehicle to “make money in other ways.”  Many of these opinions, of course, are voiced by people who’ve never made a film and have no idea of the costs involved in even the most modest project.  It’s hard to believe anyone says these things with a straight face, but they’re repeating the mantra of web gurus a lot of which sounds like a broader agenda to abolish copyright in general.  If that’s really the goal of companies like Google, I don’t see how they’re a friend of independent artist over time.  On the other hand, Google could be the monopolistic distribution network we wind up complaining about in ten years.

MTP:  Do you think that the DMCA notice and takedown procedure is working well for independent film makers?  If not, why not?

DMCA seems workable when it’s used to respond to an individual or website that is not engaged in copyright infringement as a business.  When the infringing entity means no harm, then DMCA is a civilized approach to addressing casual or inadvertent infringement.  But DMCA is impractical, insulting, and costly for the entrepreneur who has to send out repeated notices to entities whose whole enterprise is content theft.  There is no other crime in the world that we treat with such kid gloves. I have to send a note out saying, “Please don’t steal from me,” and hope they agree?  If a starving person stole food from a supermarket, he wouldn’t be treated that gently.

[David’s interview continues in MTP Monthly.]

See Also:  MTP Inteview: Indie Film Maker Ellen Seider on how US companies profit from piracy on rogue sites

See Also:  MTP Interview: Indie Film Makers Jason Stall and Topper McDaniel on Producing Indie Films in the Age of Google and Rogue Sites Legislation