The Disposable Film Fest: An International Explosion of Creative Energy

The Disposable Film Festival

Experiment. It's a brave new world, be part of it.

Carlton Evans, co-founder, The Disposable Film Festival

Carlton Evans photo credit JT TrollmanNew art forms require new ways to celebrate them. Carlton Evans took that to heart and in 2007 he created the Disposable Film Festival, an annual event that celebrates the democratization of cinema made possible by low-cost video devices including mobile phones, pocket cameras, and other devices. Through screenings and events, the Disposable Film Fest provides the inspiration and venue for a generation of filmmakers to enter and change the film industry with new forms of storytelling. Disposable kicks off in San Francisco every March, before traveling to cities around the world – and we're excited to be hosting a special screening of DFF 2012 at the Say Media offices on November 14.

Leading up to the November 14 event, we had a chance to interview DFF co-founder and executive director Carlton Evans to ask him about some of his all-time favorite disposable films, how disposable film is related to the DIY craft and maker movement, and his all-time favorite disposable film to date.

Why do you call it the Disposable Film Festival? What's disposable about it? We called it Disposable Film Festival because back in 2006 digital video technology had become so inexpensive that it was literally disposable. A one-time use digital video camera came on the market at a price point of $20. We realized that this technology was only going to get better, cheaper, and hence more ubiquitous - and that eventually everyone would have the tools needed to make films. It was a major turning point in the culture that would change how movies were made and the kinds of stories that would be told through them.

How did the Disposable Film Fest get started? We wanted to provide a place where these kinds of homemade films would be exhibited in theaters and taken seriously. We felt that the best work would show others the incredible possibilities of the new technology and inspire them to make more and better work. 

We've seen a creative revolution in video in the last few years. Why do you think that is? It's tempting to say that it's simply because of the accessibility of the tools, and that's certainly been the case in our corner of the creative ecosystem. But I think there's something greater in the works. It's not just stuff that relies on high tech gadgetry, it's happening all over the place: from yarn bombing to home-brewing, there's been this international explosion of creative energies. I think it part of the reason for it is that we now have the ability to share and interact so much more easily, which means that we now have an audience for the things we make.

Is the disposable film movement related to the DIY and craft movements? How so – or how are they different? Definitely. I think in a sense a part of the film world has emerged that at its core is DIY craft, in the best sense. It's even begun to have a deep folk structure: in the way that folk tales and folk songs rely on certain characters and situations that circulate through multiple interpretations, we now have video memes, so that Thom Yorke dancing or Hitler ranting in his bunker or Christian Bale throwing a fit become figures that are constantly open for interpretation and reinvention.

What makes a great disposable film? Are there any common ingredients? Simply put, innovation in storytelling. Perhaps more than their accessibility, the greatest gift of cheap video tools is how much it's lowered the stakes for failure. There are no production budgets, producers, investors, and other concerned citizens involved. It allows for the freedom to try new things, make mistakes, and sometimes stumble on something new that, with work, can be developed into something groundbreaking. 

What are some of the most exciting film you've seen come out of the disposable film fest to date? Clement Deneux's Les Ongles, or The Nails, which was the 2012 Grand Prize winner, immediately comes to mind. It's a story that could not have been told without the phenomenon of mobile video, and it's expertly done. It's the best disposable film I've ever seen, and one of the best short films I've seen. Period. Clement's an incredible talent, I can't wait to see what he'll make in the future. [Ed note: this one's scary. And possibly NSFW, depending on where you work. Watch it if you dare.]

Tell us about the judges for the festival – who makes a good judge and why? The judges are all people who we feel are doing amazing work in the field and their opinions really interest us, like legendary indie producer Ted Hope (now executive director of SFFS), Oscar-nominated screenwriter Hawk Ostby, Carrie Kemper, story editor for The Office, and Joe Walker, acclaimed editor of Shame and Harry Brown. Part of the mission of DFF is to help our filmmakers build their careers, and putting their work in front of leaders in the industry is part of that. 

Could you see a disposable film one day crossover to being a giant commercial success? I think it's not so much a matter of there being a crossover as much as the two areas completely blending. I'm looking forward to a film culture where the playing field has been completely leveled - which we're already starting to see. And that's not just in terms of access to equipment. Disposable is a vital language that we all understand. We regularly meet and chat and sometimes share our most intimate moments via video screens. This is a mode of expression that is immediate and incredibly affective. And more and more, bigger budget films are recognizing the value of that experience to storytelling.

Give us a preview – what cool things can we expect to see in the 2013 festival? What excites you most about the upcoming entries? In addition to opening night at The Castro, we've got a ton of great stuff planned including a very special evening of fantastic food and food video, a suite of workshops to teach a wide range of video techniques, and a very special program for making better advocacy video.

What's your advice for aspiring cellphone and webcam filmmakers? Experiment. It's a brave new world, be part of it.

Learn more about workshops and upcoming screenings here or follow the festival on Twitter @DFFest.

[Carlton Evans photo credit: JT Trollman]

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