To the average cinemagoer, the film industry is a far-away land, as full of fantasy and intrigue as the storylines of the big screen. But Swedish audiences are getting closer to creating a new world of movies with the might of new media.
Hanna Sköld controversially released her first feature via The Pirate Bay. Photo: Anette Nantell/DN/Scanpix
Malmö-born director Hanna Sköld released her first feature film, Nasty Old People, in October 2008. The story of a young neo-Nazi member who works in a home for the elderly makes for a contentious narrative.
Her means of premiering the production, on the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, was equally controversial among her filmmaking peers.
Yet it has enabled the film to reach far beyond Sweden’s borders, including a cinema screening in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East. Without the power of the web, 31-year-old Sköld believes this would never have been possible.
“The world has become a smaller place thanks to the internet,” she says. “There are so many obstacles for young filmmakers and, when you don’t have a distributor, no one is interested.”
Equipped with a Creative Commons license, the film can be downloaded, shared and remixed without permission.
“I was convinced it was the best way to reach a wide audience,” she adds. “It’s an interactive way of distributing film but the industry is not using it.”
Click to view the trailer.
A premiere with a difference
A sound business model hangs in the balance. “The next step is to find a financing system that works, but I believe people will pay for new content,” Sköld says.
Her experiment has, in part, proven her theory. A paying public of 30,000 people downloaded her film in the first few months of its release.
However, this is far from the Hollywood glamour many young filmmakers dream of. There’s no red carpet event to capture global attention but, in order to make that vital breakthrough, the internet provides a breeding ground for effortless viral marketing.
“It has opened doors,” she says. “I’m sat at home and people all over the world are contacting me about screenings.”
Fans have also contributed to the cause, translating Nasty Old People into ten languages.
“I’ve been amazed with the cooperation that can be created between filmmaker and audience,” Sköld adds. “They (the audience) feel they are part of a global movement and we can use that engagement in the future.”
Actress Karin Bertling in the role of Elie in Nasty Old People. Photo: Mattias Hildingh
Make your own movie
A Sweden-based classic horror film in the making, The Pact, is already taking audience participation to the next level — into the creative process. Communications consultant Anders Sjöman masterminded The Pact Project with the aim of getting followers to mould their ultimate movie.
“It was the thought of meeting my public up front to get their ideas and input,” he says. “In this way the film will actually perpetuate into something they want to see.”
The Pact Project is reaching out to a community before cameras begin to roll in terms of financing (crowd funding), production (crowd sourcing), and distribution (crowd marketing).
By purchasing an advanced ticket, the audience can personalize the end result to their liking.
Being part of The Pact
“In the production phase you can help to build background character stories, contribute props or propose shooting locations and stage design,” Sjöman says. “If you are a musician you can even upload music.”
Audience participation heightens during post-production with the ability to comment on edited clips and remix your own director’s cut.
It adds a new dimension to the already complex business of movie-making and Sjöman believes that the advent of social media will impact the film industry further.
He sees a time when film characters will have their own Facebook profiles interacting with fans and each other.
“There is stuff bubbling around this all over but we have yet to see the extent of what it can achieve,” he says. “The key message is that people want to interact with your story—now we have the means to allow them to do that, don’t be afraid.”
Click to hear more about what Anders Sjöman and director Henrik Sylvén have to say about The Pact Project.
The democratic and transparent characteristics of social media encourage everyone to have their say. And the closed doors of the film industry could be forced to listen.
“The development of a community culture is unraveling the mystery of filmmaking,” says Kosta Economou, senior lecturer at the department for Studies of Social Change and Culture at Linköping University. “Spreading the secrets means the art becomes more accessible to everyone.”
But there is a clash between films produced by professionals and those made on a mobile phone and uploaded to YouTube. As Economou adds: “It begs the question: what is film today?”
Meanwhile, technological development is also challenging the industry with tools small enough to fit in any wannabe film-maker’s pocket.
“The more you free up the means of movie production, the more it runs the risk of becoming widespread but not as significant as an art form,” Economou says.
A film for all screens
A new era is dawning for filmmakers studying the art in a conventional context according to Erik Lundqvist, a film student at Stockholm’s University College of Film, Radio, Television and Theatre (Dramatiska institutet).
“We use the same techniques as the film industry,” he says. “But we have to think outside the box and learn how to use smarter solutions.”
Lundqvist believes there is room for both the big screen cinema and amateur film to co-exist harmoniously.
“New media is the future and borders are being eradicated so I think diversity within film is only a good thing,” he says.
“Everyone likes to be entertained in different ways. That is the beauty of film.”
Christine Demsteader is a British freelance journalist who has been living in Stockholm for the past eight years. She spent a short and unsuccessful semester studying film at university and shamefully admits never watching one of Bergman's classics until she moved to Sweden.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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