April 30, 2013

Watch Steven Soderbergh's State of Cinema Address, Plus Info on His Latest Twitter Novella

Though it was requested that Steven Soderbergh's recent "last appearance ever talking film" at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival was not to be recorded, a clip has made its way to the surface. The prolific filmmaker discusses the state of things and the difference between 'movies' and 'cinema' with the anecdotal prowess you would expect from the veteran. Hit the jump for the full video, and read on for the latest on his Twitter endeavors.

First of all, is there a difference between cinema and movies? Yeah. If I were on Team America, I’d say Fuck yeah! The simplest way that I can describe it is that a movie is something you see, and cinema is something that’s made. It has nothing to do with the captured medium, it doesn’t have anything to do with where the screen is, if it’s in your bedroom, your iPad, it doesn’t even really have to be a movie. It could be a commercial, it could be something on YouTube. Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint. It isn’t made by a committee, and it isn’t made by a company, and it isn’t made by the audience. It means that if this filmmaker didn’t do it, it either wouldn’t exist at all, or it wouldn’t exist in anything like this form.

Thanks to Deadline for these transcriptions:

Now, I’m going to attempt to show how a certain kind of rodent might be smarter than a studio when it comes to picking projects. If you give a certain kind of rodent the option of hitting two buttons, and one of the buttons, when you touch it, dispenses food 40% of the time, and one of the buttons when you touch it dispenses food 60% percent of the time, this certain kind of rodent very quickly figures out never to touch the 40% button ever again. So when a studio is attempting to determine on a project-by-project basis what will work, instead of backing a talented filmmaker over the long haul, they’re actually increasing their chances of choosing wrong. Because in my view, in this business which is totally talent-driven, it’s about horses, not races.

I think that life is sort of like a drumbeat. It has a rhythm and sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s slower, and maybe what’s happening is this drumbeat is just accelerating and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t hear between the beats anymore and it’s just a hum. Again, I thought maybe that’s my generation, every generation feels that way, maybe I should ask my daughter. But then I remember somebody did this experiment where if you’re in a car and you’re going more than 20 miles an hour it becomes impossible to distinguish individual features on a human being’s face. I thought that’s another good analogy for this sensation.

Though Soderbergh is apparently done with filmmaking, he is turning to new media to continue his output, and is currently writing a novella via his 'secret' Twitter, entitled Glue. Published up to chapter seven, it's a second-person account of a journey through Amsterdam and Paris, seeking a mysterious drug aptly named "#&%#." He's not quite done with the visual storytelling medium, however, as his latest novella includes obscured and impressionistic photos alongside some of the tweets. Check out some of them embedded below (starting from the beginning of his novella):

http://twitter.com/Bitchuation/status/328648124950253568

http://twitter.com/Bitchuation/status/328648452579930115

http://twitter.com/Bitchuation/status/328648663956062208

http://twitter.com/Bitchuation/status/328648876468883456

You can also listen to the address at SoundCloud using the link below.

What do you think of the 'retired' Soderbergh's recent activity? Comment below!

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18 Comments

I appreciate hearing his insight into how the business works. At the end he mentioned that there was a big rise in independent films growing almost 100%, yet they fight for a smaller share of the pie. That is hard. (31 minute mark).

April 30, 2013

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Casey

It is hard BUT now anyone can now make a film, literally no one can stop you for better or worse just like anyone can write and publish a novel. This is a very good thing as it leads to very new forms of cinematic expression. Many very good films made during and since the Dogma 95 period literally would not have been made or even considered without the democratization of the means of production. DId everyone get rich? No, and I think that is the big emotional hurtle everyone (myself included) stumbles on. We all have dreamed of artistic success and financial success going hand in hand. Now you may need to make several very brilliant no budget features before the studios will even take a chance on you with a truly original film (as a director). Your every waking hour must be devoted and bent to this labor and you may not make any money at all on the first couple films. But the miracle is that you can make several no budget features of quality without anyone but your friends and many have done so and are now major forces in film and television - Lyn Shelton, The Duplass Brothers, Ramin Bahrani to name but a very few.

The confusion comes from looking in the rearview mirror and trying to game out your own path by copying those who went before. This never works. Every filmmaker's career story is full of luck, surprise and coincidence - all you can do is work very hard and be ready when it is your time. There are no short cuts.

Now think back (ignoring my own advice) to when Soderberg made Sex Lies and Video tape you literally needed several million dollars to make a film that could be exhibited in a theater at all. You needed a giant mechanical film bench in order to "tape" your film together after you physically made the "cuts" (no Avid yet I don't believe - or a very very early one costing over 100,000.00) - every single step of production and post had to be handled by professionals with very very expensive equipment that you can not afford to buy and might not even be able to rent at a reasonable rate. It's mind blowing. I made my first short not long after this time - cost 60,000.00 which was a deal since all the gear was borrowed and crew worked for free (all fellow industry work mates) shot on 16mm and edited at night at the post house I worked at as an assistant - took two years to plan, shoot, edit and get into festivals. Now I could make that same film for 2-3,000.00 with one fifth the crew, in half the time and have WAY more control over the final image and sound and can self-distributed it to EVERYONE I KNOW AND potentially 100s of thousands of people from my bedroom. SO with that 60,000 (not adjusting for inflation which would make it more like 120,000) I could make 20-30 short films. What??!!! That was absurd science fiction in until just a few years ago.

The only thing that hasn't changed is the need for exceptional writing.

We are living in a totally new world and we need to start thinking about every aspect of cinema as up for re-definition - especially the kinds of stories and the types and sizes of audiences. Shane Carruth is on to this. Let's look forward and see how much of the baggage of the past expectations we can toss out. The greatest experience I have had watching a film is seeing a totally new vision, a new way of seeing that feels like looking into the future. Be brave, work tirelessly, give everything you have.

April 30, 2013

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Matthew

Nice post, thanks. Great perspective.

April 30, 2013

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David

@Matthew,
Inspired post. Simply breathtaking in clarity and pov. Thank you.

May 1, 2013

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Jerome

This was very inspiring and well written! I hope you succeed.

May 1, 2013

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Xiong

great post, very thoughtfully written. BTW, what was that $60k short and is it online? I'm interested to see it now!

May 2, 2013

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Congratulaciones Mateo, tu mensaje es muy inspirador, sobre todo para un cineasta aquí en VENEZUELA en donde el dolar tiene 30 veces el valor de nuestra moneda y conseguir una simple cámara que nos permita filmar nuestras historias es casi un milagro... Créanme ustedes tienen mucha suerte de estar donde están y de poder acceder a los equipos y las tecnologías que nosotros recibiremos dentro de por lo menos diez años, cuando en sus paises ya este casi en desuso...Muchas veces y contra nuestra voluntad, la unica manera de utilizar un software de edicion es comprarlo a los piratas de programas, porque el costo es tan elevado que dos familias comerian todo un año con ese dinero...sin embargo seguimos haciendo cine y seguiremos haciéndolo hasta el día de nuestra muerte...gracias por tus palabras

May 3, 2013

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Luis Lara Gilberto

Enjoyed the soundcloud. An eye opener.

April 30, 2013

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joe

Great post. New tech is good to know about but it's REALLY nice to hear someone such as young and accomplished as Soderbergh wax eloquent on the current state of cinema.

April 30, 2013

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J

You can also watch it on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/65060864

April 30, 2013

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Juanky Alvarez

This is very interesting stuff.Just kinda feel a little ripped off after spending $25 and being told at
the begining of his speech that this would never be on the internet.Not so special now!Drat!

May 1, 2013

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seeing someone talk in person is a million times more valuable than seeing it online.

May 1, 2013

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Hey Ed, lurking around here as well?

May 4, 2013

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Elias

It's really elevated my thoughts of him as a filmmaker. I'm surprised he made as many films as he did in that environment.

May 1, 2013

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thank you for this - the future is direct streaming. no dvd, no blu ray. no costs. like indie games - cheaper and direct and unfiltered. hopefully that will make films be able to be made for less than 30 million.

May 1, 2013

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As a film-maker for 40 + years I continually wrestle with the question of why do I do what I do. What is the point of creativity? .with all that is wrong with the world, why do I feel compelled to create. Steven has given a really clear reasoning..

"..art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it's because we are a species that's driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos..."

May 2, 2013

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Starts of great with some good quotes etc but the last portion, 10 last minutes are just the sad ramblings of a cynic who doesn't understand the new technology and recent developments in culture. As said before he grew up and made his career in a different time.

It's ironic he's dissing on the studio systems and execs so much when he also is much ingrained in that spirit of 'the good old times'. It's not a bad thing that hundreds of indie productions open and 'push the majors' out. Yes, the directors won't all get rich and be famous like you Steven but they made their films and enjoyed doing it, I'm sure and that's fine. that's enough for some people.

he made some weird remarks (like his 9/11 destroyed the movie business) and then the jab at kickstarter "i dont wanna end this on a down-note" - what? how is that negative, it funded hundred of creative projects including a bunch of films...

a great filmmaker and he can certainly teach us about cinematic history but I don't think he's got a clue what's happening right now or what's around the corner for filmmakers.

May 4, 2013

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Pat

Hey YES! Suggesting that Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz get money under the 'Soderbergh' Studio Plan simply made my jaw drop!

May 26, 2013

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Eddie Avinashi