As I remembered, this is an exceptionally good conference for networking. I think people working in film and television are a bit more outgoing than publishing people, and they’re definitely looking for fresh ideas and approaches. The tone, though, isn’t completely at odds with academic conferences: people who do history film making are clearly committed to the subject and full of passion for their particular projects. Someone said at lunch, “You don’t make documentaries to make a lot of money,” which sounds a lot like publishing–at least the kind we’re doing.
But, like us, they seem to have a lot of fun and feel they’re doing something worthwhile. (And there’s no question that some networks and producers are doing very well indeed!) What’s surprised me most is the emphasis this year on new media, on “short forms” for mobile devices and the Internet. This came up last year, but it’s far more prominent now. Michael Katz from the History Channel mentioned a dichotomy I remember hearing about, too: big screen, small screen. Film makes are simultaneously developing in HD (High Definition–and don’t I feel cool, knowing about this?) and in tiny, short formats. I’m learning some of the jargon but need to find out the difference between off-takes and cut scenes. Apparently these are good sources of short form content.
The session this afternoon was called “Out of the Box: Producing History for New Platforms”:
New digital distribution platforms â€“ whether broadband or mobile â€“ are developing fast with a bewildering array of new jargon from EST to DVBH.
Who is taking advantage of this new technology?
What new opportunities does it create for history producers?
Will it open up history programming to a wider audience – and is there any money in it?
Are there opportunities for original productions or is it limited to opening up back catalogues?
We aim to get behind the jargon and find out what the real opportunities are – and what the timescale behind them is.
Again, one of the key points made was that what gets people to new media is the social aspects of it–the community that’s possible online. I couldn’t be more pleased, community being my own special subject, and an area of expertise for Berkshire. But the issue of creative control and quality is an issue here, too. One questioner made it clear that he didn’t like the idea of his film being “mashed up” (reedited by someone who’s downloaded it), no more than an author would enjoy having her/his novel taken apart, rewritten, and then distributed to the purchaser’s friends. Oddly enough, I haven’t heard the word “copyright” at all–maybe we need Ed Colleran here.