With just a few dollars, a would-be (or wannabe) filmmaker can purchase a DSLR for less than $1,000 and a program like Final Cut Pro X for $299, and go on to produce a movie that, if good enough, could be seen at your local multiplex. But what if it isn't good enough for theatrical release? Just as remarkable, a filmmaker now can upload a movie—minutes after finishing—to a video-sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo in a nice 1080p presentation. It now has the potential to gain a global audience of millions, 24/7.
This digital democracy has given birth to a whole new wave of filmmakers, and we've been introduced to a number of exciting filmmakers as a result. But with this grand opportunity, we've also seen a dark side emerge in which technology can be used to cause harm. By now, I'm sure you're aware of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. Although the details are ongoing and still vague, the producer/writer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka Sam Bacile), a Coptic Christian with a criminal past, created a repugnant feature film and uploaded two "trailers" that depict the Prophet Muhammad in a grossly negative light. In the past few weeks (as of this writing), there have been hundreds of protests, which have resulted in dozens of killings throughout the Middle East and abroad, including a brutal attack on our American embassy in Libya.
This certainly isn't a new phenomenon regarding a controversial movie and religion. If you're of a certain age, you probably remember the release of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. The film, released by Universal Pictures and based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, depicted the life of Jesus from his perspective and how he struggled against temptation. Upon its release, the film was banned in many countries and also was picketed at theaters across America. A French Christian fundamentalist group threw Molotov cocktails inside a movie theater in Paris, severely injuring 13 people.
Whatever your opinions are about these ongoing events, the one thing we can agree on is that Innocence of Muslims is an abomination in regard to filmmaking. The trailer consists of stilted dialogue (later dubbed in by the filmmakers), inappropriate greenscreen work and heavy-handed direction, etc. (The actors supposedly were duped into believing the movie was an Arabian Desert adventure film.) All in all, the film has no redeeming qualities and obviously was made just to incite violence in the Muslim world.
So how did this atrocious video stir up such controversy so quickly and easily? The answer is social media. When a film is uploaded to YouTube, it shares the same platform as other videos, whether it was made by Universal Pictures or a teenager in the Midwest. If Innocence of Muslims was made during the time The Last Temptation of Christ was produced, it never would have seen the light of day. Why? Because the two projects weren't competing on the same playing field.
But there are thousands of videos on YouTube with crazy individuals spewing religious hatred on a webcam, right? Well, the difference between the two "films" is in the filmmaking tools Nakoula and his crew were working with. The film had sets, extras and costumes, and probably was shot and edited with many of the same digital filmmaking tools covered in this magazine, gear that has been used successfully to create professional-looking movies—and worthwhile stories.
Having access to these new digital filmmaking tools doesn't automatically qualify you as a filmmaker. With this new broad playing field, there should be a form of social responsibility we adhere to as human beings.
|“Misinformation” is a joint effort between HDVideoPro and the Sachtler Academy. The Sachtler Academy is dedicated to promoting open knowledge exchange among production professionals worldwide. Initiated by renowned camera support manufacturer Sachtler, the Academy offers a nonpartisan venue by which cinematographers and videographers can hone their talents, discuss techniques and stay updated on technical advances from various manufacturers. To find out more, visit www.sachtler-academy.com/ and www.sachtler.us.|