This is the end of movie making

Brook MacDonald Charging – #notbad from Anthill Films on Vimeo.

What used to just be called “a cool clip,” after $30,000 worth of cameras and lenses and producers and directors and key grips and head crew masseuses, is now called “a teaser” for an entire video.

Which would be cool, except the teaser concept is going to translate to a feature length video that only has 17 clips of actual riding, each of them shot on a RED and stretched to fill 90 seconds. Edit in some B-roll of starry nights, rain clouds moving in, and gondolas going up the hill, add a dash (or 20 minutes) of boring interviews with athletes who can’t talk, and you’ve got the latest Anthill production.

And the worst part is, I don’t even have the industry-specific terminology and jargon to lampoon this shit the way it deserves. I’m sure they’re not using starry night time-lapses (that’s Indistinct Productions), and I can’t say whether their B-roll will be shot with helicopters (a la Where the Trail Ends) or out the window roadtrip style (a la the Collective). All I know is, this is the end of story-telling in videos. I don’t have the subject-specific knowledge to really go into depth on this shit, but here’s an overview of mountain bike movie-making in 2013 from 35,000 feet.

Here’s a simple equation to predict the quality of a mountain bike video in 2013 (or ever):

1/ (# of people on film crew) / (Tens of thousands of dollars of camera equipment) / (Tens of thousands of dollars of Travel budget) = the percent of the movie that will be watchable

For instance, a mountain bike movie with a seven person film crew, $30,000 in RED’s, lenses, boom arms, jibs, and dollies, and a $20,000 travel budget will result in:

1 / 7 / 3 / 2 = 0.02380,

or put otherwise, 2.38% of the footage they shoot will be watchable. So if their exploits result in a 54 minute video, I will only be able to sit through about 1.28 minutes of the film. Probably there will be a four minute long designated “racer” segment, or even worse, a designated “racer rides a freeride trail/whistler” segment, and about two thirds of those four minutes will make my skin crawl. So yeah, a total of 1 minute and 18 seconds will be tolerable.

What a lot of filmakers don’t realize is, you can often create a similar result with much cheaper production values. I think a lot of filmmakers are using equipment and budgets as a crutch, when in fact using less can be a powerful and constructive tool to refine your ideas and make the end result stronger. Star Wars: A New Hope was plagued by setbacks and necessitated numerous shortcuts and Maguyver solutions, and that refined the final product into one of the most unique, influential films of the 20th century. Examples like this abound, like Rocky and Mad Max and a thousand others. For some artists, this even takes the form of self-imposed constraints as a creative resource. Thrift doesn’t have to be a handicap. As an attitude, a mindset, an ethos, it can be a huge asset for a film crew, or an artist, or even *gasp* a bike company.

For example, I found a video crew that used a much smaller budget to create a very similar aesthetic to the Anthill Brook MacDonald video:

3 thoughts on “This is the end of movie making

  1. The reality is that the cost of producing high quality looking stuff has actually come down quite a bit. What used to be shot on 16/35mm film is now being filmed with a Red Epic, which in the end can be purchased for less than the film processing costs alone. Of course, if the camera can shoot 300 frames per second, people are going to do it. Good slow motion used to only be possible with film, so it was a relative anomaly, now any dude who buys a red camera and a MacBook Pro can shoot “epic” footage.

    By the way, the Red cameras suck. Arri Alexa and Phantom Flex are the real deal.

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