The online journal of Vermont filmmaker, Bill Simmon.

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Friday Smarty-Pants Links

Posted on Apr 2, 2010 by billsimmon in Digital Culture, filmmakers, filmmaking, futurism, linkdump, movies, technology | 5 Comments

It’s the first officially perfect day of spring here in northern Vermont. Here are some things to cogitate about as you idly meander about today…

  • Clay Shirky has your must-read future-of-media essay for the week: The Collapse of Complex Business Models.
  • Speaking of Shirky, he’s one of the respondents to this Pew Research Center survey about the Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future.
  • Cory Doctorow says he won’t buy an iPad and says why you shouldn’t either.
  • Stephen Fry’s take on the device is somewhat less critical.
  • American Indy film pioneer Hal Hartley has remastered his 1991 American Playhouse film, Surviving Desire, and is offering it as an mp4 download and as a DVD along with his two excellent early shorts, Ambition and Theory of Achievement. The shorts would be better served living on vimeo or in some other embeddable, linkable format rather than being tacked onto a for-pay download (at an extra charge, no less). As it is, only existing HH fans are going to see them and there’s a potential for a whole new generation of fans out there. You listening, Hal? This is a missed opportunity. (UPDATE: Kyle Gilman from Possible Films commented that “existing licenses with Hal’s sales agent forbid us from distributing Ambition & Theory of Achievement outside of North America. Putting them up on Vimeo or even on our own website would be a violation of that agreement.”)


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  1. Hi Bill, I know everyone loves to tell other filmmakers to give their films away, and we have a few shorts available for free on the site with plans to release more. Leaving aside the give-everything-away-for-free-and-worry-about-money-later debate, existing licenses with Hal’s sales agent forbid us from distributing Ambition & Theory of Achievement outside of North America. Putting them up on Vimeo or even on our own website would be a violation of that agreement. The shorts are not so much an “extra charge.” We’re offering the three films at the price we usually charge for a feature, and Surviving Desire on its own at a reduced price.

    Kyle Gilman
    Possible Films

  2. On April 2, 2010, billsimmon said:

    Thanks for commenting, Kyle. As a filmmaker who wants to make a living myself, I will not engage in a give-everything-away-for-free-and-worry-about-money-later debate, especially with an established filmmaker like Hal. My comments about Ambition and Theory of Achievement were intended as marketing advice — driving more sales of longer works like Surviving Desire and other films by sharing some of the shorter stuff. My reasons were also somewhat selfish in as much as HH was centrally responsible for me becoming a filmmaker, and those shorts in particular had a profound formative effect on me and I wanted to share the reasons why publicly. That said, point taken about the sales restrictions. That seems weird with short films, given their low monetary yield relative to features, but I see how your hands are tied.

    Thanks again for commenting.

  3. If every contract with a sales agent or distributor made sense, the world would be a better place. But in this case, the films are licensed to foreign distributors who bundle them as DVD extras with Hal’s feature-length films. I’m not sure, but I doubt they’re ever actually licensed on their own.

    And thanks for your purchase, by the way.

  4. Thanks, Bill, for sharing these links.

    I enjoyed Shirky’s essay. Lots to think about. Makes me want to read Tainter’s book.

    And thanks for pointing me to the Boing Boing iPad post. I have mixed feelings about the iPad. On the one hand, I was one of those kids who liked to take things apart, and I appreciate that spirit and desire. On the other hand, I’m a gatekeeper now, so to speak, and I see the value in what I do. I think other people value it, too. I know as a consumer (! yes, I still think of myself as a consumer) I appreciate Apple’s curatorial function.

    I think, on some level, many people WANT a curator/gatekeeper. I know I do, for various tasks. Having a curator means that you’re basically outsourcing a certain kind of work, or research. You’re trusting the curator to make decisions that are in line with your values and desires.

    At some point, of course, you might lose trust in that curator, and you might start feeling like the curator has too much power. When that happens, you complain, or sever your relationship. But until that happens, it’s a relationship that works for many people. More choices doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sometimes it just means more work.

    Thanks for prompting me to think about this stuff…

  5. Wow, that is just devastating news. I work with and loved Mike. What a caheactrr, and indestructible I always felt, which makes this even more horrible and harder to accept.

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