I’ve been hanging out in a community of exceptional people who are all involved in the creation of web video content. Some of their shows are comedies, some dramas, some SF – covering a wide range of genres and audiences but all independently crafted works of narrative using video to tell the tale. The makers of these works are entrepreneurial writers, directors and actors who also wear the hats of many other professional crafts as they produce and self-distribute some astonishing content.
We gather on a semi-regular basis to drink beer and bond but on a daily basis we are connected online within a continuously shifting conversation about what we do, how we do it and why we do it. It is a very supportive, inclusive and generous community of creators and I am privileged to count myself amongst their number.
As a grass roots organization our group of 300 and more share a common desire to be responsible for the creation of our stories without having to ask for permission from the usual gatekeepers of the established entertainment industry. I’ve worked in film and television for over 30 years and know full well how the business works.
Here in Canada it would be kind to describe most of the established structures of funding, production and distribution as dysfunctional. To be frank, it’s really fucked up. There are a few companies and individuals who have proven themselves very adept at navigating the waters of bureaucracy and bullshit but for most independent artists it is a stormy sea of slimy turds upon which waters none would desire to cast their bread. That’s what’s so sweet about the advent of democratizing tools and disruptive technology that has been churning through the media industries as well as the world of political discourse and action. We don’t have to sail the sea of poo.
In 1993 I gave a keynote address at an industry function focused on television programming for children. I pointed out the changes that were occurring with the internet and how it would transform the world these industry players lived and worked within. They were less than impressed – few even knew what email was let alone a web browser – as I assured them the very nature of television production, how it was created, who was creating it and how it would be watched, was destined to become something entirely different – and they had better start shifting gears on their rickety old jalopy of an industry because we were entering the age when individuals could and would be considered as studios and broadcasters unto themselves. A handful of people at the back of the room got it. Most everybody else thought I was fucking nuts. Screw them. I knew what I was talking about.
In 1997 I wrote up a short paper called What Is A Broadcaster? in an attempt to generate some kind of conversation about this. Insert sound of crickets chirping. Jesus.
In 1999 I had a colleague, whom I thought was very intelligent and forward thinking, declare loudly at a business luncheon that “the web is dead”. They just couldn’t – and still can’t – wrap their heads around the idea that the very nature of the web and the tools we can use with it is changing our culture, the business of culture and the politics of culture.
It’s all rather quaint now as we see an endless supply of video content being created for and distributed through the interwebs – and yet the major players in traditional media persist in their delusion that ultimately the web will become just another means to do business in the same old way.
So what’s all this stuff about a Manifesto?
Well, the group I was telling you about – we’re based in Toronto but there are many others like us around the country – we’re actually getting ourselves organized into a professional organization that represents our needs, our concerns and our voice in this fantastically exploding world of independent web video production. It’s way past due and we’ve been meaning to be more organized than we have been but frankly we’re actually all kind of busy – making shit. Making our own shit. Good shit too. Better than poo.
Myself and others have put our heads together and crafted this manifesto – or declaration of intent, if you will – as a means to announce our arrival and our intention to continue upon this path. It ain’t no Declaration Of Independence Of Cyberspace – and it is very politely Canadian in tone (I would have added a lot of “Fuck you greedy sphincter-lipped bastards up the arse with a fistful of flaming weasels!” – but that’s just a difference in writing styles really) Do we really need to organize? I think so. We need our grassroots group of web video storytellers to stand together and represent the needs of our creative tribe. There are a number of extant professional organizations and guilds with whom we are already associated and look forward to continuing those relationships as we pursue our calling to be independent creators of web content – but they do not speak for us. They represent other interests that are oft times contradictory to our own. And that’s okay. That’s their gig.
This is ours.
INDEPENDENT WEB CREATORS MANIFESTO
March 19, 2012
We are Independent Web Video Creators, a newly founded group which represents the interests of creative professionals who craft and distribute video content across the world wide web.
We are connected directly to our audience via the screens through which we deliver our content. As creators we retain the rights to our work and govern its reach across the web. As artisans we engage with all disciplines to craft our stories. As storytellers we are in constant conversation with our audience, we establish communities and continue to build upon our creations.
We do not seek nor do we require permission to make or share our work.
The old structures of the media industry fail to serve our needs and we reject any filters or gatekeepers of old media which would stand between us and our audience. As independent web video creators and storytellers we share the vision of our work with our audience, using the democratic tools of the internet to create a richer, collaborative two-way experience.
We acknowledge the hard won protections of all players in traditional media (producers, writers, performers, musicians and more) contained in various agreements which are staunchly defended, and rightly so, by all concerned. We do not seek to unravel, negate or destroy those agreements. Instead, we are media professionals seeking to have the needs of this new generation of digital creators addressed with fresh minds and the clear understanding that creating for the web is a new industry unto itself, not an extension of the status quo, with a need for new working relationships and collaborations amongst all parties.
We do not intend to be confrontational with any established group. We are neither foe nor adversary to old media. However, we are firm in our resolve that these are changing times in a rapidly changing world where the rules of engagement must also change – and for the better to all concerned.
We seek to govern our own fate. We are committed to real long term growth as a professional industry. We embrace new business models and new ideas.
Independent Web Video Creators are organizing throughout the world to share knowledge, experience, skills and resources. We gather online and in the real world to represent our needs and shape our emerging industry. To those who also embrace new ideas of narrative and distribution, to those who are creating a new relationship between artist and audience, and to those who are explorers and innovators in the growing marketplace of online storytelling – we encourage you to join with us to shape and build our world.
The web is not just another distribution channel for broadcast signals. It is a conversation between everyone and it is an extension of our nervous systems. We seek to create and share and prosper in this new age of screen culture and interconnected thought.
We are Independent Web Video Creators.
I’ll write more on this – and link to the shows my colleagues are making.
P. S. And now here’s a metaphoric image of me (not me) pointing the way to the future.