In the documentary film PressPausePlay, directors David Dworsky and Victor Köhler explore the sweeping changes that have occurred in art and media over the past ten years. Through the insights of a vast cross-section of commentators from across the globe they present a variety of perspectives on the democratization of film, music, literature and other art forms. This creative revolution has occurred through the wide accessibility of both production and distribution tools, taking power away from “the industry” and into the hands of the artists themselves. The film acknowledges this liberating development, but also asks a question: what has been the cost of this digital revolution?
The following is a correspondence between Glasschord Literary Editor Daniel James McCabe and David Dworsky and Victor Köhler, directors of PressPausePlay.
Daniel James McCabe:Your insightful film explores the revolution in art and media that has accelerated over the past ten years or so. When did you first feel the urge to create such a film? Where did your motivation come from?
David Dworsky and Victor Köhler: Working as Creative Directors at (Stockholm based Creative Agency) House of Radon we were seeing exciting examples of how technology was impacting creativity and art. But we felt like there was a lot of talk about the impact of piracy and lost business models. This motivated us to tell the reality we were experiencing which was inspiring.
DJM:The film has a very compelling international quality. Sometimes your camera seems as ubiquitous as the Internet itself. Throughout the course of filming, how many different cities were visited?
DD&VK: There were 17 cities that we filmed in across Europe, the US and Asia.
DJM:From concept to final cut, how long did the entire process take?
DD&VK:From the start of filming until we had an edit we liked, it took twenty-one months. When we premiered at SXSW in 2011 we had been working with the film for about two years.
DJM:Composer Olafur Arnalds, upon whom much of the film is centered, discusses a very rapid ascent after making his work available online. There was an influx of visual art from appreciators of his music, some of which he used as album art or music videos. At Glasschord we’ve found connections across the planet by creating an artistic online presence. What conversations or opportunities have opened up for you since releasing PressPausePlay?
DD&VK:We would say that PressPausePlay gave us a name in the industry that still opens opportunities. First of all, very talented people wanted to come work with us at Radon. Second, we were invited to show the film and discuss creativity for companies like Nike, Burberry, Adidas and BBDO.
DJM:When searching the Internet for art or literature there can be a certain overwhelming feeling of being lost in the supermarket. PressPausePlay addresses this abundance of content most notably through the perspective of Andrew Keen, who argues that today everyone (mistakenly) believes that they can create great art and has access to the tools needed to create and distribute it, thereby undermining the seriousness of true artistic endeavor. What are your own feelings on this?
DD&VK:We are a part of the evolution seen in the film. We grew up playing with cheap DV cameras and using the Internet to find solutions when we got stuck, this was part of our creative education. In our experience, having access to the tools needed to create and distribute has been invaluable, we would not be doing what we do today without them.
DJM:Soon after Keen’s observation Moby makes his “grey goo” analogy, which refers to the frightening possibility that with the world virtually flooding with mediocre art, mediocrity will become more acceptable as a consequence. It seems to me this process began well before the turn of the century and the rapid developments your film addresses. What are your thoughts?
DD&VK:When we started production we didn’t really know much about how technology had truly changed the industries and distribution. This project became a research project as well as a film project. More than saying that this abundance of content was a good or a bad thing, we wanted to capture the moment in time when ‘everything changed’. Obviously there are some very talented people who would not have been supported by old industry models.
DJM:Early in the film, Olafur Arnalds discusses the basic irrelevance of the delivery method of a piece of music. Whether it is an acoustic or electronic sound, he says “it’s just sound waves.” Later in the film the point is raised that an over-emphasis on the technical aspects of art has resulted in work that is too perfect, and that the vulnerable human aspect has been eclipsed somewhat. What do you think?
DD&VK:We enjoy electronic music as much as acoustic music, there can be craftsmanship in all genres really. In the film many people discuss the importance of the live performance and we still think this is true. There is the possibility for that very human connection to a piece of music or an artist that is hard to replicate elsewhere.
DJM:PressPausePlay presents a great variety of commentators, from veteran hip-hop/rap producer Hank Shocklee to author Seth Godin (who made more money from a book he gave away for free than one he sold). How did you select your commentators? Are there any other voices you’d like to hear weigh in on the questions raised in the film?
DD&VK:When we started we had an enormous list of famous directors, artists and thinkers. People that had inspired us, or people who had accomplished milestones in their creative fields. Then we started calling assistants, sending emails and with persistence we got one big name, then two. Once we had some known names involved it eventually got easier.
DJM:You also raise concern about our attentiveness in consuming art today. A person may listen to a new record for the first time while reading email, or read a new book while a movie is on. Tom Waits once said, “There really is no such thing as multi-tasking. You can only do one thing correctly at a time. So if you’re gonna do seven things, each one of those things is only getting one-seventh of your time… That’s why my phone is a camera, my watch is a rifle—it’s just insane.” What do you think?
DD&VK:Technology has certainly given us tools to create when and where you want. It also gives you the ability to consume in same way, anywhere and anytime. This does put a premium on time and the choice of how you spend your time.
DJM:What does the future hold for you guys? Can you discuss any current or upcoming projects we should look out for?
DD&VK:We are developing both feature film and short film ideas but are focusing on drama this time. This year we will also reach out to the global community for script collaboration for films we have the resources to produce, so keep a lookout for that.