Alternative film seeks a new home... in cyberspace
DHAKA, BANGLADESH, 31 May 2006
The filmmakers are there. So are the films from the world of alternative cinema. But how does one find the audiences? How to make sure that these crucial cultural products actually get noticed across the globe?
Andrew Garton, from APC's member c2o and Programme Director of OPEN CHANNEL in Australia, is trying out an innovative experiment. The mix? Free software developers, filmmakers wanting to get their story out, and support which realises the power of the alternative image.
It involves building a tool that would make it very easy to put alternative film into cyberspace.
Says Garton: "We established an partnership with EngageMedia. Actually the partnership grew out of the member exchange fund that we used to explore a project with Jinbonet (APC's member in South Korea)."
This team is working to build a web-based video content management system, such as the Internet Archive, but focused on socially-relevant and critical video.
"This was initially intended for a large project that was going up in Korea last year. That project didn't eventuate in the way we had envisaged, but the management system did. We started working with EngageMedia," says Garton.
So, c2o auspiced a grant application to conduct a video-for- GenderIT.org. ">internetapplication workshop. The application which raised $AUD 25,000 is to be spent on getting people to exchange on how to use EngageMedia. "It's not [the workshop] about making videos but getting videos online," says Garton.
What they plan to do is to get together all free/libre and open source software (FOSS) video makers currently working in that field at a workshop held in Italy, in June 2006.
"EngageMedia has had an a tremendous response. All places have been filled," says Garton. "We've been looking for developers and producers, specifically from Asia, interested in contributing to a common toolset for online video management. The workshop has attracted participants from Our Media, Asia247, Hackitectura, Clearer Channel and, Jinbonet and MediaAct from Korea. These are largely independent media services and public-access electronic media centres," says Garton.
"The idea is to collaborate towards a common set of tools to distribute video materials that deal with critical social and environmental issues on a global level, so that all our various initiatives in this field can benefit. For instance, Plone is EngageMedia's development environment of choice, however we would want to see video publishing modules available within many other content management systems supporting a wider range of options," says Garton.
EngageMedia is collaborating with the community based screen resource centre, OPEN CHANNEL to create a video distribution service for its members and training programme. "By November  we should have a working proof online. At this time, given the discussions we have had in Australia with other screen resource organisations, it would appear that the project might develop into a national forum for film making, specifically for those making a transition to digital content production and distribution," says Garton.
In essence, EngageMedia is a video content management system for the web, focusing specifically on video distribution as a tool for social justice and media democracy.
In a more technical language, Garton says "One could place their videos on http://YouTube.com or the Internet Archive, but as a content
developer, you can't take the YouTube back-end and add it to your own server. It's not open source. One can't create a custom application
for your specific video publishing needs. You have to use YouTube itself. What we are working towards is to allow users to opt for either http://EngageMedia.org, or install the open source EngageMedia toolset(s) on their own server, customising it how they see fit. It
ought to be so flexible one could literally plug in an EngageMedia video publishing module into another system, like the APC Toolkit for
This system is being designed for low-bandwidth as well. "You'll be able to pop a video out there with both Flash video and bi-torent support. And as a content provider you'll have a range of licensing options to choose from. For instance, you could choose IPLeft, CreativeCommonsAustralia or CreativeCommonsThailand," he adds.
It's not a one-stop shop, but it's designed to make the process of getting your critical content out to the communities that seek it as simple as possible.
"In Melbourne alone, there are around twelve independent and short film festivals taking place a year. Many more are emerging at the back of houses, in warehouses, in open spaces. And there seems to be an ever increasing audience seeking out new films and the films themselves. The quality of the work and range of ideas are truly remarkable. People are seeking out alternative forms of media to inform themselves. The online EngageMedia will focus on social change... it is innovation on the margins for those becoming more and more marginalised," says Garton.
For more details of this project, check out