History BBCi's Book of the Future was March 2003 Comic Relief project which asked members of the public to write short pieces about what they thought life would be like in 2020, with selected entries published in a book (with a forward from Dave Gorman).
The resulting website seems have been lost in the bitter recriminations surrounding the license fee settlement and the BBC's agreement that they should delete a quarter of its content so that the Daily Mail has room to publish more pages of photos of Kim Kardashian in low cut dresses (or something like that), but Archive.org has lived up to its name and preserved most of it here.
These are the articles which made it into the book. Topics ranged across all human experience from arts to environment, love, science, spirituality and "odd", which seems to be miscellaneous section ("the flying pig is to date the biggest scientific breakthrough of the century.")
Inevitably, I offered a contribution, boldly setting out my dystopian vision for the future of cinema, and here it is below. Bits of it are hilariously wrong. But the rest ...
This Indie Future.
All of the chatter surrounding the release of Tandy Cosine’s debut digit ‘Sky Above’ has been somewhat amusing for those of us young enough to remember when the original indie filmmakers were fighting for a piece of the pie. It was the early 1990s - people still used grainy old celluloid. Pioneers like Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez were mortgaging their lives to get a film into production. But they still largely had to rely on the main players, the very studios they were often trying to be different from, to distribute their work.
This was when the term ‘weblog’ was first coined and for the first time anyone could publish their own personal narrative for everyone to read. People like Jason Kottke, Rebecca Blood, Matt Haughey became household names. Look at Evan Williams – who thought he’d end up running Google for all those years? But it was all terribly slow. At the dawn of the new age, people still used telephone networks to get online.
Because of the synergy of these two seemingly disparate technologies anyone can indulge in the new art form of recording and editing their own lives and get it out there.
But it has come at a price. I miss fiction in independent film.
First of all, I miss the loss of structure. When fictional film is scripted it has a beginning, middle and an end - there is a point to it. You’ll see this in the genre pictures. But in ‘Sky Above’, ‘Carp Aromis’, ‘Hangin Out’ and Pak Cob’s eclectic ‘Grounded’ we’re essentially getting a section of someone’s life - a slice of pie cut out for us to sample. It might be beautiful, touching, interesting and dramatic but don’t you wish that everything would resolve itself? That they would (god forbid) have themes?
I miss good dialogue. The characters in Kevin Smith’s cheapos spoke in a heightened language - not Shakespeare - but still carefully crafted metre and rhythm. The trouble with ‘Sky Above’ is that everything spoken is pretty mundane. As it will be because it’s someone’s real life - carefully edited - but still mostly close to what we hear everyday.
I recently asked Cosine if she ever considered writing a script for her film. She looked at me incomprehensibly and asked, ‘Why would I want to do that? I know that in the past people wanted hyper-escapism at all levels of film making, but if your life is interesting enough what’s the point in making it up?’ In her case, I can to some extent see her point. But for every ‘Sky Above’ there are a dozen ‘The Chasers’ - teenagers making films about their cats. Fun if you like felines, but the rest of us?
It’s taste and choice I suppose. And anyway, things have a habit of going in circles and I’m hoping this will be one of those occasions. In a few years, I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone looks at the work around and wonders what would happen if she took the scripted elements of genres and applied them to the low budget piece she’s creating - take the time to craft a script which had elements of her own life but took them somewhere else. I’ve feeling that in a few years someone will be reading this op-ed piece and bemusedly wonder what I’m getting so worked up about.
Created: 10 March 2003
[PS Here's the original post on this blog which (broken) links to the website. Looking at the rest of that week, not much has changed otherwise. This Walkman only began chewing tapes in December. Still don't have a PS2. Still don't have an iPod. The way things are going I'll be linking to this post in 2020 too. Hello future me.]