VOD Spotlight on 11/04/08’s                             Jeff DeutchmanNovember 04, 2010

VOD Spotlight on 11/04/08’s                                           Jeff Deutchman

FilmBuff

On Demand Weekly’s VOD Spotlight presents interviews with the creators of new movies available On Demand. In honor of today's date (11/04), Sky McCarthy interviewed Jeff Deutchman, the creative mind and curator of 11/4/08 (FilmBuff) – a movie that chronicles the day of Barack Obama’s election through the eyes of diverse amateur filmmakers. Deutchman is also an acquisitions manager at IFC films. The interview highlights the directorial vision behind the project as well as his opinion of VOD and its effect on film distribution. (11/4/08 is available on VOD).

On Demand Weekly (ODW): As a filmmaker who also works in an executive capacity, how do you feel about VOD and the future of television On Demand?
Jeff Deutchman (JD): I feel pretty bullish about it. It really depends on what kind of film you have. Independents and docs in particular can really benefit in an area where theatrical distribution is too expensive for a low budget film. In general, people want options so it’s important to be flexible in the changing marketplace.

There are two kinds of films that I think belong in theaters- big “event” Hollywood films and then there are really visual art films. Movie theaters serve an amusement park function where people will always be willing to spend a few extra dollars for the unique experience of an “event film.”  But I also think that there will always be a need to have arthouses that can perform the role of museums and exhibit films as high art. The blockbuster and the art house film operate on totally different ends of the spectrum but every film in between can definitely benefit from VOD.

ODW: What are the advantages of VOD from a filmmaker’s point of view and a consumer’s point of view?
JD: Well, firstly, it’s a lot less expensive and you are reaching more people for less money. A small handful of cinephiles in Idaho may be interested in your little film but that would never equate to enough ticket sales to justify a theatrical release. From a consumer point of view, it’s really all about lifestyle. Parents with young kids may want to go out but the reality is they may not have time for that. Does that mean you should be completely uncultured? No way! You should be able to get it on your screen, on your own time. I think some people even prefer the home screen. Younger people tend to watch media in a more interactive, less passive way.

 

11/04/08


ODW: Onto 11/4/08 itself. What were your inspirations for the film? Both thematically and stylistically? Any political motivations behind the project?
JD: My political motivations were only insofar as I make no secret of the fact that I was and am an Obama supporter. I certainly did not want it to simply be a cheerleader piece. What I was interested in doing with the film was utilizing the fact that we have cheap digital technology available today and we are very connected on the web. I wanted to see if it was possible to use those means to create a participatory project that captured a moment in time.

The Obama election was a great opportunity to do that. I knew that it was going to be a day where emotions were running high, people may have been behaving in ways that they normally wouldn’t, and I said “let’s capture what a day like this looks like.”

Stylistically I wanted to be detached in terms of editing. You notice there is no voiceover; we did not use music. 11/4/08 is a collage of footage. You look, listen, and leave with an open interpretation.

 

11/04/08



ODW: How did you choose the other participants? Were they just friends, colleagues or did you try to capture a diverse social strata?
JD: I wish I had had a more strategic approach but I guess it ultimately comes down to the limits of social networking because you can really only reach people you know in real life. I basically sent out tons of emails and Facebook messages so I ended up getting responses from a few friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances.

It definitely represents a bias, most of the people in my circle have similar biases but in order to overcome these biases I launched the website where I am continuing to collect footage. I take responsibility for the way the film was edited, and the decisions I’ve made are going to affect the way people interpret the film. You have to make choices, that’s how it is.


ODW: Expand on the idea of making history democratic.
JD: It basically came about by the fact that I was inspired by the election. It was an experiment that could have been performed on another day. A few projects have been announced since mine. Kevin MacDonald and Ridley Scott encouraged people to shoot on July 24th, a day with less apparent significance. It can definitely be done on any day but mine brings to the table this notion of history and whether it’s possible to use film and the web to capture history through different perspectives in an untraditional, more open way. I’m hoping to peripheral-ize myself further from the process so I am encouraging people to upload their own movies, shorts, features, and create mash-ups. With this idea, the website can be seen as an interactive textbook.

ODW: I assume most of the participants were excited about the film. Do you think this affected the overall outcome in a biased way?
JD: I don’t think you can equate the characters or subjects in a film to the film’s overall position. Yes, the documentary is about Obama supporters but that doesn’t mean it’s some kind of endorsement or propaganda. You can bring any interpretation you want. Your reaction can be one of nostalgia or inspiration…or you might be disturbed!

ODW: Did you know at the onset of the film’s creation the type of feeling you wanted to capture?
JD: Definitely a pretty blank canvas. I knew how I felt and imagined that there were a lot of people out there who felt the same way. I was extremely excited at the time. Looking back, I can say the film is about enthusiasm. The flip side of that is, the next day – there’s always going to be a November 5th. The nature of enthusiasm is that it’s temporary so it becomes important to capture that craziness and those emotions as they happen.

ODW: Did you experience any surprises after reviewing the footage?
JD: Yes, well I think all of the stuff that I’m talking about right now, these themes, they’re not things I could have articulated at the beginning of the process so there was a turning point during editing. Just by the virtue of reviewing the footage and going through the picking and choosing, I was able to have the footage teach me what the film was. The film wasn’t what I initially expected it to be, but I eventually realized there was an angle on it, which is enthusiasm.

ODW: Going off of the theme of enthusiasm, do you think young people were a little over zealous? Do you think some used the election as an excuse to party- for example, the excessive drinking, the topless-ness?
JD: Definitely a mixture. One of the things I picked up on was the- and this feeds on the idea of capturing history- was the combination of genuine emotion with that of emotion rehearsed for the sake of posterity. But that makes me wonder about the nature of historical moments. There will always be a minority of people who are genuinely devoted to a cause and simply expressing themselves, and then a larger majority who just get excited. Or it could even be a function of what a camera does to people. Along with the parties and craziness, I did include footage of a man just riding his bike down an empty street. I think it was interesting that he was out searching for some excitement.

ODW: Has there been any negative reaction to the film so far?
JD: The biggest criticism has been about the focus on the pro-Obama side of the day. For me, that is sort of just a function of expectation. I would ideally like the website to counteract those thoughts by being an exhaustive, comprehensive and diverse platform, no matter the political orientation…but that is really ambitious and complete representation is ultimately impossible. And after all of the initial footage had been received, the actual film had to become something much more specific. I guess a lot of people go in expecting something more balanced.

One reaction we have observed is that people who are die hard Obama supporters or anyone demoralized by recent Tea Party negativity have been re-inspired upon watching the film. In that sense it has an ability to help get out the vote or encourage people to take political action – maybe for both sides.

 

11/04/08

ODW: You have previously mentioned that you believed McCain supporters were less likely to be recording footage that day. Is that because you think his supporters tend to be older and less tech savvy?
JD: (laughter) That probably had less to do with age, but that may be true to some degree. Really it was more about the fact that certainly, at least towards the end of the day, once Obama’s victory had been announced, that people are less likely to film themselves crying or in a depressed state than in one of celebration and excitement. One would hope that there are younger McCain supporters who know how to operate video cameras but there is probably just more footage of the Obama side because of the election results.

ODW: Considering Obama’s recent appearance on The View and the fact that he may be featured in an episode of Mythbusters, do you feel that the conflation of entertainment and politics is a necessary evil in this overwhelmingly media exposed environment?
JD: I don’t think there’s anything new about that. Certainly not with Obama. If anything he seems like he’s been much less willing to associate himself with Hollywood and entertainment, than say during Clinton’s presidency. To the degree that Obama is now utilizing the media, I have to believe that it’s part of some overall strategy.

ODW: The ending of the film is very intriguing. Will the film, in your eyes, ever be fully complete? Have you received more footage since taking the project online?
JD: The film itself that I made is done. The film premiering in nationwide screenings and on VOD is as done as it’s ever going to be. The website is eternally going to be a work in progress. My hope is that people just keep interacting with the site, whether you consider it an art or history project. By nature, the web is constantly evolving so it’s really never finished.

Right now, Jeff Deutchman is keeping his focus on 11/4/08. You can browse all the footage thus far collected at http://www.11-4-08.com, and if you shot footage on Election Day 2008, you can upload it and become a participant in the project.  

- Sky McCarthy

Sky
Sky McCarthy is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly and a television enthusiast (ask me about anything!) currently working in entertainment in New York City.

 

11/04/08 is available via the following digital platforms: · iTunes · AmazonVOD · Sony Playstation · CinemaNow

 

See Sky's Weekly SoundWatch Column and Other Reviews:

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