Les États généraux du film documentaire 2010 Digital screenwriting

Digital screenwriting


At our fingertips

Based on the growing use of the PC and Internet, the philosopher Pierre Lévy enthusiastically predicted, not so long ago, the production of a collective intelligence. And indeed we have seen episodes of spontaneous participative democracy, for example in France during the referendum on the European constitution. On the contrary, we have also seen at the same time the exponential growth of attempts to control the web.

A whole range of digital devices, ever more miniaturised and convergent, have shaken up the practices of our daily lives: we are tied to the leash of our telephones, for example, which also have transformed the practice of photography and video.
The sociologist at the Minister of Culture, Olivier Donnat, has demonstrated in his book Les Pratiques culturelles des Français à l'ère numérique, that the Internet has freed those younger than thirty five from the use of television. This is not without consequence on our practice as documentary film-makers even if, and probably more so if, we do not work for television. New practices? A digital revolution? These questions have been hotly debated for some time. I have the feeling that we, digital practicians, are only at the outset, that the biggest is yet to come, and that we have not yet measured the breadth of change in store. The appearance of new tools is erasing the limits between different technical specialities. The apparent ease of their use endangers our craft as director. The cut in production costs has increased the precarious nature of our jobs instead of uniquely favouring greater creation. But it is also true that digital tools have allowed the creation of works that would have been impossible to make otherwise (in China, for example) or the dissemination of information that would have been impossible to produce (in Iran, for example).

In our sector, the novelty is apparently the web documentary. This year, we are proposing a workshop covering a wide area, on new approaches to screenwriting.
Before you looked at documentaries at the cinema or on television, now you look at them on your computer. Today, you stop the flow of images with a click! You can interact! You have a certain power over the images at the tips of your fingers. I remember a time when it was impossible to make documentaries for television without being a staff employee of that television. It was a time when documentaries were no longer projected in theatres and only a handful of festivals defended the genre... This was before the creation of the États généraux du film documentaire at Lussas. The places where documentary is seen have changed. Today television has already lost its young public who look at images on the computer, a small change in the history of human time. It seems to me that one day Jean-Luc Godard said in an interview that cinema was a moment in the history of television. It would be legitimate to ask if cinema and television were not just the beginnings of internet, at a moment of this history.

By taking some distance, by changing time scale, I invite you to participate in some research: to try to look at our work from a different perspective. Clarisse Herrenschmidt, a philologist, has written a book on the three revolutions of writing in the history of humanity. Her hypothesis is that we are living through the beginnings of the third revolution.
She offers a vertiginous jump in time which carries us back to the origins of writing. She establishes for example how writing was born of the necessity to count, to carry out inventories of stock, i.e. how writing was first linked to the economy. "To control food, accounting became writing". She then decodes the link between these inventions and our symbolic images.
She recounts the continuum leading from the Middle to the Near East, to Europe and North America, whereas we are now living through the third graphic revolution of our history. We wish to reflect with her on the changes present and to come, on the heritage of history, as if to warn us of what we will live through, without predicting what is not yet understood or analysed.

Our goal is to circle the usual questions to adopt another point of view, change perspective and scale by examining the multiple details of the web's operation in the company of Alexandre Brachet, producer (Upian) of Gaza Sderot and Prison Valley - among others - who, with his team, have already made a series of interactive stories... He will present his work, his practice, his vision of the web's possibilities. He will have at his fingertips a tool that will allow him to move directly onto the web to show us examples of this work. He will share with us his approach to this practice. He will explain the production methods of his projects and display the techniques and tools he uses.
Philippe Brault and David Dufresne will then come to share their experience. Directors of the web documentary Prison Valley*, produced by Upian, they will intervene more directly on the problem of interactivity and the relation with their spectators, listeners, readers, actors!

The workshop format should allow us to question our new, concrete practices. Web documentary is a field of investigation, a place for the invention of another way of interpreting and representing the world, where the Internet user will actively play his role and completely shake up our way of producing films.

Pierre-Oscar Lévy

* Prison Valley: http://prisonvalley.arte.tv/?lang=fr.


Coordination : Pierre-Oscar Lévy


Guests : Alexandre Brachet, Philippe Brault, David Dufresne, Clarisse Herrenschmidt.