This week I have been going to selected discussion panels at the Woods Hole Film Festival here in my little town on Cape Cod. It’s been a lot of fun, and another example of how cool it is to live where I do.
Woods Hole is an interesting place where world-renowned scientists do Nobel Prize winning research at the Marine Biological Laboratories and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The Film Festival is held every year in some of the old, historic buildings of Woods Hole. Woods Hole (part of my town of Falmouth) is a postcard-perfect New England coastal town with stunning views across Vineyard Sound toward Martha’s Vineyard. Martha’s Vineyard is where they made the movie JAWS.
People who are passionate about making films come here from all over the world to show their movies and to talk, excitedly, about their “next projects.” The very coolest part of the whole deal is that I live close enough that I can ride my bicycle to the festival on a bike path with no cars!
Anyway, today I was at my third discussion panel. There were only about ten or twelve people attending the panel. The moderator had us sit in a circle and have an open discussion. The discussion was about media literacy and how to interpret the new media and the role of the Internet in spreading ideas around the world. There were old guys, like me, and some young kids (eighteen years old and going to start film school in the fall).
I spoke more than I should have and shared some of my views on how I see the internet, podcasting, blogging, and video blogging evolving. At one point one of the young, refreshingly idealistic kids spoke about how the conference had really opened his eyes to the possibilities of using the Internet to find an audience for his future films. He was genuinely excited and optimistic about his future as a filmmaker.
Evidently, my responses to his comments were received by the group, and the young man, as harsh, cynical, and frustrated – basically too negative, too bitter. He had expressed his enthusiasm for the power of the Internet to spread his message. I had responded by saying that it could indeed, but the stories that had been shared by others during previous discussion panels were probably exaggerated, and that he would still need to expend a great deal of effort in marketing his films beyond simply posting a few clips on YouTube.
I also expressed my concern that as the “new media” gains a larger audience the business leaders of the “old-media” will be waiting to move in and capitalize on this new source of revenue – and they will have the money and the power to do it much more effectively than a guy like me. I argued that the romantic ideal of a level playing field where every individual can share the stage with media superpowers is probably destined to become little more than fantasy.
Okay, I was, without intending to be, a bitter, frustrated old man throwing cold water on the newfound passion of a young kid who’d found what he wanted to do with his life.
Shame on me!
But, the stories that others had told (in previous conferences) about posting clips of their movies and having “half-a-million downloads in one weekend” were equally destructive, in my mind, because they are stories that probably weren’t true or were misleading. My thinking was that the kid should be encouraged, but not led to believe that the Internet was going to make him famous overnight.
The bottom line, I think, is that my intention was good, but my delivery sucked!
I continue to run head on into the reality that words matter, and what we say to other people can be powerfully uplifting, or terribly defeating.
Hopefully, this kid will grow up to be the next superstar movie director and be able to tell his own kids how lucky it is that he didn’t listen to the angry old man at the Woods Hole Film Festival.
Be careful what you say – someone might be listening.