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Press Pause Play

Thursday February 17th, 2011

We’ve got our eyes on a documentary in the works called Press Pause Play, which addresses some of the major contradictions of creative work in the digital age. The documentary, directed by David Dworsky and Victor Köhler, includes the highly recognizable bald heads of Moby and Seth Godin; also interviewed are Behance founder Scott Belsky and Bill Drummond of the KLF. Here’s the trailer:

The film’s website describes the central theme:

The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent of people in an unprecedented way, unleashing unlimited creative opportunities. But does democratized culture mean better art, film, music and literature or is true talent instead flooded and drowned in the vast digital ocean of mass culture? Is it cultural democracy or mediocrity?

This is a contradiction familiar to most photographers, who have watched as Flickr and iPhone cameras have changed the field entirely. We’re hoping, however, that this film can help us look at the changes in a different, and potentially more optimistic way. Creative Review quotes the directors as saying:

After working in the creative industry for a number of years we got a bit tired of the loud complaints regarding the disappearance of business models due to pirating and continuing profit losses. These subjects had been discussed to death at media panels and in newspapers around the world. We felt that an important part of the story had been lost – the unprecedented cultural impact. Sure, there are lots of industry problems caused by technological innovation but there are also enormous new opportunities for creation.

I was particularly interested in seeing the contribution of Bill Drummond, one of the masterminds, along with Jimmy Cauty, of the avant-garde pop phenomenon The KLF. This is a group that systematically refused to represent itself as an author of its music, in any traditional sense; if you listen to an album like The White Room, you might think that The KLF is either a megachurch or a transnational corporation—instead, it was two people who hired session musicians and performers to mythologize them. They wrote a book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which claimed to reveal the formula to producing a number one hit, based on their success with “Doctorin’ the Tardis.” The instructions, reportedly, were used successfully by Edelweiss and Chumbawumba. (A good thing, since a refund was offered to those who followed instructions and did not hit number one.) In a later incarnation as The K Foundation, they would travel to the island of Jura and burn one million pounds in cash.

Here’s a classic example of their work:

I tracked down a snippet of Drummond’s interview, but without context, it is quite hard to understand what he is saying (anyone with an idea should post it in the comments). We’ll have to wait for the film itself to see more. Until then, here’s a teaser with some more tantalizing clips.


2 Responses to “Press Pause Play”

  1. Dr. Marcus Brandt says:


    I must admit that I understand both sides very well. The business model of professional creative people is changing fast and it is not predictable in which direction it will finally go. On the other hand there are mostly new young creative talents who often have no idea and even don’t care very much about old masters. I’m thinking about the problem for a very long time and try to follow the evolution on the net. There is no single solution to this conflict as long as the internet keeps growing and new technologies are coming up. It’s in the nature of every artist to explore a medium and to go beyond it’s borders. The difference is that up to now a small group of people decided about art and value in terms of art/creative directors. In this way Chase Jarvis is right when i tells his audience that business has changed from picture deliverance to content providing. The problem arising is: Where and how to find it? And not everyone of us is as good in marketing as Chase Jarvis. If at least 25 % of the photographers in Seattle would have the same successful website Chase would run into problems.
    On the other hand he seems to be very restrictive with his work. So he hasn’t done the final step that the movie is dealing with.
    Again the problem from my point of view is that there is no platform on the internet that’s making money or is capable of making money from selling the work of creative people. I even ask myself why Corbis, Getty and all the other companies out there didn’t try to ride the wave. I believe that one problem is rights management in terms of international laws. For example it’s not possible to view a movie from the US webstore when you are logged in as an European.
    There are no borders on the internet and the peoples around the world are connected. You can reach much more people today than 20 years ago.
    The photographic equipment changed radically 15 years ago when Kodak released the first DCS models. But this was not the point that effected the photographic business. Photographers suffered from the bubble, the inflexibility to adopt new technologies and the inability to organize themselves. In the supermodel area fashion photographers presented themselves as superheros and millionaires. It was very easy for the established magazine and advertising industry to bring costs down as many people went into photography. It had never been easier. Software companies like Adobe delivered the applications and photographers who didn’t become Photoshop experts often faced bankruptcy. I realized lately how many great photographers left the business. Even the great guys that produced real art and didn’t only talk about it the whole day long.
    But the real issue is that these companies are now in a very similar situation. It’s even worse because hey rely on the best possible content to get and as you said in your article quality is rare on the market. The staffs are mostly reduced and ipad applications will not reach enough people to justify 24/7 real multimedia versions. Marketing costs have also to be taken into account. So it’s likely that their business models fail as soon as a platform is established that puts together the content of the free available providers. This is a radical change in the structure of the multimedia business in general. Please take into account that there have to be people who put the content together. How this might work in the new free internet world is something that has to figured out.
    I never found magazine customers complaining about bad pictures or advertising photography, so there’s little chance of help from that side.
    Every challenge offers new opportunities. From my point of view only the one’s that collaborate, build large networks and work together with artist from different media will survive. Of course they will have a great internet platform, are really dedicated to their art and know that they might not become millionaires.

    Kind regards


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