PERFORMANCE IN ONES AND ZEROS: NO-BUDGET CINEMA IN THE DIGITAL ERA
Nixon, Adam Wayne
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Narrative feature filmmaking has traditionally been an elite art form practiced by moneyed, culturally powerful individuals through institutions in specific locations around the world. With the worldwide dissemination of the digital camera, however, non-professional self-financed, no budget, outsider filmmakers worldwide now practice the art form. This community of digital filmmakers numbers in the hundreds-of-thousands. They show their work in festivals ranging from fringe, smaller venues in places such as Jakarta and Milan, to massive international festivals in Cannes or Sundance. The dissertation examines the world of the no-budget DIY digital filmmaker and the festivals that display their work. I utilize the tools of the ethnographer to explore the meaning of film festival, to record red carpet performativity, and to track the accumulation of stature by digital filmmakers. The methodology blends practice-based research, surveys both quantitative and qualitative, archival database research, and an examination of the mediated with the embodied, looking at both the filmmaker and the digital film in festival space. The artists studied are building processes that stand apart from traditional “Hollywood” systems. Like the subjects of my ethnography, I work outside of Hollywood with little money, making digital films while I build my own performative and off-camera identity in festival spaces. The embodied performance of Filmmaker on the red carpet at international festivals, small and large, is a powerful and unique vehicle for identity creation. The digital camera allows outsiders—middle income, excluded, non-western, or non-professional artists—to perform identities once exclusively controlled by powerful institutions and by the individuals inside those organizations. This research project examines the performativity of film festival spaces, the archiving of these moments for purposes of building new identities and socio-cultural status, and the assertion of power outside of traditional structures. It is concerned with identity creation through the process of filmmaking (capture, representation, reinterpretation, revision, assertion) and the formation of a self-made, artistic sense of self.