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Brett Gaylor on “Rip”: “The basic message is that culture belongs to everyone” (Watch It Now)

Brett Gaylor on "Rip": "The basic message is that culture belongs to everyone" (Watch It Now)

In his film, “Rip! A Remix Manifesto” – available in its entirety at the bottom of this page courtesy of SnagFilms – filmmaker Brett Gaylor explores issues of copyright in the information age, examining the work of Girl Talk, a “mash-up” artist whose career is based entirely on work sampled from other artists without their permission. In this interview, Gaylor gives insight on his “open-source” approach to filmmaking, and the challenges of making a film with unlicensed content.

“Rip! A Remix Manifesto”
Director: Brett Gaylor
Executive Producers: Daniel Cross, Mila Aung-Thwin, Ravida Din, Sally Bochner
Producers: Mila Aung-Thwin, Kat Baulu, Germaine Ying Gee Wong
Cinematography and Associate Director: Mark Ellam
Editors: Tony Asimakopoulos, Brett Gaylor
Music: Olivier Alary
86 Minutes

The full feature, “Rip! A Remix Manifesto” is available free on SnagFilms (and at the end of this article). This interview with Gaylor is part of a new series of SnagFilm filmmaker profiles that will be featured weekly on indieWIRE.

Director Brett Gaylor on the idea behind “RIP!” and his “open-source approach to filmmaking.

I’ve always been inspired by culture-jamming, remixing and participatory media, and from a young age I’ve contributed to this culture. At the time I began the film, the amount of people who were making this type of work was fairly small. Over the course of making the film, we saw social networks like MySpace and Facebook expose enormous amounts of people to digital culture. We saw YouTube open the vault to our entire audio-visual history, and this confluence of events made the film seem important to me, and kept me working on it despite the difficulty in wrangling together such disparate narratives. And… I love making mashups. Editing has always been my favorite part of the filmmaking process.

From the very early thinking on the project, we wanted to make an “open source documentary.” We wanted people to be able to contribute to the film, to improve it, and to see how it was created. So we posted our rushes as we filmed, and asked people to remix them and submit their contributions. Many of the sequences that appear in the film were built that way – and much of the footage in the film was user-contributed.

We extended that concept once we had the film in festivals – our premiere was actually a “Beta version,” and we invited people to contribute more photos, music and remixes as we went from festival to festival. In this way, the film evolved, and we had several versions that only played once. For instance, it changed between the Festival Nouveau Cinema in Montreal, the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA), South By Southwest (SXSW), the Ann Arbor Film Festival and SilverDocs. The final version is what we showed in theatres and on television – and it’s now been broadcast in more than 15 countries.

On the challenges of using copyrighted material and the film’s ‘populist’ message…

Definitely legal challenges – the film uses a lot of unlicensed material, so we relied heavily on Fair Use. Not all distributors or broadcasters were comfortable with this, so it was a distribution challenge for sure.

Plus, it’s a film about copyright, so people assume it’s boring.

“Rip” is a very populist film. The basic message of the film is that culture belongs to everyone. That feeling permeates the film – from Girl Talk performances, to amateur mashups, to the scenes in Brazil. It’s a celebration of 21st century folk art.

On sources of inspiration and what’s planned next…

Certainly Adam Curtis’ films – they contain amazing found footage documents that also manage to have a clear essay structure. Michael Moore, of course, for injecting humour into his docs and generally muck raking his way to the box office. Errol Morris is the master of the essay doc, which is the genre “Rip” strives to be part of.

I’m working with my gang at EyeSteelFilm on web documentaries, and producing a series of short videos for the Mozilla Foundation on why the Open Internet needs to be protected (Drumbeat.org).

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