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2010: Year Of The Underground Film Loop?

By Mike Everleth ⋅ January 4, 2010

Traditionally, a “film loop” is just that: A strip of film that has its beginning and its end spliced together so that it runs in a projector as an endless cycle. Creating film loops is a staple of underground film and expanded cinema performances. However, lately I’ve been thinking of the phrase “film loop” in a broader cultural sense.

I first became aware of the “loop” phenomenon when I was writing a weekly news and humor column for Movies.com, back when that site was owned by Disney. It was my job to read and keep up with the mainstream movie blogs and make jokes about the big news, e.g. trailers for new films, casting rumors, set photos being leaked, plot details being spoiled, directors being hired. Fun job while it lasted.

At the same time, I also used to read — and still do read — lots of indie film blogs. So, with all this movie blog browsing, skimming and reading, I started to see patterns to emerge, particularly in which blogs referred to each other. Mostly this was done by broad genre: The horror blogs stuck to their stories, the mainstream blogs reported on each others’ leaks and the indie film blogs discussed indie film business.

That’s when I started to think about film “loops,” with each loop referring back on itself with very little crossover between them. One could spend all their time in the “indie film loop” and not even know the mainstream loop exists. But the one loop that nobody knows exists is the underground film loop. Know why? Because it doesn’t exist.

I already wrote about this recently. Instead of having a “loop,” underground film has a void. I’d like there to be a loop and, to be honest, partly for selfish reasons. One of the tough things about getting a wider audience for this site, I believe, is that it exists outside of every film loop and the survival of websites is generally based on good linkage.

But also, I remember a couple years ago I was reading the transcript of an old discussion between Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage where they were hopeful about a future world where every home had an 8mm projector and everybody in the world could rent and appreciate underground films in their own home.

Well, people don’t need 8mm projectors, but that future world dreamed of by two of the masters is here — and in an even more accessible fashion. However, while the ability for that world to exist is with us now in theory, in practice it doesn’t. And it should.

It’s still a new world. It’s only been recently that a plethora of classic underground, experimental and underground films have been released on DVD. It’s only been recently that the true DIY aesthetic of filmmakers affordably being able to release their own, modern underground work on DVD. And then, of course, there’s the immediate distribution of the Internet.

As somebody who tracks these films, I know there’s an audience out there for them and even though there’s no “loop” I’ve been trying to scheme of ways to create an illusion of one that could hopefully build into a real one. Although there’s no underground film blog loop, one sort of exists on the social media circuit, e.g. Facebook and Twitter. So, I’ve been thinking of how to use those tools better to facilitate better conversation rather than just one-way directives.

One thing I get frustrated about with having a blog is that, say for example, I write about a DVD release that I think everybody should see, a post goes up, stays on the homepage for two or three days, then disappears into the archives. That’s how mainstream film blogging works: It’s almost all about what’s out now.

But, I think with underground film, there was to be a constant drumbeat — without being spammy and annoying  — to keep reiterating that these films are out there. I get new Twitter and Facebook followers all the time who may not go into my the Underground Film Journal archives to know all that’s out there. And what’s great about underground film is that you can watch a film, post about it anywhere and start engaging with the filmmaker, which I think would build up a “community” feeling.

My thoughts on all this aren’t completely solidified yet, so I hope this doesn’t come across as just nonsensical rambling, but I want to start writing about this kind of thing publicly so as maybe to solidify things in my own head and, hopefully, generate the kind of discussion I’m looking for.

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