Wednesday, October 21, 2009

VIRTUAL FILM COMMUNITIES: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema


The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Even with the increase in number of films made digitally, the problem of circulation remains. Most of them do not reach a commercial release. Independent digital filmmakers in the Philippines usually do not have the marketing machinery of major film studios such as Star Cinema, GMA Films, VIVA Films, and Regal Films. This is one area that the information and communication technology, particularly the internet, have had its greatest impact.

A vital component of the information and communication technology, the internet has become an arena to create virtual film communities. Electronic mailing lists or e-groups such as Yahoo! Groups, MSN Groups and Google Groups can accommodate an unlimited number of members and allow easy and widespread distribution of information through email messages. Membership to e-groups are hardly regulated, most are open to membership while some require the approval of the owner or moderator for membership. Messages can also be posted freely, though there are a few e-groups which require the approval of the owner or moderators before a message can be posted. There is a proliferation of e-groups related to Philippine cinema such as the University of the Philippines Film Institute e-group which has about 2,100 members. This e-group keeps UP students, alumni, employees, and other interested parties well-informed about screenings at UP Cine Adarna and other film-related events outside of U.P. The very popular and active e-group of Cinemanila is open to general membership and has close to 7,000 people subscribed. Members rely heavily on the e-group for announcement of festival film schedules and competition deadlines. Another important e-group is Pinoy Indie Cinema created and moderated by digital filmmaker Cris Pablo which has more than 1,000 members. The e-group is described as “a group of Filipino digital video movie producers, directors and artists who are producing self-financed or partially funded digital video movies, who intend to show these movies to commercial or mainstream cinema venues. The digital video movie producer/director/author/artist is not producing the movie under a major or commercial cinema production company or even a company that produces commercials and movies.”

These e-groups are vital in announcing the activities of the newly-formed and important Philippine Independent Filmmakers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, popularly known as Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, an organization of independent filmmakers that provides a range of services to its members from production to distribution. IFC functions mainly as a support and network system for independent filmmakers who need assistance with their movies. The Pinoy Indie Cinema e-group and other e-groups are integral part of the IFC’s networking and organization efforts.
E-groups have also become a fertile ground for people from all walks of life to post their comments and reviews about Philippine films. Debates about the state of Philippine cinema, the concept of “independent” filmmaking, and other issues are heavily debated in these e-groups. Filmmakers also frequently post casting calls on the different e-groups. Filipino digital films participation, as well as their victories, in international film festivals may be ignored by mainstream media, is usually announced and celebrated in e-groups.

Film-related articles by writers such as Billy Balbastro of ABANTE Tonite, Bayani San Diego Jr., Rito Asilo, Ruben Napales, and Marinel Cruz of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Juaniyo Arcellana of The Philippine Star, and Iza Santos of Malaya regularly find their way into numerous e-groups.

Other film related e-groups include Cineaste Guild of the Philippines , ABC 5’s television show DOKYU , eKsperim[E]nto Festival of Film, Video New Media , film school Asia Pacific Film Institute , The CCP Sineklab , the relatively inactive e-group of the Southern Tagalog Exposure , and SineKalye spearheaded by the independent cinema icon Rox Lee. Individual filmmakers even have their own e-groups, such as Joey Fernandez and Khavn Dela Cruz , dedicated exclusively to their announcements.

E-groups have also been used by film scholars to circulate essays they have written about the history of Philippine cinema. Nick Deocampo, independent filmmaker and scholar, shares his recent findings on the history of Philippine cinema on several e-groups such as his recent post on “RP cinema marks 110th year.” Dr. Grace Alfonso-Javier, a filmmaker, film critic, artist, professor at the U.P. College of Mass Communications Film Department, sketched a brief history of how the digital technology emerged in Philippine cinema together with an overview of the Cinemalaya Film Festival in 2005 and the film forum that accompanied the festival in her column in the Daily Tribune that came out in the Cinemanila International Film Festival e-group. German film professor and U.P. CMC faculty Tilman Baumgarteal’s essay on “The Downside of Digital” which appeared at the Philippine Daily Inquirer was reposted on e-groups and elicited various debates and surfaced several hotly contested issues such as the limitations of the digital medium.

E-groups have been a fertile ground in network building among filmmakers, crew, cast, critics, enthusiasts, historians, students, and fans. It comes in handy for students researching on topics related to Philippine film can just post questions on the e-groups and expect answers. It is a common incident where people look for each other in these e-groups and hook up.

Philippine internet forums such as Pinoy Exchange (PEX) and Peyups also function as virtual film communities. They provide registered members an avenue to express their insights about Philippine films. PEX boasts of 35 discussion areas, over 200,000 discussions, 190,748 members served, 18,151,045 messages posted, and more than 1,000 people online., with 39, 841 members, is primarily for U.P. students, faculty, and alumni but the forum is open to other people. Film related forums in PEX and Peyups are some of the most popular on the internet.

E-groups and internet forums have become virtual film communities where casting calls made, film showings are announced, issues debated, victory celebrated, films are reviewed, film history is shared, and networks built.


Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

Note: Since January 2007, a lot has happened in terms of virtual film communities such as the emergence of Facebook, Multiply, Twitter, etc.

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