An Interview with Brett Gaylor (Director)
Mixing It Up with Brett Gaylor: An Introduction to the Copyleft
Q: With the advent of a peer-to-peer, open-source web culture, everyone has become a producer. That being said, your film—like all manifestos—relies on strong characters, on inspired thinkers and doers. Do you think this contradicts what the remix-revolution is about?
BG: The idea of a participatory culture is not new—it used to be the natural order of things. It used to be much more common that people used to think of themselves as creators; it’s only in the past 100 to 150 years that the creative class has become this exalted thing. And the impression this leaves us with is that only those who are paid to create, create anything of value. In the context of culture, that’s why the term ‘amateur’ has become this pejorative term. So that’s why the film is really trying to celebrate this idea of a return to folk culture. That’s what makes the digital revolution so exciting, and I think it’s the thing I want viewers to take from this film—that we’re all creators, it’s nothing new, and that’s the way it should be. But of course my film isn’t a YouTube video, and that was a very conscious decision. I could have finished it in a year, but it had to be this big thing—I sacrificed my twenties for this film. And that’s just me. But I don’t necessarily think there’s a contradiction. Of course it cost a lot of money to make and formally it’s this piece of cinema, but we brought in a lot of these other elements—people actively participated in its production, and it had some hypertextuality to it, as in it referred to itself. This film is what it is because we involved the audience in its making.
Q: Your film deals with the dissemination and control of ideas—something that affects all of us very personally. But the digital revolution is a product of our generation—almost exclusively so. How do you see our father’s generation joining in this effort to break the systems of control that they grew up with and participated in?
BG: It’s a really good question. As you can tell in the film, I like dealing with generational conflicts. I always find it to be fertile ground for shit-disturbing. When I interviewed Lessig he said that most of the people of this older generation dismiss the remix culture. The common criticisms leveled at this film are that it’s not artistically relevant, it’s just plain theft, that it’s debasing culture because its plagiarism and that it’s actually going to kill originality. They’re saying, “How the hell are we going to continue to make money?,” blah blah blah . . . And that’s the attitude of the couch potato generation—they weren’t involved in the emergence of our digital culture. To that extent, there always will be a generational gap. So how do you get the baby boomers involved? Well my producer is of that generation—and this film shits all over the old conventions of filmmaking that he upholds. But he could recognize the activism in the film, and that’s what connects people. I think that’s the thread we can all relate to, regardless of age, because the main thing is to get them to realize it’s important—you have to give them a reason to care.
(Compiled by Tayu Yamanouchi Hayward)
Interviewers: Tayu Yamanouchi Hayward, Isom Winton
Photography: Oliver Dew / Video: Tsuruoka Yuki / 2009-10-12