August 5, 2013
Who's in charge of the world wide web, anyhow? It’s a mess. Someone should tell him. Every time I’m frustrated by a search for something seemingly obvious, like, for example, certain New York mayoral candidate sexting transcripts (you know, to keep up), or where the closest open gas station is, I find myself thinking the internets should be more intuitive “by now." There are so many rehashed press releases and paid adverts posing as reviews and opinion, that it clogs up the series of tubes leaving little room to find what’s genuine. <Wagging finger at no one in particular.> (But really, whoever is in charge also ought to do a massive copy edit on the whole darn thing. And scrapbook all those delightful Geocities sites while they’re at it! R.I.P.)
Some folks have decided that one solution is to “curate” the internet by picking “the best” content out there. While these intentions are noble, most of the time they prove unhelpful to a viewer because “the best” is mostly relative and requires further context. When museums curate, they make sense of an exhibit made up of different artists, styles and/or periods, contextualizing those collections around a unique idea or perspective. In the film world, brick-and-mortar film organizations and repertory houses are museums; they have mastered this, too. But Godspeed wading through hundreds of movies alphabetically on cable (good luck getting watched, film whose title doesn’t begin with A-to-F!). And hats off to those who quickly find something worthwhile on an unnamed streaming/DVD-rental service without using outside hacks to navigate.
Loyal Seed&Sparkers may have already noticed that we recently did some curating of our own. Every film in our S&S CINEMA is now part of a larger “Conversation.” These Conversations are collections handpicked by a specific, trusted human and shaped according to a theme or common thread that—unlike Genre, Actor, Director, and other typical ways of navigating content—might not be so obvious. This concept of curation will allow audiences to discover filmmakers and work they might not have otherwise. The best part of those guided discoveries is that the thrill of finding a hidden gem is addictive, and makes you take even more interesting “risks,” exploring films and genres you might not normally watch, looking to unearth something new. (I actually just attempted to do a reverse sort by view count in YouTube to find the least watched slow loris news videos in search of that buried treasure.)
Come September, we will have even more content and Conversations with the introduction of expert Guest Curators – trusted voices nudging audiences towards a group of films (Blogger/Programmer Christine Davila and Twitch Film’s Ben Umstead, to start) – alongside the rollout of an exciting site redesign. But for now, we will be launching this new curation concept with you, our Beta users, spotlighting a different Conversation each week. Kicking it off is SAY YOU KNEW THEM WHEN, a collection of films all by first-time filmmakers (put together with S&S Staffer/MovieMaker Editor, James Kaelan). Growing up, my mom often bought my brother and me a little-known (to us) author’s first novel as birthday presents. These directorial debuts remind me of the notion she was trying to instill in us—that while “effortless” might seem cool, there’s nothing like that effortful first time to really create something fresh and interesting.
So treat yo self to something new! Redeem those hard-earned Sparks on a film in our CINEMA and send us feedback over the next few months as we test this out. Which films and filmmakers do you think deserve a bigger spotlight?