Craig Baldwin is an appropriationist filmmaker and operator of 'The Other Cinema' in San Francisco's Mission district. His film Sonic Outlaws was the first feature documentary that directly addressed the emerging conflict over copyright in the early 1990s. Here he introduces the logic behind his appropriationist approach, aesthetic, economic and semiotic. His approach challenges proprietary views of cultural objects and he considers the risks in his practice.
|Play from beginning
|Interview with Craig Baldwin, filmmaker.
|So whether or not you know about art povera
|my idea of cinema povera
|that is to say, impoverished cinema
|made out of our situation, which is marginalized
|Rather than apply for the grants or get studio funding,
|just work form where we are, poor people,
|but taking advantage of the fat of the land, so to speak,
|taking advantage of the resources that we already have,
|in other words... .... trash,
|a culture of instant obsolescence,
|I call it "surfing the wave of obsolescence".
|All these films here, that you may or may not see,
|are all being thrown away
|just because of a format change, same thing happened
|same thing happened to vinyl
|to magnetic tape,
|and magnetic tape to CDs
|and it'll go on and on, it'll be totally digital next year
|and we have of course the scratch DJ
|Hip-Hop, as an art form,
|because of the availability of vinyl.
|poor people again, in New York
|Harlem, or whatever,
|would be able to go and find these old albums
|which had no value at all
|because they had been made obsolete
|by the next generation,
|the next media platform,
|so they could get two copies of it
|So this is just one anecdote that illustrates my point
|a mediocre record perhaps
|but something that has some hooks that they can recognise
|and there would be a lot of them because
|they're thrown out en masse
|and they'd be able to get two copies of the same record
|and they could basically scratch between them
|and produce kind of a scratch music.
|What I'm trying to do is a scratch film, which is the same thing,
|the film is old, it's available,
|it deserves to be redeemed
|as I say, if that's not too idealistic,
|Certainly I'm not opposed to shooting my own stuff
|most of the stuff you see that's shot new now,
|it's not attractive to me, maybe that's my problem,
|because I'm sure it has redeeming qualities
|but generally it looks too...
|well you know, well I'm just not interested in the look.
|Personally I like something that speaks of the history
|of our experience, not only of our media history,
|which is folded into it, but also...
|there's something a little bit necrophiliac about it,
|there's something about loss.
|So I like the older look
|and I had access to it, I could make the film
|without studio or foundation backing,
|and it allowed me
|the pleasure of... some kind of perverse revenge
|on these old films, see,
|so for all those reasons
|towards what I call collage, or collage-essay, filmmaking.
|I know that there's gatekeepers out there
|at every level.
|certainly in production, funding, exhibition
|but don't you see, my whole model was always outside of all that
|in fact my whole project is called "The Other Cinema".
|I don't live in their world
|so they can get fucked as far as I'm concerned.
|So I just do what I can in my own way
|and I can't get brought down
|by all the other power relations
|because it would just weigh too heavily on me.
|So this may come up later in the discussion,
|but as far as the intellectual property laws, I know a little bit about them,
|but my whole point has always been about transgression
|I made a film called Sonic Outlaws.
|So I'm on the side of
|the moving outside of the norm.
|You know I was talking about appropriation
|in Sonic Outlaws, and culture jamming
|So in a way it was a report, don't you see, on the material
|and as it turns out I do advocate it by the way,
|But certainly I, as a journalist, a documentarian,
|as you are,
|that would be my product, my artistic license, to talk about that
|There's five different ways around it
|One is just remaining outside,
|and beneath the radar - that's one strategy.
|that's not going to work for people who are running for president
|but again that's not my goal.
|There is a huge margin, by the way, a huge peripherary
|it's not to be discounted
|remain beneath the radar and distribute material through
|what I call electronic folk culture
|it'll get out there, it always does,
|especially now with the new media, which may be coming up here...
|Also the idea of...
|I had no money! This is a legal issue -
|why sue me?
|I didn't represent a competitor
|a lot of that stuff is at the end
|Twentieth Century Fox versus Warner Brothers
|and that wasn't the case
|the playing field wasn't level.
|They would have nothing to get from me,
|why honour me with the distinction of being sued?
|That's what happened in Negativeland and U2 by the way,
|everyone knows Negativeland now
|even though there just a goofy little band,
|but because they squared off with U2
|they're the good guy.
|Yeah, you just win by having the courage of your conviction
|And then again if you take a stance like that, an ethical stance,
|it may be that you're not sued,
|because it'll just make the larger corporation look bad.
|I'm at, I guess you could say, the extreme edge
|of the media democracy and media literacy movement,
|which does not tell people didactically
|what's wrong with that commercial, or that advertisement,
|or that press conference,
|but really through the language of cinema itself
|through the rhetoric and the image,
|creates a dysfunctional kind of grammar
|that allows people to have the insight and to see the lie
|In my movie Sonic outlaws, Negativeland, one member says
|"Intentions are exposed"
|and that's really what I'm trying to do
|in other words, push the contradictions within any advertisement
|so you can see almost the people who are writing the script
|and kinda see
|how they intended to manipulate people
|Rather than me explain it to them
|if it can be from within the piece itself, see
|so you know, the secret of the decoding is kind of within the message itself.