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Low Budget Legends

Nina Paley Interview Part 4

Nina Paley is one of our heroes. We met her at a theater in the town of Apt, in southern France, during the Avignon film festival. After seeing “Sita Sings the Blues” that night in that beautiful mountain town, we realized were in the presence of the Jimi Hendrix of modern animators – a truly talented virtuoso.

It has been our privilege to talk and hang with Nina over the last two years. We finally prevailed upon her to share her thoughts with us and the world on low-budget filmmaking, free culture and the system.

Visit her truly awesome website to see more of her work and her menagerie of cool ideas and causes: http://www.ninapaley.com

Enjoy!

13BIT:
So what do you think are the advantages to low-budget filmmaking?
NINA PALEY:
Low-budgets?
13BIT:
–low-budgets. Like, in filmmaking, what’s a good thing about complete creative control.
NINA PALEY:
Well, as a culture, there’s more diversity of media when people can take risks and experiment. I’ve met a number of people who make films just for the sheer pleasure of making films. They’re not pandering to an audience. They’re doing it because it is pleasure for them. So at the very least, you are getting, you know, a mode of pleasure. A mode of pleasure is available to people. That’s pretty cool. But yeah, I think, you know, there’s just, like, so much diversity. And when people can take risks you get cultural progress that you don’t get otherwise.
13BIT:
Cultural progress. That’s noble actually.
NINA PALEY:
I’m so noble.
13BIT:
What’s the disadvantages of —
NINA PALEY:
Well, okay, so, you know, 98 percent of everything is crap. And low-budget filmmaking just means that there’s an explosion of films and 99 percent of them are still going to be crap. So there’s more crap. But there’s also much more good stuff. The disadvantage for people that don’t know how to filter is that there’s more crap. And they’re, like, “Help, help. There’s all this crap.” But filters are quite natural. I mean, an open internet works as a filter. And people share stuff that they like. And so the good stuff will eventually reach you. And they don’t share stuff that they don’t like. So the bad stuff has a much lesser chance of reaching you. That filter only works if the internet is open.

13BIT:
Does that, I guess, encourage a certain sort of content? Like, I’m thinking one minute gross-out videos.
NINA PALEY:
Of — I mean, 99 — 98 percent of everything is crap. Of course.
13BIT:
–but then — but people actually like it.
NINA PALEY:
Oh. Yeah, I mean, they’re — there are some things that work better at low, low, low resolutions than others. But, you know, it’s improving. I mean, so right now YouTube has a ten minute limit on the size of a film you can upload. Well, that’s going to encourage films under ten minutes.

I have a short attention span and the whole reason Minute Memes is called Minute Memes is they’re a minute. Although I have to say that one of them was two minutes. So I’ve done one minute-long Minute Meme and one two minute-long Minute Meme. But, you know, at least the minute is there as a goal. The shorter something is the more it will spread virally. At the same time, Sita is a feature film. YouTube uploaded it themselves. And it has — let me see how many views it has.
13BIT:
So in ten —
NINA PALEY:
It has a lot of views.
13BIT:
–minute increments? Or one massive —
NINA PALEY:
They did it as one massive thing. I couldn’t do that myself. I sent them a hard drive. They asked for it.
13BIT:
They asked for it?
NINA PALEY:
Yeah. I was fortunate. It was only because of the reputation of the film. And the fact that I met a youtube person at a conference.
13BIT:
Well, I’m sure that other films they have on YouTube don’t have conventional —
NINA PALEY:
I don’t think YouTube has any system for distinguishing licenses.
13BIT:
–oh really?
NINA PALEY:
Yeah.
13BIT:
Are you still in love with your Cintiq?
NINA PALEY:
I love it. I’m not sure if I’m in love with it.
13BIT:
Okay.
NINA PALEY:
Three hundred thirty-two thousand, five hundred twenty-five views.
13BIT:
Wow.
NINA PALEY:
Of a long film.
13BIT:
That’s good. Three hundred thousand?
NINA PALEY:
Three — yeah. Closer to 350,000.
13BIT:
Of course it benefits them, too, obviously.
NINA PALEY:
Oh yeah, no. It’s fine. I don’t —
13BIT:
Well, I hope it benefits YouTube. They have to host it.
NINA PALEY:
No, no. We’re non-profit. QuestionCopyRight’s a non-profit. No ads.
13BIT:
–I just feel like whenever they pull people onto their site though they — it’s a win for them. I mean, you know, because I’ve never hit YouTube without clicking on something else there.
NINA PALEY:
But anyway, the film itself has probably been downloaded more than a million times. Because it’s on all these bit torrents. It’s on archive.org. It’s on YouTube.
13BIT:
That’s great.
NINA PALEY:
So — but YouTube actually has the numbers. There’s no way to actually track all the other things. So it’s been awfully successful virally for something that long. But that’s because people can share it with each other, talk about it. People continue to talk about it. I owe all of that to the film being free so that anybody who’s interested in it can immediately watch it. It’s not like another film where it’s, like, “Hmm, well, that sounds interesting.” And then the next day you’ve forgotten about it. Somebody hears about it and says, “I’ll check that out.” And then they can actually see it. And then it’s had a much higher impact.

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