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Low Budget Legends

Nina Paley Interview Part 5

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, okay, this is a little off topic.  I guess it — and I don’t even know if it has anything to do with Sita really.  Do you have any thoughts on the film video debate?

NINA PALEY:

Well, I think that — you mean, when you say 35 millimeter. It’s not very affordable or practical. It’s changing rapidly.  I mean Sita had its first festival screening in 2008 which is just over two years ago.  And it had to be on film for this particular cinema.  I’m sure that’s not the case now.  I mean, this 3-D — this independent 3-D film screening I went to — they had a 3-D digital projector.  Like, they were projecting on DCP.  They didn’t even have to use two projectors.  So it’s a lot cheaper.  Not saying it’s better.  But, you know what, prints of Sita Sings the Blues get pretty bashed up.

13BIT:

Film prints.

NINA PALEY:

Yeah, there’s the — I mean, quality’s a problem —

13BIT:

–technology, as it keeps changing, you have to keep reinvesting and relearning.  That’s the hidden cost.

NINA PALEY:

Which is why I am so glad that I freed Sita, because the whole problem of archiving the film is now crowd-sourced.  Like, if I had that thing locked up I would have to be continually moving it from format to format.  Because it’s free, other people do that.  I see little articles online where people test some new format using Sita Sings the Blues because it’s available for doing that.  And that’s great.  That encourages it to be on every format.  And so when one of them becomes obsolete the film won’t die with it.  It is also on 35 millimeter film, which is probably still the best preservation format of anything because it’s analog.

13BIT:

So do you have any favorite low-budget filmmakers or —

NINA PALEY:

Oh, you two!

13BIT:

Come on give us a real answer though.  You know?

NINA PALEY:

Okay, so here’s one film that I love which I tried to convince the guy to free it.  And I hope he does.  But Zack Oberzan made a film called Flooding With Love for the Kid.  Have you heard of that?

13BIT:

Flooding With Love for the Kid?

NINA PALEY:

Yeah.  He made it for under $100.  And he played every part himself.  It’s based on the same book that Rambo is based on.  And it’s mesmerizing.  He so needs to free it.  And maybe I should bug him again.  But I feel like I’ve sent him enough e-mails.  And —

13BIT:

Cool.

NINA PALEY:

So that — yeah, that is quite — that is a magnificent achievement in —

13BIT:

Is it a feature?

NINA PALEY:

–low-budget.  It’s a feature.

13BIT:

Wow.

NINA PALEY:

It doesn’t hide its low-budgetness at all.  He shot it all in his 220 square foot apartment.  Nothing — it’s, like, no pretense at all to high budget.  And yet it’s really engaging and it just draws you in.

13BIT:

Where did you see it?

NINA PALEY:

I saw it at Anthology Film Archives. So that’s a really impressive low-budget film.

13BIT:

Be interesting to do a study one day on, like, high-budget, low-budget versus high-culture, low-culture.  Just see what you could come up with.

13BIT:

Is there any high-culture in the world?

NINA PALEY:

Oh yeah.

13BIT:

But what is it?  And who says it is?

NINA PALEY:

Yeah.

13BIT:

And it’s high-culture now, but will it be high-culture is twenty years? Who are the arbiters?

NINA PALEY:

Let me — I’m just trying to think of what else.

13BIT:

We were thinking of trying to get in touch with, like, John Waters eventually.  And —

NINA PALEY:

Yeah.  But, you know, and I think he’d be considered high-budget now.

13BIT:

But in the early days you know?

NINA PALEY:

Sure. Yeah, someday we’ll be considered, like, these totally decadent over-spending slobs.

13BIT:

Not if things keep going the way they are.

13BIT:

–no, but eventually yeah.  Eventually, yeah, you’re going to make a movie for, like, $1,000.

NINA PALEY:

Or, you know, under $5.  Again, Zack’s movie — well, he claims it was —

13BIT:

You’ll have to pay, or everyone’s going to have to volunteer their time.

NINA PALEY:

–right.  That’s the thing.  He spent a very long time on this film.  Most people reckon their budgets without their own time.

13BIT:

How about animation?

NINA PALEY:

Yeah.  But animation’s good because you don’t have to worry about makeup or lighting or weather or anything like that.

13BIT:

Okay, let’s see, do you have any — well, do you have a favorite movie that you’ve made?

NINA PALEY:

Yeah.  Well,  I mean, clearly I love Sita because it changed — I’d say Sita changed my life more than any, you know, of the others.

13BIT:

Do you have any final words to say on anything?

NINA PALEY:

I already said attention is scarce, information is not.

–oh you haven’t asked me about merch.

13BIT:

–Walter.  Oh.  Every time you say merch —

NINA PALEY:

Not Walter Murch.

13BIT:

Merchandise. Yeah, that has something to do with low-budget filmmaking.

NINA PALEY:

So the other quickie saying is content is free, containers are not.  And merch is containers.

13BIT:

Merchandising.

NINA PALEY:

Merchandise.  And, you know, I consider DVDs merchandise.  Other people don’t.  They believe that DVDs are content.  But no, DVDs are containers of content that you sell.  They are physical, they are scarce.  People get confused — I’ve had interviewers say, “Well, you give your DVDs for free.”  And I was, like, “No I don’t.  I sell those  things. Those are limited.  Those cost me money.  There’s only so many of them that I have.  And if you — if you have one than I have one less.”  So I sell those.

But content is more like “you are welcome to make a copy of my film.”  That doesn’t cost me anything.  But if I make a copy, then that one copy is now a scarce good.  And I can sell you the copy.  But you’re welcome to make your own copies.  Those are your copies.  Like, my copies are mine, your copies are yours.  And you can sell copies.  But you don’t sell the actual content.  The content is not own-able — it’s not a scarce good.  So it’s not property anymore.

13BIT:

Could you give people the URL where they could find out more about the free culture movement?

NINA PALEY:

QuestionCopyRight.org I think is the best.

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