There’s an old saying that the real movie isn’t the one that winds up on screen but, rather, is the one in the dailies (the unused film, the rejected takes). Certainly my moments with Hank Jones and Soupy Sales qualify. And plenty of other fascinating conversations (Mark Murphy, Harlan Ellison, Ruth Price, Will Friedwald) exist in the film only as fragments. Is there a repository for this footage? A kind of vast documentary film dump that, in the future, will become a treasure trove for reasearchers on any of a variety of subjects? And if there isn’t–why doesn’t someone start a webiste where doc makers can deposit their fascinating but irrelevant interviews from various projects? It could be set up like Youtube but with raw footage on a variety of subjects organized by topic. For instance, if you were interested in jazz you would click on that subject and up would come every interview I shot for “Tis Autumn” in its entirety.
Of course, cross-indexing the material and providing all kinds of time-code would make it as friendly as the 21st century allows. But even if this wasn’t possible at first, I imagine all kinds of people–not just filmmakers–would be interested in scrolling through the uncut interviews of interesting subjects that are now shot far more regularly than ever before and which hit the same cutting room floor that belongs to the pre-history of docu-making. After all, it is increasingly apparent that what the internet provides is democratization–of information, of accessibility, of everything. Just because I dumped a hundred hours of footage into the toilet (because it didn’t help make the point I was trying to make in my ninety minute film)
doesn’t mean I have the right to withold the footage from those that might benefit from it. Additionally, by recycling in this manner we play into the “don’t leave money on the table” ethos that is, happily, still a major part of what it is to be an American.
How would the money work? Well, I imagine that you would be able to watch it for free (with a burned-in “not for repro” thingy on the image) and that if you wanted to use the footage a liscence fee would be paid to the filmmaker, which would be split with the web provider. Sound reasonable? The price would have to be relatively low and perhaps basing it on the time of the footage that you wish to access would be the fairest way.
If somebody has already thought of this magnificent idea, good luck. If not, you heard it here first. And not only have I copywrited it, I registered with the Writers Guild Of America. Which, along with a Metro Card, will get you a ride on the subway.