Docs That Rock

Mini/micro/tiny docs (exemplified by Death Cab for Cutie)

Somewhere in the time space continuum longer than a music video or a You Tube clip but shorter than a feature length project or a TV hour is a potential reservoir of mini/micro/tiny docs. (Name suggestions welcome.) They will even exist in the music space, where the majority of offerings are either a video or an hour which seems to be the average length of the melange of interview/performance content stuck on the DVD side of enhanced CDs (known to the few out there who are still buying CDs.) The Net, natch, is going to open up a huge space for these types of intimate music docs that will have one thing to say and say it well. But I think the creative for these short takes is an idea yet to bloom.

Trying to lead the pack on this content (especially before the TV and Net fully breed into a device as user-friendly as the iPod) is CurrentTV. I love almost everything about Current – the endeavor, the graphics, the little bar that shows you how close the commercials are and the cool community features on the website (definitely worth a surf.) But what I don’t like are the programs on it! And that’s the problem so far with developing a lingua franca for short features. Hours and two hour slots draft an army of folks to create, get blessed and funded by folks whose jobs rely on making sure people enjoy (well, or watch) their programs. And its usually based on a few “holy crap, I’ve never seen that before” visuals, storylines, intimate moments that make it worthwhile to build an entire program or film around. Alternatively, the snack food clips of YouTube (and old music videos) are the empty calories of content, fun for a few moments, but with little lasting impact. I think the creative challenge in shorter music docs will be to raise it from the quickie, kneeslap ethos of the web and to create something so compelling people stop to watch.

Current’s new 25 minute Death Cab for Cutie doc is a good example of why it doesn’t work so well. The production values are great of course, sounding good, solid graphics, merging performance footage, interviews and rehearsals. But it really has nothing to offer. It’s the typical pre-album or tour release promotional package, with many generalized quotes: the band talking about how much they enjoy each other’s company, how good the music sounds and how they don’t like to stop takes in the studio. (Ugh, the studio. The dead spot of almost every music film project. If you crave such insight, maybe you’d also like to see a video of me typing this blog post! The making-of the creative is almost always a snoozer unless you’re an insatiable fan. For our VH1 Rock Docs series, where we want to fund unique films and filmmaker visions, our only cardinal rule is absolutely no “making of the record” projects! Yet we get pitched one almost every day!)

Back to Death Cab: Current’s flick is best when it leaves the studio and the stage in the later part of the program. Ben Gibbard gives a very short tour of downtown Seattle, where he reminisces about having to cut out of shows early when he was younger in order to catch the ferry home. The best part is bassist Nick Harmer packing at home for the band’s six month tour. He gives insights on what’s its like to separate from home for months on end, such as remembering to toss all his perishable food so he doesn’t return to a rotten refrigerator. Its a side of a musician’s life impossible to appreciate unless you are one.

But by all means, I hope Current (and maybe VH1 one day) can solve the riddle of how to make the economical format unforgettable. Here is the Death Cab mini/micro/tiny doc in its entirety.
Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod


May 16, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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