Best of your life
Richard James Havis
The creative democratisation of the internet is enough to turn viewers into cultural fascists. In an unedited, non-curated artistic universe, anything good gets buried beneath layers of dross - perhaps never to be discovered.
YouTube, one of the finest purveyors of cultural mediocrity, recently launched an initiative to address this situation. Life in a Day (www.youtube.com/lifeinaday) asked viewers to film a day in their lives - July 24 to be specific - and post the raw footage to a special site. YouTube editors will work through the submissions and assemble the best of them in a film directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland). The whole shebang is produced by Ridley Scott and the finished item will premiere at Sundance 2011 and on YouTube.
Macdonald wanted participants to film events that move them, and to use a good camera. He also asked them to think about what they fear, what they love, what makes them laugh, and what's in their pockets.
The genesis of the idea, he says in a clip on the website, came from the Mass Observation Archive in England. The director says this project, which was started in the 1930s, revolved around ordinary people keeping diaries of their daily doings. Macdonald worked his way through stacks of boxes which studied everything from eating habits to sexuality. 'It's what ordinary people said life was like,' he says, 'not what the newspapers said it was like. I hope that in Life in a Day we can get something a bit similar to that.'
The film will be shaped by conventional documentary techniques. Unlike feature filmmakers - who work with a script - documentary filmmakers shoot wild footage and then construct the story in the editing room. They usually don't know how their projects will end up until they're immersed in an edit.
Life in a Day will follow the same process but with much more footage. The idea is to select footage that will fit together to form a coherent narrative. It's possible only a few submissions will be used, although it's expected that many clips will find their way into the finished item.
The project could, of course, turn into a nightmare for those charged with selecting the footage. As with movie scripts, 99 out of 100 submissions will probably be dross - which is why movie producers will only take scripts from agents. But Macdonald is banking on the idea that the sheer volume of submissions will lead to some useable footage.
Perhaps YouTube will elevate the internet viewing experience after all.