Open source on the big screen: Matt Ebb tells tales of Elephants Dream

Lead artist from Elephants Dream speaks about what it is like to make your own open movie using open source tools and the power of the community.

(Release logs of the Blender versions released during Elephants Dream are at: http://www.blender.org/development/release-logs/blender-240/ and http://www.blender.org/development/release-logs/blender-242/ )

Some critics said that the 'message' in Blender was hard to decipher and that the movie was pointless and random if seen as anything other than a demo. What do you say to this?

I agree it may be seen as a bit obtuse, however it wasn't pointless.

Part of it is that it was our artistic experiment - nothing like this had been done before, and we wanted to make something that was pushing boundaries and that would be dear to us. Many of us are into less mainstream movies, and we were influenced by the sort of things we like.

Because it was going to be released freely for people to download and watch as many times as they like, we decided to make it a bit more mysterious, something that hopefully would get people thinking and would take multiple viewings to interpret. We got a lot of feedback online from people who after seeing it the first time said "what the heck?!" but after another viewing or two, they all generally came up with similar interpretations as to what it meant. I'll freely admit that some of the themes didn't come through as strongly as they could have, but that doesn't mean they weren't there. The 'making of' video on the DVD and on YouTube has a lot of hints and insight into this.

What other open movie projects (either in progress or completed) do you think are worthy of attention?

Ton Roosendaal is currently producing another open movie in Amsterdam in a similar fashion, under the working title "A Rabbit's Revenge". This one's intended to be furry and funny, and is due to be completed in about February/March 2008. From what I've seen on their blog , it's going to be fantastic.

Can you offer any quick tips or advice to people wanting to start their own open movie?

Well, of course all of the usual advice, which applies to anyone wanting to make a movie of any kind (it's hard work!). But particularly if you are trying to start a collaborative project, you need to either pay people, or find some way to convince them to work for you for free. Being charismatic helps, but what it usually comes down to is that you'll have to get the project off the ground, and get stuck into the work first yourself (this could be actual production, or at least pre- production script, storyboards, or maybe even organisation such as securing funding and other resources).

Once people see that you're serious and that the project is going to be a success, they'll be more willing to jump on board. 'Open' doesn't really mean 'get other people to volunteer to do it for you'.

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