Bandwagonmaster: World Builder

When somebody sends you a link to a video and then a link to an article telling you how insanely popular the video has become, well … you’re basically just asking any blogger with any respect to start massaging the old keyboard.

Does World Builder represent a paradigm shift? Wagner James Au’s post notes that

“Like most indie filmmakers searching for a career-making breakthrough, [Bruce] Branit, a Kansas-based visual effects artist, sought to get World Builder on the festival circuit, but after sending it out nearly 40 times, it was accepted by just five low-profile festivals. He subsequently won awards at four of those, but nothing came of them.”

The World Builderphenom suggests that somebody missed a trick here. Why did this short get passed up? Did nobody care for its slick visuals, its silent storytelling, or for its elegant surf across the digital zeitgeist? There are programmers who are paid a lot of money to cherry-pick these things for us. Branit actually has a rep in viral video–he helped make 2000’s 405. So why isn’t anybody paying attention to him?

The other thing I noticed was the length. World Builderis 9m15s long. That’s a good chunk of anybody’s workday/private surf time. And nobody’s actually crying out to it would have been improved by the big screen. This might be the first warning shot across cinema’s bows from the digital world. The place to see cutting-edge work like World Builderreally isn’t in your local movie palace, but right there at home. Soon nine minutes become ten minutes, ten minutes becomes twenty minutes (a two-reeler), twenty minutes become 70 minutes, and before you know it, Peter Watkins is premiering La Commune 2 right on his Web site.

But people aren’t eating up World Builder just because its lead actress looks like she wandered out of What the Bleep Do We Know? I’m guessing that there’s a “cool” factor here, in that the dreamers among us hope in the future they, too, can start tapping their fingers and producing Provencal streets devoid of any real Frenchmen. It’s a wish fulfillment thing: “Dude, sometime in the future we’ll be able to create our own virtual WORLDS!” That these worlds look like Max Robespierre’s wet dream (all that order, and none of the wretched humanity to ruin it!) is another matter. But it seems only natural for a cubicle inhabitant to want to carve out a few acres of cyberspace to turn into bistro-land.

So it’s ultimately tech porn and a sci-fi treat whose gee-whiz aesthetic goes back to the lunacy of Things to Comecrossed with those annoying advertisements where people wave their hands in front of transparent screens. It’s celebrated and shared by those folks who stood in line for the iPhone the day it was released–the folks who probably dream of a time when a chip in the head will let them manipulate a mouse without the keypad. As Branit says, the work was inspired by the idea that someone or something “physically worked to build our world and our reality in the moments before we experience it… one day it occurred to me that our new digital tools would be a much better representation of this.”

And this thing gets a million hits, but you couldn’t pay people to watch The Fountain?


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