ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

BBS Documentary Update —

It is a surreal feeling, having pushed a rock up a hill for a very long time, to find the load suddenly lighter. In fact, as you consider it, the rock is not just getting lighter, but is possibly moving on its own. At that point, it will dawn on you that you have in fact pushed the rock over the summit of the hill and you are following it on the way down the other side. This is a excellent time to hold on tightly.

Such is the case currently, where three years of production are now flying together at a head, combining the research and information I’ve been sent from hundreds of people with the 200 interviews I conducted throughout the continent. Where before I was quietly mulling through footage and considering the next moves, it’s now a case of finishing up the last few hours of culling, assembling the sequences, and putting the whole thing together before it becomes a DVD set.

People ask me when it’ll be ready. I tell them I intend it to be ready for the end of the year. I still think that’s the case. This is much later than I intended and originally announced, but that’s because I am, after all, a single person. The constant motto is “Quality Trumps Deadlines”, since I’m not working on the same goals and pressures that most people are in these sorts of projects. I think the extra time it took me to assemble many of the interviews worked out in favor of a better creation.

What got me really fueled was committing to show “footage” at DEFCON XII, a convention in Las Vegas. I promised people would be seeing some preview footage, and as the day grew closer this promise was somewhat challenged by the complete lack of any actual footage to show.

With a week before the show, I stopped culling footage and instead turned towards creating something that would show what the episodes were like, using actual clips from interviews. It took nearly the whole week (one of the sequences was finished hours before the flight to Las Vegas) but in the end I produced a 16 minute run-through of six of the seven episodes, along with a new trailer and some other related material. While it was close, I didn’t end up in my hotel room furiously piecing things together on a laptop, so there are small victories involved.

The actual talk I gave bookending this footage is already archived on, sans the audio of the 16-minute clip (you miss too much stuff with it in there). The audience seemed to recieve it well, and reacted to it positively, so I know I’m onto something.

There have been some consistently asked questions in recent months, and so an actual and real “Frequently Asked Questions” list is building up. Let me answer some of them here, so they’re in one place.

This will definitely be a three-DVD set sold via myself and a number of partnering organizations in the style of or perhaps It will retail somewhere in the range of fifty dollars. I am not splitting up the DVDs, I am not selling it on VHS. The production will be released under a Creative Commons license. It is multiple separate episodes, not one long movie. It will be subtitled as an option. There will be easter eggs. There are people who are really cool and who you really admire who will be on the DVD, but there will be people who are cool and who you admire who will not. This does not make them any less cool and admirable, or mean I don’t think they are. Perhaps there will be a short version that plays for an hour and goes on TV, but it’s not overly important to me that there be one. It’s also not important to me that it be on cable TV or regular TV; with a beautiful digital format that gives you full on-demand navigation and many hours of footage, why would it be?

I can promise you that there’s definitely a “there” there, that is, the final works are definitely something substantial and interesting, especially if you know about BBSes in some fashion. If you don’t know about BBSes but can operate a computer with comfort, then you will likely find it interesting and substantial as well. It will have ways to “ramp up” on the subject enough to then watch the episodes. I will be very proud of the final product and will look forward to the positive and negative comments I’ll be recieving for months after it arrives.

I am not pleased with myself that I let things go on so long between updates; but I kept falling into not wanting to sound boring and uneventful. The editing process itself is not boring to me, but describing the victories, I find them very quiet: a particularly good line, an item in the background falling off a way, or an amazing counterpoint to a statement made thousands of miles away and months ago. I interviewed some smart people indeed.

Onward. Expect that in September you will be able to pre-order this documentary.

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