ASCII by Jason Scott

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BBS Documentary Update —

ARTSCENE is done.

ARTSCENE is the episode dealing with the ANSI Art Scene that rose up in the early 1990’s, which had roots in the 1980’s and decades before that. I mostly tell the story of ACiD (ANSI Creators in Demand) and iCE (Insane Creators Enterprises), who were two of dozens (perhaps hundreds) of Art groups who competed heavily to create artwork for BBSes and beyond for a good number of years.

On a pure technical level, the episode is hellish. It has 14 tracks of audio and video, and takes 21 hours to render on my system. I’d upgrade the system, but that seems like really taking a stupid gamble way too far into the production. There’s a lot of “B-Roll”, which is where the extra tracks are… shots of the artwork, of the writings, and all the rest from the ANSI art scene’s history.

The ANSI art scene, per se, is not in any way “dead”, although the ANSI Art Scene for dial-up BBSes mostly is, which is what the documentary’s about. There are still a good number of ANSI groups creating artwork in that medium and others, and there’s a wide swath of opinion about the documentary from them. This shouldn’t be a surprise; when someone comes along and makes a product, be it film, book or radio show, in which they describe some sort of “scene” or “subculture”, at least two things happen. One set goes “Finally, we are vindicated.”. Another goes “Damn, we are being exploited.” There’s a third set going “Finally, we are being vindicated as we are being exploited.” but these are the folks who are less bothered by it all than inspired to use it to further their subculture. ‘Yeah, like the movie. Now give me server space.”

The Eye of Doom awaits this episode especially. The Eye of Doom’s name, by the way, is Jim Leonard, and he is known to a lot of people as Trixter of Hornet. He was one of the creators of the Mindcandy DVD, which is a collection of computer “demos” from the past 10 years on the PC platform. Believe me, if there is a guy you want on your side when it comes to refining a visual work, it’s Jim. He’s gone over my stuff and pointed out things that a fanatical Kubrick fan wouldn’t notice on the 5th try. He leaves jewelers from Faberge and watchmakers from TAG Heuer gasping for breath from attention to detail. He has already warned me how much attention the Art Scene episode gets, because he feels so close to the material. Keep in mind, of course, that I have final say, so don’t go after Trixter if you don’t like the resulting work.

I would say, however, that the ARTSCENE episode is the most “Accessible”, by which I mean that you could play it for people by itself and they would come away with some knowledge of a neat little subculture and the forces and thoughts within it. So that’s at least something.

There’s no winning, by the way, with a subject like this. People will either think it too short or too long. That’s the nature of going after something that’s pretty darn obscure, even by documentary standards. For myself, I am very pleased to have an episode on it, and I am especially pleased that I got an interview with Ebony Eyes.

Ebony Eyes was everywhere in the BBS world for a while; her artwork was on many, many BBSes and she was really good at what she did. And she could throw out ANSI drawings at a speed that is still breathtaking. It took a lot of effort to convince her that I wasn’t a maniac, and I think I have to give the credit to Rad Man of ACiD, who had been interviewed twice for this episode and who talked to her a lot about it. The interview went very well, and a good part of it shows up in the episode.

There are now two episodes left to finish: FIDONET and MAKE IT PAY. There’s a reason they’re the last ones; they’re quite complicated. I hope to be done with them shortly. Then it’s just a matter of final cleanups before going off to the printer. I’m on schedule… just not the schedule I’d thought it’d be.

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