Reconsider making a video show. Really.

A number of early filmmakers don’t justify their use of the visual medium. Some of these gratis downloadable shows are like this (only some of these are available in formats one can watch with free software. I hope you’ll join me in writing to the others to make their shows available in free software formats like Ogg Vorbis+Theora; if they raise the problem of hosting more files, introduce them to The Internet Archive which will host their files gratis. They’ve already done the tough part—obtaining a website and domain name).

Watching a talking head is dull TV. The money put into shooting and editing video could have been put into recording and editing audio instead, with considerable money left over (audio productions are considerably easier to edit and significantly cheaper). The show becomes an obvious commercial or personal advertisement when unnecessary video is included.

I recently saw The Smartest Men in the Room, a documentary about the rise and fall of Enron, and it too fell into this trap. The subject matter is compelling and people should realize how Enron bilked so many out of their paychecks, investments, and retirement funds. But the story simply isn’t one that lends itself to a visual medium. On a smaller scale, a movie that is probably more familiar to a /. audience, Revolution OS, was similar in that it too didn’t lend itself to be told in pictures. But that movie had so many more things wrong with it (technical and in accurately conveying a cohesive point), that this almost pales in comparison.

Democracy Now! is similar because the vast majority of what is interesting and important about the show is not visually compelling. The vast majority of the video program involves watching Amy Goodman and her guests talk to one another. Try listening to the radio show and notice how little you actually need the images. DN! features well-spoken informative people with much to tell. Many people find the show interesting to listen to on a daily basis. But I doubt people would miss the show if it wasn’t on TV in their area. DN! makes a better radio show than a TV show.

In all of these instances, the money spent on video production for the show would be better spent doing a radio show for a longer period of time per episode or doing more episodes.

For a movie that works the other way, consider The Corporation. This movie uses visual elements and pictures to great effect, including discussion of material that is inherently visual (seeing a picture of a child working in a sweatshop, hobbling because of the ill effects of multinational chemical corporations, or born without eyes because of exposure to a Du Pont chemical, and all of the apropos public domain footage from Prelinger’s collection at The Internet Archive.). Seeing people’s gestures as they are interviewed is important work which can only be properly conveyed visually.