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Disposable Films, Built to Last.

Adam L. Brinklow | March 20, 2013 | Lifestyle Story Culture

The San Francisco Disposable Film Festival (March 21-24) uses the traditional media format of a film fest to solve an emerging online media problem: With so many aspiring auteurs swamping sites like Vimeo and YouTube, how can the average viewer possibly find the best stuff?

YouTube alone sees 72 hours of new video uploaded every minute. And while a great deal of that is just cat videos ("Cat videos if we're lucky," says DFF co-founder Carlton Evans. "A great deal of what's on YouTube now is worse than cats"), independent filmmakers are distributing serious scripted and documentary material for what would have been considered pocket money on even an independent film 10 years ago. And some of those movies are good—if you can find them.

"The massive amount of material out there is wonderful, but we need more curation," Evans says. He and Erik Slatkin held the first DFF in 2008 after realizing that the appearance of one-time use digital video recorders on the market (the precursors to Flip cams) would lead to an explosion in new movie content. The Disposable Film Festival singles out the most inventive short films shot on "nontraditional" cameras each year.

What's important about the cameras, the DFF crowd insist, is not that they're new or trendy but that they allow people to make films that would be difficult or impossible with a traditional film crew. And it turns out that they're right: Director Francisco Hernandez says that using a nontraditional camera made all the difference in his film Mexican Cuisine.

"The idea came to me after dining out for a few days. No matter where I was having dinner in San Francisco, whether it was Japanese food or Italian food, working behind in the kitchens were Mexican folks," says Hernandez. "We had to have a small camera to sneak into the kitchens because lot of these guys work illegally."

The tiny camera (a Canon T2i with "a 50mm lens from the 70s we bought on eBay for $40,") created a more relaxed atmosphere in which the kitchen workers didn't feel impeded by the filmmaker's presence.

The festival runs for four days, but March 21 is DFF’s opening night at the Castro Theatre, a two hour screening of the 20 best entries, like videographer Bankshot’s odd but hilarious stop-motion music video What’s Cookin’? and the surreal How to Write an Autobiography from documentarian Penny Lane.

This year’s jury includes Ted Hope of the San Francisco Film Society, Joe Walker, editor of films like Shame and Michael Brown, and local icon Peaches Christ. Fans will be able to vote on the audience choice award via Twitter.

The Disposable Film Festival opens at the Castro Theatre March 21, 8:00 PM. For tickets and info on other screening nights, go to

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