Defying copyright

Underground filmmaker teaches the art of found footage at Cinematheque

Experimental filmmaker Craig Baldwin will be at Cinematheque Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 to lead a workshop on making films using found footage. Supplied

You can’t copyright the word “word,” because that wouldn’t make sense. When you speak, you’re rearranging words that already exist, and presenting them in a new way.

This is how Craig Baldwin, experimental filmmaker from San Francisco, looks at the art of found footage.

“A lot of people want to take images and use (them) in a way to organize and construct thought and feeling,” Baldwin says.

This can present difficulties with the law, he admits, although he isn’t too concerned with that. He is more interested in the creation of the art.

He has created several films cut from old 16-mm film, by putting pieces of different reels together in a new way.

Baldwin is coming to the Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque to lead a workshop Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26.

As part of the workshop, he will screen Sonic Outlaws, his found-film piece about the copyright issues faced by Negativland, a group that issued a single in the early ‘90s called “U2” that parodied the popular Irish rock band and used illegal samples of the group’s music.

Baldwin describes Negativland as a collage group that wanted to use the art around them.

There were other films about the issues Negativland faced, but Sonic Outlaws received attention because it uses the same style that got Negativland into trouble in the first place.

It took already existing work and rearranged it into something new, a process referred to as collage art, or in the case of film, found-footage filmmaking.

Baldwin says there are many groups and individuals that want to take art and symbols that have already been created and recycle them, giving them fresh meaning.

“We take the stuff that we receive and give it a new use - find something that’s kind of beautiful and strange about it,” he says.

The recently proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) posed a threat to groups and individuals who value collage art.

“I’m not sitting here and telling you all copyright’s bad,” Baldwin says. “I’m just saying that copyright has to be rethought.

“It’s just gotten increasingly problematic and pretentious.”

The workshop will be an opportunity for participants to try their hand at found footage filmmaking. They will receive 16mm celluloid film material and create their own scene or collage.

Baldwin says he loves the workshop format, because it’s a way for people to create without needing to spend hours or weeks learning to use cameras, editing software and other equipment.

“It’s really a filmmaking class,” he says. “I want them to get their hands on film ... to learn how to make a cut, learn what the head and the tail of a shot is.”

His desire for the workshop?

“That people will have fun. That’s number one of my list,” he says. “Number two is that they learn some of the basic skills of filmmaking.”

Dave Barber, programming coordinator for Cinematheque, is looking forward to Baldwin’s visit to Winnipeg.

“He’s been here before a couple of times,” he says. “He’s an incredibly creative artist.”

Barber hopes that the workshop will spark creativity in participants.

“I hope it will inspire people to come up with their own ideas, come up with new interpretations.”

For more information about Baldwin’s workshop, visit

Published in Volume 66, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 22, 2012)

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