I apologise for missing text! I made this through iMovie, which crashed on me many times. The dude does not abide.
For my digital project I decided I wanted to look into an area that celebrated audiences and the various spaces they participate with their love for specific content. I think this is a great area to look into as active audiences are able to shift and shape the way media is consumed and understood.
I decided to focus on a specific film, “The Big Lebowksi” (TBL), as it is a cult film that has maintained a strong following since it’s initial release 16 years ago in 1998. The fan base for this cult film has expanded in various ways, with audiences connecting face-to-face, over social media and through forums.
I wanted to make my project both informative and fun, so I decided to make a short documentary of TBL audiences and post it on Youtube. I filled the clip with references and homages to TBL by including footage, music and language that fans of the film could recognise. For example, the name of my project, “The Cult Abides” is a spin on a famous line from the main character of the film, “the dude abides”.
I conducted my research through a mix of academic sources and observational research on how the audiences interacted with each other and the film through various online forums. The fans of TBL are vast and have shared a great deal online, so I had many unforeseen positives of discovering the many different fandoms through my observational research! In hindsight, I think I would have gained a better sense of the fans’ interactions with the films had I communicated with them directly. I did heavily consider interviewing fans via the Lebowski subreddit, but as I am not familiar with Reddit, I was not confident in taking this step.
I shared my project on Youtube as it is the easiest way to upload a video and gain the attention of viewers. This platform has both positives and negatives for sharing my digital project as it is great for interacting with viewers, but once a video is uploaded, it is a finished product. This means I cannot add new information once it is uploaded. I could continue on my project by making additional videos and setting them on a playlist, however it wouldn’t be altogether as one cohesive stream. Another negative to uploading a video is that you cannot add hyperlinks within your content. I can put them in the description, but that wouldn’t work with the flow of the project. Another way of presenting my project, and one I did consider, is through a prezi. With a prezi I would be able to include hyperlinks into the project, making it more interactive. That said, I am happy with my decision to use Youtube, as I like that I was able to have complete control over the order and structure of the content and make it both entertaining and informative. Creating a video about a film also seemed like a relevant platform for my topic as it works well with integrating both footage and images to inform and entertain my audience.
Researching TBL gave me an in depth knowledge into an area I was vaguely familiar with. I have briefly researched areas of the long tail and active consumers in the past, but I have always looked at it through the perspective of the content. For this project I was forced to research through the perspective of the audiences, which has greatly expanded my knowledge of an area that is both presently relevant and important for considering the future of the relationships between audiences and films.
Using iMovie was a new experience that was both exciting and frustrating, as there were many aspects to it that I had to self-teach in a very short time. This experience has taught me how time consuming making a film can be, something I will certainly take on board next time! Through this project I learned different ways of conducting research, from sourcing academic papers to delving into online communities. I also learned different ways of communicating, as I combined images, music, voice-over, footage and text to convey my message.
For my digital project I looked at the changing ways audiences and media interact, with The Long Tail phenomenon and active audiences co existing to redefine media content and the spaces it is consumed in. This project will be of use to me and to others researching the dynamics and relationship between media content and consumers, as active audiences and The Long Tail are the present and future of media, audience and place. I have brushed the surface of the long tail by looking specifically at a cult film; this could be expanded upon by looking at the vast range of content that lives on the long tail. Other key areas I have tapped into are active audiences and fandoms, which would be fascinating to research further.
I didn’t know what to expect when I first embarked on my digital project. I was not expecting the active audiences of TBL to be as presently active as they still are! The more I researched, the more I discovered the absolute importance of audiences in the life span of a cult film and this is something I would keep in mind for any productions I ever make in the future. The key outcomes of my project have been identifying the new and very relevant phenomenon that has changed the way audiences consume media.
Digital Project: Transcript
Hi everyone, and welcome to my research project ‘The Cult Abides” where I will be discussing the Big Lebowski and how it gained its achievers through replay culture.
[text] March 6. 1998, the Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski” is released to the world.
The Big Lebowski was the follow up film to the Coen Brother’s highly esteemed ‘Fargo’, yet its crime noir storyline was considered a disappointment and it was quickly labelled a box-office failure. Critics blamed the film’s “incoherent plot, bizarre characters and uneven screenplay” (Klinger 2010: 1) for its failure – little did they know that this would ultimately lead to the film’s success!
[text] “Persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot…some may complain “The Big Lebowski” rushes in all directions and never ends up anywhere. That isn’t the film’s flaw, but its style” -Robert Ebert, renowned film critic
[text] How do academics explain its success?
Academics suggest that the big lebowski’s resounding success with its audience is through the long tail model, replay culture and access. Replay culture and the long tail model, you could say, really tie the audience and film together.
You see, for films similar to the big lebowski’s nature to become cult hits, they rely on access and replays. Products on the long tail are the type that may not be a blockbuster hit when they first present themselves to the world, but slowly over time they develop into a niche market.
A large part of what makes this possible is the culture of replay over various platforms. Fans of the big lebowski were initially able to gain access to their beloved cult film through the various mediums of free-to-air tv, pay tv, VHS, dvds and basic internet forums.
Eventually, the film could be accessed and replayed on a global scale through online streaming and a wider online community that developed over time. Not only do fans have access to replays, but they are also able to actively participate with the film through parodies, forums, conventions, The Lebowski Fest, facebook pages, subreddits, forums, tumblrs, blogs, vlogs, tweets and a religion?!
[text] “No matter what a film’s box-office fate has been, patterns of rerelease over time can dramatically affect its financial profile, critical reputation and viewership” – Klinger, 2010
[text] Enough about that, on to the achievers, dude!
‘Achiever’ is the self-appointed name Lebowski fans have donned themselves and their community grows by the day. The Lebowski Fest is now an international event that has been running since 2002, in which achievers dress up and bond over their love for the film while having a bowl – oh, and of course enjoy a screening of the film.
Dudeism, another fascinating realm of achievers, was founded in 2005 and has ordained over 130,000 ‘Dudeist Priests’ via its website. There is even a day of the dude. Need I say more?
Achievers love for the big lebowski does not wane – social media pages are still active and fans are still engaging with each other on a regular basis. Just recently, Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles posted a photo of his crew in Big Lebowski attire and it was retweeted 19 000 times.
Why does it matter?
Audiences are now able to actively shape their consumption of and love for media. Fans can participate in this new landscape of media creation and consumption. From the fan based ‘Lebowski Fest’ to the 141 references other movies and tv shows have made about the big lebowski, it is cleat that consumers are now more involved in the culture and lifespan of a film than ever. Producers, writers and directors – take note. The Long Tail model is here to stay, replay culture is clearly effective and audiences play an active role in giving a film life. Prepare yourselves, for this is the present and future of filmmaking and audiences.
Thanks for watching and always remember: The Dude abides
IMDb. (2014) “The Big Lebowski – Connections – Referenced In”, IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/movieconnections#referenced_in
Ebert R. (1998) “The Big Lebowski – Review”, rogerebert.com, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-big-lebowski-1998
Elberse A. (2008) “The Long Tail Tale”, The Wilson Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 73-74, accessed http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/197246248/fulltextPDF?accountid=15112
Ingle Z. (2011) “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies”, The Journal of American Culture, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 318-319, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/1150230168/fulltextPDF?accountid=15112
Klinger B. (2010). “Becoming Cult: The Big Lebowski, replay culture and male fans”, Oxford Journals, http://screen.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/content/51/1/1.full.pdf+html
Zhu J. (2013) Film industry needs long tail to grow, International ed. edn, Beijing, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/1559069584/fulltext?accountid=15112
Online communities referenced:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BigLebowskiMovie
Lebowski Fest: https://lebowskifest.com/
Youtube Parodies: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+big+lebowski+parody
Michael Cote (2006) “All Hail The Big Lebowski”, Flikr, CC BY 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/cote/158082293
Jonathan Rosenbaum (1996) Cover of ‘Fargo’, jonathanrosenbaum.net – originally from ‘The Chicago Reader’, http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/1996/03/the-human-touch-2/
Rachael Johnson (2013) “The Big Lebowski Poster”, BitchFlicks, http://www.btchflcks.com/2013/10/maude-and-the-dude-feminism-and-masculinity-in-the-big-lebowski-1998.html#.VFdJXCmSwlM
Finio Rohrer via Univeral Pictures (2008) “The Dude, Donny and Walter”, BBC News Magazine, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7662943.stm
Merrick Morton (2009) Maude from The Big Lebowski, Entertainment Weekly, http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20253948_20567066,00.html
Jessica Allan Schmidt, (2010)”Is this your homework, Larry?”, Flikr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpallan/4568271443/
Saved By justincharles, original creator unknown (2010),”Are You A Lebowski Achiever?”, originally on Flikr – sourced here: http://ffffound.com/image/c4dd27e05b4ba5dbac98b2b7c0720111175bf330
Screenshot of ‘Dudeism.com’ (2014) Dudeism website, http://dudeism.com/
Screenshot of Jensen Ackles Twitter Pic (2014) Jensen Ackles and crew in ‘The Big Lebowski’ Halloween costumes, Twitter, https://twitter.com/JensenAckles/status/528350754151489536/photo/
Picture Box Films (2011) “’The Big Lebowski’ Official Trailer”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-go0oBF4Y
Rob Myers (2012) “Lebowski Fest 2012 Bowling Party Flythrough”, Youtube, CC BY, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJrcjAY_00A
ZappsMcJack (2012), “Foster’s Home – Big Lebowski”, May 27, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8eZQKEwn1E
PhattJack (2013) “The Big Lebowski reference in The Powerpuff Girls”, Feb 9, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItSkacLPvlk
Haglund D, Krule M, Wade C (2014) “Why Veronica Mars Makes So Many References to The Big Lebowski”, Browbeat – Slate, http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/03/17/veronica_mars_big_lebowski_references_supercut_why_the_show_and_movie_make.html
FanTOME.PIRATE.TV (2011) “The Dude in Me – ‘The Big Lebowski’”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hfTWEkLZno
Bunny Lebowski (2012) “Maude Lebowski’s vagina monologue”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xs3OWJ53rHE
Big Lebowski Achievers (2013) “The Big Lebowski Documentary: The Achievers – Trailer”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm14Tpv5ABk
Chaine de Birdy (2011) “[SOUNDTRACK] The Big Lebowski – Traffic Boom”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9bVdcBKXqw
Vlajka Bajka (2012) “Meredith Monk – Walking Song”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8r4eHM8Zlk
The biG created by Skyzo Maniak on Soundcloud, CC BY 3.0, https://soundcloud.com/skyzo-maniak/the-big-lebowski
PN: I do not own the rights to any of the content in this video; all sources have been used for academic purposes only!