what is indie filmmaking | returning stuff | filmmaking in refugee camps
- The Amman Filmmakers Cooperative (AFC)
E-NEWSLETTER | Sep 22, 2005
1) Please return any borrowed AFC items
2) Defining Independent Filmmaking
3) Balata Refugees Resist with Filmmaking
1) Returning borrowed AFC items
An inventory of AFC items such as lights, books, cables, mics, etc
shows that some items have been borrowed but have not been returned.
Individually these items may not amount to much, but collectively they
add up in cost if they are to be replaced. Please do your part and
return the borrowed items so others may borrow them if need be. Thank
you in advance for your cooperation.
Kindly reply to this email if you wish to arrange for a drop off
2) Defining Independent Filmmaking (an American perspective)
By David Geffner
DGA Magazine corralled a diverse group of Guild members to hear their
thoughts on independent films. These are directors who rarely, if
ever, have been influenced or controlled by others in their work; who
are ferocious in thinking and acting for themselves. In other words,
we picked a bunch of independent filmmakers. Here are their comments.
* Hysterical Blindness
* Monsoon Wedding
* Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
* Mississippi Masala
The effort to capture the extraordinariness of everyday life is
something that I learned directly from cinéma vérité filmmaking. I was
taught to have the humility to absorb the worlds I was documenting,
and to be visually engaged with the world around me, no matter how
different it is from my own Indian culture. I have been taught time
and again, from Salaam Bombay, right on through to Monsoon Wedding,
that authenticity is my treasure. When a film is terribly local, it
becomes hugely universal.
* The Blues
* The Annihilation of Fish
* To Sleep With Anger
* Killer of Sheep
For many people, independent film is not defined by how much freedom
you have to indulge yourself artistically. It's more about being able
to do something culturally relevant. To authentically represent a
culture on-screen without distortions and stereotypes is a type of
independence few filmmakers enjoy, inside or outside the studio system.
* The Good Girl
* Six Feet Under: Episode: "The Will"
* Chuck & Buck
* Star Maps
I've made three features so far and they all very much fit my
definition of independent film independently financed, with no
studio support, and I've been fortunate to have creative control over
all three films. More importantly, and this is how I truly define
independent cinema, is that each movie has been an effort. I've been
trying, and I don't know if I'm succeeding, to get across an idea that
is meaningful to me. That's what I like about independent cinema a
filmmaker gets to express something that is personally meaningful.
The biggest change in the independent world today, to me, is that the
entry fees to becoming a filmmaker have plummeted. There is more
access and therefore a much bigger variety of people making movies.
Not as many indie films are making money at the box office, but the
work is more interesting and diverse than it's ever been. We are
living the promise of the digital revolution. It's not an issue
anymore for audiences or distributors to watch digital films. It's
made the range of independent voices that much larger.
* The Yards
* Little Odessa
Independent movies typically mean financial independence. But all the
indie distributors Miramax, New Line, etc. are part of
multi-nationals, now, so financial independence, unless you are
literally paying for it yourself, is an illusion. The way I look at
independent film is: "Are you making a personal film? Are you making
something that matters to you on an emotional level, regardless of the
budget?" I call it squaring the circle the ability to include
elements that audiences seem to be interested in and at the same time
depict a story that is emotionally close to you.
* The Killing Yard
* A Dry White Season
Younger filmmakers who respect my work approach me and ask whether the
Guild if is right for them. I say, 'Guys, the door is open and you
should go. The Guild offers the best protection for us, the
filmmakers.' Experienced directors make themselves available to advise
young filmmakers. It's so important to stay together, since we don't
know what changes will be coming and what is coming next. Every time I
can come to a meeting I am so happy to be with other independent
filmmakers at the Guild.
* Nurse Betty
* Your Friends & Neighbors
* In the Company of Men
Being an independent filmmaker is no guarantee of being good.
Sometimes it just means that anybody who had money and sense said "no"
to the script. It would have been lousy for $100 million or $100,000.
Like every year, we'll see really strong independent films get made,
and a great deal of mediocre films, both studio and independent.
But you can't help but see films like In The Bedroom, The Man Who
Wasn't There, Mulholland Drive, and realize there are extremely active
minds at work in this industry. These directors don't feel freakish.
They make movies they would like to see themselves and strongly
believe there are people out there who will feel the same way.
* The World Is Not Enough
* The Seven Up documentary series
* Incident at Oglala
* Gorillas in the Mist
* Coal Miner's Daughter
I'm obsessed by the struggles independents like myself have with
finding distribution. I experienced that with my last film, Enigma,
and every time I do a documentary, I have this same struggle. That's
the most comforting thing about working within the studio system it
requires a lot of compromises, financial pressures, etc. but you do
have that wondrous comfort of knowing your film will be seen.
The only way to surmount this is through your own pure industry
leaving no stone unturned. You have to generate as much confidence as
you can in the documentary or challenging independent film to make
them marketable. You can't expect people to give away money just to
put your vision out there. You've got to place your work within an
entertainment form, and just keep knocking on doors until the
distributors take notice.
When I go around to festivals representing the DGA, I tell the
filmmakers that they are the future of our industry. Where else are we
going to move forward in the daringness of material but independent
films? Financial pressures have evaporated the training system that
taught me my craft. People are going to learn how to make movies in
the independent world and it's incredibly important for us to nurture
* Our America
* Blind Faith
Digital Technology is making filmmaking accessible to a larger number
of people. Films can be made cheaper, and if not cheaper, at least the
money that goes into the film can be rechanneled into other areas. But
I think it's exciting. Like any new technology, it still has its
drawbacks and still needs to get the kinks worked out. But knowing the
way the human spirit is, we'll get them worked out. The future is
definitely digital, no doubt about it.
click photo to see alternate image
RAYMOND De FELITTA
* Two Family House
* Bronx Cheers
It's now come to mean any sort of movie that has any voice at all. I
heard a terrifying thing A project of mine was submitted to a
well-known production company, and they said, 'We have a mandate. We
don't do voice movies.' And I said, 'What does that mean?' It sounds
like talkies or something. And they said, 'Oh, no, that means a movie
with a filmmaker's voice, that's not what we're looking to make.' And
I thought, well really, it has nothing to do with how you finance a
movie, it has nothing to do with how a studio develops it or not, the
truth is if the movie has a personality at all, it's now called an
independent film, and if it doesn't, chances are that it's a non-voice
movie. I thought that was a chilling reminder of what it is to be in
an art that's a commerce as well. It's so stratified now that it's
* Requiem for a Dream
I think Todd McCarthy from Variety had the best definition of
independent film. He said that the creative is independent from the
financial realities. Independent film exists in and out of the studio
system. It's just a way of making a movie, a spirit of approaching film.
The beautiful thing about the DV revolution is that I wouldn't have to
raise money for f today. When I was shooting f that wasn't an option.
But I'm sure if I were starting out today I would be shooting a DV
movie. Of the $60,000 I used to make Pi, probably 3040 went toward
film. But if I had to raise money, I would try the same grass-roots
level that we did with f. Get your community to help you out, turn it
into a family affair. In either case, DV is the future for breaking
into the industry.
Is a new generation of filmmakers going to miss out by not shooting on
film? That's a big debate. There already have been some masterpieces
made on video and it's only getting better. I hate to say it, but film
is struggling for footing. Video is coming close to approximating the
aesthetic of film. I remember being on a panel about three or four
years ago, in 1998, and people were arguing at that point that there
wouldn't be any films released that were shot in video and I was like:
"You're out of your mind." Audiences watch Cops as much as anything else.
* Wild Man Blues
* In the Boom Boom Room
* Harlan County USA
* American Dream
I think that independent film really hasn't changed that much for me.
I'm still making independent films, but then there's also a whole
other market that starts to appreciate nonfiction films so you make
them more readily. People understand what they are, and they're not
something you had to see when you were ten years old in school that
are boring. They're exciting. They're fun. They're dramatic. They're
3) Balata Refugee Camp Film Collective
"Film is an important means of both resistance and communication. The
Balata Film Collective was initated to enable young Palestinians from
Balata to break their isolation, challenge their oppression and and
represent their lives to the world."
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