First Post: Declaration of Principles

The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance

The purpose of this weblog is to talk about and to encourage the practice of making high-quality films at a low-cost and/or with small-labor systems. A good term for this practice is “Self-Reliant Filmmaking.”

Self-reliant filmmaking is interesting for at least two reasons:

Less interference, more production: Self-reliance can let filmmakers bypass in whole or in part the common gatekeepers of cinema production (i.e., studios, production companies, etc.) and exhibition (i.e., major distributors). Needless to say, not needing a corporation’s permission to make a movie can free you to make more of them.

Handcrafting: We believe, quite simply, that the way something is made shapes the nature of the thing itself. Self-reliant films are by definition handcrafted, and this is a good thing for today’s cinema, which needs as many human, soulful works as it can get.

While some might consider this naive, we see examples of self-reliant filmmaking throughout the history of cinema — from the Lumiere Brothers’ first films up to works by some of today’s leading filmmakers, like Abbas Kiarostami and Lars Von Trier.

This weblog will discuss:

– Current and past motion pictures and/or filmmakers that are part of the self-reliant tradition

– Strategies and models for sustaining non-corporate, especially regional, filmmaking

– The distribution of this work, including the opportunities afforded by new technologies

– Tools of the self-reliant filmmaker, including the making, modifying, and/or hacking of equipment

In addition to the above, the weblog will serve as a forum for makers and critics to reflect on the philosophy, theory, ethics, and praxis of self-reliant filmmaking because, in all of its different embodiments, self-reliant filmmaking is both a practice and a principle.

Put another way, self-reliant filmmaking does not help the so-called “independent filmmaker,” it is what makes a filmmaker independent.

5 Responses to “First Post: Declaration of Principles”

  1. Left Center Left Says:

    Featured Blog: Self-Reliant Filmmaking

    My friend Paul, an independent filmmaker formerly in Knoxville, now based in Philadelphia, has started a blog that, even if I didn’t know him, I’d hearily recommend to those interested in independent film. Self-Reliant Filmmaking is a compendium of

  2. Self-Reliant Filmmaking » Blog Archive » The story so far… and your daily dose of inspiration Says:

    […] With a tip of the hat to Citizen Kane, the blog launched with a Declaration of Principles. […]

  3. Self-Reliant Filmmaking » Blog Archive » Open Letter to An Entertainment Marketing Firm Says:

    […] Finally, if you had read the reasons I started this website, you would know that this website is not meant to be a shill for “reality entertainment” in which corporate-sponsored American twenty-somethings tour the globe, as the press release states, to “broaden cultural awareness.” Robert Flaherty, a pioneer of self-reliant filmmaking, typically spent a year or more in the location where he was going to make a documentary before he ever picked up a camera. Now that’s cultural awareness. […]

  4. Michael Wiese Says:

    I applaud you. Self-reliant is perhaps an even better name for independent filmmaking as even “independent” filmmaking is “co-dependent” on so much. We publish books on every aspect of filmmaking in the hopes that better and better work with be made. Come visit


    Michael Wiese

  5. Paul Birchard Says:

    Hello !

    I discovered your blog while looking through Indie Wire, and I’ve linked you to MY blog, the story of how we are making U & Me & Tennessee – an American Romance –

    All the principles you express are what drive my own movie-making – and are certainly the foundation of U & Me & Tennessee…..

    The web site is not QUITE up to scratch yet, but 75% there – we are currently doing rostrum work and titles, and about to record the music for the movie, but I wanted to let you know about our movie, which I (naturally) feel is important, but MORE important, moving and delightful.

    Thanks for this site. It’s excellent.

    Yours sincerely,

    Paul Birchard