Archive for the ‘Regional Film’ Category

Sundance: Then and Now

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

The other day I ran across a scanned-in copy of the first Sundance Film Festival program. It’s from 1978, when the festival was called the Utah/USA film festival. Since Sundance is announcing its 2006 lineup this week, I thought it would be interesting to look back to that first year.

Of the twenty-five films submitted in the “Regional Cinema” section (that is, the independent film competition), eight were screened:

Bushman (David Schickele)
Girlfriends (Claudia Weill)
Local Color (Mark Rappaport)
Martin (George A. Romero)
The Whole Shootin’ Match (Eagle Pennel)
Property (Penny Allen)
Johnny Vik (Charles Naumann)
Not a Pretty Picture (Martha Coolidge)

Regional filmmaking was part of the original festival’s mission; it was synonymous with independent film. Bushman was made in San Francisco, and Girlfriends, Local Color, and Not a Pretty Picture are New York movies, but the other four are from around the country: Pittsburgh, Austin, Portland, and Custer, South Dakota. And the ones that weren’t accepted are from all over, too. Those nineteen came from: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Wow. Very cool.

What’s uncool? They’re all depressingly unavailable. Today, of the competition films, only Martin is available on DVD The Rappaport and Weill movies were available on VHS years ago, but are out of print. The program descriptions sound compelling, so it’s sad that these movies aren’t popularly available, especially considering they’re part of the heritage of American independent film.

Oh yeah. One last thing: Of the reject films, one was Robert M. Young’s Alambrista, which had won the Camera d’Or earlier that year at Cannes. The other was this gem of self-reliant filmmaking, which was shot over five years.

UPDATE: June 14, 2009:

Property is now being self-distributed on DVD by Penny Allen.

The Whole Shootin Match was recently released on DVD by Watchmaker Films.

First Post: Declaration of Principles

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

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.