« Academy & Docs: Upon Further Review, It's Worse Than We Thought | Main | The 2005 Edendale Shortlist Nominees »

February 13, 2006



AJ - what a wonderful post to wake up to today (Paul Harrill sent me the link). Thanks for mentioning my humble contributions to this ongoing discussion.

"Others make shorts because they can't not make shorts -- festivals and distributors are like unintended consequences of their filmmaking addictions. "

Well said. And that addiction sometimes leads to making features as well -- in fact, at a certain point, the terms 'shorts' and 'features' become useless; if you're making films because you have to, they're going to uncategorically end up as short or as long as they need to be.

I'm curious as to whether there are any filmmakers who have that drive to make films and not show them. 'Outsider filmmakers,' as it were.

AJ Schnack

David, so glad to have found your blog via Paul's site.

You're right, of course, the addiction can lead to the need to go for a greater high. At some point, shorts just won't cut it any more, you'll have to do features. And yes, if you're making film because you have to, the preconceived notions of length, format, genre, etc., may be expendable.

As far as making a film and not showing them (on purpose), I suppose those folks exist. But in my opinion, making a film isn't complete until it's seen by some audience somewhere. It is, to me, an inherent part of the filmmaking process.


Right after I made the above post, I remembered a wonderful documentary I saw last year called Monster Road (which also airs on the Sundance channel, if I remember correctly) about an animator who's spent his life making these incredibly complex stop motion films that, once processed, sit in their cans in his garage, gathering decades of dust. I certainly agree with you, though, about the audience being a necessary component in the creative act.

Joe Swanberg

I'm really happy to be a part of this post. I can't think of a better time to be making films, and I'm just really excited that there are people who like them and people who support them.

AJ, I'm glad you encouraged me to explore the Festival circuit, because I have met some amazing people (like David) who will be lifelong friends, and I have found an audience for my work in each city I've been to. Funny to think there was a time when I was so "anti-festival." There are still quite a few things that need to be fixed, but bringing filmmakers and audiences together for a weekend or a week is a noble cause that I'm glad to take part in!

Sujewa Ekanayake

Nice post AJ. I went through & read your Mark Cuban/Truly Indie posts, positively interesting. I e-mailed Mark C. a couple of nights ago re: status of Truly Indie, and here's what he said:
"Stay tuned, films are coming after awards season". Whether one likes Mark C. or not, Landmark Theaters is a fact and for someone like me who is doing self-distribution, Landmark is an entity to look into for screen space/deal w/. Of course other venues, specially non-profits, may be more affordable & or accessible, if they've got the screen space to spare for your film, on top of their own programing commitments that may or may not include your film.

I am interested in Truly Indie & all other distributors-for-hire opportunities (that's if/when I can afford their services, hopefully down the road). It is DIY distro w/ more experienced & connected employees, can be a good thing. Can also suck. Also, if I ever make a Star Wars, the distrib-for-hire option allows me to self-distribute but on a scale competitive w/ other movies that require/can handle a wide release.
The other option is to build a large distro co from scratch, not something I am opposed to doing (when I have the capital).

On the venues front, re: "there may be 2 or 3 clubs where an indie band can play, but is there a film venue?", this was exactly the position hardcore punk rock bands in DC found themselves in the early 1980's - plenty of bands, not enough venues (this according to Mark Andersen's excellent DC punk history book "Dance of Days"), so they played where they could and proceeded to create venues (years later, Fugazi - a relatively popular band that came out of that scene - still played odd venues - meeting halls, church basements, college gyms, etc.) I think this was the case nation wide in the hardcore scene (we can find out more through the Sundance selected new doc American Hardcore). Like I said in a comment in Paul's blog, we are now at the point where punk bands found themselves in the early 1980's - lots of material & ability to produce, not enough venues to play. The solution is for us to start creating micro-cinemas (I've done this w/ the help of a local bookstore - Capital City Microcinema - very cheap to put on a show there - David Lowery & Kelley Baker are coming to play here this Spring, Amir Motlagh was here from LA area last here to play CCM), creating & programming festivals (I am working on that at the moment) and eventually, when we have extra money, creating & owning indie theaters (the founders, investors/owners of the excellent DC indie rock venue The Black Cat are some of the same punk kids from the 1980's - 20 years later), and helping each other get gigs in our cities/areas. For me, I am eternally thankful for the indie rock model available through punk lable's such as Dischord, Kill Rock Stars, K Records, etc. 100% indie production & distribution, low-budget, has always been possible (Oscar Micheaux in 1920's - 1940's, & many American indie filmmakers since then), but it is a whole lot more easier now due to the low cost of DV production & the internet - which makes connections such as this one possible, a luxury that earlier indie filmmakers did not have.

The indiewood model never had space for too many minority filmmakers, almost no space for non-liberal filmmakers (that I'll miss, but I am not the target audience for conservative films, so I don't really care if they start an indie scene of their own, freedom of expression for all I guess), very little space for women filmmakers, almost no space for political & spiritual filmmakers (not counting the 1 or 2 such indies that get distro every couple of years). The DIY model has the space for any filmmaker who wants to do the work.
And as you know w/ your Gigantic experience, it is WORK. Hollywood/Indiewood is not gonna be your sugar daddy, but you get to keep all or most of the rewards through the indie/DIY path. And you have significant control over your life & career.

All right, later on. & thanks for putting a link to my DIY distro essay from the post above. Sorry about the looong comment. Maybe I'll get the Gigantic DVD tonight & watch it w/ my Valentine's Day date (I think the DVD is available for sale, if not, I'll find out soon :). Happy Valentines Day everyone!


AJ Schnack

Joe, you're right that festivals aren't perfect, but they do accomplish exactly what you mention - bringing you in contact with other filmmakers and with audiences. At their best and worst, festivals and their programmers accomplish something remarkable - exposing moviegoers (often in out of the way locales) to films they might never see otherwise. To me, all our talk about a support structure for DIY filmmaking (or low budget filmmaking) should take into account the remarkable network of film festivals that already exist around the country.

Why not create a website or DVD/magazine in which you feature interviews, short films, festival reports and get people to sign up, for free, at regional fests around the country. Just because the programmer in, say, St. Louis doesn't like a particular film, maybe it's playing in Chicago or Columbia or Kansas City. Why shouldn't the savvy filmgoer know when Robot Stories or Funny HaHa is playing or give them the tools to learn more about a film, watch a couple of scenes and then decide if they want to rent it from Netflix or buy it outright. We need something like the network of zines in the indie rock world that let people know they needed to check out Superchunk or Tsunami or Hazel or Lois.

And I agree with Sujewa, more micro-cinema is the next step. I actually know of 3 people who have set up micro-cinemas and all have become quickly successful (meaning, in pure capitalist terms, profitable). So, that is something that should both be supported by filmmakers as well as audiences.

I'm not sure Gigantic is the best choice for a Valentine's Day viewing, although it is, I guess, in some ways, a love story (between who I'm not sure). The DVD is available at better stores everywhere (both physical and in hyperspace).

Sujewa Ekanayake

Hey AJ,

"Why not create a website or DVD/magazine in which you feature interviews, short films, festival reports and get people to sign up, for free, at regional fests around the country."

Excellent idea. I'll see if I can develop one of my many blogs in that direction.

Also this could be several webpages by various people accessible through a GreenCine Daily type front page w/ highlights from all other pages.
I wonder if Withoutabox already has something like this, or soon will, since they have been talking about making better use of their community, boards, knowledge, etc.

"I actually know of 3 people who have set up micro-cinemas and all have become quickly successful"

That's good news. I want to make my Capital City Microcinema into something like a real movie theater at some point soon (meaning I have been doing some research & figuring out when that can happe), hopefully before '08.
A venue that operates on a FT basis as opposed to periodically, w/ a web site & now that the idea has been proposed, a DVD magazine.

Let's hang when I play Date Number One in LA, for more plotting.

Oh, I think Gigantic is a very good Valentines Day movie for creative types, it is inspirational & fun.


AJ Schnack

There has also been talk of Indiewire expanding and having more of a "community" thing on their site. Maybe that's an avenue.

Definitely let me know about the LA screening!

Sujewa Ekanayake

Hey AJ,

That's funny, I blogged about the indiWIRE community thing last night. Minds w/ the indie film madness must sometimes thing the same thoughts. Definitely will let you know about my LA gigs as soon as they are set. I am playing in Seattle 5/19 - 21, in case you happen to be there.


Sujewa Ekanayake

That's "Minds w/ the indie film madness must sometimes THINK (not Thing) the same thoughs." Thnx.


The comments to this entry are closed.

October 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          


Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2005