Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Filmmakers Speak

I'll post these from time to time, as I come across them.

Indie filmmakers everywhere today are on the hunt for workable production and distribution solutions to implement as they begin or continue on their individual journeys towards whatever each of them defines as success, especially as the environment changes rapidly. Over the years, I've heard and/read a variety of opinions on the current state of affairs in indie film world, as well as thoughts on what's possible, what makes sense, or what will come next. Everyone is looking for something - some path that hasn't already been taken, or some amalgamation of already existing ideas to combine and shape to suit one's specific purpose or end goal. Sometimes it actually feels quite overwhelming!

Dare I say that things were easier 25+ years ago, when production and distribution options were limited. No digital video tools, films were shot with celluloid and cut on flatbeds, no world wide web marketing and/or distribution possibilites, etc... Fewer options, yes, but sometimes that's not such a bad thing. Production and distribution options were certainly limited and prohibitive, relative to this century, but, at least you had a fairly certain idea of what path you would likely have to take to get where you wanted to go, right?

Here are two filmmaker opinions to add to the robust mix of thoughts and ideas...

- DIY filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake outlines his concise path to potential DIY filmmaker success: Looks like I have everything I need in order to make, show & release/sell DVDs of my movies. I'll go over the stuff briefly in case anyone else wants to think about adapting this DIY path for their own filmmaking & distribution work. - DIY FILMMAKER.

- Meanwhile, filmmaker Jamie Stuart wonders whether a theatrical release still matters: Over the past couple of years, I've often wondered what the state of movies will look like by the time I've completed my first feature. Around 2005, it occurred to me that I might never shoot a feature on celluloid; most likely, I would start off on a small picture that utilized Mini-DV or 720p, and by the time that project played out, higher HD formats would be more readily accepted for future endeavors. Over the past year or so, however, I've started to consider that my first picture might not even receive a theatrical release, and go out through the internet or home video instead. I'm relatively content with the former scenario, but fairly ambivalent about the latter. - WONDERLAND STREAM.

The conversations and struggles continue...


  1. The Sujewa said...

    I think the important thing is to be flexible & move forward; set up deadlines & get things done (even if you fail to meet the deadlines, at least you'll be working towards completing a stage on your feature prod. & distribution project).

    So, all this means in about a year or so we'll see a new movie by Tambay, right? :)

    Still need to watch Beautiful Things - maybe this weekend.

    - Sujewa

  2. The Obenson Report said...

    A new movie by Tambay in about a year? Definitely! Hopefully before that.

  3. Qadree said...

    I think many filmmakers have an emotional attachment to theatrical distribution that makes many of them want it for no reason. I think you should use the festival circuit as much as possible if all you want is the potential credibility and the experience of having your film shown theatrically.

    I've never romanticized any particular medium. My main interest is telling stories and that could mean video, film, or whatever serves my needs best.

    I tried to shoot a film a few years back with the goal of getting into top tier festivals. I shot on super 16 with the intent of getting a 35mm print for exhibition. There was no way around that at the time because most festival were not accepting digital video submissions. I had some actors that needed time off to take paying jobs since I wasn't paying them and everything went downhill from there.

    If you can shoot HD I don't see why you wouldn't. I'm not talking about the consumer HD that I've seen some filmmakers using unless it matches the way your story is being told. I wasted a lot of time and money shooting on film. If you lose an actor and you've already shot large amounts of film and had it transferred it's pretty much a total loss, but I could have minimized the damage if I planned things better.

    Though I'm not against using film now, I don't really see myself using it with so many other options available.

  4. The Sujewa said...

    MiniDV is still a great medium to use. With HD I believe it still gets compressed significantly for most regular DVDs (unless you are releasing the movie on Blu Ray (sp?)). I'll do some research when I can afford to swith all my editing & other gear over to HD :) - not anytime soon probably.

    A good movie can even be shot on VHS or Hi-8; it's the story & the craftsmanship that matters more than the format. I think lusting after the ideal format (16 MM or 35 MM) probably kept a lot of people from getting started on their indie filmmaking careers/work; I could have started using MiniDV (if not certainly Hi-8) as far back as 95 or so I think; but it took Dogme 95 in '98 w/ The Celebration to make MiniDV acceptable to the first wave of indie filmmakers who adopted MiniDV as their shooting format.

    - Sujewa

  5. Qadree said...

    When I shot on film I had several chroma key shots that I tested with both film and MiniDV.

    I had worked with MiniDV a lot so I knew it's limitations, but I tested it anyway. The banding due to compression for MiniDV was to much for what I wanted. I would have had to flatten my lighting on the chroma key shots which would have caused me to flatten the lighting on the non-keyed shots so that the lighting ratios would match. At that time shooting MiniDV would have also limited the types of festivals I could submit to.

    MiniDV works well for some things, but if you're going to do a lot of post processing on the footage you'll have to be very careful with how you light it or the banding will destroy your images. Even if you're just editing on the desktop the compression could become a problem before you ever go to dvd.

    Theatrical screenings pose another problem for MiniDV. When it's projected in the theater it can can look pretty bad if you didn't light properly for the format and most people either don't know how to do that or don't care to do it. If you have a good quality MiniDV camera and good preview monitor on the set you can get rid of the banding if your willing to sacrifice contrast, but you're going to have to do a lot of work in post if you don't want that amateur video look.

  6. The Obenson Report said...

    "Banding," "chroma keyed shots," "lighting ratios," "sacrificing contrast," etc...

    You're giving me a headache with all those terms Q! :o)

    I'm more of a point-and-shoot kinda guy, and don't bother with those kinds of specifics.

    I certainly do understand the importance of capturing the best image possible, but this kind of deliberate concern for the look of a film scares me off!

    I realize it means that my films won't necessarily win any cinematography awards, but I'm ok with that. I'm also aware that it makes progress in the business somewhat more difficult for me, and I'll have to deal with that as well.

    Interestingly, I actually prefer celluloid to video, (although that's changing) and would always choose the former over the latter, if I had the funds of course. But even if I did shoot film, I'd likely use the fastest film stock money can buy, just so that I could use available light, and not have to mess with varied lighting and camera set ups.

    Call it laziness maybe, but it all just starts to seem irrelevant to me.

    Many of my favorite films look relatively shitty - compared to industry standards (whether celluloid-based or DV) - but I find that I'm not at all bothered by what I see. Sometimes the "smashed-up" images actually have a kind of appeal to them - to me anyway.

    Something just seems off about a piece of art having to be created by what feels like such a tedious technical process.

  7. Qadree said...

    I think many people who set out to direct feel the same way you do. Most of the people I went to school with that wanted to direct would find someone like me to handle all of the technical details.

    I originally went to school to be a cinematographer and I ended up doing other technical work in post production before I ever had an interest in directing, but I've always liked the technical stuff so I never thought of it as tedious or an unnecessary hassle.

    If you decide to shoot some film I'd suggest finding someone who can focus on the technical aspects while you direct. There's nothing worse than shooting a few thousand feet of film only to find out that it's unusable due to a mistake that could have been avoided.

  8. The Sujewa said...

    I think instead of working hard to make MiniDV look like film, an indie filmmaker is better off attempting to create the best possible MiniDV image he or she can get in a given situation.

    I've seen well shot MiniDV images on theatrical screens - both transferred to film & projected using a video projector - looks fine to me, and more importantly - looked fine to regular, paying customers (saw Italian For Beginners, also saw Tadpole, plus Personal Velocity in theaters).

    Each audience member has their own preferences - some want the best Hollywood image they can get, while others want a good story.

    I don't think I'll ever use a DP (well, can't say never really, who knows what kind of projects I may direct in 10 years); let's just say directing & shooting "no"-budget features makes filmmaking very easy for me.

    For my current & near future filmmaking needs, MiniDV will work very well.

    But, overall, yes, a great image is a great asset to any film. And 35MM Hollywood films have given us some beautiful images over the years. But, as a real indie filmmaker, I am not worried about duplicating that kind of thing. If what I shoot on MiniDV is well lit, w/ appropriate camera moves, in focus when need be, w/ good colors, tones, I am totally happy.

    - Sujewa

  9. Qadree said...

    This clip has been getting around so you may have seen it, bit if not you should check it out:

    I love what these guys did with one station wagon full of crew and equipment.

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