Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Conversation with Eric "Camera Stilo blog" Strattman

Eric Strattman's blog Camera Stilo has been one of my regular stops on the web for sometime now. Eric writes about DIY film, the similarities between DIY rock/punk/indie rock scenes of the 80's & 90's and the current DIY film scenes, and about his own development as a filmmaker & a blogger. Here is a lengthier introduction to Eric & Camera Stilo blog in the form of an interview:

Sujewa: Hey Eric, what's the meaning of the name of your blog? What is "camera stilo"? Why did you name your blog that?

Eric: It means "camera as pen." I found the phrase used in an article about documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee. I liked the sound of the phrase and what it implies. I was thinking about starting a blog and wanted a film-related name for the blog. When I ran across the phrase I thought "perfect!" I checked to see if the URL was available and it was. So, that sealed it.

Sujewa: Have you made any movies thus far? Is there any in the works at the moment? Were there attempts to make movies in the past; perhaps projects that were not completed?

Eric: Although I've always been interested in media, especially DIY media, the whole idea that I could even make a film didn't enter my consciousness until a couple years ago. I'm still very much a beginner, but I've shot countless hours on mini-DV and have even completed a few things: a 26 minute documentary about an independent CD/record store, a short film - a videolog of sorts - documenting items found on the streets of Cambridge, MA, even a four-minute narrative short. So far, I've only got the narrative up on Youtube, everything else has been just an exercise of sorts. I'll get the others on Youtube soon, but I don't see pursuing anything beyond that with them. I'll do more; I have a bunch of writing, ideas, etc. just laying around.

Sujewa: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers? What are some of your favorite films? What do you like about those filmmakers and or films?

Eric: As far as narrative films go, in recent years I've gotten into Krzysztof Kieslowski and Michael Haneke. Their films have a wonderful pace and look. Things, emotions seem to build slowly, only occasionally exploding. I love docs too and have really fallen for the Direct Cinema/Cinema Verite of the Maysles, DA Pennebaker, Bob Drews, Ricky Leacock and such. Their methods and attitude really strike a chord with me. I tend to like films with a certain simplicity and immediacy; that's one reason why I like so many of the DIY Generation/Ultra-indie/New Talkies/M-core films that have been coming out in recent years. And like so many, the one film that changed my attitude about film and opened me to the possibilities of film is Richard Linklater's Slacker. I can watch that one over and over.

Sujewa: What's the Boston indie film scene like? Is there such a scene?

Eric: I'd say that there is a very active film scene here, but it's so big that I don't really feel a part of it. Before moving to Boston, I grew up in and lived in Syracuse, NY, which is a much smaller city. Because of the size of the city - and perhaps some other less tangible factors - if someone was doing something creative, you knew about them. (FYI: I wasn't involved in filmmaking in my Syracuse days; my primary interest then was music.) Here, there are just so many people making films, never mind other creative endeavors like music, writing and other visual arts (besides filmmaking), that I find that I don't feel the same sense of community that I would in a smaller city. But Boston does have its advantages. I can see so many great films in so many great venues. And because everyone is so creative, I don't feel like such a weirdo being creative myself. I've been somewhat active at Cambridge Community TV. So, if I feel a part of any community, it's the Cambridge film/video making community. But in a city that is home to both Errol Morris and Frederick Wiseman, I am just a speck in a city of giants.

Sujewa: What are some of your favorite places to watch movies in Boston (regular theaters or festivals, museums, microcinemas, special events, etc.)?

Eric: I always look forward to the Independent Film Festival of Boston every year. I love the location - most of their screenings are at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square - and I love most of the films they select. There's the Harvard Film Archive - that for the past two years has programmed the great New American Independent Cinema series - The Brattle, The Coolidge, screenings at the Mueseum of Fine Arts and even the Landmark Cinemas in Kendall Square. And there's much more. There's just so much going on here that it's almost an overload situation for me. But, that said, my favorite film-viewing experience is weekly movie night with me, Jenn and our friend Sam. We get together, usually eat some pasta and have a glass of wine, then watch a DVD, usually something at least two of us have never seen before. What can I say? I'm kind of a homebody.

Sujewa: What do you hope to accomplish from blogging?

Eric: I ask myself that question all the time. I guess it does satisfy a certain need I have to communicate. But I do it largely for myself. If I'm thinking about something or read something I find inspiring, I put it up on my blog. By collecting all these stories, ideas, quotes and thoughts in one place, I can look back at them anytime, virtually anywhere. So, when self-doubt creeps in, and I start thinking to myself that getting this deep into film might be a silly idea, I look at my blog. Then I get excited about everything all over again and continue forward. I guess you might say it's some kind of therapy.

Sujewa: What do you hope to accomplish with your films?

Eric: To create something interesting and unique. To have fun. I guess it all comes down to communication. I'm kind of a reserved guy and yet I have this overwhelming desire to share with others all that I see that is beautiful in this world. I tried writing both fiction and non-fiction, but I was never satisfied with the results. I can't draw a straight line and never got the hang of representing three-dimensional objects onto a two-dimensional surface, so the traditional visual arts were never really an option for me. But I always got a kick out of capturing moments on video or film and once I tried Final Cut I was hooked. I love editing! If I can have a life where I'm editing to pay the bills and making my own creative little films on the side, that would be incredibly fulfilling. I'm still a long way from making that happen, but it all starts with an idea, a dream, doesn't it?

Yes it does. Thanks Eric!

Check out Eric's blog Camera Stilo here.

- Sujewa

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