sujewa films nyc

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Let's take a closer look at Mike Tully's negative review of IFBRT & see if we can clarify some things

Mike Tully (presently inactive filmmaker who is not a fan of shooting on DV, who is now running things - as far as I know - at the review site Hammer to Nail, who also blogs at indieWIRE, & who wrote a brief & positive review of Date Number One in '06, & a fellow Marylander who generally seems like a cool dude) attended the World Premiere of Indie Film Blogger Road Trip and wrote a review of the doc. There are several items in that review that I'd like to comment on. So here we go:

"At its best, Sujewa Ekanayake’s Indie Film Blogger Road Trip is certain to go down as one of the more bizarre time capsules of life on early-21st Century Earth."

Cool - life on Earth in early 21st century - right now - is pretty bizarre, so a film dealing with a new, early-21st Century thing like film blogging/a film blogging community, should reflect that reality. The doc, however, is very simple & conventional in its form & content (shots of people talking). It is intended to be a time capsule of sorts.

"At its worst, it is a shamefully, inarguably inept attempt at movie-making. If one didn’t know the director’s background, it would appear that IFBRT was a blogger’s first attempt at making a film, not a film about blogging by a self-professed experienced DIY filmmaker. Not long into IFBRT, an admittedly snarky thought arose: Ekanayake needed to add a D to the DIY for his own unique brand of cinema, Don’t Do It Yourself."

There is no wrong way to make a movie. Those who think so probably are better off being critics or reviewers - commentators on the work of actual filmmakers - than being filmmakers themselves. Making interesting art/entertainment requires experimentation & re-invention. Regardless, the interviews are presented clearly & the audio is very audible & clear. IFBRT is a very simple film as far as content is concerned - consisting mostly of interviews and shots of traveling. It is far from inept, in my opinion. Filmmakers who fear DIY filmmaking are afraid of Hollywood, they want the acceptance that comes with being able to mimic Hollywood or indiewood norms - such as shooting on film - something Tully has often said is the mark of a real film. In the DIY film world, or in the world where people are honest about the subjective nature of art/entertainment appreciation & Hollywood hype, all films are real - regardless of what medium it was shot in or whether it follows patterns of information presentation established by previous films.

"Fuller confession: if pressed to come up with an idea for a feature-length documentary less stimulating, engaging, and worthwhile than one about film blogging, I genuinely don’t think I could do it (I told Mr. Ekanayake this when he asked me to be in his film). Fullest confession: having seen IFBRT, I now know that I was right."

IFBRT is definitely not for people who think blogging about film is a waste of time. The quoted sentences by Tully presented above leads me to ask - if film blogging is a worthless task, why are you doing it? Do you feel that you are worthless & thus should engage in worthless activities or perhaps, underneath your contempt for blogging perhaps you recognize that blogging is actually a worthwhile activity. For example, would I know about or care about the existence of Mike Tully if his blog did not exist? Probably not. So there's some proof as to the value of blogging. Like other art, blogging allows people to express themselves - including film blogging - which allows people to express themselves & also comment on works of art/entertainment.

"It is not your fault, Brandon Harris, that you were interviewed while wearing dirty socks with holes in them; it is Mr. Ekanayake’s fault that he framed you so widely, and didn’t notice when your foot kept brushing into the foreground of the frame (it took a few sweeps to figure out what was going on here—a trick in perspective—but when I realized that this furry presence in the bottom right-hand corner of the frame was indeed your sock… wow)."

When I started to film that interview with Brandon he had on a worn out shirt with holes. I suggested to him that he might want to wear a better shirt since, quite possibly, many people will see him in the doc. So he changed his shirt. I do not have a problem with showing someone's sox in a doc. Are we supposed to pretend that Brandon does not have any sox with holes in them? My goal was to generally capture film bloggers as they would like to present themselves to the world, without too much interference from me. Also, choice in clothing is a way of expressing oneself (this is an extreme example - but will illustrate my point - did Gandhi wear his "strange" outfits to express a view point or did he do it because he could not afford better cloths?). Again, this comes back to Tully's obsession with right & wrong ways to make movies - I think a blogger who is comfortable at home to do an interview in his sox is a cool thing - this wasn't a job interview - Brandon looks presentable - and I seriously doubt that his sox were dirty & or had holes in them - will have to check the footage to see. Regardless, what about the topics Brandon was discussing in the film - the state of Black film festivals, the effect of digital filmmaking on minority filmmakers - certainly stuff that is more important than whether Brandon owns sox that are not objectionable to Tully's standards of public presentation, yet no comment on Tully in his review re: the subject matter discussed by Brandon & I in Brandon's segment.

"It is not your fault, Paula Martinez, that Mr. Ekanayake set you up in a wide two-shot with co-Atlanta Film Festival compatriot Gabe Wardell, but then proceeded to have what appeared to be a one-on-one conversation between himself and Mr. Wardell (a late-inning attempt at redemption was much too late)."

For much of that hour+ long interview taping, Gabe dominated the conversation - also I had a hand in this. This habit, of men talking a lot & not making enough room for women to speak is a common situation in the indie film world. So, I wanted to keep in that footage where Paula was largely silent because Gabe & I were talking a lot - it reflects a current situation in indie film. Not only did I leave that in, I cut in a shot where Paula calls attention to the fact that she feels like she needs to ask my permission to ask a question. That segment with Gabe & Paula is one of my favorite segments in the doc because Gabe asks several devil's advocate questions about film blogging & what it means to traditional film writing (print) & in turn how taking away the power of media such as New York Times by DIY bloggers might not be the best thing when it comes to real indie films going against Hollywood marketing muscle (more on that complex argument in IFBRT). Also, as mentioned above, that segment might be capturing a moment where well intentioned liberal creative men such as Gabe & I have slipped into a pattern where the woman present in the same space has to make an extra effort to be a part of the conversation - nice thing to have on tape, as a reminder on how to manage future discussions re: all aspects of the media making, specially indie filmmaking & distribution, world.

"It is not your fault, Anthony Kaufman, that Mr. Ekanayake chose to place you at the beginning and end of the film, causing the panicked thought of “does this mean we have to go through another round with everyone again?!” before realizing that you were being used as a mere bookend."

Of all the bloggers presented in the doc, Kaufman has the most amount of traditional film journalism experience & accomplishments (as far as I know). Thus, the brief segment with him in the opening credits where he talks about a career breakthrough moment might allow viewers to make a connection with DIY film journalism such as blogging & more traditional & better known film journalism where people get paid to review Sundance movies for Village Voice. Though the two types of work live at different ends of the film journalism spectrum, they are related, and today's DIY film bloggers may become tomorrow's Variety, Village Voice, New York Times writers. Also, even though Kaufman expresses ambivalence about the future of film journalism I see him as a success story, thus, ending the doc on sort of an upbeat note by ending with the bulk of Kaufman's segment was selected as a very good way to go.

"...but if we are to treat Ekanayake as a legitimate filmmaker, which he constantly reminds us that he is on a multi-daily basis, then the days of polite acknowledgment must cease and we must confront the harsh truth: when it comes to IFBRT, there is no legitimate filmmaking to be found."

All filmmaking is legitimate. Those who think otherwise, as I stated earlier, will or most likely will end up as film reviewers or commentators, but not filmmakers - which I believe is Tully's current relationship to the film world - as far as I know he has not made a movie - at least not a feature - in 3 years (in a time period where some of his former filmmaking peers make & release one or more features a year). And that's cool, not everyone can handle the pressure of being a filmmaker, as mentioned by one subject in IFBRT - which Tully may or may not have heard since he was busy imagining, for a part of the movie, that the digital revolution in film & journalism/writing has not happened & he was still living in 1995:

"...I tried taking a different perspective and pretended that I was watching this film in 1995, when none of this shit would have made any fucking sense."

And that may not be that difficult of a mental exercise for Tully to perform, since, feeling threatened or turned off or somehow disinterested by DIY film journalism & DIY filmmaking & distribution, he chooses to react in a hostile manner to a work that pays close attention & uses new technology to explore a post-1995 development.

- Sujewa

25 comments:

tully said...

I was waiting for this, Sujewa, and all I have to say is two things:

1) You did not disappoint, my friend.

and:

2) YOUR BLOG IS MY HERO.

The Sujewa said...

Hey Mike,

Hopefully no hard feelings, just work you know :)

See ya at the premiere of my next feature hopefully.

- Sujewa

Anonymous said...

What's your next film, Sujewa? I still want to see your first one. Is it out on DVD?

tully said...

Work is work, indeed. You really let me have it. It's hard waking up every morning knowing that I'm just not cut out to be a filmmaker anymore. In fact, sometimes when I look at the DVDs of my first two features I have a hard time remembering what it felt like to be sitting in the director's chair. That "Michael Tully" on those box covers couldn't actually have been YOURS TRULY, could it?

Anyway, great luck with the next feature. I can't decide which idea of yours I'm more excited to see:

"Bamboo Laptop"

http://film.blogdig.net/archives/articles/
November2007/20/Bamboo_Laptop.html

(Thought that was coming in '08 but as a former filmmaker I know how plans can change.)

or:

"Bears"

http://diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/2007/12/
got-lead-for-bears-flick-will-be-shot.html

(Thought that was coming in '08 too but as I just said, I know how that goes--or, being an inactive filmmaker, I guess I should I say "I knew how that went.")

That said, even if it isn't one of those (please! please! please!), I promise to be at the premiere if I'm in New York City and not too busy staring at the DVDs of my movies wondering where it all went wrong.

Anonymous said...

If I have to read another word about this documentary I'm going to kill myself.

The Sujewa said...

Hey Mike,

Usually I (& other filmmakers I imagine) go through or work on at the same time several possible ideas for movies (plus, i think the links you posted are for just blog postings - not about ideas that I was planning on turning into movies - anyway, not that important) before we actually get one done & out.

Since we are counting features - on my side 4 features completed & screened to a few thousand people since '99 (Wild Diner - 1999, 17 DC Poets - 2002, Date Number One - 2006/'08, IFBRT - 2008). But if your measure of accomplishment is DVDs released by other companies of your work - you definitely have me beat on that. But the story should be different in a few months - let's hope.

Anyway, if you feel you are doing fine as a filmmaker, way cool - good for you. I was just expressing my own take on things.

Besides, you don't need the recognition of a "bad" filmmaker like myself do you? :)

Also, perhaps after I release some of my DVDs, I'll get around to watching the remainder of Silver Jew, I got bored & turned it off after about 30 mins. But hey, congrats on getting it done & out - I know some people are big fans of that band & no doubt your film.

- Sujewa

The Sujewa said...

Anonymous,

Don't kill yourself.

There will be a lot more words written about the doc in the coming months, avert your eyes.

Anonymous said...

Sujewa, Don't be an asshole to Tully. He did his job. Would you say you're defensive? Silver Jew is fantastic, but I still need to see your films.

The Sujewa said...

Anonymous 2,

Don't be afraid to reveal your name, we're just talkin' about some small movies here.

So did you think about showing up to the 2/13 screening of my most recent feature Date Number One in Bed-Stuy? Or did you think about showing up to check out IFBRT on 2/17 night in Manhattan? Both those occasions would have been great ones for checking out my movies.

Maybe you are waiting for the DVDs. Those are coming soon.
But I've been spending my time & $s on screenings mostly - a presentation method that is better for films than watching stuff on DVDs - in my opinion. But yes, I am slacking on the DVDs, will work on them this month.

Tully's doing his job - cool, so am I - cool again. Or is Tully the only one who is allowed to do his job w/ out others being able to respond to his work?

- Sujewa

tully said...

Who am I kidding? This behavior just isn't in my nature. Apologies to respectable citizens everywhere. Over and

o
u
t.

The Sujewa said...

It's time to go to sleep people (why the F are we up at 3 in the AM posting comments on a blog!!!???). Later on.

- Sujewa

tully said...

Okay, just one more post this morning, I promise.

Sujewa, why don't we put this snippiness aside and come together for DIY filmmaking's sake. I know I already pitched this idea to you, which you declined as politely as I declined your subsequent invitation to be in IFBRT, but I would like to give it one last shot in the dark. I promise that if you said yes, this act would kill kill two mighty birds with one beautifully rough-hewn DIY stone:

1) It would get me out of filmmaker inactivity.

2) It would make your dreams of festival traversing and legitimate distribution come true.

The pitch is this:

Let ME make a documentary about YOU.

You are sitting on cinematic genius my friend but you are too close to it to realize it. You ARE it.

Anonymous said...

You're right. Good point. Could have gone, but I had my once a week class in editing that night. Will catch it next time (on a non-Tuesday)! I prefer to remain anonymous, thanks though. Not as brave as you at this point.

Anonymous said...

man, i could point out a mistake literally every second watching that 9 min clip on youtube. i had no doubt the rest of the "movie" would be equally awful.

just one example:

in sujewa's narration, he says there are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs...

if you're making a documentary about blogs, how about doing even the slightest bit of research? don't just guess the most important fact in your "movie."

plus, anyone with a brain knows there must be MILLIONS of blogs, not just thousands. sujewa himself has at least 30.

sujewa's philosophy seems to be, doing something a lot makes him an expert, no matter how badly he does it. he also revels in lowering the bar for himself, so he and his other hack "filmmaker" friends can step over it.

the truth is, he sucks. and for the first time, he's made something so suckingly awful, so egotistically deluded, even the guys who normally give him good reviews out of pity, or in exchange for their own good reviews, have condemned it.

now let us never speak of it again.

The Sujewa said...

Hey Mike,

Re: doc about me idea - hmmm, maybe in a few years, I am already in IFBRT - one doc that is - judging from the last couple of days activities - will get talked about a lot. Also, I am not sure we have the same idea about DIY filmmaking:

you think self-distribution is not legitimate & not playing festivals is not legitimate

i think self-distribution is the most legitimate/beneficial to the filmmaker distribution route out there & all other kinds of distribution are trade offs to various degrees.

anyway, i am sure there are plenty of other subjects you can make a diy doc about to get out of filmmaker inactivity - one good one would be a doc about mumblecore & the reactions to it - it can be an interview doc like IFBRT.

- Sujewa

The Sujewa said...

anonymous 3?,

"man, i could point out a mistake literally every second watching that 9 min clip on youtube. i had no doubt the rest of the "movie" would be equally awful."

keep hiding behind your anonymous tag (afraid of who knows what) & counting "mistakes" in other people's movies - that act alone shows that you are a freightned creative - afraid to make & show movies because you think there are right & wrong ways to do it. but hey, that's cool - it's your wasted life.

"just one example:

in sujewa's narration, he says there are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs...

if you're making a documentary about blogs, how about doing even the slightest bit of research? don't just guess the most important fact in your "movie."

plus, anyone with a brain knows there must be MILLIONS of blogs, not just thousands. sujewa himself has at least 30."

The doc is about indie film blogs. I spent several weeks counting blogs that would qualify as indie film blogs & came up with about 150 (these are mostly US & UK based & or written in English blogs) - so, I seriously doubt that there are millions of indie film blogs out there - more likely thousands at this point. so, aside from that, research was done for a couple of years before making this doc. what are you up to? oh yeah, that's right, hiding behind your anonymous tag, talking trash about other people's movies & being a coward - yeah, very nice.

"sujewa's philosophy seems to be, doing something a lot makes him an expert, no matter how badly he does it. he also revels in lowering the bar for himself, so he and his other hack "filmmaker" friends can step over it."

there is no bar. people who make films are filmmakers. people who complain about other people's films are whiners.

"the truth is, he sucks. and for the first time, he's made something so suckingly awful, so egotistically deluded, even the guys who normally give him good reviews out of pity, or in exchange for their own good reviews, have condemned it."

well, that's all opinion not based on anything. also, probably a reaction to not getting any press from my blog for a movie that you may have made but no one wrote about. anyway, reviews & anonymous comments have absolutely zero impact on my work - so, keep dreaming of a day where people come & see your movies - oh wait, you probably don't have any, or if you do, you are too afraid to show them to people just as you are afraid to reveal your name in a comments section of a blog read by a few dozen people - nice. and if you did show 'em to people no one is writing about it - positively or negatively - must be tough being you.

"now let us never speak of it again."

So you say now, we'll see what your anonnymous reaction is when I do the next round of publicity & press & screenings for the doc in the near future. IFBRT will be spoken of for a while to come, but the anonymous commenter who is jealous of it - well, very difficult to speak of that person & it would be a huge waste of time anyway. but hey, your life, hope you enjoy it.

- sujewa

Joe P said...

While I actually agree with most everything Tully said, I would also note that he could apply most of the same criticism to Joe Swanberg.

Fortunately, Glenn Kenny recently spoke up about Swanberg's ineptitude, link here:

http://tinyurl.com/clcp24

Sujewa: Do you really have no standards? Your all-filmmaking-counts defense is weak: we're not in pre-school, and not everybody deserves a ribbon.

Also, there's nothing wrong with taking the time to properly develop projects, which is what Tully is probably trying to do. I'll bet the quality of his next film will be infinitely better because of it.

Andrew Grant said...

"There is no wrong way to make a movie."

Please tell me this sentence, like the whole post, is some sort of PoMo joke.

Reading this took me back to the days of Caveh Zahedi's tiresome rants when he received a negative review.

Andy Edwards said...

A tangled hierarchy is a hierarchical system in which a strange loop appears.

Google that shit and dream not of fire or water, but instead meditate on the words: rich dark loam.

The Sujewa said...

Hey Andrew,

No joke, absolutely serious - there is no wrong way to make a movie. Regardless of what critics may say.

The Sujewa said...

Joe P,

Re: "Sujewa: Do you really have no standards? Your all-filmmaking-counts defense is weak: we're not in pre-school, and not everybody deserves a ribbon."

I have preferences when it comes what I want to put in a movie, also when it comes to what I enjoy seeing in a movie. That does not mean that something that I do not or cannot enjoy in a movie at the moment is somehow wrong - because excellence in art/entertainmnet is a matter of taste/preference.

Here's a basic example:
Some people do not like black & white movies.
So, does that mean black & white movies are wrong & no filmmaker should ever use black & white film to make a movie?

Anyway, it is not about anyone getting ribbons of prizes - movies exist, some people like them, others don't. When someone writes & says why they do not like a certain movie, others can offer their take on that view. So that's what we have here.

Not a fan of Swanberg movies, read the Glenn Kenny piece. But, the reason that I do not like them is mostly because of lack of scripts - probably - the stories are not very interesting to me. However, there are people who like his movies a lot. Are those people wrong? I am sure you might think so. I would have to say their taste in things is different than mine.

- Sujewa

The Sujewa said...

Andy E,

Re:
"A tangled hierarchy is a hierarchical system in which a strange loop appears.

Google that shit and dream not of fire or water, but instead meditate on the words: rich dark loam."

I think I need more info. to figure out how what you wrote is relevant to this conversation. But if not, it does add an absurdist humor element to this.
So, cool.

- Sujewa

tully said...

@Joe P:

re: "Fortunately, Glenn Kenny recently spoke up about Swanberg's ineptitude, link here: http://tinyurl.com/clcp24"

It's funny you should mention that article. As I wrote my review of IFBRT, the same thought crossed my mind, and I have to say, I fully concur with your assessment. Unfortunately, I had too much to say about IFBRT on its own at that very moment and had to quell the increasingly burning desire to dive brainfirst into an epic piece comparing those two definitive voices of the Film Blog Generation. I'll save that for when I'm sentenced to prison.

The Sujewa said...

But Mike, just a few months? ago you were acting in one of Swanberg's projects weren't you? So what happened - when it gets you work some filmmakers/what they do/how they do it is acceptable & then later what they do is "wrong"? - is that how it goes?

either way, whatever, doesn't really matter to me...

(hopefully this comments section will not be turning into a discussion of s-berg & m-core stuff now, i've read enough of that last week)

tully said...

Sujewa,

I wouldn't call what I did on that project "work." As a recently activated filmmaker, in my professional opinion I would call it 'goofing off.' Let me also point out that this was over a year ago, not a couple months. Further, I don't know if you've ever heard of the fascinating concept that as time wears on, sometimes opinions and attitudes change. Especially when one has personal interactions and dealings with the people one takes the time to get into long blog comments section wars over. Allow me to say one thing and let's leave it at that. Please don't press this any further: in that particular instance, I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid.

For everyone else out there who is watching from the bleachers re: the M-movement, my advice is to Use Your Brain on Something Else. Fantasy sports, crocheting, Latin translation, etc.

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