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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Standards, Hollywood influences, critical & audience expectations

This is not an attack on either of the two bloggers who recently wrote negative reviews of IFBRT but a general explanation of what my standards are when it comes to making a movie (one blog reader suggested that I articulate them so that there will perhaps be less confusion in the future - for some).

After thinking about this subject for a day I realized that most modern day film critics (or maybe just most film critics from any time period) and even most audience members & I will not agree on what I think is good or acceptable in a movie so I will probably have to stop reading all film reviews of my movies (also never rely on them for marketing purposes) and also ignore all or most of the audience reactions to my movies or clips, trailers, etc.

So what are my standards when it comes to a movie? What do I consider good or acceptable?

1. There is absolutely no wrong way to make a movie. A movie need not even contain both images & sounds (it might be impossible to make it interesting without at least one of those elements). Or a single 90 minute take of someone looking out a window could be a movie.

2. A movie, in order for it to be good - in my opinion - needs to be interesting. And I find a lot of things in life interesting (engaging conversations, good food, blogging about film & filmmaking :).

3. The less expensive and less complex a camera is, the better. Images captured by such devices - relative to more expensive devices - feel more real & honest & more alive, to me. For example, at this point, a 1 CCD or 3 CCD SD DV camera image vs. an HD DV camera image. Actually Hi-8 would be even better than a 1 or 3 CCD image, for what I am talking about.

4. Yes, I would pay money to see a single take 90 min. movie shot using a 1 chip MiniDV camera that told a story that I thought was interesting - even if all that happens in the movie is a person talking to someone who stops by their window (the conversation would have to be very interesting in this case).

5. This makes it sound like that a home video might be what I consider to be good - doesn't it? I think actually the truth is probably not too far from that point. Except, I would need an interesting event or story to be happening in order to be engaged in the said home video/movie for 90 mins. or whatever the length of the feature is (if we are talking about a feature).

6. All filmmaking & distribution is legitimate (from an absolute amateur shooting something on a cell phone to whoever is directing Entourage shooting the next episode of that show) - as long as films get made & they get distributed. There are a variety of responses to movies - based on audience tastes, and there are a variety of ways to measure distribution success - but any method that gets a movie out to the world is legitimate.

When most people - ordinary people, bloggers, semi-pro reviewers, even most pro critics - talk about a good movie/the technical stuff that makes for a good movie - they are really talking about image & sound quality of major television shows or music videos or TV ads - something that is well lit, with smooth camera movements, with crystal clear sound, with attractive people in the frame doing dramatic or hyper-interesting things, with usually an epic goal that needs to be reached by the time the show is over. Such a product is not difficult to create - just hire very experienced technicians & writers, tell them what you want, & they'll put it together. But for me, movies - like music, or a painting, or a book - good ones/ones that I think are very interesting - are pretty much hand crafted, imperfect (compared to music videos, ads, most Hollywood movies, etc.), unpredictable things. It is like the difference between looking at an actual busy, messy street in Brooklyn vs. looking at a set that is created to function as a Brooklyn street for a movie or a television show - the real thing is far more interesting, it resonates more - it is more alive. Also the real thing does not look as good as the fake version of it - from a Hollywood/mainstream film production/television production standard.

However, there are some moments where the critics or the film writers and the filmmakers align in their tastes - such as this article about Paradise. So, perhaps all is not lost, and there is hope for interesting, non-Hollywood looking movies out there & them receiving a warm reception from film writers in some very rare cases.

But, like I said, those instances are rare. And I am right now, and have been for a while now, active on a daily basis with making & distributing movies. So, I'll have to leave the critics & the commentators behind and just keep doing what I think is good & interesting. Of course people who think there are right & wrong ways to make movies may be disappointed, & even angry, when they watch my movies. I'll just have to learn to be cool about that - like, I imagine, most other artists - painters, photographers, musicians, writers - do. I guess a small price to pay for being able to make & show movies that I think are interesting - kind of movies that I myself would pay money to see if someone else made them.

::

So, on that note, off to start shooting my next fiction feature. Unless I am posting up IFBRT or DNO distribution news or posting an item related to someone else's project, this blog will probably not be as active as it was this year prior to today (80 some posts this year already!) from now on. Be back in a month or so with some production stills from the next feature - a comedy about Brooklyn, starring Susan Buice & several other, lesser-known-in-the-real-indie-film world, actors.

- Sujewa

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