A few years ago, I attended a panel discussion at the Sundance Film Festival (okay, the truth is I love the panel discussions and try to go to one or two every day). Anyway, one of the panel discussions was the “truth” of documentary filmmaking. Questions like how to capture the truth, portray it and balance it were at the heart of the discussion. There was an underlying hint that documentary filmmakers were biased and might NOT be able to render a truthful portrait.
Barbara Kopple was there. She had made the Academy Award winning Harlan County, USA (about the violent mining strike in Harlan County, Kentucky). The truth/bias conversation was heating up and I found her comments on documentary filmmaking to be powerful and incisive. She said that ALL filmmaking, journalism, writing and human endeavor was biased and subjective because it was being interpreted and presented by a human being. The act of pointing the camera in a specific direction, capturing some audio (while ignoring other), and editing the material together inevitably created a subjective portrait.
Kopple went on to say that documentary filmmakers should endeavor to capture and present the subject matter honestly and accurately, knowing that it would come from their particular point of view. You can see her complete filmography at Cabin Creek Films and check out her upcoming film, My Generation. Rent Harlan County, USA and check out the seen when the explosive devices are being hurled into the miners’ camp. Notice how Kopple pointed the camera at the women watching the explosions rather than the explosions themselves. Powerful imagery and demonstration of her POV!
“Nobody outside of a baby carriage or a judge’s chamber believes in an unprejudiced point of view.”
Lillian Hellman (1905 – 1984)
“You can’t truthfully explain your smallest action without fully revealing your character.”
I’m on a documentary kick again. I recently watched The Donner Party again (the Ric Burns film). On the festival circuit, one sees numerous excellent documentaries. Documentary filmmaking seems more noble and more doable. I visited Ken Burns‘ site today. He and his brother, Ric, are the crown princes of documentary filmmaking. His site, Florentine Films, was very informative.
His collaborative partner’s site HOTT Films was also very interesting and included links to three documentary film distributors. In addition to my interest in Pauline Cushman, a friend is working on a script about his grandfather’s time in the Ambulance Corps in WWI. My nephew, who edits briliantly in industry in Cali sharing insights into broadcast success. I was surprised to discover today that the documentary on Robert Evans (The Kid Stays in the Picture) is STILL in theatrical release and has generated $1.4 million.
“War is not nice.”
Barbara Bush (1925 – )
Former First Lady
“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.”
Jules de Gaultier
The film I’m really looking foward to right now is Mystic River. I tend to really like films that Clint Eastwood directs. I really liked A Perfect World and Unforgiven. There’s a lot interest in this new film. There are several websites devoted to it. Here’s another Mystic River Too.
The film has some great talent committed to it. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Kevin Bacon. Directed by Eastwood, the film tells of three childhood friends who reunite following the death of one of their daughters. The police detective on the case gathers difficult and disturbing evidence; he’s also tasked with handling his friend’s rage and need for retribution.
“Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.”
Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)
British Prime Minister
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself.”
Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)
Song of Myself, 1855
I grew up in rural Wisconsin and wanted to be a cowgirl. My Dad got me an old Welsh pony named Orville (diverted him from the glue factory). Four miles west of my hometown of Chippewa Falls (pop. 12,503) was an even smaller town. Albertville (pop. 67) was a throw-back to the Wild Wild West where there was a weekly rodeo. I got to ride in the barrel races there. I never won. My uncle was the rodeo clown. Chippewa.Com will take you to the region. Today’s cover story (complete with photo) is the homecoming parade. Two of my sisters married Steinmetz “boys.” I see a Steinmetz boy is the homecoming king this year. No doubt they’re related. Twenty years later, the population and way of life is largely unchanged. It’s easy to discern my personal point of view by looking from whence I came.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)
“Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.”
Former Photography Teacher
Carnivale has me captivated. How does HBO do it? I loved Project Greenlight and Six Feet Under (although it wasn’t as good this past season, it’s still light years ahead of many network shows). Of course Sex In The City and Sopranos are great. Carnivale is so moody and beautifully photographed, it has moved to the top of “must see” list. Like Project Greenlight, I’m watching it two or three times a week (on different HBO channels). There’s always something new to see. This week’s episode about the tent revival and Ben’s (played by Nick Stahl) faith healing should be alarming. Seems to be the serious version of one of my very favorite films, Leap of Faith, starring an uncharacteristically callous Steve Martin. It was Janus Cercone’s first film. Very well written.
Be sure to check out Liz Levy’s Persistence of Vision. As always, there is some wonderful stuff on there. Be sure to check out the link to AnimWatch.Com, a site that tracks independent animated film. I stumbled on it a few weeks back when I wrote about Kowalski’s Dream. It features a story on RustBoy.Com which is a site about an independent film featuring, who else, RustBoy. The site also explains in great detail how to make your own animated film. It’s simply excellent.
“Nature is full of freaks, and now puts an old head on young shoulders, and then takes a young heart heating under fourscore winters.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
“Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman. Believing what he read made him mad.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
As the weather gets cooler in Phoenix, the thought of making a film is exciting once again. Low budget links for today include El Mariachi, The REAL Budget, Learning From Low Budgets, The ABCs of Low Budget Filmmaking, Crossing the Line, and, of course, DV Resources.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)
“I’ve spent my life searching for a man I could look up to without lying down.”
Frances Marion (1888 – 1973)
Writer, Director, Actress
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”
Don Marquis (1878 – 1937)
“Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.”
H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946)
British Author from The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914)
William Butler Yeats, as quoted in Bibliomania.Com.
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
“Death’s brother, Sleep.”
Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC)
Poet from the Aeneid
“I feel awake.”
Gena Davis (21 Jan 1956 — )
Actress from Thelma & Louise
A consumer high-definition camera is on the market making HD accessible to the consumer videophile. Here’s a review of the consumer JVC HD Cam complete with sample frames. The documentation indicates only one CCD so quality is certainly a concern. The review indicates the advanced digital signal processors (DSPs) compensate for the single CCD.
Personally, I’m very fond of Sony products for their quality and reliability. They too have an HD Cam now, the DCRDVD200. It is beautiful. Their PD150 is terrific, too. As is Canon’s GL2. So many things to acquire, so little time (and money) to get them all.
“Lots of people think they’re charitable if they give away their old clothes and things they don’t want.”
Myrtle Reed (1874-1911)
Writer, Journalist, Philanthropist
“There must be more to life than having everything.”
Maurice Sendak (1928 – )
Illustrator of Children’s Books
Two more film lists have appeared on the left. One is a Sundance Shorts, (for which I am seeking MORE links). The other is Telluride features, documentaries and shorts. Click on the links on the right to access those lists. The lists contain viewing recommendations.
Notice, I’ve also added a Google Search on the right to help you locate something you may recall but is no longer on the main page.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946)
I love independent films! Since I teach media arts, I spend my life trying to inspire students to develop a unique style, unique point of view and cohesive body of work. Obviously, the thing I love most about independent film is the broad range of unique stories. My Sundance Film List is the summary of the great films I’ve experienced at the festival. There are premieres, dramatic narratives, documentaries and world cinema categories. I’m compiling a separate Sundance Short film list.
“Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.”
Ralph Charell (Dates)
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
Martha Graham (1893 – 1991)
U.S. Dancer, Choreographer
I have had an incredibly BAD week. Therefore, I am greatly mollified by the news that Sofia Coppola’s film Lost In Translation (starring the lovely and talented Scarlett Johansson) did unbelievably, astronomically well (balancing out my week)! The per screen average on opening weekend was $40,221. That is simply stunning for an independent “art-house” film. Her cousin, Nicholas Cage, starred in a film that was released this weekend. Matchstick Men brought in only $4,827 per screen. [It is fair to point out that M.M. was on 2,711 screens while L.I.T. was on only 23 screens.]
An independent documentary is making the rounds and generating good reviews and good box office. It was made by some of the same folks that made the surfing classic Endless Summer. The film boasts NO special effects and NO stuntmen. Step Into Liquid is in its sixth (6th) week of release and has generated a respectable $2,604,144. I loved Endless Summer (certainly the backstory of the Point Break bank robbers) and am looking forward to this film.
“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.”
Orson Welles (1915 – 1985)
“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.”
Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC)
This is how I begin to blog each day. I have a daily template that I use to get started. I create a hyperlink to something related to my post (like my web page at school). The link gives people something else to go to if they feel so inclined. Ideally, people check in every couple of days because they find the info valuable and interesting. Then I try to find a couple of amusing quotes. I use my books, look for people I’m interested in that day or ramble around the web and see what I stumble upon. Most blogs are just text but I like adding some sort of visual element. [This photo of me was taken in Mexico. Do you think ScubaPro will contact me to serve as a spokesmodel for their equipment?]
“You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation.”
Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959)
American Blues Singer
“Ideas control the world.”
James A. Garfield (19 Nov 1831 – 19 Sep 1881)
20th U.S. President
MovieBytes.Com is a website dedicated to screenwriting. It has screenwriting contests, samples of screenplays, agent directories and workshop opportunities. One of the great values of the site is that it helps you see the work of your competition — the work of other undiscovered, unagented, unproduced screenwriters.
It also shows the types of contests, their entry deadlines and the prizes. After watching Project Greenlight, one can see that winning a contest may or may not lead to overall success in the industry. I’ve know hundreds of folks who have entered contests and a few that have won them. For the folks I know, winning the contest meant a few dollars in prize money, a certificate to hang on the wall and a few moments of notoriety in the local media. Project Greenlight definitely catapulted Erica Beeney, Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin into the industry. So, today’s link is the contest list from MovieBytes. Use it prudently (make sure you’ve honed your script before entering) and, if your script is original, compelling and satisfying, consider the possibility of looking for a producer along with a contest.
“No one wants to write. People want to have written.”
Author Unknown (early 1970′s)
Something I read somewhere on how people
want the benefits (fame and glory) of writing
not the life and work of a writer (or screenwriter).