Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old Stuff: Who Are You As A Filmmaker?

Who are you as a filmmaker? What makes you and/or your film different from the thousands of others out in the world? This month I want to make a brief practical argument for the emergence of your unique selves in your films. Every year, thousands of films get made. Festival programmers, buyers, distributors and even audiences are flooded with them. Most of them, sadly, are not very good for many reasons. Often because over-eager filmmakers (count me among them) have not taken the time to learn their craft and explore the true potential of cinema - but that topic is for another Eblast. But even the solidly made ones often suffer from a lack of vision and originality. Many times because filmmakers want to make something that is familiar to audiences and to those that can advance their careers. They want to prove that they can make a Hollywood film and thus deserve to join the ranks of big budget cigar chompers.

Big mistake. First of all, making films for purely careerist reasons more times than not will take you farther from that goal. People can sniff out your intention through the film and are turned off by it. Secondly, industry professionals are not looking for new talent to make the same films they are already capable of making. Why do they need you for that? They're already doing fine without adding you to the mix. Instead, they are looking for something fresh, new, distinctive - an aesthetic or perspective they haven't seen before. Will they continue to honor your vision once they've exploited your talent? In a very limited way, yes, because they can now hire you for ridiculous amounts of money to take their warmed-over, formulaic films and make them seem new to audiences. And then you have your "career".

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But a more important argument for exploring your unique selves cinematically can be found in how it serves you as a creative being. Assuming you are making films for reasons other than careerist or egotistical objectives, nothing serves the authentic creative being inside all of us better than expressing that authenticity in our work. Let's face it, filmmaking can be grueling and expensive. It demands so much of us on a practical/experiential level that our desire to make films often seems like some kind of insanity. Why do we do it? Hopefully not because we want to prove we are as mediocre as the filmmaker who came before us. Hopefully it is because we are using the medium of cinema to express what is truly authentic about us as filmmakers, as creative beings, as HUMAN beings. And, be sure, each of us has something unique and authentic to express just as sure as we have our own unique fingerprint or DNA.

At the end of the day, after we've cast our films out into the world and have suffered the slings and arrows of those who feel the need and/or obligation to judge them, we will always be left with the immense satisfaction that comes with authentic creative expression. The satisfaction that only comes from bringing forth what needs to be expressed from deep inside of us. The satisfaction that only comes from "opening" the world to an insight, perspective or even a joke that no one else can offer. The satisfaction that only only comes from making a film that, quite simply, no one else could make if they tried, infused with passion, honesty and authenticity - therefore having something unique to say that needs, or even, demands to be expressed in this world. If you haven't done it, try making a film like that just once and you will truly know why you became a filmmaker in the first place. You will then be crystal-clear about why you subject yourself to the insanity of filmmaking - and thank yourself for making that choice.

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