Saturday, April 10, 2010

So, About That Manifesto...

Filmmaker and critic Michael Tully recently drafted a "manifesto", which you can read here. In brief, he says that the film you make is more important than how you make it, that the behind-the-scenes story is irrelevant, he doesn't want to fund your film, and that he's tired of the endless panels about new media, internet marketing, raising finances, et cetera.

It's prompted a lot of criticism, especially from social-network-y filmmakers; his manifesto over-states his case, as both manifestos and Tullys often do. I signed it because I agree with it generally, in broad strokes, if not exactly 1:1. For example:

There's a story Akira Kurosawa told about a particularly expensive and arduous scene he shot for one of his films. It was such an absolute bear of a shoot that when he realized in editing he didn't need the scene, part of him fought the process. In the end, the scene hit the cutting room floor, because it didn't work for the film: all that matters is the end product. (Which reminds me somewhat of something Mike D'Angelo wrote about tricky single-take shots.)

So, yeah, I agree with that point. But at the same time, a film's back story can be compelling; Children of Paradise, a three-hour epic costume drama, was made in secret in Nazi-Occupied France. It's a great film in its own right, but the sheer audacity of its making does indeed deepen your appreciation of it. So, while I can definitely say "your back story doesn't matter if it's not there on the screen" at the same time, I can't come out and say, "I don't want to hear anything about how you made your film".

In fact, I do want to hear it. And I want to talk about it. That's why we blog about each of our shoots. That's why our new DVDs are including commentary tracks and supplemental features. Part of it is to provide more information to you, the viewer, and part of it is frankly and obviously to market us. Not just the film, but the people who made it: a married couple, financing the films with our pocket change, paying our actors in pizza, making the films we want to make the way we want to make them.

It's an image, one that's both carefully constructed and completely true. We play up our humbleness, the mom-and-pop-ness. We do it together and with equal billing both because we enjoy doing it together and because it'll get us farther ahead than either of us separately: Tom is, after all, yet another white guy in his twenties, and Mary is the woman filmmaker, less common than Tom but not a novelty. The married couple with equal billing? Bam!

But that image would be nothing if there weren't films attached to them. There are a lot of filmmakers who never actually make films, instead spending their time networking and attending seminars and learning buzzwords. The kind of people fuck-faced morons like Dov Simens appeal to. Not artists, but rather the prey for bullshit artists.

Social networking and marketing are useful and necessary tools, but only when used to actually do something. With a film, you'd be an idiot to not use them. Otherwise, it's just annoying-- just a simulacrum.

That, I think, is what Tully is really rallying against-- the marketing-of-marketing, the buzzword-thicket of nothing-actually-done. It's in opposition to that simulacrum which prompted my own signing.

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