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ANTONIO CAMPOS ON AFTERSCHOOL

by
in Filmmaking
on Nov 22, 2008

For the final artist statement in our check-in with the “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” directors, whose pictures can be seen at MOMA this weekend, here is what Afterschool director Antonio Campos emailed to the blog. (Afterschool plays tomorrow at 5:30pm). I also point you towards BFNP juror Brandon Harris’s compelling argument for the film over at Hammer to Nail. An excerpt:

Afterschool is a movie not unlike so many punky, fishnet wearing, Sartre reading high school students; the type you don’t often encounter in this kind of picture. Like that tired cliché for transitory and defensive teenage identity, Afterschool doesn’t much want to be loved and bites you for trying. It’s a film that sees, with alarming precision and clear-eyed, long-take candor, the emotional atrophy that an entire generation of children and young adults has been subjected to; interpersonal relationships which have become dominated and mediated by digital modes of communication, coupled with the abdication of responsibility on the part of the generations preceding them. Any film with this much to say about modern life, especially when said in such a rigorous and austere fashion, will certainly have its naysayers, of which Afterschool has gathered a minor cult.

And here is what Campos wrote:


My relation to film has been like my relationship with anyone I’ve loved in my life- it is not always easy and can be quite volatile at times but in the end I’m reminded of why I loved it in the first place. I’m happy to say that the experience of making Afterschool, though rough at times, especially at the moment with trying to find a home for the film in the US, has only reenforced my love for film and my desire to make my next. With reading all the reviews and blogs about the film, I feel that there is an expectation that all my films will be a certain way. I feel that’s presumptious and not what I’m interested in as a filmmaker. I only want to make films if I can continue to explore myself as a person and an artist and never repeat myself. In the wake of the film, I’ve been able to step back and look at all my shorts and the feature now objectively. And I can see a growth and certain consistencies in choices- both visually and thematically- but what’s nice is that that never was intentional and has felt organic.

As for making films in this new environment, it hasn’t affected my desire to make the films I want to make, in the way I want to make them. I do get the sense that less and less people are willing to take risks and that more and more companies are looking to make “safe” bets- that is genre films or films with stars that offer a certain kind of prestige. I don’t think the internet is taking the place of cinemas; I do think that VOD and DVD have changed the way distribution works. VOD is a way of reaching a lot more people all over the country that were not being exposed to this kind of cinema before. People still want that experience of seeing a film in a movie theatre, even though it seems like the number of people that want that or can afford that in this economic climate is a lot smaller. I do think that theaters need to adjust and come up with new ways to entice people to come out to theaters. It’s just so expensive to see films in a theatre now, and god forbid you want to buy something at a concession stand. This problem isn’t that far off from what happened when TVs were first in everyone’s home and people weren’t going to see movies. More films in color started coming out, films in scope, films in 3D, drive-thrus, double features. I feel like distributors and theaters used to be a lot more creative and active in trying to get people to come see movies. It seems like the industry is in a weird place where NO ONE seems to know exactly what to do or where exactly distribution is heading. There are a lot of companies and filmmakers trying different things- Landmark with the “Truly Indie” series, self-distribution, online distribution, etc- and everyone is just waiting with bated breath to see what sticks and what doesn’t.

Ultimately, I think that what will happen is that independent film will go back to what it was in the ’90s before the commercialization or “genrification” of indie film happened. The idea of what an independent film is has become very blurry. A lot of independent films come out that have huge budgets, with big stars, and they’re quirky and gritty and dark- these things that have become markers of what makes an indie film. But they don’t feel like they’re coming from an honest, personal place from a filmmaker with a strong, singular vision, which are the qualities that I always associated with independent cinema. Budgets are going to have get smaller, so the risk will be smaller, but it’s amazing how creative you can be when you have limitations plac ed on you.

All I can focus on now is making the films I want to make and working with the people that are interested in that kind of cinema. As I continue to make films, I hope my audience grows and whether they see them in the last few theaters left in their town or on their TV or on their computer, I can’t predict. As long as they’re not watching them on their cell phones, I’m happy.

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