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in Filmmaking
on Nov 25, 2007

Here’s a collection of links to some things I’ve found interesting in the last week but which, because of the holiday, I wasn’t able to post here as their own separate entries.

Filmmaker AJ Schnack has written an excellent post on the yearly disappointment that is the Academy Award doc shortlist. (For the complete list, click here). Typically, the Academy overlooked the most artistically risk-taking films, movies like Manda Bala and Billy the Kid, and went, mostly, for worthy films dealing with serious subjects that also happened to subscribe to long accepted methods of documentary practice. (Nominees included such strong titles as Taxi to the Dark Side, Sicko, No End in Sight, and Autism: The Musical.) Schnack calls for film lovers and critics to be more aggressive in their support for docs that try to shake up the form’s conventions:

And one must look to a new body, be it the American Film Institute or some consortium of festivals or some brand new organization to stand up for, to recognize filmmaking craft, to support innovation and risk-taking. To say damn what is important, damn the issues, we stand with artists.

And we need film critics to dig down deep within themselves and write about films from the perspective of the filmmaking, not on whether or not a subject is worthy or important. You need to learn to write about the art of making nonfiction as much or more than you write a summary of the events that transpire in the documentary.

(Thanks to Ted Hope for flagging this post for me.)

On Facebook I came across a group for Arthur Russell, Matt Wolf’s documentary about the experimental composer and avant-disco pioneer. Russell’s strange and personal take on both twentieth century classical and downtown dance music in the 1970s and ’80s is being rediscovered now through a series of reissues, and Wolf’s doc looks to capture both Russell’s musical importance as well as the unique circumstances involved in making radical art during the AIDS epidemic. For more on the doc or to contribute tax-deductible funds to its finishing, click on the link above.

Filmmaker Christopher Arcella, who I’ve blogged about before, emailed to tell me about his revamped website and his half-finished self-funded feature for which he is still looking for NYC actors and actresses. (Contact info is on his site.) On the new site you can see his stunning short, CRIME SCENE GREENPOINT, and on another site, Run Robots, you can find his website design service for which he’s trying to interest more filmmakers in. Check it out.

Filmmaker Tom Quinn, who took part in this year’s IFP Rough Cut Lab with his feature, The New Year’s Parade, has been posting updates on his post-production progress over at Lance Weiler’s Workbook Project. On his most recent entry, he touches on something that I think can often be very important during editing: making sure your film is not too obsessed with story and dramatic beats to the exclusion of everything else. Or, rather, understanding that story can be conveyed in so many more subtle ways than dialogue and dramatic action.

An excerpt from his post:

The feedback we’ve accumulated through the IFP Lab and the test screenings we’ve held have led us to trim back on exposition in favor of the quiet moments – the spaces between plot where the characters simply exist in their world as it is reshaped by their parents’ actions. Act Two really moves and packs a nice emotional punch. I lifted 5 scenes from Act One. The crazy thing about making a movie with such a talented and raw cast is how their faces communicate in a moment what my script said in ten pages.

Related: the Media Rights blog posted this good summary of Weiler’s day at the Rough Cut Lab.

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