X

Looks like you are a new visitor to this site. Hello!

Welcome to Hope For Film! Come participate in the discussion, and I encourage you to enter your email address in the sidebar and subscribe. It's free! And easy! If you have any suggestions on how to improve this website or suggestions for topics please don't hesitate to write in to any of the blogs.

You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

(If you keep getting this message, you probably have cookies turned off.)

May 25 at 8:30am

Film Gigging: Towards A Lo-Fi Film Circuit

By Ted Hope

Today’s guest post is by John Bradburn.

Why do kids make music and not films? It’s a right of passage for teenagers up and down the land to jump in a van and travel the length of the country with instruments to play shows. These same kids save up to buy guitars and record demos. They may not make a profit but they enjoy the ride. I want to know why this doesn’t happen with filmmakers. What are the barriers to grassroots film exhibition or Film Gigging and what can we learn from the model most bands work on?

Kids don’t make films. For the cost of a set of instruments you could buy a digital camera and a laptop. Four people can make a film quite easily and with the same level of technological skill needed to record and mix a demo. But kids don’t. Jean Cocteau famously stated that film would only be an art when its materials were as cheap as pen and paper. Well now it’s certainly as cheap as an Ibenez guitar.

The film industry looks like the music industry if we thought we could only record songs with orchestras in the Albert Hall. There is no lo-fi film circuit. There are small budget shorts but 95% are aiming at the mainstream. There are even less film ‘labels’ that fund and distribute films like albums. CDs and DVDs are physically the same. If you can get an album reviewed you can get a film reviewed. So logically there should be an equal amount of indie film labels as there are music labels.

The issue is not with the availability of ‘cinemas’ and lets be clear a cinema is just any old space that can screen a film. Most bars have a big screen projector, speakers and a DVD. Sure there are short film evenings but they work on a different level. Films are frequently chosen by a selector and then screened in a micro festival model. Crucially the money generally goes to the exhibitor not the filmmaker. This would be like paying Glastonbury £90 to listen to your demo on the hope of being selected.

I am trying a different model. I am taking my feature – Wrists – to small venues around the UK in a film-gigging model. I’m taking the film to any screen that will show it where ever that is. I’d even love to be invited to someone’s house and show it to a group of friends. After the screening I’ll sell some DVDs of Wrists or some of my other films. This is entirely possible because it’s a small film for a small audience (It cost about £2, 000 and was shot with a crew of 3). I believe that if your film has a small audience then you should make it for a small amount of money. Reinvest your profits and then continue as any band would.

Much of the influence for this comes from the DIY punk and hardcore music scene. In the 1980s Dischord Records started releasing the bands from Washington DC area. They did everything themselves and released the albums at affordable prices because their overheads were low. They looked at the technology and the audience and worked out a profitable cost structure. They did not look to the received wisdom of the industry (which is currently destroying EMI ). This route is simple but it is a lot of hard work for slow and modest rewards. But you will enjoy the ride.

The 80s hardcore scene made famous the phrase ‘the personal is political.” I worry that our current film industry squeezes out marginal voices because of the perceived cost of filmmaking. Filmmakers feel less empowered to experiment or be honest in their films. I fear that most of the filmmakers we see need acceptance – to be chosen for a festival or given a job in the industry. The perception of cost makes investors always go for the safer or more mainstream or more like what has happened before type product. Technology has now leveled this playing field.

We need a paradigm shift in our thoughts as filmmakers. We are not ‘directors’ or ‘producers’ we are filmmakers who need to own their film, tour their film, sell their film and find their audience. Filmmakers should ask themselves what technology do I really need and what crew is essential to its operation.

Bands are technical – they play their instruments. Films are frequently divided in to talent and technicians. This is illogical and stupid and raises the cost exponentially. If you have an idea to make a film have the passion to learn how to use a camera. Just like kids playing shows and living in the back of a van. Guitarists get better by playing guitar and filmmakers get better by making films not waiting for them to happen. And yes the glamour of the film industry may probably have to go.

This project is aimed to open up a debate about what we expect from film – does it need to be so bloated and only exist in a cinema? Even ‘art-house’ takes on budgets that are beyond the imagination of most people. I argue that this is only through received wisdom rather than looking at the facts of what technology is available, what film you want to make and how to connect with that audience.

Much of the impetus for this idea came from working as the DOP on the 72 Hour Feature project that came out of Staffordshire University’s Digital Film Production Research team. This experience of shooting, editing and screening a feature in 72 hours showed me more than anything that we should look at the evidence of how a film is possible rather than decades old assumptions. And I fear these assumptions are the only barriers to grass routes film exhibition.
You can see more details on Wrists at wristsfilm.blogspot.com

You can read more about the 72 Hour Film Project at www.72hourmovie.com
You can email me on j.p.bradburn@googlemail.com if you have any comments or want to book a screening. It’s free in the UK by the way.

John Bradburn is a filmmaker, journalist and lecturer at Staffordshire University in Film Production Technology. His no budget feature Kyle played in the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival, West County Festival Los Angeles and Flatpack UK. His research interests include new distribution models, digital film language and DIY Aesthetics.

  • Digg
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • Paul

    There are some kids out there doing the independent film thing, and I think it's going to continue to grow as cheap/good “film” equipment becomes more readily available. Emily Hagins is a girl from here in Austin Texas who has 2 feature films under her belt…oh yeah, she's also just finished High School.

    Pathogen Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEHLQUnmcis

    Her Production Company: http://www.cheesynuggets.com/

  • http://www.saraziaebrahimi.com sZe

    I've had this same line of thought for a while. . . I've wondered if part of the equation is just that we need more models of grassroots cinema so that people can see that you can create a “cinema” the same way punk kids created a performance space out of an old church basement or whatever. The music models of this kind of transformation of spaces go beyond just the punk genre, into hip hop and beyond. The models are ubiquitous and in some cases legendary. But I suspect if I asked most of my friends for a filmic equivalent they'd draw a blank. There's still a general mystique out there that music is accessible and the process of making or screening films requires more “professionalism.”

    Another piece of the equation might also be audience expectations, or maybe it's actually more about film literacy. I'm not sure exactly how to phrase it. I find that my independent film watching friends' patience for films that aren't incredibly “well-polished” products is significantly less than their tolerance for lo fi music.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/7OOUVK2GXR2QL2LEVEPG7QOSAU Eric

    Thanks for the post, John! I admire you for what you are doing and wish you the best of luck. I've had many of the same thoughts about indie music and film. I think that eventually there will be kids making films like kids make music, but the more I think about it, there has to be some kind of cultural shift. sZe touches on it when he/she talks about audience expectations. Young filmmakers have their expectations too. They still seem to have this major-studio oriented way of thinking about film: the gold-ring is still a job in Hollywood. There are people out there making small films for small audiences, like the young woman Paul mentions, but it seems like a vibrant subculture has yet to form. Maybe soon, but for now, the indie film world is still looking for it's Ian MacKaye.

  • http://www.brookhinton.com Brook Hinton

    The diy/lo-fi “film tour” has been around for some time and continues, though venues are disappearing. See: Danny Plotnick, Bill Brown, Bill Daniel, etc…..

  • doublejnyc

    I love your idea…BUT….the only problem with comparing “film” gigging to “rock” gigging is you can chit chat with your friends and order drinks from the bar WHILE watching/listening to a band because it's sooo loud. You can't really do that with a film. Plus one band is only up for 20-30 minutes max. Do you really expect people at bar to still still and be quiet while watching the film? And watching a feature film, usually 90 mins or more is a serious time commitment. Perhaps a short film MIGHT be better…around 20 mins.

    On the other hand, I'm recalling a screening I went to at bar/rest in Soho NYC a few years ago and a majority of the people (about 30) there were captively watching the film BUT it seemed most of the people were really tight with the filmmaker so they were pre-primed to care about it.

    Thinking as I write, perhaps you could pick a place that has a separate seating area/room away from the bar that is a little quieter such as a lounge area to show the film. That way the average joe can get his drink and pop in OR leave, if the film doesn't grab him, to go back to the main area and socialize.

  • doublejnyc

    good point sZe. Bad music is tollerable and/or mildly entertaining. But bad film is complete torture.

  • Jett

    Enjoy the article, and have had similar thoughts. Now on to planning a Film Tour!

  • http://www.bagsofwind.blogspot.com bp

    just b/c someone can play 3 chords on a guitar doesn't mean they're a musician. years of craft and exposure are required. unless of course, your aim is play in crappy bars to moderately appreciative audiences. in my wet blanket-like opinion the democritization of devices needed to create cinema has not occurred at a proportionate rate to appreciation of cinema. this is not say that raw vision or talent can't sprout from these environments but the signal to noise ratio is gettting smaller.

    also the wrist links don't work

  • Jon Jost

    Hi
    It seems history self-obliterates, whether it has to do with wars or artists traipsing around selling their wears. I've been doing lo-fi in film since 1963, which was the only way one could get a screening back then. It changed for a little while say from the mid-70's to late 80's. Now its the same. Now it is though easier since a little but very nice DLP projector hooked to your camera or notebook will provide a great image and a little speaker system tacked on in an appropriately sized room works well too.
    Come autumn 2011 we (my wife and I) will be on a long screen and shoot slow zig zag journey through America, to make a kind of last hurrah essay film on our collapsing nation, do some workshops, show films, see old friends, make new ones. Anyone interested contact at clarandjon@msn.com and check out http://www.jon-jost.com or http://www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com and http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com

  • JonJost

    Hi
    It seems history self-obliterates, whether it has to do with wars or artists traipsing around selling their wears. I've been doing lo-fi in film since 1963, which was the only way one could get a screening back then. It changed for a little while say from the mid-70's to late 80's. Now its the same. Now it is though easier since a little but very nice DLP projector hooked to your camera or notebook will provide a great image and a little speaker system tacked on in an appropriately sized room works well too.
    Come autumn 2011 we (my wife and I) will be on a long screen and shoot slow zig zag journey through America, to make a kind of last hurrah essay film on our collapsing nation, do some workshops, show films, see old friends, make new ones. Anyone interested contact at clarandjon@msn.com and check out http://www.jon-jost.com or http://www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com and http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com

  • JonJost

    That should have been “wares” down there. I keep my clothes on for gigs usually….

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ jonraymond

    Anyone seen Anvil: The Story of Anvil, a documentary film about a band who stayed together for decades, even had a following, but never could sustain themselves on music. All that time they had to work shit jobs to stay alive. I won't spoil the ending but what's so great about doing that for decades? Sure we could all gig ourselves to death. But I think any filmmaker would prefer to do it as a day job.

    Having said that, I recently finished a doc feature with no crew (see http://gothealthcaremovie.com ). I did all of it. But I'd much prefer to work with people and see everyone get paid for their labor. People don't normally “gig” as a preference. They do it out of necessity. Otherwise we're talking about hobbies, not professions.

    So while I can respect people who do this, I don't see it at all as something to aspire to. As to technology, there are so many tools even just on the internet for filmmakers to distribute, build audiences, and go way beyond “gigging”. The digital camera is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Have you heard about the new solid state drive technology? This is about to revolutionize computer technology, again.

  • http://www.minormogul.com/ Damian T. Lloyd, Esq.

    I don't think you can analogize to music, despite the fact that CDs and DVDs look the same.

    Audiences don't consume movies the same way they consume music. People listen to their favourite songs and albums over and over; fans listen to them over and over and over, and try to decipher the hidden meanings of the works. In contrast, most people don't watch a movie a second time. If you're in a group of people and you want to select a movie, one person's “Seen it” is enough to move on to another choice. But if you want to put on “Abbey Road”, nobody's going to say, “Oh, I've heard that already.”

    Also the allure of stardom isn't the same. You can dream of being in a band and getting world-famous, but to most people the only stars in a movie are the actors (I bet most people couldn't name a director except Steven Spielberg).

  • http://crashcamfilms.com/filmtour2010.htm Bob Ray

    ditto: http://crashcamfilms.com/filmtour2010.htm

    i'm taking TOTAL BADASS (http://www.TotalBadassTheMovie.com), Hell on Wheels (http://www.HellOnWheelsTheMovie.com) and some of my short 'toons (http://www.CrashToons.com) on a tour of the western US.

    it's gonna be NUTS!

  • mbt shoes

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion. Such as mbt outlet store that worth you to see. Believe me these websites won’t let you down.

  • http://www.cheapshirtsoutletonline.com lacoste polo shirts

    Emily Hagins is a girl from here in Austin Texas who has 2 feature films under her belt…oh yeah, she's also just finished High School.

  • http://www.cheap-ralphlaurenpoloshirts.co ralph lauren polos

    Now it is though easier since a little but very nice DLP projector hooked to your camera or notebook will provide a great image and a little speaker system tacked on in an appropriately sized room works well too.

  • http://www.lacostecanada.ca lacoste canada

    good point sZe. Bad music is tollerable and/or mildly entertaining. But bad film is complete torture.

  • http://www.bagsinheart.com/ hermes

    Coach Factory Outlet Madison Exotic Shoulder Bag dim Blue,Those who could be the mentor fans should possess a this artist shoulder bag.Such a shoulder bag is using probably the most favored and recognized sorts even although while in the design planet these days.The fashionable design and high best top quality consist of the individuality to the operator inside the sort of coach factory outlet shoulder bags.

  • http://www.bagsinheart.com/productlist/Hermes_Constance_1.html Hermes Constance

    Coach Factory Outlet Madison Exotic Shoulder Bag dim Blue,Those who could be the mentor fans should possess a this artist shoulder bag.Such a shoulder bag is using probably the most favored and recognized sorts even although while in the design planet these days.The fashionable design and high best top quality consist of the individuality to the operator inside the sort of coach factory outlet shoulder bags.It is well-known for its high best top quality and nicely design.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Qun-Lu/100002188687673 Qun Lu

    Think about the
    side of a tote Replica
    Handbags
    as a blank painter’s canvas on which
    to print your business logo. That canvas is spacious, <a<br>href=”http://www.copyluxury.net/herm…“>Hermes
    Handbags
    meaning there is lots of room to
    display Lancel
    Handbags
    whatever marketing message you need to
    get across to your audience. You can use the ample space to its fullest
    potential by <a<br>href=”http://www.replicahandbags-2u….“>Marc
    Jacobs Handbags

    choosing huge, bold
    <a<br>href=”http://www.handbagsprada.us/“>Goyard
    Handbags
     print, bright colors as well as a
    captivating message.<a<br>href=”http://www.replicawatches2uk.c…“>Replica
    Aigner watches
    Laptop computer messenger bags Givenchy
    handbags
    come in lots of different styles. There is laptop
    computer backpacks, <a<br>href=”http://www.handbagshermes.us/m…“>Marni
    handbags laptop computer briefcases, & lots of more. You
    can get any of them that match you style & fashion for better travel
    conveniences. Men love to wear the <a<br>href=”http://www.replica–watches.co…“>Replica
    Watches
     and <a<br>href=”http://www.replica–watches.co…“>Patek
    Philippe watches
      is one of the most replicated watch brands
    worldwide, behind only <a<br>href=”http://www.breitling-watches.c…“>Breitling
    watches uk

     and Panerai. Omega watches tag
    heuer watches
    are popular, and hence there is
    a large range of Patek Philippe Omega replica watches available. These watches
    range from poor Chinese copies to the latest high-end Swiss ETA replicas with
    all the bells and whistles. <a<br>href=”http://www.rolex-replicawatche…“>Rolex
    Replica Watches

    </a<br></a<br></a<br></a<br></a<br></a<br></a<br></a<br></a<br>

  • printingray

    It’s the pity
    you actually don’t possess a contribute switch! I’d most definitely contribute
    to that superior blog site! We suppose that for the time being I’ll happy with
    book-marking as well as including your own Rss in order to my personal Search
    engines accounts. We appear forth in order to recent improvements and can show
    this particular web page along with my personal MySpace crew :)

    http://www.printingray.com/sti

This site could not have been built without the help and insight of Michael Morgenstern. My thanks go out to him.

Help save indie film and give this guy a job in web design or film!