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You Want Some Control, You've Got To Keep It Small
By Ed Driscoll · September 21, 2006 01:20 AM · Hollywood, Interrupted · Pajamas Theater 3000

In his latest column, James Pinkerton explores "The Importance of DIY Movies":

As a movie critic for TCS Daily, I sometimes feel like a bicyclist at a Harley-Davidson convention: My presence is tolerated, people are friendly enough, but I'm not exactly necessary. I know that most TCSers want to get their brain-motors running, reading-wise, on heavy-metal issues of technology and society. And any techster today knows that movies are just a small part of the show -- a legacy medium, shrinking relative to the endlessly proliferating content to be found online.
This is something I spotted back in March, when I wrote:
Hollywood is rapidly becoming just another niche entertainment product. And as it rewards films that are aimed at coastal niche audiences, and critically shuns the movies that reached the widest viewers, it has only itself to blame.

At this point, Iím sure I risk coming across like my parents, wondering why so few people are making entertainment these days that interests me. But then, as Mark Steyn recently noted, Tinseltown's sounding even more antediluvian at the moment, trapped mining controversies that are no long controversial; both ignoring today's issues, and half its potential domestic audience.

On the other hand, my parents' generation had to rely almost exclusively on Hollywood for their entertainment: only the stars themselves could afford their own in-home recording studio--and video production at home was strictly science fiction.

But yesterday's science fiction has a way of becoming reality. And these days, reality is often much more enjoyable than Hollywood.

For Pinkerton, the manifestation of this new reality in action is "the trend toward do-it-yourself -- or at least do-it-without-Hollywood -- moviemaking and distributing.":
One such samizdat film is a documentary, "Border War," produced by David Bossie, president of Citizens United, a DC-based activist group. Bossie, a veteran conservative activist, told me that about five years ago he decided to "do something different" to promote his beliefs. And so he traveled out to Hollywood, got turned on to documentaries, and started making them -- nobody told him he couldn't.
Libertas has written on numerous occasions that documentaries are indeed often the best place for a budding filmmaker to start. Just ask seminal DIYer Stanley Kubrick, who was shooting cheapie newsreels for RKO 17 years before MGM handed him $10.5 million to shoot 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Back in 1968, believe it or not youngsters, $10.5 mil was serious money in Hollywood, funding an entire big-budget Cinerama movie, from cast to catering. Now it's half of one movie's B+ level star's salary.)

But I digress. Back to Pinkerton's look at David Bossie:

The best known of his documentaries so far is "Celsius 41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain... Begins to Die," a response, of course, to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911." And while Bossie didn't win any Oscars, he did make a splash, even turning a profit for his group.

As for "Border War," it's going to appeal to conservative immigration hawks a lot more than libertarian immigration doves. So be it. Those with other points of view should be making their own movies, and it's never been easier.

Bossie's insight is the realization that today movie-making talent is widely distributed. All those high schools and colleges and garages are cranking out kids who know their way around a videocam -- and also know how to upload to Youtube. Moreover, not all these talented kids are liberals and left-wingers, not by a long shot; an up-and-coming cineaste doesn't need to pass through the ideological strainer of NYU or UCLA anymore. And it's rich beds of talent nationwide that make "alt.conservative" movies possible.

Only a few days before the niche-solidifying Oscars, I interviewed conservative documentarian Evan Coyne Maloney. His filmmaking advice is well-worth re-reading. And as Kubrick himself once said:
The best education in film is to make one. I would advise any neophyte director to try to make a film by himself. A three-minute short will teach him a lot. I know that all the things I did at the beginning were, in microcosm, the things I'm doing now as a director and producer. There are a lot of noncreative aspects to filmmaking which have to be overcome, and you will experience them all when you make even the simplest film: business, organization, taxes, etc., etc. It is rare to be able to have an uncluttered, artistic environment when you make a film, and being able to accept this is essential.

The point to stress is that anyone seriously interested in making a film should find as much money as he can as quickly as he can and go out and do it. And this is no longer as difficult as it once was. When I began making movies as an independent in the early 1950s I received a fair amount of publicity because I was something of a freak in an industry dominated by a handful of huge studios. Everyone was amazed that it could be done at all. But anyone can make a movie who has a little knowledge of cameras and tape recorders, a lot of ambition and -- hopefully -- talent. It's gotten down to the pencil and paper level. We're really on the threshold of a revolutionary new era in film.

That was from 37 years ago. And if anything, "the pencil and paper level" is infinitely--infinitely--easier today than it was in 1969.



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