Monday, February 05, 2007

DIY Filmmaking

With the winter award season well on its way and the summer blockbuster stretch just around the corner, I think now is as good a time as ever to reward those filmmakers who understand that you don't need a ninety million dollar budget to make that epic gangster remake you've always been talking about. After all, with YouTube and Final Cut and all that digital crap, it's like pretty much anybody can make a movie nowadays. Right?

The theme for this post is Do It Yourself (DIY) Filmmaking. I’ve rounded up a selection of films released this past year that embody the DIY attitude. The quotes are all real and, yes, I've seen them all. They're great. Most of them can now be found on DVD. Check 'em out:

The Guatemalan Handshake
Dir. Todd Rohal
96 minute DV Narrative

A mysterious power failure in a small mountain town coincides with the disappearance of one of its most eccentric young residents. Mystery piles upon mystery as his family and friends search for him, fail, and ultimately try to forget about him, an undertaking that results in many unexpected, and in some cases bizarre, effects on the town's already peculiar community.

At age 19, Rohal was nominated for a Student Academy Award and he is a recipient of a Princess Grace Foundation grant. Guatemalan Handshake features actor/musician Will Oldham and was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival.

Head Trauma
Dir. Lance Weiler
84 minute HD Narrative

After a 20 year absence, drifter, George Walker, returns home to settle his grandmother's estate. As if awakening from a long dream, he finds his childhood home condemned and littered with the remnants of squatters. In the midst of trying to save his past, George falls and strikes his head, triggering an onslaught of vivid nightmares and waking visions. As the horror intrudes on George's reality, his conviction grows that someone or something is trying to kill him.

Weiler made cinema history in 1998 when his directorial debut The Last Broadcast became the first all digital release of a feature film via satellite. His follow up, the psychological horror film Head Trauma, makes use of a digital cinema solution called IndEx that allows Weiler to carry an HD digital version of the film where ever he goes. A near perfect example of DIY, Weiler says the film was “shot, converted to HD, self-distributed, and pressed to mass-market DVD for about $125,000” - pretty impressive.

Four Eyed Monsters
Dir. Susan Buice & Arin Crumley
71 minute DV Narrative

The autobiographical Four Eyed Monsters didn't really break through until the directors created a video podcast documenting their journey creating and promoting the film. Thanks to a powerful MySpace community, the 17 videos posted on their iTunes feed over the past 9 months that each have received an average of 75,000 downloads. I got the chance to sit down with the directors of this wonderful film a couple of months ago - I'll post the interview in a few days. If you're interested in how new media is going to change the world SEE THIS FILM!

Mutual Appreciation
Dir. Andrew Bujalski
110 minutes
Goodbye Cruel Releasing

A musician (Justin Rice) comes between his best friend (Bujalski) and his best friend’s girl (Rachel Clift). Director Andrew Bujalski, a local filmmaker fresh of his first release, Funny Ha-Ha, follows in the Cassavetes tradition, casting non-actors and promoting improvisation that results in a slice of life, rather than a constructed film. Self produced and distributed, Bujalski is a complete DIY-er; “I make films for myself, that I want to see,” he says. “If other people like them – that’s great.”

Jackass 2
Dir. Jeff Tremaine
95 min
Paramount Pictures

Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam and the gang are back in another gross-out stunt fest with no holds barred. Based off the popular ‘Jackass’ television series that aired on MTV, the film may be the most mainstream on this list – the only with major studio backing – but nothing shows the DIY aesthetic in its most extreme than an hour and a half of self-inflicted sadomasochism. Count on plenty of piss, puke, poop, and semen – the surrealists would have loved these guys.

American Hardcore
Dir. Paul Rachman
100 min
Sony Picture Classics

Inspired by Steven Blush's book "American Hardcore: A Tribal History", Paul Rachman's feature documentary debut is a chronicle of the underground hardcore punk scene, where DIY was pioneered, from 1979 to 1986. The film includes interviews and rare live footage from artists such as Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, SS Decontrol and the Dead Kennedys. The definitive film about an amazing movement.

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