Friday, December 7, 2012

A Minimalist Filmmaker's Ethic

I orignially posted this on Facebook on Tuesday, 3 July 2012.

The following are some points I'd like to share about filmmaking. Feel free to disagree with my points, obviously. The point is that each of these must be interpreted subjectively by you, the filmmaker. What counts is the ethic behind it.

I found the 'rules' of Dogme 95 a little... dogmatic. Here are some more reasonable guidelines.

1. You shall endeavour to spend as little money as you can possibly on the project.
2. You shall hire actors and actresses for their talent and convenience of location and contact, not for their level of prestige in a capitalist industry.
3. You shall use natural lighting whenever you can. Limiting yourself to a single studio light would be a good challenge.
4. You shall keep your film environment safe, both physically and emotionally, for all involved in the project.
5. You shall not claim undue credit for your 'work' - filmmaking is a COLLABORATIVE process. Auteurism is a MYTH. The film is made by everyone who cares to contribute towards it, not 'just' the Director or Production Company etc.
5. You shall license your work under the Creative Commons and never charge exploitative prices.
6. You shall not rely unduly on special effects or gimmicks. A good rule is that no effect should ever be used to supercede the plot.
7. You shall build sets of minimalist props and minimal physical alteration to the existing environment as possible.
8. You shall endeavour to use the least possible transport.
9. You shall not be dissuaded to film where you 'can't get permits' - just be creative and use guerilla techniques. Bureaucracy hurts you - do not support it.(Obviously, it is easier to film in places you CAN get permission to do so, but you should never be forced to pay or wait - both confound the minimalist ethic)
10. You shall use the equipment you have and can procure through friendship and favours, and make the least possible use of capitalist lenders' services as possible.
11. If you cannot source a copy of professional editing software, use Kdenlive - it's free.
12. Do not criticise films that don't use the most glossy technology - the access to that technology is controlled by capitalists and an industry who has a fundamentalist bureaucratic body that wants to influence filmmakers (the MPAA)  and we should dissociate ourselves as much as possible from film elitism.
13. Do not shoot an excessive number of takes. If your actors repeatedly make mistakes, they may well just be stressed out by the environment. Change THAT rather than wasting time. Time is your most valuable resource, and everyone brings that to the table. Remember, people more often WANT to help you and be productive, as long as you don't make it a horrible experience to do that!
14. Denounce the Academy Awards. They are run by a panel of 4000 elitists that are 70% male, over 90% white and have an average age of SIXTY-THREE. Representative of the movie-watching public? You decide....
15. Do not be a perfectionist or a prima donna.  Perfectionism is usually a recipe for abuse. If you wish to argue about something, either do it at length in pre-production (better) or quickly and summatively during production (not as good) but in either case, do so ethically and kindly.
16. Do not source a soundtrack from an expensive composer. Rather collaborate with a local one. Do not rely overly much on non-diegetic music. It has its time and place but should not, as with effects, supercede the plot.
17. Be open to new suggestions during production. The people doing different jobs from you are also gaining different insights that you would not have without their input.
18. Love what you do and share it with as many people as possible. Film is beautiful and fantastic and has so much potential as an art. The last thing we all need is for it to be supporting anyone's materialistic greed.
19. Shoot!

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