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As cinephiles and filmmakers we have to demand more of ourselves and of our culture and of other filmmakers. Complacency has become a staple of our culture and our cinema; our film critics and academics do not demand innovation or new cinema, while Hollywood and independent film studios continue to dominate and brainwash audiences both economically and culturally. We first have to recognize that the current systems and institutions have and will continue to manipulate us as long as their profits soar; they will never give us anything new if we don’t demand it. We can complain about our state of affairs (cinematically, economically, and politically) but there comes a time when we have to move beyond complaints and toward action. If we claim we are or want to be self-conscious and critical film viewers, filmmakers, and human beings then we need to question the status quo at all levels and as much as possible. If we do not believe in the cinema that we are being given, then we have to do something about it; we have to try to make and engage with better cinema. The revolution will not come to us; we have to make the revolution. We should no longer be willing to accept the kinds of regressive and static films that we are being fed. If we truly consider film to be an art form and an important art form (and we at Shooting Wall firmly believe this) then we have to be willing to fight for it.
Of course, the system does not want us to succeed; the system does not want nor does it strive for innovation. If Hollywood made films that attempted to do new things with the cinematic form, then audiences would perhaps think about what they are being given and may like or, even worse for the system, dislike what they are shown. The prevailing sense in mainstream cinema is to never rock the boat, not stylistically nor in content. The last thing that Hollywood or so-called independent films want us to do is think or engage with what we are seeing. Hollywood and the mainstream have lulled audiences into a state of complacency with static and reactionary cinema; a cinema that never challenges the dominate notions of how a film should look, sound, or where and how it should be screened and viewed. The point of capitalism is profit and only that. By creating works that could be potentially alienating or difficult, the industry would lose money. It’s a simple fact and if we want to do something more with cinema, to expand the form or experiment with it, then why would we want to use money or support from institutions which have it in their best interest to do the opposite? As long as films cost millions and millions of dollars to make, they will continue to remain uninteresting and static both intellectually and stylistically.
There is a myth that good or great cinema should or does appeal to a large audience; this is simply not true. Perhaps it’s our democratic spirit which leads many to believe these naive notions, but needless to say, we at Shooting Wall, think that great art and great films should challenge our assumptions of both the medium (cinema) and our lives. We should not be afraid of taking sides in these matters. Hollywood offers us nothing, so why bother? “Independent” is simply a genre in America and most of the films are not made independently. The difference between the Hollywood and the
independent establishment is only a difference in how much the films cost and how much money they make; there is little difference in modes of production, distribution, or innovation. The independent film movement grew out of the desire to make films in opposition to Hollywood and yet now, independent film exists simply as a smaller version of Hollywood. And many filmmakers who start off making these socalled independent films see them only as a rung in the ladder toward the excess and stagnation of Hollywood.
Our systems are corrupt. Our systems have become completely inundated and ruled by money. Capitalism is America’s religion and money is America’s god. No matter where you go or what you do, you have to deal with a corrupt system run by people whose overriding interest is profit. How can one even function in this country without at some point or to some extent having to give our business to a company that says and does things that we do not support? It’s impossible. Every angle and every aspect of our society and our culture is dominated by money and capitalism. So what is our recourse? How can we fight a system so monolithic and so strong? Shooting Wall believes that the only way to do this is to no longer work within the system. There are still many people who think that we can burrow from within the system, and reform it that way. To put it simply: they are wrong. The system has not gotten so rich or remained so dominate by mistake; Hollywood and the rest of the mainstream film community know what they are doing. They know how to control dissidents and marginalize radical cinema.
The first 120 years of cinematic history has basically been capitalism struggling and then finally winning in its dominance of film worldwide. They tell us that these are the films we want: the bloated and idiotic Blockbusters, conservative and sexist romantic comedies, the alarmist disaster movies, and so on and so on and so on. Is this truly what we want? Is it really? Is there no room for anything
else? Can we really justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a film? A film! We love cinema, but do not believe that it should cost 100, 200, or 300 million dollars to make a film. Who suffers so that Hollywood can spend this much on a single film? We all suffer. We suffer economically and culturally. And for all of this money, they offer us nothing new and nothing original.
We have been given the same movies year in and year out. The fact is that film has changed very little since the days of D.W. Griffith. Films are largely constructed the same way they were in the 1910’s and 1920’s. The basic grammar of cinema, which was first established in the earliest days of film, has changed very little. Wide shot, medium shot, close-up, repeat. Nearly every Hollywood movie features this shooting and editing scheme and if you go back and watch Intolerance (1916) you will pretty much see the exact same thing. The films may have more effects and explosions now, but that is hardly anything new or inventive.
Our lives have been reduced to mere spectacle. We no longer define our existence based on our experiences, insights, and relationships, but instead define ourselves based on what we have; what technology we buy; and by reality television and by when and where we see the latest Blockbuster. Mass culture and technology seem to rule our lives. Guy Debord noted in 1967, “In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accum u l a t i o n o f s pe c t a cl e s . Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.” We cannot think of a work more prophetic or more apt to describe the times we are living in (more now than when it was written in the 1960s). The point is that Hollywood and the capitalist system at large has been turning us into mindless consumers, merely content with whatever it is they give us simply because it is something to buy or consume.
The sad fact is that this goes beyond Hollywood films and extends into all aspects of culture, including the “museum” crowds. These are cultural elitists who attempt to define themselves through their cultural dominance. They are really no better than Hollywood. Sure, they may profess to be “liberal” or “open-minded,” but they still run their cultural institutions with iron fists and insulate themselves from the rest of us through their money and power. As we have said, the system
is corrupt and broken at every level. We cannot make films in Hollywood because they are not interested in innovation or controversy of any kind, and we can’t turn to independent film because we don’t want to play their game and make middle of the road, clichéd “indie” films. At the same time, we cannot turn to cultural institutions because we don’t have the pedigree or credentials to be taken seriously there either. What can we do? Where can we turn?1
*1 We look to film critics and see that they are unwilling to demand better films and refuse to take any real stands against static cinema. The critics refuse to encourage us to skip the newest Hollywood Blockbuster or the latest “indie” hit and instead go see difficult films which challenge the conventions of cinema (Trash Humpers, Annenburg, Birdsong, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Sleeping Beauty, Film Socialisme). Our critics no longer challenge themselves or their readers to not only seek out, but to devour cutting edge films. Most film critics work for newspapers or magazines owned by the same six companies that own all other media in our country. The same people who run Hollywood are running the papers the critics work for. The system has become corrupted at every level. Most film reviews merely offer a plot description at this point. It is rare these days to see a critic seeking out or championing truly innovative cinema. And where are the film critics scouring the internet or going to local film screenings to look for those truly independent filmmakers who may be making interesting work off the
radar? Nonexistent. Unless it’s a critics’ screening or a film festival, critics can’t be bothered. Cinema has changed and yet film critics have not evolved; they only care about the institutionalized cinema they are given. If film critics aren’t seeking out and fighting for difficult cinema, then who will? Isn’t that what film critics are supposed to do? Complacency has settled over the entire field of film criticism. Where are our new and radical film critics who want to take on the system? Critics are not demanding new cinema, but are simply lamenting a lost “golden age,” or praising cliched or mediocre films. Do critics even argue anymore over their beliefs, over films? Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris debated their ideas with each other and that helped make cinema better. At the 1971 New York Film Festival, critics and audiences were split over Henry Jaglom’s A Safe Place; some booed and others cheered during the screening. After the film, they had a panel discussion to talk about what they had seen. THIS IS WHAT WE NEED! Arguments and vigorous debates are good for cinema. We do not believe in a black and white world nor should we expect it.
All films should be experiments and art is always a work in progress. We need ideas and debate and experimentation! It feels like we are circling the drain. We need a vibrant and loud film community who demand better films; a community willing to rally behind great cinema and a community willing to boo and call out bad cinema. If we go to a local film screening
and all of the films are bad, we should be willing to say it. Just because someone makes art doesn’t mean it’s good. We have no more standards; it seems like so many people believe that all art is good art and that making art and “expressing yourself” is all that matters. We are here to proclaim that not all opinions are good or right and that some art is bad. Taste is not such
a terrible thing to have. The influence of postmodernism on our lives has been to make everyone believe that they are artists and that every opinion is valid. Some people are good at making art and some people are not and that’s fine; not everyone has to be an artist just like not everyone has to be a computer engineer or a doctor or a teacher.
We are surrounded by more art and more films than ever before – an oversaturation – yet almost none of it is original or innovative or new. How can we find the truly interesting stuff with so much oversaturation? We have to look for it; we have to seek it out; we have to be conscientious. We should not just assume that if it is on vimeo or youtube and hasn’t played in a festival or a movie theater that it is not good or worth our time. This just isn’t true anymore. We have to be willing to rethink what cinema is and where good cinema may come from.
We may have believed at one time that if something is good, then it will get discovered at some point; that all it takes is talent, but it has become obvious that this is not true. Talent isn’t everything and, in many cases, talent is secondary. Our system doesn’t necessarily reward talent as much as tenacity and marketing. It’s not how good your film is, but how well you can sell it and yourself. It’s also, sadly, more about who you know. Young filmmakers largely get money to make their films because they know people in the industry or because their parents are wealthy. The sad fact of our system is that those in power always remain in power, and it is very difficult for those of us who do not come from wealth or have connections to succeed in the art world.
Film festivals (both large, world renowned festivals and the small local festivals) are not interested in presenting cutting edge cinema. They are run by people with MBAs or marketing degrees and can be seen more as an extension of the local visitor’s center than as a place for unique and new cinema. The film festival has become a business. And yes, it is all about money. Festivals program based on what will bring in the most people and give their festivals and cities a name. Nothing can remain small anymore; everything has to appeal to everyone.
The truth is that cinema has and is changing; there is no question about it. Cinema should not and cannot remain as it is. Times have changed and so should cinema. We have to think about cinema in a new way. At one time, cinema was the dominate form of mass entertainment and an influential art form, but it isn’t anymore and that’s okay. In fact, this should be liberating for cinema. If cinema can break away from its mass entertainment label, then it can once and for all become something profoundly interesting. Cinema is in need of a revolution; a complete and total revolution. We can no longer work within any of the old systems to meet our goals and make our films. The only possibility now is to work outside of the corporate film system. We have the equipment and the resources to do it. Why do we need corporate money anymore? We don’t. We can make, exhibit, and distribute innovative and radical films ourselves without the aid of the capitalist film system. We have to think about the future of cinema in a different way. There is no need for us to cling to the stagnant, old institutions any longer. We, as cinephiles, filmmakers, critics, and theorists, should not just demand more out of cinema, but we should work to make this happen. Let us commit to making films with no money! Let us commit to screening films for free wherever and whenever! Let us commit to new forms of distribution! Let us make our own non-profit, cinema-centric film festivals! All of this is within our reach. We have no excuses anymore. Maybe we can’t make a living with our cinema, but if we continue to make conciliations because of money, then our cinema will never advance. Take a job you don’t care about to pay the bills and then make cinema in your free time. Be a working filmmaker. We do not all have the luxury of financial independence that would allow us to work for years on film sets and maybe catch a break. But we want to make cinema and we can make cinema. We can buy projectors and screen our films on walls, on ceilings, or anywhere else we want to. Cinema is ideas, not one specific place where films have to be screened. We have to rethink everything about cinema. We can setup underground distribution networks between dedicated groups of filmmakers in various cities around the world in which we can share our films. We can do these things. We do not need the corrupt system anymore. We cannot reform from within. The only thing left is complete revolution from the outside. We can make this happen. We are the future of cinema.
Shooting Wall Presents Views From the Underground
Fall 2012 Screening Series at PhilaMOCA Monday September 24th at 7pm Vacant Guillotine Blues by Joe Kramer, 4 minutes Episodes from an Investigation by Joshua Martin, 115 minutes Monday October 22nd at 7pm Early Mourning Dream by Jonah Stern, 24 minutes Deprave by Andrew Wimer, 17 minutes Midnight Heat by Dan Dickerson, 10 minutes Aporia by Jess Hock, 7 minutes The Mud by Rob Malone, Brooke Bundy, Nigel Defriez, Kira Pearson, 15 minutes Look At You by Karl Starkweather, 24 minutes Monday November 12th at 7pm Raptor by Marc Dickerson, 30 minutes Birthday Wedding and a Funeral by Rob Marvin, 75 minutes with live musical score by Brandon Can't Dance For more information visit shootingwall.blogspot.com or www.philamoca.org PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19123
Sex, Death, and the End of Cinema A Shooting Wall interview with Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway began his lecture entitled “Cinema is Dead, Long Live Cinema” on April 11th by challenging the slave –master relationship between film and narrative. Part shameless self-promotion and part philosophical treatise, the talk offered a vibrantly new way of thinking of cinema not only outside of the black box but outside of the frame. Indeed, his faceted approach to film, which includes divergent interests in art, architecture, opera, television, and multi-media, leads one away from the constraints of both the screen and the cinematic space and toward the freedom promised by “the death of cinema.” No doubt, Greenaway is the type of filmmaker that we here at Shooting Wall aspire to be. He works independently and outside of the crushing Hollywood system and consistently manages to continue to push his films further. One gets the sense from his early films to his latest adventures that Greenaway is never through innovating, though his obsessions seem to remain constant. I recently sat down with Greenaway after his lecture at the University of Pennsylvania. In his talk to Penn students, faculty, and many extended members of the Philadelphia film community, he promoted his ideas about why cinema is dead and why we must now look to the future. The reaction was mixed, as one might expect for a lecture which makes film studies a null category. Through the gracious assistance of the Department of Cinema Studies at the University of Pennsylvania I was able to meet with Greenaway to talk about his ideas of film and projection existing out of the cinema, the role of narrative in cinema’s death, and his upcoming project, Eisenstein in Guanajuato. **Many thanks to Prof. Meta Mazaj and Nicola Gentili, Associate Director, and the Cinema Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania, for bringing important and innovative directors like Peter Greenaway to Philadelphia and to UPenn. Less appreciation is reserved for my fellow students of the University of Pennsylvania, many of whom walked out after 5 minutes of the lecture. They appear to have little patience for filmmakers that don’t simply reinforce ideas that have been
regurgitated over the last 40 years, and who clearly have more pressing things to do, like check their iPhones or play Angry Birds, than to listen to one of the most important contemporary artists of our time. Thankfully however, because they have to pay tuition despite attending lectures or not, Philadelphia and UPenn can continue to be a meeting and discussing place for filmmakers and artists** Below is a selection of excerpts from our interview, the full version on which can be found on our Shooting Wall Podcast on ITunes. Carrie Love on behalf of Shooting Wall: You talked about the tyr-
anny of the screen and how this tyranny hastens the death of cinema, both the form and the space. Do you think there is enough space outside of cinemas to support a cinematic art? Peter Greenaway: Surely the straightforward answer has to be that there has to be 10000 times more space outside of the locality of some artificial concept that we regard as the cinema. I believe that the cinema of our fathers and forefathers are, if not dead already, are dying very rapidly. But I’m quite sure we could all very easily agree that we are now in the age of the screen. But the screen is written large across the world and not confined to those dark little boxes that show bedtime stories for adults. And I think those limitations now have really reached an age where I think on one level I suppose we are exhausted by cinema. One can also talk about in a much more sort of populist way, how say even Hollywood now offers the statistics that probably only five percent of their product is actually ever looked at in cinemas. They are still manufacturing a hell of a lot of stuff along with the rest of the world, but it’s not being seen in cinemas. Even the format of the 120 minute feature film, they are probably going to see it on a small screen somewhere in a private or semi-private situation. And that would seem to beg the question why are they wasting their time making hugely expensive cumbersome activity for so few numbers of people. Would it not make absolute sense socially, politically, and no doubt economically, to forget the notion of the cinema in the dark that is not being inhabited anymore and concentrate their product
on the other ways in which we could disseminate cinematic intelligence? Predominately for the moment that is television. And the cinema if you believe it began in 1895, though some people have other opinions about that, it’s had a pretty long run. Take my date offered for the death of cinema: 1983. There is a lot of evidence that by 1983, most of the western world had television sets in their homes and the more enterprising and richer nations had televisions earlier than that and the rest of the third world still had to wait. So this is a sort of suggestion that the notion of the beginning of the television age superseded cinema in 1983. So let’s say the history of cinema is 1895-1983. There is a rapid downturn. We are not gaining knowledge any more from the cinema and not even cinema through television. I think this is a quite reasonable life, four generations is a long time for aesthetic technology. If you take all the other technologies that are still around after four generations you would be hard to find them. Looking at cars in the street- combustion engines are still almost exactly the same as when Ford made his products in this country. There are huge amounts of sophistication in the way we use it. The whole notion of quantity has turned into quality. There are so many cars now, our lives have completely changed. Not because of one combustion engine, but because of the whole phenomenon. But there are remarkable changes about questions of energy. As we all know Kodak finished manufacturing celluloid and that really does indicate the death throes of an old technology- related to a conception of things. And I think the whole notion of film basically, being illustrated text, as we have a text based industry. We don’t have an image based industry. Every film you’ve ever seen, almost without exception, started life as text. There are ways and means that the notion of a narrative is not part necessarily of our model of how literature is produced and disseminated. So all these things inevitably are changing and the nature of what our fathers and forefathers believed to be cinema. But to be very frank cinema is a dumbed down form of cheap entertainment for the non-educated, basically. And I don’t know about America, but you could say certainly Europe, this is proletarian information. But we don’t have a proletariat anymore in Europe – they are gone- we are all bourgeoisie now. Of course, when I say cinema is dead, there are more films being produced on the block than ever before, which almost is an indication of the collapse itself. It’s like the maggots on a dead body. You know
once upon a time, when I was a young man, in the 60s and 70s, there was a concern of notions about cinematic practice in so far that probably everybody saw the same films. There was a way that it was discussable, in a debatable way. There are so many films now and so many probable ways to look at them, that concern is somehow also disappeared, so in a sense it has made cinema incredibly ephemeral. It’s like wallpaper, you can take it or you can leave it, and most young people, in my experience, have left it and are not interested anymore. It does not empower their imagination. And if you listened to what I was saying last night – that is the public phenomenon. I believe its empowering its own death from within because it’s now fully understood its limitations. And there are so many amazing alternatives that are pushing and pulling, still basically with the notion of projections, but electronic projection to be able to let us use this extremely exciting vocabulary. You know it’s a little surprising. I can understand people who are 60, who fondly remember the days they spent watching Casablanca, and the feeling of, you know, that’s all over. Well, it won’t always just be over, there will always be an archival where you can visit it, but a manufacturing of that sort of film, I think will desist and cease because you won’t have the demand. But then somebody your age, right in the thick of the age of information, and right in the middle of a revolution… You have a pen in your hand but I’m sure you are equipped with all the necessary materials. How can someone like you feel nostalgia, regret? Check out the complete 46 minute interview on the Shooting Wall Podcast on ITunes! Hear Peter Greenaway cover such topics as: The exploitative nature of Hollywood cinema How to tie a baby’s nappie The novel and narrative cinema The creativity of children His views on contemporary technology The Tulse Luper Suitcases His upcoming film on Eisenstein’s gay love affair in Mexico AND MORE...
A L A i N
T A N N E R
wiss director Alain Tanner made six feature films in the decade between 1968 and 1979, all situated within the wake of the massive popular revolts and conservative reactions of the decade. Together, they constitute one of the best cinematic portraits of political subjectivity in capitalist society. Working with screenwriter John Berger, Tanner is unsparing in his critique of the hypocrisy and ideological apparatuses of well-ordered Switzerland. Yet the desires and frustrations of their marginals and malcontents are treated with warmth and humor, distinguishing the works from much of the more didactic political cinema of the decade. The Wooden Shoe bookstore will screen four works from Alain Tanner in November, as part of the collective's on-going commitment to providing a venue for political film-making of the left. Given that these works provide as much insight into the 70s as on our own political conjuncture, in which mass movements such as Occupy struggle to find the alchemy by which radical encounters can take hold in a hostile ideological environment, we are concerned with how we can view them in the present. To this end, the screenings will be accompanied by a short zine of contemporary takes on Tanner with/in/on radical struggles and subjectivities. The zine will be produced in collaboration with the Shooting Wall collective- submissions are welcome. Send inquiries or submissions to email@example.com.
Screening schedule*: Friday November 2 7PM
Starring Bulle Ogier, Jean-Luc Bideau, & Jacques Denis
Le Milieu du monde (The Middle of the World)
115min. Starring Olimpia Carlisi, Philippe Léotard, & Juliet Berto
Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000 (Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000) 1976 116min.
Starring Jean-Luc Bideau, Myriam Boyer, Raymond Bussiéres, Jacques Denis, Roger Jendly, Dominique Labourier, Myriam Méziéres, Miou-Miou, Rufus
Starring Clémentine Amouroux & Catherine Rétouré
All screenings at Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147 *Screening dates and times subject to change. Please check the bookstore calendar at woodenshoebooks.com/calendar.html to confirm times and find more information about the films.
A CALL TO RADICAL QUEER CINEMATIC ARMS
By Andrew Scott
mative, and capitalistic tyrannies that erode what’s left of radical queer arts. With the acceptance of the term “queer” in academia came a new genre and era in film known as New Queer Cinema. Beginning in the 1980s and peaking in the 1990s, filmmakers of the so-called “movement” tended to focus on the lives of queer people as alternative from mainstream heteronormativity. The term “movement” is used loosely here, as most of the filmmakers would reject labels or implication of some sort of external collaboration. However, these films were much the product of the forces of their times. AIDS ravaged the lives of friends and family – queer cinema lost major voices including Vito Russo, Bill Sherwood, Derek Jarman, Jack Smith, and Marlon Riggs. The West had endured the conservative reigns of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, as well as a rise in fundamentalist Christianity. Additionally filmmakers of this era display disillusionment or a disregard for the ideals towards assimilation once held in the 1970s. A new President Clinton seemed little better, expanding disastrous free trade policies, signing off on discriminatory legislation, and failing to deal with a Republican congressional onslaught. With these conditions came the
As 2012 wanes into 2013, radical queer
cinema wanes into nonexistence. Film festivals for queers have become widespread multi-day events in numerous cities, but programming quality leaves much to be desired. Attendees veer towards wealthier, older, gay white men – film selection reflects a target of this audience as well. Gone are daring statements on inequality, provocations to the mainstream, and fingers flipped to the establishment. Amongst typical lineups are coming -out tales, borderline soft-core romances, and yakking-head documentaries, focused upon cisgender whites. This is not to ignore the presence of contemporary film covering other queer topics, but the amount is dismal. Unfortunately, the present situation with queer cinema is a microcosm of the greater motion picture industry and society on the whole. In a time of cultural stagnation, radical queers and allies alike must band together to form a New Queer Cinema. However, while taking influence from the previous movement, steps must be taken to avoid the same mistakes and tropes of the past. A queer cinematic movement for 2012 must be more diverse and open-minded, with a mission to fight the same patriarchal, heteronor
need for younger queer filmmakers to find their own voice in a time of rising neoliberalism. Notable is that those of the New Queer Cinema came not from promotion within Hollywood establishment or grind houses such as those of Roger Corman, but from independent backgrounds. Work for Gus Van Sant, Philadelphia’s own Cheryl Dunye, and Isaac Julien began with their own shorts or features, usually funded through grants or themselves. The time period was one in which the independent festival flourished without astroturfing from Hollywood elite or corporate sponsors. Most of the directors attended school for film, if not art history, photography, or some field of visual arts. Influences from past film movements, especially the French New Wave, are readily evident in these filmmaker’s works. Examples include Gregg Araki, whose emphasis upon text is derivative of Jean-Luc Godard, and Todd Haynes, whose Poison closely satirizes prison romance, b-horror, and made-for -TV documentary. However, this seemingly idyllic era in radical queer cinema was not without its flaws. Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning might have helped bring insight and acceptance into queer communities of color, yet the movement disproportionately underrepresented people of color with exceptions such as the aforementioned Dunye or Riggs. Fluidity in sexuality portrayed helped bisexual acceptance, but still too little had been taken towards transgender or other alternative representations. Many of these queer filmmakers have since sold out, dropped queer subjects, settled for tameness, or vanished into academia. The festivals that provided their rise to fame have since become corporatized Hollywood sideshows, rampant with more advertising than The Living End. As well, older funding sources such as grants, Britain’s Channel Four, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Film Board of Canada ran dry, no longer easy options for the struggling independent artist. It would appear that odds are against the radical queer independent filmmaker in 2012. Despite a continued growth of failed neoliberal economic policies, religious extremism, assimilation, consumerism, conformity, and unhappiness, somehow radical queer cinema for the 2000s has floundered. Amongst the only major newer Western directors remotely close to the old movement are Jamie Babbit (But I’m A Cheerleader, Itty Bitty Titty Committee), John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), and Julian Hernandez (Broken Sky). With George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s futile centrism, one would expect a generation of angry young queer directors to rise. Advances in high-definition camera technology and affordable equipment have made it easier than ever to create and exhibit independent films. Crowd-funding sites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter give unique new opportunities to fund films without reliance upon standard grants, as well. Many older queer films once inaccessible outside of rare major city screenings such as Sebastiane or Funeral Parade of Roses are now easily availa-
ble by both legal and illegal means, giving new filmmakers a chance to expand their vocabulary. There is no excuse for radical queers and allies of the 2010s not to act on these resources. Even with favorable advances in independent production, there are still overwhelming forces standing in the way. Besides Hollywood, Indiewood, shady non-profits, and mega-corporations, “Gay Inc.” pushes the agenda for affluent, white, cisgender, heternormative conformity amongst the queer community. Enclaves that once served all queers are now gentrified into sterile centers of wealth and consumption for older white homosexuals. Pride Parades and film festivals become spectacles dominated by corporate sponsorship, with events charging admission unaffordable for many. Queer-targeted media, whether in pop-stars or television shows, continues to push for materialistic emptiness, whiteness, and wealth worship. Non-homosexuals and queers of color or less privileged backgrounds have been abandoned for assimilationist pursuits towards the military and marriage equality. Queers for a new radical cinema must work together to educate, promote, and produce art that is representational of all walks of life. A New Queer Cinema must resist the grasp of late capitalism, transgress Gay Inc.’s sterility, reach new audiences, and return queers to the avantgarde of film. The call to arms has been delivered: let the shooting begin, queers and allies!
Why There Will Never Be Another New Hollywood
There is no doubt that the period of roughly the late 1950s to the early 1980s was an incredibly innovative and robust time for art film. During this period, cinema saw the emergence of some of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time, as well as a staggering number of innovations in style, form, and in the development of film theory and criticism. Most shockingly, in American film, from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, Hollywood actually funded and distributed interesting, original, and sometimes downright radical films (Head, A Safe Place, The Conversation, Two Lane Blacktop, 3 Women, Mean Streets, Night Moves, The Hired Hand, The Last Movie, Annie Hall, and many more). Needless to say, this was a period in American film and in the history of cinema in general that many people look back on fondly and with good reason, even though ultimately all of these film movements and many of the best filmmaker died out or faded away (see Karl Starkweather’s “Film Movements Are Failures” from Shooting Wall Issue #3). Shooting Wall does not disagree that this was a radical, fertile, and innovative time for cinema, but we do believe that we in the film community should be careful in putting too much emphasis on this period as it relates to the current situation in cinema. By this, we mean to say that often people speak of this period with nostalgia, with a sense of longing for this period of cinema to return. The fact is that while there were many great films and filmmakers during this period, they were also – mainly in America – made almost completely by white, largely upper class and college educated males. If the New Hollywood was so radical, then how come one has to think long and hard to come up with the name of a woman who directed any film from this period? We can really only think of one female filmmaker working in Hollywood during this time: Elaine May. Other than her, we are hard pressed think of another woman actively making films within the Hollywood system. And this becomes even more of an anomaly, when you think of the myriad of wildly innovative cinema being made by women in Europe (Agnes Varda, Chantal Akerman, Ulrike Ottinger, Lina Wertmuller, Helke Sander, Margarethe von Trotta, Helma SandersBrahms, Larisa Sheptiko to name just a few) and in the American independent and underground movements, as well as in documentary film (Shirley Clark, Yvonne Rainer, Barbara Kopple, Barbara Hammer, Chick Strand to name a few). Certainly there was no lack of talented female filmmakers working during this period, they just simply either weren’t getting the opportunities in Hollywood or didn’t care to try to work within such a sexist and regressive system. And forget about coming up with any person of color who made a
major film in Hollywood during this time, even though there were also several prominent African Americans making films in the 1970s as well. These include those filmmakers out of UCLA dubbed the L.A. Rebellion (Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima, Julie Dash, Barbara McCullough and many more) and Melvin Van Peebles who had success with his underground film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Yet none of these filmmakers made films for Hollywood during this period either and many African American filmmakers found it difficult to find adequate distribution for their films. It wasn’t all wine and roses in Hollywood in the 1970s and in many cases the privileged continued to be the ones who benefitted the most. Several filmmakers who made the most challenging films from this period (Monte Hellman, John Cassevetes) still had to struggle to get their films made and received very little support from the studios. And this period really did not last very long. As soon as Hollywood realized what audiences wanted – Blockbusters – they put an end to the “auteur” driven films of the 1970s, in many cases using stories of “director’s gone wild” (Heaven’s Gate, Apocalypse Now) to change the public’s opinion and push them toward the Blockbuster. And since Hollywood got their control back, they have not let go. Hollywood and the capitalist system learned from the radicalization of the 1960s and 1970s how to integrate these radical elements into their system, while at the same time diluting it so that it became meaningless. What it comes down to is that this very small window of opportunity appeared in American cinema in the late 1960s and through this window came a number of filmmakers who took advantage of Hollywood for a few years until Hollywood could readjust. Once Hollywood readjusted, they closed and sealed that window tightly, never allowing anyone in again. We will never again see a time like the 1970s within the Hollywood system. They have become too powerful, too monolithic, and know exactly what they are doing. Even in the ‘90s when the Independent film movement took off, Hollywood didn’t change drastically and suddenly become radical, they simply offered these filmmakers deals to make less unconventional films and absorbed them into the system. Hollywood was not fundamentally changed, but instead changed the filmmakers to fit into their mold. And they will keep doing this anytime someone tries to come in and shake things up. They have even extended their power beyond America into Europe, Asia, and South America, where capitalist cinema has taken hold and become the norm (particularly in Europe, where films look and sound more and more like Hollywood products). The purpose of this piece is not to discount the achievements or filmmakers from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but simply to highlight the fact that we cannot live in the past. The past is dead. That cinema is over with and, sadly, will never return. We cannot content ourselves with thinking we can radicalize Hollywood, This is yet another reason why we must work outside the system to form a new kind of cinematic revolution.
DEAR HOLLYWOOD: YOUR FILMS WILL NOT BE ADMIRED UNTIL GODARD'S HAVE BEEN FORGOTTEN by Jill Hackney
In the impossibly grand scheme of filmmaking, modern or otherwise, there is no dearth of narrative films. It is, instead, the fleeting cinematic epitomes of "style-over-substance"-- purely aesthetic films-- that are rare. Style and aesthetics are of equal importance with the content, but they are often neglected. One can make a "film" if one merely has a "good story". But if narrative is so coddled by filmmakers, and style so neglected, why does the content of most films suck? It's because the way in which a narrative is explored can fail to fulfill the cinematic potential of the material. It's not always that the story isn't suited to the medium, although some stories may struggle when the visuals are married to audio-- these stories lack the substance to be expressed deeply via the options that cinema offers us. Even if a story is suited to
be a film-- and most are-- perhaps the problem is not the medium, but the way the medium is being used. We are socialized to understand film in a Hollywood format-what we understand as a "movie" is a piece of cinema that is lit a certain way, shot in a certain aspect ratio, has audio that is clear and supportive of the visuals, and that expresses the narrative in ways that are understood as reaching the audience successfully. This is formulaic, but formulaic makes money. The narratives in many blockbusters are simple, but all narratives are when stripped to the most basic elements. The narrative trope of the "hero's journey" is perhaps the most famous, but Georges Polti identified only 36 basic dramatic situations, and it has since been boiled down to 20 by some, and down to seven by others. The idea that "all Hollywood films have the same story" is a de minimis argument (which is an argument that has maybe never actually been made by anyone other than a younger, stupider high-school version of me?). The problem is not the repetition of these basic plots; the problem is the lack of nuance. There are flat characters and unrealized details. Hollywood blockbusters have to appeal overseas-- so why spend time on nuance that will be lost in
the subtitles when you can bedizen the shit out the story with sex and explosions?! Subtlety, delicacy, and thought are left to other mediums-- literature perhaps being understood as the best to develop a complicated narrative. In Hollywood a "complicated" or "intelligent" film is one that is supported by heavily stylized choplogic or features heavy exposition or both of these. And when adapting a novel, movies never know quite what to do with a character's inner dialogue. Voice-over narration is employed, or a new character is created for the protagonist to explicitly detail these inner thoughts to. The point is, don't let the tropes of the present dictate the narratives of the future. If one is struggling to convey an idea in a film, it's not because film isn't equip to handle that subtlety. It's because no one tries very hard to decide how to handle a subtle, nuanced narrative in cinema. Be innovative. There are so many avenues that one can take to convey tension (play with focus!) or inner dialogue (conflicting audiovisual! cognitive dissonance!) that take a narrative beyond existing as written words on a page, and incorporate the myriad ways of expression that film has to offer when it is not confined to a formula.
I Don't Want To Watch Your Short Film
Dear Aunt Sally,
I don't want to watch your short film and I probably don't want to support your Kickstarter campaign. Is it because I'm a philistine? No, but because I fear that you might be (though I hope not). Honestly it is also in part because I am selfish and use my money to make my own stupid movies. Let's face it, we're both selfish. Neither of us are going to spare the penny in our pocket for the begging bum on the corner, are we? Filmmaking, as with all art, is inherently selfish. We waste our money and other people's time because we think we have some big fucking special idea that we deserve to express and that it is either going to enlighten the lost souls around us or give those dirty Neanderthals a glimpse into how our special little brain works. There is nothing wrong with that. Obviously we enjoy others' work enough that we feel compelled to join in on their conversation by dropping our mystical, all but pre-verbal load right into the middle of it. Why shouldn't we believe that others may feel the same way upon viewing our work? Well, there lies the issue. I do not feel that way about your work and thus I do not want to join in on that conversation with you because I feel that you have nothing to say. Your odd horror film that reads like an overly blunt after school PSA; your twist-ending punchline where the people doing drugs or killing each other are actually children playing; your indie-darling/mumblecore flick about relationships and 20-something ennui; your really, totally cool and realistic and soooo original kill scenes; your “it's supposed to be bad,” Tim & Eric style; your fratty, Family Guy infused humor; your super seXxXy action scenes (and actresses)... I'm not buying into them. At times they look good, sometimes really good. Sometimes a joke or scenario you included can even make me giggle a bit. And yeah, sometimes your kills and action scenes can actually be kind of fun and cool looking (but please, lay off the rape, yeah?).
The problem is, I still don't see you in it. At least, I hope I don't. If I were to judge you as a person based on what you have shown me in these shorts I would have to assume that you are a fairly vapid pop culture junky that just wants to reach through your TV without any regard as to what is on the other side. You just want to be there, be famous, and impress everyone with how awesome you are. You seem like George Michael.* What's the harm in taking a real, honest chance? Don't get me wrong, it's completely normal to have influences and totally fine to outright steal, (from artists or from a store) if it helps you express yourself. The problem is if you're not going to express anything then you are cheating. It's all form, no content. You are using other people's techniques only as gimmicks to get people to respond without genuinely giving them anything to respond to. They're basically salivating over a picture of food. You may as well be looking for recognition for how well you built an IKEA book shelf. Let's start with your morality plays as an example. Remember those D.A.R.E. videos that our teachers made us watch in middle school? Remember how corny and unrelatable they were? How the producers would throw in some basketball player or some other has-been or cartoon character to try and make it seem hip and cool? Remember how it still fell flat? Well, dressing up those same morality tales with your gritty, post-Dark Knight edge is about equally as effective. Certainly the audience should feel something about what you are showing, right? I think I should at least. Personally, I spent my teenage years in the hippie/ jam band scene. A person I used to go to shows with died earlier this year from an overdose. The last time I had seen him he had just gotten clean and enrolled in a community college. I knew another person who ruined their life at 21 after driving drunk and getting into a head-on collision that
* I have no idea who to refer to that's more modern. I was told that Disney people need big personalities and no one could offer me a suitable alternative. So, there you go. WHAM!
killed the other driver--a 50-year -old women driving home. I have an uncle that has been on and off various drugs for decades. On one occasion he left his pills where my grandmother, his mother, left her heart medication. She took his pills by mistake and nearly died. And then there was one of my closest friends for a number of years who after disappearing for a while randomly came back into my life. He informed me that he had become addicted to opiates and benzos and that he was going to end his life. We had gotten each other through what were previously the most difficult points in our lives by trading music and comedy, all of which has ultimately shaped who I am as a person. In the end all I was able to do was say, “Goodbye.” Now, given that, why does your film not speak to me? Move me? Why does it not bring any of these emotions I feel now to the surface when I watch it? I don't necessarily think it's because you're a shitty filmmaker. Obviously you can be fairly technically proficient. The Saw meets CSI aesthetic is pretty cool looking and there's some cool
sound design and visual cues in your non-horror attempts. I suppose that it's safe to assume though that you have never experienced anything like what you are showing. None of it truly means anything to you and so you can't bring any of that feeling or any new way for me to process what has happened to my friends and family. I have to assume that you just found one of the easiest and cheapest subjects that doesn't require you to expose yourself at all. I guess that at least qualifies you to work for the local news, but I doubt it is going to impress Hollywood as much as it impresses your friends and Law & Order obsessed family. However, opening yourself up does not mean making a mumblecore film either. Mumblecore is dead and it died the second it was labeled 'mumblecore'. Trying to make a 'mumblecore' film is as inherently futile as trying to start a 'grunge' band. It was a label slapped on different filmmakers (some better than others) trying to do something new and exciting with the available technology. By attempting to make a ‘mumblecore’ movie you
are essentially trying to catch lightning that is still in a bottle. You are trying to join a moment in time that has already passed. Mumblecore was just something that was different--now you are just beating a dead horse; you are riding its coattails. You are 'post-grunge'. John Cassavetes is Neil Young, the Duplass Brothers are Pearl Jam and Nirvana, and you are Creed. We need something new, something better. It can be scary to be honest, to be open, and to express yourself. Ultimately though, intimacy is mainly what we really desire in life and in art. The most relatable experience is the most specific and personal one. The heaviest, funniest, and scariest subject for people is going to be something personal to you that they may feel too. A good story with some passion can transcend a bit of poor audio or shoddy camera work, even with a fairly abstract story. Look at David Lynch, he considers Eraserhead to be his most spiritual film. Or take a look at John Waters, that handsome devil. He didn't gain his following because of something as asinine as camera skills or professional actors. His everyday life and his beliefs were all there on display along with and within every absurd and shocking scenario he assaulted his audience with. He has never even found his films to be that shocking or offensive--even the scene where Divine eats dog shit. All I can ask of you is that if you want me to watch your short film is that you please just try. Be open. Take chances. Hollywood's not going to come knocking on your door anytime soon, so what harm is there in taking a chance? Why not put a little bit of yourself in there in a new and creative way? What is the worst that can happen? You embarrass yourself? Bill Hicks probably put it best with his simple, elegant request of rock stars. All he asked was,
“PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!”
Love, Rob Marvin
2nd Annual Shooting Wall Film Festival
Last May, at PhilaMOCA, Shooting Wall held our first ever film festival. We screened locally produced and independently made short films that you don’t often get to see at typical, corporate sponsored film festivals. And, with the success of last year’s festival, we are doing it again! This May, Shooting Wall will hold its second annual film festival, again at PhilaMOCA. Like the first festival, it is completely free to attend and open to the public. This is a filmmaker centric festival committed to showing the most interesting, daring, and radical independently made cinema that we can find.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
If your films never get accepted to film festivals, then Shooting Wall wants your film. If your friends and family say your films are too weird and they don’t understand them, then Shooting Wall wants your film. If you are making films for little or no money, Shooting Wall wants your film. If you are tired of what the corrupt Hollywood and Indiewood film industry are shoving down our throats and want to make different kinds of cinema, Shooting Wall wants your film. Shooting Wall wants films that are bold, experimental, inventive, formal, difficult, challenging, avant-garde, new, radical, and daring. If you are making films to get a deal in Hollywood, we don’t want your film. If you are not attempting to push yourself or cinema in a new direction, we don’t want your film. Shooting Wall wants films that the mainstream refuses to play or accept. We are seeking films from 1 to 50 minutes to screen in May 2013 at our 2nd annual film festival. Submission is free, attendance is free, and this is all open to the public. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2013. If you have a film you would like to submit or would like more information about Shooting Wall or the festival email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'M DONE WITH YOU AND “INDEPENDENT” FILM
(Inspired by the Ideas of the Shooting Wall collective) Kark Starkweather
“Every film is a preview of the next” - Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer
To the majority of “independent” filmmakers: I just don't want to talk to you anymore. I'm going to try to create something with the people around who were lucky enough to break free of the hegemonic stranglehold of Big Hollywood. I virulently hate the people who have created the illogical ideas of the army “indie” filmmakers who I, over the years, hoped would express more logic. Even at moments when these people I have associated with feel they're criticizing the industry, they're actually not. This is the anomalous and complex reality of hegemony. As Raymond Williams noted, hegemony “emphasizes the facts of domination... This is why hegemony is not to be understood at the level of mere opinion or mere manipulation... Thus we have to recognize the alternative meanings and values, the alternative opinions and attitudes, even some alternative senses of the world, which can be accommodated and tolerated within a particular effective and dominant culture.” This quote notes that one can think they're against the system while not actually being against it at all. In the years of being in Shooting Wall, we have been told a number of times by “alternative,” “underground,” or “truly independent” filmmakers to play things at “real movie theaters,” to shoot on celluloid, light more realistically (or actually they meant more like Hollywood), shoot more classically (like Hollywood), be more open to screening “accessible” films, to play films only on film, etc. This has brought me to the conclusion that there is just an uphill ideological battle to confront the hegemony that is tainting the minds of filmmakers who utter such fallacies. This is an indoctrination that I feel would be impossible to reverse without socio-political revolution, so I aim to depart from the “indie” scene. We shouldn't give up the fight, but I'm just done with all the irrationality .
All cinema, Big Hollywood or “independent,” in the modern age is static or regressive. Why is staticity or conservative cinema practiced by people who call themselves “independent”? Well they're obviously not independent, but rather have made independent cinema, once seen as an alternative to Hollywood, the beginning of their career path to Hollywood. We see this with all modern film festivals (except the free ones that tend to be horror film based like Troma's); there are festivals nationally and internationally that are supposedly for “art film,” but everyone I know making art films has lost $50 plus submitting to these because they never get into them. So this means the aim of making profits by the “indie” filmmaker, consciously or unconsciously this is their aim, is only appealing to those whose only concern is to make profit. To make profit consistently as to lead to the required perpetual profit accumulation demanded by modern financialized capitalism, risk cannot be taken, and so cinema cannot be dynamic. Usually the films, Hollywood or the “indie” ones now, have some linear narrative with a conventional conflict-mediation-resolution structure and are done with the
standard, worn out for so long now, shot composition sequences that favor the capturing of vapid dialogue. Mike Cormack in his Ideology and Cinematography in Hollywood, 1930-1939 notes, “if such structures become very common then they may become the expected format and deviations from the format may be experienced as being in some way unsatisfactory by the audience.... It remains to make explicit the ideological significance of these structures. The general principle is that the more predictable a structure, the more reassuring it becomes. Familiarity becomes a form of security.” These conventions were created in the 1930's by a struggling Hollywood that like today doesn't want to take risks because profits had to, in their eyes, come first to stay afloat at the level they deemed proper. Its aim is trying to bring movies to the height of staticity and regression through the aggressive condoning and creation of cinema that is coherent, comfortable, and escapist. Raymond Williams notes on this subject, “it is a fact about the modes of domination that they select from and consequently exclude the full range of actual and possible human practice... In capitalist practice, if the thing is not making
a profit, or if it is not being widely circulated, then it can for some time be overlooked, at least while it remains alternative. When it becomes oppositional in an explicit way, it does, of course, get approached or attacked.” Hollywood and now “independent” cinema, cannot make films that are a threat to the hegemony of comfort and coherence demanded by an industry that cannot survive if a full out dynamism surfaces. When this has occurred however, like with the “indie” film movement of the 1990's, it co-opts or diffuses it in response to its creation. The outright crime is the class, race, and sex composition of the industry. Hollywood or “indie,” is one of my major points of disdain for the film scene. Unless you're a middle to upper class white male your chances of making it in the industry are slim. The people who run the industry, therefore, are complicit members of a ruling class who control the world via explicit utilization of the totalitarian conglomerate corporate rule. These are people who in the last 40 years have covertly installed fascists into power leading to the deaths of tens of millions. Then hundreds of millions; around 500 million to get almost close to exact, have died in the last 10 years from starvation and from treatable illnesses. At least 15% of the U.S. population is at or below the poverty line, or worse, half the population of the world lives on just 2 dollars or less a day. We won’t get into what the 1% is lobbying for in Washington, DC. Just know all of it is for cuts or dismantling of components of our government that will increase the suffering and deaths of the majority of the US population (and world) in the aim of continuing their need for perpetual profit accumulation.
What I'm interested in now is an alternative to the alternative, something not being dominated by Hollywood or in the grips of its monstrous tentacles that now control the “independent” film scene. Hollywood has always been Hollywood, even in that moment the industry was in disarray with New Hollywood. I thought I belonged to the “indie” scene, but I really didn’t. I just cannot see it fighting their farcical notions that anything that deviates too far from Star Wars is not good anytime soon. Oddly enough my conscious rejection of both these institution's existences is making me look forward with a passion for film that I haven't had in years. I now feel legitimate in my idea that everything in the world of film needs to be torn down and rethought. It is like early cinema all over again for me and possibly whoever wants to join me in forging a new path. I feel I can, with my fellow Shooting Wall comrades, officially exist outside of the erroneous ideas of our contemporaries produced by a difficult to overcome submission to the dominant ideology, and put my energy into the right channels. We at Shooting Wall will be experimenting with ever newer forms of production, exhibition, and distribution. These three arenas have always been informed by an increasing disappointment with the national “independent” film scene, growing critique of the industry, and our ever more refined criterion about what constitutes good cinema by its content and form. We are moving in one direction, everyone else can move another. I don't care anymore, fuck it. As the Remodernist Manifesto suggested, I now “never expect to be thanked or congratulated...,” I am, “willing to go ignored and overlooked.”
INDEPENDENT CINEMA IS DEAD! LONG LIVE SOMETHING ELSE!
Shooting Wall © 2012