Jon Jostabout 1 year ago
I'm 69, an aging old f--t. I started making films in 1963, January, exactly 50 years ago. When I was young I helped set up the Chicago Film Coop, was one of the non-New York originators of Newsreel (lefty documentary group begun in 1967); was on the Board of Directors of Canyon Coop briefly. And worked to help so-called independent filmmakers use the Berlin Film Festival until the NY Foundation for the Arts went and copied what I was doing there. To say I've paid my dues in this aspect. Once I was (very) modestly "famous" in the tiny little circles of artsy film, mostly for the film All the Vermeers in New York, which got modest theatrical distribution in the USA, some press (Siskel and Ebert owing to my personal intervention with Ebert, who had reviewed my first 1963 film). I had a retrospective at MoMA in 1992 I think it was, (a month of programming for them which paid me $1000 !), which was replicated a number of other places. I have been called a legend blah blah, true independent (true), maverick and all the other names given to those who fail to be commercially viable. Last night, at Portland OR's alternative cinema, at the first of 5 nights of screenings of my work, exactly 5 people showed up. There was some press (very little - not commercial things basically aren't allowed press anymore), some social networking... and more or less no viewers.
This is the reality I have seen since the early 70's, during which time there was a brief real interest in experimental etc. film (as can be seen in the flourish of work at the time, in USA and Europe). This died out rather rapidly, particularly with the advent of film courses and schools, when it became academicized, ad the creativity was sucked out of it. Going to supposed experimental/avant garde festivals the last few decades one sees pale copies of 60's-70's work mostly passed off as avant something. It is not. This went on to the American Indie phase of the 80's, most of which was not very indie, and has continued on through mumble-core etc, nearly all of these films are pale copies of commercial filmmaking without the money, and perhaps with some social/political kinks thrown in - gender stuff, ethnic stuff - but underneath the skin is it not much different than Zero Dark 30, which I went to the other night (not for pleasure, but out of duty to see what the other side is doing). It is, in that framework, brilliant filmmaking and tosses the director up on a pedestal with Leni Reifenstal (though Leni was, for her time, far more cinematically daring).
While I would like to think the mini-viewership I had last night (composed almost completely of friends of mine who hadn't seen the films showing), was just a sign of passing fashions, etc., I actually think it is something far deeper, having to do with how a capitalist/quasi-fascist society works and censors what it does not want. I will shortly do a blog posting on this at www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com
Bottom line, while I appreciate Ted's efforts, experience tells me he is beating his head against a wall and his head will give in first. In my view it already did: most of the films he has produced are essentially the same old formula of theatrical cinema, essentially the same as commercial films, but lacking the umph of Hollywood - which includes control over the mass media, money (millions) for advertising, stars, and, well the whole kit and kaboodle which our system provides (so it can make things like those truly awful films I saw trailers for the other night). Our system doesn't make, say, Holy Motors (wonderful film).
So good luck Ted. I'll probably apply for one of those filmmaker things in my former town of San Francisco. But for many complex reasons I think we went over a certain cliff a long time ago, and I doubt there's any coming back - for reasons political, economic, social.