The MovieMaker Manifesto: A document for an oppressed majority
by James Kaelan and Timothy Rhys

orange_if French film in the 1950s was a convalescent in a hospice, as Godard and Truffaut claimed, the Nouvelle Vague euthanized the patient in his sick bed. Fifty years later, and 6,000 miles west, American multiplex movies are not a patient withering on an operating table, but an occupying army of investment bankers with nothing worthwhile to say, and infinite money to say it.

Independent film functions, to some degree, as a counterpoint to this culture of $300 Million re-make blockbusters that clog theaters from March to October. But the proprietors of those gargantuan, loud, and soulless films remain a stalwart enemy. If you disagree, throw away this magazine. But if you concur that the tentpole-philic studios are noise mongers—hawking brightly colored, artificially flavored abominations—you should also agree that we need to disembowel the system.

Independent filmmakers are trying. (We know you’re trying.) But mumblecore is a dull penknife wielded by a child, nipping at the monster’s haunches. To fundamentally change the power structure, we need a cavalry 10,000 strong, swords drawn, charging toward Hollywood on lathering steeds.

To rally this army, we need generals, American moviemakers who, like Tibet’s Dhondup Wangchen and Iran’s Jafar Panahi, are willing to die for their causes. How many American directors are ready to risk their lives for a film about two 20-somethings whispering in bed about how they’re drifting apart? None! Our martyrs must be bold! And our martyrs’ films must become our Magna Cartas, our Declarations of Independence. Our martyr’s films must be dangerous, incendiary documents. And these films must never apologize for trying to do something new.

The bywords of our revolution shall be “courage” and “ambition!” And we shall fight until our oppressors—those gold-diggers in their glass cathedrals, greenlighting the next comic book sequel, the next board game adaptation, the next redundant remake—retire in shame and controversy. Men and women of contemporary independent film, auteurs and fans alike, you downtrodden and enraged creators of beauty, you repressed thinkers of monumental thoughts, join us! The battlefield longs for your throaty roars, the sweet percussion of your boots stomping through the mud!

The Manifesto

1. Unless the social stakes in your film are high, avoid meandering, plotless narratives at all costs. Reserve neorealism for the inherently dramatic. Middle class white kids eating cereal in bed is not inherently dramatic.

2. Except in the hands of the most masterful actors and directors, interiority is not interesting. Nor is silence. Nor is dispassion. Tell a story that overflows with fervor.

3. Palatable is a synonym for forgettable. Art must be a shock to the system. If no one loves or hates your film, you’ve failed. Always seek to elate, surprise, undermine, or offend.

4. Do not confuse wit with sustaining insight. Conceiving a film should be more rigorous than composing a Facebook status.

5. Every visible cut breaks emotional momentum. Cut only when you must cut, not when you think you should cut. A well-composed, well-choreographed scene may only require a single shot.

6. Moviemaking is expensive and arduous. Make a film not because you can, but because you must. But do not expect acclaim simply for shooting a feature-length picture. You are not an artist because you worked hard.

7. Every movie that seeks to make a financial profit without earning an artistic one deserves eternal anonymity. Exclusively commercial film ruins culture. Commit to lofty ideals, and refuse to let your confidence embarrass you. Take yourself seriously!

8. You cannot replicate a Hollywood picture on a truly independent budget. You must recognize your physical and financial constraints. Focus your ambition on story, concept, composition, dialogue, and performance.

9. Dedication trumps pedigree. Recognizable actors add nothing to a film unless they commit wholesale to your vision. Cast actors and crew who will make grand sacrifices for you, but realize that harmony is overrated. Court the difficult, so long as the source of that difficulty is always in service to the work.

10. The audience thinks it wants relief, but it needs relief like it needs processed foods and reality television. Give them what they really need: Enlightenment!

11. From architecture to clothing, we live in a world of creators who are chiefly concerned with utilitarian economy, not posterity. This is short-sighted. Strive to create cinema that will stand the test of time.

12. Only by resolving to tell a precise truth are you doing your audience justice. If you don’t know what you want to say, no one will care how you’re saying it, and you’ll waste everyone’s time.

13. In Iran, even the most diffused cinematic criticism of the government can result in the filmmaker’s imprisonment. And yet they continue to make films. Do not take your freedom of speech lightly. Be controversial!

manifesto_poster
Share the MovieMaker love!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One comment on “The MovieMaker Manifesto: A document for an oppressed majority
by James Kaelan and Timothy Rhys

  1. Burgher on said:

    I think that is one of the such a lot vital information for me. And i am happy reading your article.

Latest Stories
50 Film Festivals Worth The Entry Fee 2014: Savannah Film Festival

It’s finally here: MovieMaker‘s annual list of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, 2014 edition! We’ll be releasing the list in five alphabetical installments, a new one every Wednesday, for the next month – so keep checking back to see if your favorite festivals made it in. Or read the full article in [...]

Beware of Images

In the spirit of our upcoming Spring issue’s Activism in Film theme, this week’s crowdfunder pick is the socially-conscious Beware of Images, a feature-length, fully animated documentary that warns audiences to digest media with caution. While public education strives to develop English language literacy among its students, serious attention to media literacy is neglected in [...]

Obvious Child

At first glance, Gillian Robespierre’s feature-length independent comedy might seem like another “first-world-problem”/bourgeois New York City drama about the general malaise hitting affluent members of the young artistic community. However, when we delve more deeply into the first official trailer for Obvious Child, the genuine heart and sense of humor that emanates from lead actress Jenny [...]

Living Things directed by Eric Shapiro

Eric Shapiro is the writer and director of Living Things: A Vegan & Meat Debate. A prolific horror writer, Shapiro translates his experience crafting scares into a tense drama about the politics of food, with Rhoda Jordan as a liberal yogini and Ben Siegel as her more conservative father-in-law. In this interview with MovieMaker Magazine, [...]

Rick Castaneda 11 Tips For Filming in a Small Town - Featured

It’s often said that creating a boot-strapped, no-budget independent film is a lot like raising a child – it takes a village. But why stop there? If you’re as lucky as we were when we shot Cement Suitcase, you might be able to enlist the muscle of quite a few villages. We shot in seven [...]

NFMLA

This week’s edition of New Filmmakers LA is filled to the brim with juicy moviemaking wisdom. Featuring interviews with directors Solvan Naim, Carol Rhyu, Sam Cooke, David Aslan, Charlie Anderson, Noah Mucci, and Collin Blair. NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) is a non-profit organization designed to showcase the innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world, providing the Los Angeles [...]

Willem Defoe in Bad Country

Writer Jonathan Hirschbein worked for years on the film Bad Country with the late director, Chris Brinker, who passed away only days before filming completed. The two met when Jonathan was freshly out of college at the ripe age of twenty-two, with little career prospects besides the odd job here or there. Chris quickly took [...]

HankandAsha_09

Hank and Asha is an epistolary film about a filmmaker in New York and an admirer in Prague, who correspond solely through video messages – with actors who never met, though their characters fall in love. Director, James E. Duff, and writer, Julia Morrison, recount their experiences developing the concept and maximizing their story within the [...]

Babar Ahmed in Mongolia AMKA AND THE THREE GOLDEN RULES

Amka and The Three Golden Rules is the story of a Mongolian boy who learns the dangers of greed and materialism, themes that parallel the recent boom of commercialism in the country’s society. But how did Pakistani director and producer Babar Ahmed find himself telling this story in such a foreign, ancient land – which was [...]