I think I might be a dinosaur. I was one of the few people who went to IDFA to actually watch movies. I met a lot of people who came for the Forum, the pitches, the master classes, the new media info, the hobnobbing and networking – all of which is great – but many of those people weren’t even interested in watching the movies in the festival.
Last week, Brian Newman of Springboard media posted a blog asking (demanding) filmmakers stop making long format work. Let it have impact, he said, in 3 minute segments posted online and downloadable to our mobile devices. While I get what he’s saying in terms of pushing filmmakers to utilize a different method(s) of storytelling, most of the films I saw wouldn’t have had the same impact if they were told in 3 minute bites. Maybe I’d see all the segments, maybe I’d miss one here and there. But I definitely would have lost the momentum of their storytelling.
But, more to the point, I LIKE sitting in a movie theater and watching something. I like a good body of work demanding my attention for – gasp! – 100 whole minutes while I don’t check my email or text someone about a shoot. Admittedly, I don’t get to watch enough, which is why I wanted to go to IDFA in the first place. I wanted to sit still for a week and just take in the work that my colleagues are creating. I don’t want people to stop making films. And I most certainly do not want all of our storytelling abilities to get squashed down to some easily digestible chicken nugget size.
Do I want fewer crappy films out there? Yes. Do I want people to pay attention to craft, to learn something about filmmaking (and running sound, for the love of god, people) before buying a 5D at Best Buy and believing this gives them the power to make a movie? Hell yes.
But do I want people to stop trying? To not make it if it’s not perfect? That sounds absolutely boring. No.
I saw some delightful and insightful work from filmmakers at IDFA. It was exciting to go into a theater and sit there thinking “this is the first screening of this film in the world. It could suck… but it could be great.”
The rest of my year, film is commerce. For one week, I enjoyed hustling from one theater to the next, racking up 4 or 5 movies a day, learning about other oddball human beings and their perspectives on marriage, war, ideas of nation and freedom, reconstructions of history, capitalism, politics, and pigs (the porcine kind, not the political kind.) But discussions with most other festival-goers were more about who was there, who was pitching, who got picked up.
So I sat in many half-full movie theaters, ignoring the melee in the tent and at the bar. I went to watch movies because I believe many have something to say and I wanted to listen. And it was awesome.