The British film producer David Puttnam was once asked how he would reinvigorate the British film industry. His response? Instead of giving big bucks to a select few studio-approved and affiliated filmmakers and companies, give lots of smaller volumes of cash to a wide number of smaller filmmakers…
In doing this, not only would the funding of what would be their first “big” features be secure (a significant problem for many grassroots filmmakers), but these filmmakers, due to reduced financial pressure, would be free to experiment far more than the big guns. More importantly they would also be free to make mistakes. Do things wrong, then learn from these mistakes, and move on to bigger and better things- in turn fostering a whole new generation of filmmakers with their learned expertise.
Grassroots filmmaking, independently produced features and festival shorts are all unfathomably important to the film industry – to both those in the industry and those who simply enjoy its output. It is difficult to overstate the necessity of the indie film world. Independent films, including if not especially short films, are vital for new filmmakers to gain not only filmmaking experience on a new and more professional scale, but that vital foot in the door during their screenings, rubbing shoulders with all sorts of people who can help make their dreams a reality.
To gain a better insight into the world of small scale independent film-makers we spoke to Connor O’Hara from Lowkey Films. He directed their new short film Infinite which will be hitting many festival schedules soon. “No one is going to hand a group of unknown 19 year olds £500,000 to make them a feature film – and they obviously shouldn’t! In order to be able to hopefully one day make our first feature we knew we would have to learn how to make films on no budget first. We began by completing a routine of; Write, Shoot, Edit, Release, Repeat which taught us about what audiences were enjoying, how to get nice shots, being brutal with our editing…meaning we naturally and by ourselves learnt how to be ‘filmmakers’.” This is the David Puttnam idea in motion, and based on the quality of Infinite in practically every technical and narrative aspect, it is clear that this formula works.
“I’m a huge independent film lover. They offer almost complete freedom in storytelling and style.”
Connor also highlighted the diversity that the indie film world can offer – in both style and demography. “I’m a huge independent film lover. They offer almost complete freedom in storytelling and style, which, for good or bad, provides us with a huge spectrum of films to choose from. For me I love small character stories about relatable people in familiar settings. I feel like I learn from watching these films about people’s dynamics, different cultures, the way people like to be treated or act…independent films are much more sociological than blockbusters in the way they actually position us within real situations that we can learn from.” Infinite, written and directed by O’Hara and produced by Jamie Gamache, explores memory and friendship through a group of five male friends, one of whom is terminally ill.
But diversity of story is not the only reason to support grassroots filmmaking, even if it is a very good one. Many more people aspire to be filmmakers than actually are filmmakers, and short and independent films provide an often vital stepping stone for new filmmakers trying to pursue their dreams. Let’s not forget that many independent features start out as short films – be this because of funding issues or to ‘test the water’ with audiences or whatever the reason, this is important. The making of so-called no budget films doesn’t necessarily provide a level playing field for all, but it can certainly help to highlight the talent of otherwise disadvantaged or minority groups – far more so than big blockbusters tend to, at least.
We now live in an age where basic camcorders – or even phones – are relatively cheap, meaning that anyone, anywhere can have a crack at filmmaking.
This is partly due to the sheer number of them, as well the nature of independent filmmaking – we now live in an age where basic camcorders – or even phones – are relatively cheap, meaning that anyone, anywhere can have a crack at filmmaking, and this is undeniably a great thing. Not least because if utilised to its full extent, it could help to seriously shift the balance from the very white male dominated corridors of Hollywood to a far more diverse generation of filmmakers, hopefully being broadly reflective of society as well as ushering a new era of innovative, exciting, and genuinely different cinema.
Look out for Lowkey Film’s Infinite at your nearest film festival, and above all else, help to support independent filmmaking in any way you can – you’ll be making an aspiring filmmaker’s dream come true on the one hand, whilst simultaneously preserving the future of cinema on the other. You’re likely to find some gems too.
By Oliver Rowe
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