Back to IndieWire

Guest Post: Preserving the Excitement of 1990s’ Independent Filmmaking

Guest Post: Preserving the Excitement of 1990s' Independent Filmmaking

From 1991-2002, I wrote regularly about American independent
and foreign films for Tower Records’ Pulse! magazine. I did interviews with filmmakers when their movies were released
theatrically and wrote reviews of foreign films and documentaries when they debuted
on video. I’ve posted a majority of the articles with interviews on my website, NancyKapitanoff.com.
Collectively, these articles form a slice of independent film history, with an emphasis on women filmmakers. Individually, each article profiles a filmmaker at
a moment in time in her/his career during an exciting ten-year era of indie
filmmaking.

These articles have been resting comfortably in my files for
sometime. I was moved to post them online recently by this year’s onslaught of
research reporting that the percentage of women working in the entertainment industry
(or tech, sports, media, corporate boards, etc.) is lopsidedly low, while the
barriers to women’s full participation in the business remain strong. It was déjà vu, the 1970s all over again. Barriers were broken then. That was over 40 years ago, yet the numbers haven’t
changed much since then. 

On my site, titled “Alternate Universe: Interviews with Independent
Filmmakers,” the playing field is more level than today’s entertainment
industry. When I wrote for Pulse!, women
filmmakers from all over the world were at the helm, telling original stories. I
made it a priority to
cover them. 

Of
the 79 Pulse! articles on my website, 32 posts feature interviews with
women filmmakers. Another 16 spotlight interviews with men who made films with
women in the lead roles. Most of these directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and composers continue to make films and/or work in today’s variety of visual
storytelling media. 

When I began writing for Pulse!,
a free monthly magazine published by Tower Records and available in its stores,
the internet was not a factor in how we learned about movies, let alone where
we saw them. Indiewire.com launched five years later in 1996, the year of Welcome To The Dollhouse (Todd
Solondz
, June 1996 Pulse!) and Breaking The Waves (cinematographer Robby
Müller
, December 1996). People were still getting movie showtimes from
local newspapers or by calling the theater!

With the range and depth of music and videos Tower Records
made available to its customers, editorial space in the magazine was given to
offbeat, smaller-scale albums and independent and foreign films. My first article
featured an interview with French director Bertrand
Tavernier
about two of his films, Life
and Nothing But
 and Daddy Nostalgia.
Interviews with director Claude
Chabrol
and actress Isabelle
Huppert
(Madame Bovary) and
director Lina
Wertmüller
(Ciao Professore!)
followed. Darren
Aronofsky
was a first-time feature film director when his interview about π (Pi) appeared in the August 1998 issue of Pulse! Gillian
Armstrong
had a list of award-winning Australian film credits when I
interviewed her about The Last Days of
Chez Nous
in 1993. Jane
Campion
’s The Piano had won the Palme
D’Or at Cannes long before the center of our discussion was Holy Smoke (2000). 

By the end of my run with Pulse!, moviegoers were finding showtimes online. Filmmakers were
experimenting with and shooting on digital video, including Wim
Wenders
, who shot Buena Vista Social
Club
(1999) on digital video. It had been a great ride, and I learned so
much about filmmaking and storytelling from these gutsy filmmakers.

Today,
with the world at our fingertips, we all process enormous amounts of
information daily. History, even as recently as the year 1999, recedes in this
deluge, becoming so faint it can disappear. And then, to shorten the cliché, we
repeat it.   

Since
2005, I have been producing short documentaries, the most recent being Before Babe: The Women Who Changed Golf,
about 1920s golfers who made major contributions to competitive golf before
Babe Didrikson appeared on the golf scene in 1935. Most people, even in the
golf world, have never heard of these women.

I
made Before Babe to shine a light on
women’s sports history that is relevant to today’s women athletes and could
otherwise remain relegated to the vaults of archival libraries, never to be
seen again. I post my Pulse! articles
online to add to the record of an inspired era of independent filmmaking in
which women filmmakers were present and accounted for and to help keep that record
alive and accessible to anyone who wants to build on it.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged