By Rebecca Sonnenshine
For all those cynics in the Los Angeles independent film community who
continue to lament the decline of a "real" arena for independent
filmmaking, I've got some news for you: it's alive and well and in your
own backyard. Filmmakers Alliance, an independent film collective, is
moving into the 21st century, boldly going where no independent film
organization has gone before. IFP West may get all the glory with its
Spirit Awards and high-priced seminars and screenings, but if you're
serious about making films, you may want to look into this
quickly-rising alliance of aspiring and well-on-their-way filmmakers.
About five years ago, Jacques Thelemaque and Diane Gaidry-Thelemaque had
a brainstorm: to create an alliance of filmmakers that actually makes
films (instead of just talking about it). They formed Reverse Angle
Production Alliance (RAPA) with the intention of bringing together
independent filmmakers, industry professionals, and aspiring neophytes
in order to exchange resources, weave together a solid support system,
and forge bravely into the frontier of serious filmmaking. A year
later, RAPA transformed itself into Filmmakers Alliance, a formally
incorporated non-profit arts corporation. Beginning with just a handful
of filmmakers, the group now has over a hundred active members. More
impressively, they have done what few idealistic endeavors seem to do:
continue to accomplish their goals and create a small but thriving arena
for artists to make their voices heard.
Today, Filmmakers Alliance is a rapidly expanding presence in the Los
Angeles independent film community. Members come from every aspect of
filmmaking -- they include producers, writers, post-production
supervisors, directors, actors, editors, cinematographers and students.
The organization not only encourages active participation on the part of
its members -- it depends on it. Staff members -- all busy with
"regular jobs," of course -- donate their time to the group to raise
money, publicize events, stage workshops, run meetings, and oversee the
hundreds of other details involved in keeping a good ship running. The
rest of the members exchange information and professional services, work
on each others projects, and serve as a sounding board for production
problems and general advice.
Over the past several years, Filmmakers Alliance has managed to support
an impressive number of projects, from shorts and feature films to
script development to Public Service Announcements. There are several
features in development/pre-production, including Jacques Telemaque's
"The Dogwalker, " David Wills' "Magic 101," and Willard Morgan's
"Michael and Me." Frank Chindamo, who has a feature called "Tricks of
the Trade" in development in association with Filmmakers Alliance, runs
the bi-weekly Writers Workshop, at which writers and actors gather for
staged readings and constructive criticism. The Public Service
Announcement program offers the community a unique opportunity: to pitch
Filmmakers Alliance an issue. The Public Service Announcement Program
will then come up with a concept, a budget, and a schedule for a PSA at
a fraction of the cost that a regular advertising agency might propose.
The clients must fund the hard costs, but filmmakers volunteer their
time and use the opportunity to practice their skills.
Filmmakers Alliance has also acquired a fair amount of necessary tools:
vendor discounts, community resource lists, a Media 100 editing system,
and a Canon XL1 digital camera. Members are technically required to
work on four productions before they have unlimited access to the
company resources, but after that, the crew databank, discount lists,
available film stock, props, locations, and equipment is at their
disposal. The Media 100 system and Canon camera are available, with
insurance and a permit waiver, to the filmmakers on a first-come basis.
The Writer's Workshop is available to all active members, as well as
other seminars on everything from directing to producing to
self-distribution. Filmmakers Alliance also hosts a number of
screenings, inviting both members and non-members in the film community
to attend. And finally, the group has acquired something akin to the
holy grail of non-profit groups: a real office space in a real Hollywood
office building. "It's exciting to finally have a central location
established," said Pi Ware, FA member. "Our goal is to someday have a
real working studio, with a sound stage and equipment for the members to
Of course, with so many groups vying for publicity and attention in the
grand city of Los Angeles, recognition isn't always easy to come by. But
this year, Filmmakers Alliance got a big break -- not to mention a big
vote of confidence -- from the American Film Institute, who spotlighted
the organization at the 1998 AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival
with an evening entitled, "Love and Death." Programmed as one of the
festival's Special Presentations, "Love and Death" featured four short
films with dark, funny examinations of love, greed, and the criminal
element: "Love Without Socks" by Jacques Thelemaque; "My Beautiful Me"
by Pi Ware; "Shiva's Teardrop" by Sean Hood; and "Mitzi and Joe" by Cain
DeVore. Each film was produced with the assistance of the collective;
and each film is a comic gem. And here's what the AFI had to say about
Filmmakers Alliance: "The cutting-edge collective... is Los Angeles'
most radically innovative arts organization."
And what lies ahead for Filmmakers Alliance? More films, of course, and
a drive to increase the membership and profile of the group. They are
also, according to Pi Ware, always on the look out for corporate
donations, whether it be in equipment or cash or plain old exposure.
Anyone can join, but they recommend that you live in the Los Angeles
area -- being an active participant would be rather difficult,
otherwise. The initiation fee is $100, plus $20 per month in membership
dues. Also, a word of warning: this is a serious organization. All in
all, they are an impressive group, falling somewhere in-between the
usual Hollywood hipsters and passionate scruffy film students. The
bi-weekly meetings are less about schmoozing and more about getting down
to business. Dues are expected ON TIME, thank you very much, and you'll
be expected to pitch in. But if you're looking for something more than
just an occasional screening and a free subscription to Filmmaker
Magazine (not that there's anything wrong with that), Filmmakers
Alliance may be looking for you, too.
You can check out the Filmmakers Alliance website at
[Rebecca Sonnenshine is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.]