BAMcinemaFest, New York’s preeminent showcase for new independent film, began its seventh year last week with 35 titles, many of which have already screened on the festival circuit. From first-time directors to old pros, short documentary films to full-length features, the range of films represented highlights the ersity of talent in the current independent film scene.
The festival, running June 17-28 in Brooklyn, opened with the New York premiere of James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour” and will close with the New York premiere of Sean Baker’s “Tangerine.”
Indiewire reached out to the filmmakers with movies screening at this year’s BAMcinemaFest and asked, “What’s the hardest thing about making movies today?”
Below are their unedited responses:
“It’s not hard to make a movie today. Getting a camera is easy, you can edit on a laptop. It can all be done relatively fast and cheap, there are less barriers now than ever before. While it’s not the same thing as playing at a great cinema like BAM, there are platforms like YouTube and Vimeo where you can attract a wide audience, and in the end, it is simply about sharing your work with others. Our next project is a sci-fi trilogy about a guy with super powers who lives in the basement of the last Radio Shack in New York.” –Andrew Lampert & Owen Kline (“Jazzy for Joe”)
“The budgets: it’s harder to work in a financial sweet spot for your movie, meaning at a budget in which everyone gets paid a fair wage and there’s still enough time and resources to make your movie from start to finish with care and perspective. That said, the squeezing of the budgets means filmmakers are forced to think in new ways about our work, with greater adaptability and vigor. So for me, the obstacle can also become the answer if it pushes me on a creative level.” – Karyn Kusama (“The Invitation”)
“Lack of money”– Terence Nance (“Swimming in Your Skin Again”)
“The misinterpretation of the role of a ‘creative producer'” – Todd Rohal (“Uncle Kent 2”)
READ MORE: How Do You Make a Living as an Independent Filmmaker? It’s Not Easy.
“The hardest part is to just keep going after you’ve hit the first summit. If you want it bad enough, your first couple films will be fueled by pure animal rage. But I’m at the point now where I’ve had five films bounce around the festival circuit over the past three years. And some good things are starting to happen, but it all happens real slow. It turns out that the expenditure of effort required to get where you want to be as a filmmaker is really just hilarious. I blew out my back pretty good last year, I’ve had knee surgery. This stuff will turn you into an old man real quick. But what the hell else am I going to do? I love making movies so much.” – Joe Callander (“Gary Has an AIDS Scare”)
“People seem to desire being educated to such a fine (or dull!) point that we are rendered incapable of enjoying something new or different until we are first told what it’s all about. I like when movies are about mystery. Entering a dark room with friends and strangers, and submitting to a dream. But, as always – The future is not over yet.” – Stephen Winter (“Jason and Shirley”)
“I’m stealing the sentiment from my filmmaker friend Chad Hartigan here, but the act of making movies has never been easier — getting people to care about them has never been harder.” – C. Mason Wells (“Judy, Judy, Judy”)
“Honestly, it’s always the money. But, per usual, the batshit crazy act of plowing ahead anyway makes the thing happen, but not without feeling the intense and overwhelming burden of trust from collaborators and loved ones, all believing it’ll come together but wishing it’d happen before the last minute. Through the help of many, many individuals, it came together – it always does, but it’s always hard.” – Stephen Cone (“Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”)
“The hardest thing for us and probably for most documentary makers (especially for films that have unknown or quirky subject matter) is raising the money to get the film made.
But luckily for us, in the years since we began working on the film, crowdfunding has developed. Although the money we were able to raise on Kickstarter was no where near enough to make the film, it brought us out of the theoretical stage of making the film and got the production rolling. From there, we were able to secure other grants that made finishing possible. And of course, lots of people worked on the film out of love, and worked for free or almost free.” – Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin (“Here Come The Videofreex”)
“The externalization of success. Independent filmmakers are making work that is inherently challenging in that it’s born of a desire to express a personal artistic vision rather than to create something commercially successful. And yet we’re so quick to define the success of our work by the festivals we play at, the sales agents and distributors who are interested in working with us, the amount of money we are able to make. I think filmmakers should be more confident in their reasons for making art, and set goals for themselves that are based on achieving internal metrics of success. I’m very guilty of this too — I think it’s really challenging to make work for yourself, to tell a story because you think it needs to be told, and to not let the market have too large an effect on your vision and your process.”– Dan Schoenbrun (“The School is Watching”)
“I can only speak for myself. My work tends to be quiet and subtle, and with all the options that people are faced with, it can be hard for those kinds of films to stand out. So my personal challenge is finding ways to make my work appear to be ‘noisy’ without compromising the human emotion and more realistic tone that I naturally gravitate towards.”– Michael Mohan (“Pink Grapefruit”)
“Misogyny and racism. As a cis white man, I’ve had access to lots of conversations that paint a grim picture. I think it’s way easier to be a white gay dude in this industry than it is to be a woman of any color. Prejudice and macho culture are not conducive to creative exploration. And when the rules of the game aren’t fair, playing is no fun for anyone.” – Jeremy Hersh (“Actresses”)
“It’s never been easier to make movies. With a cell phone and laptop, we could be in cinemas or go viral. But it’s never been harder to make people pay attention.”– Morgan Neville/Robert Gordon (“Best of Enemies”)
“Making a living. Budgets have plummeted and filmmaking has moved from career to hobby. It’s a sad state of affairs.”– Sean Baker (“Tangerine”)
For previous “Filmmaker Surveys,” check out this one we did on the issue of censorship, this story on whether theatrical distribution is essential and this one we did on whether film school is necessary. Indiewire is striving to spur discussion in the indie film community about a variety of timely issues. If you’ve got a topic you’d like us to feature, please let us know in the comments section below.