Thursday, March 31, 2005
Vexed

Some asshole stole my pot. (The kind you cook food in, not the kind you cook into food.) I'm a bit peeved about this, as I do about 90% of my cooking in that pot, and it's the only one I have... what anybody would want it for is beyond me, but I know making my dinner's going to be a little harder now. Fucking spoilt little rich kids, they think anything they want is theirs by right... grrr. There's little to no chance of recovering it -- there are people around the dorm I trust less than others (right now my suspicions are focused on the girl who won't make eye contact anymore), but I have no evidence. Anyway, it's just stuff, I suppose; I can get by, although I'll probably be a bit pissy when I'm making my dinner for a while.

I've been reading the collected writings of Maya Deren the last couple of days and it's really been something of a minor revelation. She isn't exactly saying anything I haven't heard or thought before, but she's very articulate in stating it:

The major obstacle for amateur filmakers is their own sense of inferiority vis-a-vis professional productions. The very classification "amateur" has an apologetic ring. But that very word -- from the Latin amator, "lover" -- means one who does something for the love of the thing rather than for economic reasons or necessity. And this is the meaning from which the amateur filmmaker should take his cue. Instead of envying the script and dialogue writers, the trained actors, the elaborate staffs and sets, the enormous production budgets of the professional film, the amateur should make use of the one great advantage which all professionals envy him, namely, freedom -- both artistic and physical.

Amateur versus Professional, Movie Makers Annual, 1959

That was written in 1959, just as avant-garde filmmakers like Deren were acquiring the ability to use silent 16mm film. Their concerns then were exactly the same as those the current wave of DV revolutionaries face now; why do we bother trying to reformulate these ideas when they've been around for decades? The obvious answer, of course, is that we don't know our own history.

Deren was hardcore. She literally, if indirectly, starved to death; she was never able to support herself on her work. She began a foundation for independent and avant-garde filmmakers; she mentored Stan Brakhage; she traveled and lectured and held workshops; she received the first Guggenheim grant ever given to a filmmaker and used the money to film Vodoun rituals in Haiti (which, sadly, she never edited together, although a film was eventually assembled from the footage by her husband.)

I've read a lot of great writing on the opportunities and hardships of deeply independent filmmaking in the last few months -- Rob Nilsson, Jon Jost, Wim Wenders, others -- but Maya Deren is easily the most accessible and most thorough of the bunch. Really great stuff.
4:08 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
|