At the beginning of 2011, I created a project for myself in an attempt to push my filmmaking and my creative capacities as far as they could go. The project entailed me making at least one short film every month of 2011. And to make it a bit more challenging, I imposed a few rules on myself so that it would be difficult to cheat. The rules were one, I could not be the only person in the film; I put this rule in place so that I wouldn't feel inclined to simply turn the camera on and have myself act out something in front of it and call that a film. Second, the film had to be at least one minute long; again, this was so I didn't allow myself to make the most simple and unoriginal thing possible. Three, the film had to be shot, edited, and posted for viewing on vimeo or youtube within said month; so, for example, November's film had to be filmed, edited, and posted all within November. I allowed myself the cushion of being able to write and plan prior to the month of filming, which was a practical decision because I do not think I would have been able to complete all twelve films had I not allowed myself this little bit of leeway.
It may seem like an odd and difficult project to give oneself, but at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 I was feeling at an impasse as a filmmaker. I had been making short films for roughly five years up to that point, but it had been in a somewhat undisciplined way, which simply means I would let myself off the hook if I abandoned a project I wanted to make because I lost an actor or if the dates I wanted to film didn't work out. What this project made me do was make something regardless of whatever problems presented themselves. So, if I had a script written with three women and found I only had two actresses available for said month, then it forced me to retool and/or rethink the projects as necessary so that a film was completed and it did not let me abandon films due to technical issues. It is true that many of the films changed dramatically from conception to realization due to schedule conflicts, actors and crew availability, and other technical issues, but it kept me on my toes as a filmmaker. I had to think, adapt, and work with whatever I had to make the best possible film I could. I can say that I might not think all of the films completed as part of this series were completely successful, but I feel confidant in saying that none of the films were a complete failure. That in itself is a triumph. I believe that every film in this series has something interesting in it and though I may like some more than others, I am proud of every film I made in 2011.
This experiment, if nothing else, made me a more confident and disciplined filmmaker in an intellectual and in a technical sense. In an intellectual sense because making so many films allowed me to try new things all the time. I didn't feel like I had to make a film any one way or about any one thing and, in fact, when I was feeling stale or uninspired, it forced me to think about my work in a different way. The rigidity of the project, in a way, left room for me to breathe, to experiment with a wide variety of styles and ideas knowing that perhaps I would be forgiven a failure due to the restraints of the project. And yet, surprisingly, all the films turned out well. In a technical sense, this project acted as a kind of DIY film school. I never went to film school and, even though I have been making short films for some time, I was always struggling with feeling confident in myself as a filmmaker in a purely technical sense. I have always considered myself more of a theoretical filmmaker than a technical filmmaker. This means that I have ideas and theories and approaches to filmmaking from an intellectual level, but was never the craftsmen that others are. I always made the best possible films with what I had, but I knew that I still had a lot to learn, and this year I feel like I have grown quite a bit on the technical side. I feel more confident about how my films look and sound. I even became confident enough to try more complex set-ups that had more difficult camera movements, intricate blocking, and stylized lighting. The project pushed me into being a better filmmaker technically, which is something that I think I needed.
This film a month project also forced me to think about everything cinematically. For the first time, I think of myself primarily as a filmmaker and am always thinking about what my next project will be. I think this is an important step in the evolution of a filmmaker. One must think of oneself as a filmmaker in order to think cinematically and push oneself toward new cinematic ideas. The more films I made in 2011, the more I wanted to do as a filmmaker. It left me wanting to grow and radicalize my cinema. Though a difficult and demanding project, it ultimately made me into a better filmmaker. In a way, these films are almost like sketches; they were a way to try out various cinematic ideas as they occurring to me. Theory in practice. It gave me a chance to see what worked and what didn't work; to see how I liked making films and how I didn't want to make films. I became more confident and with that confidence, a style and a way of understanding myself as a filmmaker emerged, which has been beneficial.
Perhaps a project like this isn't for everyone, but I do believe that sometimes giving oneself a strict set of guidelines and a difficult project which you make yourself complete can be a good thing. If anyone else was thinking about anything similar to this, I would encourage them to give it a try. I would also like to hear from other filmmakers who have done or are doing any similar projects and what their experiences were.
I do not write this piece in order to glorify myself as a filmmaker or this particular project, but instead I wanted to use this space to reflect on my year of filmmaking. We have always wanted Shooting Wall to be a place for filmmakers to reflect on their own works and be able to talk about their films as they feel fit. Shooting Wall is, after all, a place for filmmakers as much as for cinephiles. In 2012, Shooting Wall wants to extend our reputation as working filmmakers who are trying to create something different and, hopefully, new. We are going to be giving more space to pieces about local films and filmmakers both on the blog and in the pages of our zine. Those filmmakers associated with Shooting Wall are making the best in local cinema. We are filmmakers and the revolution is happening now. Shooting Wall will be the mouthpiece for these filmmakers.
Below is a list of the films included in my film a month project of 2011. They are all available to watch on my VIMEO page.
Jan - DUEL
Feb - RAPID CHANGES
March - STITCHES
April - INCOMPARABLE ESCALATIONS
May - GHOST STORY
June - BATHTUB
July - EXPECTATIONS
August - LUMINARIES OF AFFLICTION
September - SWAMPS
October - SAVAGE MYTHS
November - VARIOUS MISSIONS AND INSURRECTIONS (A VARIATION)
December - STREET SCENE