As a writer and filmmaker, there’s a word that keeps cropping up for me: community. It’s communities not gangs that interest me. The way that individual lives are intertwined with those of social groups; people as social beings. I’m interested in the complexities of human behaviour in stories written for ensembles.
Art is a dirty word in some film circles. ‘Film is about commerce not art, knucklehead,’ I have been told over and over again throughout my career. (The knuckledhead bit was not actually voiced, of course.) Maybe I’m a slow learner, but for me, the art thing is fundamental to film-making.
What makes some documentaries extraordinary, asks Mark Cousins in a terrific column published in Prospect magazine in 2001. He lists 10 things—here are three of them. And why not substitute ‘film’ for ‘documentary’?
- Their shapes are not discernable from the start. Their ends are unforeseeable. They change shape.
- They all contain some kind of gap, something lost, unfilmable, inexpressible.
- (They) must build on the uncertainty of process…
This is the kind of film-making I’m signed up for.
I am an avid reader. Here are two books that are especially pertinent to this film—books I’ve bought extra copies of to hand around. They are both manifestos, in a way.
Lewis Hyde: The Gift
The title sounds a bit like Rhonda Byrne’s self-help book The Secret. But it’s so not. This book by poet and cultural critic Lewis Hyde is about the cultural value of art. Art, he says, can never simply be reduced to something that is bought and sold. Art accrues this cultural value as it circulates. So get that work out into the world… Hyde has a lot more than that to say, of course.
David Shields: Reality Hunger
Here is the blurb for Shield’s book which first came out in 2009. It provoked considerable debate and heated discussion.
‘Reality Hunger is a manifesto for a burgeoning group of interrelated but unconnected artists who, living in an unbearably artificial world, are breaking ever larger chunks of “reality” into their work.’
When I first got my hands on a copy—I had it on pre-order—I was walking through Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building. I saw a guy reading it over a coffee: the book I’d just bought. Our eyes met. ‘Great book,’ I said. ‘It’s very exciting!’ he agreed. We practically hi-fived each other on the spot. I’ve been mixing up fiction and non-fiction ever since I started making films two or three decades ago. And this is the manifesto I’ve been waiting for.
Low budget, not low-fi
I was reading an interview with a Canadian film-maker about a low budget film made with a small crew, screening at festivals internationally. ‘It’s low budget but not low-fi’, she said. And those were our aspirations for RANDOM 8. It’s low-budget but it’s also wide-screen and hi-definition. Plus, it’s about some big ideas…