27 Sep 2016

Areas of Concern II

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1_The history of film is so vast and enormous that even in your wildest dreams you cannot imagine it. Once you start watching films and sink deeper and deeper into cinema the more you realise just how many ‘classic’ films there are. What even constitutes a ‘classic’ film; there are so many films that have been overshadowed and ‘lost, which have only begun to resurface.

Cinema is constantly reassessing its own past and chronology, and with that you begin to realise that it is almost impossible to watch too many movies and in fact the more you see more you begin to realise that you have seen absolutely nothing in respect to what is actually out there.

There is a great deal of films from so many different countries that we have never even heard of and very little written information exists about them other than the fact that they are waiting to be discovered and to be eventually brought into mass culture. You can never watch too many films! The more you see the more you realise you haven’t seen much at all.

2_ I have worked non-stop both with and without money but in my experience there is a big difference between no-budget and funded projects- a whole new aesthetics and set of possibilities would emerge when working money (and in my case very little of it). However, regardless of your situation if you do not make ‘narrative cinema’ you are entirely ignored to the highest degree. 99% of film festivals will reject you unless you have a very strong connection to someone on the inside and that person takes an interest and pushes you through.

It does not matter if the film is good or bad, it does not matter if you submit to as many film festivals as possible (paying the entry fee- which I am totally against unless it is very low and reasonable). It does not matter how hard you try and it does not matter if you submit your films or not, because there is a clear set design whereby the majority of experimental film festivals are only accepting short films (usually 20 minutes or under). Furthermore, this must be 20 minutes of celluloid and/or with a relatively narrative approach touching on socio-political subjects. So the realities of the film trade (with minimalist / experimental / lyrical/ poetic narratives) may be fine for the occasional self-organised screening but now thankfully because of the internet you can release the work ‘online as VOD’ and a small opportunity exists for people to see your films – but other than that there is nothing. Forget it.

Considering all of this I still hold a strong belief in this formula: the lack of acceptance by the film industry replete with a misfit status can help you. Furthermore, being an outsider has value but you have to do whatever you are good at non-stop without paying any attention to unnecessary distraction.

I have always believed that it is absolutely impossible to explain a film simply because it is an “experience”.

When I make a film and edit it at home, I only think about the big silver screen and imagining playback in a proper theatrical cinema. Based on that, I set my aesthetics and measurements for a dark space with good seats, just like any other traditional screening context. However when the film is complete and I return once again to the reality concerning the possibilities of screening, I soon come to the realisation that the choices are extremely limited and rarely consist of screening in an actual cinema. Therefore you have to gravitate toward either a gallery space, art venue or a very small underground space the majority of which simply have very basic setup at their disposal (old digital projector and bad sound). In short you have to compromise in order to have your film screened.

Personally I never enjoyed or obtained any satisfaction out of any compromised screening. It comes down to very simple technical reasons which truly upset me, and there are always some small issues that I can deal with but some of the main offenders are bad sound, not fully corrected aspect-ratio, cropped images, unbalanced colours etc. This may not spoil the screening for the audience who might have truly enjoyed the film with these conditions but at the same time I cannot ignore my agendas and as the great Von Sternberg said, “I don’t have the same reaction to pictures that you have. I view a picture like a surgeon views an operation. If an operation is good and the patient dies, that’s too bad. But the operation is what appeals to me…. As a matter of fact, it’s difficult for me to talk about my own work. The Russians say: ‘The chicken does not talk about its own soup’.“

I cannot stand for sloppiness, technical errors and badly functioning equipment that essentially leads to a horrible presentation of work, and it is this that I absolutely despise and utterly loathe about experimental cinema. I love high precision, total accuracy and the complete authentic screening of a film. However this attitude has a very strong contradiction in experimental cinema and I am completely aware of it but so what? Nowadays I am not sure anymore about notions such as experimental and avant-garde filmmaking, it has no meaning to me anymore. When I started to make films I didn’t set out to be an experimental filmmaker or a story-teller or any kind of special filmmaker, I simply followed my instincts and learned things intuitively and slowly evolved and I am still evolving.

In the end I have realised that this is THE ONLY type of film I can make and I simply cannot change that even if I wanted to, therefore I have no choice. My ideas and thinking just happened to be very close to experimental cinema but it does not mean I approve 100% of everything that this practice includes. I love the WHOLE CINEMA as one entity and I pick and choose fragments, bits & pieces and aesthetics from this entire history. Therefore I prefer to belong to cinema itself rather than just experimental cinema. In my experience you are always given two choices, one is the path paved by time and has felt the feet of many travellers, and the other path is the unknown, I prefer to go for the latter. My instinct rules that I must only make film with DIGITAL and master it fully and ultimately seek to present cinema of the future. Cinema is changing radically and I assure you a great deal of possibilities will emerge, hence you must ONLY make the film that YOU can make.

3_Cinema is a 100% technical process, and requires extreme skill and mastery of craft to make for any achievement big or small. The craft itself divides into two sections: one is the industry that produces commodities and the second is the personal craft, which leads to art-house/experimental cinema. Nevertheless both approaches are completely technical exercises that rely heavily on one another for the progression of the medium.

Without exception, all of the great art-house/experimental filmmakers have developed supreme expertise and a unique skill set in order for them to express their views. I’d like to emphasise the fact that there is nothing except techniques in cinema, both in production and post-production of a film, but it is how the individual embraces the technique and brings it to a personal level to achieve his own mode of expression. Whether you choose to tell stories, make anti-narrative or formalistic films the techniques and technical elements required of the craft will always rest at the foundation and have to be fulfilled 100%.

This is the biggest downfall of the cinema in this digital age; filmmakers are only relying on the ready-made technology with its horrible aesthetics instead of developing their own personal techniques. Simply buying/renting a good digital cinema camera and a laptop does not guarantee that you will make a worthwhile film. Furthermore, ignorance to these techniques is not justified by simply labelling your film as ‘indie/independent’, a term which has no meaning these days. Cinema is effectively the fictional art of engineering and science that needs to be taken to both extreme industrial and personal limits.

Rouzbeh Rashidi