The Beginning – 1977
My introduction to independent film came in my senior year of collage. A year before graduation, I realized I had completed all of my core studies to obtain a degree in Creative Writing and decided to “punish myself” by taking a course in the Fine Arts Department. My ability to draw was right up there with the tidiness of my handwriting. My Visual Concepts 101 professor showed the film Un Chien Andalou within the first week of class. I was mesmerized. “What is this? I want to do this!” She laughed a little and sent me to the head of the Cinematography department. He laughed as well. “The current classes are advanced and you are taking your first introductory level art class.” I shifted in my chair and announced that I would not leave until he let me take film classes. He was amused and gave in.
I made three films that first year with the help of my new friend and mentor, a man who studied Cinematography in the navy and was there to complete his Masters degree. He brought me up to the level of the rest of the students quickly by showing me how to shoot, edit and use what now seems primitive contact and optical printing equipment.
A Real Job
A safety and training company hired me the following year and I saved as much as I could until I was able to purchase my own camera, rewinds, synchronizer and viewer. Daily commercial work bogged me down and soon, the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was to make movies.
Fast forward several years, I registered for a screenwriting class and wrote my first few pages. I had never written in this genre before; dialogue came surprisingly easy. I wrote a feature length screenplay and sent it off to Gotham Writers Workshop in NYC. I was selected as one of 20 screenwriters from across the country to attend a week long intensive class reviewing my and other participants’ screenplays with New York and LA professionals at Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. I’ve been making movies ever since.
But video had evolved. What I learned by working with film gave me the basic technical abilities I needed, but the equipment was different. I had to start over. Over the next decade, I learned from others and from my mistakes. I attended Berlin and Toronto film festivals regularly, established partnerships with people who were strong where I was not and offered my time and talent to others who were creating films, installations and public performances.
Independent film is not really independent. In order to create a story on a moving timeline you generally need cast and crew to make that happen. It may be one actor and one camera, but you still need a script, a director and hopefully someone to help you move lights around and record acceptable sound. Throughout the years, I have been blessed with creative, brilliant, passionate partners, mentors and mentees who have been a huge part of my success. I don’t forget to pay that forward!