28 February 2007

coming soon...a series of reviews

Partly based on the dialogue that's been going on right here, and partly because it's an idea I've been toying with in relation to an article I'm going to write for Andy Horbal's zine he's planning, I'm going to start a new series of reviews (and, yes, I do plan on chipping away at the 100 films project as well) that I'm tentatively calling "the uber-indie beat" that you'll be able to read here and at Talking Moviezzz.com.

I've been trying to think of ways to make the no-budget filmmakers who, in my opinion, are an extremely important niche in the indie world, all that more viable to the larger film community. One method I've come up with is using the internets to write about them in much of the same way I'd write about the latest release from Focus Features. This serves two purposes: 1) it provides much needed exposure (even if it is only a little bit) for filmmakers who work very hard with little to no recognition, and 2) it's a critical voice by which they can get a sense of just how their film plays to someone who isn't inclined to dole out empty praise or criticize needlessly[1]. And being a no-budget filmmakers myself, I figure shining as much light on others as possible has to have some benefits, in terms of karma.

So here's how this is going to work. Unless by some miracle I get overwhelmed, I'll write up pretty much anything, feature-length or short, I can get my hands on. Already, I've lined up one filmmaker who's sending me a DVD of shorts. Anyone else who'd like to send me a DVD (I could also watch it on YouTube, I guess, but obviously isn't the greatest medium in terms of quality), shoot me an email.

[1] I may have a lot of faults as a cinephile and a person, but a lack of honesty and candor is not one of them.


andyhorbal said...


lucas said...


surely someone else must be doing something similar? i looked around a bit, but nothing jumped out at me. i ask because you seem to have a pretty good handle on what's going on.

johanna said...

i've done what i can for now: linked this page prominently on both blogger and myspace

looking forward to seeing where this goes...

The Sujewa said...

Hey Lucas,

Great idea! Will mail you a Date Number One screener this month. I do need yer mailing address. E-mail me at wilddiner@aol.com. Thanks! Will also visit yer blog & add a link to it from mine.

As zines were essential for building the punk/indie rock scene (back in the pre-web hardcore punk days in the US), now blogs can be very useful for creating a more active real indie/ultra low budget film scene.

Specially blogs written by writers who will take the time to reflect as necessary & look with an open mind at ultra-low budget self-distributed movies & similar works.

Writers who are also filmmakers are (as many indie rock zines were written by musicians themselves), I think, specially suited to this kind of work. And other filmmakers can support such blog work by advertising their DVD releases or screenings at blogs that cover real indie film. Zines & indie rockers had/have such a mutual assistance type relationship.

Will mention yer new project at a couple of my blogs.

- Sujewa

andyhorbal said...

Not really. The closest thing I know would probably be The Daily Reel.

There are a number or reasons for the dearth of sites covering this "uber-indie beat," foremost being the fact that those who would open the floodgates ("I'll write up pretty much anything, feature-length or short, I can get my hands on") are liable to find themselves drowning in a sea of indifferent, uninteresting, and just plain bad films. Think just of all the film students out there making two or three movies a term: it's hard to make a dent.

After that there's the fact that it's not exactly good for the ol' Statcounter and Technorati profiles. To generate any widespread interest in a project like this you have to be good, and it's not quite clear just what that means yet.

I don't think these are reasons not to go forward; in fact, I think they're reasons we should all try to tackle this together. But they are reasons you won't have a lot of company, at least not at first.

Good luck!

lucas said...


great points.

I worry about drowning in mediocre films, but my hope is that someone like me, who will no hesitate for one minute to say a bad film is bad, will maybe discourage the really awful, simply because no one wants to read something like that about their film. if i were to be "nice", it could get ugly quick.

it still might get ugly quick, but it's worth a shot.

i imagine if i do get overrun, i'll get more discerning, picking and choosing stuff that looks interesting, or trying to convince like-minded folk to help me out a bit, but that's not something i envision happening right away, so i'll worry about that if and when it happens.

like you said, though, it's worth trying, and someone's gotta be the crazy idiot who tries it first. it might as well be me. hopefully it'll encourage others to do the same.

worst case scenario: it shines a tiny light on a few films and filmmakers that wouldn't have gotten the exposure otherwise. that ain't too shabby

The Sujewa said...

Re: handling the volume of submissions that you may get:

- check out the first 10 - 15 to 30 mins of a film (if a feature) to see if it is interesting, & if so, check out the rest of it.

- you could also skip through the DVD & check out a few scenes at various points of the film, & if it looks promising, then watch the entire film.

- tell filmmakers that you will get to the reviewing of their films, possibly, at your own pace, & that it could take months.

- filmmakers can e-mail a description of the movie first. and if you like what you read, then you can request a screener.
if you don't like the description of the flick or if you think you won't enjoy the movie or that it will not be interesting to you, you can pass on the screener.

- limit the # of movies you watch per day, so that there won't be sensory overload & you won't drown in images & sound in a short period of time. maybe about 2-3 hrs a day every other day or something, of watching movies.

- if done well, the project will make your blog very popular. well, considerably popular, among filmmakers, possibly festival programmers, some theater programmers, etc. in turn it will be easier for you to deal with these essential people when you are working on distributing one of your own movies. the project can be considered an investment in your filmmaking career.

- and here is a possibly controversial idea: you could request a fee for watching & writing about the movies, from the filmmakers. not a big enough fee to buy your opinion (not that it is for sale :), but enough to cover a little bit of the time that you would spend watching & then writing about a movie. maybe $10 - $20 per feature or something. a submission fee, if you will. if the writing is good, then this could work, of course it may not be a useful thing at first, perhaps after the project gets well establshed.

some ideas off the top of my head, for managing the possible work load on this project. you should definitely try the project out.

- sujewa

Moviezzz said...

I don't know if charging a fee for a review would be ethical.

"For $20, I'll watch your film. For $100, I'll give you a great review!"

The scary thing is, if you look in the back of Filmmaker or some of the other independent filmmaking magazines, you will see ads for reviewers who will do exactly that!

I can see the flood of DVDs being sent being a problem, but also it might be a good thing. You'll always have something to watch. You can say that you can't guarantee you will get around to giving it a full review. I mean, I can't even review all the Hollywood product I see.

But, the screening of titles beforehand is probably an important part. If someone is into making horror films, and you aren't a fan of the genre, maybe take a pass on that.

The great thing is, as a critic, it is a lot of fun to find and champion a small independent filmmaker. I enjoy talking more about say DROP BOX or MUTUAL APPRECIATION or FILM GEEK or CONFUSIONS OF AN UNMARRIED COUPLE more than most Hollywood films.

lucas said...

man, my mailman's gonna hate me...

some volume thoughts (of course, first there has to be lots of volume...):

- saying "hey, i'll get to these, but it may take awhile. just because i get it on Monday doesn't always mean i'll have something written up Tuesday...or next Tuesday." I am, after all, just one guy.

- I'll probably bunch shorts together, especially if I can work in some sort of theme (like, "assorted shorts from Boston") or something.

- if i were to pass on stuff (which I'd rather not do), it'd probably be the horror genre. The chances of me enjoying a horror film are pretty slim, since i have a weak stomach for such things...maybe I should mention that up front, "I have a really weak stomach, so if you don't mind me watching through my fingers..."

- i'm not against the $$ idea (because, hey, it's money), and if the workload gets insane, I'll consider it (or some other way supplement the project financially). I'd suspect that if it got that big, it open the possibility of a sponsor or something. but, again, that's way off.

i'd like to say i can't be bought, but that's probably not true. of course, considering the budgets of the films involved, they probably can't afford to buy me ;)

- I've considered the future possibilities for my own films in regards to exposure amoung fellow filmmakers, should this take off. Honestly, that's one of the reasons I'm doing it. Because, what's good for one of us is good for all of us.

ok, enough daydreaming. first, i've got to get some films to review.

lucas said...

wow, lots of typos in that considering i'm sober.

lucas said...

also, anyone got a good name for this?

The Sujewa said...

hey lucas,

i have a 51 Birch Street screener that i have not seen yet, and also a doc about an interesting recent election in NJ (forget the title, sorry) - both look very good but i have not had the time to watch them. also, Dance Party, USA, (which i did review already) let me know if you want those screeners to check out. The directors of those films will probably be very happy that you might want to write about the projects. I'll include their contact info. so that you can get in touch with them if necessary. OK, let me know if you want those 3 movies - the two docs are on DVD, DPUSA is on VHS.

I should be able to mail you (& a couple of other people like Mr. Horbal) Date Number One by 3/15.

& if you need more low budget indie screeners after those 3, I've got a few more interesting ones.


- Sujewa

The Sujewa said...

also, re: getting screeners to review, as soon as Blogger lets me post at my blog Indie Features, I'll mention yer reviews project there. That should yield a handful of interesting indie films for you to review.

5 possible titles for the new review blog or project:

1. The Real Indie Chronicle

2. Stranger Than Indiewood

3. DIY Film Reviews

4. The 21st Century Indie Film

5. No Budget & Hot

OK, good luck with the project.

- Sujewa