Miércoles 20 de Julio de 2005, Ip nº 118

Budding Filmmakers Crave a Break
Por David Cohn

Since junior high, Tim Adams has dedicated himself to a future career in films. While studying film and anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, he worked tirelessly to create a portfolio of movie projects that would help him excel. From documentaries to hip-hop videos, Adams, 23, was prepared to take on Hollywood.

What he wasn't ready for was the slew of other recent film-school grads who had built up portfolios of their own.

Do-it-yourself video technology has given an entire generation of young filmmakers the tools to master the video art form. But it has also created a cutthroat environment where only a few can find work.

"It's very competitive going into film. I'd sent resumes to over 40 positions since graduating, and I'd say these are all low-level production assistant positions and I hadn't gotten anything," Adams said.

After countless rejections, Adams finally landed his first paying gig, working on a documentary for a nonprofit in San Francisco. The break might give him the confidence to keep pursuing film in the face of stark competition.

With an entire generation that has grown up behind the lens of digital technology, the movie industry has become very competitive, filled with young directors trying to break into the business. Some find success very quickly, like Miranda Freiberg, 20, who is co-producing her first film, a remake of C.D. Payne's Youth in Revolt. Shangri-la Productions is in negotiations to buy the rights to the film from Lions Gate.

Others struggle to land their first project.

With organizations like Current TV and open mediums like vlogs, there appear to be more opportunities for emerging moviemakers to create a name for themselves. But Hollywood dreams have inspired an increasingly large percentage of young people to pursue a life in the director's chair, making it hard for young filmmakers to stand out among the crowd.

When Al Gore unveiled Current TV last April, he said, "We are about empowering this generation of young people in their 20s, the 18-to-34 population." But film educators wonder if Gore's project and a slew of others may have done just the opposite.

Chip Lord, chairman of the film department at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has seen the growth of interest in film firsthand. His department has ballooned from 100 students to 500 since its inception in 1997, with 120 more accepted on average every year.

"Basically, we are overwhelmed, and have had to put in place various mechanisms to control growth, i.e. a minimum-grade requirement, and other qualitative reviews," said Lord.

But the rise in interest in film isn't unique to Santa Cruz. Fifty years ago, there were only a handful of major universities that offered programs in film. While New York University, University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California are still considered the top schools, programs have emerged at major universities all over the country, as far from Hollywood and New York as Oklahoma.

The onslaught of do-it-yourself technology has played a large part in this growth and is beginning to affect how younger people view the movie industry.

With cheap digital cameras and user-friendly software like iMovie, amateur filmmakers, some still in junior high, can produce professional-looking work in very little time.

The younger generation and its new filmmaking techniques might even be seen as a threat by older filmmakers who place a higher value on learning classic methods of film editing using tools like Avid, which has been the industry standard for nonlinear editing for the last 20 years. Avid Technology claims that almost 90 percent of prime-time television shows and 85 percent of blockbuster movies are edited using its software. Anyone can buy its professional-quality software, like Avid Xpress Pro, but high-end packages can be quite expensive.

A package deal of Apple's Final Cut products, including Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro, sells for about $1,300, but students and educators typically pay half-price. What appeals to would-be directors about Final Cut isn't just saving money or the convenience of going to the Apple retail store, but the fact that they find the software to be just as effective as Avid.

"I think the perception that Avid is a professional tool has changed over the last three or four years. There is plenty of professional work being done on Final Cut Pro as well," said Lord.

Joe LaMonica, a recent film grad from Boston University, often received criticism from his professors when he brought up Final Cut Pro. He was told that "no one gets paid as a FCP editor."

LaMonica never took this criticism to heart, since Final Cut was the editing tool he had grown to trust since he was a senior in high school.

"I think there is some anxiety among older filmmakers that the floodgates have opened and their coveted positions atop the chain are compromised," said LaMonica.

Despite his optimism and a slew of independent projects to show his skills, the job market remains tough for LaMonica, who works as an English-language instructor to make money while he pursues film as a long-term profession.

Many young moviemakers like LaMonica are struggling to find a place in an industry that is reaching the point of saturation.

The number of film festivals has increased exponentially according to Lord, which some believe is a cause for the increase in bad films.

"I think the content of films may be suffering because there is so much production being done with the advent of so many independent film productions," said Adams.


  14/07/2005. Wired Magazine.


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