Following the screening of my latest documentary at the Peloponnesus documentary film festival, I was asked if I could give a master class to the audience of this festival. Thinking about it, it was difficult for me to specify a topic in which I felt expert. Although I direct and produce documentary artisans for a decade, I do not consider myself a specialist in anything in particular. This is how I decided to focus precisely on an artisan way of understanding cinema.
For artisan cinema I mean theone linked to an author, who by decision, or by necessity, or both, produces his film outside the industrial channels, with a small team in exchange for a certain dose of creative freedom.
The discussion between the cinema is art or industry is not relevant here. Cinema with an artistic vocation is not necessarily better than the one that emerges under an industrial umbrella. Pretending to do an artistic work is not a guarantee of achieving it and quality is difficult to quantify. Yes, there is, instead, a way to understand this trade from the resources and structure that we invest in carrying them out.
The artisan cinema is discreet in economic means, in shooting tries to pass as unnoticed as possible to be able to shoot from a certain invisibility that facilitates authentic experiences of reality. That attitude has a value for me, because in the cinema, as in life, I appreciate people who believe from discretion and going through this world without fuss.
The artisan cinema to which I refer can be learned not only from the experiences that have taken place in our territories before and after the 2009 crisis, but also from very low-cost film experiences in certain developing countries (Africa, for example)
Increased by the crisis, Greece, Portugal or Spain have suffered a deficit of investment in everything that is not essential such as culture in general and cinema in particular. Obviously it is a negative event for cinema but it should make us question the medium and long term sustainability of our film model in peripheral countries. In 2016 Spain produced 247 feature films of which only 167 were released. Although the reasons are diverse, it is clear that a notable percentage of the films produced and financed in Spain do not reach the public and therefore are unsuccessful.
These figures are not an isolated fact, since 2001, the fact that we produce more films than the public can see (beyond the interest, and distribution capacity of this cinema) is repeated. An investment of public money in a cinema that does not even reach the screens.
At its birth, the cinema was born as a modest art craft. The production and exhibition of those first documentary films implied some handicraft processes that implied few hands. Lumière’s camera operators were at the same time producers, scriptwriters, editors and exhibitors.
The cinema was craftsmanship at the beginning and although profitability has led to industry and standardization, there have been constant streams of filmmakers outside of commerciality who have claimed an intimate way of making films, usually with very small teams.
Technology has diversified and multiplied the number of tools with which to work. The differences in the results are subtle for many filmmakers who prefer to work outside the commercial circuits that involve more audiences but also financing difficulties and pressure on profitability that affect the outcome of the films. Today, a film created from freedom is still a triumph over homogenization.
For me documentary film is the means to understand the world that surrounds me and deepen in what worries me. Old age, the faith of religious, intolerance, death, madness. As a producer I have learned that a creator can not distance himself from the nature of the audience. For years we have not sent our documentaries to festivals, we have not competed but above all we have not been in contact with the market. The market is a word that as creators does not sound very bad but I recognize that my look as a filmmaker was opened by attending documentary festivals and markets
The independent distributors in Spain only reached 18% of the market share in 2012, compared to 82% of the majors. If these data are compared with other European countries in our environment, the picture becomes bleak. In France, for example, the share of its independent distributors reached 50.35%, compared to 49.65% for majors, in Italy 41.20% compared to 58.80%. Does anyone know what data exist in Finland? The independent distributors of Finland enjoy a quota of 89.39%, compared to 10.61 of the North American ones.
There is a constant debate about the future of the cinema exhibition frame. But beyond discussing whether the cinemas or domestic consumption there is another more interesting debate on whether we as filmmakers have to continue offering works that invite the recall to a theatre or choose to produce works designed to entertain in any place.