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BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:30 am
by Lee Prescott
Repeat of a general section posting.


Hi Alls,

Having just scouted through BIAFF 2012 I raise the following question:

First: I note that a winning film called "Pigeon Post" was produced
employing a well known professional actor together with the possible expertise
it would seem, of a BBC sound specialist, (current or past matters not),
and possibly other similar persons.

Now the question:- BIAFF is supposedly an Amateur Festival and prides itself as such,
so where does the foregoing expertise leave everyone else without access to similar expertise?

Just a thought or three!


Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:02 pm
by tom hardwick
In my view it leaves everyone else with the same opportunities Lee. The film was made for love, with no thought of material gain, and as such qualifies as an amateur movie in my book.

I'm guessing expenses were paid (join our film-making team and we'll supply the sandwiches) but that matters not a hoot. I hear many of the other contestants paid thousands of pounds to DVC to have a computer built that would edit their amateur film.


Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:56 pm
by TimStannard
Quite apart from the reason that Tom so succinctly explains, if one starts to draw up a rule which states "no involvement by professionals" it starts to become a messy case of where to draw the line.

I know of a number of clubs who have professional filmmakers within their ranks - does that mean they can't be involved in club films, if those films are to be entered into BIAFF?

Last Christmas, I filmed and edited my daughter's infant school production. I acquired Limited Manufacture rights to the show and sold 100 copies, making a small profit (or to put it another way, earned about £3 per hour), would that preclude me from ever entering BIAFF again?

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:11 am
by Dave Watterson
So far as I can tell every amateur/non-commercial film organisation is struggling with this issue - as is UNICA the world body.

It seems that the distinctions are blurring rapidly.

Is someone who shoots the occasional wedding video to be barred from entry in BIAFF? (And how would IAC know of their sideline?)
Is someone whose film is later bought by television - whether as archive material or in its own right as entertainment - to be regarded as ineligible?
Should we focus on the maker and her/his experience or on the production itself?

A practical example: Michael Slowe is one of our leading amateurs and last year's film Hounds and the Huntsman was shot as an amateur production. But afterwards copies have been sold by the Hunt concerned and it has been bought for television on the Horse and Country satellite tv channel. (Michael scrupulously and generously insisted the tv firm donate the fee to the IAC.)

Pigeon Post simply brought a British film into the category of films which give us all pause. There have been many foreign films in BIAFF over the years which have had audiences asking themselves if they are truly "amateur" or not.

The issue certainly upsets people but no one seems able to tackle it satisfactorily.

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:19 pm
by Lee Prescott
Well gentlemen thanks for the responses thus far. For myself and in my book there's a complete world of difference between someone who produces the odd wedding video etc.
or even more of that genre as a "sideline" to their amateur work and in all honesty which of us would say to any such opportunity, (but excluding someone who has set up and is running such a video/film business), but the point I'm trying to make is that there's a world of difference to that sort of thing and what is, or could, or should be considered, "a professional film"!

It matters not to me if only "sandwiches were served" instead of £X,00 etc. Professional expertise paid for, or free, is exactly the same!

Additionally, if a film is "made for love...." etc.etc. and then subsequently gains a market then that is entirely different to the foregoing. As I read in a Posting hereon, in that situation Michael Slowe's action was / is exemplary. As far as I am aware Michael is and so remains, a true "Amateur" quality film maker.

Of course the other almost insurmountable "problem" I admit, is that anyone - ex professional, who has retired into the realms of "Senior Citizenry" cannot and should not be barred from joining any Amateur club and offering his personal abilities to activities within that club. However, there remains quite a difference between that and "calling in" what is further expertise from outside!


Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:14 pm
by TimStannard
Lee Prescott wrote::?
However, there remains quite a difference between that and "calling in" what is further expertise from outside!
It is a tricky question, or rather, a tricky answer, Lee.

Not only is there the question of what constutues a "professional", but you've now introduced the concept of "outside". Who is an "oustider"? As far as I'm aware (and I'm happy to be corrected) BIAFF is not exclusivle open to IAC members or members of affilliated clubs or overseas equivalents, therefore any group of people could surely get together and make a film for love rather than money. There are no outsiders.

In the case of Pigeon Post, a very well known actor plays the lead, but using less well known actors has certainly not been frowned upon - indeed many of the better drama filmmakers in the IAC swear by using up & coming less well known actors who give their time for free in return for hopefully something for their portfolio. Are there people "outside". I'd suggest not, but that for the duration of the project, or at least their involvement in the project, they are very much on the inside.

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:03 pm
by col lamb
How do you tell an amateur production from a professional one?

Just because a movie has a well known actor does not necessarily make it a professional production.

Where is the line in the sand drawn?

If it is an issue then surely a declaration stating something fees were paid to any person either infront of or behind the the entry form is all that is required

There again when the credtis exceed the length of the visual element of the movie then that is definately a professional movie :lol:

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:09 am
by Lee Prescott

May I explain - what I meant by "outside" - is a situation where well known actors or a well known actor, etc.etc. are specifically called in to take part in a project - NOT being members of "X" club et al. that is producing "The Film" and maybe using one's "connections" to do so! Somewhat like a "one off"!

As to what to do about this sort of thing other than ban it is - introduce a handicap system for instance as is done in (some) sports! Now I expect of course that someone will say how and what would we base such a handicap system on? My answer would be - based on the degree or level of professional standing perhaps, as indicated by the (shudder) so called "celeb status"!

To paraphrase: "Fairness should not only be done but seen to be done".....!

8) Cheers, Lee.

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:01 am
by Willy
I still feel comfortable. I still feel an amateur "pur sang". I have never made a film for money in my own pocket. I once made a film about the European Schools. I sold it. I gave all the money to my club. We bought a carpet to improve the acoustics in our clubhouse.We covered the kitchen-tiles and made our clubhouse fully-carpeted. Actually I was not allowed to sell the film. In the documentary I said that the old buildings were full of asbestos... I was a rebel at that time. The Secretary-General of the European Schools, my boss, was disappointed. Not because of the standard of the film. Only because of the things I said about the European Schools.

Yes, Michael Slowe is an exception. I respect him. His films are always very entertaining, captivating, full of atmosphere very informative, ... His photography is fantastic, etc... When you talk to him he is always very enthusiastic. You can feel he always makes films for fun.

When I read the last issue of FVM I was embarrassed. Michael had written an article about judging. In it he said : "By all means, pick out the very best (of your films) for praise and special exhibition but the enjoyment of the event should not be sullied by "how many stars did you get awarded?". I thought about it Michael. Last year I gathered a bucket full of stars, but only because I entered some one minute movies into the festival. Actually it was not one of my best years. I was not happy with my best film because I was very unlucky with some things that happened to my film crew.

Now I will only enter one or two films into BIAFF 2013. But yes, I also make films to know what the judges would write about them. The number of stars is good, but actually the crits are more interesting. BIAFF is unique for its written comments. Maybe some would-be professionals want as many stars or diamonds to promote their films in order to sell them or they want to promote themselves. But after all I am not so interested in the discussion Amateurism-Professionism anymore. I make films for fun and "de rest kan stikken" (Dutch expression).

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:46 pm
by Lee Prescott
:lol: :lol:

Hi Willy....I like it - yeah......"de rest kan stikken" very apt! I just gotta remember
it...will come in very useful!

I could add a very Anglo Saxon expression in some connections - but I'd better not, boat gets rocked enough as it is - perhaps!

Best wishes....Lee.... :lol: :roll: :wink:

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:25 pm
by Michael Gough
In Lee’s contribution (Sept 23rd) I think he has inadvertently provided the root cause to the dilemma felt (by some) about the film “Pigeon Post”. He said "Fairness should not only be done but seen to be done".....!

The trouble is we can all see the face of the actor and recognise him and get our knickers in a twist about the involvement of professionals. What about my friend, a retired television lighting man, who makes superb films for the love of it. No one has ever seen his face on TV so no one recognises him and fusses about his films being “professional”. I also know at least three well known amateurs who in their previous careers were professional TV camera-operators. You might recognise them at an IAC Festival, but only as amateurs. You would never think of challenging their credentials to enter BIAFF. And yet how are they any different from our well known actor, apart from not being “seen and recognised”?

If the definition of “professional” is based on recognition what do we do about the problem that Tim raises of differentiating “the well known actor” from the “less well known actor”. Does the recognition factor directly relate to the quality of their previous professional acting career and should it make a difference to whether we allow them in BIAFF or not? Who is going to draw the line in that shifting sand?

The problem of recognition becomes even harder with foreign entries. I couldn’t even recognise the face of Argentina’s favourite soap-opera star if someone directed him in a BIAFF entry.

What about other professional skills? My films are often complimented for the quality of the commentary, both in words and voice. But I used to be a teacher. Presenting information in a clear and entertaining way was my job. Should I be excluded from BIAFF?

As Dave said every amateur organisation has struggled with these questions. If there is an answer it lies in the word “love”. An amateur film is one made “for love”. You can’t exclude every maker who might have been paid for his or her valuable skill in the past. There wouldn’t be many of us left. As Col suggested there might be a way of ruling out those productions heavily funded by various corporations, but you have still got to trust the word of the maker when he declares on the entry form that this is an amateur production.

Lets each carry on doing the best we can, and enjoy seeing what others are doing, without resentment.

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:24 am
by tom hardwick
What a great post Michael. Were you once a teacher by any chance? :)

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:21 pm
by ned c
I think the AMPS rules are pretty good on this topic.

Productions made solely for fun and pleasure, for artistic expression or to make a statement about society with no profit motive in mind, have not been subject of any sales or rental agreement prior to entry in the Festival nor expect to be after the Festival and have not been made as a part of a college course. No person working on any aspect of the production may be paid for their services nor may the production be sponsored by any commercial organization. Entries may be made by individuals or more than one person, such as a club or group, provided the financial conditions set out are met. This Festival is for non-commercial productions only and we ask that the makers respect this requirement

Student entrants

Productions made by a student or group of students in full or part time education. The production must not have been subject of any sales or rental agreement prior to entry in the Festival nor expect to be after the Festival. No person working on any part of the production may be paid for their services.

ned c

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:58 am
by fraught
I think Michael's response is perfect. :-)

I've always felt angry about "professional" help with an amateur production. I remember entering one of the IAC's London Competitions back in the early 90's, and seeing a film that had amazing production values... only to see that the group behind it we're child actors on telly. I just assumed they get their camera equipment from the production studio that produced the programme they were in. I could be wrong... but i still felt like they had an unfair advantage.

But now... i'm working on a film that has been written by a friend, and i'm taking the Producing/Directing responsibilities. I've got two actors playing the leads, one from Holby City, and the other from the Harry Potter films... yet they are all doing it "for the love", and no one is being paid. Am i still allowed to say this is an Amateur production? I hope so... but my younger self would certainly argue the toss with me. :)

Re: BIAFF IAC Professionalism?

Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:55 am
by Mike Shaw
I think the problem probably arises because people (tend to) make films to be competitive rather than simply to entertain.

I see an 'amateur' film as one made purely for fun, not for profit - no matter who makes it or who is involved. So if Spielberg were to pick up an amateur camcorder (what is that?) and make a movie just for the heck of it, I'd love to see it - and maybe learn from his techniques. Would I like to compete with it? Why not!

This is why, for me, BIAFF is one of the best 'Festivals' - before being 'judged' in comparison with the other entries, films are 'graded'. The bulk of the judging is in doing just that - ticking boxes, if you like, on a film's individual merit, not in comparison with everything else on offer at the time.

Competitions are challenging, and make you think a bit more perhaps about how to make a movie, which is a good thing - that is undeniable. And winning of course gives one kudos. But for me, there is a lot more satisfaction in an appreciative audience than a fancy trophy.

I think we'd be less hung up on the amateur-pro arguments if competitions didn't exist at all (but I am not advocating the abolition of comps!).

Our language doesn't allow a sensible and acceptable definition of what we do. Yes, we're amateurs - but that doesn't (necessarily) mean amateurish. Yes we're non-commercial, but that doesn't mean our movies couldn't/wouldn't sell if we were so inclined.

We're hobbyists, looking for a label.

I'll kick my soap box away now ...