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Posted: Sat May 16, 2020 10:27 pm
I read your decision to depart the IAC with regret as your contributions have moved discussion of the future forward. I understand your concern about the "competitive" nature of most film festivals but there will always be a selective process as the number of entries exceed the potential screening time. Film is an art as well as an entertainment and an industry and awards for art will always be based on subjective evaluation and really be meaningless as they represent an opinion not a measurable index and there is a long history of opinion getting it very wrong. I feel the future for amateur film lies more in the style of the one day shows; like those by the Sutton Coldfield Club (hope I got that right) with participation by both the film makers and the audience; everybody gets to learn in this situation. I do not agree that young film makers dislike awards; I think they are much more concerned about being identified as amateurs.
So hang in there Jameela; the iAC is an organisation that can play a very important part in the future of "non-commercial" film making and it needs the dissidents to be the burr in the backside.
Posted: Sun May 24, 2020 3:14 pm
Dear Ned thank you for your supportive comments. Sorry for the slow reply, I seldom look at this forum now.
It is indeed with great sadness that I feel I have to leave, but I have been put into an untenable situation regarding my calls for reform. I just wanted to show an alternative brighter possible future, and how the IAC could become attractive to serious younger filmmakers. But the resistance I have faced from some of the older members is quite disgusting...
Did you read Phillip Collins FACI letter to the editor about me in the March/April edition? Yet I did go to Newcastle for the AGM and reported fairly upon the Members Voices, which included some of my own questions.
Last year I wrote another article about reform for FVM magazine, entitled 'Speaking Truth To Power', but it was not published. I knew this article would cause consternation, and was nervous about submitting it for the magazine. But censorship of papers showing an alternative way to do 'festivals' does not help the IAC. The title has a double meaning...
1. Referring to films whose purpose is speaking truth to power
2. Speaking of the forces that hold back the IAC by default
Regarding the reformist energy built up on this forum in reaction to my other article, both Tim Stannard who first opened the thread, as well as myself, felt a summary should be placed in the FVM magazine, though it should be someone else who writes it. The magazine editor Mike Whyman accepted to write this summary, but I was very dismayed to see what he had said in the January/February issue this year.
So repeatedly, the calls for reform are being suppressed by those who cling to power.
I believe the IAC Constitution is perfect as it is, back in 1932 they had High Thinking! But the institute as it is today is trivial and has no purpose. It would have been much better if the older council members retired with dignity and made space for new people because there seems no appetite amongst the membership to force a vote of no-confidence. We are a voluntary organisation for mutual support, and we all want to have a good feeling about our membership, not be involved in conflicts. So unfortunately the situation just gets worse and worse.
This is why I feel my position is untenable, though it is with deep sadness, for I see the profound need for a supportive body for high quality independent non-commercial video and documentary production, especially in this world as it is becoming now!
Posted: Mon May 25, 2020 8:47 pm
The job of a committee is not to meet, its job is to get things done.
There are indeed IAC Council members who have been there for many years, some for many decades, and who do not now contribute in terms of actual work. They may have helpful experience and advice, but that is not enough.
I suspect the reason many stay on is not "clinging to power" but a real fear, that if they quit, there may be no one willing to take their place. I know some have said they feel tired because they have done so much work for the IAC for so long.
We could argue that they should have recognised this a long, long time ago and taken steps to encourage others to take a turn at the top.
They are not alone in this failing. It is sadly true for many clubs, both in the UK and elsewhere.
You are right about their attitude to criticism. In a hobby like ours transparency should govern the organisation - and that means encouraging all views, positive and negative. It means responding in forums and social media. For a very long time that attitude has put off people, who might well have been future leaders of the organisation.
Posted: Tue May 26, 2020 9:08 am
You know the committee members better than I do, I only see the effects! But it is a very sad situation. I attended the last two AGM and they were short and farcical - no real debate or collective directions set, only rubber stamping the existing committee members who were up for election to continue in role.
I'm afraid I disagree with one of your comments above where you say "In a hobby like ours..."
For me this is not a 'hobby' but a vocation, same as the stuff I write or the talks I give, or the film presentations I make. In essence it is my attempt as one person trying to help make the world a more thoughtful place... Perhaps only a drop in the ocean, "Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?"
I believe the serious young filmmakers also feel the same, to show something that could be better than the world they are inheriting. Conversely, those young people who do it as a 'hobby' will just post on YouTube, no need for an Institute. So it is the serious folk we need to become attractive to -- if there is to be a future for the IAC.
The IAC constitution as quoted from the last AGM financial report says:
"The Charity's object and its principal activity continue to be that of the promotion, advancement and improvement of general education in relation to all aspects of cinematography and associated audio and visual arts and the development of public appreciation of such arts"
This constitution was first written in 1932 by founders who had High Thinking! The wording is so succinct yet so encompassing of all that needs to be done.
This is the vision I had for the IAC, the original high thinking applied for the world and times we live in now. This is the 'Purpose'. This is what my censored article 'Speaking Truth To Power' was trying to show.
Yet what do we have? In the same FVM magazine edition March/April this year that Phillip Collins FACI made his attack on me for my reporting on the AGM and my comments on why young people are not joining, We get the IAC President reporting on the same AGM (page 15).
...I am not passing judgement, but notice the contrast between the President's take on the meeting and my take on it written in the previous January/February edition (page 24) ...Who has their eye on the ball and who does not? ...Also, while you are looking at the January/February 2020 edition, take a look at the review putting down our reformist energy in this forum (page 28) ...While the number of forum views on this topic is currently over fourteen thousand!
People vote with their feet!
Posted: Tue May 26, 2020 11:35 pm
It's interesting just how little activity there is on this forum which is perhaps an indicator of the state of of enthusiasm of the membership. This is a time when debate should flourish; we are stuck at home and should need communication and stimulus. I have enjoyed the privilege of being included in the weekly Zoom meetings of Solent Movie Makers for debate and review. Shouldn't the IAC be setting up podcasts/Zoom meetings/communications? This is the very time and opportunity for a central organization to strengthen the loyalty its membership. I will make this my last communication here; no I will not leave the IAC but realize that I am 5,000 miles away and cannot have any real contribution. But read my recent letter to F&VM about the demise of the US, Canadian and Australian organizations. I will post on technical subjects but absent myself from the IAC future debate.
Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 9:53 am
It would be a pity to lose the perspective you bring, Ned. We are all too insular in Britain. Please keep contributing on these ideas.
As for social media ... I find my own Facebook and Twitter feeds remarkably quiet. Is it because with so little happening, there is less to discuss?
Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 11:17 am
This whole debate seems so pointless to me. Presumably the 'oldsters' remain on various Committees because other younger people don't want to take over. Did Jameela put herself up for nomination? If she did, was she elected, and if not, why not?
Many years ago, in about 1973 when I'd just had my first major award, I was asked by the then Chairman, one Leslie Gilham, if I wanted to stand for election to the Council. I declined, saying that I just wanted to continue concentrating on making films,(on 16mm in those days which involved a great deal of work!). I was being selfish, because of course the IAC, like any other organisation, needs to be run and members should be prepared to play their part.
We do need younger film makers to join, and to play a part, but it seems very difficult to attract them. They mostly regard us all as old (they are right!) and in large part, the films we make to be old fashioned and following the same old formula e.g.. awful 'club' comedies and boring documentaries with mostly formal read narrations by the makers. Youngsters are film making, in large numbers, we just can't get to them. Jameela should stay and do just that, get a special position in the IAC for the purpose.
I do hope that both Jameela and Ned have stayed around to read this, I'm certain that 'Big Dave' will agree with me.
Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 1:26 pm
As for social media ... I find my own Facebook and Twitter feeds remarkably quiet.
Is it because with so little happening, there is less to discuss?
So typical of you, Dave Watterson, to talk about yourself, and promote your own Facebook
and Twitter feeds.
Shall we concentrate on what's wrong with the IAC?
Up until the the April/May 2019 issue of FVM, you were still promoting those old fashioned,
out of date video cameras on the back cover of your magazine, and this had been going on
for years. Please take a look.
We make a film, and enter it for the BIAFF competition. We receive the judges' comments.
But eventually we discover that most of these judges have never made a film in their lives.
What exactly is going on inside BIAFF? Can't we just have friendly screenings, and forget this
Sorry about my interruption Jameela. Let's now return to her thoughts, and keep away from
Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 1:33 pm
Thanks Cathy, you understand.
Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 8:07 pm
You are both being a bit silly, if I may offer an opinion. This is not about attacking individuals but trying to change mind sets of many people.
Competition amongst artists has been going on since Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were making great art, what is wrong with it? Of course judgements will vary among all people viewing art but to criticise judges because they are not active film makers is absurd. Most of the best and most famous critics writing for newspapers now and in the past, never made a film. In fact, I find that my most balanced and sensible critics are also non film makers, but they watch films and go to the cinema avidly. Actually, since you childishly and unfairly single out Dave Watterson, I regard both him and his wife as being very much on the side of reforming the IAC, quite apart from being excellent judges of film as well.
Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 8:46 pm
Blimey! Looks like lockdown is getting to everyone.
Jameela, I for one will be sorry to see you go. We don't always see eye to eye, but I like to think we've at least had a civil debate.
One word of advice, if I may, from personal experience. I've been a staunch defender of the word "amateur" to describe what we do, but have had to grudingly accept that a large part of society sees it as meaning "inferior". Getting hung up on that has often detracted from the main meat of whatever conversation I was meant to be having.
In the same way I suggest getting hung up on the fact that to you and some others, a "hobby" cannot simultaneously mean a vocation, detracts from your main points. Many people spend all their spare time and some incur massive debts supporting their "hobbies". Your view of "hobby" is a frivolous pastime. Many other people don't see it like that. My view of "amateur" is something done for the love of it, many others don't see it like that. We both have to accept that so we can concetrate energy on the areas that matter.
Regarding the IAC Council (which i see as a rather antiquated term) a chairman of a small and diminishing club, I regularly speak with others in similar positions. There are very few younger people (to whom we might look to implement change) with the time and energy to step into positions of responsibility - especially when it seems that the only reward for doing so is criticism. I suspect the IAC is in a similar position and that Dave W is correct.
But it's not all bad news - some clubs have managed to buck the trend and have dynamic leadership teams and increasing membership. No doubt we could analyse the causes, but I strongly suspect it will simply come down to the right personalities coming together at the right time.
So there is hope that the same will happen with the IAC or, if not, perhaps another organisation will emerge (although there does seem to be a tendency away from formal organisations these days).
I too was rather deflated by the version of this discussion which appeared in FVM. What could have been an opportunity to widen the discussion and see what members want from the IAC (for the few years I've been a member, the management has regularly asked "tell us what you want") was turned into a slapping down of any suggetions. Whilst the arguments against suggestions may or may not be correct, the result was to close down any discussion - if I'd had any novel suggestions, I know I'd have been reluctant to put them forward.
Did you ask why your article hadn't been published? I think using the term "censored" is inflamaory and doesn't strengthen your cause as it reeks of conspiricy theory where there may be none. I'm sure not every article submitted for FVM is published and, to be fair, quite a few of the previous few issues contained either articles written by you or prompted by your articles.
We might also have to accept that if the number of views on this topic have exceeded fourteen thousand yet the number of people posting can be counted on the fingers of one hand (maybe two hands), then the appetite for reform might not be that great.
Ned, you are absolutely right. Many clubs have taken to using technology to facilitate meetings/sharing of ideas/making films and viewing them. The IAC should be taking a lead here - maybe using some of its funds to provide equipment and training, as well as having its meetings on line. I sincerely hope you will contribute to broader aspects of the IAC. You bring a unique perspective with your experiences of the US.
Cathy: Trying to turn Dave Watterson's one sentence example about social media going quiet into self-promotion was a low punch, even by your standards. I don't know what you were trying to achieve by it. Dave W has often been outspoken against some decisions made by the IAC Council so it's not like he represents the status quo.
As for your comment about judges at BIAFF (which is simply untrue. most, if not all the judges at BIAFF this year most definitely are or have been film makers) I'm not sure that being a film maker is an essential qualification. On a film making forum I help moderate, I often request that rather than just post films for comment, people also make comments on others' films. They often respond along the lines that they'd only been making films for a few months and aren't really qualified. My response is that they've spent their whole life watching TV and films so they are perfectly qualified!
And BIAFF on Saturday IS friendly screenings. So is Sunday. The competition element is over in March when the results are sent out.
Posted: Thu May 28, 2020 7:17 am
Sorry Tim, but I can't compromise on the word 'hobby'. To an outsider 'hobby' and 'vocation' may look the same, both can involve considerable time and expense, but the crucial difference is that of intention. A hobby is optional, a vocation is the purpose of one's life.
If we write, or make films speaking truth to power, or showing the stupidity of war, or what it is to be different, etc, this is our vocation, not a 'hobby'.
My argument is that those of us who see our activity as a vocation, albeit unpaid, then the competition culture is wholly inappropriate. To have a film put down as the loser in a competition such as BIAFF, is sadistic towards the artist who tried to speak out. Perhaps the film was aimed at a different type of audience. Perhaps the judges were not familiar with the issues. Perhaps the filmmaker just needed guidance not a kicking.
Competitions have winners and losers, artistic expression does not.
This I believe is the primary reason why serious young filmmakers are not attracted to this Institute.
...But if most of you don't hear what is being said, then truly I am the outsider here.
Posted: Thu May 28, 2020 5:07 pm
My least favourite term for what we do is "unprofessional filming" - which is used in parts of Eastern Europe. "Non-professional" is bad enough! The one I usually use outside Britain is Ned Cordery's suggestion of "non-commercial".
Instinctively I do not like a negative definition. I don't want to be "non-" anything.
The term "personal film making" is used in some academic areas to describe our type of work.
I just remembered! Many Germans refer to "passionate film makers" - Brits may be shy about using the term, but at least it speaks to Jameela's concern about descriptions which may be taken as trivialising.
But we surely ought to recognise that there are all sorts of people making films for all sorts of reasons. Of course there are the passionate artists and activists, but there are also those whose aim is to record their lives and communities without taking a deliberate stance or promoting a point of view. And we should not ignore or deprecate the work of those who want to have fun, to make gentle entertainment for their friends.
Posted: Sat May 30, 2020 10:13 am
Jameela, I'm sorry but I still don't understand what it is that you are complaining about. if it's the organisation and running of the IAC, then you should offer your services to try and correct what you see as wrong, and here, many members would agree that there are issues.
If it is the use of the word "hobby", I totally agree with you that any dedicated and passionate film maker (and I'm such a one), is offended by that description of what is to us, an activity that occupies so large a proportion of our thoughts and actions that is life absorbing. You object to competition amongst film makers, well, nothing much can be done about that, we humans are by nature competitive. The Oscars, BAFTAS, Golden Globe etc etc are all competitive, surely that's no bad thing, it may help keep up the standards. In literature there are many prizes to be aimed for, Booker amongst others, do you object to those? Nobel offers prizes in many fields, scientists are certainly no shrinking violets when it comes to competition.
Please stick around the IAC scene, make films, show them, talk about them and, if you have time, try and take part in re organising what you think needs doing. You've not answered any of my points made prior to this mail, only attacked poor old Watterson (wrongly spelt previously since my Mac insists that he's Patterson!).
Posted: Sat May 30, 2020 11:49 am
Yes there are many awards in the commercial film and literature world, and it must be great being recognised, but 'commercial' means done for money, done for profit. ...It is exactly the same as a manufacturer of washing machines seeking an award to help boost their sales!
What we do is different, especially those of us who see it as a vocation... We are not seeking sales, so we should put the Artist first, not the pleasure of the voyeur watching combat.
Sorry if I am speaking too bluntly, but for me the situation has become decisive.
Regarding young and old, I refer to this as a matter of attitude not years. Those who are thinking for the future and those who are living in the past. Personally, I find myself doing both, though I know my empathy must be with the generation younger than myself, rather than the generation older.
Regarding Dave Watterson, I did not attack him, only said: "I'm afraid I disagree with one of your comments..."
Regarding election for office, no I have never been invited to stand.