What constitutes an amateur film?

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
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Willy
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Willy »

Someone wrote: the number of people listed in the credits are not reliable indicators.
I often have very long credits. I never forget the name of my wife Vera. It must be hard for her to have such a husband. I also mention the names of my friends who accompany me when going on a (filming) holiday. It must be annoying for them to have such a creature in their party with a camera in his hands all the time. Most people hate cameras. We must not forget that. And sometimes he dares to ask friends to carry his tripod. I also add the name of my neighbour to the credits. From time to time she knocks on our door to have a chat over a nice cup of coffee together with my wife Vera, but then I take the opportunity to have my English narrations corrected by her. I even ask her to watch the unfinished versions of my film. I am sure she hates me from time to time.
Willy Van der Linden
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Willy
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Willy »

Ned wrote: Michael Slowe and Willy Van der Linden regularly produced films superior to the local products and were seen as stealing the awards with superior funding and equipment; untrue of course

Actually it is good that I asked many IAC-friends to help me. Peter, Ron, Geoff, David, Mary, Carol, Alan, ... They all know that I have an ordinary everyday camera. Technically I am not intelligent enough to use a sophisticated one. The less buttons on my camera the better. My tripod is a sachtler OCE, a very simple one and not too heavy and also a Rode microphone. It is not an expensive one.

Most friends know that I am afraid of flying. I wonder if it is possible to take my equipment with me when going by air. I would like to make a new film about Scotland. It means that I will have to go by air next time. I am an old goat now. Too old to drive a car for hundreds of miles. Unless I can find another solution. My editing machine is a casablanca. A user-friendly machine. I am too old to change this. So Ned, you are right, my equipment is very limited.

To be honest I have already spent quite a fortune on making films: I offered boxes of Belgian chocolates and cherry beers to the ladies who helped me, Belgian abbey beers or "duvels" to the males. I was not funded by Belgian firms to promote their delicious things. It's free publicity.

A bad experience: about 15 years ago I worked together with a Belgian friend. It took almost two years to finish our dramatised documentary. When it was finished we had a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate it. "It was a very good experience to work with you", my friend said "but now let's try to sell our film", he added. I said "NO! I would not dream of it! I only make films for the love of it! Not for money!" We had a heated discussion. I stuck to my guns and he got angry. I am proud I have always been a pure amateur filmmaker just like Tim, our late friend John Astin, Michael, Ken and other ones.

Something different: Ned is in favour of a special category for film school students in competitions. I have always found this a brilliant idea! A seperate category is in the interest of all amateur filmmakers. Film school provide their students with superior equipment and even well-paid actors.
Willy Van der Linden
Ken Wilson
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Ken Wilson »

To answer my surrogate father Michael on his question about the football score...Well I am no great sports fan and this was a metaphor to illustrate my point about equality in " amateur film" competitions, but I am interested in mathematics and will try to calculate the answer.

I would guess it might take 30 seconds for each goal. Then they have to return it to the centre spot and some time wasting etc. So in a 90 minute match, that would be 180 goals less the "faffing about" bits, so say 160 goals. The pub team might get lucky and Brazil, through boredom, might let one in, so let`s say 160 to Brazil and 1 to "The Flying Horse" pub? Does this sound about right? I am open to further thoughts.
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John Simpson
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by John Simpson »

I was lucky enough to hear Geoff Harmer talk about the making of his Diamond award film Dead Air at the on-line BIAFF last year. It gave me an understanding of the sort of budgets needed to make that sort of amateur film. Hire of film set, hire of cameras, catering for actors ect. That sort of interest and commitment to amateur film is amazing and admirable to me.

I think the "Shorts" circuit is slightly different: students make a film, perhaps some people have been paid, but the film is not expected to make any money. It is made as a showcase mainly for the director but others may benefit from the publicity as well. The people involved in the film would love to go on to be professionals in the film industry. Film studies Courses and Short Film Festivals are thriving, and in my opinion it would be great if our BIAFF rules could somehow accommodate these semi professional films more; where some of the actors or suchlike may have been paid. If someone gives up a day of their time how much expenses would it be reasonable to give them, without saying they were paid? Or should they be asked to supply receipts for transport costs, meals, ware and tare on shoes ect - just like in professional life?

Are BIAFF rules putting young UK film maker off entering? I don't know. I get the feeling that the feature length films in question, with ambiguous funding are mainly overseas films whose makers don't understand our U.K. ways
ned c
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by ned c »

Willy, thanks for the comment on a category for film students. As you say film students have access to a wide range of resources and produce an astonishing range of films. Many of them graduate but follow other professions but still with a love of film making and could be a valuable resource for the IAC in organizational positions. My granddaughter has an undergraduate degree in film production but her career has now gone in a totally different direction; but she still loves film making. I know three film school grads in this area who have won awards at BIAFF including both top and Crystal who work in unrelated jobs and have created a very strong local film making activity. This could be the future of the IAC.
ned c
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Howard-Smith
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Howard-Smith »

John Simpson suggests that semi-professional films might be allowed at BIAFF. I can't agree with this, bearing in mind that IAC stands for The Institute of AMATEUR Cinematographers and BIAFF is the British International AMATEUR film festival. Allowing semi-professional films to be entered would change the whole ethos. There are already numerous other film festivals worldwide which will accept entries from filmmakers regardless of their professional/amateur status, such as the BFF The Birmingham Film Festival.
Let's be proud to be amateur filmmakers, making films for the love of it not for profit! I personally have never had any ambitions to enter the film industry professionally. My aim has only ever been to derive pleasure from making films my own way and perhaps one day to hit the heights and become known as a 'top amateur'.
No doubt next week's BIAFF results will tell me how far below the top I still am!!
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Willy
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Willy »

Good result or bad result. You are a top-amateur, Howard! You have your specific style. I have seen some movies made by you. They were all gripping. Never boring. I read your article in "Film and Video Maker". You gave us a link to all your films since 2012. https://vimeo.com/howardsmith39110714
Very impressive.
Willy Van der Linden
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Howard-Smith
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Howard-Smith »

Thank you so much Willy. You must be my number 1 fan!
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John Simpson
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by John Simpson »

As someone who is "late to the forum party" I have been reading through some of the old threads, thinking about where I stand on some of the issues. and what construtive post I could make. I like thinking about what role people like playing in the art of film making and things like that. Personally I would enjoy switching about, sometimes filming, sometimes script writing or acting. I don't like the idea of editing other peoples material, they are bound to think I have cut the wrong bit! Howard you are a great actor as well as your other skills.
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Howard-Smith
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Howard-Smith »

Thanks John!
Yes regarding your comments on editing, I would never allow anyone else to edit one of my films. As the great David Lean was on record as saying, editing MAKES the film. He began as a film editor and throughout his career stressed the importance of how things cut together. For me, it’s the most pleasurable and most satisfying part of the whole filmmaking process.
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John Simpson
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by John Simpson »

Going back to what makes an amateur film: I feel we should be proud of the amateurish genre or style of particular films which are made by some of our members. For me entertainment is the most important thing for a club film and if that film was made with zero budget and a low res camara and crazy transitions so be it. - Who has seen the comedy series "This Country" on the BBC? They mimic the bad zooming etc. of steriotypical amateur filming style - and its still a good show!
tom hardwick
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by tom hardwick »

Ah, what constitutes an amateur film popped up again in the between-films discussion on the BIAFF Zoom meetings over the weekend.

It does appear that the longer your film (especially if it's produced to meet Netflix's strict guidelines) and the longer your cast list, the more you'll get IAC members muttering under their breath as to the films eligibility in our competition, and sometimes over their breath, if you get me.

So I'm glad to hear Howard proclaim that his excellent Conrad was a zero budget production, and to see a simple film such as The Chain romp home on what appears to be a zero negative budget (if such a thing can exist). In fact I hear that the chain itself was no Ratners thirty bob special, it actually cost all of £30.
Michael Slowe
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Michael Slowe »

We must be very careful in what way we try and limit entries to BIAFF. I always thought that the old Ten Best got it about right. Most of their entries came from club members and people like ourselves but there were usually a smattering of films made by film students and ambitious 'amateurs' hoping to catch someone's eye in the industry and opening up a career in film making. (Ken Russell did that rather well!). Those films added a wonderful spice to the competition, some won some didn't and nobody ever objected to their presence. I think that all this carping might well alienate film makers who are still strictly amateur but who may be lucky enough to be studying film and yes, have access to the university equipment. There is no way that equipment is going to ensure, or even assist, getting a top award. Cameras are all so good today that I doubt most people could tell the difference in the pictures from a Sony Venice or a Sony Z150. The price difference is about £70,000! The benefits of the expensive camera are the shooting codecs and bit rates and various add ons that would not assist people like us anyway. There are no substitutes for skill, knowledge, imagination and obstinate bloody mindedness. Let's just accept that this is a competition (sorry Paula, but it is), and we want promote good film making.
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TimStannard
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by TimStannard »

I agree entirely that we must be careful about how we limit films, but money is not just about equipment. It is about access to locations, props, costumes and ... actors. Interestingly the BIAFF rules seem to me to be only interested in a couple of things:

1. The film is not made for commercial gain
2. No-one on the production team, including cast, is paid for their contribution

In other words BIAFF doesn't impose any restriction on cost of location, props, costume or purchase/rental of equipment.

It is quite possible that the $3.5m (or $1.5m, depending on source) budget film Tom & I saw did not pay the cast (it was a documentary, so these were interviewees). It is likely that a large amount of the budget was spent on equipment hire and transportation (it was shot across the US). It is possible that none of the crew was paid. The film is in support of a cause and is almost certainly not made for commercial gain.

So, it could qualify. But is it really within the spirit of BIAFF?

If I make a film for a local charity, hire some lights and travel across the UK no-one would question it. Is there a difference?
In both cases, the film is not really being made to enter BIAFF, it's being made to support a charity.

The likes of FilmFreeway make it very easy for people to make a mass submissions across the globe. In the days of Ten Best, it would have taken so much effort (and cost more - copying and shipping the film etc) to enter all these festivals.

But that still doesn't explain the difference between the films. I think it's down to intent.

I'd speculate that wheras I'd submit my charity film to BIAFF in order to get some considered considered comment from judges (as well as possibly some reaction from other amateur film making friends) and a star rating, the makers of the £3.5m film have submitted it just to get more exposure and possibly to get a laurel to put on their film. I doubt very much they are interested in what parts Tim Stannard LACI thought were particularly effective or how Howard Smith FACI(M) suggests they might improve their film making.

But it's speculation. We can't legislate for it.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
ned c
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by ned c »

The intent of an amateur film festival is clear, it is open to people who make films for pleasure. They work with limited resources and finances drawn from their own pockets.

The rules of the traditional amateur film festivals were framed in terms that reflect a concern with “true amateurism” but they do not actually apply them. Not because this is difficult or impossible to do but rather because it would wipe out many entries. It is easy to exclude the professionals and the “semi-professionals”, a simple question, “do you derive or have ever derived income from your film/video making/teaching activities?” If the answer is “yes” than you cannot enter. What is complicated about that?

If you are a part time maker of wedding videos; corporate training and info films and receive payment then you cannot enter. Being retired is no excuse, if you derived income from film/video then it fair to assume you have carried your special skills into retirement.

I can understand the feelings of a lot of amateurs as they see the awards in their Amateur Festivals go to people who are in fact professional film makers. The definition of amateur in relation to BIAFF has shifted to relating to the film rather than its makers.

A “non-commercial” film can be made by anyone regardless of their status. The basic rule is that it not be made for financial reward. We can argue the detail of what constitutes financial reward but it is simply that no-one working on the production be paid.

So; which definition do you prefer?

ned c
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