What constitutes an amateur film?

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TimStannard
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by TimStannard »

ned c wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:45 pm 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.
Has that shifted? I wan't aware. Thanks for that. My view is, and has always been (in my very brief time as a film maker) that the film is amateur and the status of the makers is irrelevant.
ned c wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:45 pm 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?
Which definition of what?

If you mean a condition of entry is that no-one working on the production should be paid, I agree 100%.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
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TimStannard
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by TimStannard »

ned c wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:45 pm 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.
That's interesting. So we exclude films which are crowdfunded?
Tim
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Michael Slowe
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Michael Slowe »

It seems to me, on reading the admirable exchange between Ned and Tim, that there is currently, no satisfactory answer to the question. There are so many factors involved and not all of them financial. I think that it is up to the organisers of a festival to make enquiries in relation to a film that they may suspect does not conform to the entry guidelines. Clearly, the current BIAFF guidelines are not sufficient, otherwise these discussions would not arise.
ned c
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by ned c »

The choice is between the "amateur" film with professionals defined and specifically excluded or the "non-commercial" film where unpaid professionals are included. In reality we are past the point where the "amateur" definition can be applied so true amateurs have to live in competition with films made by industry professionals. This seems to be the case with the winning $50,000 production; other than a rather sparse entry on IMDB we seem to know very little about the makers.

My view of Crowd Funding for "amateur" films is that it is a form of begging; "I have this incredibly expensive hobby I would like you to pay for" which requires an investment without return; unless you consider a tee shirt and DVD a satisfactory return. If you Crowd Fund a high budget film then be honest and make it a professional venture with hope of some form of paid release. I have had a couple of run-ins with local Crowd Funders where they requested substantial sums with no defined budget; so where is this money going?

In 2010 we went to Uganda and made a documentary about a university project we supported. We carried all our costs; transportation, accommodation, meals etc. the total for the two of us was probably about $15,000. We entered the resulting film in BIAFF where it was awarded four stars. So how to relate to the trans USA documentary; is it just a matter of scale? There you clearly have a full professional team working on a large costly project, under the "non-commercial" definition it is acceptable for BIAFF; how to handle this situation? In this case rejection but if I had revealed the cost of our Uganda project would it have been rejected as being outside the "intent" of the festival?

How do you define "intent" and "the spirit of BIAFF", I think I know what you mean until I get a rejection labelled "not in the spirit of BIAFF'.

This discussion is interesting but akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; the IAC has a fine asset with BIAFF but is the IAC going to survive in the world of democratized film making?

ned c
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John Simpson
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by John Simpson »

Crowdfunding is part of a filmmaking degree course in about the second year students are encouraged to form filmaking teams and then think of an idea for a short film and then pitch it with the proposed budget on a crowdfunding site and when it has reached the target, they can start making the film. Then that film can be used in a portfolio to get into the film industry. The hope with the makers of such films as About death is that it will win awards which will propel it onto the Cinema film circuit. Whether a BIAFF award is going to do them any good is questionable but a Sundance Film Festival award would certainly do the trick.
Last edited by John Simpson on Sat Apr 24, 2021 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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TimStannard
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

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ned c wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 8:25 pm The choice is between the "amateur" film with professionals defined and specifically excluded or the "non-commercial" film where unpaid professionals are included.
I don't agree with those definitions at all, Ned. I have never suggested unpaid professionals shoud be excluded. My personal definiltion of an "amateur" film is the similar, if not identical, to your definition of "non-commercial". I just happen to dislike the term "non-commercial" for the same reason you dislike "amateur" - the inference some people take from the term. I infer "not made for or not good enough to be worthy of being sold to a general audience". You infer "not of professional quality" from amateur. We agree to disagree.
ned c wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 8:25 pm How do you define "intent" and "the spirit of BIAFF", I think I know what you mean until I get a rejection labelled "not in the spirit of BIAFF'.
You cannot - and therin lies the problem.
ned c wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 8:25 pm This discussion is interesting but akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; the IAC has a fine asset with BIAFF but is the IAC going to survive in the world of democratized film making?
That's a very good question and one we've discussed and no doubt will continue to discuss, but the title of the thread is "what constitutes an amateur film?"

I think the subtext is "what types of films/film makers do we want to attract to BIAFF?" (I'm assuming the not made for financial gain and cast & crew cannot be paid is a given)

Films made by hobbyist, enthusisasts, obsessives solo film makers, clubs and other ad-hoc teams.
Films made by up and coming would-be professionals (especially students), trying out their films on audiences and judging panels (perhaps incuding Ned's suggested student category)

What else?
Tim
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Michael Slowe
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Michael Slowe »

Surely Tim, in his latest post, has got it right and there would not now seem to be any divergence in the two definitions put forward by you both. If I'm correct, both of you agree that professionals can be involved as long as they are not paid. The film must be made without any hope or expectation of financial reward. What else to judge? Budget maybe, but that would be very difficult to police and, in any case as I've suggested, that is not necessarily relevant. We must be very careful not to place too stringent a limit on entries, otherwise we won't get the films that we need to keep the standard up and we want to encourage budding professionals to test the water with their early efforts.
Ken Wilson
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by Ken Wilson »

Clearly some refining of the rules is now called for.
As Tom mentioned at the start of this thread, a couple of films (or 3) had very dubious credentials as being of "amateur" status.

On one of the Saturday BIAFF judging panels which I was on, we had a 101 minute Indian film called "Deep Inside". It was a well made, well acted, well shot thriller. As time went on and I was scribbling my notes, there was some suspicion about this being a professional film. Over the end credits, the crew were posed with lots of pro "looking" (for we can`t be certain it was pro) equipment. As I came back into the room for the Zoom discussion, one of our panel of three had quickly checked on IMDB and found the film had a very large budget. I have just re-checked this now and it states estimated budget of $150,000. This judge raised the point with David Neman who rang me on Saturday evening to ask what I thought and I agreed with the other two judges that this film should be disqualified, which David agreed to.
Tom mentions that he saw one in the same vein and it would appear that the winner "About Death" likewise had questions hanging over it. Beyond the rule which says that a film in the competition should be made for love and not for financial gain we need further clarification as this has a few too many loopholes for those who wish to disregard it.
As was mentioned by a lady on the Zoom screen after this film was announced as the winner, it deters and upsets the bona fide amateurs who will then not enter the competition as they realise they have no chance of winning. I have personally heard this comment made during many club visits. Perhaps these films pay none of the actors or crew and and can therefore claim to be amateur, but what amateur can spend such large sums on their "hobby"? Perhaps the son or daughter of a billionaire with an oil well in the back yard?

So I would propose two ideas.
1/ To add a rule which states that a maximum budget of XYZ (say £500) is the total budget of the film.
2/ There are two categories of entrant: A/ Amateur.
B/ Student/ Sponsored/Commissioned by a Charity/ Crowd funded support etc (to be checked with the competition manager if in doubt).

I remember that about 10 years ago something similar was the arrangement by the Morecambe Bay Movie Makers competition where there were two such categories. This two tier system therefore doesn`t discourage genuine amateur films made by lone workers, clubs or groups and also doesn`t exclude the larger non profit productions which would still qualify as amateur. I would suggest that such large budget, large cast and crew productions MAY not be made for financial gain but are produced for a possible financial reward in the future and probably for furthering the career of a director, writer, cameraman or technician. So it`s a gain which might not be financial but is not made for the love of it as the rules state.
ned c
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by ned c »

A quick look on IMDB shows that "Sobre la Muerte" had a budget of $50,000 and runs 98 minutes.

From the discussion the films which have caused most concern seem to fall into the category of feature films; typically running 90 minutes or longer. The simplest solution is to set a time limit; most amateurs work with limited resources including available working time which usually limits the film length; so how about 45 minutes or even 30 minutes? This may exclude one or two genuine amateur films but would certainly exclude the "shamateurs" entering feature length films looking for any awards they can get.

I like Ken's suggestion for a category of "sponsored" films supported by crowd funding or made in conjunction with local organizations. You know my views on a student category.

ned c
ned c
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Re: What constitutes an amateur film?

Post by ned c »

Quick addon - a very quick run through the top films at BIAFF shows that most are well under 30 minutes so the feature films are not representative of true amateur work. A time limit would seem to have little impact on entries.

ned c
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