What is an amateur film?

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Dave Watterson
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What is an amateur film?

Post by Dave Watterson » Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:52 pm

This old chestnut has returned to haunt me in my role as President of UNICA.

There are still national organisations (the equivalent of the IAC) who apply the criterion to the film maker. That, of course, is what we used to do decades ago. If someone works in - or has worked in - the film or television industry they should not be allowed to submit films to amateur contests.

We accepted many years ago that the criterion should apply to the film. We joke that if Spielberg chose to make a movie for the fund of it, with no commercial intention, he should be allowed to send it to BIAFF.

But where do you draw the line? Everyone wants a level playing field in competitions ...

Your thoughts on this will not only be interesting, but may help in decisions that have to be made soon for UNICA.

Oh - and while on the topic - how do organisers check?!?!?

Michael Slowe
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by Michael Slowe » Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:04 pm

Oh dera Dave, this old chestnut again!

In my humble opinion a film is a film is a film and that's it. Spielberg is very unlikely to enter into a non commercial competition, although he did start with 8mm film in his garage. The stipulation should be, as you have written many times, and I heartily agree, that the production should not be expected to receive any financial reward as a result of being exhibited. End of story. If it ends up on national television or in a commercial cinema, then any payment should not be accepted by the producer. I was in just this situation a few years ago with my documentary Hounds and The Huntsman. It was transmitted many times on an obscure Sky channel and they sold hundreds of DVD's. I simply designated all the income to the IAC - simple - as the Meerkat says in the ads!

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TimStannard
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by TimStannard » Wed Oct 05, 2016 4:58 pm

I'd go further than Michael. If a film is made for love with no intention or expectation or possibility of financial reward, then it's amateur. If Michael had pocketed a small fortune from Hounds and the Huntsman, I wouldn't have a problem with that.
The problem is then how do we distinguish between a film genuinely made with no expectation of being able to sell it and a film where the maker simply claims that? You can't.

So Michael is right - a film is a film. If a festival/competition is advertised and the rules of entry say the film should have been made without aview to commercial gain that should be it. We may get the occasional *cheat* (for want of a better word) but it's hardly going to do their reputation any good.

That, of course, works for the UK, but you, Dave, have to deal with different cultures - some of whom probably see things differently.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

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Dave Watterson
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by Dave Watterson » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:17 pm

One issue keeps coming up at UNICA ... should work from film schools be classed as amateur or not?

ned c
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by ned c » Sun Oct 09, 2016 2:57 pm

I have been away so just catching up on the Forum. At one time it was relatively easy to tell the difference between amateur and professional but with the availability of inexpensive technology used by everyone and the growth of the wedding and event videographer the lines are thoroughly blurred. In my view it is no longer possible to define the status of the film by its makers but rather by its intent. As Michael points out if a film is made with no intention of financial reward then it is an "amateur" or more accurately "non-commercial" film. The alternative is a nightmare of potential disagreement;

"she made three wedding films last year for money so can't be an amateur"
" he didn't tell anyone he worked in TV for four years so should return the trophy"

and so on.

Film students are in my opinion a special category and should be treated as such with a separate judging panel and awards. Why? They are competing in a clearly defined class with different expectations and objectives to the n-c film maker, their films in many cases are their calling cards for the professional world.

my two cents worth!

ned c

Michael Slowe
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by Michael Slowe » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:52 pm

Don't agree Ned. The late (very) lamented Ten Best relied for it's appeal and quality, very much on film school entries and we all benefited from that. They came mostly from American film schools and universities and no one complained of 'professionalism'. Would that BIAFF benefited thus.

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TimStannard
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by TimStannard » Mon Oct 17, 2016 11:38 pm

ned c wrote:if a film is made with no intention of financial reward then it is an "amateur" or more accurately "non-commercial" film.
Should we be adding to that the requirements of most amateur competitions that no professional services (acting or technical) should be paid for?

And, without wishing to whilst I'll grudgingly accept I may be losing the war on "Non-commercial" replacing "amateur", I absolutely refuse to accept that "non-commercial" is more accurate!. Amateur = done for the love of it (surely what we are trying to promote). Non-commercial = done without intention to make any money (or possibly done with the intention of making money but flopped :lol: ).
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

ned c
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by ned c » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:35 pm

This is how we try to define the entry requirements for AMPS.

General entrants
Productions made solely for fun and pleasure, for artistic expression or to make a statement about society with no profit motive in mind and have not been subject of any sales or rental agreement prior to entry in the Festival. 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.

Words acquire meanings by association and in the world of film "amateur" is synonymous with "inept; of poor quality" and, I suspect, a block for many film makers who although amateurs in the true meaning of the word want to avoid the label. The point is to define the objective of the film rather than the status of its makers in the new world of accessible film making. Most well defined and organised activities clearly differentiate between professional and amateur; in our case this would exclude anyone who had ever received payment for any form of film making activity. A quick look at the creation/crewing/casting of many IAC winning films will show that they are not amateur productions by this definition. So a production may be made by a mix of amateurs and professionals and be non-commercial but definitely not "amateur".

ned c

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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by ned c » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:37 pm

This is how we try to define the entry requirements for AMPS.

General entrants
Productions made solely for fun and pleasure, for artistic expression or to make a statement about society with no profit motive in mind and have not been subject of any sales or rental agreement prior to entry in the Festival. 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.

Words acquire meanings by association and in the world of film "amateur" is synonymous with "inept; of poor quality" and, I suspect, a block for many film makers who although amateurs in the true meaning of the word want to avoid the label. The point is to define the objective of the film rather than the status of its makers in the new world of accessible film making. Most well defined and organised activities clearly differentiate between professional and amateur; in our case this would exclude anyone who had ever received payment for any form of film making activity. A quick look at the creation/crewing/casting of many IAC winning films will show that they are not amateur productions by this definition. So a production may be made by a mix of amateurs and professionals and be non-commercial but definitely not "amateur".

ned c

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TimStannard
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by TimStannard » Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:51 pm

Ned, that's a great definition of entry requirements for amateur/non-commercial festivals. Thanks for posting. I shal take every opportunity to plagiarise!

As I stated previously I don't doubt I stand almost alone in sticking with the correct definition of amateur, but I also recognise both the common interpretation and the fact that language evolves.

However, i do think that non-commercial is equally problematic. Anything defined as "non" starts with a negative - never a good idea. furthermore non-commercial can also be interpreted as "not good enough to be sold" which is very often not the case.

As ever, it's always easier to see the problems than the solutions.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

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Dave Watterson
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by Dave Watterson » Thu Oct 27, 2016 10:12 pm

How do you determine that the film maker had "no profit motive in mind "?

No, I am not seriously asking, just pointing out that is weak point in the definition. We have been bouncing all these ideas around the UNICA committee. I started with Ned's fine definition.

We are still seeking ...

Dave

ned c
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by ned c » Fri Oct 28, 2016 9:26 pm

There comes a point where there has to be a measure of mutual trust between the film maker and the Festival. There is always a tiny minority who ignore rules and I understand there have been cases of entrants who have submitted programs they have lifted off air or professional DVDs. Where exposed then the film maker should be banned from n-c Festivals for life.

I agree that "non-commercial" is a clunky alternative to amateur; definitely room for a better description.

Regardless of what we are called or call ourselves the potential importance of the IAC; UNICA and their equivalents is enormous but how to to get wide exposure of this burgeoning world of n-c film making?

ned c

Michael Slowe
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Re: What is an amateur film?

Post by Michael Slowe » Sat Oct 29, 2016 5:07 pm

The sports of tennis and athletics faced this dilemma many years ago when the status of 'amateur' was being widely abused. They simply abolished the distinction! I'm not suggesting that we do that in regard to film making but it probably would make little difference to the festivals that the IAC and UNICA promote. Fully fledged professionals are very unlikely to enter to these festivals, what would be the point? There are no money prizes (well, hardly any), and there are so many other festivals that attract these people as they seek publicity and advancement for their careers.

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