Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Beginning Filmmaking": a film by Jay Rosenblatt

"Beginning Filmmaking" is a neat little documentary (23min in length) about a dad (Rosenblatt) who buys his five-year-old daughter (Ella) a digital video camera and attempts to teach her filmmaking over the course of a year.

Although Rosenblatt takes a text-book approach to the teaching process, Ella prefers to use the camera in a more original manner. Rosenblatt wants her to come up with a clever idea for her film and then use medium shots, extreme-close-ups and proper composition. But Ella prefers to film herself talking into the camera (like one would do with a web camera), telling stories about fairies and singing songs and doing other silly things that only kids would do.

Over the course of the film Rosenblatt grows frustrated with Ella's incorrigible "disobedience". He inadvertently plays the role of the antagonist, forcefully imposing the limited text-book approaches to filmmaking upon his daughter. He is not unlike the conventional studio-head who represses the unconventional vision of the independent filmmaker, which is an ironic role for him to play, seeing that he has been an extremely unconventional filmmaker his whole life.

In fact, this role reversal (i.e. the repressed becoming the oppressor) can be viewed as a microcosm of the general situation that occurs when a child becomes an adult and inadvertently becomes everything he/she disliked about their parents. Rosenblatt is like the Peter Pan who has grown up and become one of the narrow-minded adults without even knowing it. And, as a filmmaker, he has become everything he was rebelling against when he was a younger filmmaker trying to be original.

But perhaps this is all unavoidable. Maybe this film is a realization that the only way to teach filmmaking (or anything for that matter) is to set certain rules and it's up to the student to break them when he or she is ready. As the saying goes, one must learn the rules before they can be broken. Unprecedented originality can't exist without unoriginal precedences. Somebody NEEDS to set rules in order for an independent to be born.

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