Anyone who knows my shooting style knows that I'm not a fan of tripods. To me, most static "pretty" shots that I see from other indie filmmakers represent an analogy for an elusive Hollywood-esue model of moviemaking. Ever been on a student film set and notice how much of the day goes to laboring over a shot that really doesn't grab you in the end? We go to the movies and are swept away by the big budget vistas and then for some reason we're convinced that our camcorder, a tripod and a light set will accomplish the same feel. And when it doesn't, we're surprised. But we shouldn't be. At the end of the day, it's all about the content of what we're trying to show, say or provoke in an audience. So instead of trying to mimic or recreate a sense of grandness without the necessary resources (like an outrageous Hollywood budget for example), why not create our own language for the cinema? Let Hollywood make Sucker Punch. We'll instead focus on breaking away and discovering new ways to tell our stories.
I suppose this is why I embrace "direct cinema" filmmaking so strongly. I love grabbing the camera and just improvising as I go. It's a shooting style that liberates my senses; it awakens me. Sadly enough, this past week saw the death of a direct cinema pioneer: Richard Leacock. In the video below, watch the first two minutes as Leacock remembers the excitement of freewheeling filmmaking. Listen for the moment at the 1:32 mark when he says, "It was freedom! Screw the tripod!"
So, to my fellow indie content creators, here's what I have to say: Shoot and shoot and shoot. The more we can interact and move with the elements around us, the more our content can begin to exist outside of its constraints (frame, running time, etc.).
Check out this experimental short film below. It won the Best Experimental Film Award from the Vimeo Festival. Note how the shots aren't pretty, don't have DSLR-esue depth of field and yet continue to hold our attention. The camera is alive and free to surprise us.
And so is the content.