Federico Fellini and I

As a filmmaker, I've spent thirty-five years honing my skills. I graduated from the San Francisco State University with a degree in film production in 1970. One of my biggest inspirations as a director was Federico Fellini. I think he was the first filmmaker who put movies over the top as a pure art form.

Making movies for cinema and TV is a complicated affair. In the US, the movie industry has been controlled by the studios, the TV networks and the unions. It's one thing to know how to make a movie, another to get it to the big screen. Movie producers hire writers, directors, actors and crew who are acceptable to the industry. It's nearly impossible to distribute a movie made without the industry stamp of approval -- the seals at the end of the movie, at the bottom of the posters and TV commercials. Before a producer makes a movie, he or she has to make sure there's a major distributor lined up to exhibit the movie, a home video, TV and cable deal in place. The business side of Hollywood movies dominates the artistic. Some movies don't even pretend to be art. Most blockbuster movies are designed for twelve year olds. They are essentially exploitation movies with a lot of action and sex scenes that are condoned by society at the time.

From the start I decided that I didn't want to make exploitation movies. I studied such filmmakers as Eisenstein, Fellini and Antonioni, and the French New Wave. To me the European filmmakers were much more interesting, but then I realized that European films are essentially shunned by major domestic distributors. This is unfair practice and robs the American audiences of seeing great international productions.

I think that film is an art-form and that business considerations should be secondary. It's very difficult to make a living as a filmmaker, but it's a very rewarding life style if you can make it. By definition, I believe a true filmmaker is someone who works outside the constraints of the film industry. Of course, nobody makes a film for themselves, and to continue making movies, it's necessary to have a market for them. The best market I've found for art films is outside the US. It's ironic that American filmmakers must look to Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa for their audience.

There are many filmmakers in the US. Some live in self-imposed exile outside the system, and there are many aspiring filmmakers studying at universities. I'm optimistic that an American filmmaker movement is possible. We have the potential. All we need is to create an audience for art movies. Competing with major studios won't be easy, however even if we win a small piece of the market here, we'll have the chance to start something exciting. The Internet is our arena to launch such an effort.

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