Curators of Creative Control, Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective is Building an Informal Peer Economy

“The one requirement to be a member [of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective] for work presented is that the presenter has to have creative control,” the filmmaker Alex Mallis, a member, told me recently by phone ahead of their scheduled screenings at Northside Festival this week.

“We do have editors who will collaborate with non-members and they’ll present something that they’ve edited – or even producers will come in – but we just don’t accept work that people don’t have creative control over, and we don’t accept commercial work – if you’re making money off of it in the commercial sense, or if you do not have creative control we’re not interested in seeing it.”

The Brooklyn Filmmaker’s Collective, or BFC, was founded by filmmakers Landon Van Soest, Gerardo Samano and Jeremy Levine. It’s now a five-year-old informal but tightly knit group of about fifty local filmmakers who meet weekly to give each other – 2 or 3 people per week – feedback on the projects they have created. The criticism is pointed and by consensus in a safe space. This is a group of people who are deeply aware of the goals and vision of a project from its conception, which might have even been born on the group’s listserv, shot and edited by members and molded into it’s final presentation in the BFC’s weekly sessions in Central Brooklyn.

“These sessions are amazing, it’ll be anything from – ‘oh I think you should move this clip here,’ references to films to check out, thematic changes, just about anything that you can think of and it’s very focused criticism,” Alex continued, adding, “One of the biggest challenges when you’re working on a creative project is getting good criticism, you show it to your friends and family it’s either just like ‘I love it’ or ‘I hate it’ – you just don’t know what to make of it, but when it’s coming from a group of your peers, who you know and trust, the level of feedback increases exponentially.”

Over the years the group has grown in size and scope – they have 17 films at Northside this week – and along with the valuable criticism they receive from their peers, the collective has grown into a Brooklyn brand; a local filmmaker’s seal of approval if you will. BFC seems to overlook any issues with competition in the filmmaking industry in favor coming together to promote each other’s work, sometimes projects they themselves have had a hand in, even if the concept is the singular vision of one of the group’s directors, like those entered into competition at the film festival, SPOILSTEMBLOR, and FLO.

“I guess you could call it an informal economy, where each week you see the same faces coming to these meetings these workshops where we watch each other’s films, and you start to form relationships and you start to learn about people’s works and people’s styles and make relationships and those relationships carry on beyond the meetings into both passion projects and for-hire projects where we can work with each other,” Alex told me.

Take for example Alex’s film SPOILS, about the dumpster divers at the Court Street Trader Joe’s, which we spoke to him about last November when it appeared on the website Narrative.ly. Northside partnered with the collective, who presented them with a package of short films to screen, and then entered a few into competition. Alex describes their model as having a “rising tides lift all boats kind of thing going on.”

Adding, “Our goal is when we as individuals apply to a festival like Northside or even Sundance – one day – or maybe some Brooklyn festival, the fact that the film is a BFC film will pique the attention of a programmer or set off something that says, ‘oh I should give this film extra attention because this is a collective that I know produces a certain level of work.’”

Here’s a taste of what the collective will show this week.

AMATEUR

AMATEUR is the lead-in short film for the forthcoming narrative feature MANCHILD, which follows a 13 year-old athlete through the competitive world of youth basketball. This short focuses on an encounter between a street agent and a high school basketball player.

MOSQUITO

MOSQUITO is the coming of age story of a 13 year-old boy named Cesar, whose awkward bravado and fanciful imagination have earned him the nickname of Mosquito. On a memorable Halloween night in 1974, Cesar will fight to gain the respect of his teenage tormentors.

This 12-minute short film, captures the gritty look and feel of NYC in the 1970’s through the kinetic, free camera style of Sundance Cinematography Award winner Ferne Pearlstein. The ensemble cast is led by Alejandro Polanco, star of the critically acclaimed film “Chop Shop” (2007).

MOSQUITO was screened in film festivals throughout the US and around the world, playing in more than 14 festivals in 6 countries and 3 continents – including Edinburgh, Oberhausen and Seoul – and won the “Spirit of Slamdance” Award” at the Slamdance Film Festival and the “Audience Award” at the Brooklyn International Film Festival. It is included in the writer Dave Eggers’ DVD Magazine Wholphin #13.

The Peach Kings / “Lonely”

Official music video for The Peach Kings “Lonely” by Paul Trillo. Empty bodies fill a single panoramic view of the New York skyline.

Gawking Red

This piece by Iva Radivojevic documents a first personal experience at the red light district in Amsterdam. It summarizes thoughts and feelings about the biggest tourist attraction.

It’s quite a divide between the polished western european culture, aesthetic and nature and the weird underworld that is the red light district…occupied by mostly tourists and foreign sex workers from Eastern Europe, Africa, the Caribbean.

Quite a divide. And even further so between the spectators and the women of red.

Nicole Brydson Written by:

2 Comments

  1. Jeremy Levine
    June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Hi there, thanks for the article. Just a quick correction. Filmmaker Gerardo Samano was the third co-founder of the BFC.

  2. […] the operative function of their artistic and creative lives is the collective. The hackerspace, the collective, multipurpose retail or manufacturing space, the gallery slash venue slash loft apartment, multiple […]

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