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Friday, July 25, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: John Wildman

John Wildman (left) and co-writer/wife Justina Walford (right)(Photo by Rasheda Beebs Valdez)
By John Wildman and Joshua Handler 

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics.  So, I asked some of the most distinctive voices in independent and world cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.

The response below is from John Wildman, senior publicist for the Film Society of Lincoln Center and director/co-writer of the film The Ladies of the House.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
I think it’s important for the obvious reasons – to know what has been done before and to see what is being done currently and to be inspired to do something yourself in the future. When I was younger and doing what used to be a young aspiring filmmaker’s rite of passage – working at a video rental place – I thought I needed to see EVERYTHING. I watched the stuff I loved or was excited to see but also watched stuff I just knew would suck. And I would watch the stuff I thought would suck because I wanted to have a point of reference to be able to articulate why it sucked.  
Of course, I’m very old now (in Hollywood terms) and I’m more jealous of my time so I steer clear of a lot of films that I simply have no interest in checking out. I also have to watch a lot of films due to my job (Senior Publicist at the Film Society of Lincoln Center) and often they are not films that I would ever gravitate to on my own, so I haven’t really gotten completely away from that balance of seeing stuff that isn’t in your “comfort zone” along with the films that are totally in my personal wheelhouse. But the distinction with independent and world cinema is that one (in a general sense) was made because the filmmaker(s) had such a strong desire, a need even, to make that film, to get that idea or vision on a big screen that they moved heaven and earth and spent all their relatives' and friends' money to do so. That’s somewhat of a cliché, I know, but one that still has a shit-ton of truth to it. And foreign or world cinema will frequently force you to make that connection to universal stories and emotions, etc. through the prism of vastly different cultures, via viewpoints that can be diametrically opposed to your own, etc. And that can be invigorating and reassuring at the same time.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view classics and why?
Absolutely. There is very little that is new under the sun. So, you should be educated as to how the best told stories, mastered the camera, and manipulated the image long before you got the idea into your head that you could do it too.
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker/publicist?
As a publicist, the only way it helps is to have a firmer grasp on what I am pitching and talking about and why I am doing so. What helps me specifically as a publicist is having gone through the ordeal to make a film myself, so I can understand the filmmaker’s desire to speak to serious journalists about their work and to have a much better affinity and empathy for the filmmaker going through the press and public relations process on behalf of yourself and something you created and hold dear to you.
As a filmmaker, all of the responses above apply.
What's one American indie and one film not in English that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see? 
I respond to films that excite me with their desire to do something different and that have a “joy” about them. “Joy” doesn’t mean they are necessarily “happy” but you can tell there is a joyful energy about filmmaking going on. It isn’t just a job. It isn’t a studio or a big-budget “indie” making “product”.
On the indie front, BELLFLOWER, THE COLOR WHEEL, GREEN, SHORT TERM 12, SIGHTSEERS, YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW come to mind. On the foreign front, AMÉLIE, BAND OF OUTSIDERS, OLDBOY (the original, not the unfortunate remake), and CITY OF GOD would be required viewing.
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Monday.

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