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Monday, August 18, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Tracy Droz Tragos

Tracy Droz Tragos
By Tracy Droz Tragos 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 responses below are from Tracy Droz Tragos, producer/co-director of RICH HILL, winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.  Tragos also won an Emmy for "Be Good, Smile Pretty", an episode of INDEPENDENT LENS that she co-wrote/directed/produced.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
Yes! Independent films take a lot of risks - they are often the purest form of a director's vision - without commercial pressures. New talent, untold stories, voices that aren't usually heard - that's what it's all about. Seeing all sorts of genres and perspectives can be hugely helpful in honing in on what you like and don't like as a filmmaker - what you want to imitate, expand upon, react against and ignore.  It's all helpful in learning and growing as a filmmaker. I watch as much work as I possibly can!  I often learn more from the films I might dislike than from the films I love.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why?
Yes! It is important - but I also don't think it's a requirement.  I know I'm often intimidated if I don't know a film that's brought up in a meeting or at a dinner table. Often, I feel like an idiot - like I haven't seen enough films.  Usually, I'm honest and say that I haven't seen a film (when I haven't) - and I try to make a note of it for later viewing. I have a long list of films I'd like to see. 

Bottom line, I don't think you have to beat yourself up if you haven't seen every classic.  It's all very helpful - but see what you can - find films that inspire and disturb you. I don't think you have to force yourself to watch films that have no appeal or put you to sleep - but it's always good to know why, and what isn't working - and if you view a film from that perspective it can be much more interesting.
 How did viewing indies and films from around the world help you when making RICH HILL?
Indies informed us a lot.  We saw ONLY THE YOUNG, BOMBAY BEACH, HOOP DREAMS, and the narratives KES and BALLAST.  We were inspired - not always to imitate - but just by the subject matter and all the different approaches we could take.  I also watched films I had seen before - and like to revisit from time to time, GREY GARDENS and HARLAN COUNTY, U.S.A.
What's one American indie and one non-English-language film that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT by the Dardenne brothers - I saw it in Paris this summer, without subtitles - and I'm not entirely fluent in French.  I was still wowed. 
I love personal documentaries - three of my favorites are SHERMAN'S MARCH, NOBODY'S BUSINESS, STORIES WE TELL
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Wednesday. 

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