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Friday, September 26, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Robert Ogden Barnum

Robert Ogden Barnum
By Robert Ogden Barnum 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 exciting and original voices in modern 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 Robert Ogden Barnum, producer of Margin Call and executive producer of All is Lost, Lawless, Cold in July, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, among many others.  Barnum is the co-founder of Fortitude International and was previously an executive at Annapurna Pictures and Benaroya Pictures.  He is currently producing Miles Ahead, a Miles Davis biopic starring Don Cheadle.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
I think it’s extremely important… world & independent cinema will expose you to stories told often from a different vantage point than the usual American/Hollywood films, and the four-quadrant appeal that they usually strive for.  They hopefully will cause you to think and experience, not just look to entertain you.  Not to mention, there are incredibly talented storytellers and craftsman operating outside of the mainstream.  
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why?
Yes, absolutely... Just as we don’t ignore books from the past, films are equally timeless.  Whether it’s a film by John Ford, Capra, Hitchcock, Fellini, whoever… films from our past will provide you with a wealth of experience; seeing by whom & how modern filmmakers have been influenced, seeing various storylines that are familiar to us in modern films being framed and articulated in completely different cultural times and societal norms…and ultimately revealing how the human experience, the relationships we tell in story, are timeless.
How did viewing indies and films from around the world help/influence you when producing ALL IS LOST, MARGIN CALL, AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, or any of your other films?
I’m not sure how much they helped, per se, at least consciously…but the influence of independent/world cinema is what I think drew me to these stories.  But as a tool - working with filmmaker like JC [Chandor], or John Hillcoat on LAWLESS, or recently with Paul Bettany on SHELTER, the amount of research these filmmakers will do, watching old films, foreign films…finding influence and yet creating entirely unique and original films - that is the power and importance of experiencing world cinema and films from our past.
What's one English-language indie (doc or narrative) and one non-English-language film (doc or narrative) that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
While probably not the most original of answers, I would say that IN THE BEDROOM is an absolutely essential film for any aspiring filmmaker to see.  Todd Field is a master, and beyond the brilliant performances and technical work, the emotional tension that is seething and yet restrained throughout that story makes for brilliant storytelling.  And Vittorio De Sica’s THE BICYCLE THIEF is a film that I think everyone should experience to understand the real beauty of story, and joy that can be found, even in tragedy.  I first saw the film when I was in the 8th grade, and I’d like to think it’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of making movies.
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Monday.

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