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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Independently Poor: Jon Jost, Errol Morris in the HerTrib

While John Clark‘s extended take-out in the Herald-Tribune eventually hits the fates of Sundance vets who want to be “independent” filmmakers but are stymied by the casting demands of the money men, it’s bracing to see him start the piece talking to, well, someone truly indie: “Jon Jost might be considered the epitome of the aging, alienated and aggrieved independent film director. He is sitting in a borrowed New poorjost-1234.jpgYork apartment in hand-me-down clothes, doesn’t have a place to live and has no visible means of support, other than a coming arts residency at the University of Nebraska.
“Most people from my generation became teachers long ago,” Jost said.” Across 40 years, “Jost, 63, has been making films on shoestring budgets with no-name casts that almost nobody outside of European film festivals ever sees. Perhaps the closest he has come to popular awareness was All the Vermeers in New York [which played on PBS]. Since then he spent a decade in Europe toiling away in relative obscurity and then moved to Montana, where for four years he scrounged from garbage cans and lived with a single mother and her daughter in one room with no heat or running water. His latest address was Portland, Oregon, where he stayed at the house of one of the actresses he cast in his most recent film, Homecoming, which he is still trying to find a festival home for domestically – forget about distribution. His income [comes] from selling DVDs of his work on the Internet. “I can’t say I’m happy not making a living after 40 years in the business… I’m not independently wealthy. I’m independently poor.” Clark cites many Usual Suspects and few surprises, but also gets this in: jost_126.jpga “filmmaker who has found both a lucrative and technically satisfying way to make a living outside his chosen profession is the documentarian Errol Morris.


Over the past decade, in addition to winning a best documentary Oscar for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara, he became what he describes as “an unlikely avatar of American business.” In other words, he directs commercials for Apple, Toyota, AT&T and Miller Brewing while making movies about mole-rat specialists and Holocaust deniers. Morris, 58, is one of the few independent filmmakers who have benefited from the turns the business has taken over the past two decades…. Now, of course, in part because of the success of his films… documentaries are the darlings of the indie world. Still, they won’t make Morris rich. Advertising may. It has also contributed to his skills and to… his films. On a Reebok commercial he [indulged] his interest in “shooting the world at alternate speeds” by playing with a high-speed digital camera. “Will I use that in my next movie?” he asked. “You betcha.” Morris is also not above using locations required by his advertising work to further his documentary aims… [F]or The Fog of War he needed to shoot a B-29. The only one available was appearing at an air show in Rockford, Illinois, so he asked his agent to get him a commercial in nearby Chicago. He did, for Quaker Oats, and the company has since become a steady client.” [More at the link; here’s Jost’s site.]

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“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

“Berlin is cool, though and I’ve been lucky to be doing meetings with some people who want to actually get things done. We’ll see what comes of it.”
~ Julian Simpson 

“The difference between poetry and prose, and why if you’re not acculturated to poetry, you might resist it: that page is frightening. Why is it not filled? The two categories of people who don’t feel that way are children and prisoners. So many prison poets; they see that gap and experience it differently. I’m for the gap!”
~ Poet Eileen Myles