13. maj 2016

Me, a performer?

“How relevant is documentary cinema when we’ve all become nonfiction performance artists?”

That is the key note for this year’s seminar at The European Film College for the Danish documentary “business” in August.

Alas, I might not be able to attend (for the first time in more than 16 years) but the question is never the less relevant. Personally, I work more and more with blurred lines (probably due to my somewhat blurred vision of life), and I have found in myself a sort of fatigue when it comes to well-meaning and therefore often didactic documentaries. Even in films by directors who would rather have a root canal fixed than being accused of being didactic.

It may have something to do with changes and challenges in our society and the way we conduct ourselves in especially online debates: We seem to simply be afraid of being in doubt. We NEED to have a fixed opinion and the result is, that before you know it you will be called anything from a nazi to a naïve or even fifth column “halal-hippie”. And to avoid that, we crouch even lower in our own trenches while shouting louder, with more perseverance, and maybe also with less room to artistic endeavor?

And somehow, it’s reflected in many documentaries, isn’t it? The documentary cinema used to be more essayistic, didn’t it?

Being a “nonfiction performance artist” means – to me, at this point in time and space – a wider range of means of expression. And that is why you here on this page are exposed to something like this (as a reminder to all the douchebags out there re. posting non-consent nudie pics of others - and to the chickens who advocate for less puritanism online posting pictures of somebody other than themselves):

Mikkel Stolt: "Etagevask" (2016, lipstick on digital photo).

(Vaskeklud i økologisk bomuld fundet hos EcoEgo i Nørre Farigmagsgade)

You're welcome to share, though... haha... (jeez)

18. mar. 2016

Have you ever had a problem?

The problem with being a writer is that you have to write.

As it has turned out, that is also one of the key problems with being a filmmaker. We just haven’t found a way of getting completely past that point of writing page after page about a possible film production in order to achieve some sort of funding or distribution. In order to explain commissioning editors and others what the hell we are trying to do. And we all more or less accept that that is how it’s supposed to be, even though only a minority of us really believes that a written text can say anything profoundly intelligent about a film or a television show which in itself will be progressing through pictures, a sense of time and space and sounds (which of course, granted, also can be actual words).

Personally, when I started writing for its own sake more frequently a few years back, it was almost a revelation. After having written dozens of synopsises, outlines, treatments and scripts, I found it so rewarding that the words on my laptop screen was meant to end up as just that: words. Even though it would be rewritten and erased (and cried on after printing), I knew that I was fumbling with the actual outcome. In the end, these words were meant to be a text. Not a film, not a TV documentary, not an interactive IT-program, but sentences and paragraphs… (not quite daring to say literature).

It was almost like getting into the editing room on the first day of a documentary: You have all the elements, and now you have to order it in a specific way. You are dealing with the actual elementary particles, because you are now finally handling the video/audio material – as if you were writing a book.

“Writing a film” is a completely different matter in my mind. And I tend to shy away from it these days.

PS. Oh, if you enjoy looking at the Danish language, I have a travel article from Mexico on this site, Peblish. It’s not prize winning material, but… you know… a writer has to write. And now I have to pee. 

9. feb. 2016

"Wit's End" - a new film on the way?

I have been silent here for a while. And I haven’t even been reviewing any docs on www.filmkommentaren.dk for quite some time.

Why? Have I been on holiday? Been busy, stressed out and depressed? Been too happy and carefree to think about documentaries?

"Yes" to all of the above – although not at the same time, obviously.

Right now I’m mainly a bit tired and disillusioned with being a documentary filmmaker with an outspoken desire to work with both satirical and artistic means. With the current state of affairs and developments in society and everybody feeling they're right and thus despising each other in the public debate (and telling them so), it seems that even the noble art of satire a little too often degenerates into self-righteous slander and even propaganda. It IS definitely serious times.

So good luck, Mikkel, trying to make DOComedys. Good luck, trying to finance films on grave topics with a twist and a twirl, with ambiguity and a lack of desire to be an obvious do-gooder.

Am I at my wit’s end? Not sure yet… (and was I ever at my wit's beginning?).

"And I said "Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar" 

26. aug. 2015

How to Succeed as a Documentary Filmmaker 2

Actor/comedian/writer/banjoist Steve Martin’s advice to people who aspire to get somewhere in show business is that you just have to be “undeniably good.

It probably works in more fields than pure show business. The documentary filmmaking business, for instance.

On the other hand, as there are many opinions on what’s good and what’s not, maybe we should tweak the bon-mot a bit:

To make it, you just have to be “arguably good.”

It just seems more dialectical appropriate to have an argument that to be undeniable. The latter is a little, you know, self-sufficient.

Even better, when I think about it, it would be if what you do is raising questions rather than having arguments. The latter seems a little confrontational.

So, to make it, you just have to be “questionably good.”

Then again – who knows what is good or not? Certainly not the people in charge. Jeez, have you seen the majority of products out there? In any field? So making stuff to be “good”, what is that? A lot of people making crap are considered good – so “good” is maybe not what you want to be. And who wants questions? No, we need answers.

So being “certainly mediocre” may actually give you more access to funds and success, so that’s definitely my strategy from now on.

But… maybe I always was that… and to no real avail… okay, back to Mr. Martin and his advice.

1. jul. 2015

Something to ponder over the summer

Following my latest blog – where I wondered why all the graduation doc films from The Danish Film School had to be exactly 30 min., and thus (in my opinion) were not as good as they could have been – I was tempted to go a step further:

Why do us documentary film makers still submit to the fact that our films need to be exactly 28:30, 58 or whatever minutes long when working with TV?

Oh, you say, it’s so they can fit into the schedule where there are regular programs like news or… well, mostly news… at fixed times, say at 9 o’clock.

Oh, I say, so you’re telling me that the programmers of TV can only manage fixed program lengths because… because what? Because their software can only handle specific numbers?

I know it’s a lot easier to fill a program slot if you more or less know what is coming in, but last time I looked we don’t have a new slot starting every full hour like the TV networks in the US do. We can start a program at 7:55 PM if we like… and even if you have a full hour, you can have a 34 minute film and a 21 min. film and still have time for commercials and PR-spots and whatever you need on your TV channel.

I know that there is a lot on TV besides documentaries (really, there is, check it out sometime), i.e. formats which have a fixed number of minutes, but as we more and more see our films being placed on new – and slightly more obscure – channels and at late hours; why do we still put up with it?

The reason we maybe shouldn’t is the “fact” that our works of filmmaking rarely gets better bye spending the last week in the editing room by changing the entire thing from just the right amount of minutes to the fixed amount that you are obligated to deliver.

Agreed, sometimes an obstruction – like a precise number of minutes – can be creatively stimulating, but surely a ballpark figure gives better results. Is that just me?

And are there other reasons I don’t know about? People with TV programming insights are urged to come forward and enlighten me.

12. jun. 2015

Afgangs-dokuer fra Den Danske Filmskole 2015

(In Danish - about this year's graduation docs from Danish Film School)

Filmskolens seks dokumentar-afgangsfilm i år (TV-tilrettelæggerlinjen) har nogle fællestræk, som springer i øjnene. Så forskellige de end er, så er det sparsomt, hvad man som seer får af faktuelle oplysninger. Det er helt fint – det er sundt at lede lidt i sit hoved, mens man ser film. Og ligeledes er deres narrative struktur stort set ikke bundet op på en tidslig eller dramaturgisk model med fortællebuer og overtydelige handlingstråde, som man er vant til fra tv-dokumentarer. Det er jo aldeles forfriskende i sig selv.

Men hvorfor de så alle skal vare præcis 30 minutter virker derimod noget kontraproduktivt. Det skyldes givetvis aftalen med DR (som også står som co-afsender på forteksterne), men desværre bliver det tydeligt for mig, at flere af filmene ville have haft meget mere glæde af at vare 18, 24 eller 38 minutter. Og ikke mindst: JEG ville have haft meget mere glæde af dem. Der er givetvis også nogle bagvedliggende pædagogiske årsager til dette tidskrav på en halv time, men for en nysgerrig og delvist uformående seer som mig giver det bare anledning til undren.

Men se dem selv på søndag eftermiddag på DR-K, for det er de værd.

(Men måske skulle jeg tilbyde Arne Bro at komme ud og fortælle det næste hold lidt om principperne bag DOKomedie, for det er der stadig ikke noget af. Er der da ingen, der læser denne blog? Chok! Bevares, der må godt grines lidt og smiles undervejs i disse film, men det kommer ikke fra filmenes grundlæggende DNA, som alle er meget lidt satiriske, måske endda lidt selvhøjtidelige (måske med en enkelt undtagelse?) Will my work ever be done?)