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Understanding D.I.Y.

by Sarah Jacobson


Welcome to the DIY section of indieWIRE 2000 (oops, 2.0 - I'm thinking of that Death Race movie) What is DIY, you might ask? Well, it's a term co-opted from the punk rock movement and it stands for Do It Yourself. For as buzzword-y as the label is, it stands for a very important concept in the independent world -- the idea that you don't need a big company or lots of money to validate you. You don't have to wait for some old corporate suit, or museum curator for that matter, to tell you that you are valid either. Lately in the mainstream media there has been lots of excitement over 'indie' films. But that excitement has turned into Indiewood with its own set of bullshit rules and limits. Not only do those pressures inhibit creativity, it's not what I want as a filmmaker.

In 1992, I saw Jim Stark, (producer on "Stranger Than Paradise", "Cold Fever"), speak on a panel about how (at the time) even though there was no money in independent film, it created this really exciting scene because the only people who were making films were doing it because they really loved it. It was a scene driven by passion, not by market. That's the spirit of DIY -- that Quixotic attempt to speak your mind and your heart, in the face of adversity, isolation, enormous financial cost and ignorance. If you're starting to whine about 'attachments' and 'marketability' go over to the Biz section. This is about passion, about love of what you're doing. About finding a way around the roadblocks. About speaking out because you have something to say and not being ridiculed that your being 'artsy.' This is where it's okay that you are insane.

Why am I introducing this section? Because I'm insane. And because, I suppose, as a filmmaker, I get my main inspiration from punk rock bands and scummy zine editors. Living at the copy shop, putting up flyers, selling t-shirts and tapes to pay for expenses, sleeping on floors of friends of a friend, working hard to promote my film 'cuz if I don't, no one will, and finding an audience who really cares about what my films are saying, building a relationship that grows stronger with each film I make. Now, make no mistake, DIY is not anti-money, anti-success. Most filmmakers and musicians and zinesters who do it themselves want to make money and be successful. The difference is, nothing will stop us if we don't get these things. If you can relate to any of what I'm saying, then this is your section. Welcome to the frustrating, glamorous world of DIY.

Be on the lookout for my tour diaries from my first European tour where I'll be taking my first feature film "Mary Jane's Not A Virgin Anymore" around England, Scotland, Holland, Sweden and Germany. Until then, MAKE GOOD FILMS!

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