|Independent View: A Conversation With Host Alexis Lezin|
The new version of "Independent View" is geared toward a national audience, featuring both local and national talents in a format that changed from a "guide to independent film" to more of a "privileged access to the people shaping it." What kind of appeal does the new format have for wider audiences?
It's really exciting because we'll be offering a broad audience an opportunity to participate in more in-depth conversations with filmmakers -- asking them smart, quirky questions about their histories, their choices and their films. Essentially we'll be talking about film on a variety of levels, both for film "buffs" or experts, and for people who just like movies. On each show we'll be on location to talk with widely known, established filmmakers, actors and cinematographers (like Robert Redford, Spike Lee, Tim Robbins, etc.) and we'll get to meet inspired, emerging filmmakers and their films.
What do you think really defines an "independent" film? Does the term still have meaning?
The term is increasingly nebulous and hard to define. I think it connotes a sense of films that are not Hollywood blockbusters -- generally made with considerably less money, with an emphasis on telling a new story cinematically, without the "bottom line" mentality–which tends to limit the freedom of expression in blockbuster films. Most independent filmmakers probably think less about how to reach the widest possible audience, and more about how to use his/her film to give voice to a story that has never been told in such a manner before.
With so many film festivals around the country, what do you think catapults a film to either commercial or critical success?
First, I think that a film has to hit a cultural nerve, both in the story that it tells and also in the style of the filmmaking. Why and exactly how a film does that probably has a lot to do the sociopolitical climate, recent events and the mood of a particular historical moment. For instance, why was Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape such an unexpected and overwhelming success? Probably because its themes tapped into or exposed the sexual repression and dysfunction of the 80s. It also capitalized on the "home video revolution," where average people had a new found sense of themselves as amateur documentarians. When a film generates a lot of excitement at a festival with the audience and judges, it is more likely to grab the attention of distributors, who go to film festivals looking for exciting, new films.
What are some of your favorite independent films, filmmakers or actors?
That's really tough because so many come to mind and so many have impacted me. I guess I think about actors first (maybe because I am an actor myself), and I feel so grateful when I see a performance that is detailed and nuanced and human in a film, where the filmmaker and actor appear to have been in a genuine collaboration. I am moved by Frances McDormand's feminine characterizations of strength; I love the honesty and complexity of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's characters; and Brenda Blethyn's skill, grace and humanity are awe-inspiring to witness.
Can you tell us of some independent films that you think we should watch out for in the year 2001?
Funny you should ask because we've been so lucky this season to have a ton of guests who are in the process of really exciting projects. We'll get to talk with Spike Lee and actor Roger Smith who are working on an upcoming performance film called The Huey P. Newton Story, due out in the spring. Allison Anders has a new film, Things Behind the Sun; Terry Zwygoff will talk with us about Ghost World; and Wayne Wang will tell us about his latest project The Center of the World. One of my personal favorites, Tim Robbins, will be talk with us about a very exciting feature he's starring in called Human Nature. Barbara Kopple's new film, My Generation, a study of the Woodstock festivals, is also coming out next year, and audiences can find out more about that on our show. The list goes on and on...
What is it about the Bay Area that makes it known as the capital of independent filmmaking?
Thankfully, the Bay Area has always been a haven for artists, geniuses and misfits of all varieties -- so what better place for a strong independent filmmaking community? People like Kenneth Anger and George Cuchar, who are recognized now as indie film pioneers, drew attention to the Bay Area film scene in the 60s, 70s and 80s. There is also an infrastructure here that has helped the film community to grow and flourish. I mean, it's hard to imagine what the Bay Area film scene would look like without organizations like Film Arts Foundation, Bay Area Video Coalition and Frameline. They have been instrumental in supporting and encouraging filmmakers here, and have provided a model for independent film communities around the country.