Filmmaking and teamwork go nearly hand-in-hand and the most successful projects are often a reflection of a successful collaboration. There is perhaps no better way to foster that collaboration than by joining a film collective.
But what exactly does a collective do? In honor of our 10th anniversary, I asked a few of my fellow members of The Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective (BFC) to share their experience bringing their respective projects to life through the collective.
The collective is a group of around 50 filmmakers who meet to workshop and give feedback on each others' works-in-progress. Projects range from nascent ideas to fine cuts (and everything in between). At our core, we are a workshopping collective: each week, different members present to the group and then receive constructive criticism from a group of peers they know and trust.
By keeping a consistent group, we generally avoid counterproductive or confusing comments one might find in a public feedback session. By using consensus process (taking stack, employing a moderator for each meeting, etc) we strive to create a safe space for our members to feel vulnerable and honest.
Below, a few of our members reflect on the various ways the collective helped their projects develop through completion.
Paul Rowley on his film, This One's for the Ladies
Director Gene Graham and I took our rough cut to BFC when we were figuring out where to find the right balance for the documentary, i.e. what was working, what needed more explanation, who in the cast were people responding to. The film is pretty explosive and in your face about race, class, and sisterhood told through the lens of the underground world of exotic dancers, and it was a HEATED discussion!
The conversations definitely cemented our resolve to tell the story the way we wanted to, and it helped us find that key pivot in the film where the story opens up from a Paris is Burning-style observation to a discussion of the wider issues affecting the community.
Jessica Kingdon on her short film, Commodity City
Seeing my work-in-progress in a room full of other people offered me a new perspective I couldn't gain by watching it alone. It's even better when that group of people can offer you incisive, varied opinions. Even when you disagree with a point someone makes, it's useful because it forces you to commit to a position. It teases out the way you really feel about something.
Jef Taylor on his webseries, Adults
The impetus for the project came from workshopping an early proof-of-concept that I'd made and loosely cut together. The feedback was extremely positive, and after the meeting (BFCer) Chris Casey approached me and expressed interest in helping me produce some episodes.
Find new collaborators with the BFC
Another invaluable benefit of BFC are the relationships that form in the weekly meetings. Beyond the workshops, many members have found opportunities to support each other in the production of their projects. Tamar Glazerman was able to not only workshop her script and rough cut of her short, Fill Your Heart with French Fries, with the group, but also found crew in producer Chris Casey and Assistant Director Kai Beverly-Whittemore.
Stevie Alweiss was able to find two producers and four top crew members from BFC for her forthcoming film, Execution.
Keith Miller’s forthcoming short, How to See the World,, found crew in producer/co-writer Hazuki Aikawa, editor Jessica Kingdon, cinematographer Adam Golfer, and grip Ostin Fam, each BFCers!
And then there’s the sense of solidarity that BFC co-founder Jeremy Levine so aptly describes: "Beyond the feedback, I think there's power in just knowing that there's a group of filmmakers cheering you on through all of the ups-and-downs of filmmaking (of which there are many) and that you have their backs too. There's so much competitiveness and jealousy in the independent filmmaking world, that shifting the focus from competition to collaboration just feels powerful, like we're all in this boat together."
Levine and co-director Landon Van Soest worked alongside producer Nick Weissman and editor Lily Henderson on the completion of their film, For Ahkeem. "We workshopped the film a number of times," Levine admitted, "from the early stages when we only had a 15-minute fundraising trailer all the way through full rough cuts. The workshops really helped us hone in on what was working, how different scenes resonated for an audience, as well as some really tough issues that we had to work through. I believe Lily Henderson was actually quite critical of our first fundraising sample during a feedback session. But her notes really resonated with us and she seemed so in-line with what we were trying to do, even if we weren't there yet. It just felt like a collaboration that needed to (and did) happen."
Want to see more? We’re celebrating our 10-year anniversary with a series of screenings, our next taking place Thursday, July 19th at the Downtown Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse!
For more information, check out BFC10.com.